A Young Archaeologist

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As a long-time member of the Young Archaeologists’ Club held at Salisbury Museum and someone with a passionate interest in history and archaeology, it seemed perfect to me that such a brilliant organisation, based so locally, was willing to take me as a volunteer for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From January to March, I was delighted to assist Engagement Volunteers Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard in their roles in the museum and help Katy England in running the wonderful Young Curators’ Club.

Initially applying for the student placement was a smooth and trouble-free experience, particularly when aided by the helpful Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridget Telfer, and something I’d recommend anybody with a bit of spare time and an interest in history to do. From then on, I had arranged to work alongside Katy, Christine and Mike for a few hours on Saturdays. Thankfully, on my first day in January I quickly picked up the induction information and was ready to begin the placement.

Young Curators’ Club was my first mission. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 10am; eager to help out with whatever tasks would be thrown at me. I was tasked with some necessary duties for the new year of the club, but soon we ventured farther into the museum and were allowed entry into the museum’s costume gallery, where all of the members were so eager to engage in the fascinating local heritage showcased in the museum. Needless to say, it was an interesting insight into the running of clubs which spark so much interest in young people, just as YAC did for me.

My other role in the student placement was in engagement volunteering; a role I value greatly from the immense amount I learned during my placement. Not only had I become familiar with the vast array of incredible exhibits open to the public in the museum, I also learnt about the role of stewarding at museums and was able to try my hand at it myself.

Throughout the entire experience, with the help of Christine and Mike, I familiarised myself with all of the collections that a visitor might ask me about when stewarding. As someone currently studying History GCSE and hoping to pursue the subject at A Level and beyond, I could not have asked for a better opportunity, not only to enhance my knowledge of local heritage, but also in skills applicable throughout the entire discipline. Public engagement, spontaneity and retaining information were all skills that I practised and improved during my placement, skills I’m sure will be invaluable for both my further pursuit of history and life in general.

For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike: patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience. Secondly, I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Getting a glimpse behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life, particularly as I could view such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on.

For this incredible opportunity I’d like to thank Bridget Telfer, Katy England, Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard especially, but also the friendly community of volunteers working at the Museum who were so encouraging and welcoming. For this experience I could not be more grateful.

For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike; patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience, and also when I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Seeing behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, particularly whilst seeing such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.

Henry – thank you for your memories and thoughts, and most of all your help and enthusiasm.

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Fine Tuning

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David Davies, member of Salisbury Baroque, was recently doing what harpsichordists do (apart from play wonderful music) – tuning our beautiful harpsichord.

David Davies of Salisbury Baroque

The harpsichord is not as old as you might think. It was built in 1984. It has a great sound (when in tune) and is notable for its decoration, soon to be added to by no less than artist Diana de Vere-Cole.

And if you have ever wondered what tools a harpsichord tuner uses….

The wrench worries us a bit….!

A Wonderful Day in the Close

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Wonderful in a lot of ways! The weather was glorious, the crowds huge and happy, and the setting, of course, fantastic as always.

BBC favourite Antiques Roadshow was in town…

A stunning spring (early summer?) day

Rumour has it that there were 7 000 people there. One hopeful lady was in the Close for five hours of queuing but she reported that the atmosphere was so cheerful that it was a really enjoyable wait. Total strangers became friends, and places in the queue were saved while people took the chance to go and have a coffee or to go to the loo. Office workers, laden with their treasures, were turning up at the end of their working day, unable to believe the queues which were still hundreds strong.

The Salisbury Museum had its moment ‘in the sun’ with over 500 coming across to see the museum’s Scout car from 1912, and a set of stuffed peregrine falcons from the museum’s store (to go with the live ones in the tower of the Cathedral) were filmed with presenter Fiona Bruce.

Well done to staff and Volunteers who welcomed visitors and distributed leaflets. Thank you to MG Cannon who generously transported the car from our store at Old Sarum. And congratulations to the Cathedral for hosting the event. There is no firm date for the transmission of the programme but Autumn has been mentioned….

