Back to School: Alumni Story and Artefact Collection Afternoon

On Friday 28th June, the Rumble Museum was delighted to welcome back alumni from Cheney Technical and Cheney Girls School, as well as some alumni from later eras, to share their stories and objects from their time here. Cheney School's site was once two separate schools which arrived here in the 1950s. Cheney Technical School came here in 1954 from St Ebbe's area of town, and was originally founded by John Brookes in 1934. It occupied the area of school now called W block after Arnold Wainwright, the head teacher who oversaw the move. Cheney Girls School started life as a Sunday School in 1797 and then became Oxford Central Girls School, and moved to New Inn Hall Street. It moved to Cheney's site in 1959, and occupied the area called C Block, named after Louisa Chadwick, a much-loved head teacher of the Oxford Central Girls School.

Trip to the Oxford Brookes University Archives

On Monday 3rd June, a group of Year Eight history students had the opportunity to visit the Oxford Brookes University Archive, as part of a Rumble Museum project exploring the connections between John Brookes, Oxford Brookes University and Cheney School, culminating in a Story and Artefact Collection afternoon for alumni students and staff on 28th June. The students were met by archivist Eleanor Possart, who introduced the archives, explaining what sort of things they collected, and how the rooms were specially controlled in terms of their temperature and other aspects to preserve the valuable material. 
She had laid out a selection of material from five different collections: food and drink, Dorset House, the Booker Prize, children's literature, and Cheney Technical School, founded by John Brookes, and one of the two schools which merged to become Cheney School in 1972. Students were able to explore the material in groups, and think about some key questions. The Booker Prize collection showed how much controversy emanated from judge's decisions, with press articles and a strongly worded letter written by Joanna Lumley on the panel for one of the years. It was interesting to see the contrast between the judges' statements and reporting in the press.

Hospital School Museum Display Project

The Rumble Museum at Cheney is delighted to be supporting the Oxfordshire Hospital School as it embarks upon an exciting museum project over the next few months. The Rumble Museum will work with the team at the Hospital School as it develops in-house displays of museum objects, and projects connected to these displays.  

Catherine Costello from the Hospital School said: "It was a real inspiration to be able to visit Cheney School last week to see the ways in which their wonderful museum exhibitions have enriched pupils understanding of history and the wider curriculum across the school. We are thrilled to be able to benefit from Lorna's extensive experience in the coming weeks as we begin to work on our new initiative."

The Oxfordshire Hospital School (OHS) is an Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) maintained school based across a number of settings throughout the county of Oxfordshire. The school serves children & young people aged 4-19 who are unable to attend their home school due to a wide range of medical and mental health needs. 

The Rumble Museum at Cheney is a unique partnership between an educational charity and a school. The Iris Project, a charity which promotes learning about the ancient world, is working with Cheney School to grow a museum within a school. We are working within the Arts Council Museum Accreditation Scheme.   

Roman Kiln from Headington

We have been very fortunate to have been donated some large pieces of a Roman Kiln which was excavated from the Churchill Hospital in Oxford in 1972. For many years, the Kiln has been housed at the Museum of Oxford in the Town Hall.

The Museum of Oxford are now developing their site to create new displays, and decided to break the kiln into smaller pieces, some of which they have kept. We were privileged and honoured to receive two large pieces of the kiln wall (pictured on the left) and a much larger piece containing some of the original corbelling.

Over the next few months, we will be working with students to create a new display of these pieces, connecting them with the extensive history of the Romans in Headington.

Watch this space for further updates!


From Dinosaurs to Dragonflies: the Iris Festival of Natural History

On Wednesday 27th March, we held our long-awaited Iris Festival of Natural History, Classics, Art & More at Cheney. For a few hours, Cheney School’s site was entirely transformed with the arrival of animatronic dinosaurs, tarantulas, ball pits, sundials, birds of prey, a storytelling tent, and many other unexpected and thrilling exhibits.


The Festival was a celebration of the Rumble Museum at Cheney, the first museum in a state school, and its journey towards Arts Council Accreditation, and over fifty different organisations travelled from near and far to run a very wide range of exciting stalls, activities, exhibitions and shows. The event was split into five main discovery zones. In the Science and Natural History zone, Cheney students and visitors explored spiders webs, fossils, botany and dragonflies, brought by the Cole Museum, Brookes Botanical Society, Natural History Museum in Oxford, University of Oxford Department of Zoology, the British Dragonfly Society and the Dinosaur Society. The Travelling Natural History Museum brought a range of models, and also two huge animatronic dinosaurs, who thrilled visitors with a show every half an hour! Millets Falconry brought beautiful owls which attracted a constant crowd of admirers.

