Cater Museum – A credit to the town

Several Billericay club members are among the Trustees of our town's Cater Museum and Christine Brewster, the well-liked and respected Curator of the museum for over 11 years, came along to give a most interesting talk to the club about the museum's achie

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Cater Museum – Looking Back  and Into The Future

Museums – just a hoarding place for relics, antiquities and old bones?  A warehouse of things ancient and of no interest to anyone living in the 21st century?  Wrong!

Several Billericay club members are among the Trustees of our town's Cater Museum and we all were delighted to hear Christine Brewster, curator of the Cater Museum in Billericay High Street, talk to us about the work the museum is doing to protect the town's heritage.  Listen to Christine, who has been curator for over 11 years and you realise two things:  firstly, all our local heritage and history is enshrined in one small building at 74 High Street; secondly, how a local museum which contains some antiquities that the British Museum would kill to own, are safely stored there.

Originally Christine hails from America and retains the hint of a drawl. As she admitted when she gave our members a wonderful talk on the developments of the museum since she last spoke to us some eight years ago, she now considers herself 90 per cent British and mocks those overseas tourists who pop in and who say to her:  We were in America recently – do you know America?  “Most of them ask: Do I speak German or French?  Cannot think why but I speak both. It helps with the questions.”

Since the museum attracts 2,500 visitors in an average year, Christine’s ability to meet and greet everyone on an equal basis is an advantage.  “Yes, we got a lot of Americans, Canadians and New Zealanders.  Many of them are seeking details of their ancestry – many of them have genuine connections with the area and we try to help.  We even located the details of ancestors of a couple whose ancestors lived in Billericay over a century ago and helped some Americans from Billerica in Massachusetts (one of Billericay’s twin towns) to find details of their great, great, great grandfather who they believe emigrated two centuries ago.

It goes on.  Christine displayed a piece of wood – not any ordinary piece of wood. This was found when the original building was demolished. Probable date – around 1588 –Elizabethan defence of Britain as Sir Francis Drake fought the Armada. A fairy light – a wooden box with a hole and a form of candle – dated 1800 – and amongst the museum’s “skeletal” collection, a wooden Noah’s Ark Model dug out of the mud after the bulldozers demolished a local house.

But , as Christine was anxious to emphasise, the museum is as much about current and future events and records as the past.  It is a museum with a garden.  “We are very proud of our garden,” she said. “It is something we have developed with a great deal of support.  Which is why when the developers came to us and said:  “Can we buy the land?”.  “My answer was, let us say, non-receptive!”

To emphasise their modern approach, Christine said how they had to deal with the recent floods which had thrown up all kinds of possible artifaxes which had to be examined and chosen.  “ Just one of the many things we are asked to consider.”

The museum involves all aspects of the local community.  They invite people to bring plants for their garden, have a Remus Horse Sanctuary Day for an afternoon of fun on May 10 and bring 15th Century to life with a Merrie Medieval Day on July 26 from 12 noon – 4.00pm.  It involves itself also with the The Fun Walk Trust, this year on May 18 at Barleylands Farm.  And our club president, Keith Wood presented Christine with a cheque for