Annual Closure Week

on Friday, 18 December 2015.

We will be closed for the last week in January 2016 for essential work on our collections. We will close at 5.00 p.m. on Saturday 23rd January 2016 and re-open at 9.30 a.m. on Tuesday 2nd February 2016.

Look out for updates on the work we are able to complete!

Forthcoming Talks at the History Centre

on Thursday, 26 November 2015.

We are in the middle of a two month break from our regular programme of afternoon lectures that has run for our first eight years providing around 180 lectures in that time. In January we will be starting a new six monthly programme that will be a little different. In the winter months we will have morning lectures so that if you come to them you won’t be driving home in the dark; This January and February our lectures will start at 10.30 on Tuesday mornings and then you will have time to return home for lunch or still have a few hours to work in the History Centre. In March we will revert to Thursday afternoon lectures and these will continue until the end of October, reverting to Tuesday mornings in November. Tickets for either will now only be £3.00.

Tuesday 12th January 2016

Wassailing, Witches and Madness in Bean Fields: Folklore in Wiltshire with Michael Marshman

A look at some aspects of ritual and customs in Wiltshire as recorded by the countryman and prolific Wiltshire writer, Ralph Whitlock. Conflicting opinions on the origins of much of what is referred to as folklore are held and this talk looks at some Wiltshire examples and offers suggestions as how these might have evolved.

Tuesday 19th January 2016

Should Have Taken the Medicine: a short guide to horrible cures, remedies and death in Wiltshire history with Terry Bracher

The effective practice of medicine and drugs is comparatively recent in this country and our archives show a very different picture in the not too distant past. Come and be surprised, and a little horrified, by what people once endured in the hope of getting better and by what happened when they didn’t.

These talks will take place in the Education Room, off the Reception area, of the History Centre at 10.30 a.m. Please arrive a few minutes before the start of a talk.

Tickets may be purchased in advance at the Help Desk in the History Centre or can be reserved (payment by credit/debit card, or by cheque, for 2 or more tickets) on 01249 705500 (Tuesdays to Saturdays 9.30 – 5.00). Numbers are limited so please buy your ticket in advance.

Admission for talks £3.00

Treasure Hunting in the National Trust Archives

on Saturday, 21 November 2015.

People often think of archives in terms of national historical importance – the Magna Carta, for instance, or the Domesday Books, or the Atlantic Charter – which is indeed true. What is less well-known is the importance of archiving for organisations, councils and companies: the charities, government structures and businesses that are a large part of society’s fabric. Documents such as minutes, agreements, court cases and correspondence all link an organisation to their past, and all may be needed in the future.

We at The National Trust are currently carrying out a complete review of our records and archives. Being the second largest landowner in Great Britain, The National Trust has hundreds of thousands of files, which are mostly stored in an old stone mine just outside of Bath. A lot of these files aren’t catalogued - so nobody knows exactly what’s down there. Our project objective is to decide which of these need to be kept and archived and which need to be destroyed, and to catalogue accurately and in detail those we decide to keep – making it easier for others to access the information and to preserve The National Trust’s history for the future.

Our usual process for sorting our records consists of the files arriving at our workshop, which are then appraised and catalogued: staff look through the files, and using a retention schedule, appraisal guidelines and a good sprinkling of common sense, decide whether they need to be kept permanently or destroyed. Those which are destroyed are shredded, but those which are kept are catalogued on our Archives and Records Management System (ARMS) with a title, a unique ID, keywords and a description of what the file contains – which can be anything from war damage claims to disgruntled tenants to property acquisitions. Some of the files are horrible – staples so rusty they have completely crumbled, cardboard covers water damaged and on their last legs – so we replace the metal and file covers and send the finished items, reprocessed and repackaged, back for storage.

However, this week we have been based at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, where we keep our permanent archives. These are any executive and regional committee minutes, any important documents which show us how the Trust has developed over time, and anything that dates before 1940. As the Trust began in 1895 this covers just 45 years, but some of the most important years for the charity: the original acquisitions, statutory rights, the war years – in general, the work that would be the foundations for the flourishing charity we are now.

Most of the archives we’ve been cataloguing this week have fallen into the latter category – that is, they are all dated pre-1940, and, as a result, we have come across some intensely interesting documents.

