Shire Hall will be hosting ‘Wicked Wessex’, the latest Objects On Tour by the Wessex Museums Partnership, in lieu of Dorset County Museum.

Each of the Wessex Museums Partners have chosen an object that explores the term ‘Wicked Wessex’. Pop in to see one of these four grisly objects, which will rotate around the four locations.

Martyrs and Murder in Wessex
Maquette for the Martyrs (1983)(Dorset County Museum)
20 October 2018 – 5 January 2019

Hundreds of people died on Dorchester’s town gallows in the 16-17th centuries. This maquette is a miniature version of a memorial that stands exactly where the gallows were located.

The sculptures were created by Dame Elisabeth Frink in memory of the Catholics in Dorset who were hanged because of their religion.

Strange Superstitions in Wessex
Bellarmine Jug (Wiltshire Museum)
19 January – 6 April 2019

Stoneware jars like this were common in the 1600s for carrying beer and wine. But they also had another use – as ‘witch bottles’ to ward off evil curses.

People would fill a jug with human hair, fingernails and sometimes blood or urine! Then it was sealed and hidden in the home. This jug was left at Wiltshire Museum in 2010 by a mystery donor. Thankfully, it didn’t have any gruesome contents!

Witches in Wessex
Scold’s bridle (The Salisbury Museum)
20 April – 6 July 2019

A scold’s bridle, or witch’s bridle, was used to punish people who were suspected of witchcraft. It was placed over the victim’s head, so they couldn’t speak, or more importantly, curse anyone!

This is one of the horrible punishments used during the 17th century witch trials that took place not just in Wessex, but across the whole of Europe. Some witches faced the stocks or ducking stool, others were hanged.

Miserable Maritime in Wessex
Cat-o’-nine-tails (Poole Museum)
20 July – 5 October 2019

Poole was a maritime centre in the 1700s and 1800s, but life was tough for the men who crewed the ships.

The cat-o’-nine-tails was a type of whip used in the Royal Navy. A sailor could be flogged for anything from drunkenness to desertion. Each of the cat’s ‘tails’ was knotted to increase the pain of the lashes.

Wessex Museums Partnership comprises Dorset County Museum, Poole Museum Service, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum.