THE Brampton Museum is home to another brand new exciting exhibition for 2022.
Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council has teamed up with local hat-maker Holly Johnson, a former Newcastle Common artist-in-residence, who has curated a delightful display to celebrate the borough’s rich hat-making history.
The town had a flourishing hat-making and felt manufacturing industry in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries – which was probably at its peak in the 1820s when a third of the town’s population was involved in more than 20 factories.
“A Hat Story” features an array of historic headwear from the museum’s collections alongside three new hats made by Holly after speaking to residents as part of her recent residency in Newcastle town centre – a tricorn hat inspired by Newcastle town crier Frank Shufflebotham, a large wedding hat from the Edwardian era and a men’s bowler hat embellished with gold painted pyrography designs inspired by Newcastle-under-Lyme.
Holly – a self-taught hat-maker who uses the traditional practice of “felt blocking” to create unique and interesting pieces for her business Hojo Hattery – has also created a wall of images of residents’ family members wearing hats throughout history.
The exhibition is available in the Spotlight Gallery at the Newcastle-under-Lyme Museum, until Sunday, 15 May. Admission is free.
Clare Griffiths, Collections Officer, said: “Hat-making was a major industry in Newcastle- under-Lyme at one time so we’re delighted to shine the spotlight on this part of the borough’s history in our smaller gallery which has been refurbished. Holly has done a fantastic job putting this wonderful exhibition together; it’s an interesting mix of old and new. It’s also a really nice extension to the great work she did as part of her Newcastle Common residency for Appetite.
“The recent redevelopment of the museum is all about attracting new audiences and creating more enjoyable experiences. It allows us to display more of our collections too
which is great news. Holly has chosen items such as a Victorian baby bonnet, fascinator and ladies hat.”
Holly added: “Traditional hat-making is such a rare craft these days – I felt quite alone when I first started to learn. After hearing about the rich history of this practice locally, it helped me to feel connected to the borough and more passionate about it than ever. It’s been incredible to hear stories from local residents about old hat shops, hat makers and milliners. I even found out recently that my great grandma was a local milliner, so I guess it’s in my blood. I would encourage everyone to delve into the borough’s hat-making history – not only is it really interesting, it’s given me a new love and a deeper understanding of my work.”