Explore Your Archives 2015

on Thursday, 29 October 2015.

As part of the Explore Your Archive campaign, which begins on Saturday 14 November, we are encouraging people to take the time to visit our archive and will be publicising the varied collections we have here.

The Explore Your Archive campaign is encouraging people to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities. Archives across the UK and Ireland are taking part to raise awareness of the value of archives to society and of the rich variety of content that is held, preserved and made available to users.

We will be posting on our Twitter (@heritagewshc) and Facebook ( pages throughout the week to show people the kinds of things they can discover in the archive, encouraging people to share their archive stories and giving tips on finding creative inspiration in the archives.

We will also be hosting a colourful exhibition panel explaining the history of the Magna Carta and its connections to Wiltshire, as part of the 800th anniversary year celebrations.

Wiltshire has strong connections to the Magna Carta via Salisbury, Lacock and Trowbridge. Namely, the Salisbury Cathedral copy of Magna Carta, dated 1215; Lacock’s confirmation of Magna Carta, dated 1225, and Trowbridge being home of Henry de Bohun, one of the Barons who witnessed the sealing of the 1215 document. Through its assertion of the rule of law and opposition to tyranny Magna Carta (which is Latin for ‘Great Charter’) has become a powerful symbol of human rights, referenced by the Founding Fathers of the United States in the 19th century and by Nelson Mandela in his defence at his trial in 1964.

The exhibition panel, created in partnership between ourselves and the National Trust, will be on display free of charge in the reception area of the Centre throughout November.

To find out more about the Explore Your Archive campaign and how you can start your own adventure visit

History Centre Open Day

on Monday, 26 October 2015.

Saturday 31st October 2015 from 9.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham celebrates its 8th birthday on 31st October but instead of a party we will be holding an Open Day. From 9.30 to 4.00 people are invited to discover what happens in the Centre and what they can find out from the wonderful collections that are housed there. Conservators will discuss their work with museum objects, archaeological finds, photographs, and documents, while experts will advise on finding how to research the history of a family, house, church and community, town and village. 

Archaeologists will talk about latest finds and the wealth of archaeology in the county, have displays on Stonehenge and Avebury, Wiltshire’s historic landscape, and the Civil War, and they’ll also let you handle archaeological finds. Old maps and photographs are fascinating and there will be exhibitions of both with staff on hand to talk about them, while the Magna Carta exhibition will include a locally painted baron that took part in the 800th anniversary celebrations in Salisbury.

There’ll be the first opportunity to see items acquired through the HLF funded project, Creative Wiltshire & Swindon, including etchings, prints, ceramics and bells; you can also listen to recordings by local musicians. Local and family history societies will have stalls explaining their work in the county and how you can help with their projects.

You can take a tour of one of the strong rooms where documents dating back to 1148, when King Stephen was on the throne, are held. There’ll be treasure hunts and competitions for all ages and 8 mini lectures through the day. Light refreshments – cakes, tea, coffee and squash - will be available in the Heritage Café, open for one day only, where there will be screenings of old ciné films and local history presentations. Apart from the café everything is free, including membership of the History Centre.

There will be many secondhand local books for sale so join us for a free day out at our first Open Day for two years and discover many aspects of local and family history and enjoy some of our competitions. You have lived through history and stand at the end of centuries of evolution and the development of your community and your family. Explore ways of learning more about this from our many experts

The series of free mini lectures are:

10.00 a.m. Stories Behind Pub Names with Mike Marshman

 10.30 a.m. Some Recent Discoveries in North Wiltshire’s Archaeology with Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger

11.00 a.m. Matilda Talbot – an Extraordinary Wiltshire Woman with Claire Skinner

11.30 a.m. Horrible Cures & Remedies with Terry Bracher

2.00 p.m. Life in the 17th Century Ale House with Mike Marshman

 2.30 p.m. Some Recent Discoveries in South Wiltshire’s Archaeology with Clare King

 3.00 p.m. Family History on the Internet with Claire Skinner

 3.30 p.m. Anecdotes from the Archives with Steve Hobbs

Limited capacity – first come get the seats!

There will be plenty in the Centre to keep you occupied for a few hours so do set aside half a day to visit us and take the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and talk to our many experts about what you can find out and achieve when you visit us.

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