Dick Turpin's whistle and a blue Kit Kat compete to tell city's story

It was, some say, a parting gift from perhaps the city's most infamous son.

An exquisite ivory whistle presented on the gallows by Dick Turpin to his executioner in the moments before his death, has survived to tell the highwayman’s tale, even if some of the details are doubtful.

It is one of the many small artefacts that help to tell York’s story, but as the elders of the Castle Museum embark upon a significant redevelopment, they are taking stock of which ones most resonate with today’s audiences.

With that in mind, Turpin’s whistle will be placed next week in a line-up of similarly arcane pieces of local history – a blue Kit Kat wrapper and a pastry jigger from the 19th century which was used to create decorative pies – for onlookers to cast their votes.

Rachael Bowers, assistant curator of history at the York Castle Museum, holds an ivory whistle, thought to have been handed by the highwayman Dick Turpin to a hangman just before he was executed in the city on April 7 1739.

“York Castle Museum is literally brimming with objects and stories. The hard part for us is choosing which ones we should include in our future plans,” said Helen Langwick, its interpretation manager.

Next Wednesday and the one after, they will be shown to prospective visitors to gauge their reactions.

“Our curators will have three minutes with a small group of people to make the case for an object,” Ms Langwick said. “There will be the chance to learn more about their history direct from the experts and even the opportunity to handle some of them. After three minutes, a whistle will blow and you will move onto the next object.”

The intention was to gain a better understanding of which stories and themes the museum should include in its development, she said.

The other artefacts in what curators are calling a “speed dating” event include the collar of an aristocratic dog, dating from 1739.

The wrapper from Kit Kat’s blue period dates from the end of the Second World War, when food shortages necessitated a change of recipe to the snack bar that had been produced at Rowntrees’ York factory since 1935.