Breath-taking stuff!




Salisbury Museum’s exhibition (in partnership with the British Museum) ‘Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain’ has opened and continues until 5 January. Please bring your family and friends to this one. The artefacts are stunning. These photos do not do the objects the justice they deserve but may, nevertheless, tempt you. Come and see for yourself!


And, associated talks include Thursday 18 October 6pm (exhibition), 7pm talk

‘Lost and Found: The Stories Behind the Hoards’ a talk by Dr Eleanor Ghey


Thursday 29 November 6.30pm

‘Hoards During the Earliest Age of Metal c 2 500 – 800BC’ a talk by Dr Neil Wilkin




THE DOWNTON BOROUGH MACE researched by Volunteer Alan Crooks


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Visiting The White Horse inn at Downton recently, I was intrigued to see on the wall a photograph commemorating the Coronation of Her Majesty,  Queen Elizabeth II (Fig 1). I was intrigued on two counts. Firstly, the date of the coronation was given as 1952 whereas, as we all know, King George VI died in 1952, but the Queen was not crowned until the following year. I am sure that the legend to the photograph was just a careless mistake.


Fig. 1. Photograph in the bar of The White Horse, Downton

The second cause for intrigue was the statement that the mace is kept in Salisbury Museum, as I had never noticed it. A cursory poll of my colleagues indicated that neither had they, although eventually Tony Harris said he thought it was in storage.

Eventually, Alan Clarke tracked it down. It is in storage in the Museum, and Alan was able to provide me with some photographs (Figs 2-8).


Fig 2. The Downton Borough Mace

By way of definition, a ceremonial mace is a highly ornamented staff of metal or wood, carried before a sovereign or other high official in civic ceremonies, by a mace-bearer. It is intended to represent the official’s authority. The mace, as used today, derives from the original use of the mace as a weapon, intended to protect the King’s person. It was borne by a royal bodyguard known as the Sergeant-at-Arms.

The use of the mace as a civic device, still carried by a Sergeant-at-Arms, began around the middle of the 13th Century.

As described in Fig.1, the Downton Borough mace was made by a London silversmith in 1713 and carries the Duncombe Coat of Arms (Fig. 3). It was given by the borough MPs.


Fig. 3. The Duncombe Coat of Arms on the flange of the mace head.

The Duncombes were one of four great famiies who came to dominate the Downton area, the others being the Eyres, the Pleydell-Bouveries and later, the Nelsons. Several members of the Nelson family are buried in the graveyard of nearby Standlynch Chapel.

Sir Charles Duncombe (1648-1711) was an English banker and politician who served as a Conservative Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of London. He was Receiver of the Customs for both Charles II and James II, and made a fortune in banking. Even as a young man he was lending money, even to the King. These were often for large amounts; one loan was for£31,600 and another, £50,000, the equivalent of several million pounds at the start of the millennium! However, when James II fled to France in 1688, Duncombe refused him a loan of £1500 to aid his escape.

Later in life Duncombe was said to be worth £400,000 and died the richest commoner in England. He is thought to have owned three-quarters of the burgages* in Downton at the time of his death in 1711.

Charles Duncombe was elected MP in 1685 and represented Hedon and Yarmouth (Isle of Wight as well as Downton, being MP for Downton several times between 1695 and his death in 1711. He was knighted in 1699.

Sir Charles Duncombe was unmarried so his nephew Anthony inherited his Downton estates, at the age of 16. Anthony Duncombe was later ennobled as Lord Feversham, Baron of Downton.

Another Coat of Arms on the flange of the mace is that of the Eyre family (Fig. 4)


Fig 4. Eyre Coat of Arms

The Eyre Coat of Arms can also be seen on a funeral hatchment in St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury.

Other details from the mace head flange are shown in Figures 5 and 6.

Mace XMace7

Figures 5 and 6. Details from the mace flange

A further detail on the mace, which looks like a Royal Coat of Arms, bears the motto of the Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense, (‘May he be shamed who thinks badly of it’) (Fig. 7).


Fig 7. Detail from the mace

I have not seen the mace personally to notice where this detail is situated but an entry in Wikipedia says that “Early in the 15th Century the flanged end of the mace (the head of the war mace) was carried uppermost, with the small button bearing the royal arms in the base”.

