Saul Wordsworth

On Raphael Salaman (1906-1993)

Dear all,

Please take a moment to read this. Today’s blog doubles as an online petition to save an exhibition dedicated to my grandfather.

Raphael Salaman (or Raph as I called him) was a very kind and unassuming man, with a great interest in tools. As a child growing up in rural Hertfordshire he watched the local craftsmen ply their trade and became fascinated with the implements they employed.

His interest burgeoned as an adult, and much of the collection was made in the course of touring the country in his capacity as fire precautions advisor for Marks & Spencer. After retiring he wrote two highly acclaimed dictionaries dedicated to woodworking and leather working tools. Both remain standard works today.

leather working tools

My grandfather’s tool collection, the remnants of which I remember cluttering the shed and garage of his home in Harpenden, is housed in the nearby Museum of St Albans. The ‘Salaman Collection’ contains instruments and tools from 1700-1950, and is of particular interest since much of it features trades such as cooper, wheelwright and blacksmith that all-but vanished during his lifetime. The collection is world famous and continues to receive regular visitors from overseas.


Unfortunately this long-term exhibition is now under threat. Due to a combination of health/safety and funding issues, it seems that the Salaman Collection is to be put in storage for an indeterminant period. Whilst none of us in the family would wish to see the future of the Museum of St Albans jeopardised in any way, we do feel that the collection is as relevant today as it was forty years ago, and remains a fitting tribute to Raphael’s curiosity and quiet scholarship.

When I visited St Albans recently I was treated to an excellent in-depth walk-through of the exhibition, which currently occupies almost the entire ground floor of the building. The enthusiasm shown by my tour guide, complete with explanations of terms like ‘underdog’, ‘gun barrel’ and ‘plumber’, left me in no doubt that my grandfather’s collection remains a valuable source of social history.

Raph 2

I do hope a way can be found to keep the Salaman Collection alive and on view, either in its current home in St Albans or on loan to other UK museums.

If you would like to put your name to an online petition to save this exhibition, please fill in your details below.

** In the comments box please just write the name of your organisation, or just a full-stop. Some comments made to date have not helped the cause **

Thank you.

For more details please contact me here

Thank you.


Stewart Darkin Says:

Save this important collection!

Maggie Alderson Says:

Please save this unique collection.

Laurence Upton Says:

Important to save this collection

Nancy Roberts Says:

I’d love to see this collection next time I’m in England. Please save it!

Sarah Rennacker Says:

I have visited this collection and it is fascinating. It should be saved for future generations – maybe loaned to Derby Museum?

Debbie Jones Says:

Too many of these amazing & important collections are in danger of being lost forever..please don’t let this one be another!

Gareth Says:

Raph’s tools rule

Pat Devereaux Says:

I would love to see this exhibition

History Faculty Says:

Let’s see how many we can get to sign the petition. While I understand some of the politics in museums and the lack of space with minimal percentages of collections actually on display surely there is a good home for this incredibly diverse and chronologically broad collection that connects history to today through its socio-cultural identification and the personality of your father. Twitter he we come!

Wendy Dawson Says:

This collection should be saved, so many skills and trades are becoming forgotten. Have you tried contacting the Heritage Crafts Association? I think they have a facebook page so could probably stoke-up some interest.
Good luck!

Cara Says:

A really important part of our heritage, would love to see this kept and/or toured

Rosie Says:

Save save save!

David Says:

Fantastic stuff and I would love to see it in a travelling exhibition.

Carina Says:

It’s got to stay.

Chris Wightman Says:

Save this fascinating exhibition.

Oli Munson Says:

Certainly should be preserved and displayed for future generations.

Shajna Boksh Says:

Please save. Good luck Saulee

Fraser Tant Says:

Save Saul’s Stuff (or, rather, his grandfather’s Stuff.)

John Carmichael Says:

When there is space for a urinal to be displayed at the Tate surely we can find room for a collection that has shaped our history.

Save these tools!

Alastair Bowers Says:

Preserve this history for future generations.

Emma Pardo Says:

It shouldn’t be stored away, surely there is a museum where it could be on permanent display?

Pauline Cobbett Says:

save Ralph’s tools

Tim Patterson Says:

History is to society what memory is to the individual. This collection deserves to be saved and shown for generations to come.

jo akbar Says:

It is a real gem of a collection, a snapshot of an era of manual work from not so long ago but light years behind us thanks to technology. Please lets save the Salaman one. Joan xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Michael Frayn Says:

It can take much space or many resources to house this collection

leon yudkin Says:

all the best to you in pursuit of a worthy cause.

Gareth Edwards Says:

Looks to me like a valuable school trip would be lost if the exhibition was to close!

Luke Salaman Says:

what is the purpose of the museum if not to display collections such as this?

Matt Holt Says:

Can only echo the sentiments of the comments above

Louise Brealey Says:

I’d go and see it.

