Rare Interiors: Surviving Polychrome Wall-Paintings in Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 23 December 2014. Posted in Architecture

In October we were lucky enough to have a visit from Dr Andrea Kirkham, a specialist conservator of wall paintings and polychrome decoration. Andrea comes from Norwich and has made extensive study of wall and panel paintings in Suffolk. She is now gathering information for a wider-ranging study of the subject. We had heard Andrea lecture in Essex and invited her to look at some Wiltshire examples including 92, 93 & 94 Bradenstoke, Lyneham, where good remains of a polychrome scheme were recently discovered. It appears that most surviving secular wall-paintings date from 1500-1700, in Suffolk, and that certainly seems to be the case here in Wiltshire.

Strictly Come Dancing Wiltshire!

on Thursday, 11 December 2014. Posted in Archives, Traditions and Folklore

With the final of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing approaching, it seemed a good chance to explore the history of dancing in Wiltshire and the archival documents and historic photographs we have in our collections… there are some gems!

The English country dance was an ordinary, everyday dance, danced for pleasure, without ceremony and relatively easy to learn. Many people are familiar with country dancing from their school days, and it was an integral part of the social life of many English villages for several centuries.

Dancing often formed the focus of a community festival or celebration. A spring time festival known as ‘clipping the church’ involved parishioners assembling in the church yard, holding hands and enclosing the church before performing a short dance. This was sometimes performed by school children, including in Warminster, Trowbridge and in Bradford-in-Avon, where the Shrove Tuesday tradition continued until the mid-19th century.

Morris dancing was more ceremonial, spectacular and only performed by men. The first reference to Morris dancing dates back to 15th century, and by the end of the 16th century it had become particularly associated with May Day and village fairs and fetes.

Although Morris Dancing declined during the 19th century, this 1856 broadside advertising ‘Celebration of Peace’ in Salisbury, celebrating the end of the Crimean War included ‘Morrice Dancers’ as part of the procession.

 

Community Archives and Oral History

on Monday, 08 December 2014. Posted in Archives, Events

I have just started a year traineeship called 'Transforming Archives' with the National Archives and have been based here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre for just over two months.  I am working on the HLF funded Lacock Unlocked project focusing on community engagement and collections development.  My task will be creating a community archive and producing oral history interviews for the village of Lacock which is what I want to talk about today and about how you could be a part of it.

So, what are community archives?

Community Archives are becoming an ever more prominent feature of the archive field.  They are a collection of materials that tell the story of a local community, organization or group.  These can include documents, images, diaries, etc. which form a vital part of the community's memories.  They also provide an alternative method to the traditional archive system and provide a format for local memories to be recorded by the communities themselves - essentially a living archive!    Our hope is to create an engaging and sustainable archive for Lacock and the surrounding areas.  We are creating our own website (picture below) where the community history of Lacock can be uploaded to, viewed and commented on.  We are hoping that the community will engage with this idea and help create, and eventually run the archive.  If you have any memories or photos relating to Lacock then please do get in contact!

Lacock Unlocked Website

What Delights a Christmas Past can have in Store!

on Tuesday, 02 December 2014. Posted in Seasons

After the very recent experience of Black Friday it’s pleasant to remember Christmas shopping of 50 or 60 years ago. Every town in Wiltshire had at least one toy shop and many village shops bought in toys especially for Christmas. For children the short daylight hours of November and December were brightened by the brightly lit windows of the toy and grocery shops. Few vehicle lights and less strident street lighting made these into bright beacons attracting children as moths to a flame. The prices in this Wiltshire shop window may make you long for the days when inflation meant pumping up your bike tyres and it’s useful to look at relative prices in past decades.

Old newspapers are a great source for this, particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Since the beginning of the 20th century shops and businesses have been advertising their seasonal offerings in the pages of local newspapers. Have a look in the Salisbury Journal, Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette, and the Wiltshire Times and you will find what earlier generations bought at this time of year and how much it cost them. You’ll find all our Wiltshire newspapers, dating back to 1736, in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. On a cold, grey winter day you can lose yourself in the past whilst sitting at one of our recently refurbished microfilm readers scrolling through pages of newsprint. You'll just need to give us a call on 01249 705500 to book a reader before you make your journey into a Wiltshire Christmas past.

Michael Marshman
County Local Studies Librarian

Collecting Cultures – Creative Wiltshire and Swindon

on Friday, 21 November 2014. Posted in Archives, Art, Museums

We are used to looking at a wonderfully rich source of materials in our Local Studies Libraries, Archives and Museums, but how many of you have ever wondered  how those books, photographs, newspapers, archive collections and museum objects got there? Some material of course has been collected over many years, some of it gifted and others purchased; while for Archive services material is often deposited but still owned by the depositor. When material comes up for sale, usually at auction, a decision whether to attempt to buy an object or an archive collection is made on case by case basis (with the help of grants from various bodies raised at short notice). Now this can work well, but as you might imagine this is a reactive process rather than proactive; consequently gaps in our collections can emerge. This means that the heritage for future generations is incomplete and does not tell the full story of our communities past and present.


In Wiltshire and Swindon we have been thinking about this problem and looking at how libraries, archives , museums and art galleries can work together to identify and fill significant gaps in our collections; thinking about what we should collect, what do local  communities think is important to their heritage, what would we leave for future generations? In particular we have been looking at the heritage of our local creative industries, something that is part of our everyday lives now and has been for past generations, but not always given the full attention it deserves. Now, with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are able to take a strategic approach to collecting materials for our creative industry and, importantly, we have a significant fund to purchase items.

Discovering Photography with Wiltshire People First

on Tuesday, 18 November 2014. Posted in Archives, Photography

October saw a wonderful new project associated with Lacock Unlocked, and the chance for some of our staff and volunteers to work with Wiltshire People First, a group for adults with learning disabilities, and a professional photographer Jamie, to understand about photography; how to use a high-quality digital SLR camera and take good quality photographs. The three workshops followed different patterns and allowed the members to learn about different aspects of photography, experiment with picture taking and be creative. The project will finish with an exhibition of three images taken and chosen by each member; those which they feel are the most successful photographs they took. The exhibition will take place on Friday 28th November in the Manger Barn at Lacock, and I would recommend anyone who is able to go and see what brilliant pictures have been taken and the improvements made throughout the three weeks of the workshops.

The project fitted with Lacock Unlocked perfectly as it allowed us to work with a wider community of people and having Lacock as the venue was great as we could all imagine ourselves in the shoes of William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer in photography who owned Lacock Abbey in the 19th century and developed the first negative image actually inside the abbey itself.

The first day of the project, held on a chilly autumnal day in early October, started with a “welcome” session where the group members got a chance to meet Rachael, the National Trust staff member helping lead the project, Terry and Ally from the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, David and Ronnie, our two volunteers, and Jamie McDine, the photographer. We also were able to meet Julie and Angie from Wiltshire People First. After some introductions, we went to the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, where Roger Watson, the curator, spent some time with the group explaining all about William Henry Fox Talbot and his early developments with photography. He showed us a replica of the camera obscura which Fox Talbot had invented, and explained how Fox Talbot’s hard work eventually led him to produce the negative image which became so important in the success of photography.

[12 3 4 5  >>  

logos1