Figure 8 shows the Downton Mace in procession down Minster Street, Salisbury


Fig. 8 Downton Mace in procession

*A burgage (in England and Scotland) is a tenure by which land or property in a town  was held in return for service or annual rent.


Salisbury Miscellany – talk by Volunteer Alan Clarke


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About fifty Volunteers recently enjoyed Alan Clarke’s ‘Salisbury Miscellany’ – a look at some of the museum’s photographic collection, one of our regular Collections in Focus talks.

Here are some of the photos he showed us, and a few which we didn’t see:


Alan started with this one of himself – the horse is about to be decapitated! Notice Alan’s expression!!


A favourite – the earliest known photo of Salisbury


Repairs to the spire, early 1950s. Where are the hard hats, hi-viz jackets, harnesses?




An early photo of Stonehenge, with repairs to make….



Alan pointed out that, over the centuries, pretty much every stone must have had to be re-erected at some time.


How did they move those stones in the past? Interesting reconstruction here..


There have been endless efforts to work out how it was all done. This one is from the 1970s.

Thank you Alan!

An update from the Deverills Archaeology Project


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Some Salisbury Museum Volunteers were privileged to join the Deverills Archaeology Group recently (see our blog 28 August) on an excavation. Their recent blog (below) is a summary of the whole excavation and we are pleased to have the chance to reproduce it here (and see links at end).

…Day One

The warm August morning saw nineteen people gathered in a garden in the Deverill Valley: professional archaeologists, experienced amateurs, talented enthusiasts and a few, like me, complete archaeological novices. All were united in a common motivation to understand the people who preceded us through this special space, leaving an imprint, however slight, of their daily lives, experiences and histories. Over the next ten days the professionals from Historic England (HE) would coach, encourage and lead us through all the stages of an archaeological excavation.

The garden was adjacent to the site of an historically significant, large Romano British Villa, discovered three years ago. Earlier in 2018, geophysical surveys of the garden area had revealed a possible enclosure defined by a perimeter ditch, together with a medium sized structure/building on the SE edge.

The enclosure exhibited rounded corners, which hinted, tantalizing, of Roman origins and a possible connection to the Villa.

Our task was to determine if excavation could support the Roman connection and, if not, what else lay hidden beneath these grassy acres that would further our knowledge of the history of the Deverill Valley.


Geophysical Survey

Three trenches were mapped. HE brought out our assault tools: mattocks, spades, shovels, trowels, wheelbarrows and an improbable number of yellow buckets. For the uninitiated, the difference between a mattock and pickaxe was not immediately obvious, until practical employment revealed the distinct advantages of the flat edge of the former.

Turves, topsoil and an additional stony level were removed. Our mentors pronounced themselves satisfied, and cautiously suggested the possible appearance of Roman archaeology, by way of ditches, in all three trenches.

A small number of ‘finds’ showed examples of Medieval, Post-Medieval and, yes, Roman pottery sherds, together with some rather intimidating animal teeth.


Possible Roman Ditch   

…Day Two

Rain threatened from the outset and only a little over an hour’s digging was achieved. Now we were to witness the frustration of the seasoned archaeologist, as, even in this short space of time, one of the hoped-for Roman ditches ‘disappeared’ under further troweling.

Rain called a halt to outside work and we retired indoors for a teach-in on finds identification.


Marking a Find

…Finds Identification

HE experts in pottery and flint identification gave us the most interesting insight into their respective worlds.

Roman pottery was mostly wheel turned (we learnt to look for the ripple effect) and well made; it was seldom glazed. ‘Glaze’ soon became a harbinger of dashed expectations. Many a hopeful sherd, on cleaning, revealed itself to be tainted with the despondent green glaze characteristic of medieval pottery and, like true Romano British enthusiasts, we soon cultivated the requisite dismissive shrug, so excellently demonstrated by our mentors, in the presence of green glaze.

We were educated in spotting the cuts and whirls of debitage, the offcuts occurring in the manufacture of flint tools. As the week wore on, it became clear that our earlier Valley settlers had left us much debitage, or by–product of their labours, but thoughtlessly failed to discard a single cutting tool or arrow head to excite us further.

…Days Three, Four and Five and the trenches started to disclose their own special stories and round-up talks at the close of each day’s digging were beginning to reveal serious trench envy amongst some of the excavation participants.