Ruperts

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Volunteers were asked recently if they would like to try making mini ‘Rupert’ parachutists to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Nicknamed ‘Rupert’s’ after the famous childrens’ comic book character (or were they??), these decoy parachutists were made of sack cloth filled with sand, straw or wood shavings. They were parachuted over enemy territory to create the false impression of a very large invasion force. On 6 June 1944 aircraft dropped 500 Rupert’s along the French coast to divert German troops away from the actual zones. The mini ‘Rupert’s’ will go on display in the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum in June 2019.

Volunteer Barbara Martin was there…

It took me the whole session to make one ‘Rupert’.  The figures were cut out and ready to sew and it wasn’t long before I realised how intricate the task would be.  Where to start?  The head was fairly straightforward but the limbs had other ideas.   The stuffing went so far and no further, which resulted in  muscular arms and legs but flat hands and feet. I had time to give him button eyes and add his parachute before handing him over to Lorna. By far the best part of the day was being with Lorna and Linda.  They were such good company and some of our comments on our work had us falling about with laughter.  I had expected a somewhat studious atmosphere but had a wonderful morning full of fun.  I am looking forward to seeing all the ‘Ruperts’ at the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum in June.

So was Linda Robson…with a different version of the origin of the nickname!

Whilst many of the  other volunteers were enjoying the coffee morning and talk, Barbara and I were upstairs busy making our “Ruperts” with the guidance of Lorna. Although short on numbers we were not short on laughter! We discovered our hand sewing was not of the speedy kind as it took us an hour and half to complete one small Rupert. But half that time was spent laughing, as fortunately  we all seemed to have the same wacky sense of humour.

We were delighted to hear that our Ruperts would be on display, but so high up in the Apache cafe in the Army Flying Museum, no-one can see or inspect that our parachutist could do with a good meal! Our endeavours to fill them equally  with stuffing had not been that successful.

 After making them we did think of releasing them out the window, to see if they worked, but Phil Harding was below us talking to the children about his dig! 

And now the serious part: On the 5/ 6th June 1944, 500 decoy three foot  dummies, accompanied by a handful SAS troopers, were dropped at four locations in France. When the Ruperts landed, they would self destruct leaving just a charred white parachute behind, consequently few originals survived. Interestingly it was code-named Operation Titanic. They were nicknamed Ruperts as  with typical army humour, that  was a derogatory name the ranks used for Officers.

Well done ladies! I wish I hadn’t missed this one…

Update on Phil’s ‘Dig’ from the Valley News

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Hole lot of history dug up – Your Valley News

Not many people would choose to spend their May Bank Holiday watching a hole being dug, unless of course the person wielding the spade was world-famous archaeologist Dr Phil Harding, assisted by Lorraine Mepham. At Salisbury Museum the crowds went to see Phil and Lorraine digging an exploratory test pit in the grounds of the museum.

The dig was part of an annual project in which Phil and Lorraine have been investigating the history of The King’s House, home to Salisbury Museum. For the past three years, the dig was on the Festival of Archaeology’s weekend in July but, due to Phil’s commitments elsewhere, the dig was moved to early May.

As part of the 40th birthday celebrations for Wessex Archaeology, the whole dig was filmed to be premiered at the Festival of Archaeology, July 13 and 14.

The specific question the digging duo were set to answer this year was: ‘how old is the wing of the museum, now the café?’ Previous surveys have suggested that it was built in the 15th century, replacing an earlier building and perhaps 200 years after the cathedral.

Digging down against the café wall, just a lot of wet mud was produced, and by lunchtime, it felt as though the dig might not provide answers. Late afternoon, a small fragment of pottery was found and instantly recognised by the expert eye of Lorraine to be early medieval, contemporary with the foundation of the cathedral itself.

Having lain undiscovered for hundreds of years the humble shard of cooking pot was cheered as it was cleaned and shown to an appreciative audience, providing a link to someone who may have witnessed construction of the iconic building. Sadly nothing was found to confirm the date of the café- a challenge for another day.

Phil and Lorraine returned to the pit on Tuesday to meet nearly 300 children from local schools keen to see archaeology in action – and meet the man in the hat from Time Team.

Having been seen by just under 900 people in two days, and many more viewers online, the dig was recorded for the archive and finally backfilled when the last school group left. To see the film, and hear how the project went, go to the Festival of Archaeology, July 13 and 14, at Salisbury Museum.

