Learn more about Wiltshire's past and people online

on Friday, 05 July 2013. Posted in Museums

Market Lavington Museum is one of Wiltshire’s smallest museums, situated just off St Mary’s churchyard and based at the former Old Schoolmasters House which was built in 1846. The museum collection covers all aspects of village life - Market Lavington industries included brick and basket making as well as market gardening, brewing and agriculture. The large village has always been thriving and has had its own professional photographers since 1880 who recorded everyday events and people.

Rog Frost, Curator of the museum, is one of the most prolific bloggers I’ve come across, and his almost daily blogs cover the varieties of objects that the museum holds, from photographs to books, medical instruments to sheep bells, costume to military badges.
This is a fantastic way of letting people gain an insight into the individual objects that a museum holds, often ordinary but with a tale to be told and part of the identity of an ever changing community.

Here are some examples of Rog’s blogs...

The Civil War in Chippenham

on Friday, 05 July 2013. Posted in Military

A re-enactment of events is being staged in Monkton Park on the first weekend in July. With this in mind, I have delved into the Local Studies Library to arm you with further information regarding exactly what occurred in Chippenham during the Civil War period.

Tony MacLachlan has written an excellent account in his book ‘The Civil War in Wiltshire’, which is well worth looking at, and is the basis for the information provided here.

I will give a run down of the events for Chippenham as they occurred:

Sir Edward Bayntun and Sir Edward Hungerford sided with Parliament…

Beginning of 1643
The war had not touched Chippenham as yet…

20th March, 1643
The Parliamentarian Sir William Waller heard that a small number of Royalist forces were attacking Rowden House, the home of Sir Edward Hungerford. He intercepted them at Sherston. At the same time, the small Royalist army camped out in Chippenham was driven out.

8th July, 1643
Royalists headed towards Chippenham as ‘fugitives’, pushing east through Wraxall and Guideahall. Outside Chippenham, scouts reported that Waller’s cavalry were threatening their rear from Pickwick. The Royalist commanders halted the Cornish regiments and sent messengers to Waller, ‘offering to contest the issue afresh’ between Biddestone and Chippenham. Waller declined and each force spent the night within talking distance of each other! Cannon could be heard in the countryside surrounding the town.

9th July, 1643 (early hours)
Detachments of Parliamentary Cavalry raced through Chippenham. There were dog fights between the cavalry and infantry of both sides. A ‘ferocious’ cavalry charge took place near the northern edge of Pewsham Forest. A withdrawal was made southward towards Bromham.

17th July, 1643
Having been defeated at Roundway Down a few days before, a large number of Roundheads took refuge in Chippenham, ‘cruelly killing a townsman, William Isles, who unwisely crossed their path’…

Wiltshire Archaeology and Conservation Fair

on Thursday, 27 June 2013.

On Sunday 14th July the History Centre is hosting a Wiltshire-wide event for this years’ Festival of Archaeology. The Archaeology and Conservation teams have joined forces to organise an event which will give visitors plenty of opportunities to get more involved in archaeology in Wiltshire. Whether you want to join a club, attend a course, volunteer, gain work experience, have a go at field work or just find out more about this fascinating subject this free event has it all.

With 20 organisations bringing stands the fair will have plenty to interest visitors of all ages including activities for children, objects to handle and information from university courses, archaeological units, world heritage sites, the Young Archaeologists’ Clubs and the Council for British Archaeology. A full list of organisations attending the fair can be found on our events page.

Living at the Workhouse in Secret?

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Archives

An interesting enquiry recently came in from a person seeking corroboration of the birth of her ancestor in Highworth and Swindon workhouse in 1909.
This child’s birth certificate gave her address as 8 Highworth Road, Stratton St Margaret. Read on to discover why……

It provided an example of the implementation of the advice of the Registrar General, who in 1904 suggested that the birth and death certificates of inmates should have a euphemistic address, one that spared the family the disgrace of the workhouse.

The correspondent will send this example to the website www.workhouses.org.uk which alerted her to this practice, which has interesting implications for family historians. Intrigued by this I did a spot check on two births in the Devizes workhouse in December 1909. The birth register gave the address as 7 Commercial Road, Devizes. In each case the address was for the roads in which the institutions stood.

Checking the Devizes example was possible because all but the most current registers of the Wiltshire Registration Service are held in the History Centre. Its copy certificate service is now based at the History Centre and their email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Quakerism in Melksham

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Architecture

We were recently called to investigate the old Spiritualist Church in Melksham which had closed. The building was originally a Quaker Meeting House until that closed in 1959 and it was sold to the Spiritualists. Investigating the twists and turns of its history was part of our remit, and we were grateful to Harold Fassnidge who had trod this path before us.

Born of the Puritanism of the English Civil War, Quakerism was a reaction against what was perceived as a decline in the religious and moral standards of the clergy of the established church. The term ‘Quaker’ originated as a slightly mocking reference to a rebuke made by their leader, George Fox, to Gervaise Bennet, J.P. that he ought to ‘tremble at the name of the Lord’.

The Melksham branch of the ‘Society of Friends’ began to meet originally at Shaw Hill, in the home of Robert and Hester Marshman at some time before 1669, in which year eighty members were recorded as having met there. At two miles from Melksham, their house was evidently considered to be sufficiently safe from any authorities who might disapprove of, and choose to interfere with, their activities.

Sally in the Wood

on Tuesday, 18 June 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People, Wiltshire Tales

An intriguing enquiry regarding the origins of the road ‘Sally in the Wood’, which can be found just over the border in the parish of Bathford, Somerset, has led us to take a look at the origins of the name. The road forms a section of the A363 as it journeys through Home Wood towards Bathford. Explanations of the road name are many and varied, and they are also closely related to the parish of Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire.

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