Sir Terry…YouTube…and Lego!


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Have you ever viewed the museum via YouTube? Try it. Click here for the latest video of exciting things going on (the Lego), then have a look at some more by using your search engine and typing in YouTube Salisbury Museum.


Old Friends


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IMG_4470 Tony and Phil

Last week, the museum was pleased to host a talk by Sir Tony Robinson (with a little help from his friends!). Our own Owain Hughes was there and reports back…

Sir Tony has an autobiography out – ‘No Cunning Plan’ – and his talk focused on that, and on his friendship with Sir Terry Pratchett.

He began by describing Sir Terry’s great love of the chalk landscape and invited a certain member of the audience – a great friend of ours, Phil Harding – to explain the origins of this local landscape, and to share a few memories of Time Team digging in it!

Rob Wilkins, Terry’s assistant, business manager and long term friend added to the memories of the writer by describing how the two of them ‘bonded’ – at a book signing when they realised they were both ‘electronic nerds’!

Tony’s links with the writer go back a long way. At an early encounter, Terry was to congratulate Tony on some comedy programmes he had written for Radio Bristol. In subsequent years Tony was to create the audio versions of Terry’s books and played a role, the store manager, in the 2006 film version of Terry’s ‘Hogfather’.

The same year, Tony appeared in Tony Robinson: Me and My Mum, a documentary surrounding his decision to find a nursing home for his mother, and the difficulty he had doing so. In the intervening years he has become a supporter of Alzheimer’s research and charities, which, of course would have been a bond between the two men, as Terry began to suffer himself. When Terry was invited to do the Dimbleby lecture in 2010 he was already struggling with the illness, and while he introduced the lecture, it was Tony who read Terry’s words. It was about death, our attitudes to it and about assisted death. The audience here were very moved when Tony read an abridged version of the lecture at this talk. As indeed visitors have been moved by this aspect of the museum’s exhibition.

Owain shares with us some of the excitement at the end of the talk…


The talk ran over the allotted time and with less than an hour before his train was due to leave, Tony began signing copies of his books for a very long queue of eager fans. He was due to give an interview to the British Forces Broadcasting Service which they managed to do somewhere on the car journey to the station! The next day, he was at the Royal Albert Hall, reading at a carol service.

A busy man. Thank you Sir Tony for your visit and sharing your memories.

One Giant Lego Mosaic


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One   giant LEGO mosaic with 960 tiles and 61,440 bricks

Thirty six  volunteers

One  hundred and thirty  models of ‘The Luggage’ constructed

Four hundred and sixty  visitors

The Staff  Team

Not quite the Twelve Days of Christmas! BUT we overcame rain inside the marquee, cling filming LEGO in the dark, avoided a storm, managed to keep warm (mostly) and delivered another amazing event to our visitors.

Sincere thanks to you all for everything you contributed towards a wonderful day.

See the finished article in the museum now.

Successful Bid, Exciting Times to Come


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You will be pleased to hear that it has just been announced that we secured £115,360 from the Museum Association’s Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund to undertake work with young people on our costume collections and displays. This application was put together by Katy England and will obviously be the focus for her work over the next couple of years (from Feb 2018) following up on the excellent HLF Funded City Story Project.



Katy will be working with, amongst others, our NADFAS lady volunteers, on this new project.

See here for more info about the announcement and the other awards made:




A fascinating second installment to Alan’s notes on A.B. Middleton…

Regarding Middleton’s role in the eradication of cholera from the city in 1849, this has been well-documented elsewhere in easily-accessible places, for example, John Chandler’s book, Endless Street,  and so there is no need to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that in 1859 Salisbury was the worst affected town for its size in the country, with nearly 200 people dying from the disease in just two months, and the infirmary receiving 1300 new cases during this time. This was a consequence of the manner in which the city evolved.

