Life Style of Your Victorian Ancestors – Using the Census

on Tuesday, 15 October 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

This week I’ve been changing my census lecture into a census workshop for a family history course we’re running at the History Centre. It’s reminded me how really useful the census is to local, social and economic historians, as well as to people looking for their ancestors. However if used properly you can also find information about the living conditions of past generations of your family. You really need to look at a complete parish – easy for a village but for a town you may only be able to look at two or three enumeration districts. Perhaps easier to do using the census on microfiche than on line.

Winnie the Pooh in Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 08 October 2013. Posted in Museums

As you may have see in previous blog entries we recently held our annual History Centre Open Day. This year the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service hosted an Anglo-Saxon warrior and displayed a rare seax (Anglo-Saxon knife) from Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum (link listed at the end of this entry). We also hosted a series of Wiltshire at War talks given by our friends from Chippenham Museum and The Rifles Museum in Salisbury (also see at the end of this article).

In amongst all this activity visitors on the day might have missed our small display about Winnie the Pooh in Wiltshire. Yes, there is a link between A.A. Milne’s famous bear and Wiltshire and yes it does relate to Wiltshire at War, which was the theme of our open day. The story goes…..

Goodbye to a Medieval Pub in Downton

on Friday, 27 September 2013. Posted in Architecture

In early times, the parish of Downton formed part of a great estate granted to Winchester cathedral. The village itself was divided topographically into three sections which were linked by bridges. Settlement had developed in the High Street, so called in 1452 in a document in Winchester College archives, and from the mid-15th century the area was called the east borough. 

The King’s Arms, at the junction of Church Hatch and High Street, a solid-looking brick building with a tiled roof, was known to be a public house in 1628. We know who owned and occupied the King’s Arms in the mid-C18 from the Guildhall Library insurance documents.  These refer to James Russell, a schoolmaster of Downton, who took out a policy in 1755 ‘on his house only being the King’s Arms Inn at Downton …in the tenure of Lucy Loveday, Innholder… Brick, Timber and Thatched, Brewhouse only adjoining, Thatched. Two Stables only belonging, Thatched, £10 each.’ He paid £250 on the inn and £30 on the brewhouse.

The Return of Miss Baker and her ‘boys’ at the Front

on Tuesday, 17 September 2013. Posted in Archives, Military

As already described in a previous blog, Miss Frances Baker of Brown Street, Salisbury, was the Honorary Secretary of the local branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild. According to the box of letters held here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, she must have been a tireless worker on behalf of the Guild and the soldiers, sailors and airmen of Salisbury who were away fighting at the front.

As well as sending regular ‘Parcels of Comfort’ (monthly, in some cases) she also wrote regular letters. Most of these seemed to be to young men she had known, through her connection with St Martin’s Church, and the ‘Band of Hope’.

The ‘Band of Hope’ was a children’s Temperance organisation, set up in Leeds in 1847, to educate children in the evils of alcohol. A huge social problem amongst the population in the nineteenth century, drinking exaggerated the issues around poverty and so Temperance societies sought to influence the young, and thereby instruct those around them.

On the importance of socks…

on Thursday, 19 September 2013. Posted in Archives

Letters from soldiers, sailors and airmen of the First World War are often quite formal in their style and the things they say. But of all the hundreds of letters I have read from the archive over the past few weeks, most of the writers are united by one subject – the importance of socks.

To help you do your job, no matter how unpleasant, basic comforts are the priority. For the servicemen of the First World War, freezing a lot of the time in a trench, at sea or in the air, having warm dry feet was a daily challenge.

No unfairness intended, it just so happens that all of these letters are from the chaps. So far I have only found letters from service men.

Methuen's Maps

on Wednesday, 18 September 2013. Posted in Archives

Anyone with an interest in history will understand what I mean. If your interest is sparked by the First World War then your understanding will be all the greater. Read on…

Like many of us, I first studied the First World War at school, and over the years have seen many dramas, films and documentaries, and read many books about the events of 1914 – 1918. No matter how well done they are, there is always the safety of years to distance and protect us from the true realities of that terrible war, and what it was really like to be there. Names like the Somme, Ypres and the Dardanelles have a haunting resonance, yet as the passage of years mean that they are passing into myth.

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