York Castle Museum

Collections Highlights — Index

Automaton Clock

Please note: this clock has now moved to York Art Gallery. This extravagant highly decorated clock featuring moving figures and sound dates from the 1780s. In 2011, the clock underwent restoration and was repaired to its former glory. The case is mid 18th century and continental in style. It was probably made for export to China …

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Home-Made History

Our collection features over 100 historic patchwork quilts dating back nearly 300 years. Some are everyday objects, beautiful patchwork designs made from rag-bag scraps; others celebrate royal weddings or were made for fund-raising bazaars. They were largely made at home by women and took weeks, months or years to complete. Many passed on the tradition to their …

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Ice Cream Making

In Victorian times, ice cream was very different to the texture and flavours we enjoy today. Mrs Agnes Bertha Marshall, the celebrity cook of her day, wrote ‘The Book of Ices’ in 1885, and called them “some of the prettiest dishes it is possible to send to the table”. The most fashionable way to serve it …

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Iron Stays

The earliest item of underwear in York Castle Museum’s collections is made of iron. It’s an iron corset – called bodies or stays – and it dates from the seventeenth century. 

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Miniature Marvels

We have a large selection of miniatures, often handmade and for a variety of purposes. Miniatures have always held a fascination over the centuries – they have been found in archaeological digs in Egypt and China and have been used as good luck talismans or amulets. The charm bracelet is a good illustration of this, only …

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Princess Mary's 1914 Christmas Gift

In November 1914, an advert was placed in the national press asking for donations. The ‘Sailors & Soldiers Christmas Fund’ was created by Princess Mary, the 17-year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, with the purpose of providing everyone wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day 1914 with a ‘gift from …

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Shackleton's Cocoa

This Rowntree’s cocoa tin was taken to the Antarctic by explorer Ernest Shackleton in 1909. The York-made cocoa was one of the unused goods brought back by Shackleton after his failed attempt to reach the South Pole in 1908-9. As leader of the Nimrod expedition, he and three colleagues got to within 97 geographical miles of …

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Shopping in Victorian York

The shops you’ll find on our Victorian street Kirkgate are genuine examples from the period. Much research has been done into their history to ensure that both the facades and their interiors are as authentic as possible, though many are smaller than they would have been in the real Victorian city. The street was …

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Sweet Memories

Terry’s of York is one of Britain’s oldest confectionery making companies. The company began in 1767 when a confectionery business was set up in a small shop in Bootham, York, by Berry and Bayldon. Terry’s was one of the first confectionery companies to make eating chocolate rather than drinking chocolate and is probably …

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The Fairfax Buff Coat

This cavalryman’s buff coat dates from around 1630-40. It is our earliest item of men’s clothing, and one of our most significant military objects. It is believed to have belonged to Sir Thomas Fairfax, who commanded Parliamentarian forces in the English Civil Wars, and was donated to the museum by the family of …

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Victorian Christmas

The Victorians transformed Christmas with new traditions that are still continued today. They still looked back nostalgically to a time when people left London to return to their estates in the country, remembering dancing, music and drinking and lots of food eaten communally and provided by the local squire. The modern Victorian Christmas became much …

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Wartime Christmas

The museum has a superb collection of Christmas cards sent during the First World War. They show that black humour and upbeat verses were often used to keep spirits up during very dark times. Initially the Government banned the sending of cards for security reasons, but it was soon realised that they acted as a …

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