Mega Book Sale


Thank You

At about 6.45pm on Sunday evening as the last corners of The Salisbury Museum ‘showground’ emptied, Weorod, the very last to pack up and set off after a wonderful ArchFest weekend, had the last word…

“Please say thank you to all your wonderful Volunteers…”


Change of Date

From Volunteer Co-ordinator, Lucy Bridal:

Volunteer Socials CHANGE OF DATE Wed 17th, Thurs 18th

  • Coffee Mornings/Afternoons

Due to availability of speakers, I am afraid I will have to move the next coffee morning/afternoon dates from 3rd and 4th August to a fortnight later (Wed 17th, Thurs 18th). The subject of the coffee morning/afternoons will be a Past Forward update from the team on everything that has been, is, and what’s to come.

  • Summer Party – Thursday 1st September

In case you missed it, the summer party is booked in and we have a quiz in the making ready for our usual celebratory fun! If you would like to help with the arrangements of the party then please do let me know.

We Welcomed Two Thousand

The Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology 2022

The weather was kind, we were joined by friends old and new – all eager to share their passion for archaeology – and the public came along.

There were families (including one that diverted on their journey from London to Wales!), visitors to Salisbury, people from overseas, famous archaeologists, budding archaeologists, little ones realising they could be archaeologists, all enjoying and having fun. Even Thomas Hardy!

Thank you – Wessex Museums, Scrapstore, Salisbury Cathedral Education, CBA Wessex, Cranborne Chase AONB, The Outside, Tim Lowe (as Thomas Hardy), Weorod, Ancient Wessex, The Bowmen (and women), Wiltshire Museum, Wessex Archaeology, NT and HE Stonehenge, Hampshire Cultural Trust, Friends of Claendon, musicians, cafe, Chris Elmer, PAS, Past Foward, Simon Cleggett, Lorraine Mepham, Phil Harding, Alice Roberts, Julian Richards, Museum Director Adrian Green and staff and Volunteers and visitors.




Many thanks to Alan, whose interest in Simon Forman keeps bringing us back to the history of Salisbury, and whose research into this mystery man reminds how one of the great joys of historical research is that one thing leads to another….. Alan writes:

My interest in Bishop John Thornborough (1551-1641) stems from my interest in the astrological physician Simon Forman, who was born in Quidhampton in 1552. As I have written before, I believe Simon Forman to be a credible candidate to be the alchemist reputed to have once lived at St Thomas’ Church.

Everything we know about Forman’s life in Salisbury comes from two documents, his Autobiography, which covers the period from his birth in 1552 to 1573, and his Diary which covers the period from 1564 to 1602, and so overlaps with his Autobiography.

From his Autobiography, we learn that Simon went up Magdalen College, Oxford in 1573. Prior to this he had been working for a local hosier and grocer, Matthew Commins, who traded in commodities such as hops, salt, oil, pitch, rosin, raisins and “all poticary drugs” thus initiating Forman’s knowledge of herbal remedies. Forman worked with Commins for about six years, between 1566 and 1572, during which time he essentially took over the running of the business. Forman was eventually forced to leave this employment due to a dispute concerning Commins’ wife. At this point, Forman returned as a scholar to the grammar school in The Close of Salisbury Cathedral for some eight weeks before shortage of funds forced him to leave and he took a paid post as a schoolmaster at St Giles Priory in Wilton, where he himself had once been a scholar.  

Following his time as a schoolmaster at St Giles, in 1573, at the age of 20, Simon went up to Magdalen College, Oxford as a ‘poor scholar’ with a friend, Thomas Ridear, who himself went to Corpus Christie College.  In order to support himself during this time, Forman was manservant to two somewhat dissolute Wiltshire ‘gentlemen’, Robert Pinckney, who would eventually return to Wiltshire as a cleric, and John Thornborough, who, amongst other posts, eventually became successively Bishop of Limerick, Bishop of Bristol and then of Worcester.  During this time, Forman had to attend them on hunting expeditions, and also walk with them to Cowley almost every day to assist them with the courtship of a young lady to whom they were both suitors.  

From the Dictionary of National Biography, we learn that future Bishop, John Thornborough, was born in Salisbury in 1551, the son of Giles Thornborough, also of Salisbury. He became a demy (a form of scholarship) of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1569, graduating BA in 1573, MA in 1579 and BD in 1581-2. The DNB notes that, ‘At Oxford he led a gay life, associating with Robert Pinckney of St Mary’s Hall, and employing Simon Forman as the minister of his pleasures’. The DNB goes on to say that Thornborough became chaplain to Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, and was appointed rector of Orcheston in 1575. Wikipedia summarises his further long ecclesiastical career by noting that he became Chaplain in Ordinary to Queen Elizabeth I. In 1578 he was appointed Clerk of the Closet to Queen Elizabeth and remained in that capacity until the end of her reign in 1603.

