Five really rather rude objects in Norfolk museums 

Detail of Lorina Bulwer's extraordinary embroidered letter

Detail of Lorina Bulwer's embroidery - Credit: Archant

The county's museums and galleries have some excellent X-rated exhibits.

Bollock dagger - Bollock daggers, also known as kidney daggers from Victorian times to save the blushes of anyone reading about the medieval weapons, were carried by everyone from peasants to knights. They were not only a supplementary fighting weapon, alongside swords, but also used as knives for cutting anything from vegetation to food. The name comes from the two oval protrusions on the hilt. You can see a great example at Norwich Castle Museum.

Bollock dagger at Norwich Castle Museum

Bollock dagger at Norwich Castle Museum - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Bastard sword - Norwich Castle’s bastard sword is a magnificent extra-long 15th century weapon. This kind of sword was developed in the 15th century as a long sword with an extra long handle which meant it could be wielded by one or two hands by medieval knights. Bastard sword blades were sometimes slightly shorter than true longswords and the name came to refer to the lethal weapons which could not be categorised as either one or two handed, and a cross between different types of long sword.  

Medieval bastard sword at Norwich Castle Museum

Detail of medieval bastard sword at Norwich Castle Museum - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Sealed with more than a kiss - A queen’s gold seal, which was once part of a gold ring, would have been used to press into wax to seal documents and letters. On one side of the seal is the name Bathilda, and a face. On the other, hidden from public view, is a stylised picture of a couple making love.  

The seal bears the name of Bathilda, an East Anglian woman who married the King Clovis of the Franks (modern day France) and after his death became regent. After her own death in 680 she was venerated as a saint.  

Bathilda's seal

Bathilda's seal at Norwich Castle Museum - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service

Historians have speculated that the 7th century gold seal found near Norwich might have been a wedding gift, with the intimate image used to seal love letters between the couple. 

Bathilda’s seal is also in the care of Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. Both the bollock dagger and bastard sword will be displayed in the new medieval gallery at Norwich Castle Museum when its Royal Palace Reborn project opens. 

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Needled - Lorina Bulwer was an inmate of what was then called the female lunatic ward of Yarmouth Workhouse at the turn of the 20th century. She chose to express her extensive range of complaints via the unusual medium of embroidery.  

She embroidered long panels of painstakingly stitched-together scraps of fabric in furious capitals. 

Embroidery by Lorina Bulwer

Embroidery by Lorina Bulwer - Credit: Archant

The stream-of-consciousness observations, allusions, accusations and sometimes violent suggestions reveal her rage against a doctor, alongside references to her schooldays and shopping trips, and claims to be of royal descent. 

Today they are celebrated as works of art, kept at Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse. 

Norwich Castle Museum, Lynn Museum and the indoors parts of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse should reopen on Monday May 17. The outside parts of Gressenhall are open now, with tickets available to book online.

A Roman pendant in the shape of a golden phallus at Lynn Museum

A Roman pendant in the shape of a golden phallus is believed to have been a symbol of fertility and a good luck charm against curses. It will be on display in Lynn Museum when it reopens on May 17. - Credit: Norfolk Museums Service


Gold member - At Lynn museum a Roman pendant in the shape of a golden penis is believed to have been a symbol of fertility and a good luck charm against curses. A very rare find, the unusual piece of golden jewellery was discovered at Hillington, near Sandringham.

Phallic charms would have been worn as a symbol of sexuality and to boost fertility as well as to protect against bad luck and evil intent. Miniature figures of Priapus, the Roman god of fertility, depicted with an outsize member, which have been unearthed in Scole and Felbrigg would have served a similar purpose in Roman times. Small models of Priapus, to hang on necklaces, have also been found at Brampton, near Aylsham and Ringstead, near Hunstanton.