Corsets & Treasure at Harborough Museum

One of the treats of our work is visiting places that are new to us, exploring museums of all types and deepening our understanding of our heritage and how it links to the present day.

 factory corset mould

Earlier this autumn Bright Culture spent some days in an old corset factory, once home to R & W.H Symington Corsetry and now home to Market Harborough Library and the Harborough Museum, where the two services share the 1st Floor of the Symington Building.

The Museum & Library have an open feel, a spacious children’s book and reading section, museum displays covering the life of Harborough District and the wonderful Hallaton Treasure. Evidence of the building’s previous use is also spread throughout, with large photos on the walls, a clocking-on machine and the ‘copper maidens’ that were used for the final shaping of the corset. We were there to talk with museum and library users about how they use the services and what they value about them and, as ever, it’s been a pleasure talking with people about what interests them. Learning about the history of corsetry was an unexpected addition!

However, to my surprise I have been reminded of Harborough Museum twice this week, on both occasions when watching telly. The recent BBC adaptation of Howards End has come to an end, but watching Margaret Schlagle walk across the screen, I noticed the shape of her body: the costume team had clearly made her look as if she was wearing an Edwardian corset (and indeed maybe she was). 100 years ago, many of those corsets came from Market Harborough and the Symington factory, now a museum.

A few days later, back on the sofa, binge-watching the wonderful Detectorists, I was taken back to Harborough Museum, this time to the Hallaton Treasure. Lance and Andy, in Detectorists, hope to find gold but mainly dig up drink can ring pulls – probably an accurate reflection of the reality of metal detecting. However, the Hallaton Field Group did find treasure, lots of it and of real significance: their years of field walking and research paid off.

Harborough Museum and Market Harborough Library: both in the Symington Building, both worth a visit. (And a final little pleasure: the address is Adam and Eve Street – would you believe it – what a wonderful name for a road!)

Red brick building with a canopy over a door.
Wooden clocking in/out machine and a large bell.