Wardown House Objects

It’s been a central element of the interpretation at Wardown House that the house and its contents should “speak for themselves” and these adapted objects play their part.

Let the Objects Speak for Themselves

Working with Imagemakers, this ethos has allowed us to have fun adapting objects to play their part in telling stories of the house and the town, echoing the themes of the different rooms. In each case the discrete adaptation has incorporated hardware into the items in ways that are as unobtrusive as possible in order to retain their historical integrity or has been built into new objects designed to reflect the Victorian style.

Oral history armchairs

Two wing back armchairs in the Billiard Room appear at first glance to be just part of the furniture until the visitor spots the invitation written on the antimacassars on the chair arms to sit and listen. When they take a seat they hear characters sharing their experiences of recreation and sport in Luton.

In one chair, Lilian Scargill – owner Frank Scargill’s young daughter voiced by a delightful 8-year old girl – tells us about the games she played as a Victorian child. In the other, Roger Wash club historian of Luton Town FC, talks about The Hatters’ role as a focal point for the town.

Another armchair features in the Lady’s Bedroom where the seated visitor can hear from one of the Museum Makers about the disparity in comfort between middle class and working class bedrooms.

Magic lantern

In the Smoking Room a magic lantern projects videos which show the changing face of Luton over time onto a screen. The object reflects the period of the room’s furnishings rather than imposing a 21st century piece of equipment into the surroundings whilst still giving visitors a high quality video experience that some find quite mesmerising.

Cabinet of Curiosity

If you were going to invent an object today that epitomised the flavour of Victorian invention it would surely be a Cabinet of Curiosity! In the library the visitor can find just such a thing, adapted from an old “speaking tube” of the kind you might send instructions to the kitchen staff through and parts of a musical instrument. This creation enables visitors to hear renowned local botanist, John Dony, talk about his life and work.

Talking bugle

In the morning and drawing room, a customised bugle is a hands-on, tactile way for visitors to find out more about the history of music in Luton. Lift the bugle, press a button and local experts talk about the local music scene and its diversity. Doog Moody shares the history of Luton’s pop music and Josephine Driscoll talks about her time in the Luton Girls’ Choir.

Talking toilet

A traditional Victorian toilet gives visitors a surprise and a laugh when they pull the chain. The sound of a flush and the gurgling of a Victorian plumbing system travels from the cistern, through the pipes and to the bowl through speakers at different points within the system. Children giggle and also learn more about Victorian health and sanitation through short audio recordings.

Funding Credits

Luton Borough Council
Friends of Luton Museum
Murry Barford Trust
Garfield Weston Foundation
Steel Charitable Trust
Community Covenant
Betty Robinson Trust
Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire Regiment Trust
Rotary North Luton
DCMS Wolfson Foundation