Know Your Place West of England - putting Wiltshire on the map

on Tuesday, 11 October 2016.

For the first time, historical maps of Wiltshire are now freely available online thanks to the Know Your Place West of England project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. From Stonehenge to Swindon, Melksham to Malmesbury, Royal Wootton Bassett to Bradford-on-Avon – you can now discover how Wiltshire has transformed over time.

Know Your Place West of England is a free digital mapping resource that enables you to explore your neighbourhood online through old maps, archive images and linked information. The collaborative project is led by South Gloucestershire Council, working with key partners in Wiltshire including ourselves.

An impressive 2171 square miles coverage of Wiltshire have now been added to the online resource, allowing you to explore some of the most famous landmarks from the county’s heritage in great detail, from the stone circle at Avebury to the Great Western Railway Works in Swindon. Alongside historic maps supplied by the British Library and National Library Scotland, you can freely explore Historic Environment Record data from Wiltshire Council.

Know Your Place Wiltshire depicting Great Western Railway Works in Swindon

You will also be able to upload and share your own information about the area straight onto Know Your Place helping to build a rich and diverse community map of local heritage – helping build a valuable research tool for everyone; from school children to family historians, planners to enthusiasts of community heritage. But don’t just take our word for it. Here is what some users of Know Your Place in Bristol and South Gloucestershire have said about Know Your Place:

• “If you’re interested in local history you can’t beat this site.”

•  “I like the thousands of little windows it provides into the past; all based on specific identified places on the map. It is a wonderful tool for local history research.”

• “I love the layers of maps; it demonstrates so well how the area has grown and developed.”

• “It's free and infectious once you’re in you become absorbed; brilliant!”

More than 50 project volunteers are working hard to prepare further historic maps, which will be added onto Know Your Place Wiltshire over the coming months; and museums across the county are identifying items from their collections to appear in an upcoming touring exhibition that will visit STEAM in Swindon, Salisbury Cathedral and the Yelde Hall in Chippenham – all helping celebrate Wiltshire’s rich heritage.

Know Your Place Wiltshire depicting Westbury White Horse

The website will continue to grow as more resources, including Tithe maps, as well as drawings and photographs from archive and museum collections, are added. Other areas now mapped include Bath & North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire and Bristol. Over the coming months, the Know Your Place West of England project will extend to include the counties of Somerset and North Somerset too.

To start exploring Wiltshire’s maps and heritage information, visit the project’s website: The website also features an accompanying blog where you can follow the project’s progress.

Stuart Wheeler, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for heritage and arts, said: “We are delighted that Wiltshire and Swindon residents are now able to enjoy this exciting new resource for local history. We invite you to add your own images and information about your local area to the community layer. More information about Know Your Place will be available at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre Open Day on Saturday 22 October – see for details.”

Nerys Watts, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South West, said: “Know Your Place West of England will be a fantastic resource, bringing together the history of this area so people can discover the ever-changing make-up of the places where they live and work. If you have bought a National Lottery ticket recently, you have helped to support these types of projects that are preserving the precious heritage of our communities for future generations. Thank you.”

The Know Your Place West of England project was awarded £379,800 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with generous match-funding and in-kind support from local authorities and heritage groups within the region, including £5,000 match-funding from lead partner South Gloucestershire Council and £10,000 from Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, made possible due to a generous bequest from Miss Eunice Banks.

For more information and to view the map visit

Family Fun Open Day 2016

on Thursday, 29 September 2016.

Our 2016 open day is a family fun day themed "How do they do that?"! So come and get hands on with history at our FREE event!

Saturday 22 October 10 am - 4 pm.

Come and experience:

  • Flint knapping with Time Team's Phil Harding (from 12.00)
  • Visit a Barber Surgeon and find out about old cures and remedies
  • Find out about forging Sir Terry Pratchett's sword and learn about ancient metal tools and weapons with craftsman Hector Cole
  • Discover the world of historic Pelham Puppets
  • Identify bugs and X-ray images of curious objects
  • Learn how our archaeologists uncover the past
  • Find out about Victorian crime and an Edwardian disaster
  • Hear mini-talks by experts...


Behind the scenes in our strongrooms and conservation laboratories; 'Make and Take' children's activities; Exhibitions; Refreshments from our pop-up café.



Cushions and Cake - Wiltshire Family History Society AGM

on Tuesday, 20 September 2016.

Saturday 17th September 2016 saw the AGM of Wiltshire Family History Society at Bromham Village Social Centre. This also marked 35 years of the Society. Happy Birthday to WFHS! Over the years the Family History Society have been a great friend to the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives and have assisted in numerous ways including donations to purchase equipment such as our high specification overhead digital camera.