Bishop John Thornborough (Studio of Richard Lockey, National Portrait Gallery)

Of interest to myself and his connection with Simon Forman is that, rather late in life, John Thornborough became interested in alchemy, writing an alchemical book, Lithotheorikos in 1621. As Prof Lauren Kassell wrote in ‘Medicine & Magic in Elizabethan London (2005), ‘John Thornborough, Forman’s master while in Oxford, published an obscure alchemical book in 1621, but he and Forman are equally silent about whether they shared an interest in alchemy while students, or had any contact thereafter’.

Nevertheless, John Thornborough was granted a patent for the ‘cooking’ (coking) of coal in 1621, this being the first record for this process; the stated object being to ’purify pit coal and free it from offensive smell by coking it’. An excerpt I once liberated from a historical magazine noted that ‘Alchemists, who tried to make gold from base metals, turned instead to finding ways of making sulphurless coal – Queen Elizabeth’s chaplain, Sir John Thornborough, a chemist rather than an alchemist, managed it by 1590. Sir Robert Maunsell used this new coal to revolutionise glass-making so that Elizabethan fine houses could have big windows’.

Despite having this snippet of information, further elaboration of this has proven remarkably elusive to me. However, my interest in this was recently renewed when Jeremy Paxman’s book, ‘Black Gold – The History of How Coal Made Britain’, was serialised as ‘Book of the Week’ on BBC Radio 4 in June 2022. I bought this book hoping it would provide more information on Bishop Thornborough’s involvement with coking of coal. However, to my disappointment ‘Thornborough’ did not appear in the Index; neither did ‘sulphur’ nor ‘desulphurisation’ nor ‘glass’ nor ‘sea coal’, nor Maunsell!!! I eventually discovered that ‘Thornborough’ had been miss-spelt as ‘Tornborough both in the Index and in the text!

Also of interest is that the English Paracelsian* physician Robert Fludd (who had both scientific and occult interests) was a good friend of Bishop Thornborough and his son, Sir Thomas Thornborough, and was an occasional visitor to Hartlebury Castle, Worcestershire – the seat of the Bishops of Worcester from 885 to 2007, and a centre for alchemists during Bishop Thornborough’s tenure. Robert Fludd dedicated his ‘Anatomiae Amphitheatrum’ (1623) to Thornborough. In his book, ‘Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance’, William H. Huffnan comments that ‘A cross-influence [between Forman and Thornborough] and thus a link with Fludd, is a possibility’.

*Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim (1493-1541), who called himself Paracelsus, is the man who pioneered the use of minerals and other chemicals in medicine. Mercury, lead, arsenic and antimony—poisons to most—were cures in his view.

Those Photographs!

When Alan Clarke and others share with us some photographs from The Salisbury Museum archives, we always get a good response.

From viewer Stuart Hollburn-Thorburn (in response to a recent post) :

“Great images Alan, I remember the coaches parked along New Canal, love the Amesbury photo too.

Here are just a few more , published in the blog in just the last two years, to enjoy again, and perhaps create your own quiz!

WE HAVE THE EVIDENCE by Volunteer Alan Clarke



Photographic evidence to prove these things did happen….

What fun it is looking through old photographs and finding the unexpected.  Would you ever have expected double decker buses to be routed along Dews Road near the railway station?

This photograph shows the building where the Salisbury Times was printed.  The Salisbury Times was a full size newspaper which was a rival to the Salisbury Journal before the Salisbury Journal eventually bought it out.  

Back in the days of this photograph, all the town buses were double-deckers with conductors as well as drivers.  Walking along Dews Road today, the Times building is still there, now put to another use.  But the road still seems too narrow for double decker buses to get through.

The photograph below shows New Canal on a Tuesday where all the villages’ buses (coaches) used to park.   People would make several journeys from their coach to the market with purchases, a procedure not possible if the coaches were parked further away from the market.  Until quite recently there were 14 different coaches using the New Canal on a Tuesday.   Unfortunately, the Council was only aware of the Wiltshire ones  (very few, as most came from Dorset or Hampshire) and thus removed almost all of the spaces.

Out of the city, the main road going north from Amesbury (Countess Road) crosses the river Avon in a valley.  The A303 now runs along this valley, splitting Countess Road in two via a roundabout.  This photograph shows what happened when the river Avon used to be in flood.  It also shows that bus services still carried on through the floods and provided a vital service to those on foot who would have had difficulty getting to and from Amesbury without the bus.  Could it happen again today?  I expect it could well flood, but I wouldn’t hold out much hope that the buses would keep on running!

Thank you Alan – wonderful photos from the archives that may bring back memories for some and certainly remind us how things have changed.

From the Volunteer Co-ordinator


, ,

Lucy Bridal writes…

Volunteer Socials:

August is a tricky time for gatherings as holidays and family commitments tend to build up, but I am looking to host a coffee morning on Wednesday  3rd and coffee afternoon on Thursday 4th August for those who are available to come along for a catch up. If you would like to give a talk at these events then please do let me know. Look out for the posters in the locker room shortly. 

(Your blogger adds: We know “coffee mornings and afternoons” are also tea and cake!)

Save the Date!

Our Volunteer Summer Party is currently plotted in for Thursday 1st September and this is your official save the date!