Thank you to Valley News

Wilton – town and park

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Guided Visit to Wilton Park and Town Centre

To mark the 75th anniversary of Rex Whistler’s death on 18 July 2019 we would like to offer volunteers the opportunity to take part in a Rex Whistler themed guided tour of Wilton Park and Wilton Town Centre – led by a Blue Badge Guide. More information about this event is attached. Please email me to book your place.

We really hope that you enjoy these events,

Bridget

Thursday 18th July 2019

An opportunity to enjoy a guided tour of Wilton Town Centre with Blue Badge Guide, Margaret Smith. We will explore this delightful market town, which was the home of Saxon Kings and a Royal Abbey. Hear about the connections with Edith Olivier and her circle of friends, including Rex Whistler and see a stunning Italianate church and the Olivier family graves.

Meet at Kingsbury Square, Wilton at 11am for the guided walk.

As Thursday is Market Day, car parking will be limited in the town centre but the Wilton Shopping Village car park should have space.

Lunch – own arrangements

Meet at Wilton House Visitors Entrance 2.00pm for 2.15pm departure- A special opportunity to view Rex Whistler artefacts and a guided walk around Wilton House grounds

Please wear suitable footwear for walking on grassy paths and bring a drink of water/juice as the walk will take around two hours. If it is wet please bring a waterproof coat.

After lunch at 2.15pm, Ros Liddington will lead a guided walk through Wilton Park to view the exterior of the Daye House, the house where Edith Olivier entertained her circle of friends. See the views painted by Rex Whistler. Hear about the people who created the buildings and landscape features within Wilton Park and enjoy the fine views of the river and parkland which are not normally accessible to the public.

Volunteer Activities. Treats to Come!

National Volunteers’ Week at Salisbury Museum 2019

These free events are open to all volunteers at Salisbury Museum – as part of our ‘thank you’ for your support and hard work at the museum. 

Places however are limited and must be booked in advance. To book a place please contact Bridget Telfer, the Volunteer Co-ordinator, and state your top two choices in order: bridgettelfer@salisburymuseum.org.uk; 01722 332151.

Monday 3 June

Stonehenge Landscape Guided Walk

The Stonehenge landscape is an intriguing place with many of its secrets still lying tantalisingly below ground. This walk takes you around various aspects of the World Heritage Site, with iconic views of Stonehenge visible for much of the time. We’ll visit ancient earthworks including the Cursus monument, the Stonehenge avenue and some of the many and varied barrows.

Times: 10.00am-1.00pm

Location: Stonehenge Landscape

Meeting Point: The car park on Tombs Road, Larkhill, SP4 8NB. Access Tombs Road from Fargo Road (south entrance) – no access from The Packway. If the carpark is full then there is space to park along Tombs Road.

Access: The walk is 4 miles long. Please wear appropriate footwear/ clothes for the conditions. Bring water/ snacks with you. There are no toilet facilities – the nearest public toilets are at Amesbury. The NT do not allow dogs on the walks (except guide dogs).

Tuesday 4 June

Salisbury Cathedral Tower Tour

Climb 332 steps in easy stages and explore the ancient roof spaces. You’ll reach the foot of the iconic spire, 68 metres above ground level, and be rewarded with an aerial view of the inside of the Cathedral and panoramic views of Salisbury. An experienced guide will explain all there is to know about the construction of this architectural masterpiece. 

Times: 10.45am-12.30pm

Location: Salisbury Cathedral

Meeting Point: Welcome Desk, Salisbury Cathedral

Tuesday 4 June

Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry Works Yard Tour

Take a backstage tour with an expert guide around our Works Yard, one of only nine English Cathedral works yards in the country. Observe how 21st century know-how, and hand-carving skills that have been practised since the 13th century, are brought together to protect this amazing heritage building for generations to come. 

Times: 2.00pm-3.00pm (followed by tea/coffee)

Location: Salisbury Cathedral

Meeting Point: Welcome Desk, Salisbury Cathedral

Wednesday 5 June

Rex Whistler themed talk and tour at Mottisfont Abbey

Join us for a guided tour of the saloon where Rex Whistler was commissioned to create a unique backdrop for Mottisfont’s glamorous guests. The results were his spectacular trompe l’oeil murals, light-heartedly reflecting Mottisfont’s medieval origins. Following this will be an illustrated talk about Rex’s life and works, with particular links to Salisbury.

