The Graham Leach Collection

I’m sure everyone has heard of ships in bottles which are a well-known craft in coastal areas. Less familiar is the craft of placing other objects and models in glass vessels, especially lightbulbs.

The many examples of objects in bulbs displayed in Whitby Museum are the work of one man, Graham Leach, former surveyor to the Rural District Council. He gave the collection to the museum in 1986. Sadly, Mr Leach passed away in 2013.

Graham Leach’s first venture into the hobby of model making came when he restored two of our own sailing ships as well as a ship barometer and a Victorian planimeter. His speciality, for which he was known internationally in the ship bottling world was the encapsulation in bottles and light bulbs of historical events. The models are all rigid, not hinged, and his method was his own ‘trade secret’.

The museum owns around 80 of these fascinating objects, all but 7 of which have a maritime link. His skill was extraordinary and theoretically some of the bulbs should still light up, though we wouldn’t want to risk trying!

The first model shows the round house on Belle Isle in Lake Windermere. Wordsworth described the building with distaste as a ‘pepperpot’. However, this did not stop his daughter from marrying into the Curwen family who lived there. In the middle you can see Isabella Curwen standing with her husband after saying goodbye to his cousin, Fletcher Christian, on his way to join Captain Bligh on the “Bounty”, oblivious to the part he would play in the mutiny yet to come.

 Unfortunately, the house was badly damaged by fire in 1996 but has since been renovated and is once again inhabited.

The second model, like so many in the Leach collection, is a diorama. This one depicts the death of Captain Cook. This model also has a reference to Captain Bligh as he is featured as one of the models opening fire on the war canoe after being sent by Captain Cook to seal off the South Bay until the “Resolution” was returned to them. Captain Cook can be seen in the model waving to tell his boats to come in and cease firing.

The more you look at these amazing objects, the more detail you discover.