Discovering Historic Malmesbury

on Tuesday, 27 January 2015. Posted in Archaeology

We all know and love the historic town of Malmesbury and plenty is known and has been written about the place. However, there was a flurry of excitement in the Archaeology team, Wiltshire Buildings Record and in the local media in September last year.

We were asked to come and look at a void that had unexpectedly been discovered by workmen during the course of ground works at 7 King’s Wall. This unlisted house dating to 1823, is located close to where the line of the town defenses is known to have been in medieval times. Following an initial visit there was just enough time before the building work was completed for a very brief investigation by Dorothy Treasure from the Wiltshire Buildings Record.

In the void, below the 20th century concrete floor of what had been the kitchen, was a small square room three and a half metres deep and measuring around two and a half metres on each side. Rubble masonry, probably local cornbrash or ragstone set in an earth mortar comprised three sides and but the north side was cut from solid rock.

 

The Forest and Wolfhall

on Thursday, 22 January 2015. Posted in Wiltshire Places

"There is no place in England quite like it. Savernake is an epitome of every phase of beauty in our countryside"

Arthur Mee

If you travel down “The King’s Way” from Marlborough you will pass through Savernake Forest. Before WWII Savernake was one of the largest areas of virgin forest land in England, having a continuous wooded area greater than the New Forest.

Wolfhall was the house of the Wardens of Savernake Forest and the estate was the home of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s third wife and mother to the future Edward VI. Henry, a keen deer-hunter, regularly stayed there as the guest of Sir John Seymour, Jane’s father. John Aubrey wrote of the King’s wedding some time later in 1672, stating it was observed in the long barn at Wolfhall. At the heart of the estate is the house that eventually replaced Wolfhall; Tottenham House.

Origins

King Athelstan’s Charter of 934AD lists crofts lying ‘alongside the woodland called Safernoc’. There are also references to Safernac (in 1156) and Savernak (in 1275). The name is probably derived from ‘a river name identical with the Severn’. Other possibilities include ‘sweet fern’, gravel or hare. All forms use ‘oc’, ‘ac’ and ‘uk’, the old names for oak. This Old English word has continued in the form of ‘acorn’.  The forest has been called Savernake at least as early as the beginning of Henry II’s reign.

A Question of Identity

on Tuesday, 20 January 2015. Posted in Archives

At the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we help people with their family history research on a daily basis but last night I met a lady – let’s call her Mary - who has more challenges to her research than anyone I think I have ever met. I won’t go into too many details because I want to respect her privacy, but Mary is one of the small number of people who is a ‘foundling’. That is to say, she doesn’t know anything about her parents or possible siblings, because she was found as a baby, lying in the open, many years ago, and taken to hospital. The only thing she has from her birth family is the pink dress she was found wearing. After a few months in hospital she was very happily adopted and is close to her adoptive family – but there still remains a nagging question. ‘I don’t need a new family – I just want to know who I am’, she told me. I think that need to know who we are, and get a sense of our roots, is what underpins a lot of the research here at the History Centre.

 

War Horses of Wiltshire

on Monday, 12 January 2015. Posted in Archives

©IWM

©IWM

Wiltshire has a history of an association with the military and during the First World War the county was home to one of the few female run remount depots at Russley Park, near Swindon.

Remount depots were established by the army in order to provide fresh, healthy and well trained horses, donkeys and mules for army use in peace time and during times of conflict. In 1887 the remount section was established within the army replacing the earlier responsibility that each individual regiment had for providing its own animals. The South African War (1899-1902) had established a ‘best practice’ in order to get the most out of these animals and a horse registration scheme was introduced. This identified suitable animals for possible purchase and army use and depots to deal with them were established at Woolwich, Arborfield near Reading and Melton Mowbray, employing three inspectors to oversee the potential purchase and care of the animals.

In the event of war it was estimated that 110,000 animals would be needed and in 1912 and 1913 a horse census was undertaken, dividing the country into 24 sections each with a Remount Officer responsible for the identification of potential horses. This groundwork proved invaluable and when the First World War began 140,000 horses were purchased efficiently and quickly.

Parian Ware - A Complex Jigsaw

on Tuesday, 06 January 2015. Posted in Conservation

We recently had a number of Parian ware figurines come in for treatment. Parian ware is a type of unglazed porcelain used in the 19th century to imitate marble. It was usually used to make figurines and other decorative pieces.  

The damage on the pieces ranged from a few minor chips to items that were in a fragmentary condition. It was clear that this would be a challenging treatment. Piecing together the broken items was especially difficult as fragments from many different figures were present in each box. It was not clear until we started work which object some of the fragments belonged with. Each piece would need to be positioned precisely to allow the fragments around it to fit correctly. Some joins had to be taken down and re assembled several times before the rest of the object could be put together satisfactorily.

Wiltshire at War: Community Stories

on Tuesday, 30 December 2014. Posted in Wiltshire People

http://wiltshireatwar.org.uk/

Our Heritage Lottery Funded project to uncover and share stories of the First World War Home Front in Wiltshire is approaching two exciting milestones early in 2015.

At the end of January our website will be going live. This will be a home for all the stories that have been gathered so far – in sounds, words and pictures. If your family or community have your own stories that you would like to include you will be able to do this straight through the website. Over time we hope this will become a significant record of the impact of the war across the county.

At the end of February the first exhibition based on the stories will be on display at the Springfield Community Campus in Corsham. This exhibition will focus on the role Wiltshire played in providing a home and training ground for the military and how this affected the lives of ordinary people. Look out for full details of the exhibition over the next few weeks. After Corsham the exhibition will be setting off on a tour of community venues whilst we start work on preparing further displays looking at different ways the First World War affected Wiltshire.

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