Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Objects from our Collections and Other Tales

The Witch Bottle from Renhold.

BEDFM 8835.
Bellarmine Jug 17th Century.
From Renhold. Miss A Henley.
Walking under the trees and past the tall brick building of the museum, you might be surprised at what you can find inside The Higgins Bedford. Peeking out from behind the glass of the Curiosity Cabinet in the Collectors’ Gallery sits an unassuming jug with a bearded face and round belly.

Formally, he’s known as a Bartmann bottle but more casually he’s named as a Bellarmine Jug. Stoneware characters like him were made in Germany throughout the 16th and 17th Centuries. They were first used to store drink and later they were used to decant wine. However, somewhere within the 17th Century they acquired a more unusual use.

At the height of a period of superstition and paranoia, Bellarmine Jugs were employed as Witch Bottles. These were counter-magical devices that were used to protect individuals and households from unwanted spells and misfortune. They were often thought to trap and imprison evil incantations inside.

Traditionally, a folk healer would prepare the bottle by filling it with all sorts of ingredients. This could include a combination of the victim’s urine, hair and nail clippings. This was then mixed with a variety of rosemary, red wine, pins and needles, seawater, sand, thorns and oil. It was thought that any evil doing was to be impaled by the sharp objects, drowned by any liquids and sent away by the rosemary. After this, they were buried under fireplaces or hidden away in walls – they’ve even been found planted in the foundations of houses, thrown away in rivers and stashed in attics. For the spell to work fully, the bottle had to remain hidden and unbroken.

Our Bellarmine Jug is part of the Bedford Modern School Collection and was found in Renhold by Miss A Henley in March 1940. Which begs the question, why was this curious bottle buried here, in Bedfordshire? 

Come back soon for more or pop down to The Higgins to unlock more tales from other mysterious objects.

Written by Curatorial Volunteer Bronte

Monday, October 1, 2018

Exhibitions Opening on the 6th October

'Paved with Gold': Bedford's Windrush Generation

6th October 2018 - 24th March 2019
Connections Gallery - Free Entry

Explore the stories of Bedford’s Windrush Generation. This year will mark the 70th anniversary of The Empire Windrush's arrival from the Caribbean to England. The Higgins Bedford will showcase the memories of the people who settled in Britain in 1948 and after. 

Click here for more information about the exhibition.

We Are Five: The Higgins Art Collection Favourites Chosen by the People of Bedford

6th October 2018 – 24th March 2019
Wixamtree Gallery – Free Entry

It has been five years since The Higgins Bedford reopened following redevelopment work. To celebrate, we will be presenting paintings and prints chosen by the people of Bedford as well as works that have not been on display since we reopened.

Click here for more information about the exhibition.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Portable Antiquities Scheme

26th September, 28th November 2018, 30th January, 27th March 2019

1pm – 3pm

Digging in the garden? Metal detecting? Found something old and interesting? Thousands of archaeological objects are found every year by members of the public. Enjoy this opportunity to bring in any archaeological discoveries and find out more about them. Finds Liaison Officer, Matt Fittock will be on hand to record and ID all of your archaeological objects. 

Every find is important and will help to improve our knowledge of history and archaeology. Here are some fascinating archaeological objects from our own collection. Brooches are of particular interest as they are usually well preserved and can tell us much about the past. 

BEDFM 2005.17

A Medieval silver-gilt annular brooch found at Lidlington.

The inscription in Lombardic lettering reads,” I am the flower of good love”.

Brooches similar to this were fairly common personal ornaments in the medieval period. Often the inscriptions were designed to keep the owner safe from harm.

BEDFM 2014.91. 

Medieval silver annular brooch found near Wharley End , Bedford.

This brooch is in very good condition and must have been a sad loss to its last owner.

Find out more about the Scheme here:

The Portable Antiquities Scheme is a nationwide service run by the British Museum. To find out more about the service look on the website:

Monday, September 17, 2018

Saturday Stress Busting

22nd September 2018
1pm - 4pm

Take part in variety of relaxing and engaging activities to help reduce stress and improve feelings of wellbeing. Enjoy creative art activities, traditional table-top games and meditative yoga.

Meditative Yoga (2pm - 3pm)

Junk Journaling Drop-In: Create your own junk journals to record your thoughts, memories or an event that has touched you.

Tea Party Poetry (2.30pm - 4pm): A therapeutic session where you can give a voice to your emotions and feelings through creating your own poetry.

This is an ongoing event with sessions running until March 2019. The programme is being shaped by it's visitors so feel free to make suggestions on creative activities.

Please visit The Higgins Bedford social media pages for more information about the developing programme.

Find out about other Wellbeing activities here.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Young Turner: Ambitions in Architecture and the Art of Perspective

22nd September - 16th December 2018 

Free Entry

JMW Turner’s unrivalled painting of The High Street, Oxford is touring the region. Celebrating a successful campaign by the Ashmolean Museum to acquire this masterful view of Oxford, the painting is accompanied by an exhibition exploring the young Turner’s interest in architecture and the development of his skills in the art of perspective.

