Tuesday, 8 July 2014


Intrigued by a small preview that was showing at Lancaster Uni, we wanted to visit the full installation beneath Somerset House, on the bank of the river Thames, and to take up the invitation to donate to the Museum. Deciding which water to take down to London was easy. Some bathwater from the newborn twins Luca and Bel, our latest grandchildren. We nurtured it carefully on the train journey from Cumbria to London in a sensible screw top jar.

The paved courtyard of Somerset House has a huge water sculpture spouting straight up from the ground, which is treasured by the city's children on hot days, who will be blissfully unaware of the crypts and 17th century gravestones just below their playground.  We took the lift in the far corner down to the Museum of Water, where we were met by a guide and led through narrow stone passages open to the sky, which felt like a cross between a Venetian labyrinth and a mediaeval dungeon.

It took a while for our eyes to adjust to the darkness as we stepped inside the vaulted chamber of the Deadhouse.  Nooks, crannies, niches from floor to ceiling were filled with bottles, jars, flagons and phials of every shape and size, each containing water donated by someone, each one candle lit. Water from a holy river in India, a bottle of tears, a melted snowman .......    The curator's table was in a niche. She invited us to sit down and tell her the story of the water we had brought. With our permission she recorded it. Sue began, John embellished, each finished the other's sentence. Our story was told.

Then we took out the 'real 'bottle  - a small antique bottle we had dug up in the garden - rectangular in shape with an elegant neck and its own perfect ground glass stopper, and our small ceremony began. We transferred the water without spilling a drop. It felt important to seal its precious contents, particularly in this somewhat sinister setting.  Striking a long match from the box we had brought - the recorder is still running at this time - we melted a stick of sealing wax and sealed the stopper with rich red wax. Finally, two curlew feathers collected from the sands of Morecambe Bay attached to the front face of the bottle and a handwritten label on a ribbon. We chose a spot to place our bottle, alongside other baby related offerings.

We were adding our joyful thanksgiving in the full knowledge that some bottles contained fear, regrets, bad memories, grief. John created an instant poem which was also recorded.

This bathwater of our twin grandchildren is unique.
Flowing from an ancient place it spirals a future blessing
to the babies with no water at all.  

Ours is bottle number 452 and we have a beautiful hand stamped parchment receipt, which is safely back home now in our family treasure cupboard. 

Museum of Water - artist Amy Sharrocks - commissioned by ArtsAdmin  6 - 29 June 2014.