Articles tagged with: library

RAF Big Stories Weekend

on Monday, 20 January 2020.

The Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre has been inviting people to visit and tell their stories of their connection with the RAF as part of this national event, run by the RAF Museum.

We were a little late with what became our ‘day’; the national event took place at the beginning of November over one weekend, clashing with our Open Day, but we weren’t deterred. Wiltshire has such a longstanding connection to the RAF, Salisbury Plain being the centre of pioneering aviation from its early beginnings; we felt we really wanted to take part. Luckily the RAF Museum at Hendon agreed, and our RAF Big Stories ‘Day’ took place on Saturday 30 November.

Joining us were two brilliant and specially recruited volunteers who quickly learnt how to use the RAF Museum’s oral history app to record 16 stories from 11 willing participants! The stories were varied and all interesting in their own way, some from the RAF staff themselves; others from living relatives. Those from RAF Lyneham included a navigator’s experience of the Berlin Airlift during 1948-9 when he got covered in coal dust from the goods being despatched, to the return of hostage Jackie Mann in 1993, and working in the maintenance crew during WWII and getting caught out in the blackout cycling from Chippenham to the airfield. Stories from overseas included intelligence training in India and the tortoise who became the mascot of the 20th Squadron in Singapore in 1964, who travelled on the plane with them and became a valued member of the team!

It was a real privilege to hear the stories and enjoy the company of our RAF Big Stories participants, and they told us they enjoyed having some interested people to hear them tell their tales. All the stories will be added to the RAF’s Stories website The app for recording a story is also available on the site for anyone to download and use. We hope to receive a copy of the recordings to store at the History Centre too, and some of the items the participants brought with them we were able to copy and will add to our collections.

The accompanying display of local studies books, photographs and prints plus archive material drew in over 20 people who enjoyed chatting to each other whilst enjoying looking at the items on show. These included plans of Wiltshire aerodromes, a Christmas menu card with signatures plus programme of entertainments dated 1943, letters regarding problems with mud on the roads and road closures during the building of airfields in WWII and ‘Sparks’ the newsletter of RAF Yatesbury. Books included the recent ‘RAF Wroughton and Wroughton at Work in Pictures’ by the Wroughton History Group and ‘46 Miles: a Journey of Repatriation and Humbling Respect’ about the RAF Lyneham repatriations through the town, alongside the classic text on Wiltshire airfields, Rod Priddle’s ‘Wings over Wiltshire’ to name just a few.

David Bent ref P57927

We also included one of our recent Creative Wiltshire lottery funded acquisitions, the limited-edition print ‘Cold War Warrior’ by David Bent. A Swindon based artist, David specialises in aviation art and has the enviable job of being the personal artist for the Red Arrows, joining them all over the world to record their story. He also designed the commemorative logo for the RAF’s 100 year celebration in 2018.

We always love any opportunity to show visitors the amazing breadth and variety of our collections here at the History Centre, which even amazes us at times! Please feel free to recommend us as a place to visit for people to learn more about the RAF in Wiltshire; we’d be happy to help them with their search.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian

Book Review: Woollen Industry Processes by Ken Rogers

on Friday, 18 October 2019.

Woollen Industry Processes: How cloth was made firstly in people’s houses then by machinery in factories, K.H. Rogers, 2019 AAA.677
Trowbridge Museum in Association with the Friends of Trowbridge Museum
ISBN 9781645161967
98 pages

The publication has been designed to describe all processes of cloth making for visitors to Trowbridge Museum, first appearing as two pamphlets in 2000 and 2008 but the scope of this newly published version is now much wider.

Ken Rogers has taken a novel approach, using a 1749 account of cloth processes, found in the Stourhead archives at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre as the backbone of the book, quotations being used at the beginning of each chapter. These are extremely effective, adding context and a sense of history to the information which follows.

With an eye-catching front cover, Woollen Industry Processes is image-rich, packed full of interesting views of cloth workers, machinery, processes, locations and more.

Key terms are explained and the processes are followed step-by-step. The change from domestic to factory production is addressed and the industry is looked at on a county-wide scale, although understandably the focus is on the Trowbridge mills. Interesting information includes the work of the scribblers and the ‘sheer’ size of the shears used on the nap.

An enjoyable read, great to dip into and informative but also succinct, Woollen Industry Processes contains a wealth of information and superb images which complement the text.

Recommended for those with a little to no knowledge of the industry but have an interest in discovering more about how cloth was produced.

Available from the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre and Trowbridge Library
ref: AAA.677

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Calne Through Time

on Monday, 20 May 2019.

For Local History Month 2019 Calne library produced a video charting the history of Calne town centre.

Sources such as maps, trade directories, census, postcards and photographs reveal the fascinating history of the people and places in Calne through time.

Do you have memories of Calne? Why not leave them in the comments below or head over to Calne Library's Facebook page. Or visit us at the History Centre and use some of these sources to find out about your own community!

Thanks to Jackie Notman, Senior Library Assistant at Calne Library for creating this video.


Book Review: Wild Life in a Southern County by Richard Jefferies

on Friday, 31 August 2018.

Wild Life in a Southern County by Richard Jefferies
Wallachia Publishers, modern reprint, 2015 (first published 1887)
Unpaginated, paperback
Wiltshire Local Studies Library Reference XJE.570

Richard Jefferies was born in Coate, Swindon, and his love of the countryside in an around his childhood home was a great influence on his work. Jefferies was a versatile writer, publishing a children’s book and a work of science fiction, but he is best known for his nature writing. His works The Amateur Poacher (1879) and Round About a Great Estate (1880) have drawn the most attention in this genre; I chose to read Wild Life in a Southern County as a modern reprint to see what it had to offer.

The look of the book and text is more modern in feel, but this does not detract from the content in any way although the text is a little small. However, the lack of pagination is a limitation when wanting to revisit certain parts of the book and the uncertainty of how the book is arranged in comparison to the original publication is a point to consider.

Great detail is given on the habits of various species of bird in the scientific manner of study and observation, interposed with the author’s own thoughts and experiences. It is fascinating to read these entries for species such as the kingfisher and swallow. A colourful picture is created of the beauty of the creatures that Jefferies’ observes and their interaction with their environment and the human world. His description of the blackbird in Chapter 9 is poetic in nature. Jefferies included fascinating details in this book such as the folklore that surrounded the wildlife and more soberingly, how they could be hunted. His thoughts on this subject provide a fascinating insight into the mind-set of those living in the late 19th century with matter of fact descriptions of hunting and the reasons for it sounding quite alien to modern-day views.

Jefferies possesses an almost magical touch in the way he describes the landscape, this being almost mythical and dreamlike in places. The information gained from these sections is a descriptive view of the north Wiltshire landscape at a point in time although actual locations are omitted.

The author also describes farming practices, the work of craftsmen, ancient customs such as St. Thomas’ Day, the Clerk’s Ale and folk lore, and the routines of village clubs and friendly societies.

Flora and the seasons are also noted; “All the summer through fresh beauties, indeed, wait upon the owner’s footsteps. In the spring the mowing grass rises thick, strong, and richly green, or hidden by the cloth-of-gold thrown over it by the buttercups!”

Wildlife enthusiasts and those interested in local history, landscape history and folklore should very much enjoy this book. It is a shame that Jefferies himself died tragically at the age of 38 in 1887, the year this book was first published.

Other editions of Wildlife in a Southern County are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre ref: AAA.590.

Julie Davis, County Local Studies Librarian


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