In 1219, the inhabitants of Old Sarum moved down into the valley near to the confluence of three rivers, now known as  the Avon, Wylye and Nadder, where Bishop Poore began building a new Cathedral in a field known as Merrifield.

The new city itself, known as New Sarum began to be laid out to the north of the Cathedral.

The land was sectioned out into rectangular plots measuring seven perches by 3 perches, thus forming the grid pattern, known as ‘chequers’, with which we’re familiar today.

The city covered an area of about one-fifth of a square mile, and consisted of about 20 streets, crossing each other at regular intervals at right angles to each other. This anticipated the street pattern of modern American cities by several centuries and contrasted with other medieval cities in Britain, such as London or York.

The city itself is situated on the east bank of the River Avon about 140 feet above the mouth of the Avon at Christchurch, some 30 miles away.

Many open streamlets ran through the city and the street now called New Canal commemorates just one of these channels, which were used as receptacles for household waste and sewerage. Speed’s map of 1611 shows them in almost all the streets west of the line comprising St Edmund’s Church Street and Gigant Street.

An illustration of Silver Street within the Drainage Collection carries a caption quoting Celia Fiennes (1685) as describing the streets of Salisbury as, “not so clean or so easy to pass in”.  Daniel Defoe in his ‘A Tour through the whole island of Great Britain, by a gentleman [D.Defoe]’ (1748) went further, commenting that, “the streets were always dirty and full of wet, filth, and weeds, even in summer”.

It was perhaps because of the extreme difficulties of keeping the streets clean that Salisbury became the first provincial town in England to have powers of improvement granted to a special authority, called ‘directors of highways’, by an Act of 1737. This caused the streets to be improved by moving the channels to one side and making brick beds for them, so that the traffic could pass unimpeded, and bridges could be made for pedestrians1. Indeed, the Market Square itself had three bridges.

Andrew Bogle Middleton believed strongly that the 1849 cholera epidemic was due to moisture and the canals, and therefore undertook to introduce a new system of water-supply and drainage. His proposals were met with such great opposition that the Mayor and councillors would not allow the Board of Health inspector, Thomas Rammell, to hold his inquiry in the Guildhall, and so it was eventually held in the Assembly Rooms, at the corner of New Canal with the High Street. The results of Rammell’s enquiry were published in 1851.

Middleton’s ideas held sway and the open streams and sewers were replaced with tubular sewers in around 1852. The last channel to be filled, in 1875, was the deep one in New Canal. This is commemorated by the Blue Plaque which now adorns the New Canal  wall of the building currently occupied by Waterstones, but which was once the Salisbury Assembly Rooms (see Figure 1).

Memorials in the Cathedral

Less prominent among the artifacts concerning A.B.Middleton in Salisbury are those in the Cathedral. These are a stained glass window and a stone memorial.

The stained glass memorial window to A.B. Middleton is in the north east corner of the north west transept of Salisbury Cathedral (Figure 4). The theme, as one would expect, is water.


Figure 4. Stained glass memorial window

The upper panel shows the biblical King Hezekiah who cut the Siloam tunnel to provide Jerusalem with a water supply, and proclaims

King Hezekiah brought water into the city

as recorded in II Kings 20:20 and II Chronicals 32:30.

The lower panel shows Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well at Sychar, in Samaria, as recorded in John 4:5-6 and states

A well of water springing up into everlasting life

 The foot of the window bears Middleton’s name, stating

To the Glory of God and loving memory of Andrew Bogle Middleton  born Oct 8th 1819: died Dec 13th, 1879

 There is also a memorial plaque about half way along the north cloister walk

(Figure 5), reading

 “In memory of Sarah Ann Louisa, wife of A.B.Middleton and daughter of the late Henry Coates of this city, died April 29 1872, aged 59 years and of the above Andrew Bogle Middleton who died Dec 13 1879 aged 60 years


Figure 5. Memorial plaque

It is worth noting that bacteria were not discovered until 1864 (Pasteur) and the causative organism of cholera, the bacterium Vibrio cholerae was not discovered until 1884 (Koch).

