Chamberlayne’s Shako by David Weatherstone, Assistant Outreach Officer

A new gallery, Charge! The Story of England’s Northern Cavalry, opened at Discovery Museum on 21 October 2017.  The Gallery gathers together the collections of the antecedent regiments of The Light Dragoons and also tells the continuing story of the Northumberland Hussars since becoming the Command & Support Squadron of the Queen’s Own Yeomanry.

The quality and historical importance of the objects on display are obvious. What is interesting is the personal stories of the men behind these objects.  Over the coming months, I’d like to tell the stories of some of my favourite objects from the collection.

One of the stand out objects in the gallery is Chamberlayne’s shako, which was worn at the Charge of the Light Brigade. This engagement, which included the 13th Light Dragoons, one of the antecedent regiments of today’s Light Dragoons, is one of the British Army’s most iconic actions.

Noun: shako; plural: shakos A cylindrical or conical military hat with a peak and a plume or pom-pom

Noun: shako; plural: shakos
A cylindrical or conical military hat with a peak and a plume or pom-pom

Denzil Thomas Chamberlayne was born on 8 May 1833 to a Hampshire J.P. and his wife, the daughter of a senior officer in the Grenadier Guards. His father, Thomas Chamberlayne, raced his yacht ‘Arrow’ in the inaugural America’s Cup race of 1851. Young Denzil was raised on the Cranbury Park estate south of Winchester, still the home of the family today, and educated at Eton. Being the eldest son, Denzil was expected to take over the estate from his father when the time came. The problem for privileged young men at this time was what to do with themselves until they came into their inheritance. Many of them opted for military service and in March 1853, a few weeks before his 20th  birthday Denzil joined the 13th Light Dragoons, stationed in Hounslow, as a Cornet (2nd Lieutenant).

Fourteen months later, on his 21st birthday, Cornet Chamberlayne embarked for the Crimea. The campaign against Russia started badly and deteriorated, cholera struck our allies the French first in mid-July and reached the British troops only days later. By autumn it had decimated the ranks. That’s why, on 25 October, the Light Brigade could muster only around 670 men, barely the strength of a fully-manned regiment.

There are as many stories surrounding the famous charge as there are men who took part, and the details of petty jealousies between Commanders and misunderstood orders are very well documented. Cornet Chamberlayne, in a letter to his father dated two days after the battle, wrote of ‘very many hairbreadth escapes’ and describes how, being one of the last to make his escape back along the valley, his favourite horse ‘Pimento’ was just able to carry him out of range of the enemy guns before succumbing to two gunshot wounds.

Lieutenant Percy Shawe Smith of the 13th tells a tale of how, on returning down the valley he chanced upon Cornet Chamberlayne sitting beside his dead horse. The younger man asked what he should do. The advice given was to take his saddle and bridle and make his way back as best he could as “another horse you can get, but you will not get a saddle or bridle so easily”. This he proceeded to do and, displaying remarkable composure, he placed his saddle on his head and picked his way through the carnage of the battlefield back to the British lines avoiding the Cossacks who presumably took him for one of their own helping himself to a saddle.

There are details of Denzil Chamberlayne’s life after the Charge of the Light Brigade but sadly, not the circumstances or factors behind these details. He returned to Britain on 10 July 1855 on a ‘medical certificate’ but we can only speculate as to why this was issued; perhaps there are clues in the years to come. In March 1856 he was notified by Horse Guards that he was “to remain in this country”. At this time, the 13th were still in Turkey but were soon to leave and take up their post in Ballincollig, near Cork in Ireland. Was this evidence that he was still unfit for service?

In January 1862 he was commissioned into the Hampshire Yeomanry as a Lieutenant. He married his cousin Frances on 10 June 1867 and the couple set up home in Dartmouth. They had two daughters, one of whom died in infancy. Denzil’s father was still alive so it is possible that he was still searching for something to occupy his time until he inherited the estate.

Sadly, any thoughts that this was a model Victorian family, or that Denzil would inherit the family estate would be wrong. The Western Morning News of 6 February 1873 reported that Frances had been granted a judicial separation on the grounds of her husband’s adultery and cruelty. Evidence given at the hearing stated that he was often drunk, had ‘delirium tremens’ (usually attributed to alcohol withdrawal symptoms) four times and was violent and threatening towards her.

