THANKS to a great response to Wallingford Museum’s appeal for local people to lend items with a story behind them, ‘Treasures with Tales’ is a special new exhibition opening at the museum on March 1.

There are now 45 delightful objects displayed as a ‘Treasure Trail’ throughout the museum – great fun for adults and children to follow.

One of these items is a curious painted ox-bone vertebrae that depicts a preacher. It belonged to a former Wallingford Museum which existed from 1916-36 in the old Free Library building in St Leonard’s Square (now the Methodist Church Hall).

It obviously intrigued the then curator, Mr R.R. Hutchinson, who preserved it for the future.

The painted bone is a rare example of a type of folk art created during the late 18th to early 19th century.

This particular one is thought to represent the great Methodist preacher John Wesley, who dressed in a black robe with a white clerical collar and tabs. Indeed the Berkshire name given to this imagery was a ‘Wesley’!

John Wesley was born in 1703 in Lincolnshire. He attended Oxford University and became one of the founders of the Methodist church.

He spent more than 50 years of his adult life travelling an estimated 224,000 miles on horseback round Britain, proclaiming the gospel.

He gave over 40,000 sermons, most of them in the open air, to large crowds of mainly poor working people.

One place he visited was Wallingford. In 1769 his journal records:

‘We went to Wallingford, a town I never saw before, though I lived so many years at Oxford. How white are the fields here unto the Harvest.

'The whole town seemed flocking together, rich and poor, in the evening, and received the word with joy. But who will endure to the end?

'Abundance of people came again at five in the morning, and were ready to devour the word. How pleasant it is to see the dawn of a work of grace!’

He returned to Wallingford on several other occasions, continuing his travelling ministry almost until his death in 1791.

There seems to have been a group of his followers in Wallingford from that time on, but it was not until 1873 that a Wesleyan Methodist church was finally opened in St Leonard’s Square, where it is still very much part of the community today.

We shall never know who painted the little figure on our ‘treasure’ but it certainly still has its tale to tell!

The other 44 items in the exhibition vary greatly - from a Saxon snake’s skeleton, to a celluloid doll, a tin whistle, a glass hat, and even part of the old London Bridge!

Each is displayed with its own special story, so you can come and see for yourself! All details of opening hours are on the website