Wiltshire enters Discworld

on Tuesday, 17 December 2013. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Sir Terry Pratchett has lived in south Wiltshire for many years and is well known in the county for his work at literary, community and charity events. In some recent books the influence of the chalk landscape in which he lives has been very apparent. However it is his latest book that has just been added to the Wiltshire Collection at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. In Raising Steam the power of steam locomotion comes to Discworld and the small settlement of Swine Town on the Sto Plain becomes a fast growing centre of engineering, mirroring the growth of our own Swindon. His railway company also provides homes and social facilities for railway workers, just like the GWR. There also happens to be a Fat Controller, the original of which was created by the Rev. Awdry after living in Box when a boy, listening to the steam locomotives chuffing and puffing around Box Tunnel, and later writing Thomas the Tank Engine books based on these memories.

A Christmas Custom

on Tuesday, 10 December 2013. Posted in Traditions and Folklore

Mummers’ plays were an important part of Christmas for many agricultural labourers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These seem to be first recorded in the mid 18th century and although there are medieval precedents the connections between the two are uncertain. The later ones provided an opportunity for poorly paid labourers to make some extra income by taking their play around the houses of local farmers and gentry where they would normally receive food, drink and some money.

 

Ganderflanking with Eminem

on Thursday, 05 December 2013. Posted in Traditions and Folklore

It all started with an interview on the Radio Wiltshire morning show on the last Friday in November. I was there to talk about the Lacock Unlocked project, Wiltshire dialect and the Wiltshire Folk Life audio archive held at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. After spouting ‘The Farmers Rant’, a rap in Wiltshire dialect, we talked about old dialect words, long forgotten or fallen out of use. Presenter Sim was much taken with the word ‘ganderflanking’ meaning aimless messing around.

Within minutes of the interview concluding he had begun a campaign to get the word into the Oxford English Dictionary. Listeners were encouraged to use the word and the editor of the OED was interviewed and later confirmed that the word did exist (phew!)

 

Prehistoric Wiltshire Galleries

on Friday, 29 November 2013. Posted in Museums

I was delighted to be amongst over 200 people in Devizes on Monday to celebrate the official opening of the new Prehistoric Wiltshire galleries at the Wiltshire Museum.

The culmination of years of planning, fundraising and hard graft by staff and volunteers has allowed the museum to put together a suite of galleries that any museum would be proud of.

The Stonehenge Visitor Centre's new Collection

on Tuesday, 26 November 2013. Posted in Conservation

As part of their contribution to the English Heritage update of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre Wiltshire Conservation Service have been conserving items from collections across the county.
Many of the items chosen for display at the new Stonehenge Visitor centre have previously been conserved; presenting the conservation staff with a range of challenges.


Many items have been sampled; that is sections of material have been removed and sent away for scientific analysis. Such analysis can help to identify the materials and methods used in manufacture, can date the object or help archaeologists and curators to learn what the object was used for. In the past greater amounts of material were required for reliable results to be achieved therefore large areas were damaged and the appearance of the objects dramatically affected. For example the Ox mandible, seen in images 1 & 2, where a large area had previously been removed for analysis dramatically affecting the profile of the bone. For display it was felt that this area should be reconstructed to show the true shape of the mandible.

Dr Who and his Journeys to Wiltshire

on Friday, 22 November 2013. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Unless you are one of the minority of people who do not own a television, you will no doubt be aware that 50 years ago the BBC began broadcasting a television programme which has become a cultural phenomenon. ‘Doctor Who’ was predicted to last only five years but is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this month, an incredible achievement and one that the BBC is celebrating with a documentary about the making of the show, as well as a special anniversary episode called ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

However a much smaller number of people, mostly die-hard ‘Whovians’ or local people who remember the filming, will be aware of the connections between Dr Who and the county of Wiltshire.


Wiltshire has provided the landscape for episodes of Dr Who on a number of occasions – memorably in 1971 the village of Aldbourne provided the backdrop for the Jon Pertwee story: ‘The Daemons’. Aldbourne was transformed into the fictional village of ‘Devil’s End’ where the Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, was masquerading as the local Vicar in a diabolical plot to take over the world. The five part story culminated with the destruction of Aldbourne church – fortunately not in reality!

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