Middleton’s work preceded that of the famed John Snow who, in 1853, realised that cases of cholera in London were clustered around a water pump in Broad Street, and recommended to the local Board of Guardians that the handle be removed. This ended the local epidemic and provided proof that cholera was water-borne.

Middleton Road

 To date, this author has been unable to find documented evidence that Middleton Road in Salisbury is named after A.B.Middleton. However, an acquaintance of mine, Mr. David Brown tells me that his uncles, Arthur, Tom, Alf and Ernest once owned a large part of Middleton Road –  the section west of York Road towards the gas works; and assures me that this is how he became aware that Middleton Road is, in fact,  named after A.B. Middleton.

The author is much indebted to Alan Clark of this museum who has directed me to his website concerning Salisbury Blue Plaques, from which I derived much helpful information.


  1. Cholera, The Canals of Salisbury and Andrew Bogle Middleton.  Lack, A. (2015)

ANDREW BOGLE MIDDLETON MRCS (1819-1879) by Volunteer Alan Crooks


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I was intrigued to notice that, within Salisbury, there are two prominent artifacts concerning one Andrew Bogle Middleton. The first is a Blue Plaque at the junction of New Canal with High Street (currently the wall of Waterstones) which credits Middleton with having rid the city of cholera in the mid-19th Century (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Blue Plaque commemorating A.B.Middleton

The second is a clock in The Salisbury Museum with the inscription that it was ‘The Gift of A.B.Middleton Esq, A.D. 1860’.


Figure 2. Clock in The Salisbury Museum

An information board adjacent (Figure 3) states that this clock was from the Market House, Salisbury and that not only did A.B. Middleton set up the Salisbury Railway and Market House Company, but he was also associated with the Museum, which was founded in 1860.


Figure 3. Information board accompanying the clock in The Salisbury Museum.

It is difficult to believe that, given the dates, these are not one and the same person.

Given, as stated on the information board, that Middleton was also associated with the Museum when it was founded in 1860 (presumably in connection with the Drainage Collection – the first collection acquired by the Museum), it is surprising that the Museum does not make explicit the connection of this A.B. Middleton with the man responsible for the eradication of cholera within the city, and link it with the Drainage Collection, which is housed in a separate room!

That, therefore, is the purpose of this blog.

Regarding the clock, this once graced the Market House, a building constructed to the west of the Market Place, in the place now occupied by Market Walk and the Public Library. This was the culmination of a need to erect accommodation for the buyers and sellers of agricultural produce. There had been much wrangling over a suitable site for such a building, including sites in and around the present Market Square, considered at the time to be the finest in the West of England.

Eventually the site proposed by A.B. Middleton was agreed upon and the new Market House eventually opened in May 1859.

The great advantage of the location proposed by Middleton was that a railway could be built directly from the Market House to link with the Great Western and South Western lines at Fisherton. Indeed, both narrow gauge and broad gauge lines were laid down to connect with the South Western line, enabling cattle and merchandise to be sent by any of the four railways which served the city.

The clock itself was fixed to the far end of a balcony that ran round three sides of the building. It is 62 inches high and 48 inches wide. The dial is a convex copper sheet secured to a wooden frame. Access to the mechanism is from behind, and thus requires no hole in the face for a winding key.

All but the façade of the Market House was demolished in the late 1970s to build the new Salisbury Public Library.

We will have more next week from Alan Crooks about A B Middleton … 


…an experience that will stay with me…



The Lewis Chessmen/ The Easter Island statues

Bridget Telfer, the museum’s Volunteer Co-ordinator, was involved in a knowledge exchange programme with the British Museum. Concluding her fascinating story of her experiences there…

Some amazing facts were given during the tour: I learnt that the Lewis Chessmen had been successfully dated to 1150 due to the bishop’s hat: before 1150 the style of the bishop’s hat would have covered his ears. Also, that there were originally 887 Easter Island sculptures, all made of volcanic rock. However the volcanoes are at either end of the island, and not in the middle where the statues are: the statues would most likely have been moved on wooden rollers – similar to those used to move the sarsen stones at Stonehenge.