 Trench Envy, A Bad Case

 Trench A was definitely failing to deliver, having revealed two ‘Red Herrings’ by way of Victorian drainage ditches, evidenced by a small section of clay tobacco pipe.  With more hope than expectation, another possible feature was being offered up to the mattock in this trench.


Hopeful in Trench A

Trench C, however, was unveiling an interesting puzzle, with the beginnings of a possible Roman track, a Roman ditch and another decidedly peculiar parallel ditch, the depth and width of which seemed to be growing by the hour.


Puzzling over Trench C

…The Technicals

HE’s education programme was designed not simply to enlighten us in the finer points of troweling. With great patience from the professionals, the technical aspects of excavation were not permitted to slip through our fingers.

We looked at stratigraphy, the layering of deposits in our trenches and became very familiar with the particularly unyielding alluvial clay deposits typical of this area.
Context sheets for ‘deposits’ and ‘cuts’ were produced and we were soon rolling soil samples between our fingers and identifying colours courtesy of the Munsell soil guide. Finds from each context were bagged and labelled with their respective site reference and context number.

Then came the photography (light relief)…


…followed by the complexities (to the novice) of section drawings and measurements; building up an accurate and annotated cross sectional map of each trench. A Harris Matrix was drawn to create a flow chart recording the sequence in which the levels and features of the trench occurred.


Section Drawing of the Trench A

Having established that the cry of “Dumpy Level !” was not an order for me to start leveling my trench, we moved on to general surveying techniques.

…The Tours

During the 10-day duration of the dig, HE engaged with local residents and DAG members through several conducted tours of the excavation. One of these tours was fortunate enough to coincide with the appearance of an Environmental Archaeologist in Trench C.


By studying the tiny things, like soil, pollen and snails the environmental archaeologist hopes to discover the nature and occupation of the site. Snails will reveal whether the site once had long grass, short grass or woodland. Pollen will tell what cereals were grown, chaff will tell whether the site was producing and growing, or buying in and processing. We can learn what type of foods were prepared and eaten.

…Day 5 and 6 and back in the trenches a more consistent image of the site was beginning to evolve. Trench A and B confirmed the existence of the boundary ditches surrounding the main enclosure and the small southern building/enclosure. No evidence was found of the foundations for this building, but in all likelihood it was wooden in nature, possibly a barn.

Trench C was now the decided hero of the week. The excavators were uncovering a blushingly embarrassing wealth of Roman pottery. Utilitarian in nature, the sherds were suggesting cookware and everyday utensils. A hypothesis was beginning to emerge.


Squeezing into Trench C

In the above photograph, it is also possible to see the cobbled surface of a raised Roman track heading off towards the Villa.

A fourth trench was opened in the middle of the enclosure, attempting to explain the area of high resistivity visible in the geophysics; was it a cobbled pathway? Probably.

…Down Tools

By Days 8 and 9, the excavation was drawing to a close and a clearer picture beginning to unfold. As the geophysics hinted, the large enclosure indeed seemed to have been Roman and probably part of the support structure for the Villa, perhaps an area where cattle were penned before slaughter, having been brought to the site along the Roman track. The smaller structure/enclosure to the south may have held a barn, as its ditch was too shallow to have acted as a boundary, but might have been drip gully to take water running off the roof of a large wooden building.

We look forward to the post-excavation work supporting these finds, soil samples, pottery analysis and carbon dating of the fragments of wood. The Villa would have had a huge support network; it is fascinating to speculate what else lies out there. The landscape of this area has changed little over the intervening 1,500 years, but now, as we watch the sun set over the Western Downs, we try to imagine the lives of those who lived on our land before; gentle smoke rising from a fire, a clatter of wood on cobbles across the track way, raised voices and laughter.


Our little excavation has merely scratched the surface of this special place and we look forward to understanding more as we explore further along the Valley.


deverillsarchaeology | October 4, 2018 at 10:06 am | Tags: Blog August 2018 | Categories

Trade Tokens


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The obverse of an ‘Iron Mad’ Wilkinson token

These pages last included a piece on jettons and trade tokens two years ago (16 August 2016*) when a group of Volunteers visited the Somerset Heritage Centre for training on these.

More training took place this week and further interesting material came to light.

In Medieval times monasteries issued tokens to pay for services from outsiders. These tokens circulated in nearby villages where they were called “Abbot’s money.” 

