Discoveries from the Deverills, Part 4

on Friday, 29 January 2016. Posted in Architecture

Is this the old manor house of Longbridge Deverill?

During our investigations of houses in the Deverills for the on-going Victoria County History study we visited Longbridge Deverill House nursing home.  This was described in the listed building description as an 18th century house rebuilt in the 19th century and given as a rectory by the Longleat Estate in around 1840. The house presents as a gabled, L-plan Tudor-style mansion in Flemish bond diaper brickwork attractively picked out in burnt headers. In addition it has typically 19th century fish-scale tiled roofs and impressive ornamental diagonally-set brick stacks. 

Longbridge Deverill House Nursing Home

It looks fairly complete and has the Thynne motto over the doorway ‘J’ai Bonne Cause’, ‘I have good cause’ encircled by the Order of the Garter. Nobody would have thought that hidden away in what is now the kitchen and service wing to the north was evidence of a high-status dwelling of at least early 16th century date. The photograph shows an early type of partition known as plank and muntin, once with an arched door head. In the hierarchical society of the 16th century, the lord of the manor would have sat on a chair or bench backing onto this screen, which is finely carpentered in oak. Other similar surviving examples have been found in Wiltshire including at the King and Queen Inn, Highworth dating to the late 15th century, and at Bolehyde Manor near Chippenham.

Plank and muntin partition

Remarkable finds from an unusual source

on Friday, 22 January 2016. Posted in Archaeology, Conservation

A large box, filled with Bronze Age finds recovered in Netheravon, was brought to the conservation lab here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The objects were covered in moss and smelling rather musty, this however was explained when we were told that the finder of these objects wasn’t an archaeologist but a badger. Deciding to make its home in a convenient mound, the badger inadvertently unearthed finds of a similar style and importance to those found with the nearby Amesbury Archer.

Selection of ceramic sherds

The group of finds include sherds from a large ceramic urn, various bone and antler tools, 2 metal objects (one a serrated blade and the other is still a complete mystery) and most significantly a copper chisel with the decorated bone handle still attached.

Copper chisel with bone handle

The owner of these objects was probably an archer as the finds included a wrist guard used for protection when firing a bow and stone tools used for straightening arrow shafts.

Wrist guard and shaft straighteners

As the objects were damp when they were unearthed we needed to let them slowly dry out before conservation could begin. This is particularly necessary for the bone and antler finds, as with all organic material, bone and antler swell and contract depending on the moisture content of the object and surrounding air. If the objects were to dry out too quickly then cracks and other damage may be caused.

Salisbury Museum: Researching Hand Axes

on Thursday, 21 January 2016. Posted in Museums

Back in the summer of 2015 Louise Tunnard from Salisbury Museum interviewed Ella Egberts, a researcher from Bournemouth University:

One of the joys of Museum life is to welcome researchers to Salisbury Museum and allow them access to our collections. Recently Ella Egberts from Bournemouth University came to spend many hours studying our collection of handaxes. I decided to find out more.

1.    Can you tell me a little bit about your studies and how you came to be looking at our collections at the Museum?  

For my doctoral research I am studying the Palaeolithic record of the Hampshire Avon Valley. This area is of interest because during the Pleistocene it was a large river plain that formed a corridor through the landscape for animals and early humans (hominins). The presence of hominins in the Avon Valley is evidenced by its rich Palaeolithic record that includes some of the largest concentrations of Palaeolithic finds in southern England. These large concentrations of Palaeolithic artefacts are sometimes referred to as ‘super sites’. Two of 19 known ‘super sites’ in Britain are located in the Avon Valley, found at Woodgreen and Milford Hill. Opposite of Milford Hill is an additional site, Bemerton. Although smaller, its position on the other side of the valley from Milford Hill makes it an interesting case for comparison. With my research I hope to better understand the formation of such ‘super sites’ and through analysing the artefacts found at Woodgreen, Milford Hill and Bemerton, I hope to reconstruct hominin behaviour through answering questions such as what tools did they make? What raw material did they use? And why? Together with geomorphological research and the development of a dating framework for the Palaeolithic artefacts I will also be able to situate the three sites in time and relate the timing of hominin presence in the Avon Valley to evidence of hominin presence elsewhere in Britain.

The majority of the Palaeolithic artefacts from Woodgreen, Milford Hill and Bemerton are stored at Salisbury Museum, offering me the possibility to look at each individual artefact and discover clues about the lives of their makers.