Denzil died on 16 April 1873 after what his obituary described as “a protracted and painful illness”. Clearly his life, at least in the later years, had been very unhappy. It may be speculation to attribute this to mental issues relating to his experiences in the Crimea, but the description of his home life in the previous paragraph would surely strike a chord with those people working with traumatised veterans today. These days, thankfully, we are aware of the mental toll that warfare can take on our soldiers, but in those days there was little or no understanding, and certainly no treatment, of the problem. Denzil’s tragic story is not unique amongst those who rode in the charge. Many of their number suffered problems in later life, as indeed soldiers have throughout history. The Spartans described the symptoms of PTSD in the period before the Roman Empire, which might be the earliest reference to the psychological condition.

Group of 13th Hussars photographed by Roger Fenton

Group of 13th Hussars photographed by Roger Fenton

The picture above shows Denzil Chamberlayne in a relaxed, if rather staged photograph of a group of 13th Hussars taken by the famous war photographer Roger Fenton. Also in the photo are Percy Shawe Smith and Joseph Malone, later to be awarded the VC for his actions at Balaclava.

Family memorial tablet in St Matthew’s Church, Otterbourne

Family memorial tablet in St Matthew’s Church, Otterbourne

A family memorial tablet in St Matthew’s Church, Otterbourne contains the following tribute to Denzil “One of the Gallant Six Hundred who rode in the Heroic Charge of Balaklava, Buried at St Petrox Dartmouth in the County of Devon”.







Chamberlayne’s shako can be seen in the Charge! The Story of England’s Northern Cavalry gallery at Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Display cabinet at Discovery Museum

Display cabinet at Discovery Museum

A Comparative study of Tintoretto’s “Washing of the Disciples’ Feet” from the Shipley to the Prado by Conservation Officer Ana Flynn

On 30 October, I had the opportunity to visit The Prado Museum in Madrid to meet with the conservators and researchers who had been studying “Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet”, an oil painting by Jacopo Tintoretto, 1548-1549. There is also a version of the same painting which is part of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums’ collection and is on display in Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, UK. Both have been authenticated as “of the hand of Tintoretto”.

The original composition was painted in 1547 for the church of San Marcuola in Venice. It attracted the attention of collectors early on and by 1648 it was purchased from the church and replaced with a copy by the painter Carlo Ridolfi.

What happened to the painting next is less certain. One version of the painting made its way into the collection of King Charles I of England and now hangs in the Prado Museum in Madrid. Some believe this Madrid copy may be the original; the Shipley Tintoretto, however, bears the closest resemblance to Carlo Ridolfis’ replacement suggesting it may be the original.

Prado Tintoretto

The Prado version

There is reference to a painting by Tintoretto of this title in a sale of work owned by Sir Joshua Reynolds in March 1794. This was bought by Berwick, but we cannot link this definitively with the Shipley painting.

The Shipley Tintoretto can be traced to the Delahanty collection, where it was sold at auction by Philips of London in June 1814 to the collector, H. Baring. Baring sold it the very next day to Sir Matthew White Ridley of Blagdon Hall in Northumberland. In July 1818, Ridley gave the painting to St Nicholas’ Church in Newcastle (which would become St Nicholas’ Cathedral in 1882), where it hung behind the altar. After many decades in the church, the Tintoretto was loaned to the Shipley and eventually purchased in 1986.

The Shipley version

We are currently working in partnership with the Conservation Department at Northumbria University to analyse the Shipley painting. Along with the help of the Restoration and Analysis Department at the Prado, we are hoping to do a comparative study of the two paintings.

The Prado painting has already had a lot of research done on it and I was very grateful for the generosity of the staff there for sharing their insights with me. I now have a head full of things to look for in our picture, some of which I have already managed to find.

What was really interesting, after having seen the two paintings in the flesh, is that they are as equally different as they are the same. The Prado painting is undoubtedly brought to a finer finish and has far more paint applied, particularly in the back ground. In the Shipley version, the artist has used the priming layer and underdrawings to create the background. Whilst the underdrawings are still visible in the Prado version, a layer of lead white covers most of the background making the overall effect much brighter.

Prado tint buildings

Shipley architecture on left, Prado on right

The Shipley painting is not in a particularly good state and has had several rather crude repairs made to it, as well as having been over-cleaned in the past, causing considerable loss to the thin paint layers in some areas (particularly the bottom right corner). Some areas are also down to the ground.

