New museum exhibition recalls ancient Derbyshire atrocity

A new display at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery will commemorate the victims of a massacre in Derbyshire 2,600 years ago.

The multi-sensory exhibition, called Lullaby of the Larks, has been created by composer Amanda Johnson and artist Richard Johnson during their 2-year artistic residency at our only museum and art gallery.

As many as 400 women, children and babies are believed to have been murdered at Fin Cop hill fort above Monsal Dale. Amanda and Richard were drawn to the mystery of the massacre which, they said, had relevance to today’s audience with its “chilling similarities to events happening around the world now”.

The remains of 16 individuals that have been recovered so far are kept at Buxton Museum and Amanda and Richard, of Kidology Arts, had special access to them, in order to create their memorial.

Visitors to Lullaby of the Larks will see a set of 16 abstract watercolour paintings to represent the number of victims excavated so far, and violin music to evoke the time and the place.

Councillor Barry Lewis, Derbyshire County Council Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Leadership, Culture and Tourism, said:

“This fascinating, and rather gruesome, chapter in Derbyshire’s history is revealed in a moving and beautiful way.

“Once again, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery brings to life the stories that are rooted in the history of this amazing county.”

Artist Richard said:

“Paintings are done in shades of red – they pull no punches. While they are made up of intricate sweeps and swirls of colour, they do depict the moment that the women and children met their gruesome fate.

“Visitors will hear music, played on violin, combined with the sounds of Fin Cop – the wind in the trees, the rushing River Wye and the song of the skylark. The mood of the music swings from gentle calm to malevolent unease.”

Between 2009 and 2014, Archaeological Research Services Ltd from Bakewell, working with Longstone Local History Group, uncovered the long-concealed mystery. The archaeologists unearthed the 2,600 year-old remains of a woman. The way her skeleton was found suggested her body was thrown into the ditch that surrounded the fort at Fin Cop, and that the fort wall had been pushed on top of her. Marks on her bones suggested that she had been executed.

Wherever the archaeologists excavated along the line of the wall they found the remains of women, children and babies who had all suffered a similar fate. The evidence suggests that the women and children of Fin Cop were killed in an act of genocide.

Lullaby of the Larks will open on 8 September to 24 November 2018 at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery, Terrace Road, Buxton. Admission is free.

The exhibition contributes to our recent redevelopment of the museum, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Wolfson Foundation and Arts Council England.

More information can be found online at Wonders of the Peak and Buxton Museum and Art Gallery.

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