Some Salisbury Stories




More Salisbury ‘gems’, this time from ‘City of Salisbury’ edited by Hugh Shortt.

-Bishop Seth Ward invited many famous people to Salisbury, including Sir Christopher Wren, scientist Robert Boyle and diarist Samuel Pepys. The latter on 10th – 12th June 1668 was ‘guided all over the Plain by the sight of the steeple’ of the cathedral and stayed at the George Inn, ‘where lay in silk bed; and very good diet’, on his way to Stonehenge.

-In the eighteenth century two Bishops of Salisbury had the name John Thomas. One of them was married four times!

-The last public execution on the gallows in Salisbury was in 1855. William Wright* was found guilty of the murder of Ann Collins at Lydiard Tregize (near Salisbury) and the execution took place at the junction of Wilton and Devizes Roads.

-The last person to be put in the stocks in the Market Place was John Sellaway in 1858. He was charged with being drunk and and fined, but failing to pay the fine he was placed in the stocks.



A William Wright of Amesbury was listed in the Post Office Directory for 1855 as the “carrier to Salisbury”, ie the man with a wagon to carry goods to and fro.

Mary Crane Sets a Challenge…or Two




Have you been to see the new exhibition at The Salisbury Museum? Pick and Mix. If so, the first challenge is to see how many of these questions, based on items in the exhibition, you can answer correctly. How observant have you been?

Five correct answers will be phenomenal!

  1. What was Frank Stevens, former director of Salisbury Museum, holding in his hand when he had his portrait painted by CE Chapman?
  2. What trade were Richardson Bros. involved in? (There is a huge shop sign of theirs in the display)
  3. A belemnite (fossil) is named after the ancient Greek word ‘belemnon’. What does the word mean? (Clue is in the shape)
  4. What was the phone number of Moore Bros. boot and shoe manufacturers? (Half a mark if you know how many digits there were in the number)
  5. In which year did Scout Motors enter a car in the Isle of Man TT? (Clue – it is obviously before motorbikes)
  6. What happened to the Salisbury Giant in the 1911 Coronation Procession?
  7. What is going on at Stonehenge in the painting by Samuel Spode?
  8. What item is on display from the Haunch of Venison hostelry?
  9. How much did someone have to pay to take a drove of twenty heifers through the New Cross Turnpike, according to the list of tolls?
  10. What type of vehicle was the ‘Fawcett’?

If you haven’t been to see the exhibition yet, why not take these questions with you and see if you can manage 100% correct answers?

The second challenge comes next week when Mary will present a further set of even more difficult questions to see if your observation skills have improved!



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Giacomo Ceruti

As we saw from an earlier blog, poverty was a problem in Salisbury in the late Elizabethan and early Stuart periods. Efforts were made to look after local poor but ‘strangers’ continued to be returned to their place of origin and Salisbury’s Register of these for the years 1598 – 1669 still survive. Thanks to the work of Paul Slack and the Wiltshire Records Society, we can see these for ourselves (and some are included below).

Three Puritan Councillors, John Ivie, Matthew Bee and Henry Sherfield, came up with a plan which built upon, but improved, the usual practices of the time.


‘A Declaration’ written by John Ivie in old age, about the plans he had for Salisbury

Ivie: “There should be provided a storehouse. . . stored with wholesome provision for the poor as this year they have had it, which is, as I will prove, £100 saved in £300. And we would make certain tokens with the city arms in them. The tokens should be from a farthing to sixpence, and this money should be current nowhere but at the storehouse where they should have such diet as is fit for them, both for victual of bread, butter, cheese, fish, candles, faggots, and coals, and some butchers appointed to take their money for flesh if need be.”

They also set up a workhouse and arranged apprentices for poor children. But those from elsewhere were sent away…..Here are some more extracts from the register of passports which tell us of some desperate lives and tell us a little about life at the time.

William Harford, wandering and begging, was spared punishment because of his sickness. Passport to Bishopston ; 2 days assigned. By order of the Lord Chief Justice he has taken with him his wife and one child under the age of 7.

Phyllis Cooke, wandering and begging, was spared punishment because of impotence. Passport to Fovante; 3 days assigned.

Margaret Edwardes, an idle wandering person and vagrant, cannot declare where she was born but says that she dwelt at Havant, Hants, for two years with William Edwardes her uncle. Passport to Havant; 4 days assigned. 

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Joan Shereman, wandering and begging, was punished. Passport to Fornissfell, Lancs., where she was born; 50 days assigned. ll May 1598.  (Seven weeks to get home, on foot.)

Anne Hollowaye, begging, was punished. Passport to Fisherton Anger where she was born; this present day assigned for her passage. 26 May 1598 .

Robert Nelson was sent to this city from Hackney parish, Midx., with a passport made by the curate and constable there alleging that he was born in this city, but no mention is made in it that he was a rogue, vagrant, or begging or that he was punished according to the statute. Therefore Mr. Mayor and Mr. Bower, by a passport under their hands and seals, sent him back to Hackney again, since he dwelt there for 8 years past; 10 days assigned. 

Joan Grobbyn is to be whipped openly since she was lately delivered in St. Edmund’s parish Salisbury of a third bastard child, begotten upon her as she aflirms and confesses by one Thomas Wyatt, late servant to John Vaucher of Salisbury. She says that one Battyn, a joiner, deceased, is father of the first child, a son yet living, and that she does not remember the father of the second child, a daughter, because he was a stranger to her. Also she says that she had no punishment for the same.

23 August 1599 Richard Markham, an idle wandering person, is given a passport to Oxford where he has friends by whom he hopes to be relieved; 4 days assigned. He exercises a kind of music on bells in churches.

