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A History of the World - Hampshire and IW objects

A History of the World

A new BBC project, in partnership with local museums, is telling the story of the region's history through 10 historic artefacts.

Museum curators have been searching their collections and archives to come up with ten objects which help tell the story of how Hampshire and the Isle of Wight made an impact on the history of the world.


The Winchester Reliquary

The Winchester Reliquary contains the the relics of a saint and served as a portable altar. An important church relic, it was found in a cess pit during excavations near to the city's West Gate. It dates back to the ninth century and is the only Anglo-Saxon reliquary of this type found in this country.

On the Isle of Wight, a seal matrix, thought to more than 700 years old was chosen. It was used to make a mark in hot wax to seal letters and documents. Originally owned by Water of Longdown, it was discovered by a metal detector operator in 2006.

Military history features highly in any historical record of Hampshire. The Gurkha Museum in Winchester houses the Fisher Kukri

The curved kukri knife has become synonymous with the Gurkhas - soldiers drawn from Nepal who have fought alongside British forces since 1815.

Gurkha soldiers in front of kukri emblem
The kukri is the emblem of the Brigade of Gurkhas

The Fisher Kukri was used in the battle to quell the 1857 Indian Mutiny when Gurkha soldiers demonstrated their loyalty and helped maintain British rule in India.

The Mary Rose is of course one of the world's most famous historic relics. From the ship, a simple set of prayer beads was chosen. Found inside a closed cabin, it is thought to have belonged to the ship's carpenter.

The history of the Royal Navy is marked by the Scrimshaw from Portsmouth's Royal Naval Museum. This decorated baby elephant's tusk belonged to an African serving in the Royal Navy who was helping in the fight against the transatlantic slave trade in the 1820s.

Also on a naval theme is the block-making machine which was designed by Marc Isambard Brunel to make wooden pulley blocks for the navy. It is the first use of all-metal machine tools for mass production which laid the foundations for industrial production lines on which much of the modern world is built.


In Portsmouth there is a reminder of the damage reeked on the city during World War II. A German incendiary bomb in the city's museum was one of thousands dropped. Some 6,600 buildings, nearly a tenth of the city, were destroyed by the bombs which were intended to burn whatever buildings they fell on, killing anyone trapped inside.

The Titchborne Spoons are a remarkable collection of silver spoons.

Nine of the figures on the finials are an international grouping known as the Nine Worthies - historical and legendary figures revered in the Middle Ages as the embodiment of chivalry: King Arthur, Charlemagne, Guy of Warwick, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hector of Troy, King David, Joshua and Judas Maccabeus. The three others are Queen Elizabeth I, Christ and St Peter.

With the London 2012 Olympics on the horizon, Hampshire Museums' collection also includes a reminder of the last British games. A relay torch bears the official markings of the 1948 games and was used in the torch relay prior to the opening of the sailing events in Torquay. It is one of the 200 torches made for the English leg of the relay.


Uffa Fox was an ingenious boat designer who came up with the idea of an airborne lifeboat. It was carried underneath a Hudson bomber and dropped by parachute to assist aircrew who had ended up in the sea after being shot down during World War II.

Equipped with sail and motor power, food rations, survival suits, first aid kits, the lifeboats were thought to have saved 600 lives. One of the lifeboats is now housed at the Isle of Wight's Classic Boat Museum.

Family event

You can make history at a special half-term event at Portsmouth City Museum on Wednesday, 17 February. As part of the History of the World, we want to build a digital museum - you can upload an object you or your family own which tells us about a time, a place or a community. What part does your object play in a history of the world?

You can either upload a picture or come along to Portsmouth City Museum on 17 February where we will help you add your object in person.

Bring along your own object to upload on to the website - as long as it is not alive or carrying any pest infestation such as woodworm.

There will be a chance to see some of the 10 Hampshire and Isle of Wight objects chosen by the museum curators

Curators and other staff from some local museums will be there on the day accompanying their objects and will be able to tell you more about them.

Museums in Hampshire

There lots of opportunities to explore Hampshire's dramatic military and maritime heritage, uncover literary connections and delve into local history at over 60 museums and historic sites across the county.

Home to the British Army, Hampshire has an abundance of military museums and heritage sites including castles, forts, regimental museums and historic houses. Learn about the development of the army in the air at the Museum of Army Flying or Aldershot's link with the army at Aldershot Military Museum . See a cannon fire at the Royal Armouries Fort Nelson!

Explore Hampshire's seagoing heritage at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard - it's full of naval history, from the Mary Rose to HMS Warrior 1860 and the modern day fleet. Find out about the history of naval firepower at Explosion! in Gosport or, for under water tales, head over to the Submarine Museum in Gosport and climb on board the Royal Navy's first submarine.

If you are more interested in literary connections, visit Jane Austen's former home in Chawton near Alton. The history surrounding Charles Dickens and Gilbert White also flourishes in Hampshire.

Milestones Museum in Basingstoke is Hampshire's award-winning living history museum and contains a network of full-size streets from late Victorian times to 1945. An ideal family visit with lots to explore in a child-friendly environment, all under one roof.


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