Help solve some of the mysteries of Steyning

S13527H13 The bird's feet purse in the Oddments and Oddities exhibition at Steyning Museum
S13527H13 The bird's feet purse in the Oddments and Oddities exhibition at Steyning Museum

STRANGE and mysterious objects, photographs and letters have been drawn together in a new exhibition at Steyning Museum.

Entitled Oddments and Oddities, the exhibition bring together various items donated to the Church Street museum over the last year, and many have a mystery behind them.

Publicity officer Erica Gayler explained: “We have had several donations to our collection over the last year, where the items have not fitted into any particular section.

“We thought we would collect these and place them in an exhibition of their own.

“We are particularly interested in trying to discover which bird’s foot was used to make an Edwardian purse, and would welcome visitors in helping us to try to identify it.”

Curator Chris Todd said the purse was reputed to be 17th century and it had been made from the webbed foot of a large water bird.

It is part of a small collection of items handed down through the Breach family, including little Edwardian shoes and pieces of Victorian lace.

Chris pointed out various other curious items, such as a toaster that flips the bread, the Steyning harp, a seed sowing machine and an 18th century clock.

There are a couple of sporting curiosities, too.

The race card for The Champagne Stakes at the Steyning Races in 1855 details an awful lot of runners – 44 in total – with some particularly strange names, like Mr Mortar riding Giglamps by Daguerreotype out of Prescription.

Chris said they wondered if it was an actual horse race, as some of the names can be linked to people known in the town, for example the chemist referred to as “Mr Mortar”.

“Even the printer’s name appears to have been made up,” he said.

Meanwhile, the final “fun” cricket match of the 1875 season appeared to match the regular XI against 22 local lads. The poster says the umpire was paid five shillings for his services, which was a lot for the time.

Amusing features include the will of John Box, an innholder of Steyning, dating from 1730, which says his son, also John Box, should live with his mother and help her, but “if it should so happen that he prove undutiful, disorderly and troublesome, I impower his mother to remove and dispose of him during her widowhood as she shall think proper for her own quiet and ease...”.

Also look out for a puzzling letter from America, in which Henry Weekes mentions his friend, Bill Harman’s “little cross daughter”.

“What an earth can he have meant by this?” said Chris.

Pop along and explore the curiosities. The museum will be pleased to hear any additional information anyone can provide.

Steyning Museum is open from 10.30am to 12.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 2.30pm to 4.30pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Entry is free.