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Gemma Lewis 'Behind the scenes at Preston Hall'.

Gemma was formerly an archaeologist employed by Tyne & Wear Council before she moved to Preston Hall to take responsibility for the Collection, containing more than 100,000 objects.

Working with three assistants she has spent the last 7 years cataloguing the collection & preparing it for exhibition in the recently refurbished museum & gave an authoritative view behind the scenes.

The Hall has an interesting history, in 1825 David Burton Fowler built the present Preston Hall as a modest two-storey three-bayed rectangular structure with a service wing.  In 1882, his nephew, Matthew Fowler sold the estate to Robert Ropner, a shipping merchant and shipbuilder, who became a baronet in 1904.

He extended the property by the addition of substantial wing blocks, and in about 1900 he added a large conservatory. The Ropner family lived in the house until 1937 It was acquired by the Stockton on Tees District Council in 1947 for use as a museum.   It is now a listed building & some £7 million has been spent on refurbishment including restoring the Bell Tower.

The main themes of the collections focus on domestic and working life over the last two hundred years, including craft tools, toys and costume. It also holds two major collections from local benefactors . The Colonel Spence Collection of historic weapons & militaria  contains a rare Viking helmet found at Yarm. The Clephan Art collection, which was made by Edwin & Annie Clephan  of Stockton includes ‘The Dice Players’ by Georges de la Tours.

The talk was lavishly illustrated with pictures of the collection.

A vote of thanks was proposed by Dick Hawkins