Come with me on a little journey around the museum to meet some of the friendly faces that our visitors can discover during their time here. I am not talking about the staff (although of course they are very friendly), but rather those of our exhibits that come with a charm all of their own…
The oldest face on show can be found, unsurprisingly, in our fossils case, and belongs to this prehistoric fish. Species of prehistoric fish are known only from their remains in fossil beds, although many types of sea creatures around today can be linked back to those early deep sea dwellers.
This rather stern looking lady stands alongside her twin sister in our Middle Ages case, and together they form a pair of firedogs dating back to the mid-17th century.
Fire Dogs were made to hold the burning logs in a fireplace, and they were popular in wealthy homes before the introduction of grates.
This chirpy ray of sunshine is actually a fire mark dating from 1775. These plaques, issued by the Sun Fire Office, were fixed to the front of a building to show that the homeowner had paid their insurance. Many fire insurance companies were formed after the Great Fire of London in 1666, and the Sun Fire Office began in 1710. In the early days insurance companies each had their own team of firemen, and they would only put out the fires of buildings wearing their companies mark.
The quirkiest face in the museum belongs to this intriguing little chap who dates from 1851.
More can be read about him here.
The next face belongs to Mr Punch, grinning out from a copy of the Japan Punch magazine dating from 1865. The Japan Punch ran from 1862 until Spring 1887, and was inspired by the famous British satirical magazine ‘Punch’ (1841-2002). This Japanese version was founded by Charles Wirgman, an English artist and cartoonist who settled in Japan after working there as a reporter for the Illustrated London News. This was the first such magazine to be printed in Japan, and featured the same satirical humour as its British counterpart, poking fun at the ways of life for a small British community in 19th century Japan.
William Scutt is the next face on our journey, this photograph was taken in 1926 when he was just 14 and had started working as a pageboy at Littlehampton’s Beach Hotel. The Beach Hotel was the longest running guesthouse in the town, beginning life in 1775 as the Beach Coffee House, and running, albeit with a couple of rebuilds, until the 1980s. William Scutt obviously enjoyed his time there as he remained for 43 years. The Museum also holds his uniform from the 1940s when he was the Head Hall Porter.
Opinion is divided amongst the Museum Team as to whether the next face is charming or a little bit frightening. It belongs to Mabel Olive Sammonds, named after her owners Mabel and Olive Sammonds who grew up in East Preston and were given the doll c.1910. She was made by Armand Marseille, a world renowned German toy maker who reportedly made 1000 doll heads a day between the years 1900 and 1930!
Incidentally, for those of you of the opinion that Mabel Olive is a bit creepy, you may be interested to know that fear of dolls is a relatively common phobia, known as ‘pediophobia’.
Perhaps the grandest face on show belongs to Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, shown here made from oak and copper taken from the HMS Victory in 1905. This bust was made for a fundraising drive by the British & Foreign Sailor’s Society, and was presented in recognition of the £50 donated by Littlehampton people to the Nelson Centenary Fund. Accompanying the bust, the Museum also have on display pages from Nelson’s grand funeral procession in January 1806.
For our final stop meet the Count and Countess of Littlehampton. This noble couple are the creation of Sir Osbert Lancaster (1908-1986), who is remembered as one of the most stylish writers of his generation. He was most well-known for his cartoons, published regularly in the Daily Express between 1939 and 1981. The Littlehamptons, Maudie and William, first appeared in the early 1950s and went on to gently mock the world around them until 1980. The name, and perhaps even the personalities themselves, were inspired by Lancaster’s childhood holidays in the town before the First World War.
P.S. If you are visiting with a child (big or small!) why not have a go at our ‘Faces’ trail, part of the fantastic new range of quizzes available at the Museum Reception.