CVHF Talk Sponsored by Salisbury Museum


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Festival of Archaeology Talks: Dr Alex Langlands  'The Lost City of Old Sarum'

Dr Alex Langlands, renowned historian and broadcaster, and long-time friend of this museum, is speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival today (5pm). His talk, ‘The Lost City of Sarum’ will be reprised at our own Festival of Archaeology on Saturday 22 July at noon so if you can’t manage Broad Chalk today, then book a ticket with us for July.

Volunteer Ann Howell will be joining Director Adrian Green and Chair of Trustees Susanna Denniston at the Festival to publicise the Museum which is sponsoring this talk by Dr Langlands.  It will be a popular event. We wish them fine weather and a good crowd.

“…OVER FIFTY YEARS AGO…” by Volunteer Alan Clarke


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Silver Street

When you walk along Silver Street from Barclays Bank to the Poultry Cross, if you look carefully, you will see that the pavement has been widened.  This happened over 50 years ago as evidenced by this photograph.  I doubt if it is an easy task without photographs such as this to determine when this pedestrian enhancement occurred.   The buildings in this 1965 scene look much the same now as they did then but they almost all had different tenants.

It is thanks to the amazing foresight and gymnastic abilities of the photographer, Austin Underwood, that we have this photograph.  Somehow he must have managed to gain access to the upper stories of the Barclay bank building to take this photograph.  Maybe someone could manage a repeat and obtain a “now” photograph from the same vantage point and check my following comments.  The first shop, visible on the left, is Hepworth’s the tailors where I bought my first suit, paid for by working nights at Welworthy’s piston ring factory in Harnham.  The premises is now (2017) occupied by the coffee shop, Nero.

Robinson Rentals, now also Cafe Nero, is next door .   In 1965 many families rented their TV.  Now we rent our mobile phones but choose a different word than ‘rent’.  One can make out Bollom the dry cleaners.  Then there is FHW (Freeman Hardy and Willis) the shoe people who moved round the corner to Minster Steet, and have now left Salisbury all together.  ‘Toni and Guy’ are now here.  On the other side of Silver Street, one can see that Marks and Spencers occupied the building that Boots the Chemist now (2017) have.    Woolworth’s had a large foodmarket on this side as well as their premises in High Street. Robert Stokes remains in name only along New Canal, the other side of their premises here in Silver Street.  Lipton, the self service grocers, eventually moved into Butcher’s Row before disappearing into the annals of history.  Now the premises is occupied by Santander.  Timothy Whites (Chemist) can be made out, squeezed between M&S and Robert Stokes.  They were taken over by Boots shortly after this photograph was taken. Curry’s sign can be seen down Butcher’s Row.  They moved out of town a few years ago to the Southampton Road with many other retailers.

Besides the architecture and the shops, there is much more of Salisbury’s social history in this image.  For example, double decker buses used to have a driver and a conductor.  Look carefully in this photograph to see the driver.   Butcher’s row appears to be pedestrianised.  One can just make out the “No Entry” sign but note the van parked pointing in the wrong direction.  Over eight premises have their blinds stretched out over the pavement.  How many shops now have a working blind?

One can observe lots of shopping bags but no shopping trolleys or mobility vehicles.

Only the men appear to be wearing the trousers back in 1965!




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To my shame, this was my first visit to Avebury since 1983, when I attended a Royal Society of Chemistry Mid-Southern Counties Local Section Summer Excursion to Avebury, Silbury Hill, and the West Kennet Long Barrow.  I attended the SALOG visit as part of a self-imposed mission to visit all the sites depicted in the current exhibition, ‘British Art: Ancient Landscapes’. To this end, following a week’s holiday in Seaton last week, I made a detour to visit the Cerne Abbas Giant (and the village of Cerne Abbas itself) on my way home. Then, following the SALOG visit to Avebury, being such a lovely day, and following lunch at the on-site café, I embarked on the two mile walk along a bridleway to visit West Kennet Long Barrow, taking in Silbury Hill en route. At West Kennet Long Barrow, I was entranced to watch a swallow feeding her brood of chicks which were on a ledge in one of the burial chambers.

At Avebury, it was a delight to have the opportunity to chat with fellow volunteers from the other organisations involved. (I had a fruitful conversation about witches and alchemists, concerning some research I’m doing on a matter unrelated to Ancient Landscapes).

I was interested to hear from our Guide about the two types of stone, ‘pillar’ stones and ‘diamond’ stones, which represent male and female, and these face each other in the Avenue as sexual pairs.

The Guide for my party told us that the heaviest stone weighs an estimated 100 tons. On its outfacing side, she pointed out the head and neck of a ‘dragon’ – a result of natural erosion. (One of my fellow Volunteers pointed out that this is the same stone on which, in the exhibition, the artist has shown the face of William Morris, and indicated that this is to the left hand side of the dragon).


To me, the ‘dragon’ looked more like a snake, and this led me to put two and two together to perhaps make five, in wondering whether this is what inspired William Stukeley to depict Avebury as a serpent whose head rested at the Sanctuary on Overton Hill and whose body was formed by West Kennet and Beckhampton.



