Even today it’s possible to be given fright by the sight of Bagshaw Museum, appearing suddenly as it does through the trees of Wilton Park, Batley, with its gaunt Gothic lines and wondrous copper-clad tower.
Originally, it was a mansion built in 1875 for local mill owner George Sheard and his wife Annie at a reputed cost of £25,000. The family owned a mill at Hick Lane, Batley. In 1882, they staged a lavish 50th wedding anniversary at the mansion, where they entertained hundreds of guests, including workers from the mill.
Sheard died in 1902 and the mansion was put up for sale a short time after but there were no takers, so it was eventually sold for just £5 to the local corporation.
They employed a local businessman, Walter Bagshaw, to furnish one room as a museum. It proved popular and more rooms were given over to a collection which was as bizarre as it was extensive and eventually the building was renamed in his honour. Bagshaw, which was recently saved from closure by Kirklees Council, is renowned for its collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts, including a mummy (albeit a false one), as our archive picture from November 1969 shows.
The caption read: “With the aid of a 2,000-year-old funeral mask, several rolls of bandages, wire netting, hardboard and powdered coffee, a museum expert has produced a realistic-looking mummy.
“The construction of this modern mummy was a serious venture carried out to provide the centre-piece for a display of ancient Egyptian antiques .
“John Lidster, curator of Batley Museums and Art Gallery, carried out the reproduction work.”
The collection included a mummy mask, part of a mummified leg and other paraphernalia.