One of the British Museum’s handling desks

The other large public programme that the British Museum runs using volunteers is their handling desks. There are seven desks situated in galleries around the museum which are manned by volunteers daily from 11am-4pm. Having trialled this ourselves at Salisbury Museum this summer we know what a wonderful tool it is for engaging the public – and being a smaller more flexible museum, we were able to do it in a different way than they do at the British Museum. Rather than having static desks with a generic handling collection, where each volunteer has access to the same artefacts; at Salisbury Museum we were able to build the programme around the volunteers’ individual interests. So, our volunteers stated their areas of interest or expertise to Adrian, the director, and he was able to select suitable artefacts for them to use. Temporary handling stations were then set up in the relevant area of the museum to the topic they were talking about. However, the British Museum model is impressive – and perhaps a more sustainable and less time intensive (for staff) approach for developing the programme down the line for Salisbury Museum.


Currency to handle on one of the British Museum’s handling desks

I was also impressed by the actual physical desks that the British Museum use for their handling programme. Purpose built (and no doubt pretty expensive) desks with padded tops and lips to stop any artefacts slipping off; pull-out draws within the desks to store the artefacts within; a high security locking system for when the desks are not manned; cupboard doors that open out to form barriers to members of the public – this helps to ensure the safety of the artefacts as visitors can only access them from the front of the desk and the volunteer can stay in control of a group as they cannot swarm behind them; and the desks are accessible for wheelchair users or smaller visitors such as children. Again, the knowledge of the volunteers manning the desks was impressive. I really liked the way the volunteers are trained to begin discussions – using questions or ‘games’ to engage the visitor, rather than facts. So, with the coins pictured above I was immediately invited to pick them up and try and guess which was the oldest object. Facts came later.


The British Museum touch tour

I also enjoyed finding out about the British Museum’s touch tours for visually impaired visitors. With accessibility often being on our minds at Salisbury Museum, and having developed audio described tours for our ‘Constable in Context’ exhibition, it is always interesting to see what other museums offer and what the uptake is. At present the BM’s touch tour is solely around the Egyptian Sculpture gallery – visitors can download the content onto their phones; or do a self-led trail using large print guides; or opt for a volunteer lead tour. Obviously, we don’t have such an array of large scale stone sculptures at Salisbury Museum, that lend themselves to touch and do not easily deteriorate – but it did make me wonder whether we have some more durable artefacts that could go on open display for visitors to touch. Being able to engage more of the senses is not only beneficial to visually impaired visitors, but to all visitors alike – it means you not only visualise the artefact you are learning about, but also feel its texture, material and temperature.

The remainder of the time at the British Museum was spent in useful discussions on subjects such as youth volunteering; volunteer recruitment, selection and training; data protection; other volunteer roles that they have at the museum such as in collections, communities, events and the portable antiquities scheme; and different ways to say thank you to our numerous volunteers. Despite the different volunteering programmes between the two institutions, there were so many overlaps in the work that we do – and finding a way to thank our volunteers for their dedication and hard work was definitely something that both establishments were working hard to achieve. Overall the week at the British Museum was thought provoking; challenging; and hugely rewarding – having this experience will I am sure benefit both Salisbury Museum and my own professional development – and be an experience that will stay with me for a long time.


Francesca Goff, the British Museum’s Volunteer Manager during her week at Salisbury Museum

And of course we have since also hosted Francesca Goff, The British Museum’s Volunteer Manager, for a week at Salisbury Museum. She had an interesting week immersing herself in the life of the museum and got to meet many of our volunteers. More about Francesca’s week soon…..