June 3, 2015, by Guest blog

Behold the head of a traitor!

Post by Richard Gaunt, Curator of Rebellion and Social Justice

In April, I began a three-year residency with Nottingham City Museums and Galleries as their new ‘Curator of Rebellion and Social Justice’. My title is always a cause of conversation and many of my new colleagues are envious of the impeccably ‘cool’ credentials it bestows. The residency is part of an ongoing partnership between the University and the Castle to develop closer academic relationships. Alongside my normal University duties, I’ll be working part-time with the Castle’s established curators to help develop a new ‘Rebellion Gallery’, which is at the heart of a £24m Heritage Lottery Funded redevelopment of the Castle as a world-class heritage attraction. The post itself has been funded by Arts Council England.

A good example of both the partnership and the new gallery surrounds the impending bicentenary of the Pentrich Rebellion of 1817. One of the leading rebels in this failed workers revolt was Jeremiah Brandreth, ‘the Nottingham Captain’. An opportunity arose for the Castle to display the execution block upon which Brandreth was placed after he was hanged for High Treason. He was laid there so that his head could be chopped off – rebels beware! The block was loaned from Derby Museums and Art Gallery and I was able to provide historical context for the display.

The television broadcaster Gyles Brandreth, whose family have traced a link back to Jeremiah, came to the Castle to support the HLF bid and to see the gruesome evidence of his ancestor’s demise. It’s a good example of the ways in which Arts scholarship can inform the public presentation of museum objects and invite the public to think about the deeper stories attached to them.

Gyles Brandreth with the execution block and historical interpretation panel

Gyles Brandreth with the execution block and historical interpretation panel

If you want to see the block for yourself, make sure to visit Nottingham Castle before 7 June. And look out for regular updates on my residency in future posts.

Richard Gaunt


Posted in Being Human FestivalPublic engagement