Chris Chakraborty Says:

Too many beautiful, fascinating things are consigned to storage for the want of a nail. The breaking up of Raphael Salaman’s collection is the thin end of a very large and important wedge. Save the wedge and you save the world.

Tom Rapley Says:

Save this fantastic collection

Helen Crawford Says:

This collection should definitely remain on display.

Malcolm Emmerson Says:

Let’s save the exhibition

Peter Crookston Says:

It would be shameful if such a wonderful collection were to be stored away. Such tools show this hi-tech generation how beautiful and useful things were made by ordinary people with astonishing skills.

Jeanette Cruz Says:

I hope this collection can be saved and remain on display as it’s irreplaceable and would be valuable for future generations

Miriam Gross Says:

This is just the kind of collection that ought to be preserved and displayed so that people now and in the future can understand how much skill, patience and good taste went into all kind of manual work.

Richard Flohil Says:

We warehouse history, lock the doors behind it, and mislay the key — all to our own discredit and shame. There are lessons in our past, but if we can’t see them, we’ll never learn them.

Jane Miller Says:

this is a unique collection, hugely informative for children, for students and for anyone interested in the details of people’s life and work in the past. It was lovingly assembled, and, we all thought, lovingly received and presented.

Leslie Cummings Says:

Save the collection!!!!

Dr Joanne Clinton Says:

This unique collection is a valuable piece of social history and an imporatnt learning tool, pardon the pun! It should be saved and displayed.

Sanna Hern Says:

Please save!!!

Annie Robb Says:

Please save the collection!!

Paul Sweeney Says:

It must be saved as I haven’t seen it yet!

Pam Solomon Says:

This collection is an important national asset and part of the family’s history. As such, it should be protected for future generations.

Riaz Jumabhoy Says:

Please save this important collection and record of history!!!

Jessica Manson Says:

Please save this exhibition. A unique look at the work of important tradesmen.

Carla Welch Says:

The exhibition should stay. It would be a tragedy for history to be filed away and lost.

Stuart Scrivens Says:

The collection should remain on view to the public, wherever it may be.

Mandy Woodhead Says:

Please save this exhibition and help history live on!!

Ben Lewis Says:

Saul, this is really important – I hope the collection isn’t ‘archived’. Good luck.

Simon lambert Says:

Save the exhibition. Good luck from your friends in Aus Saul!

mavis nicholson Says:

It must be saved. Where else can you see such a beautiful collection of objects that remind us of our past skills. Surely there is a museum or gallery or country house or barn or somewhere if poor old St Albans can’t house it. If this petition doesn’t work, let us know what else we can do.

Jo Fletcher Says:

Please save the exhibition!! I, for one, would definitely travel from the States to see it!

Simon Fletcher Says:

You’re a tool

John & Pauline Earle Says:

It is absolutely essential that outstanding collections such as this should be saved and always be made available for the public to view.

Katie W Says:

Save the collection!

Caroline Emmerson Says:

Save this collcetion for our children and their children to see!

Polly Duval Says:

I’d love to know what the health and safety issues are… How wrong headed is that?

Charlotte Turner Says:

What a pity it would be to moth ball those tools. I hope you can persuade them to keep them.

Anna Says:

Keep them!!

Carolyn Conroy Says:

Let’s hope you manage to save this important collection Seth.

Penelope Turner Says:

I wonder what they’re planning to replace Raph’s fabulous collection with (it would have to be pretty impressive to be justified). It should clearly be kept in tact, and it must be possible to find it a good home where it can be visited and appreciated. Good luck with the persuasion.

Desmond Painter Says:

Essential to preserve public access to this unique and important collection: please get you priorities right.

Cathy McGinn Says:

Please save this important collection

Pauline Austin Says:

It sounds wonderful, and will try to visit it with appreciative grandchild in the next few months. Hope it can be saved as more grandchildren on the way!

Tharribold Over Says:

Archive schmarchive. If St. Alban’s Museum doesn’t want it open to the public I’m sure others would. High Wycombe has a grand tradition of woodworking, especially furniture, and a decent museum to boot. I’ll ask them about it.

Rachel Miller Says:

I have never visited the collection and realise how much I will have missed were it to disappear. If St Albans cant house it surely they could find somewhere where the collection would be welcomed as an essential part of our history

Michael Parsons Says:

Save the collection, I say.

Steve Yeoman Says:

Save the tools!

Myer Salaman Says:

Storage is bad news. Raphael’s wheelwright’s shop, exhibited at the Science Museum in the 1950s, is still under wraps.

Louise Parker-Backhouse Says:

Please save this collection.

H Causton Says:

Please save the collection. It is an important part of our heritage.

Matthew Reynolds Says:

Local history is an essential part of our future. Please save this collection.

