FIRING SQUAD? Thought-provoking stuff from Volunteer Alan Clarke



Quite often, when scanning glass plates, one comes across a puzzle.  The thing to remember, with glass plates, is that it took the photographer some time to set up and expose his glass plate.  He (I haven’t found any ladies yet) would only have around a dozen emulsioned glass plates with him.  This meant that the photograph was intentional, not accidentaly taken or frivolously snapped.  Also there are seldom any written clues as to why the photograph was taken.

One of these puzzle images shows what I took to be part of one of the exterior walls of Salisbury Cathedral.  As you can see from the image here, there is not much to go on.  If you look carefully you can see some marks in the wall.  Now, you need to know some local history about Salisbury and the English Civil War.  Having been born and schooled in Salisbury, I knew the tales about musket shot marks in the Cathedral wall.   In recent times these musket ball marks have been attributed to target practice.

Civil War

A friend of mine took the two following images, shown here, to add to the museum records.  All the previous images are black and white, so I thought you, the reader, would like some colour images for a change.  These two images do show the marks more clearly.  In fact some of the old black and white images had almost been discarded as nothing of interest, which would be true to the untrained eye or non-historian.

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A retired ballistics expert friend thought the marks could be the result of a firing squad.

If you go to this site, you will find this extract:

Soldiers were being executed by gunfire in this country as early as the seventeenth century. A notorious case occurred following the siege of Colchester in 1648, during the English Civil War. The town was held by the Royalists, and the Parliamentarians, under General Fairfax, found it a long and arduous task to break through the fortified positions. Eventually, the defenders surrendered. Fairfax pardoned all the rank-and-file, but decided to make an example of the four Royalist commanders. Sir George Lisle, Sir Charles Lucas, Colonel Farr and Bernard Gascoigne were all sentenced to death at a drumhead court-martial. Gascoigne was reprieved because he was a foreign national, while Farr managed to escape. The other two men were shot by a firing squad in the grounds of Colchester Castle, on the evening of 28 August 1648. An obelisk now marks the spot where the so-called Royalist Martyrs met their death.”

This acts as a piece of supporting evidence that the musket ball marks at Salisbury Cathedral could be from a firing squad.  If you search the web you can find other evidence of firing squads used in the English Civil War where the prisoners were stood against a church wall.  As to the spread of the marks on the Cathedral wall, one needs information on the dispersion of shot from English civil war muskets, and lots more information, such as how many made up a firing squad, and what was the distance from the prisoner etc.  A fascinating piece of research starting from an almost discarded black and white glass negative.

Alan Clarke

The Trowel Trail



It will soon be time to wish Intern Sophie a fond farewell, when we seem hardly to have had the chance to get to know her! 

Here is her latest blog – and it is yet another interesting one…

In my last post I wrote about the physical jobs I’ve been doing at the Salisbury Museum – moving, packing, drilling, painting and the like, as this was what I was focusing on at the time. However, throughout all of this I had small pockets of time up in the office (with magnificent views of the King’s House and Salisbury Cathedral) to get on with the desk-based side of things.

This has covered a wide range of jobs to support the de-installation of Constable in Context as well as the installation of British Art: Ancient Landscapes (open 8th April – 3rd September 2017). From drafting thank you letters and checking through the loans agreements, to researching all of the artists in order to write stewarding notes with interesting facts, it has given me a real insight into the less visible processes behind putting on temporary exhibitions.

Alongside my exhibitions work I’ve also got to know MODES, the collections software, testing some developing aspects of it, as well as working with the learning team, particularly on the Trowel Trail.


I have had great fun working on the Trowel Trail and now that it has launched, I hope many families will too. It is the new family trail that runs through all the permanent galleries and has a theme of archaeology. From a series of questions written by another volunteer, Ian, I was tasked with pulling it into a finished product. I enjoyed going around the galleries, trying to see things from a child’s perspective and testing the questions. I picked a simple colour theme that borrowed the navy of the museum’s logo and got going, drawing numerous trowels and employing free access images in combination with photographs of objects in the collection. With a few tweaks to the logo to follow consistency standards, it was done! Complete with the set of orange trowels in situ in cases, the trail has been popular with children I’ve seen using it, so hopefully this continues!

Sadly, my time on placement is nearly over – just some map designs, a questionnaire and environmental monitoring to go before I head back up north to Durham to finish my Masters degree, leaving a trail of orange trowels behind me. I have learnt just how much you can achieve in a week; that the buildings here are every bit as important as the collection; the friendliness of a small, close-knit team with an abundance of knowledgeable volunteers; and that the sun (almost) always shines in Salisbury – I’m sure I’ll be back soon.