This was a very interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile visit. Many thanks to all concerned with its conception and organisation.

Alan Crooks (Engagement Volunteer)



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On Monday, volunteers from The Salisbury Museum and other local organisations had the opportunity to visit Avebury, meet and socialise with one another, and to have a guided tour of the site, as well as visit the manor, church and museums. Forty attended in all, eighteen from our museum, seven from Wessex Archaeology, nine from Wiltshire Museum and six from Stonehenge, English Heritage. It was organised by the Stonehenge and Avebury Learning and Outreach Group (SALOG), and hosted, of course, by Avebury itself who opened up their doors and made sure that, amongst other things, we had excellent refreshments by way of coffee, tea and cake.

Feedback from volunteers:

“Thanks for this little adventure, Bridget. Very enjoyable, even if once again I asked awkward questions!   Not intentionally, of course!”

“Thank you so much for organising the trip today.  No matter how many times I visit Avebury I am always in awe of our ancestors and always learn more about our past.  It was a great day out and the Manor House was a revelation too. Mo and I took every opportunity to handle and examine the exhibits. As Miranda would say “such fun”. Thank you.” 

“I’ve been before, but not for many years.  I had no idea how vast it is.  It was so special to have a guided tour.”

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An artist’s impression showing the method that might have been used to move and lift the stones

Excavations suggest that Avebury was begun around 2 600 BC, with the digging of the spectacular ditch and bank. The addition of the stones, sarsens, was a little later, and presumably undertaken over a considerable period of time. It is said that as many as six hundred stones may have been erected, creating a huge outer circle, two inner circles and marking two avenues, each well over a mile (which is about 1.5km) long . It is thought possible that there were, in fact, four avenues, but there is no evidence as yet. The stones weigh up to ten tons (or tonnes) each.

Most of the stones had fallen or had been broken up for building purposes when, in 1935, Alexander Keiller (of marmalade fame) bought the manor house and much of the land around about.  His work followed on from that of earlier archaeologists and antiquarians. He had the stones re-erected and where they were no longer available, he marked the places with concrete posts. This was not guesswork. Stones which had earlier been removed to be broken up for building would have had a fire set beneath them. This was the best way to do it – the hot rock eventually splitting and taken away in wheelbarrows or on carts. It is, of course, the burning in the soil that tells the archaeologist where the stones have been. This is how the archaeologists have been able to trace the avenues, where very few of the original stones remain.

The bank is nearly a mile around and encloses about 28 acres (11 hectares). It is calculated that it would have taken about 1.5 million man hours to complete. It encloses the ditch (originally about 30 feet or 9m deep) , suggesting that the bank was for watching from and the ditch to prevent the ‘audience’ from getting any closer to what was going on. What ever it was, it was important.

Described variously as the largest henge in the world, in Europe, but certainly in Britain, this monument is apparently pre-dated by Stonehenge (in its earliest form), although both were almost certainly in use at the same time in the third millenium BC and it is possible that Avebury is earlier than currently estimated (see recent newspaper reports). Were they used for the same purpose, or same sort of purpose? Were they linked in some way? Were they rivals? Why were they built in this part of Britain? How were so many people drawn in to help construct these places? The assumption is that it is religion (in the broadest sense) that provides the motive and impetus, the focus, for such undertaking. Is it just so far from our modern view of the world that we can’t quite comprehend it?

A great day out. Many thanks to Bridget and all others concerned.



Looking Forward to Returning… by Rachel Herring


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Rachel Herring

Rachel Herring


This half-term, I had the opportunity to volunteer at two of the museum’s two-hour ‘Glow Wall’ sessions, as part of my Year Twelve work experience placement. The Glow Wall is a relatively recent addition to the range of interactive holiday activities at the museum, and I very much enjoyed working with some of the regular volunteers, not to mention the many families who were visiting. It was very entertaining to see the children (and adults!) getting creative with the patterns and shapes they could make with their torches, and I also had fun trying out the Glow Wall myself…

As a Year Twelve student studying, History, German, English Literature and Philosophy at South Wilts Grammar school in Salisbury, I was asked to organise a five-day work placement, which I will complete in the summer holidays. I chose to apply to the museum primarily because of my interest in history and heritage (which I hope to study as a joint honours course with German at University), but also because I saw it as an opportunity to engage with and contribute to a part of my local community.

I am grateful to the museum staff and volunteers for allowing me to spend my placement with them, and I look forward to working in new areas of the museum in July.

Thank you  Rachel.  We look forward to seeing you again later in the year.

“…the Infamous MODES!” by Emily Smith




Emily Smith is currently studying for her MA in Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. As part of her course she is doing a placement at the museum working on the cataloguing of the art collection. Below is her second blog about her placement here.

Hello, it’s Emily again!

I am now half way through my collections placement with Salisbury Museum and I am still loving it! Tracy McLelland and I have made great progress with the fine art picture stores, managing to complete one whole chest. This has involved a lot of rummaging around and detailing our findings on the infamous MODES.