Jenny Manson Says:

My father a Hertfordshire resident almost all his life has recorded the working lives of rural trades people in this exhibition. It would be such a pity for the tools to be taken from public view.

Rachel Moss Says:

My uncle put so much love and knowledge in putting this collection together. It needs a permanent home.

Liz Webb Says:

I have fond memories of Raph from childhood days in Harpenden. His collection definitely needs to live on for the sake of local history and in his memory.

Carol Savage Says:

This collection and others like it make us realize how important the craftsmen of England were, and how rare they are these days.

Chris Says:

Please save the tools. Stop museums sacrificing the past on the altar of dumbed down interactivity. Or something.

Michael Manson Says:

This is a wonderful collection. Please keep it available and promote is existence

Veena Soobrayen Says:

This craft collection and tools are very rare and needs a home in a museum.

Colin Cohen Says:

It would be too sad if this unique collection were to be hidden – the museum has been a good home to it and it would be shameful if another generation were not able to learn how things used to be done in the days when things were still made in the UK!

Avril Says:

Please save the collection.

Todd Endelman Says:

It would be a shame to hide away in storage such a comprehensive collection.

Colin Wolfe Says:

I’ve read Raphael Salaman’s work and am convinced that this wonderful window into what is now pretty much a bygone age should be available to the public at large. Please find a way to keep it so.

Carol Savage Says:

This exhibition is important, helping to teach our children how craftsmen worked in the past, perhaps to encourage them to be craftsmen themselves.

Kate Polak Says:

As a modern-day woodworker I think it’s vital that we don’t lose access to these things

Tina Clover Carkeek Says:

I remember Raph Salaman very well from times when I stayed with the family when at school with his daughter Jenny in Harpenden. I think it would be a great pity if his unique collection were to be hidden from public view.

Claire J. PIsapia Says:

Please keep this exhibition available to the public.It is an important imspiration for our youth.

Ines and Mike Newman Says:

Such a collection is part of our history and can never be built up again. It is important to preserve it where people can see it.

Janet Moore Says:

This collection represents important social history. I well remember when on holidays with the Salaman family Raphael fossicking around old barns and sheds and pointing out old tools to us. As a child it gave me lasting insights into the role of social history of this kind

Dr. Bill Cotton Says:

Display it! A fine tribute to working peo[ple throughout Britain.

richard moffat Says:

Definitely needs to be saved. Good luck with the campaign.

Judith Herrin Says:

I recall being taken by Raphael Salaman to a firm of wood-workers in Hampshire who made bowls for monks, using historic tools. Eating with wooden utensils, as in the past, meant that there was less background noise to the readings which accompanied all meals. Raphael’s collection of tools is an amazing record and should be preserved and displayed.

Bob Mountain Says:

Very best of luck with the campaign. Is Hertfordshire so impoverished that it cannot support this collection?

David Salaman(nephew of Raphael) Says:

I still use one or two of Raph’s chisels from his overflow collection which he handed on to me shortly before his death and they take a far better edge than modern equivalents. They are a constant memento of my favourite uncle as the collection in St. Albans must be to many of his friends as well as to succesive generations.It should definitely remain open to the public at all costs.

Professor Tessa Rajak Says:

The Salaman collection has evident significance for Hertfordshire but also great national importance as a remarkable window onto our social history. I hope St Albans Museum will appreciate their responsibility and leave no stone unturned in seeking to keep it open.

Claire J. PIsapia Says:

Save the exhibition please.

Arnold Harvey Says:

This is the kind of completely unique exhibition which justifies the existence (and visits to) small,locally funded town museums

Daniel Servini Says:

The collection is a gem in what St Albans has to offer. This is the kind of collection which if it were to become unavailable, St Albans and our English heritage would be very much poorer for the loss.

Diana Iwi Says:

Please save the collection.

Janet Solomons Says:

Seeing what tools our ancestors used tells us so much about them. Every generation should have the opportunity to see them for themselves – such artefacts should not be relegated to the basement never to be seen.

Anna Stewart Says:

This exhibition needs to be saved. I really hope that this campaign works and the museum change their minds…

Horace Barlow Says:

Tool-making and tool-use are defining characteristics of Homo Sapiens. Raphael Salaman’s collection is a wonderfull demonstration of what a completely unsophisticated group of tool-makers can achieve.

Dick Rutledge Says:

Just returned from Rome, where I realized the value of saving for future generations the tools of men such as Ralph Salaman

Anne Davies Says:

I have a 5 year old grandson who adores tools. Please keep this exhibition available so children like him can understand about using and making tools.

Lucy Wedderburn Says:

This is a real treasure, which needs to be saved and seen by future generations.

Gillian Hayes Says:

There must be a way to save and display this wonderful collection to help future generations understand the past.

liz Kessler Says:

I loved the exhibition when I saw it in St Albans Museum some years age; it was quirky and utterly fascinating and it would be tragic for it not to continue to be on public display.