Thank you Sophie

Hail and Farewell

More comings and goings…. We welcomed Fiona Johnstone in February as a new Finds Liaison Assistant in support of our own Richard Henry. Richard is still with us but is curating our up-coming Terry Pratchett exhibition, together with the Pratchett Estate and Paul Kidby (16 September – 13 January), so he is busy with other things.


Fiona was formerly a Volunteer with us, working with Richard on the Portable Antiquities Scheme.  She moved on to an internship in this field when she was successful in applying for a post based between Winchester, nearby, and Lewes in Sussex. However, she couldn’t stay away, and immediately applied when she saw work was available back here! She will be with us for at least a year.

Fiona was at Edinburgh University, reading Ancient History, graduating in 2015. Her dissertation was to do with a group of deities that appear on the reverse of Roman Severin coinage. Even she says it was ‘nerdy’ but this must make her the world’s greatest expert…!


Meanwhile, it is a sad farewell to Grace Clark who had also been working with Richard but who has now returned to continue her studies with Dr Miles Russell at Bournemouth University. Thank you Grace. We will miss you.

Mystery Item



Has anyone seen one of these before?

It is, apparently, a shaving mug (a central hole in the removable top), straight sided (despite the angle of the photo which makes it appear otherwise) and just under 30cms (4 inches) high.

It  has, as you can see, the insignia of the old Salisbury Infirmary, and underneath a particular manufacturer’s mark of Keeling and Company of Burslem, which indicates that the mug was made between 1880 and 1936.

It is an item unknown at the museum and not recognised by the archivist at Salisbury Hospital. Was it made to be sold at a fund raising event? Was it used within the hospital and appropriated by a patient?

Any thoughts?

Halfway Mark


Welcome to Sophie Ridley

Halfway through my placement, I am getting very used to finding the halfway mark – in paintings! I’m a student from Durham University’s MA Museum and Artefact Studies course and am on placement at the Salisbury Museum for four weeks. It couldn’t have been timed better as I’m here for exhibition changeover with Joyce, the Exhibitions Officer – and right now that means lots of hanging works of art with those halfway measurements.

To hang a whole room with a series of pictures is something that previously seemed incomprehensible to me. So many different sizes and shapes of frame – where to begin?! Fortunately, there is a straightforward process that starts with laying the works out visually around the room to get the spacing right. After that it’s a simple task of measuring the desired space from a wall or a previous picture, employing the crucial eye-level height stick to mark 1.6 metres, then making sure the halfway point of the image sits at that level. Finally, drill the holes and screw the work in place. Job done. So long as the levels are still straight…

Hanging the works is actually one of the later things I’ve been helping out with. To get to this point where we are installing British Art: Ancient Landscapes (8 April – 3 September) a lot of preparatory work had to take place. I’ve unscrewed, packed and carefully moved pieces from the outgoing Constable in Context, chatted with the art couriers who handle the higher value works, painted walls, filled holes, drilled new ones and moved cases.

Exhibition changeover in a two-week period is intense, but I’m learning a lot and thoroughly enjoying the varied nature of the work. It’s certainly keeping me on my toes, with just enough time in between to work on designing a family trail – but more on that in my next post.


Launch of Fifty Finds From Wiltshire


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Two gatherings took place recently to mark the publication of  our own Richard Henry’s Fifty Finds From Wiltshire, with brisk sales following these two events. The first was here at Salisbury Museum, attended by fifty or so local landowners, metal detectorists and Volunteers. The occasion was by way of thanks to all of those who have contributed to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and in some way to the book.

Everyone had a tour ‘backstage’ at the museum, led by Director Adrian Green or by Richard himself. This was very much enjoyed, and an ‘eye-opener’ for those for whom this was a first visit.

The second gathering was last Friday at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, where, as at Salisbury Museum, many of the finds described in the book are on display.

The book is on sale in the Salisbury Museum shop at £14.99.  There is a ten percent reduction for volunteers!

New Exhibition



After our sad farewell to Constable we look forward to ‘British Art: Ancient Landscapes’ opening on Saturday 8 April. Our new Events booklet also draws attention to the amazing series of talks, walks and complementary exhibitions associated with the works of Turner, Ravilious, Piper, Hepworth, Moore and, yes, Constable, and others, all on display until 3 September. One of the talks is by Professor Sam Smiles who curated the exhibition. This includes a private viewing – Wednesday 26 April 6pm. Book soon!

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The Long Man of Wilmington, 1939 Eric Ravilious (Victoria and Albert Museum, London)