Support Collections Care at Colchester Museums

Adopt an object or gift an object adoption to the history enthusiast in your life!

Colchester Museums houses a significant collection of objects, artefacts, and specimens, ranging from Roman jewellery and weaponry to Natural Science collections spanning millions of years. We have put together an eclectic mix of twenty of our most fascinating and well-loved objects, which you can adopt to help provide the essential support we need to preserve, explore, and share the 200,000+ objects in our care.

Your donation will help us to protect millions of years of local and global history through the care of our collections. Visit the museums or check out Collections Online to see what you have helped support.

 

How It Works

Simply click on Adopt Me under your chosen object to complete your donation.

If you are adopting your object as a gift, you can leave a message to be included in the dedication and let us know if you would like the digital adoption certificate to be sent to the recipient or directly to you.

Please remember to opt into Gift Aid, which will increase any donations you make to CMDF by 25% at no extra cost.

All adoptions are for one year, and our objects can be adopted by multiple people.

For full details, please read our Terms and Conditions.

Benefits

  • A digital adoption certificate with a photo of your object
  • Your name placed on our adopter’s Thank You board in the Castle
  • Subscription to the CMDF quarterly newsletter

Ardleigh Pommel

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Colchester Castle

There is little archaeological evidence from the Anglo-Saxon period in Colchester, though we know people lived in and around the town. The Ardleigh pommel is an exceptional item that would have once belonged to a wealthy and important Anglo-Saxon leader. It would have decorated a sword’s hilt by sitting on the end of a pommel.

Flying Penis Amulet

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Colchester Castle

This mount or pendant is in the shape of a winged penis. The Romans believed images of the penis had magical protective properties. They would be worn as jewellery or put on buildings to keep away evil. The object is currently on display at Colchester Castle.

Fruity Figurine

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Colchester Castle

This figurine was found during excavations at the Cups Hotel on Colchester High Street. It shows an actor playing the character of Priapus, the well-endowed god of fertility. He wears a comedy mask and carries a large quantity of fruit in his tunic, held up by his large phallus. This may have been a souvenir from a trip to the theatre or perhaps a gift to an aspiring actor.

Medieval Snail Tile

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Colchester Castle

This medieval glazed tile is decorated with three snails. In the medieval period, snails were known for their strength, being able to carry their homes on their backs. They are found doodled in illuminated manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to the late fifteenth century, often fighting knights—a symbol of deceptive courage.

The Gorgon Medusa

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Colchester Castle

This Roman tile is decorated with the snaky-haired face of the Gorgon Medusa. Medusa could literally petrify people with her gaze, turning them to stone. Her image was considered apotropaic by the Romans—a magical symbol that could protect from evil forces. This unusually shaped tile is known as an antefix and would have capped the end of the tile coursing of Roman roofs. 

Viking Axe

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Colchester Castle

One of the most iconic objects associated with the Vikings is the axe. This axe was found in the river Colne, which runs through Colchester. It may indicate conflict in the area, or perhaps it was placed in the river as an offering to the gods. Historical records suggest the Vikings were only in Essex for 100 years, making this an exceptional find. The axe is currently on display at Colchester Castle.

Turtle Spirit Specimen

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at the Natural History Museum

This is a European Pond Turtle. This species is now classified as non-native, although fossil evidence suggests it was found in this area 8,000 years ago and went extinct due to climate cooling. European pond turtles found in the wild in the UK are probably escaped pets. The popularity of the 1990s cartoon Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles is often blamed for the craze of keeping pet turtles and terrapins, which were then released into ponds and streams when they were no longer wanted.

Georgian Pocket Watch

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Hollytrees Museum

This pocket watch was made by James Cooper in 1823. Verge mechanisms are the earliest known time-keeping mechanisms, giving the distinctive tick-tock sounds as the mechanism moves backwards and forwards. This example appears to be made of yellow, white and rose gold, forming a floral decoration around the watch face.

Memento Mori Ring

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Hollytrees Museum

‘Memento mori’ is Latin for ‘remember thy death’. Memento mori or ‘mourning jewellery’ was popular in Georgian times, including items such as pendants, lockets, brooches, and rings like this one. This gold mourning ring from 1725 depicts bones and a skull, a design that was intentionally a constant reminder of death. The inscription commemorates F. Meads, who died on 31 December 1725, aged 74.

Skull of a Crocodile

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at the Natural History Museum

The saltwater crocodile is the largest living crocodilian on the planet, which has remained relatively unchanged for around 200 million years. It is now found in saltwater wetlands and freshwater regions of eastern India, Southeast Asia, and northern Australia. Saltwater crocodiles ambush their prey and then drown them before swallowing them whole. They will eat almost any animal, from mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and fish to other crocodiles and even sharks.

