Introducing our New Keeper
11th June 2012

Welcome to Andrew Davies

New Keeper at Weaver Hall Museum from 11th June 2012


This is the biography Andrew sent us for inclusion in our newsletter to introduce himself.


A well-earned break at a favourite tearoom in the Lake District

 A well-earned break at a favourite tearoom in the Lake District

I very much welcome this opportunity to introduce myself to you all, just a short time before we, as a family, re-locate from Frome, Somerset to Cheshire. We are very excited at the prospect of living, studying and working in this historic and culturally distinct area of the country. To give you an insight into my erstwhile career in museums, I thought you might appreciate an account of my geographical meander through nearly 30 years in the profession.

Completing my Degree in History at St David's University College, Lampeter (University of Wales), I dipped a metaphorical toe into the world of museums by volunteering at my local museum in Cheltenham to gain some experience in what has become a vocation. It was not long before I started my first professional post at Chepstow Museum. With an office view overlooking Chepstow Castle and a daily home to work walk over a bridge spanning the River Wye separating England and Wales, history stalked the whole area. Departing Chepstow and heading north to a temporary contract post at Derby City Museum and Art Gallery, it was a relief shortly afterwards to find a more secure post at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life based in Lincoln. Joining a tremendously dedicated and enthusiastic team of staff, I was to spend the next 14 years of my life striving to pursue the same ethos. The museum's remit, to represent the social and industrial history of this large and diverse rural county, remained a fascinating challenge throughout my time there. It essentially shaped the spine of my professional experience. Looking back at it now, I was involved in everything from crewing the museum's steam traction engines in publicising the museum service to a wider audience at large agricultural shows; to managing the acquisition and assimilation of large and important collections associated with the county's constabulary and army regiment, a quantity of artefacts and documents that numbered in the thousands. To this day I still retain many personal links with the area: we attend an annual New Year lunch in the company of ex-staff and museum volunteers; and it was in Lincoln that I met my wife and our eldest son was born. As a native of Lincolnshire, he is forever a "Yellowbelly"!

Crossing the country from east to west, next stop Lackham Museum of Agriculture and Rural Life. As a curator of a museum located at a land based college of further and higher education in Wiltshire, it was a quite unique situation with significant advantages, not least that I was following in the footsteps of a certain Sue Hughes! With the asset of an historic country house and estate, I was able to re-orientate the museum as the core component of a newly formed Lackham Country Park. This met with considerable local support and success that developed over the next ten years. Credit is due to the tremendous team of Friends and volunteers whose time, commitment and enthusiasm enabled this heritage visitor attraction to flourish.

This well travelled saga is nearing its conclusion as my next post is the one that I am leaving to come to Northwich. It is as Park Manager at Manor Farm Country Park, Botley near Southampton. This 400 acre site features ancient woodland (currently blessed with a profusion of bluebells), recreational and agricultural land bounded by the scenic River Hamble. At its heart is an historic working farm, Manor Farm. Last year the farm welcomed nearly 70000 visitors who enjoyed the experience of an attraction hosted by staff and volunteers dressed in Victorian or 1940s period costume, depending on the event or activity. Undoubtedly this, blended with the resident characterful farm animals, historic buildings and daily interactive opportunities eg Victorian school lesson, hand milking and animal handling, forms the bedrock of its popularity. In recent times, Manor Farm has featured on BBC television's "Countryfile" and for the last few months has been the location for the filming of the BBC series "Wartime Farm", a sequel preceded by "Victorian Farm" and "Edwardian Farm". Filming ends in August and the series is due on our screens from the end of September. Needless to say this has caused quite a stir on site, particularly amongst the staff and volunteers, many of whom have found themselves in front of the camera along with various pigs, chickens and cows. Never a dull moment.

Now to Northwich and Cheshire via the M4, M5 and M6. We (my wife Rosalyn and sons  aged 12, 6 and 18 months) are eagerly anticipating putting down our individual and collective roots in becoming part of the community. I very much look forward to meeting everyone and embedding myself into the role of Keeper at Weaver Hall. Looking at the Friends' itinerary of events, I will have every opportunity to broaden my knowledge of the local area and enjoy a programme of films in your company.

In the spirit of the aforementioned "Wartime Farm", TTFN and very best wishes,

Andrew Davies


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