From the 17th to the early 19th century tokens were commonly issued by merchants in times of shortage of coins of the state (for example, during the Civil War of the 1640s when production stalled) to allow day-to-day trading to continue. The token was in effect a pledge redeemable in goods but not necessarily for currency. These tokens never received official sanction from government but were accepted and circulated quite widely. Interesting research is taking place at the moment to establish just how widely…

In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, factory owners sometimes paid their workers with tokens which could only be redeemed in the factory shop where there might be limited choice and substandard goods, thus ensuring profit all round for the boss! These tokens would churn about only amongst the workers in a particular town, perhaps limited to just a few streets, but could pass as coinage between the families involved.

At a time when ‘proper’ coins were still made of silver or gold, these tokens were of copper alloy, sometimes lead, presaging a time when our small change would be made of the same sort of metal. As time went by, tokens were usually the same size as farthings, halfpennies or pennies, and used as such when it suited people.

There were further shortages in the eighteenth century when production of coins almost ceased. New, machine-made tokens began to appear, and were used for advertising, for ‘spreading the word’ (religious and political versions are known) and, even then, for collectors.

Seventeenth century tokens (the ‘golden age’) often bore the arms of the merchant guilds associated with the issuer.


Salisbury Museum – photo prepared for PAS.

The obverse (‘head’) of this token shows a central shield with the Mercer’s Maiden, the coat of arms and symbol of the Mercer’s Company City of London, with HENRY LAMBERT around the edge.

The reverse (‘tails’) shows L above HS with three rosettes surrounding, all within a border and probably CHIPPENHAM MERCER around the edge. The L will be Henry’s surname initial, the H his first name and S probably his wife’s initial. This was the usual layout for trade tokens at this time, though they often had dates which this one does not. Archaeologists are pleased to find tokens when excavating because they help date other materials in the same way as a coin does. It is interesting that it was usual for the wife’s initials to be included. The lady of the house did not always get due recognition in those days!


Salisbury Museum – photo prepared for PAS.

A copper alloy post-medieval 17th century farthing token of the City of Bath. Obverse depicts a shield with the Arms of Bath, the reverse  A BATHE FARTHINGE, with the initials C B and the date 1670. Once local authorities began issuing tokens they really did take on the mantle of coinage as they could be used almost anywhere in the town and its environs. This one was found near Bradford on Avon.

Not all of these tokens were circular… This is a copper alloy 17th Century octagonal trade token depicting a castle (potentially Castle Combe) and the obverse with initials W A. dating to c. AD 1660 – 1670.


Salisbury Museum – photo prepared for PAS

It is an area which is endlessly fascinating – for archaeologists, numismatists, local and family historians, and collectors. If we have any enthusiasts out there who can tell us more, please do!

As one of the leaders of the training session remarked – this is one way we know who was in the High Street of any small town in the 17th century.

*You  can search for earlier items of interest by using the ‘search’ box at the top of the Volunteer Blog page and entering a key word.


Of Interest in Wiltshire…


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An interesting statistic is that 24% of  Roman material recorded for Wiltshire on the Portable Antiquities Scheme is in a relatively small area west of Salisbury. These are finds mostly made by metal detectorists and so deciding that 24% of all Wiltshire Roman archaeology is in that area would not be correct, because some areas would be more intensely detected than others, but it points to something.

There are also a number of known Roman shrines or temples and there have been some coin hoards in the same area, but only a few known villas and no known towns or forts.

Three years ago Salisbury Museum PAS Volunteers were involved in an excavation in this area and some of those attended a recent lecture by Dr David Roberts (Historic England) who co-directed the excavation. Much post-excavation work has now been done and interpretations are possible. He told us this particular site turned out to be yet another temple, complete with hundreds of miniature metal tools, coins and, in one case, a spear head wrapped around a coin, apparently all votive offerings. There were even nine curse tablets!* They were addressed to a previously unknown god from that period, called Bregneus. The present assumption, in view of the majority of the finds, is that he was something to do with smithing. Indeed, there was an iron furnace nearby and much metal working waste in the area.

One of the most interesting aspects was the way in which Dr Roberts has been able to interpret how the temple building was used. The fact that some of the stone floor was worn, and some of it not, allows the archaeologist to see where the worshippers and/or priest walked, processed or perhaps approached an altar of some kind. There appears to have been a very narrow, restricting entrance, and, interestingly, the presence of burnt mustard seed suggests something more…Mustard seed gives off a strong, acrid smell when burned. It suggests a ritual or creation of a magical atmosphere.

