Tales from the Lacock Archives: A Dispute Concerning Trees on Bewley Common

on Wednesday, 15 April 2015. Posted in Archives

In the autumn of 1706, James Montague of Lackham sent his workmen to cut down some trees on Bewley Common, an area of land that abutted both Lackham and Lacock Manors. This commonplace country activity elicited a furious reaction from his neighbour, Sir John Talbot, the Lord of Lacock. Talbot disputed Montague's right to fell the timber and retaliated by ordering his men to cut down all the remaining trees and remove the timber for his own use. Both parties insisted that they alone had the rights to the timber in accordance with established practice and ancient agreements, and the dispute rapidly escalated over the ensuing months.

In confronting Talbot, Montague had taken on a formidable opponent. Sir John Talbot was in his 77th year, had been a long-term and very active member of Parliament, championing many causes and generally featuring at the forefront of political life for most of the second half of the turbulent 17th century. He was a committed Royalist, Protestant and Soldier and had commanded a number of regiments at various times. He survived the Glorious Revolution, despite having two arrest warrants issued against him after 1689, and was never implicated in Jacobite unrest. In short, he was a fighter, survivor, and a man experienced in the ways of the world. By contrast, Montague, aged 33, had had limited military experience and had served only three years as a rather inactive MP. He had trained as a lawyer and was a local Justice of the Peace.

It appears that as the dispute grew, Montague had resorted to the law to resolve the respective rights of the Manors of Lacock and Lackham to Bewley Common, to recover damages for the timber he claimed to have been stolen from him, and to bring those involved in 'his' timber's removal to justice. Court hearing were held in late 1706 but proved inconclusive and a further hearing was scheduled for January 1707. In the intervening period, apart from a verbal altercation in Lacock church, Montague and Talbot addressed the problem in a series of increasingly acerbic letters, despite both declaring to not like conducting "paper disputes".

Archaeology in Wiltshire Conference

on Monday, 13 April 2015. Posted in Archaeology

The third archaeology conference looks to be an exciting day showcasing some of the new discoveries and research over the last year in Wiltshire which is to be held on 18 April at the Corn Exchange in Devizes. It coincides with the International Day for Monuments and Sites, the theme of which is The Heritage of Commemoration. Some members of our team will be there on the day with displays so come say hello and find out about ways of getting involved such as volunteering opportunities in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site

Easter in the Parish Registers

on Saturday, 04 April 2015. Posted in Archives

In 2013 my colleague used the blog to explore the pagan roots of Easter and the customs associated with it in Wiltshire, but I thought this year I would focus on our churches’ customs and traditions for this season, since Easter is also an important Christian festival, celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection. Some of these customs have fallen into disuse but recall a time when the parish church was at the centre of village or town life in Wiltshire, and church customs and traditions formed an important part of everyday life. I am indebted to my colleague Steve Hobbs’s book: ‘Gleanings from Wiltshire Parish Registers’, Wiltshire Record Society Volume 63, for the examples in this blog.

Most of us will be familiar with the tradition of giving up treats (such as chocolate or alcohol) for Lent. However, I wonder how many people know that it used to be necessary to have a licence to eat meat during Lent? The Roman Catholic Church had a long tradition of abstaining from meat during Lent and on Fridays, but after the Reformation this practice was zealously promoted, in an attempt to boost the fishing industry. In 1562/3 an Act of Parliament (5 Elizabeth 1 c.5) ruled that meat could not be eaten during Lent, and on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Ember Days. Anyone caught eating meat was subject to a penalty of £3 or three months’ imprisonment, but it was possible to obtain a licence or dispensation from the Bishop or local clergy.

Wiltshire’s parish registers contain numerous references to licences granted by the clergy, to parishioners who were deemed to need meat as well as fish, usually because of age or poor health. For example, one of Alderbury’s parish registers (1966/1) states: “1 Mar 1619 licence granted to Mr Richard Goulstone and Mrs Jane Tooker to eat flesh during Lent, because of their… great age.” The Salisbury St Edmund register for 1559-1653 is more eloquent: “William Fawconer the elder … and Katherine his wife are now both sick and diseased, upon their instance and request for the better preservation of their strength and recovery of their health, [I, Peter Thacher] do … license them to eat such kind of flesh as the laws of this realm do allow, during the time of their sickness and no longer…” (1901/1 - 1633)

A Model Schoolmistress - Preshute's Finest

on Tuesday, 31 March 2015. Posted in Schools

Preshute Parochial School was founded in 1845 in the Main Street of the village of Manton near Marlborough. It was a small building comprising of one main school room and outside privies.

