Smoking Cap

This cap was manufactured in North America and is most likely associated with the Haudenosaunee nation, commonly known as the Iroquois Confederacy. Indigenous women would make items like smoking caps, moccasins and baskets for British visitors who could then return to the UK with souvenirs from North America and Canada.  Smoking caps were popular in [...]

Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds Sash

This sash belonged to the Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds; a Friendly Society founded in 1826 in Ashton-under-Lyme. Friendly Societies were created to provide help for local communities before there was any kind of public health care or financial support. Members paid a monthly fee that would go into a shared pot used when a [...]


These items come from the Kellman Collection, used and collected by Alexander Kellman, a tailor on the Queen’s Road in Reading. Thread MERL 97/79 Cloth MERL 97/82 Bobbins MERL 97/78/1-37 Tailors were important members of society since the late Middle Ages. Their main role was often focused on men’s clothing, specifically tailoring military wear. As [...]

Clothing on Canals

Moldacot machine for barnett intro blog
Canal boats were vital in transporting coal and goods made during the boom of the industrial revolution in the 18th Century. This moved many seasonal farmers to the boats as this life was slightly more predictable, but still maintained the migratory aspect of living.  Canal boat living involved the whole family. Children were expected to [...]

Suffrage and the Sewing Machine

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Time to take CARE

Learn about our focus for 2022: highlighting how we take care of rural heritage, the countryside’s future, and each other.

The history of the servants’ ball

The servants’ ball has had a long tradition in the country house estates of Britain and only really died out after the Second World War.

51 Voices: A growing understanding

This January, The MERL embarked on 51 Voices, a new year-long project celebrating the museum’s seventieth anniversary in 2021. Throughout the year, we will be working with a range of writers, artists and different communities to give contemporary voice to fifty-one objects and archives in The MERL collection connected in myriad ways to our founding year. […]

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