2.    What have you enjoyed about looking through our collections?

It was a great pleasure to study over 1000 Palaeolithic artefacts, to be able to handle them and take a very close look. Every single artefact is different. The flake scars show the decisions its maker made in producing the tool. But you also see recurring shapes and modes of production. Maybe because they just liked it or because that was how it was learnt. So with every tool you see new things. What made it particularly interesting are the notes left on the tools themselves by collectors like Blackmore when the tools were first discovered. Those notes sometimes provide clues to where the artefact was found, for example in ‘Miss Saunders garden’. The notes on the tools and in Blackmore’s notebook offer a glimpse into a different period of time: the end of the 19th century when the evolutionary theory was consolidating and antiquarians were collecting the evidence of human evolution in the form of stone tools made by early humans.

Three Cheers for Volunteers!

on Thursday, 14 January 2016. Posted in Museums

Just before Christmas I was invited to an afternoon at Chippenham Museum to celebrate the contribution volunteers have made to the Museum over the past year.

Volunteers from Chippenham Museum give a warm welcome to Yelde Hall

I listened with great interest and a growing sense of wonder as Curator Melissa Barnett thanked all those who had given their time for free, speaking about all the work that had gone on throughout the year and the projects and events volunteers had been involved in.

A well-earned break for volunteers at Chippenham Museum

Working with a small team of paid staff, the efforts of the volunteers are vital in creating an active and bustling community based Museum. They have a group of around 75 people who give their time to help in all areas, both front of house and behind the scenes. Amongst other things volunteers welcome visitors on the reception desk, carry out educational activities and workshops, answer enquiries, research and document the collections and work on special events. They also provide an important link with the local community, ensuring that the Museum provides what people in the town want.

As I reflected on the afternoon, it struck me that Chippenham isn’t the only museum in Wiltshire with a vibrant and hard-working group of volunteers. Having recently started working as Museum Officer for Wiltshire Council, I’ve been busy visiting many of the museums across the county and meeting the people who run them. Time and time again I’ve been mightily impressed by the levels of dedication, enthusiasm and expertise shown by the volunteers I’ve come across, including those here at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.

Please do not try this at home – a very curious cure for sore eyes

on Friday, 08 January 2016. Posted in Archives

Within the Lacock Archive is a collection of recipe books, many of them were created by Ann Talbot around the late seventeenth – early eighteenth century. Some of them are for wonderful food dishes, but there also others that are remedies for numerous ailments and illness. They provide an interesting insight into the history of society and medicine. Today, some of ingredients might seem unpalatable to say the least and here is one that I come across that our blog readers might find of interest. It is a cure for sore eyes and headache, just the thing after the excesses at Xmas and New Year, but be warned, it is not for the faint-hearted as it includes strange ingredients and nasty things happening to cute furry animals … and please do not try this at home!

The fine pigg water remedy from the Lacock collection

The fine pigg water:

“Take a gallon of the best white wine and put to it 2 quartes of garden snails well cleansed of their filth and shells, 2 quarts of the finest rosemary flowers, 2 quarts of the bean blossoms picked from the blacks, 1 quart of cowslip flowers, one ounce of march grossly pounded, half a pint of flaxseed cleansed from the dust and brus(h)ed, six sheets of venis (venice) paper cut in bits, 4 large lemons paired and sliced thin, the crum of 2 penny manchetts sliced, then 2 spaniel puppies of a week old the head, skin and guts taken away and they cut in quarters, 2 pigs of a week old, the head and guts taken away and they cut in quarters, a pound of the best virgin honey. Let all steep 24 hours in the wine, then lay a good handful of balm and mead sweet, in the bottom of the still, and then put all your ingredients, and then draw it off with a gentle fire, you may still it in a linbeck or cold stil which you please, when it is stil’d mix it to your sort for if you mix it so small, it will be apt to turn sour, if you please you may put in 2 drams of flower of prepared pearl to illustrate it, but it does very well without. It is good to strengthen week eyes by dropping it in them, it will take the bloodshot in the eye, it comforts the brain if sniff up into the nostrils, and good for the head ache if you wash the temple and behind the ears with it.”

So there you have it, all that effort when nowadays all you have to do is go to your local chemist...

