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!

Unlocking the personalities behind the archives…

on Friday, 22 November 2013. Posted in Archives

The Lacock Unlocked project is well under way now and the cataloguing and indexing side of it now has over 30 volunteers. These volunteers are either listing and indexing bundles of documents, or putting information onto our database. It means that instead of unlocking and exploring one thing per day, we are unlocking and exploring six, so to speak!


I love it when the listing volunteers show me something that I had no idea existed, or parts of a story that I didn’t know were there. We keep discovering new words for things and ways of saying them, finding information about places and families through bills, deeds and other items in the archive. I particularly enjoy finding information about people who crop up in the archive, and the example here is a letter from John Ivory Talbot to his cousin Henry Davenport in 1725, which gives anyone interested a wonderful insight into John’s family life, his way of writing, what annoys him (apparently, Henry Davenport’s not writing to him is on his mind!). Just a simple letter like this provides great information about a personality.


We are attempting to piece together many clues and it is fascinating when these jigsaws are completed but also when someone finds a new piece that leads us or them down a different route.

From the small... to the large

on Thursday, 21 November 2013.

I have just catalogued an additional collection of papers of the Duke family of Lake House which includes several unusual items.

Notably the smallest book in any of our collections; Small Rain upon Tender Herb; a book of quotations from the Psalms, inscribed Charlotte M Duke, 1838. Published by The Religious Tracts Society, before 1838, Ref: 4136/2/21.

It measures just 2.5 x 3 cm and leads me on to an item which stands at the other end of the spectrum, and which we lovingly call ‘Big Bertha’!

This register of the Wiltshire Constabulary dates from 1893 to 1926 and includes details of police officers; their date of entry into the force, a description of person, any details of misconduct, and numerous other details. It makes fascinating, if not awkward reading, especially if you come across details of an ancestor. Our shelving in the strongroom is coping admirably, but it is certainly being put to the test by the weight of this specimen!

A Multitude of Maps

on Wednesday, 20 November 2013. Posted in Archives

We hold an amazing array of maps here at the History Centre and I ‘plan’ to take you on a tour to discover which may prove to be the most useful for your research, whether it be the history of your family, house or parish.

Tithe Map
One of the most widely known of the maps that we hold here. These awards were drawn up between 1836 and 1852. Once ordered up by parish name, you will be presented with a map and schedule which includes the name of the landowner, the name of the tenant, acreage, rent paid and details of the makeup of the land, eg. if there is a garden, orchard etc. The schedule gives a number for each property which can be used to locate it on the map. These are great source for those interested in locating a property, getting details of ownership and also the study of property/field names.

Enclosure Award
Open fields, common and waste land were systematically ‘enclosed’ from 1750 onwards by Acts of Parliament. Commissioners drew up an award showing how the land was to be redistributed. As is the nature of these awards, the focus is on rural areas rather than towns or villages.


Andrews’ and Dury’s maps of 1773 are worth a look at. They are small in scale and so won’t show individual properties but do give an idea of how a settlement looked in the late 18th century. You can view them on our Wiltshire Community History website.

1910 Inland Revenue Evaluation Books
This evaluation was done in readiness for a tax which was never levied! They are very useful to us, however, as they provide a description of the property, rent paid and the names of the owner and tenant. The maps which are produced with the books are the 25” OS versions which have been annotated.

The Dark Deeds of the Man from Cue

on Friday, 15 November 2013. Posted in Architecture

In our documentary researches, we sometimes come across violent dramas that the long-gone occupants were involved in. These events are usually pretty sparse when looking at the history of a farmhouse. We were intrigued to find a rape case in the quiet and rural village of Bishopstone, near Swindon. Cue’s Farmhouse is a pretty thatched 17th century building constructed of the local chalkstone.  It was named after the Cue family who first to Bishopstone around 1780. The name of John Cue first appeared in a Bishopstone court book in 1775, when he was listed as a ‘leaze looker’. In 1780, the first available Land Tax return shows him occupying three pieces of land in the parish. In April 1797, John Cue died. With his wife Ann, according to the Parish Registers, he had four children, although it is possible earlier children might have been born elsewhere.

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