Articles tagged with: Chippenham

On This Day...

on Thursday, 18 April 2013. Posted in Museums

One of my favourite aspects of working with the museums of Wiltshire is the fantastic variety of stories, events, people and places represented in the many thousands of items in their collections. Mostly these are used in a very structured way. You go to the museum to see an exhibition on a particular subject or the museum is contacted about the history of a specific village. The volunteers and staff at Wiltshire’s museums spend many hundreds of hours cataloguing the items in their collections so that they are able to know which items are relevant when they come to mount their exhibitions or answer enquires.

The Artist who Became an Inspiration in Education

on Thursday, 21 February 2013. Posted in Art

The proposed changes to our education system have rightly been a topic of the press recently. As it so happens, a man who spent most of his life in North Wiltshire was pivotal to the development of art in education -  I’d like to tell you a little about him here…

Robin Tanner was born on Easter Sunday, 1904, the third of six children. He spent his teenage years in Kington Langley, the birthplace of his mother.

Robin attended Chippenham Grammar School before moving on Goldsmith’s College, studying to become a teacher. Whilst at the college he took evening classes to learn the craft of etching. He was one of a number who turned their backs on the popular ‘en plein’ air etchings, fashionable in the 1920s. Tanner covered the whole of his plates with etching, wanting to create a ‘pastoral revival’. He loved his home in Kington Langley ‘a pastoral dairy country with small meadows and high hedges. There is an ancient church every three miles or so in any direction’. Many of Robin’s etchings were created at his house and were of local scenes, such as the wicket gate into Sydney’s wood where the renowned 19th century poet and clergyman Francis Kilvert often walked. Tanner’s father also had artistic talent, becoming a craftsman in wood.

After marrying Heather Spackman from Corsham on Easter Saturday in 1931, the Tanners moved to Old Chapel Field in Kington Langley. Robin began teaching at Ivy Lane School, Chippenham, in 1929 (he had previously spent a year there as a student teacher). Heather was a writer, and they produced some works together, such as ‘Country Alphabet’ and ‘Woodland Plants’, using Heather’s text and Robin’s etchings.

 

Art to Illuminate Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 19 February 2013. Posted in Art

As I travel from Corsham to Chippenham by bus to work at the History Centre, I often think of what past local inhabitants might make of the ‘Sainsbury’s Roundabout’, the Methuen industrial park or the sprawl of post-war housing leading into Chippenham itself. Local artists have often recorded changes to the environment in their art, not always intentionally but as a consequence of the time in which they have been working. Wiltshire’s museums contain hundreds of such drawings, sketches and paintings of the people and landscape that makes this county so special.

 


One such local inhabitant was Robin Tanner (1904–1988) who was born in Bristol but grew up in Kington Langley, near Chippenham. Whilst training to be a teacher at Goldsmiths College in London during the 1920s he studied etching during the evenings. This etching was to become the means by which he expressed his deep appreciation of the countryside. Later returning to Wiltshire - moving into a house at Old Chapel Field, Kington Langley, where the diarist Francis Kilvert's ancestors are buried - to earn a living as an artist, his etchings show the strong influence of Samuel Palmer, the visionary Victorian romantic painter, depicting a world of thatched ricks, hedges, gates and stiles. 

50 Years Ago – Wiltshire’s Big Freeze of 1963

on Friday, 25 January 2013. Posted in Seasons

Just a few of us at the History Centre were at school during the blizzards and Arctic-seeming conditions of early 1963 and can reflect on how slight recent snowfalls seem! It was Wiltshire’s worst blizzard for 80 years and surpassed the really bad winter of 1947. Some snow had fallen on Boxing Day; we missed a white Christmas as usual, while a further 6 inches fell over the weekend on 29th and 30th December. This was a proper Christmas holiday from school; snowmen were built and furious snowball fights peppered the streets and parks, although drifting snow meant that some families had to dig themselves out of their houses. Most people had plenty of food left over from Christmas and coal and wood for the open fires that still warmed most houses. Many people were still accustomed to walking to work and those that weren’t normally didn’t live far enough away to prevent them working.

 

The Archvist’s friend and other Wiltshire Inventors

on Thursday, 24 January 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

I am often guided by those twin pillars of research: serendipity and curiosity. It was these two trusty old friends that led me Henry Charles “inky” Stephens (1841 – 1918). While tidying my desk as part of my New Year resolution I was left with just a few paper clips and two rulers on the work surface, which reminded me of a patent I had spotted in our indexes for “the parallel ruler” (yes, sadly someone had invented this before me).  The patent seems to enable …er…two parallel lines to be drawn, more seriously it was used by navigators to draw parallel lines on charts and originally invented by Fabrizio Mordente in 1584 and others sought to improve it. But there was more, with the documents were further patents for inkstands and an adjustable pencil, plus specifications for various ink manufacture and the chemistry behind them. Of course, what I had started to look at was part of an archive relating to the Cholderton estate, once owned by the family and an individual whose single small invention arguably helped change the course of writing.

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