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Prado bottom right corner






Left image of bottom right corner of Shipley painting has suffered serious damage and paint loss compared to the Prado version on the right. However, the decoration on the hem of the left garment is more detailed.

Despite the Shipley painting not being in as fine a finished state as the Prado version, there are some areas where we find more details. For example, the background scene of the last supper which is quite detailed in the Shipley’s, but far more sketchy in the Prado version.

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Prado last supper detail

Above the vignette of the last supper seen in the background of both paintings, in the Shipley one on the left the details and figures are clearer than the Prado version.

Rather interestingly on the x-radiography taken of the Prado painting, square paving stones can be seen underneath the paintings of the figures. These have been changed into lozenge shaped tiles in the upper visible layers. My favourite bit of information from the Prado’s x-rays is the large nail hole in the centre of the vanishing point where the string was attached to mark out the perspective.

Prado painting







Details from the X-ray of the Prado painting on the left, you can see the square tiles under the figure, and on the right you can see the hole where the nail has been hammered through the canvas.

Going forward, I would like to find a way of x-raying our painting to see if we have similar features.

Also further pigment analysis would be a must. I am hoping with the information and connections we have made between the two museums, we will be able to move forward together to unlock more information from these two important paintings.



The legend of St. Cuthbert – a journey of discovery by Kate Buckley

My name is Kate Buckley and I am a third year History student at Newcastle University. I also act as a Library Volunteer in the Great North Museum: Hancock Library where I work with the fascinating collection of books that are available for anyone to use.

Are you interested in St. Cuthbert? If not, you should be. The tale of the ‘Farne Islands hermit’ St. Cuthbert is well known in the North East, but there is much more to St. Cuthbert’s legacy. Whilst volunteering at the Great North Museum: Hancock Library , I uncovered a story which I believe has been neglected in favour of the traditional more acceptable history of St. Cuthbert. However, it is clear to me St. Cuthbert’s tale did not end with his death, and it certainly did not end with his internment at Durham Cathedral.

St. Cuthbert

St. Cuthbert


The traditional story of St. Cuthbert concentrates on the failure of his body to decompose after his burial, and is used to evidence St. Cuthbert’s saintliness. This saintliness has been reinforced by the tale of Cuthbert’s life at Lindisfarne, where he worked as a spiritual healer, a guide and a Bishop, before retiring as a hermit on the ‘Inner Farne’ island, living in ‘isolation’ (although he did receive regular visitors) until his death in 638 AD. The legend tells that fearing Viking and Danish raids, the monks of Lindisfarne fled with the relics and body of St. Cuthbert to a number of locations. These included Melrose, Chester-Le-Street and Ripon before a site was reached in Durham which became his final resting place and where the Cathedral was subsequently built. After this point the attention that has been paid to St. Cuthbert has mostly been focussed upon his cult of saints. However, I would argue this concentrates upon the spirituality of St. Cuthbert; whereas the information I have uncovered considers the remains of the body of St. Cuthbert, and continues this fascinating story into the 19th century.

In the library of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle Upon Tyne there is a first edition of a book by James Raine, titled An appreciation of St. Cuthbert: with an account of the state in which his remains were found upon the opening of his tomb in Durham Cathedral in the year MDCCCXXVII”.

This book details the excavation of St. Cuthbert’s tomb which occurred on 17 May 1827. Raine (the Librarian for Durham Cathedral), provided an in depth account of the excavation, and I argue Raine’s account is of interest for any archaeologist or enthusiast alike; after all, Raine was the first to lay eyes on St. Cuthbert’s skeleton since 1542!  However, once you delve into the history of this excavation a story of deception and disbelief is revealed. Raine,  a man so determined to disprove the ‘magic’ surrounding St. Cuthbert, conducted this illegal excavation during the twilight hours before anyone could awaken and stop him. I believe this is one of the reasons Raine’s work has been generally dismissed by historians; whilst yes it may be riddled with inaccuracies and biases, I think anyone with an inquisitive mind would be wrong to be so dismissive. After all, Raine, a man who declared his excavation “completely disproves the tale of centuries, invented for interested purposes in a superstitious age—the incorruptibility of St. Cuthbert”, represents a time of growing disbelief towards the supernatural. So I advise anyone with an interest in the legacy of St. Cuthbert and also those in social history to visit the GNM: Hancock Library and read this text. It reveals more than one might expect.

