Wandsworth’s new library hosts an exhibition of objects from the Wandsworth Heritage Collection

Around 70 objects from Wandsworth’s Heritage Collection go on display at the new Wandsworth Town Library, opening today.

Working in partnership with Roehampton University, Wandsworth Council have been working to give items from the Wandsworth Heritage Collection a new home in the heart of Wandsworth Town.

The diverse assortment of objects represent the lives led by the people of Wandsworth through the ages. Items in the collection range from an original newspaper printing press from the Wandsworth Borough News, an 18th century papier-mâché doll from a local family, transcripts of political debates from the English Civil War that discussed a radical new constitution for Britain, and Neolithic tools from the local area.

Staff and students on Arts and Humanities courses at the University of Roehampton have been working on researching selected objects from the collection since 2021.

Dr Dustin Frazier Wood (Senior Lecturer in Cultural Heritage at the University of Roehampton) and Kathryn Selwyn (Roehampton alumna and heritage consultant) have curated an exhibition highlighting several themes – Theatre & Performance, Advertising, At Home in Wandsworth and Notable Residents – and including costumes, portraits, archival materials, early household appliances, decorative objects and more.

“This exhibition for Wandsworth Town Library is based on Wandsworth Diversity Past & Present, an exhibition created by Roehampton students for Wandsworth Heritage Festival 2022. The theme is reflected through items celebrating performers from Wandsworth’s history, performance spaces, and some notable politicians. Some of my highlights include a beautiful theatrical costume made in the late 19th or early 20th century made by a local resident, a very early foot-pumped vacuum cleaner and a display of everyday objects from the 1910s and 1920s.” – Dr Dustin Frazier Wood

Future exhibitions at Wandsworth Town Library are to be created by University of Roehampton students in collaboration with Wandsworth Council and members of the local community. (Watch this space!)

Curator’s highlights from the exhibition:

Granada Theatre Film Stars Supplement (c.1931)

When the Granada Tooting opened on 7 September 1731 it became the flagship of the Granada enterprise. This ‘Film Stars Supplement’ celebrates some of the celebrities whose films played in the lavishly decorated theatre.

Dainty Dinah Tea Canister (c.1920s)

George W. Horner’s ‘Dainty Dinah’ toffee was produced in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, from 1914 to 1961. Sold all over the country in decorative tins designed for re-use as tea caddies, the sweets came to be known for the beguiling, bonneted portrait of Dinah that graced every tin.

Brown Beaded Costume (early 20th century)

Wandsworth Heritage Collection holds an extraordinary range of historical clothing and theatrical costumes, including this brown satin brocade bodice and skirt embellished with lace and thousands of tiny beads. Made in the style of the 1880s, the costume was made using a sewing machine and modern fasteners to make performers’ dressing easier and quicker.

BVC Vacuum Cleaner (c.1910)

British Vacuum Cleaner (BVC) was a pioneer in mechanical cleaners such as this one, made of wood, iron and leather, which was operated by pumping the attached bellows by foot. This model came from Clarksmiths furniture sale and hire shop at 386 Garratt Lane in Earlsfield.

In pictures: installing a costume for display

Objects from the Wandsworth Heritage Collection now installed at the brand new Wandsworth Town Library