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New exhibition: The Story of Clare

The distinctiveness of the small town of Clare Suffolk. The Story of Clare has 10 chapters, covering Clare Castle, the de Clares and their close relationship to English kings and queens, the de Clares who took part in Magna Carta, Elizabeth de Burgh Lady of Clare in the 14th century, Clare Common, Schools in Clare, the Trail of the Clare Arms, Eleven notable Clare residents, the Ancient House itself, and Reflections of 20th-century Clare in one particular donor’s collection.
Together these chapters inform Clare residents and visitors about the most interesting of Clare’s historic people and events, as well as guiding them to what remains to be visited and explored throughout the town. Booklets and leaflets are available for several of the topics.
Clare manor where the de Clare ancestor Richard built his Castle as the seat for his extensive landholdings in Suffolk, Essex and Kent was his reward for supporting William the Conqueror. There was already a market here, and a religious house. These lands made the family one of the richest in the country, and so when a later Richard de Clare opposed King John and forced him to agree to Magna Carta in 1215, he was a very important rebel. By the end of that century, the de Clares had acquired the huge estates of the Earldom of Gloucester, and King Edward I arranged a marriage between Gilbert de Clare and his daughter which legally bound the de Clare lands to royal descendants. The de Clare family member who did most for the town and Castle was Elizabeth de Burgh, for whom Lady’s Walk in the Castle is named. While she lived here important royal visitors arrived, often with dozens of people in their entourage. Part of the de Clare lands went to her sisters, and they also used the de Clare arms of 3 red chevrons on the gold background. These can be spotted around villages and in modern town crests especially in the Welsh areas of the former Earldom of Gloucester.
Clare’s history goes beyond that early family, so the exhibition includes the history of our Common, originally leased to the poor of Clare by Henry VIII’s Queen Katherine of Aragon, by which time Clare manor was thoroughly integrated into the royal lands of the Duchy of Lancaster. The education of Clare children also features here; an amazing number of houses had served as schools before the state took over responsibility for education. Clare has had a number of interesting residents, from medieval poets to 20th-century communists. C. P. Snow carved his initials into a wall of the house he lived in on Nethergate Street. The Ancient House itself is featured as an example of exquisite pargeting on a timber-framed house of the medieval period. The story of Clare concludes with Doris Gregory’s collection. Doris, a local character, bequeathed her house and fortune to the Parish Church. To the Museum she left evidence of everyday life in 20th-century Clare, from her kitchen utensils to her musical interests in teaching violin and piano and singing with Clare Choral Society. There is something for everyone here–castle and royal family buffs, social historians and people who just like to remember things their grandmother used.

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