Oyster Gauge

Adopt by donating £10

Find me at Hollytrees Museum

This brass oyster gauge was made in the 1500s. Colchester is well known for its ‘Colchester Native’ oysters. The oyster fishery is officially opened for business on the first Friday of September each year by the Mayor. The Oyster Feast is held on the last Friday in October each year at the Town Hall. The feast is regarded as one of the key events in the civic calendar. Its origins can be traced back to the St. Denis Fair of the 1300s.

Face Pot

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

The Romans buried their dead with a range of different items that they believed their loved ones could take with them into the afterlife. One common find from Roman graves in Colchester is ceramic vases with cartoonish faces on them. These “face pots” are believed to have been particularly popular with Roman soldiers and may have been caricatures of the individual buried inside. This particular face pot dates back to AD 43-300 and contains the cremation of an adult male aged over 40 years old. An isotope analysis of the petrous bone reveals that he did not spend his childhood in Colchester and may have come from an area in Northern Italy or Greece.

Penis Pot

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

This pot was likely used by Roman soldiers stationed in Britain, who may have shared a drink from this comedic vessel to unwind from a hard day’s march. The phallus was a common symbol in Roman culture, particularly in the form of the fascinum – a phallic charm. These could be found decorating houses or worn as metal pendants to protect the wearer from evil. This vessel is particularly significant because the phalluses are in groups of four, similar to the formation of horses in a quadriga (racing chariot). With other vessels having been found showing chariot racing scenes, the maker likely decided to replicate a chariot race using penises for comedic effect. The magical and protective properties of the phallus would have been a bonus.

Glass Bowl

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

This glass bowl is a marbled yellow and white colour and formed with ridges underneath for decoration. It was found during excavations at Lexden, to the west of Colchester. Glass was an incredibly prized material to the Romans, who made vessels in a variety of different colours. In fact, the Romans would recycle glass by melting it down and making new vessels from it. Some exceptional complete vessels have been found in Colchester, which have survived thousands of years in the ground.

Mount of a Lemming

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at the Natural History Museum

This is a mount of a lemming, a small rodent usually found near the Arctic. Fossil evidence shows that lemmings lived alongside Woolly mammoths in the Colchester area during the Pleistocene period. This species now lives in parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia. They spend the winter in nests under the snow, but when the snow thaws in spring, they move to lower ground, where they spend the summer.

Green Lady

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

This medieval wall painting depicts a woman in a long green dress. It originally decorated the wall of St Osyth Priory and is believed to date to 1395. The person depicted is unknown, but as an Augustinian Abbey, it is unlikely to be someone associated with the priory. It perhaps depicts a saint, but it is not clear which. Mary, Queen of Heaven, is sometimes portrayed with a crown of flowers. The painting is currently on display at Colchester Castle.

The Lucas Helmet

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

This Civil War helmet, supposedly belonging to Sir Charles Lucas, originally hung over his tomb in St Giles Church. It was the common helmet of the Royalist troops during the English Civil Wars, though it was also common among European troops. The 1648 Siege of Colchester lasted 73 days before the Royalists surrendered. Their commanders, including Sir Charles Lucas, were executed, and an obelisk in Castle Park now marks the site.

The Hollytrees Dolls House

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Hollytrees Museum

This doll’s house shows what Hollytrees’ house would have been like in 1881 when it was home to the Round family and their servants. With 16 rooms over four floors, you can explore the house from the ground-floor kitchen to the servants’ bedroom at the top of the building—just don’t get caught by William Dove, the butler!

Sheela na Gigg

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

This sculpture depicts Sheela-Na-Gig, a naked woman exposing her vagina. It once decorated St Mary’s Church in Eastthorpe, Essex. Images like this were seen in churches across Britain, and no one is sure why. It has been suggested that these images were used to teach morals in an age of low literacy. The sculpture is currently on display at Colchester Castle.

Millefiori Brooch

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at Colchester Castle

This Roman brooch’s design has been created using a glasswork technique called millefiori. This technique involves long rods of coloured glass being fused together. The fused cane of glass is then sliced, and the small sections of patterned glass are fitted into the brooch. It is a rare type of decoration for objects, and this brooch is a unique example from Roman Britain.

Firefly the Fox

Adopt by donating £30

Find me at the Natural History Museum

This mount of a female red fox was named ‘Firefly’ by a museum visitor. Foxes are very adaptable and live in towns, cities, and the countryside. They are the only wild member of the dog family found in Britain. While the male fox barks, the female fox, or vixen, is responsible for the screaming sound that can sometimes be heard at night.

Where Does Your Money Go?

Colchester Museums Development Foundation

 

Colchester Museums look after some of the most important historic buildings and museum collections in the country!

Colchester Museums Development Foundation support us to inspire and enrich our local community, through the preservation, exploration, and sharing of the town’s heritage in its widest sense. Discover how you can get involved…

What's On

Events

Discover something new in Colchester. Browse the diary to find fun, family-friendly events all year round.

Exhibitions + Displays

Our displays showcase the variety of the collections from art to archaeology, costume to clocks.

 

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