Times: 10.30am-12.30pm

Location: Mottisfont Abbey

Meeting Point: Visitor Reception Desk, Mottisfont Abbey Cost: free for NT members/ £12.70 per person for non NT members

Wednesday 5 June

Visit to Arundells

A fascinating tour around Sir Edward Heath’s former home.

Times: 10.30am-11.45am

Location: Arundells, The Close, Salisbury

Meeting point: Reception Desk at Arundells

Wednesday 5 June

Tour of the Wessex Gallery, Salisbury Museum

Join Adrian Green, the museum Director, to hear fascinating stories behind some of the artefacts on display in the Wessex Gallery.

Times: 2.30-4.00pm

Location: Salisbury Museum

Meeting point: Wessex Gallery

Thursday 6 June

Visit to Wessex Archaeology

An exciting opportunity to visit the different departments at Wessex Archaeology (finds/ environmental/ graphics); see some recent finds; and listen to an expert talk about one of the archaeological projects they are currently working on.

Times: 9.30am for coffee/ prompt start at 10am-1pm

Location: Wessex Archaeology (meet at reception, main entrance door), Portway House, Old Sarum Park, Salisbury, SP4 6EB Parking/ Transport: There is very limited parking at the Portway Centre nearby – this needs to be booked via Bridget. Easiest transport is on the free Park and

This Very Interesting Period of Our History…

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T E Davies continues his piece on early Medieval Dorset, much of which may also relate to Wiltshire…

Further evidence that British communities continued into the seventh and possibly eighth centuries exists at Lady St.Mary Church in Wareham. There are a group of stones with inscriptions that are Celtic and are cut into Romano-British limestone fragments. The inscriptions seem to postdate the Saxon takeover of Dorset and suggest a strong British Christian community surviving in the Purbeck region. See below…

A cursory look at books on English place-names will show that the vast majority of such place-names outside Cornwall, South-West Hereford and parts of one or two other border counties are of Old English or Later English origin. This is sometimes taken to indicate that Germanic immigration was substantial and that a large degree of continuity of the British population was unlikely. However once the English language became fully established all new place-names would be English and it is known that a degree of place name changes took place altering earlier Old English and British names. In fact there are still many instances of whole or part British place names in Wessex.  For example there are the following : Andover, Chitterne, Dorchester, Pentridge, Idover, Chittoe, Penselwood and Wilton.

The last mentioned is the town on the Wylye. River names tend to survive better than place names and river names of British origin include of course Wylye, Kennet, Frome and Avon. Avon comes from Afon, the British or Welsh name for a river. There is no ‘v’ in Welsh, the letter f has the English v sound. The English f sound requires ff in Welsh. Below is a map of Dorset showing the locations of places with probable or possible British elements in their names.[1] Note that the British language known as Brittonic is the ancestor language of Welsh and Cornish and it is generally accepted that Brittonic was spoken throughout what is now England and Wales prior to the introduction of Anglo-Saxon. However Latin, a written language of course, was also spoken especially by the ruling and wealthier classes. 

From the historical, archaeological and place-name evidence it is safe to assume that there was substantial continuity of the British population into the Anglo-Saxon period. Following the conquest the early English language gradually spread all over the region such that by the time of Alfred, King of Wessex, there was no distinction between the English and Welsh in his laws.  In recent years DNA  studies are being carried out based on Y chromosomes (men, father to son) and micro chondrial genes (women, mother to daughter). Such studies should add to our understanding of possible population movements and continuity in this very interesting period of our history.


[1] Figure 5 Dorset pre-English Place-Names or Elements. MA dissertation ‘The Fate of the British Inhabitants of Dorset in the early middle ages.’ Thomas Eric Davies, Winchester, 2002.

This is a useful place to start on Celtic and British language and here for information on the development of English. Thank you Eric for an informative and thought-provoking piece.

The Excavation

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Phil Harding and finds specialist Lorraine Mepham, both of Wessex Archaeology, have been at the museum this week – in a hole! An excavation in the grounds of the museum attracted over six hundred on Bank Holiday Monday and huge numbers of school parties today.