Statue of monks carrying St. Cuthbert’s coffin

As an added bonus, this copy of Raine’s appreciation contains a letter written by James Raine to J.G Hodgson – the man kind enough to donate his copy of the book to the SANT collection (housed at the GNM: Hancock Library). The letter reveals another side to Raine. It shows he was not just a man of academia, but also provides an insight into the life of Raine as the churchwarden: an ‘ordinary man’. As a History student, I made my best attempt to transcribe the letter; alas it is a skill I have yet to master and therefore I have been unable to fulfil my task (but I am still trying!). So I invite you to not only venture into the tome, but to read the letter and attempt to identify and then transcribe the words that James Raine took the time to write to his “dear Hodgson.”

James Raine

James Raine

My dear Hodgson,

I thank your son (?) very sincerely for his admirable index,  and send although I fear you will think but late the head and tail of my book. I shall be thankful for your candid remarks upon this tract at your leisure as they may be of use to my evidence (?).

Meldon came safe. It makes a very nice book. I will settle with Walker when I am at Newcastle and I shall be glad to give copies to Wailes, Lenon and the very sensible man Coxon (?) of the garden house my perpetual churchwarden.  I am going away into Yorkshire (?) on Wednesday but shall return home again on Saturday after which I intend to spend a day or two with you at Whelpington.  I shall perhaps travel northwards in the beginning of next week.

The Chancellor as you will see has given me the Little Living here of which I have for some time been Curate. I am now safe inn the event of my losing (?) the Chief  ………… (?).

If I have sent you too much or too little of St. Cuthbert be kind enough to tell me so. In the former cas you must be so good as send back the spare sheets otherwise a copy will be left here imperfect and if it should happen that you are still are imperfect no time shall be lost in rendering (?) you complete.  With ….  ….. ….. …. (?)  Hodgson believe (?) me yours most faithfully.

James Raine

Letter from James Raine

Letter from James Raine

If this tome is not enough to entice you, the Great North Museum: Hancock Library contains a number of books and articles pertaining to St. Cuthbert.  These include Connor O’Brien’s “Attitudes to St. Cuthbert’s body during the nineteenth century” in Northern History, September 2016 and C.F. Battiscombe (ed) “The relics of St. Cuthbert”.

O’Brien’s work is fascinating, as it provides context to the life of James Raine and an explanation for his actions on 17 May 1827. O’Brien explores alternative accounts of this night. One of the most outlandish alternatives is the claim that Raine was found standing on top of St. Cuthbert’s bones attempting to destroy them. This certainly paints an even darker picture of the excavation undertaken by Raine. However, whilst these alternatives are interesting, the value of O’Brien’s work is that he places the excavation in context and goes beyond what those involved wanted us to see. In my opinion, O’Brien was successful for he maintains Raine’s actions were part of a larger picture. O’Brien argues the excavation was not a quest for truth, but part of an ongoing picture in England of Protestant v Catholic, as proving a Catholic Saint to be ‘false’ was an apt way for the Anglican Church to assert its authority over the Catholic Church. This certainly provokes further interest into St. Cuthbert’s story as it proves that his saintliness and the impact he had on society remained strong.

As an alternative to O’Brien, Battiscombe’s collection is a must for anyone interested in the more quirky side of history. It contains fabulous images of some of the surviving relics of St. Cuthbert. For instance you can see St. Cuthbert’s comb, along with artist renderings of what St. Cuthbert’s tomb would have looked like in the 7th century.  The collection of  articles goes further than simply describing each relic; it analyses each one, therefore enabling any interested party to learn the significance of these archaeological pieces, which offer invaluable insight into the past. More importantly, it allows us to go beyond the legend of the saintly St. Cuthbert, to delve into the everyday life of the pious man.

St. Cuthbert's comb

St. Cuthbert’s comb

It is clear the story of St. Cuthbert is a fascinating one, and that his place in history remains strong.  Therefore, even if you are not a history buff, the events surrounding the life and death of St. Cuthbert should be known as it is a story that is enshrined in the identity and heritage of the North East of England. And, after all, he is our patron Saint.

The Great North Museum Hancock Library is located on the second floor of the Great North Museum.  It is free to use and is open to everyone. It houses the collections of the Natural History Society of Northumbria, the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Newcastle University’s Cowen Library. For more information please visit



So…you’ve decided to get married in front of a T. rex, what now?

