One year to go: Magna Carta 800 Celebrations

on Thursday, 17 July 2014. Posted in Events

Trowbridge, a Magna Carta Baron Town

2015 will be the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta at Runnymede.  There will be national and global celebrations since more than 100 countries count the Charter as the foundation of democracy on which their constitutions are based.  There is a unique opportunity in Wiltshire to raise the profile as the only county with both an original copy of the Charter and a Baron Town.
 
Most of the 25 barons who enforced Magna Carta were from the East and North of England. The caput or headquarters of Henry de Bohun was in Trowbridge. The only other Magna Carta baron in the West of England came from the village of Curry Mallet in Somerset.
 
The Barons were essential in enforcing the Magna Carta and in also making successive Plantagenet kings confirm and re-issue the Charter. If the barons had not kept up the pressure on the wily Plantagenets, the Charter would just have been a long forgotten footnote in history.

 
 

What's Inn a Name?

on Wednesday, 16 July 2014. Posted in Traditions and Folklore, Wiltshire Places

Some of the most popular talks I give are those dealing with the meaning of inn and pub names. Currently we don’t have a great variety of pub names in Wiltshire but we do still have some interesting ones. The Green Dragon at Alderbury was used by Charles Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewitt, as he was staying nearby while writing this novel. Dickens used many hostelries in his books and in this case he renamed it the Blue Dragon; perhaps the sign was somewhat faded to a pale blue and he misinterpreted it as it would have been unlikely that the name was on the building.

The green dragon came from the earls of Pembroke and many of the early names used the badges of great families. The red lion of John of Gaunt, the black bear of the earls of Warwick and the white hart of Richard II are still common today. From the 18th century the full coat of arms was often used so that in Fovant we have the Pembroke Arms. The association with the badge or coat of arms often indicated that the family owned the property or were the chief landowners in the area.

Revisiting WWII at Longhenge

on Friday, 04 July 2014. Posted in Archaeology, Military

Archaeologists are often thought only to be interested in very old remains – and those are very important to us – but we are also interested in more modern finds and features too. Too often we think we already know everything about events that have happened within living memory, but it’s surprising how often things turn up that have been forgotten, at least within the public record.


Longehedge is an area of land to the north of the Old Sarum Airfield. Old Sarum airfield has a long and illustrious military history. Our original interest in Longhedge was sparked by an Iron Age settlement that appears on aerial photographs. Initial geophysical survey showed the enclosed Iron Age settlement, but also lots of other interesting and unusual features that appeared to be military in origin.


So, in order to get some more information about all of these interesting features, a trenched evaluation was undertaken. The results from the geophysical surveys and trial trenches were mapped (below) and show the iron age and modern features.

Wiltshire at War: Community Stories

on Friday, 20 June 2014. Posted in Military, Museums

As part of activity taking place across Wiltshire commemorating 100 years since the First World War, museums in the county have been successful in getting Heritage Lottery funding to deliver an exciting project.

Wiltshire at War: Community Stories will invite communities from across Wiltshire to share their stories, memories and artefacts of the impact the First World War had on the county. Working with local museums and heritage centres these will be recorded, stored and shared to create a picture of how Wiltshire life was affected by the conflict.

 

Stories will be presented through a series of travelling exhibitions and also a website.

Alongside this schools and libraries will be hosting activities, talks and events, inspired by the stories from the exhibitions.

How can I get a career in heritage?

on Friday, 20 June 2014. Posted in Archives

Here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we often get requests for work experience by people interested in a career in heritage, so it seems timely, with the end of the school year approaching, to run through some key facts and provide some useful links. This guidance is primarily aimed at those living in England - other parts of the UK may need to use a search engine to find links more appropriate to them.


The first thing to note is that ‘heritage’ is a very broad term and you will need to decide which aspect of it you are most interested in, as there is specialist vocational training for different careers and you can save yourself a lot of time and money by investing in the right training sooner rather than later. (For example if you want to become a qualified archivist it is essential to have a degree plus a post-graduate qualification in an accredited topic such as Archives Management – you cannot simply have a history degree, or an MA in another topic, even if it’s heritage-based.)

School’s Out for Summer!

on Friday, 13 June 2014. Posted in Archives, Schools

Education records in Wiltshire and Swindon Archives

At this time of year, I can’t help but think of all the children doing exams at school and college, and who are now awaiting results. I thought it might be timely to write about the range of school records held in the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives that shed light on how our ancestors coped with the demands of education. I was also amused to read on an external website that Elvis Presley managed only to get a ‘C’ for music in his exams – it just goes to show that formal education is not the be all and end all!

What I’ll do is run through the main types of educational establishments which have existed in Wiltshire down the centuries, and discuss what records may be found for them, and how they may be used. A quick caveat before I begin - survival of education records is patchy, unfortunately. Also, it is worth remembering they may still be kept by the establishment itself rather than a county record office.

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