on June 1, 2010
If you want to know the history of Carlise then visit Tullie House Museum. Carlisle sits almost on the border between Scotland and England and changed hands several times. Even in Roman times it had to be strongly defended against those tribes north of Hadrian’s Wall so there’s a lot to cover.Old Tullie House is a classical Jacobean grade one listed building sitting in the centre of Carlisle across from Carlisle Castle. Combined with its modern extensions, it contains both a Museum and Art Gallery. The Border Galleries covers the area’s history from Stone Age times right through to Victorian England. A vast array of Roman artefacts and displays cover the Roman Period. Interactive displays allow visitors to try on some Roman armour, write in wax, trace over stones, straddle a Roman horse, enter a Roman hut or shoot a bow and arrow to bring down a goat. These galleries also house the wildlife dome, an interactive area which gives an eight-minute dramatic audio-visual of the area with life like sky patterns and a chance to see what is lurking underneath rocks. Finally there’s the Border Reivers Cinema, this gives the violent story of the Border Reiver in graphic terms. For a time the Border Area didn’t properly come under the control of either England or Scotland and there were constant raids to steal cattle or sheep over the border. Houses design consisted essentially of two types - those easily rebuilt if destroyed or strongly built tower houses, which could withstand a siege.The Carlisle life gallery is a new area of the museum that chronicles life in Carlisle over the last 100 years. Again this is an interactive area having old toys, appliances and costumes to try on.The Millennium gallery added in 2000-01, houses a collection of minerals and freshwater life exhibition. It is child friendly with many interactive features such as catch a fish, examine water insects through microscopes, or colour in drawings. This area is home to the infamous 'Cursing Stone' of sculpted granite inscribed with a 16th century curse against robbers, blackmailers and highwaymen who blighted the area 500 years ago. The more superstitious in Carlisle blame it for the foot-and-mouth cattle disease in 2001, major flooding in 2004, local fires, job losses and even relegation of the football team! The Art Galleries current exhibition ‘Parallax View’ is by Andrew Livingstone. It represents British porcelain production at the height of the ceramics industry in the 18th and 19th century. These ornate candlesticks and figurines made for society’s elite may now appear twee though to me they still looked magnificent. Livingstone seeks to uncover the story behind each piece. Some displays bring the stories painted on plates to life and a video shows the stages and skills going into some elaborate pieces. As I told the attendant on the way out ‘It is an excellent exhibitions’.Also run by the museum is the Carlisle Guildhall Museum at Fisher Street housed in the upstairs of Carlisle's only medieval house. Built in 1407 of timber, tile bricks and clay it still stands proudly. The builders fashioned the parts in the surrounding forests and transported them to the construction site and assembled them there. The floors slant in various directions due to the levels of the site and the nature of the tree trunks or branches forming the building. A cutaway in one room displays the wattle-and daub composition of the wall.The tradesmen of the time protected their skills by forming special associations or Guilds. Carlisle had eight Trade Guilds, and each had one room in this building as a meeting place. The Guilds were Butchers, Merchants, Shoemakers, Skinners, Smiths, Tailors, Tanners and Weavers.Each of the Guild Rooms has its own special interest - ranging from the ship's cabin-like atmosphere of the Shoemakers room to the unexpectedly Victorian character of the Butcher's Room. Historic Guild objects are on view. There are many items of Guild silver dating mainly from the early 18th century and the Guild Banners flown from the Guildhall on important occasions.All in all Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery offers a fascinating insight into the history of the area.
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