A wedding at the Great North Museum: Hancock

Newlyweds in front of the T. rex at the Great North Museum: Hancock

Museums and galleries are becoming popular choices for ceremonies, evening receptions and wedding breakfasts. Couples are opting to surround their guests with curious artefacts and world-class art. But how do you make the very most of a quirky wedding venue? Here are a few of my best tips for getting married in a museum or gallery:

Wedding favours

The best party favours are the most memorable

There are countless companies out there offering all kinds of unique wedding favours, from personalised chocolate bars to candles, but how do you make those wedding favours as memorable as the magnificent, curious objects in a museum or gallery?

Whether you’re getting married in front of the T. rex in the Great North Museum: Hancock, or Charles Parsons’ 34-metre steam powered ship Turbinia (once the fastest ship in the world) at Discovery Museum, why not check out the museum shop for inspiration? The shop will contain all kinds of weird and wonderful gifts for adults and children.

Themed wedding breakfast

Speak to your caterers, especially if they offer bespoke menus

Believe me, chicken supreme is a delicious classic, but why not take some inspiration from your surroundings to create a themed wedding breakfast to remember? For example, the Hadrian’s Wall Gallery at the Great North Museum: Hancock – featuring a 1:4700 scale model of the 73-mile structure which ran from the mouth of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth – lends itself spectacularly to a Roman themed menu. Now I’m not saying you need to forgo any cutlery for a more authentic meal, but you could consider a twist on the classics.


Take inspiration from the venue’s defining features

The Laing Art Gallery – home to the spectacular stained glass windows from 1896 by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones (1833-1898) – creates the most impressive backdrop to a wedding breakfast. So why not take inspiration from these unique surroundings? Use seasonal stained glassware such as vases or bowls as your table features. Oh, and remember my tip about the gallery or museum shop? It may stock exactly what you are looking for. Or you could be creative and use glass paint to decorate vintage glassware.

Table settings at the Laing Art Gallery

Table settings at the Laing Art Gallery

You don’t need to stop there either. You can make your centrepieces more personal by including a short written anecdote about the first time you visited the gallery together. Create conversation on the tables by sharing these defining moments with your guests. You never know, it may even encourage new relationships.

Dress code

If your style isn’t traditional, should you tell your guests?

You’ve chosen your venue for a very special reason, it may be the location of your first date, or perhaps the museum’s period features or exhibitions are the perfect inspiration for your wedding day. If the latter is the case you may want to think about including this information on your invites. It may be fun to see your guests take on some elements of your theme.

For example, the magnificent Great Hall at Discovery Museum lends itself perfectly to a 1920s themed day. The Art Deco period features are the perfect accompaniment to the roaring 20s style.

The Great Hall at Discovery Museum © Jonny T Photography

The Great Hall at Discovery Museum © JT Photography

So if you find that your venue’s defining features provide the perfect gateway to your wedding theme, it might be worth letting your guests know that they are welcome to join in.

After all, your big day is something you’ll remember for the rest of your life. You might as well make it unforgettable for everyone.

This guide has been written by Leann Hay, Trading Development officer at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums. Four of our venues – Great North Museum: Hancock, Discovery Museum, The Shipley Art Gallery, and  Laing Art Gallery – are licensed for weddings and offer unique backdrops for wedding breakfasts and evening receptions. You can find out more about these museums and galleries on our website:

A ‘daring’ rediscovery

Up and down the land, museums and archives hold millions of objects in their collections. Of those objects, only a few are ever displayed. The rest lie quietly in museum boxes awaiting rediscovery.

Recently, Dr James Gerrard of Newcastle University’s School of History, Classics and Archaeology, borrowed a box of Roman pottery from the Great North Museum. In this box were a few dozen sherds of shiny red pottery known as samian or terra sigillata (Form 36). Much to James’s surprise, one of the fragments had the name ‘AVDAX’ scratched on it.

Sherd with inscription

Sherd with inscription

‘Audax’ is a Roman personal name and Dr Roger Tomlin, a leading expert in Roman inscriptions from Oxford University’s Wolfson College, thinks that it might be the name of a Roman soldier meaning ‘bold’ or ‘daring’.  Other people called Audax are known from Roman Britain, but it’s lovely to rediscover this Roman soldier from the depths of the Museum’s collections.




Label attached to the pottery

Label attached to the pottery


We’re not entirely sure where the sherd was found. An old label with the piece of pottery hints that it might have been found at Corbridge. Certainly other finds from the Corbridge excavations made their way into the GNM’s collections, so this wouldn’t be surprising.