Collection Spotlight: Gloucester Life Museum

One of the oldest-established museums dedicated to social history.

The Gloucester Life Museum is one of the oldest-established museums dedicated to the social history. Set in two centuries-old Tudor style timber-framed buildings, one of which was traditionally associated with the final night of the Protestant martyr, Bishop Hooper, the Life Museum (previously known as the Folk Museum) holds various collections that have been drawn together mainly through gifts from the entire county.

The collections extend from local crafts to the story of the river Severn fisheries, from historic costume to the life on Gloucester's high streets, from the reconstructed Victorian classroom to the original pin factory and domestic life over the last 500 years. Among these, the MINIM-UK project found a collection of about 40 musical instruments that relate to the social history of the town.

The collection comprises small items like whistles, pitch pipes, and a couple of medieval mouth harps, small circular hunting horns, some 18th century transverse flutes and clarinets, tabor pipes, and includes some significant examples such as:

  • a concertina by Charles Wheatstone, native from Gloucester, alongside Lachenal concertinas;
  • an early 19th century oboe made by William Milhouse in London;
  • a unique tabor drum made by Miss Olive Madeline Perrott, also native from Gloucester who was a music teacher and pipe maker for the Pipers' Guild.

Tabor drum made in 1964 by Miss Perrott.
The shell of this drum is decorated with a beautiful old style map of Gloucestershire in colour-washed pencil under varnish.
An important part of the collection is associated with the Frampton-on-Severn volunteers, and has been given on long term loan to the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum. Some of these are currently on display there, and these instruments were also documented by our cataloguer Ana Silva.

At his own initiative and expense, Squire Nathaniel Winchcombe of Strattford House, Stroud, raised a volunteer force as a result from the passing of the Volunteer Defence Act of April 1798. In August of that same year, Winchcombe purchased musical instruments that were to be loaned to the music band constituted by members of the corps. Records show that these consisted of two French horns, a bass drum, four clarinets, two bassoons, a triangle, two octave flutes, and regulation drums and fifes.

Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum located at Gloucester Docks.
The two orchestral horns included in this small group of instruments were made in the late 18th century by the obscure George Henry Rodenbostel, a London-based maker and registered goldsmith of which only five instruments are known to survive.