Collection Blog

Dorset Museum’s largest and heaviest artefact ?

July 25, 2022

Some of the many artefacts in the Dorset Museum’s collections are on display in the galleries and some are held in store, but some are too big and too heavy to go into either. The Dorset Museum’s traction engine, ‘Hayden Princess’, is one of the latter artefacts.

Built in 1901 by Marshalls of Gainsborough, ‘Hayden Princess’ is a general-purpose steam engine weighing about 11 tonnes. The engine was bequeathed to the museum in 1995 by Jack Miles of Hayden Farm in Charminster. Rather than being put on static display or in store, it was the late curator Peter Woodward and member Giles Romanes who ensured that she was kept as a working exhibit.

We know very little about the history of ‘Hayden Princess’ other than she was owned by Hertfordshire County Council at some point. We also know that she worked in Oxfordshire and Sussex where she was employed in logging. In 1964, Jack Miles purchased her from the Harris family of Pikes Farm at Organford near Poole. Since then she has been a regular sight at the steam fairs held in Shaftesbury, Stourpaine Bushes and Tarrant Hinton as well as other local shows and carnivals.

The ‘Hayden Princess’ is financed, maintained and steamed on behalf of the museum by a team of enthusiastic volunteers – The Dorchester Steam Engine Preservation Society. During the last two years, she has had major repair work performed on her boiler by the volunteers, who also hired the help of a number of craftsmen and inspectors for the more specialized and safety-critical tasks. Hayden Princess passed her boiler inspection and pressure test and is now back ‘in steam’ again!

Although she is kept off-site, ‘Hayden Princess’ is, by nature, a mobile exhibit and performs an outreach function for the museum. When she is displayed ‘in steam’ at local steam rallies she is a popular attraction.

If you see her on the rally field, do come and say hello and we will welcome you onto the footplate.

Hayden Princess at Kingston Maurward 1996

Special Exhibition

28 May – 30 October 2022

Take a fresh look at the Victorian novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy, in the stunning Wessex landscapes that shaped his view of the world. His story will be retold in exciting new ways by our museum collections, from period costumes to personal letters, art to archaeology.

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9 September 2022 - 14 October 2022

Drawing Into Life – 6 Week Creative Course

Six week art course designed for adults interested in art and archaeology. This new course is an exciting opportunity to get up close with some extraordinary artefacts in the collection at Dorset Museum. You will be drawing inspiration from prehistoric art including Neolithic flint tools, Anglo Saxon gold, precious burial goods, Roman mosaics, decorative textiles and archaeological maps amongst others, and have the chance to work directly from the Elisabeth Frink collection.

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Community Exhibition

3 October 2022 - 8 February 2023


Unmasked is a local, voluntary project that began in the dark days of March 2020, when a new disease called COVID-19 literally stopped the world as we knew it.

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Poetry Evening


Who’s in the Next Room?

Poems by Thomas Hardy with new writing from Paul Hyland, Kate Scott, Catherine Simmonds & Pam Zinnemann-Hope

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Big Draw 2022

9 October 2022, 10:30am - 12noon

The Big Draw at Dorset Museum

Come and take part in our Big Draw event at Dorset Museum. Inspired by the natural world around us, colour and natural forms, help us create a giant collage in the style of Henri Rousseau to display in one of our galleries.

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11 October 2022, 11:00am - 12:00pm

Archaeology Highlights Tour

Explore archaeological treasures held by Dorset Museum – from Bronze Age gold to medieval silver -  in this volunteer-led tour.

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13 October 2022, 5:00pm - 7:00pm

Museum after hours

Join us for an opportunity to explore the Museum at this free late opening

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13 October 2022, 7:00pm - 8:00pm

A persistent place: a new chronology for Neolithic Dorchester

The area underneath and around the town of Dorchester was an important place for Neolithic people, who built a variety of monuments here over a period of 2000 years. In this talk, Dr Susan Greaney discusses the research project that has obtained radiocarbon dates from samples of antler picks, charcoal and human remains held in the Dorset Museum collection and has been able to build a brand new chronology for the monuments.

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21 October 2022, 7:00pm - 9:30pm

Strings Forever!

Join baroque violinist Emma-Marie Kabanova on a musical journey back in time exploring the dance tunes and folk music beloved by Thomas Hardy and his family.  Tim Laycock and Colin Thompson contribute the traditional dance tunes and folksongs of Dorset on violin, concertina and melodeon.

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