I have managed to get to grips with MODES now and I feel really lucky to be adding to the work of so many others before me who have documented the many wonderful things that Salisbury Museum has collected. There is not too long to go until I finish my placement so Tracy and I are hoping to finish as much as we can. We will be starting a new task next week, where we will be trying to find the items we haven’t ticked off yet. This process can only be compared to a treasure hunt where you need to follow all the clues to (hopefully!) find the item we are looking for. Fingers crossed these next few weeks won’t go too quickly as I am really enjoying my placement and I don’t want it to end!

“..always been interested in history…” Sophie Roberts




Sophie Roberts – Student Placement Blog

Hello everyone! I am Sophie and I’m currently doing A-levels in English Lit., Geography and, of course, History, at Dauntsey’s school. I have always been interested in history and known that I have wanted to study it but when it came down to applying it to a career I had no idea. So I decided to do some work experience at the museum to get an idea of what I could do with history in the future. I already knew about the museum, having attended YAC (Young Archaeologists Club) here for a number of years and I was at the opening of the Wessex Gallery in 2014, so I was interested in seeing how the museum worked, having seen its public face.

On Monday I was given a brief introduction of the museum, before being shown around the British Art: Ancient Landscapes exhibition, which I hadn’t seen. It was  really interesting. I was then given a Spotlight tour which showed off some of the best parts of the museum. I found the history of the building itself to be the most interesting part, as although it’s an historic building I’d never given thought about the history of it. Most people are focused on the collections! In the afternoon I helped with the Glow Wall event but having to explain to children how to use torches on the glow wall got a little repetitive for me.

Tuesday was a day of cataloguing, with the morning spent boxing up a model from the Social History store. I enjoyed building the box despite my lack of modelling skills and it was quite a relaxing activity. It was also amazing to be able to have a look around the stores which have so many wonderful artefacts just sitting on shelves. The afternoon was spent up in the Costume store and I quickly learnt that the museum has a lot more clothing than I originally thought. It was an interesting afternoon with an awful lot learnt.

The next morning was also spent in the stores, cataloguing the Pitt Rivers collection. This was spent mainly looking at stone items from Iceland and deciding which ones matched the descriptions and numbers given to them. The morning also saw me introduced to the MODES system which to me looked like a rather large spreadsheet. The morning also saw the re-packing of a few boxes and a particular highlight was holding a reconstructed black Roman pot and packing it. The afternoon was spent doing admin which mainly consisted of transcribing a talk which was an interesting listen even if I did hear the same facts about fifty times!

Thursday morning was back in the costume store and consisted of cataloguing a carrying case for a baby which was massive and had a lot of detail on it. Before looking though the rest of the box which consisted of a mock-medieval page boy uniform which looked pretty garish and a number of 1970s Salisbury Giant t-shirts! The afternoon was spent archiving the press that the museum has run from 2013 to now, which was an interesting look at another side of the museum.

The final day had come and I spent the morning archiving some of Rex Whistler’s book covers that are contained in a large, specially made, folder. After filling in one cataloguing sheet I entered a couple of covers onto MODES which was great until the computer decided to delete a massive description just after I had finished writing it! This was a fitting end to my work experience week, which allowed me to see all parts of the museum and over the week I came to appreciate the amount of work that goes into running this museum.

Thank you Sophie, for all your help.

“..JUST ONE OF THE MANY SKILLS…” by Volunteer Alan Clarke


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Scanning Negatives

What follows here is an illustration of just one of the many skills taught to Salisbury Museum volunteer scanners.  To obtain perfect digital images from the museum’s vast collection of negatives, there are a number of such skills to be learnt.

Preventing Curling

A flatbed scanner which scans negatives usually comes with a number of plastic templates for the various sized negatives.  These templates attempt to keep the negative aligned to the vertical and flat, as well as allowing automated scanning of multiple negatives placed on the flatbed.  The scanner hardware/software senses which template is in use by first scanning some plastic codes at the top of the template.  Thus, if you are not using any of these templates, one must not have anything in the first ½ inch of the scanning flatbed, otherwise the scanner gets confused.  It is far quicker, easier and more productive, not to use the plastic templates, but read on.

Software such as Vuescan can easily correct any misalignment of the negatives from up to 5 degrees away from the vertical, more than adequate.  Any negative placed on the scanner flatbed must therefore be at least ½ inch away from the top edge of the flatbed where the scanning illumination starts.  The first image here of Salisbury Cathedral, with the top of the tower covered in scaffolding, was produced by placing the negative by itself on the flatbed.  It looks as though the Cathedral is bending in the wind.  I can assure you that this was not the case.



The heat from the scanning head has curled the negative whilst scanning it.  The remedy is to have a piece of toughened glass, made with ground edges, and the correct size to fit the flatbed, minus the top ½ inch.  Salisbury Glass specially made this for the Museum.  Now one can put the negative on the scanner flatbed, position the negative and then place this sheet of glass on top, being very careful in letting the glass descend the final ¼ inch not to disturb the position of the negative.  A technique that also had to be taught. The negative is now constrained to remain absolutely flat whilst being scanned.  The second image here now shows the Cathedral without distortion, as the negative has not curled.


I thought that this was a nice example to illustrate one of the skills acquired by being a Salisbury Museum volunteer scanner.

Best wishes, Alan