An Evening of Stargazing

On Monday 11th February, the Rumble Museum at Cheney held its first ever Stargazing Event. The evening started at 5pm when around 70 visitors followed a chalk star and planet trail through the school site to L1. Professor Allan Chapman, Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and author of many History of Science books, delivered an animated and highly engaging talk on the planets of the solar system, explaining the fascinating and peculiar elements of their atmospheres, for example the acidic environment of Venus and the composition of Saturn's rings. He also spoke of how his wonder for the planets and stars started at a very early age where he made his own telescope. 

Women's Suffrage Celebration Day

On Friday 14th December, the Rumble Museum at Cheney held an all day celebration of 100 years since a woman was first able to vote in a general election in Britain.This event was a culmination of our Rumble Suffrage Season, during which we have run a range of different talks, workshops and projects exploring the votes for women movement.
The day was opened by Anneliese Dodds, MP for Oxford East and Philippa Bilton, relative of Emily Wilding Davison, who spoke to an audience of around 250 mostly sixth form students. Anneliese spoke about the challenges facing women in politics today, and about ways to encourage more women to stand for parliament. She also spoke about other under-represented groups, and her own experiences of gender stereotyping.  Philippa's talk explored Emily Wilding Davison's life, and her many forms of direct action, including hiding in a broom cupboard in the House of Commons during the 1911 census, and the famous incident at the Epsom Derby in 1913 in which she lost her life. She also spoke about the brutality of force-feeding in prison, which Emily underwent 49 times. After their talks, the audience put a number of thoughtful and challenging questions to the speakers, including whether it was essential for it to be a woman to represent women, and what role education should play in encouraging young women to take part in public life.   

"Oxford: the War and the World, 1914 - 9" Exhibition Project

Year Eight History students were privileged to welcome University of Oxford researcher, Hanna Smyth, to introduce the exhibition that she has been helping to create: Oxford: the War and the World, 1914 – 9. This touring exhibition is coming to Cheney School’s Rumble Museum as one of its venues in December. It tells twelve stories of individuals who were involved in World War One in some way, and who have some connection to Oxford. Year Eight students will be involved in creating a guidebook for this exhibition in the coming weeks!

Hanna started by asking everyone to think about what a museum has to think about when it is putting on an exhibition. She pointed out that one of the key things to think about is editing, and how to take the information that you have, and shape it into an interesting exhibition that is appropriate to the audience. She asked the students what the difference between memory and history was, and some said that memory was an opinion and personal and living, whereas history was impartial and collective and continued through time. Hanna asked everyone to be aware, as the group begins to work on our own display boards project, that memories, history and museums are never neutral. They all have a perspective, and they all choose to include some things and overlook others.

Deeds and Words: Helen Pankhurst speaks at Community Viewing of “Suffragette”

We were privileged to have been able to welcome Helen Pankhurst last night to speak as part of our Rumble Museum Suffrage Season. Helen is the great granddaughter of the well-known leader of the British Suffragette Movement Emmeline Pankhurst, and the granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst. She has followed in her family’s footsteps by involving herself in women’s rights and human rights activism, and currently works for CARE International.

Digital Collection Day at the Rumble Museum

This Friday 2nd November, the Rumble Museum held its second digital collection day. The day was held in partnership with the University of Oxford, as part of their national Lest We Forget project. The museum opened its doors to the community, who came with a wide range of items, including stories, photographs, medals, letters and diaries. As well as collecting items from the Wars, we were also collecting stories and items about pioneering women over the past 100 years, as part of our Rumble Suffrage Season.

Cockroach-handling and Elephant teeth: A Morning at the Natural History Museum

On Friday 30th November, 31 Year Eight Classics and Museum students set out to visit the Oxford's world-renowned Natural History Museum!

The students have all been working on Natural History display boards in advance of the Iris Festival of Natural History on 27th March, and this trip was an opportunity to explore the different ways museums present and display objects and information, as well as to experience the very wide-ranging collections the Museum has to offer. 

Technology and the "Diseases of Modern Life" Workshops

We were very privileged to have been able to welcome Professor Sally Shuttleworth and Dr Catherine Charlwood from the University of Oxford Humanities Centre (TORCH) to introduce an exciting project on the theme of 'Diseases of Modern Life' to Year Eight students a few weeks ago, which culminated last night in Year Eight artwork, poetry and other responses being projected at Victorian Night Light as part of the Oxford Christmas Lights Festival.

They started off by looking at a statement made by a Victorian doctor, James Crichton Browne, who observed in 1860: "We live in an age of electricity, of railways, of gas, and of velocity in thought and action.  In the course of one brief month more impressions are conveyed to our brains than reached those of our ancestors in the course of years, and our mentalising machines are called upon for a greater amount of fabric than was required of our grandfathers in the course of a lifetime"