During a recent scamper around the free museums of Oxford, I spotted two items on display that piqued my curiosity. Here is what I found:
The Dangers of Metal Wallpaper
The below two pictures show an Electrostatic Lightning House on display in the Oxford Museum of the History of Science, which was manufactured by W. & S. Jones, London circa 1830.
The Electrostatic Lightning House is a small wooden model of a house, which is home to three women (who seem to be made of paper), who are attached by small wires to a lightning conductor on the roof of the house. The model seems to be a representation of an event that occurred in the 18th century. The occupants of a property were injured when it was struck by lightning and the metal in the wallpaper of the property brought the electricity into contact with them. The label accompanying the model explains:
Unique model replicating an actual event described in the 18th century: the occupants of a house received severe shocks from the metal patterns in their wallpaper as a lightning bolt coursed through the house to earth. In the model, the figures are placed in front of small spark-gaps made by wires in the walls of the house. They were knocked over by the sparks when a Leyden jar was discharged through wires.
Sadly a search of the Internet revealed no further information on the curious events that are depicted by the model. But it stands without saying, be careful if you have metal wallpaper!
The Bottled Witch
The next curiosity was seen in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. The diverse collection that forms the Pitt Rivers Museum includes a display of magical items. One of these items is a small silvered bottle that apparently contains a witch. The label that accompanies the bottle reads:
EUROPE, ENGLAND, SUSSEX, HOVE.
Silvered and stoppered bottle said to contain a witch, obtained about 1915 from an old lady living in a village near Hove, Sussex. She remarked “... and they do say there be a witch in it and if you let un out there it be a peak o' trouble.”
Donated by Miss M. A. Murray. 1926.6.1
Here's to wondering what the bottle really does contain!
Pictures, Oxfordshire (October 2014).
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