The Quiet Nomansland

on Tuesday, 28 October 2014. Posted in Wiltshire Places

We are busy marking the centenary of WWI, looking at the war, its consequences and repercussions, and what life was like on the Home Front. With this in mind, some publications in our Local Studies Library on the Wiltshire village of Nomansland, a name with WWI connotations, caught my eye. What was it like during the early 20th century, this quiet village with what would later become a notorious name?...

Wiltshire’s Nomansland can be found right at the edge of the parish of Redlynch, next to the border with Hampshire and the New Forest, a position which was to have a huge bearing on the establishment of the village and its name. The site was probably part of the ‘Franchises’, an area of mixed woodland and open heath to be found south east of Redlynch.

Wiltshire at War: Community Stories

on Tuesday, 21 October 2014. Posted in Events, Military

Our Heritage Lottery Funded project to uncover and share stories of the First World War Home Front in Wiltshire http://wiltshireatwar.org.uk/ is now moving into its second phase. Over the summer we have been out and about meeting people, making contacts and starting to identify some of the stories that we will be sharing and preserving. This month, we will be showing volunteers from across the county how to do this work so that they can find out and record more stories from their communities.

Places are filling up fast, but if you are interested in coming along to one of these workshops they are taking place at:

Malmesbury Town Hall, 15 Oct 2pm
The Rifles Museum, Salisbury 21 Oct 2pm
Trowbridge Town Hall, 27 Oct 2pm

Full details and how to book a place can be found in the attached Wiltshire at War Training Invite.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes museum education officers are planning the schools element of the project, which will be starting next year and we are looking at the best options for how we present all the stories. This will be done through exhibitions in libraries, museums, village halls, churches etc as well as on a dedicated website.

If you have a story to share, would like to know more about the project or would be interested in hosting an exhibition please contact Emma Golby-Kirk at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or on 02380 262629. You can also visit the project website at www.wiltshireatwar.org.uk

Tim Burge, Museums Officer, October 2014

As Good as New... Conserved Fire Engine on Display

on Tuesday, 14 October 2014. Posted in Conservation

In late August this year CMAS conservators were privileged to work on an exciting project to conserve a 19th century fire engine prior to display at Athelstan Museum, Malmesbury. The fire engine is constructed mainly from wood, which has been brightly painted in blue and red. A large trough houses a central pump in a wooden box the whole engine sits on four chunky wooden wheels reinforced with iron tyres. Folding handles extend from the body of the engine which would be used to pump the water from its source through the machine and onto the fire. Measuring 2 metres long x 1.4 metres high the fire engine is of an imposing size. Although it is still relatively easy to manoeuvre the engine with a small team of people the response times would still have been much longer than we are now used to!

The Pillory as Punishment

on Friday, 10 October 2014. Posted in Crime

During some research I’ve come across a wonderful woodcut engraving of the pillory at Marlborough in an article on obsolete punishments by Llewellyn Jewitt in “The Reliquary” Quarterly Journal, January 1861.

The pillory was used for a range of moral and political crimes, most notably for dishonest trading - the modern equivalent of implementing trading standards. Its use dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was known as “Healsfang” or “catch-neck”. In France it was called the pillorie. It was well established as a use of punishment after the Conquest. It was considered to be a degrading punishment with offenders standing in the pillory for several hours to be abused by fellow citizens, sometimes being pelted with all manner of organic material such as rotten eggs, mud and filth. If that was not enough, sometimes the offender was drawn to the pillory on a hurdle, accompanied by minstrels and a paper sign hung around his or her head displaying the offence committed.

From bakehouses to bastions - being a volunteer with Wiltshire Building Record

on Tuesday, 07 October 2014. Posted in Architecture

I have been a volunteer with the Wiltshire Buildings Record for around twelve years.  Volunteering for me is a privilege and a pleasure.  I can choose to do it when it suits and it fits around my family.  The benefits have been many.  Life-long learning is very important to me.  Here, I am immersed in buildings archaeology, which is my passion.  My more experienced colleagues are generous with their time and knowledge.  They have given me the confidence to explore my interests more deeply.

There is no such thing as a typical week.  My work is varied.  Recently I have been busy letting people know about our annual Study Day “Dating Clues in Period Houses” which is on 8th November.   Yesterday morning I helped with the filing.  Afterwards we met with a paint conservator who is doing a PhD in 16-17th C painting schemes.  She came all the way from Suffolk to research what the WBR has found in Wiltshire, and to share her research findings with us.  It was fascinating and we will put our latest understanding into practice when recording buildings.  In the afternoon I went to Malmesbury where we made a record of the historic fabric in a small 19th C house.  This included what may be the remains of a lost bastion from the medieval town wall!

It was 50 years ago . . . .

on Tuesday, 30 September 2014. Posted in Wiltshire Places

That Wiltshire opened its first purpose built library in the town of Melksham. And it was 43 years ago last month that a young Michael Marshman took over as the third town librarian. It was pretty much state of the art at that time – wooden shelves, dark wood block floor, lots of divisions and underfloor heating. When I returned to give the 50th birthday talk I found it transformed into a bright, friendly, and welcoming modern library.

Before launching into my local history talk I reflected on library life in the early 70s. Just like today there were lots of children’s activities – with the help of Children and Schools Librarian, Valerie Fea, I ran a twice weekly Puffin Club for about 70 children with lots of literary activities, competitions and games. We had top children’s authors such as Leon Garfield and Philippa Pearce visiting filling the then exhibition room with an attentive audience.

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