The curator of a museum in Huntingdon said his ‘jaw dropped’ when unique items believed to have belonged to Oliver Cromwell arrived on his doorstep.
Stuart Orme said he was “gobsmacked” when items including a baby’s gown, a pair of gloves, a purse and a bedroom door lock were brought for his inspection by direct descendants of Cromwell.
Frances Woodd turned up at the museum, in Grammar School Walk, with the items in a cardboard box asking for advice on how best to conserve them.
Cromwell’s granddaughter, called Bridget, was said to be fiercely proud of her grandfather and made a collection of his personal items, which have been passed down through the family over the last 350 years.
Mrs Woodd is related to the famous parliamentarian through the marriage of his eldest daughter, also called Bridget, to one of his generals, Henry Ireton. She agreed to loan the private collection to the museum as part of a new exhibit called ‘Unseen Cromwell’.
Amongst the items on loan are a lace collar and pair of tooled gloves said to have been worn by Cromwell, a gown reputed to have been worn by him as a baby, a letter signed by the man himself, and a large and elaborate door lock.
The latter item, made by Richard Hewse, a celebrated 17th century craftsmen, is believed to have been used to secure Cromwell’s bedroom door whilst he was living at Hampton Court as Lord Protector.
The items have never been seen in public before.
Mr Orme said: “Back in March a lady called up asking for advice on how to conserve these items. I thought they could be some letters or something but when she turned up you could hear my jaw hit the floor with a clang.
“It’s a real privilege for us to be able to display this remarkable collection of items, which have such a great provenance for being owned by Cromwell having been passed down through a branch of his family for the last 350 years.
“Most have never been publicly displayed before – those that have were last seen at an exhibition over 60 years ago, so this is a once in a generation opportunity to see very personal items that belonged to one of the most famous figures in British history.”
The Unseen Cromwell exhibit is open during regular opening hours at the Cromwell Museum (open from Tuesday through to Sunday) until January 13. Admission is free of charge.
For more details, visit the museum’s website at www.cromwellmuseum.org or call 01480 708008.