Wil Partridge, Finds Liaison Officer, was on call today, together with Megan Gard, student, showing school parties some of the objects from the museum collection.

Thank you, as always, to all concerned, especially the Volunteers!

The Post-Roman Period in Wessex

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      By T. Eric Davies

The general aim of this brief article is to promote interest in the immediate Post-Roman period in our region. In many general British history books coverage of the Anglo-Saxon period immediately follows the end of the Roman era missing a fascinating period when Britain (that is what is now England and Wales) was still wholly or partly still under British rule. The Roman period in the country ended in approximately 410 AD and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms seem to have emerged by the middle to the late sixth century but what actually happened during this period. What is the evidence?

Historic evidence is thin indeed. There were a few foreign sources but by far the main source has been the writings of Gildas, a 6th century British monk. Gildas wrote De Excidio Britanniae, ‘The Ruin of Britain’ and his work has been interpreted and re-interpreted many times. According to Gildas, Saxon barbarian warriors were recruited by a senior British leader, the proud tyrant, sometimes referred to as Vortigern. This was probably early in the fifth century and was in response to attacks from Picts and Scots (that is Irish). Apparently, later, the Saxons rebelled and caused death and destruction. The Britons fought back under the leadership of Ambrosius Aurelianus (often associated with Amesbury).

The battles went one way then the other right up to the siege of Badon Hill and the apparent British victory. Unfortunately we do not know the location of this important site. Some historians suggest that the location might be Badbury Rings in Dorset. Others suggest hills near Bath. However we really do not know. A substantial period of peace followed the Badon Hill battle. Gildas’s work does not help us with dates but it might be assumed that the battle occurred in late fifth century or early sixth century. The first English historian, Bede, used Gildas for this early period and added that the immigrants were not just the Saxons but also Angles and Jutes. Patrick, a Briton who became the patron saint of Ireland, writing in the fifth century and Gildas in the sixth at least confirm that it was possible to have a classical education in Latin in Britain at this time. Note that no mention is made of Arthur by Gildas.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is not regarded as reliable for this early period as it was written probably in King Alfred’s time. However the entry for AD 495 states that a Saxon chieftain named Cerdic landed near today’s Southampton and fought off the British and effectively started the kingdom of Wessex. However Cerdic is clearly a British name and later Wessex kings also have British names, for example Caewlin and Caedwalla. This suggests at least a confused start to Wessex. Other sources such as the Annales Cambriae are also thought by scholars to be unreliable for this early period. The King of Wessex from 688 to 726 AD was Ine and he had laws in which Welshmen, that is Britons, were in some ways regarded less favourably than Englishmen. This clearly implies that there were large numbers of Britons still identified as such in Wessex in Ine’s perod.

Archaeologically, fifth century British occupation sites are not easy to find as production of pottery seems to have fallen away In the Wessex region. Anglo-Saxon grave inhumation sites have been found in the fifth to seventh centuries but the presence of grave goods could point to social status as well as Germanic origin. At Poundbury in Dorset considerable evidence has been found of continued British occupation into the fifth, sixth and possibly seventh centuries. The diagram below shows the location of the post-Roman occupation of the Roman Cemetery at Poundbury.[1] There was also considerable evidence of continued occupation at the Roman town of Dorchester into the fifth century and possibly beyond. Much of this evidence was the presence of post holes indicating wooden structures sometimes positioned against disused Roman buildings. Post-Roman British burials have been identified showing late Roman features such as east-west orientation and rows of burials. This could point to Christian burials.


[1] Figure 3 Poundbury. MA dissertation ‘The Fate of the British Inhabitants of Dorset in the early middle ages.’ Thomas Eric Davies, Winchester, 2002.

Many thanks to Eric Davies who has sent this interesting article which, as we can see, draws on his dissertation. There is more, and it will be concluded next week. Meanwhile, he is right to suggest that this period is full of fascinating mystery. For further reading on this, you might like to track down the following (purely Editor’s choice!):

Stuart Laycock ‘Warlords: The Struggle for Power in Post Roman Britain’ 2009

Barry Cunliffe ‘Britain Begins’ 2013

Bruce Eagles ‘From Roman Civitas to Anglo-Saxon Shire: Topographical Studies on the Formation of Wessex’ 2018