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Walks of Life Museum (Tuxford)

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Address: 33 Lincoln Road / Tuxford / Newark / Notts / NG22 0HR / Tel: 01777 870427

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      11.07.2010 21:02
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      A private collection of hand carts in Nottinghamshire

      Dorothy Harrison is a woman with a passion for handcarts and any other kind of hand powered machinery. It's been a lifelong passion but following retirement she finally realised her dream when she found a place to display her pieces and more importantly some space to expand it. Her collection at the Walks of Life Museum in the small Nottinghamshire village of Tuxford is housed in the barns of a working farm and is one of the largest collections of its type in Britain.

      I found this place completely by chance when I visited the nearby Tuxford Windmill and spotted a sign. Outside the main entrance stood a large example of a hand cart and as I stopped to admire it Dorothy appeared as if by magic and instantly began telling me about how she had acquired it and how she had lovingly restored it back to its former glory. Such handcarts were commonplace in Britain right up to the 1960's and were used to transport a whole range of different goods from local shops to their customers. My great grandparents had a greengrocer's shop and I have a photograph of my great grandfather stood in front of his shop with his family and on the edge of the black and white image is their handcart. I have no idea what happened to that handcart but I suspect that it crumbled away or was possibly used as firewood but I'm sure if it had survived that there is a good chance that it would have ended up here in this collection.

      There are many hundreds of different carts and agricultural machinery on display but all of them have one thing in common, they are all hand operated. The largest examples are huge and would have been pulled by two people rather than one. Dorothy proudly ushered me over towards one of the large carts that proudly displayed the name of a baker on its side and encouraged me to try and lift it but I couldn't budge it. She pointed out that just one person would have pulled this one as there was only one handle on the front rather than one on each side like some of the other ones that were designed to be pulled by two people. It is also worth bearing in mind that many of these carts would have been pulled by children.

      The majority of the carts on display have been donated free of charge and they are still being donated. I saw one cart that was currently being restored. This had been spotted rotting away in a garden and was happily donated by the family whose garden it was in. Furthermore the family were able to provide Dorothy with some photographs of the cart in its heyday and it was these that she used to restore it. An information board at the side of the cart told its story and displayed the old photograph along with a picture of how it looked when it came into Dorothy's possession. The transformation was remarkable and proves that this woman is not only very passionate about carts but also very skilled in restoring them.

      There is a huge barn that is full of rows of carts but many of them are huddled quite close together so it is hard to view them. There certainly isn't enough space to walk around them all and admire them properly but I suppose we should just be thankful that these items are here to remind us of our past. Many of them have quite literally been saved from the scrap heap. During the first half of the 20th century there were several commercial companies manufacturing these handcarts but many of them would have been home made and handed down through several generations of the same journey.

      I particularly enjoyed looking at the names of the places that were painted on the sides of the carts. Even though this museum is about 25 miles from my house many of the place names were very local to me and I even recognised some of the family names. I just wish that my grandmother was still alive because I know that she would have been fascinated with this place and I suspect that she might have even been able to identify some of the items on display.. Every single cart here has its own unique story but sadly many of these stories have been lost. Wherever possible Dorothy has tried to research the items and several of them have other associated memorabilia attached to them like a photograph of where the cart was from or a poster from the shop that it belonged to.

      In addition to the carts that were used to transport meat or bread from the shops there are also hand pulled fire engines, Victorian prams, hand pulled funeral carts and a whole load of other miscellaneous items - this place is a real trip down memory lane.

      I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and I would certainly recommend it to others.

      There is a small admission charge to visit this museum, which goes towards the restoration work involved and the opening hours are somewhat limited. Currently it costs £1.50 per adult and £1.50 per child. It only opens on Sundays, Bank Holiday Mondays and Wednesdays but will open for groups at other times by prior arrangement.

      Walks of Life,
      33 Lincoln Road,
      Tuxford,
      Nr Newark,
      Nottinghamshire
      NG22 0HR

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