There is obviously more to do in this area. More to find!

*Curse tablets were usually made of thin sheets of lead onto which words were scratched (in this case, fluent early cursive script). They usually invoked the god’s help in dealing with enemies. In the case of hundreds found around the Roman baths in Bath, they are mainly from frustrated people whose clothes had been stolen while they bathed!


A curse tablet from London showing holes which probably indicate that it was nailed to the wall of a temple. It wishes a certain Tretia Maria all sorts of nasty things if she fails to keep a secret!

Another Welcome



Hello! I’m Emily Smith and I have recently started working at Salisbury Museum as the Creative Wiltshire Exhibition Assistant. I work one day a week and my job is to organise an exhibition which celebrates creativity in Wiltshire and which will run from January to May 2019.

This is not my first time at the museum as I previously worked as a gallery steward for the Cecil Beaton, J M W Turner and Terry Pratchett exhibitions. I have also been a collections and an admin volunteer.

I have grown up around Salisbury and have just moved to the city so this is a great opportunity for me to learn more about local artists. I am hoping this role will give me valuable experience of how to design and organise an exhibition which is what I would like to do after I finish my PhD.

From the Collection


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From a museum catalogue photograph

This is one of an occasional series inspired by the work of the ladies (and they are all ladies!) from The Arts Society (previously known as NADFAS) who work every week in our costume store and who have the most amazing love for and knowledge of every aspect of our costume collection.

To go into the costume store when they are working is to enter another world…

It is certainly a foreign language that is spoken in there. Some of you will recognise these words but they must be on that list of words which are falling out of use*

What about:’calash’ (a woman’s silk bonnet), ‘guipure’ (heavy lace), ‘lawn’ (plain weave cotton or linen), ‘cambric’ (fine but dense cloth), ‘nainsook’ (fine, soft cloth), ‘madapollam’ (plain weave cotton, originally from a particular part of India), ‘lappet’ (a decorative flap on a garment)….? All of these words appear in descriptions of items in the collection.

Of course, one reason that the collection inspires such excitement is the possible history of the items. The jacket above is thought to be from the 1760s. Cream linen. That boy, if he survived for any length of time, may have read about Cook’s expeditions to New Zealand and Australia (his jacket suggests a family that would have had a tutor for its sons). He would have been aware of the early industrial revolution, unrest in the American colonies, campaigned against, or for, slavery. He might have worried about what was happening in France, perhaps involved in the battles with that close neighbour, including Trafalgar. In his forties he might have appeared in the first census of 1801, and subsequent censuses until his death. If he lived in Salisbury or around about he would have been aware of the Swing riots (agricultural unrest), and in his old age raised an eyebrow at the Tolpuddle Martyrs. A treat as a very old man might have been a train ride in 1847 from the new Milford station to Southampton….

And we think we live in interesting times!

*Have fun with this by going on-line and googling “Words that have fallen out of use”. All sorts of authorities keep lists of these.

Call for Sarum St Michael Students




From the college website: students and friends c 1970

During the summer, Lin Mills was in contact with the museum. She is helping to arrange honorary degrees for past students of the College of Sarum St Michael which was, as many Volunteers know, based in what are now the museum buildings. She asked if her email address could be passed to any former students so that they could contact her and register an interest.  Lin was a student from 1969 – 1972  

Planning is in the hands of  Winchester University and is at a very early stage. Former students are being directed to the college website which will be updated as soon as there are more details.

In the meantime if Volunteers have any contact with S. St. M. students, or are, indeed, ex-students themselves, please be aware of the plan. It is hoped the ceremony will be late next year or early 2020 in Salisbury Cathedral.

Winchester University are making most of the arrangements and it will be their decision.


Early Morning Gravel Works





In the gloom of the early morning today, a few hardy souls gathered with wheelbarrows, rakes and spades in the forecourt of the museum.

Their task – to spread several tonnes of fresh gravel onto the forecourt! Thank you Volunteers Malcolm Burrows, Jane Hanbidge, Simon Overton, Keith and Chris Rodger, Derek Ellis, Chris Tunnard and David White, and staff members Bridget, Katy, Wil, Megan, Hannah, Val.

Please admire the new, luxurious, deep pile when you next come in…..