New museum exhibition is ghoulish yet intriguing

A pestle and mortar at Steyning Museum's new exhibition SUS-180404-122028001
A pestle and mortar at Steyning Museum's new exhibition SUS-180404-122028001

‘Bring out your dead’ was a familiar cry over the centuries of untreatable plagues and diseases, and the exhibition at Steyning Museum gives a stunning insight into that world as it affected our community.

Our exhibitions team, led by Andrew Woodfield, has collected a mine of information to illustrate this.

Visually, this display is superb, with colourful illustrations showing the life of medieval peasants who worked the fields – and succumbed to pox and pest.

The threat of sickness is identified by the ever present image of the skeletal Grim Reaper who was only too ready to glean his grisly crop.

The story of the Black Death is a familiar one. It wiped out one third of the population of Britain and the Steyning area did not escape.

The local Pest House ,where those who did not die immediately could be isolated, was destroyed by fire as late as 1856.

Vivid images of those culprits, fleas and rats, scarily look back at the visitor and take them back to a – fortunately – long gone time.

The plague was by no means the only predator on the inhabitants of the Steyning area.

Leprosy was devastating disease which disfigured and blighted many people.

Here we see pictorial evidence of the gruesome results of this terrible affliction, and learn that Leper Colonies and hospitals were very much a part of local life.

One of our most treasured exhibits in the Museum, the skeleton, is probably the remains of a leprosy sufferer.

He was discovered in our own Maudlyn Park, which was most likely to have been the site of a Leper Hospital.

Efforts were made to alleviate the symptoms of disease and our illustration shows a member of our exhibitions team, Linda Aitkin, holding a pestle and mortar which would have been used by the doctors and apothecaries of the day.

We are so very lucky to live in a time where modern medicine can deal with most dread afflictions and this exhibition will certainly bring that home to everyone who visits.

Do come and be horrified and fascinated by this intriguing and thought provoking display.

Steyning Museum is run entirely by volunteers and entry is free.

For information about opening times please visit our website www.steyningmuseum.org.uk, or telephone on 01903 813333.