I went along on Saturday to speak on the future of the Archive Service, and in return was presented with three beautiful book cushions, generously donated by the Family History Society. Please see above photograph courtesy of Jerry King, showing the President of the Society, Mike Stone, presenting me with one of the cushions. The book cushions are designed to support the spine of fragile volumes and ensure they can be read without damaging the document. They are a helpful addition to our stock of cushions – thank you WFHS.

I also enjoyed some of the delicious Anniversary cake which was on offer (see my photo) – worthy of the Bake Off any day!

Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist

Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Conference

on Thursday, 25 August 2016. Posted in Archaeology

You can book now for a place at a conference celebrating 30 years of World Heritage at Stonehenge and Avebury on Saturday 19th November 2016 at the Corn Exhange, Devizes.

Tickets are available through and Eventbrite.

You can download a PDF of the poster here

50 years of service...

on Friday, 19 August 2016.

Last week we were all sad to see County Local Studies Librarian, Mike Marshman retire after 50 years of service with Wiltshire Council. We sent him off in true History Centre style (i.e. with lots of cake!). He will be missed, although we know he'll certainly be back to use the History Centre resources.

Mike holding his leaving card (illustrated by Mervyn Grist, Assistant Conservation Officer)

Here is his final blog:

Two days after England won the World Cup in 1966 a somewhat callow youth, straight from the local grammar school, started work for Wiltshire County Council at the County Library Headquarters in Prospect Place, Trowbridge. In those halcyon days there were trainee librarian posts so that one was actually paid a salary – around £800 gross against a student grant of £360 – whilst attending library school, which is why on 31st July I completed 50 years with what is now Wiltshire Council. Being now three years past my best by date I feel that it is time for me to retire from paid work, although not from local history.

After managing various libraries and groups of libraries in Wiltshire I became the County Local Studies Librarian in 1988 and now realise I’ve served 28 years in that post. There have only been two of us; John Chandler, now Wiltshire’s leading historian, who established the library in its current form, and me. I think that both of us have found that it’s great to do a job in which you’re really interested and where you continue researching, evaluating, and writing after you leave work at the end of the day.

I was fortunate to have been a member of the team that planned the present Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre deciding that I would work in it for a couple of years and then retire. That should have been in 2009 but I was so interested in the work and activities that I just kept going! Apart from the usual archives and local studies services that we greatly developed over the years the range of our activities here has been quite wide. In the early years we did not have an Education Officer so Principal Archivist Claire Skinner and I visited many local schools to introduce ourselves and explain the services we could offer. We then ran twilight sessions for teachers, went out to primary schools to take classes in the history of their community and the use of sources, and held holiday history activities at the History Centre.

I’ve also happily organised programmes of talks, local and family history courses, tours for local groups, lectures to local societies, and village interpretation days – my own favourite invention. Overall my aim has been to interest people in the history and development of their own communities and give them a sense of place that helps them belong to that community, showing them how they stand at the end of a very long chain of events. More recently we’ve developed events tied in with local authors, with talks and readings along with our own audio visual presentation, Chalk and Cheese, for which I must thank my fellow performers Claire Skinner and Joy Bloomfield, and Roger Trayhurn, former Swindon Reference Librarian.

I like to think that I’ve introduced many new ideas into Local Studies and the History Centre but the most important part of my job has been custodian of the Wiltshire Collection, the largest collection of published material concerning the historic county of Wiltshire. It’s a very important collection and I do not think that a great deal of it will ever be digitised  so the hard copy will be all that is ever available – we have some books and pamphlets that are the only publicly available copies, while most of our photographs are in this category.

A big thank you to all present and past colleagues and volunteers in the Libraries and Heritage services with whom I’ve worked over many years and especially to Heritage Services Manager Terry Bracher and Claire Skinner at the History Centre. I also want to especially thank my colleagues in the Local Studies Team, Helen Taylor, Julie Davis, Joy Bloomfield, Brian Shipp, Anna Ervine, Eileen Sutherland, and Janis Packham, who retired before me, for all their support and help over the years.

You’ll find me around in Wiltshire local history in the future – I’ll still edit the Wiltshire Local History Forum newsletter, I’m already booked to give a few talks to local societies over the next year, I have three books that I want to research and write, while those of you who read Wiltshire Life may find even more of my articles in there.

Oh, the cake? Well it’s a closely guarded secret that the History Centre actually runs on a plentiful supply of cakes, chocolate and biscuits; they always seem to be available in the staff room as a result of birthdays, holidays, and other celebrations.

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