Please visit The Higgins Bedford website for more information about the exhibition. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Celebrating Women of Bedfordshire

Ends on 23rd September 2018
Free Entry

There is still a few weeks left to enjoy the Celebrating Women of Bedfordshire exhibition at The Higgins Bedford. It first launched on 10th March and will close on 23rd September 2018.

Don't miss this opportunity to explore the stories of women who have achieved in various fields including Suffrage & Politics, Education, Sport, Community Power, STEM, Wartime, Business, and the Arts. 

Also featured is one of Bedford's most famous artists, Dora Carrington, who moved to the town in 1903 and was educated at Bedford High School. The Higgins Bedford has been collecting works by Carrington for a number of years and now has one of the finest collections in the world.

For more information about the exhibition visit: 

Image: University of Bedfordshire students visiting CWOB exhibition. 

Monday, July 30, 2018

Summer Holiday Family Actvities

We had our first week of this summers family activities at The Higgins Bedford. We made model fantasy rooms with Kevin the Platypus and enjoyed map making with Captain Alice.

Captain Alice received fantastic feedback from participants:

Really liked how Captain Alice engaged with all the children and encouraged them to speak!

Fun, inspirational, interesting, funny presenter, Great resources, captivating(!), seeing the children’s concentration was great, loved the activity, memorable and lots of resources to go home with!

An obviously well travelled, passionate and educated presenter who can communicate to all ages of children on their level, in their language about a very complicated subject! Well done captain Alice!

There are more family activities at The Higgins Bedford to enjoy this summer. Personalise your own drawstring backpack on Wednesday 1st August with Kevin the Platypus, or take part in our STEM Special; Teaching Talons' Animal Encounters on Friday 3rd August.

All activities begin at 11am, 12.30pm, and 2pm. These activities are aimed at children aged 5 to 13 and are unsuitable for children aged 3 and under. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Entry will cost £2.70 per child for Explore with Kevin activities and £5 per child for STEM activities, but will be free for accompanying adults.

Places on STEM Specials will go quickly and we recommend booking in advance. To book, please purchase a ticket at The Higgins Bedford reception desk. Unfilled places will be offered on a first-come, first served basis on the day.

Find our Summer Holiday activities schedule here: 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Refugee Week Event

On the 17th June, we hosted an event to celebrate 20 years of Refugee week. At the Harpur suite we enjoyed various activities including live music, poetry, art, theatre, a fashion show, language workshops and food from around the world. 

The day was a great success, with many commenting on our efforts to portray the contributions and challenges of Bedford's refugee past and present. 

‘It was such a great experience, I loved it. Makes me want to do more for the community. You should be very proud!’

‘Today was amazing, really positive representation of refugees-great work!’

‘Well done to all. What a superb event, especially the variety of food!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Summer Activities 2018

Explore with Kevin the Platypus
Every Wednesday from 25th July – 29th August
11am, 12.30pm, and 2pm 

£2.70 per child

STEM Specials
Every Friday from 27th July – 31st August
11am, 12.30pm, and 2pm 

£5 per child

Explore with Kevin at The Higgins Bedford this summer and take part in a range of activities including visiting the Settlement gallery, exploring the Somewhere in England exhibition, crafting a clay pot, designing Victorian styled toys, and creating a kite to fly.

These activities are aimed at children aged 5 to 13 and are unsuitable for children aged 3 and under. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Entry for these activities cost £2.70 per child and accompanying adults can take part for free. Places can be booked in advance. To book, please purchase a ticket at The Higgins Bedford reception desk. Unfilled places will be offered on a first-come, first served basis on the day.

Inspired by STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), The Higgins Bedford has joined with popular local providers in hosting spectacular family activities. Experience animal encounters, become mini map makers and little scientists in the labs this summer.

These activities are aimed at children aged 5 to 13 and are unsuitable for children aged 3 and under. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Entry will cost £5 per child but will be free for accompanying adults. Places on STEM Specials will go quickly and we recommend booking in advance. To book, please purchase a ticket at The Higgins Bedford reception desk. Unfilled places will be offered on a first-come, first served basis on the day.

Find out more information about family activities this summer here:

Bedford River Festival 2018

The Higgins Bedford at The River Festival

Saturday 14th July


Sunday 15th June (Extended hours 11am - 5pm)

River Festival Raft Race

This year the River Festival marks its 40th anniversary on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th July, and is recognised as one of the largest outdoor events of its kind in the UK with the last Festival in 2016 seeing over a quarter of a million people enjoying this free Festival on Bedford’s Embankment. This year 2018’s Bedford River Festival will be bigger than ever before, with the Festival expanding further down the River to include St Mary's Gardens.

The Higgins Bedford will be part of a marquee in St. Mary's Gardens where there will be a host of activities to enjoy, including an Adventure Village with a low rope course, a canoe trail, giant games, circus skills and bushcrafts activities.

If the hustle and bustle of the River Festival becomes too much, The Higgins Bedford will have some chill out space and wellbeing activities to enjoy. It’s a great place to retreat from the crowds, noise and weather. Extended opening hours on Sunday (11am – 5pm) will make it even easier to visit.

Follow us at The River Festival here: