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River Wye Exhibition - Hereford Museum - 09/04/12








Keith and I were leaving for India to fish for mahseer and giant trevally (photo in the North Devon Journal and Angling Times) but before doing so, we arranged a meeting with Dilip Sarkar MBE (a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society) at the Hereford Museum Resource Centre.


Each year, the museum hosts an exhibition on the history of the county and this year, they are featuring the beautiful River Wye.  This is our favourite river and we were more than happy to join Dilip, James Sarkar, Chris Leibbrandt and Dr. John Tate from the Pike Anglers’ Club; Sue Johnson (recently retired Senior Lecturer at the University of Worcester's History Department), Mark Owen, Angling Trust’s Head of Freshwater, and Sarah Skelton, who works for the museum, to explore the role which Angling Heritage could play in contributing to the exhibition and the history of the River Wye.


This special event is not just about the history, but also its current use and I was particularly fascinated to learn from Mark Owen that sturgeon (the Queen’s fish!) are on the increase and indications are that they may soon return to their old spawning grounds on the lower gravel beds of the River Wye.  I wanted to know more and it is hoped that he will provide information on this for the exhibition.


For more than ten years, we have spent at least two weeks a year at Brobury House on the banks of the Wye, and if we ever relocate, Bredwardine is top of the list.  For us, it is where the river is at its most beautiful and it is still possible to fish wild places which are relatively unspoilt.  And we have long been fascinated by some of the people who, through fishing have become an integral part of its history.


Of course, the river has many uses and angling is only a part of its recreational activities so the exhibition is not purely about fishing, it will encompass each activity through the ages, its ecology and something of the geology and fossil finds.  From the point of view of Angling Heritage, we are especially interested in the oral and photographic history of the river and its people, and it was decided that our contribution would be to interview the gillies and the descendants of people such as Gilbert whose book on the river includes the likes of Robert Pashley (the ‘Wye Wizard’) whose record catches of salmon graphically illustrate the changing fortunes of the River Wye.


But the main focus of the angling aspect of the exhibition is the rediscovery of a cased pike weighing 37lbs, which was captured by one Major Booth.  Dr. John Tate (who apparently lived with his family within half a mile of where I was born in Tipton – small world!) told me that this exhibit has recently been named (tongue-in-cheek) - ‘Perdita’ (latin for ‘the lost one’) after it went missing from the museum some years ago.  Following extensive detective work by Dilip and friends (including Fred Buller MBE, our Patron), word spread and the fish was discovered hanging on the wall of a pub.  After protracted negotiations, the fish was reclaimed. It had deteriorated in the intervening years and has since been restored and will now be the main exhibit in the angling section of the event.


In addition, our contribution to the exhibition will be to include interviews with tackle shop owners old and new, and you will be able to listen to the recordings during the exhibition but if you can’t make that, they will eventually be available on the Angling Heritage website.  We are also loaning historic fishing tackle and ephemera for display.


There is so much history on the River Wye and Angling Heritage is delighted to be a small part of Hereford’s celebration of River Life.


This special exhibition will be dedicated to the memory of Dr. Tim Shakesheff;  a Senior History Lecturer at the University of Worcester, he specialised in 18th and 19th century British history.  His research was into rural crime, especially in Herefordshire and when he died recently, he was researching and writing a book with Dr. Richard Coopey from Aberystwyth University, on the history of fishing from the Victorian period onwards with reference to the River Wye.  It is hoped that Dr. Coopey will complete the book and publish and of course, should he do so, we will be requesting copies for sale at River Reads.  If you want to know more about Major Booth’s pike, the history of the river and its people, or would simply like to explore all that the Wye has to offer, make time to visit the exhibition in the delightful county of Herefordshire.  You won’t be disappointed.




Sandra Armishaw


6th April, 2013