Wiltshire's Witches

on Monday, 04 January 2016. Posted in Archives, Traditions and Folklore

My previous blog looked at herbal lore with reference to wise women putting Wiltshire’s natural resources to good use. Even so, there was always the possibility, especially during the 17th century when even educated people believed in the dark arts, that they could be accused of witchcraft, and so I thought it would be timely to delve into Wiltshire’s past yet again; this time in hunt of witches.

Europe had fallen under the spell of what R. S. Holland calls ’witch mania’ in the 17th century, partly as a consequence of the reoccurrence of bubonic plague and also due to the rise of religious zeal in the Renaissance period. Men and women could be accused for many reasons: jealousy and spite, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, being the victim to money or property grabbing friends or relatives, or trying to help a patient who unfortunately died of their illness when little was known about the true causes of disease.

Wiltshire’s Churchwarden’s Presentments offer a glimpse into the psyche of local communities at this time, although cases of suspected witchcraft had been presented as early as 1565 (D5/28/1) if not before. Those accused in the 17th and early 18th centuries included Margaret Pilton, 1613; ‘Goodwife’ Barlowe, 1630; William Starr, 1652; Joan Baker, Elizabeth Beeman, Anne Bodenham, Joan Price, 1653; Elizabeth Loudon, Christina Weekes, 1654; Margaret Gyngell, 1655; ‘Widow Orchard’, 1658; Jane Mereweather, 1655; Elizabeth Peacock and Jane Townsend, 1670; Elizabeth Mills, Ann Tilling, the appropriately named Judith Witchell, 1672; Elizabeth Peacock, Ann Tilling and Judith Witchell, 1685 (for the second time); M Parle, 1687; Christiana Dunne and Margaret Young, 1689; Ruth Young, 1698; Joanna Tanner, 1702.

 

One of the Churchwarden’s presentments, 1565, for Thomas Horton the elder of Bishopstone who was suspected of witchcraft (Ref: D5/28/1)

The case of Widow ‘Goody’ Orchard of Malmesbury is described in R.S. Holland’s book ‘Legends & Folklore’, of which ‘extraordinary tales’ were told. Goody was fond of begging for scraps from door to door but had a reputation for threatening those who would not be charitable. Widow Goody came upon one such girl and was seen to pace out a circle around the cottage where the girl was residing. She sat in the middle of the circle and appeared to ‘mumble an incantation’. The procedure was repeated twice over. Not long after the girl’s hands seized up and Goody was detained. She maintained that bad water must have caused the disablement, and unfortunately offered to cure the girl by bathing her fingers whilst casting another spell! She was found guilty and hanged at Salisbury after the girl was cured.

Jane Townsend of Latton was accused of using a ’poppet’ (an English version of a voodoo doll) to cause harm to others, but another notorious case was that of Anne Bodenham who was accused of conjuring spirits. The original statement in the case was quoted in a book by Nicholas Crouch, published in 1688 and entitled ‘Kingdom of Darkness’.

Images of witches in a manuscript dated 1451. By Martin Le France (1410-1461) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Elder is the witch’s ‘particular tree’ and they were said to have lived in the tree at times and there was a superstition that the tree could bleed if it was cut down. Apologies would be made if cutting was attempted.‘Old gal, old gal, gi Oi yer wood, an’ when Oi be a tree, Oi’ll gi’ yer mine.’ You must never, ever fall asleep under an elder bush for fear of putting yourself under the power of a witch. Hawthorn was also a special tree to a witch but St. John’s wort was a great protector against witches, and pious people would often hang pieces of the herb over doorways on St. John’s Eve to keep witches away. The plant was also renowned for preserving you against tempest, thunderstorm and evil spirits in general. Called the ‘Rose of Sharon’ in Wiltshire, it was the ‘pleasant golden flower’ of the garden.

Cats are most well known as a witch’s accessory, but hares are also particularly noted in association with witches; did you know they too were also called ‘pusses’? (I didn’t!). Lyddie Shears from Winterslow was lucky to have been alive in the 19th century instead of the 17th, and was never tried for witchcraft, but she was reputed to have the ability to turn herself into a hare. This was supposedly discovered to be true when a local farmer shot a hare near Lyddie’s house with a silver bullet (said to destroy witches). Low and behold, Lyddie was discovered dead in her house with a silver bullet in her heart. Ravens were also said to be a witch’s favourite.

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