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Museums across Kent reveal 100 Objects That Made Kent

By Angela Cole

If you’re not friendly with the county’s history, a new project is aiming to change all that, delving into the county’s rich heritage and finding 100 Objects That Made Kent.

The online resource has been designed to help schoolchildren learn about the county but is a fascinating guide to the county for all who live here. Led by the Historic Dockyard Chatham and supported by five museums around Kent, museum teams picked out 90 objects between them and schools then came up with a list of 10 more, which included items such as the mummified cat in Canterbury – a fascinating find for any curious youngster.

They include objects dating back centuries, such as the Canterbury Cross, known to date from about 850, and the Dover Bronze Age Boat, discovered in 1992 but thought to be about 3,000 years old. Here, we profile eight of them.

Canterbury's Bagpuss is one of the 100 Objects that Made Kent


Can you hear his soporific yawn as you look at Bagpuss’s face? The retired star of the series voted the Best Children’s TV Programme Ever, was a “saggy old cloth cat, baggy and a bit loose at the seams” – but everyone loved him. Arguably one of the most famous residents at Canterbury Museums & Galleries, and invented by Bafta-winning Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate not far away in a pre-CGI animation era, Bagpuss may well be dozing if you pop in to see him at Canterbury Heritage Museum.

The Egyptian mummified cat in Canterbury


Not a Kent artefact, but still well known across the county, the Egyptian mummified cat’s face – and sharp teeth – can still be seen. It would have had its insides removed and its front legs laid by its side, while its back legs were tucked up against its tummy for the process. Dating from about 40BC, many cats like the one at The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury, would have been mummified in the city of Bubastis, the centre of worship of the cat goddess.

Subbuteo was invented in Tunbridge Wells


The table top football game Subbuteo was invented by Peter Adolph in Langton Green near Tunbridge Wells back in 1946. The prototype, now in the Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery, went on to be developed into the game which was made in and around Tunbridge Wells until 1981. The former factory where it was manufactured is now One Warwick Park Hotel.

A Somali doll at the Powell-Cotton Museum


Made from scraps of material and hair which may (or may not) be real, the doll was made as a gift for Diana Powell-Cotton, who travelled through Somali on her own for 10 months in 1934 and 1935. The doll was made in her likeness, and is now housed in the Powell-Cotton Museum in Birchington, which is home to the Powell-Cotton family’s extraordinary collection of natural history.

The Panko Sufragette game


Tunbridge Wells was a major centre for the women’s suffrage movement, from its beginnings in the 1860s. The Panko Suffragette Game, an Edwardian card game dating from 1909, was inspired by the campaign to give women the right to vote. It now sits in Tunbridge Wells Museum & Art Gallery.

A cast of the Maidstone Iguanodon


Iggy the Iguanodon’s remains were found in a quarry excavation on Queen’s Road in 1834. He became synonymous with Maidstone and was adopted for the Maidstone Borough Council coat of arms in 1946 and is still used. This cast of the remains can be found at Maidstone Museum.

Charles Dickens' paperweight


As author Charles Dickens both loved Rochester and wrote about it in his novels, it is fitting that Charles Dickens’ paperweight is housed in the Guildhall Museum in Rochester. The ceramic paperweight dating from the 1860s, was used by the author in his study at Gad’s Hill Place, and is glazed white ceramic with two green leaves and gold initials C.D.

HMS Namur timbers at Chatham Historic Dockyard


A chance find of hundreds of ancient timbers under the floorboards at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham turned out to be one of the most significant naval archaeological discoveries since the Mary Rose. Some 245 giant timbers from the British warship HMS Namur had lain undiscovered underneath the wheelwright’s shop for two centuries. It is an example of the proud and pioneering work at the dockyard during the period. It was part of the Command of the Oceans exhibition at the dockyard earlier this year which has been shortlisted for the prestigious national RIBA Stirling Prize.

Supported by Arts Council England, you can take a look at the objects chosen by visiting 100objectskent.co.uk. Look out for more in the KM Group's What's On guide over the summer.

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