The school was built to provide all children within the sprawling parish, basic elementary education. This included youngsters from the outlying areas at Preshute Down (way up by the Ridgeway), Rockley and Clatford. Some pupils were as young as four and the trek into school would have been an epic one.

The school at Preshute was governed by a group of school managers. The members of the committee were made up of local gentry, landowners and businessmen. They held meetings to discuss everything from the school building, funds, staff and general day to day running of the establishment. It was this group of managers that decided to appoint a very capable new head teacher in December 1881.

Miss Emma Louisa Thorp accepted the post of head mistress after 59 written applications had been received. The post had been advertised in the ‘Schoolmasters’ publication and Miss Thorp’s application had already caught the eye of the Managers, despite the high volume of other potentials.

She preceded the previous mistress who had been dismissed along with two others before her. Miss Thorp agreed to a wage of £30 a year and a partly furnished house, despite her predecessors being paid £50 annually and having a fully furnished school house. She only agreed to become mistress on the proviso that she be given a pay increase at the end of the year and that her sister, Miss Florence Thorp, be given a position at the school as an assistant teacher. Her wage was to 2/ per week.

These conditions were agreed and the two sisters began very long and interesting careers at Preshute School.

Lacock Cup and Magna Carta

on Monday, 23 March 2015. Posted in Museums

I thought I would use this blog to update you on a couple of the exhibitions currently taking place in museums across the county.

Salisbury Museum

Salisbury Museum are currently showing ‘Secular to Sacred – The Story of the Lacock Cup’

Running until May 4th this exhibition showcases the stunning 15th century silver cup from the church of St Cyriac, Lacock. The cup was recently jointly acquired by The British Museum and The Wiltshire Museum, Devizes and Salisbury is the first venue to display it on this current tour.

The cup has a fascinating dual history, having been used both as a feasting cup and a holy chalice. The cup was in use at Lacock for over 400 years and was loaned to the British Museum in 1963, but continued to return to Lacock for use at religious festivals until about thirty years ago.

Alongside the Lacock cup the exhibition in Salisbury includes other church vessels from surrounding parishes including Wylye, Fisherton, Odstock, Nunton and Bodenham.

http://www.salisburymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/exhibitions/secular-sacred-story-lacock-cup

This exhibition will be followed later in May by a major exhibition ‘Turner’s Wessex’, the first ever exhibition devoted to J M W Turner’s drawings and paintings of Salisbury Cathedral, the city and its surroundings.

Trowbridge Museum

Trowbridge Museum's brand new Magna Carta exhibition ‘Game of Barons’ runs until 25th July 2015. From medieval weaponry to Lego castles, the exhibition will educate and entertain visitors of all ages. The middle ages are explored through heraldry and pageantry as well as displays about daily life, food, warfare, the troubled reigns of Henry II and Richard the Lionheart and much more. 

Celebrating the 8OOth anniversary of the Magna Carta

on Monday, 16 March 2015. Posted in Conservation

The Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre have been preparing an up-coming display to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, which is to be held at Lacock Abbey.

The display will feature three original documents: a facsimile of the 1225 Magna Carta presented to Lacock abbey after the original charter was presented to the nation; and two enrolled copies of a 1300 confirmation of the charter in the archives of the marquis of Ailesbury of Savernake and Marlborough borough which are held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.

These documents will be supported by a display illustrating life in Wiltshire in the 13th century and the impact of Magna Carta. Copies of documents will include images from the pageant in 1932 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the founding of Lacock abbey.

The exhibition will be at Lacock Abbey in June and July and then at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The screens will then be available for display around the county.

A project to conserve and display 13th Century documents for the Salisbury Cathedral Magna Carta exhibition.

The Archive conservation team have recently been working on a project to conserve and display four 13th Century parchment documents for the 800th Anniversary of the Magna Carta exhibition at Salisbury Cathedral.

The documents are: a charter, an indulgence, a declaration of canonical obedience and an agreement of tithes.

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