Malmesbury Fire Pump

on Saturday, 08 August 2015. Posted in Museums

Last year we posted a blog about work we did to conserve Malmesbury’s historic fire pump for display. The pump is one of the largest items the museum owns and arranging a space suitable for it to be displayed in was not straight forward for the museum. For this reason the fire pump had to go back into storage whilst a display area was arranged for it. But recently I have been able to go back and help with putting the item on display.

The pump belongs to the Athelstan museum in Malmesbury but is too large to fit in their own store so it has been kept in a commercial storage facility in an old aircraft hangar. I met the curator at the storage site along with two members of the modern fire brigade who had volunteered to help move the object. It was interesting to hear their opinion on this piece of historic fire fighting equipment. In particular I learnt that that although I had been calling it a fire engine it should in fact be called a fire appliance or pump. Apparently the modern fire service does not use the term fire engine at all. In the case of the appliance I had worked on it should not be called an engine as it does not have any sort of engine or motor. Its pump was powered by people pushing its handles up and down.

The Great Lacock Bake Off

on Monday, 17 August 2015. Posted in Archives

I am an addict. Not alcohol or drugs, but cake is my particular addiction – coffee and walnut being my favourite. Along with millions of others I am also addicted to the BBC TV show ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ (which has recently started again) so you can imagine my delight at being able to combine my twin loves of cake and archives in our recent HLF-funded Lacock Unlocked ‘Food and Friendship’ public participation event.

This took place on 29 July 2015 at Lacock village hall and took the form of talks about the history of food by experts Sally Macpherson and Deborah Loader, together with the opportunity for the public to taste those recipes, made to perfection by Alison Williams and Nancy Newman of the Lacock Women’s Institute.

Expert Deborah Loader demonstrates a modern ‘ice house’ for keeping ice cream cool to the author of this blog.

Nancy Newman with an apricot and apple tansey.

Discoveries from the Deverills Part 2- The houses that wool wealth built

on Tuesday, 11 August 2015. Posted in Architecture

In my last blog I set the economic scene in the Deverill Valley which I believe gave rise to the great prosperity, partly through the woollen industry, that became evident in the rich building heritage of that area.

An obvious later example of wool wealth in Warminster can be seen in the grand houses that clothiers such as John Wansey built for themselves. The above image is Byne House dated to 1755 photographed in 2007 just after a fire, though there is very little that I looked at in the Deverills that represents the Georgian period. Most of our discoveries came from the beginning of the early modern period when Warminster and the Deverills had rich agricultural resources that were exploited by the lords of the manor such as Glastonbury Abbey, who owned Longbridge and Monkton Deverill in the Medieval period.

Before we look at individual buildings, what does a house of c1500 look like?

Wiltshire’s Story in 100 Objects

on Monday, 27 July 2015. Posted in Museums

Don’t forget to visit this wonderful touring exhibition inspired by the British Museum and telling the story of Wiltshire in 100 objects. Supported by the Arts Council England and managed by Wiltshire Museum, Devizes, the project showcases the varied nature of objects held throughout Wiltshire by its museums. These museums range from military collections, industrial sites, art galleries, heritage centres and small village museums as well as national collections.

The 100 objects are diverse and each gives an insight into the rich history of Wiltshire. They have been classified amongst ten major themes...

Wheeling around Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 28 July 2015. Posted in Archives

  

As The Tour de France has just finished and we can start celebrating the success of Chris Froome, now twice winner of the competition and the first British man to accomplish this, I thought readers might be getting withdrawal symptoms. So I have dipped into our archives to see what they might say about Wiltshire and Swindon’s connection to cycle racing. Cycling fever most recently came to Wiltshire in 2014 when the Tour of Britain passed through the county, including British riders Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish. There are also many clubs and individuals who put on the lycra and take to the road, which puts me to shame as I can barely pump the tyres up on my bike these days. But our earliest references go back certainly to the 1890s.

An illustration of the opening of the Trowbridge Cycle Club cycle track appears in the Kings Quarterly magazine, 1891, no. 8, for seemingly no other reason that the illustrator happened to be just passing through. However, it gives us a useful starting date and it is accompanied by illustrations of the committee men, who were Mr Mackay, President; Mr DP Wise, Vice President; and two honorary secretaries, Mr George Rose and Mr Ernest Williams (presumably a mistake, where one of them was Treasurer). The Swindon Cycle Club was also established at least during the 1890’s, as in 1897 they submitted plans to extend their club building in Dixon Street, New Swindon, even though the building already contained everything a club needed. It included an assembly room, a kitchen and a cellar, a skittles alley and, of course most essential of all back then, a bar.

The Swindon Wheeler’s Cycle Club was established in 1923 for a potted history go to this link http://swindonwheelers.wix.com/swindonwheelers . At the History Centre we are delighted to be the custodian of the club’s archives, which date back to 1924. The club was established to “promote road-racing, touring and social club runs.” The subscription was 4 shillings and activities included a run to Cycle Show in Olympia; a charabanc outing to Weston Super Mare; and, perhaps this should have been earlier, a map reading competition. Rules included that when road riding, “the captain shall have complete command and no rider shall pass without his permission”; with two sections being formed – a fast section and a ‘social’ section; while during time-trials “every competitor must carry a bell on the handlebars of his machine” (there does not seem to be any references at this stage to women riders).

Voices of Lacock: Recording History

on Monday, 20 July 2015. Posted in Archives

A fundamental part of the Lacock Community Archive project has been recording the memories of local residents through oral history interviews.  Oral history is a fantastic method of discovering stories that have remained hidden or missed from traditional historical methods. These memories have ranged from hiding American soldiers from the Military Police in the basement of the Red Lion to Mrs Murray (local schoolteacher) who opened her front window curtains so the local children could watch their favourite television programmes.  These vibrant and wonderful memories encapsulate a village community that is often overlooked by the vast number of tourists that flock to the Abbey.

Anthony Edwards

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