Clare & Pablo Says:

We would love to come and see this exhibition – keep it on display!

Alice and Brian Says:

Please keep this unique collection on display as it is of interest to so many and we want a chance to see it!

Harriet Says:

This wonderful collection needs to be saved!

Saul Wordsworth – Blog - Blog Archive » On recent photos recently taken Says:

[...] En route back we stopped in at the Museum of St Albans to look at my grandfather’s tool exhibition, possibly for the last time (see previous blog) [...]

Richard Spitz Says:

Storage is no place for a collection like this – it needs to be kept on display!

Chris Day Says:

I don’t suppose anyone would deny that the collection should be preserved. But it really must be on display. Museums should reflect the world in the round, not simply offer a selection of show-stopping and uncharacteristic highlights. If St Albans really cannot exhibit the collection, it should be offered elsewhere.

Jean-Claude Peissel Says:

As a one-time Harpendennian (?) If St Albans Museum cannot keep the collection maybe it should be found a home in Harpenden. I lived there during the war and there was still a cobbler in the village, on the Green, who we would stand and watch working re-soling boots and shoes who using the sort of tools that are in the collection. This collection must be saved and displayed.

Paul W. Nash Says:

I would support keeping this exhibition on show as long as possible.

Helen Simpson Says:

It’s clear from all those who know this collection that it has intrinsic value and should remain on display for the education of all who see it.Please don’t store it out of sight.

George Whitwell Says:

This unique collection of tools needs to be kept on display so that generations of people come and admire the craftsmanship that sadly now is a thing of the past.

Alan Glynn Says:

Please leave this well known and interesting collection intact and viewable by the public

Lucy White Says:

Have wonderful memories of this amazing collection. Please keep it on display.

John Peasnall Says:

This is an important asset and must be preserved

C;aire Peasnall Says:

Although I’ve never seen it, I know from past conversations that it really is an important resource.

Peter Hamburger (Raphael's nephew) Says:

The above support is very impressive, but if St. Albans no longer wishes to host Raphael’s collection – and it does seem that way – then maybe the family should be spending time finding it a new home. As a suggestion, Royston (near the former family home at Barley) has its own museum and Cambridge a folk museum (in fact, Harpenden now has a railway museum – I wonder if the town council might allocate
space for the work of one of its most distinguished residents?). If the Science Museum is storing some unseen items, then perhaps the two could be incorporated. In fact, the S M might be a good place to start, anyway for some advice.
Having placed a few family items myself in recent years (and I realise that we’re talking here about an entire collection), I know how much work is entailed. It’s serious networking, but should – in the long
run – reap rewards. Good luck!

Sarah Pettegre Says:

Fascinating! Lot’s of luck in finding a permanant solution.

richard davey Says:

please save this fascinating collection

Jan Lee Says:

Come on guys , this is so worth saving !

Richard Way Says:

It’s shocking this original, interesting & vastly unusual collection, so valuable in many ways, could be moth-balled for such a pettifogging reason. Health & Safety ?! Money !? Don’t these grey museum people realize that many of us like looking at stuff rather than their homogenized story-boards ? Question: WHY is the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford a real WOW ? Answer: Because it is a farrago of wacky REAL things & imagination can run free. Please please keep this collection together and visible for people to see & learn from & USE … don;t dump it just as people are realizing that a craft job can be more useful to society and more rewarding than an ability to compile a spreadsheet. Making things is real. I’m off to St Albans as soon as possible to see this collection & hope I am not too late His books are brilliant.

Richard Way Says:

They are already short of space, but how about the Museum of Rural Life in Reading. It could compliment and boost their own.


I wasn’t even aware that this collection was on display, but now I do I will make a special trip to see it. Please make sure it is still displayed to the public for a long time to come. Real museums show real artifacts, and plenty of them. H&S can not be allowed to change this. What next?

Joost Martens / the Netherlands Says:

to late….
Today we visited St Albans museum, wishing to see the Salaman collection. The museum’s website still mentions and praises the importance but….no collection. Shameful! It should be brought back or housed in any other museum that seriously worships the importance of this historical and social important collection.
I hope it will be saved!

Michael Cox Says:

“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”
Thomas Carlyle.
Keep the tools !!

Jonathan Green-Plumb Says:

This important collection should be kept on display, as there are few opportunities to see collections of tools anywhere in the UK.

Peter Russell Says:

This collection is of great importance. How will young people be inspired to take up this craft

Derek Eder Says:

Is there any chance RA Salaman was related to John Solomon Benson merchant and inventor from Birmingham in the mid 1800′s and father to John Benson Salamon and business partner to Sir David Salamon? I have an old plane iron stamped J.S. Benson – The pen is mightier than the sword which sparked my interest. Says:

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