Bruce Castle Museum, Haringey, London

Exterior of Bruce Castle Museum, Haringey

I lived in Haringey when I first moved to London and visited Bruce Castle museum just once, so it was nice to find a reason to go back. I went to visit the current exhibition about a project collecting oral histories from the Chinese community in the area (partly a professional interest, but really just any excuse to visit a museum!).

Caligraphy text book, Ming Ai exhibition at Bruce Castle Museum, Haringey

The Chinese community has existed in Haringey for many years, but it was in the 1960s (I learnt) that many Chinese people came to settle in Haringey and make it their home. The exhibition highlights various features of this community and also the multicultural nature of the area.

Many of the oral history interviews highlighted talk about the nature of community and I really liked one comment talking about how increasing numbers of non-Chinese children are joining in the local Chinese language lessons – it’s not just London that gets more and more multicultural, it’s something that is a common feature in the world, increased communication, world trade and world economy means we can’t just live in our own little bubbles anymore.

Three chinese statues of dieties Fu, Lu and Shou, Bruce castle museum, Haringey London

Statues of three deities Fu, Lu and Shou (Happiness, Prosperity and Longevity)

I would have liked to have been able to listen to some of the oral histories first hand and there was a TV in the room, but it wasn’t turned on, so perhaps sometimes they can be viewed in the exhibition, but if not, I believe you can find some on the British Chinese Heritage Centre website http://www.britishchineseheritagecentre.org.uk/library-資料館/memories-回憶錄

Although I didn’t particularly plan to see more at the museum I couldn’t help wandering around the building as there’s lots of diverse displays including traditional local history in old looking display cases and the strangely diverting postal history section. But what struck me on this occasion was a room with several unnecessarily small text panels all about conscientious objectors in WW1. I am definitely suffering WW1 fatigue already and not sure I need another few years of events, exhibitions and displays, but this was genuinely very interesting, with Haringey having many organisations that were against war and explaining the reasons why very clearly. Also on display were pamphlets, letters and ephemera related to the topic.

'Facts and Figures' pamphlet about conscientious objects, published 1919 at Bruce castle musum

‘Facts and Figures’ pamphlet, 1919

Along with the background about why people became conscientious objectors and the courage this must have taken are personal stories and letters from those who were among the 350 local men who applied to Tribunals of Conscientious Objectors, with all 350 having their cases denied and many sent to prison.

“I cannot take life nor assist in any operation the object of which is the taking of life” – Charles Murfin, Tottenham, originally sentenced to death, but this was subsequently downgraded to 10 years in prison.

Bruce Castle Museum
Weds – Sun 1pm-5pm
FREE ENTRY

Our good Fortune – History of the working lives of Chinese people in Haringey is on until 5 July 2015

No More War – exhibition by the Peace Pledge Union (not clear on closing date)

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