Storytelling On the Terrace

5th & 19th August, 11.00am

Grandma Mo will be reading fun stories for 3 – 7 year olds. There will also be colouring and quizzes.

Drop in session, no need to book.

Free admission.


6th August, 10.35 -11.35, 12.00 – 1.00, 1.30 – 2.45, 2.50 – 3.30

Pick from a choice of designs and have your face painted.

Drop in session, no need to book. £2.50

Accessible Exhibition Mornings

8th & 22nd August, 10.00 – 11.00am

This exhibition will be exclusively open to children who are autistic or with neurodivergent needs that will benefit from an accessible space.

Book your ticket online: Accessible Exhibition Mornings

Botanical Crafts

16th August, 10.45 – 11.45am

Make a botanical clay vase at the museum. £3.

23rd August, 10.45 – 11.45am

Make a botanical button badge at the museum. £3.

Book your tickets for both online: Botanical Crafts

23rd August, 10.45 – 11.45am

Make a botanical collage at the museum. £2.

Drop in session, no need to book.

Placenames, Language Change and the History of North Herts – Lunchtime Talk

9th August, 1.00pm

Discover how the history of North Herts has been in front of you the whole time!

Placenames often hold clues about the languages spoken in the past, telling us more about the people who first coined them; our local placenames hold some unexpected clues about local history.

Join us for a lunchtime talk at North Hertfordshire Museum by Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews.

£5 per person including a complimentary tea or coffee.

Book your ticket online : Placenames Lunchtime Talk

Dr Dog – Toddler Music, Story & Face Painting Session

13 August, 10:45am, 11:40am 

It’s always handy to have a doctor for a pet! The Gumboyle family are sick but Dr Dog is back from Brazil to look after them.

Join us at North Herts Museum on the 13th August, where we will be having another one of our monthly toddler music, craft and story sessions. This time we will be reading ‘Dr Dog’ by Babette Cole and having a good old sing-song. There will even be dog face painting!

Aimed at ages 2 – 5 years old. £7 per child or £12 for two children.

Book your ticket online: Dr Dog Toddler Session

A Commute Through Time – Evening Talk

31 August, 7.30pm

Commuters who use Hitchin Station will be familiar with the colourful photo panels which brighten the underpass between platforms.

The photos in the panels are from our museum’s large collection of photographs and cover a range of themes. Join us for this talk which takes seven of the panels and runs through some of the amazing things they show!

Join us for an evening talk at North Hertfordshire Museum by Matthew Platt.

£5 per person including a complimentary tea or coffee.

Book you ticket online: A Commute Through Time Evening Talk

If you do head out to the sunshine during this summer, it is important to dress for the weather, though it’s unlikely your outfit plans would include an ugly. And yet items like this blue “ugly” from our collection were an essential part of many women’s wardrobes in the early nineteenth century. Made from blue silk and stiffened with five cane hoops, the ugly would neatly attach to women’s bonnets providing that vital protection against the sun and elements. It folded out almost like a convertible car hood. It was a necessary addition to any woman’s wardrobe who wanted to maintain a fashionably pale complexion ( or just not be blinded in the sun). Indeed it featured in the closet of none other than the writer Charlotte Bronte and the American traveller Jane Anthony Eames, who described wearing this device while visiting Sidon in the 1850s.

 Ugly, woman’s; 1848-1864; 8551/60. Depicts blue “Ugly” on a mannequin head, it is made of blue silk and has rigid hoops to keep it in shape.

Yet despite its practicality, the ugly was described as frankly just that. It was frequently insulted in print, particularly in the latter half of the century. A “coal scuttle” or “oyster shell” was how the Victorian writer Charles Ford described these bonnets while he celebrated their demise in favour of the more flattering hats. They appear to have been a particularly English wardrobe item, as one writer unfavourably described it “Nothing more disfiguring can be conceived; only an Englishwoman would venture to assume it. A Frenchwoman would die at the stake than appear in an ‘ugly'”. Harsh words indeed for this quite practical item.

Women’s Sun bonnet, 1880-1920; 5941, Example of a sun bonnet on a mannequin head. It has a wide stiffened brim and flap to protect the neck. It is tied under the neck with a bow and made from a white cotton printed in blue and orange.

However these ‘uglies’ are not the only items within the collection that were designed to protect from the summer sun. These simple cotton bonnets were also popular in the nineteenth century, particularly amongst working-class women. Made with a long flap and a wide brim stiffened with cords, these were perfect for protecting the eyes and neck. Often made from cotton in all sorts of patterns (lilac paisley and pink and blue spots are just some of the examples in the collection), these sunbonnets were often popular with agricultural workers from the 1840s to the 1910s. Working long hours in the harvest, it is little wonder you would need protection.

Black and white photograph of a group of workers in a lavender field dated circa 1900. Group depicts four women and two men. Women dressed in smocks and aprons and the appear to wear either scarfs or flat caps on their head.


In Hitchin, it seems fashion habits had already started to change as this picture of the lavender harvest from around 1900 shows with young ladies sporting men’s flat caps and scarfs. Later still, these 1920s lavender harvesters have completely left behind the sunbonnet, instead opting for straw hats, though still with wide brims for protection. However you choose to dress in this summer (whether you are wearing an ugly, a bonnet or a baseball cap), take care in the hot weather and look after yourself.

Black and white photograph of three women working as lavender harvesters, not dated. The women are dressed with wider brimmed straw hats and carry bundles of lavender.

Daisy and her two penguin pals

I thoroughly enjoyed my year 12 work experience here, it provided me valuable and interesting insight into collection management and curation that has really helped me refine my interests in historical collections and museums. By far the most unexpected activity was helping switch an Object Box used in Victorian schools (loaned to British Schools Museum) with two taxidermy penguins which was a uniquely charming experience (including making a social media post about their arrival), from this I also learned about recording loans and deliveries, (and a bit about Victorian schooling).

For the last two days of my placement, I focused on documents about the Offley Morris Men overviewing the group’s existence from their inception in 1955 to their dissolution in 2016. I helped log them into accession records both online and in the museum’s accession book, this was probably my favourite part as I got to examine real historical records for the first time. Making this an especially interesting experience was the personal and domestic nature of the records, including handwritten logbooks detailing their dancing tours and a Ladies Night menu signed and doodled on by attendees.

This experience has overall been very rewarding, from this I have learned the variety of jobs and unpredictability of each day working as a curator.

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