Quirky exhibition to explore unique character of Wisbech and Fenland

Richard Barnwell with two 1920s Wisbech Fire Brigade prizes from his collection – a fireman's helmet and the flare-launcher used to summon firemen to a blaze and a postcard from the 1920s of the flare-launcher being demonstrated. Picture: WISBECH MUSEUM

Richard Barnwell with two 1920s Wisbech Fire Brigade prizes from his collection – a fireman's helmet and the flare-launcher used to summon firemen to a blaze and a postcard from the 1920s of the flare-launcher being demonstrated. Picture: WISBECH MUSEUM

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A quirky exhibition is set to launch at Wisbech Museum telling the story of 20th century Fenland through objects collected by auctioneer Richard Barnwell.

Items include a 1890s bottle of Great Restorer tonic, the brass launcher of the flares fired to call Wisbech Fire Brigade to fight a blaze in the 1920s and a rare 17th century lead wool weight used for measuring fleeces.

Mr Barnwell's exhibition will run from Saturday (November 9) to 30 and feature objects collected locally with his eye for the quirks.

Richard, now chairman of the museum's board of directors, said: "I was 18 and already a collector when I came to Wisbech as assistant and general dogsbody to James Crowden of the old Fenland firm of Grounds & Co.

"Since then with Grounds and at my own firm Clifford Cross auctions I've held 750 sales and hope to conduct many more.

"I must have sold 500,000 lots in 42 years."

Included in the display is a huge wooden feather-sorting fork from Horace Friend's feather and fur warehouse on Nene Quay, Wisbech, which is now a block of riverside flats with the historic name preserved on the wall.

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