The Museum Collection
Explore the wonders of the Harrow Museum Collection including beautiful items from Hamilton’s Brushworks, Whitefriars Glass and the famous Kodak factory.
Please note: the museum collection is currently not on display. Selected pieces from the collection will be on display in conjunction with temporary exhibitions whilst the Museum undergoes restoration.
The most important item in our collection is Headstone Manor House itself, it’s unique history and extraordinary architecture make it the jewel in our crown. Accompanied by the three other spectacular buildings, the site has an extraordinary story to tell of the history of Harrow. Find out more about The Buildings here.
Headstone Manor is also home to the Harrow Museum Collection, approximately 5,000 objects. Most of these are social history artefacts from the 19th and 20th centuries and complete the picture by picking up the story of Harrow where the buildings leave off.
In particular they enable an interpretation of Harrow’s industrial past, including a collection from the Kodak factory, the Whitefriars Glass factory, and the Hamiltons Brushworks.
The Harrow Museum Collection includes an extensive archaeology section, and social history objects from the Roman era to the present day. We are currently in the process of cataloguing the entire collection, if you would like to help with this process, as a Volunteer, or through Adopt an Object, please get in touch.
The long term aim for the Harrow Museum Collection is to expand the historic and modern collection so that they comprehensively reflect the community of Harrow as it is now.
For more information about how to make a donation please complete the form below
Until its closure in 1980 Whitefriars had been a leader of the industry, recognised for inspired design and subtle colours. Whitefriars produced beautiful objects for combining the effective use of modern machinery and ancient methods. Today, Whitefriars glass is highly valued for its quality and beauty, and is becoming ever more collectable and expensive.
Whitefriars are historically significant to HarrowMuseum and its locality; a new factory was built in 1923 when the Whitefriars glassworks relocated to Wealdstone. The fires in the glasshouse furnaces had burned continuously since 1720 when the company first opened on Temple Street in London, and in keeping with this tradition, a lit brazier was carried from the old glasshouse to the new factory, and used to light the first furnace.
In 1980 the factory closed down and the buildings were subsequently destroyed, but the legacy of the company lives on. Having Whitefriars objects within Harrow Museum’s collections is vital for telling the story of the area.
To find out more about our Heritage Lottery Funded Young Roots project on Whitefriars glass please see its facebook page
In 1890, Kodak acquired a seven acre plot of farmland in Harrow, creating the company’s first British factory. This factory was the largest photographic manufacturing plant in the British Commonwealth. And at its height in the 1950s the factory employed over 6,000 people.
The core of Kodak’s activity in Harrow now is the production of Ektacolor paper and Thermal Media Finishing, continuing the tradition of photographic materials manufactured on the site.
As digital photography took off the manufacturing done at the Harrow site became more and more redundant, leading to buildings being closed and the site redeveloped.
It is important for Harrow Museum to collect Kodak objects as this factory not only sits adjacent to the Museum site, it also landscaped the local community, building a town for its workers. The Kodak factory is a landmark in Harrow and being able to tell the story of this significant industrial institution is integral to Harrow’s past.
The brush making firm Hamilton and Co Ltd was established in 1811, during a period of increasing development within the trade in England. Charles Foster Hamilton, the founder, began the firm after completing a brush makers apprenticeship, and although changing premises several times, the company settled in 1828 in Greek Street, Soho.
After Hamiton’s death in 1856 his apprentice, and son-in-law, Charles Adolphus Watkins, took over and expanded Hamilton’s on a large scale due to new inventions, technology, and improved working conditions.
This expansion meant that the company had to move premises, and a larger factory was built in Clerkenwell. In 1887, within only ten years of opening the Clerkenwell factory it had become too small and Hamilton’s moved to a new site in Wealdstone. The factory in Harrow was completed in 1899 and was the largest of its kind in the country.
Once in Harrow, Hamilton’s Brush Works introduced a production line. Where previously one man had worked on an entire brush, now a more efficient method of one person making one section of each brush was implemented.
In 1955 Hamilton’s amalgamated with the Star Brush Company, creating the new company Hamilton Star Group. Following this merger, Star’s factory at Holloway was closed and business was transferred to Harrow.
Until the 1980s Hamilton’s had remained basically a family business, as the new Managing Director in 1945, Kenneth Hamilton-Watkins, was the great grandson of the founder. However, in 1985 Hamilton’s was sold to Blundell-Permoglaze and the traditional craft based factory turned in to a modern paint brush and decorating business. A further takeover, in 1989, by Lionheart took place, and upon acquiring Acorn Decorating Products, Lionheart formed a new company called Hamilton Acorn. The Acorn factory, in Attleborough, Norfolk was much larger and more modern than the factory in Harrow Weald, and as such all production was moved to Norfolk.
The Harrow factory closed for good in April 1991.
The social history collection at Harrow Museum consists of a variety of household objects, mainly from the 19th and 20th Centuries. These encompass three broad subject areas- domestic/personal, working and community life. Working Life has a strong representation within the collection due to the large quantity of agricultural material associated with Harrow’s agricultural past .
Other objects include a vast array of crockery, medical equipment, toys, electrical items, beauty products and glassware, all building up the various dimensions of life in Harrow.
Harrow Museum’s collection contains a variety of textiles, mostly from the 19th and 20th centuries. Much of the textiles are clothing, such as hats, gloves, stockings, shawls etc. There are also fashion items such as bags and fans.
Within this collection there are also various outfits, such as a white satin wedding dress dating from 1938, and a Royal Naval Uniform dating from 1945-7. These items have been worn by local residents and having them in the museum collection allows us to tell the story of Harrow from a much more personal perspective.
Harrow Museum has a variety of archaeological material, mainly pottery finds, tiles, and animal bones, derived from fieldwork, excavations, and stray finds from the area. The archaeology collection covers Roman, Medieval, Post-Medieval and Victorian periods, with the strength of the collection lying in its 13th century medieval pottery collection.
Sea Urchin Fossil
What on the day was thought to be a weight of a tie holding a luggage cover turned out to be the fossil of a sea urchin! Lower Bagshot Beds cover the clay of Harrow on the Hill. Bagshot beds were laid down in shallow water some being fresh water, some marine, and date to the Eocene Epoch, which lasted from about 56 to 48 million years ago. The fossil was found during a dig on Harrow on the Hill Green in August 2011 in the north part of the trench where the ground was harder. Interesting to think there may once have been sea urchins on the Hill!
Photographs and Documents
Harrow Museum has a wide range of photographs and slides in the collection, which cover a wide variety of sites and subjects.
The Museum also has several hundred items of written materials and books, almost all of the collection dating from the 20th century. This collection includes pamphlets, magazines, leaflets, periodicals, booklets, postcards, newspapers and documents, minute books, ledgers and diaries.
Both of these collections will be amalgamated with the Local History Centre once they have moved to our site. This will enable the resources to be used in support of each other and increase access to both collections.