24 March 1601 Ralph Johnson, a vagrant, was found with Joan Maddocke in a kind of lewd life, alleging her to be his wife, which on examination appears untrue. They lived in this kind of lewd life about one month and met together in Hertfordshire. Passport for him to Bristol and from there to the sea coast and so to return to Ireland to serve again under Sir Francis Shane, one of her Majesty’s captains there; 14 days assigned to Bristol.

17 July 1601 Thomas Williams, a vagrant, was punished. Passport to Landalo Garsanno, Mon., where his dwelling is; 8 days assigned. He offered brass rings coloured with quick silver.

8 April 1605 Dorothy Grene alias Percye, a wanderer, was punished. Passport to Manson, Dors., where she says she was born; 3 days assigned. First she was found lying at the Lamb and so sent away without punishment and shortly after she came again and was taken and so had her passport. She is not able to give account of her life.

24 August 1605 Amy Moore, wandering, was spared her punishment because she is with child and near her time of delivery. She confesses that William Hardinge, son of Eleanor Hardinge, widow, of Mountague, Som., is the father of her child. Assigned 3 days to go to Chesselbury, Som., where she says she was born and lives.

3 January 1606 One naming herself Elizabeth Sherwood, wife of George Sherwood of St. Philip’s parish, Bristoll, was found wandering and because she is with child her punishment was spared. Assigned 5 days to go to Bristoll. She stole venison from Mr. Sidenham’s house.

3 August 1608 Alice Ingram, wife of John Ingram of Lymington, Hants, was found wandering and affirming herself to have the plague, and she runs into divers houses to the great terror of many people. She was punished. Assigned 3 days to go to Lymington to her husband.

The following ‘occupations’ were recorded on passports, in addition to those mentioned above:

…using a kind of play upon bones and bells;

…going about with a kind of stuff called black lead;

…having bells for his legs and using a kind of dancing;

…using divers false sleights and shifts;

…wandering and travelling with small wares as a chapman.


atr. to Jacques Belange




Answers to Last Week’s Quiz


Salisbury quiz (We told you it was difficult!)

  1. In which street was the home and school of historian Henry Hatcher? Endless St
  2. What is the modern name of the former ‘Drakehall Street’? Exeter St
  3. Where is the Joiners’ Hall? St Ann St
  4. Which Bishop built the Matrons’ College in the Close? Seth Ward
  5. On the Milford Street mural, what is the name of the pub that once stood there? The Crystal Fountain
  6. Who was the architect of Salisbury Cathedral? Elias de Dereham
  7. In which street were the Salisbury Library and Young Gallery before their move to their present home? Chipper Lane
  8. In which street is the building decorated with green tiles bearing the words ‘Salisbury Steam Laundry Ltd’? Salt Lane
  9. The surviving fragments of which building were incorporated into the foundations of the clock tower on Fisherton Street? The town gaol
  10. Who was the local antiquary who first thought of collecting and displaying the museum’s ‘drainage collection’? Dr Richard Fowler

The Crystal Fountain (photo SSWM)

There is a lovely transcript of a Ms Margary Bodger sharing her memories of The Crystal Fountain on the Milford Street Bridge Project website. Click here for more.

Those names…


8Last month I had a tentative look at common English surnames which have developed out of occupations, trades, crafts. Sons would frequently follow their fathers in trades and crafts, of course, so it was inevitable that the name of the occupation would follow down the family and eventually become their name regardless.

The question remained as to why the names of some trades and crafts didn’t become surnames and I suggested ‘Dresser’ as an example. This was the name sometimes given to the person whose task it was to finish or ‘dress’ the cloth:

Tucker (part of the finishing process for cloth, but we don’t have Dresser or Finisher. We do have Shearer, which probably means the person who used shears to trim and smooth cloth, rather than someone who cut off the fleeces).Taken from earlier blog.

Volunteer Rosemary Pemberton has spotted an exception:

“Surnames are fascinating aren’t they. But there is a surname Dresser. Christopher Dresser was a famous silversmith/designer of the Arts and Crafts period around 1900.”

Interestingly the name ‘Dresser’ may be more common in the United States, possibly because it may be an anglicised version of a German word* meaning ‘thresher’, and reflecting German immigration there. Thrashing the cloth around was part of the finishing process of cloth, to soften it. The English word ‘dress’ may, in turn, be derived from the German, in the sense that to put clothes on, or add vinegar and oil to a salad, are both ‘finishing’ touches….

Confused? The origin of words, and how they  ‘morph’ over time, is fascinating.

It would be lovely to hear from readers about the origin of their name, and also if anyone knows why some occupations became surnames and others did not (or were less popular).

  • ‘drescher’ – thresher of grain


Let’s get things moving…but please wear a mask!

From Rachel Coman’s (Volunteer Co-ordinator) email this week:

We welcomed 230 visitors on the first open weekend. It was a very positive experience and as a team we are learning each day. One of the changes we will see this coming weekend is it will be mandatory from Saturday 8 August to wear masks in museums. We feel most visitors will come prepared but we have planned for visitors who don’t have a mask or have an exemption.”


“The on-line version of the exhibition* will continue – and we do need some more help with our Instagram posts The list of the next museum objects are attached – please take a look and tell us what the objects mean to you. Please email your comments (approximately 100 words) to Thank you for your help!”

Most Volunteers cannot return to work in the museum yet, but let’s help get things moving! Visit if you can, to enjoy the great new exhibition (and join in with the on-line version – see above). Everything in the building is very well organised for the safety of visitors and staff.


THIS WEEK’S QUIZ Thank you Mary Crane!



laundrySalisbury quiz (difficult!)

  1. In which street was the home and school of historian Henry Hatcher?
  2. What is the modern name of the former ‘Drakehall Street’?
  3. Where is the Joiners’ Hall?
  4. Which Bishop built the Matrons’ College in the Close?
  5. On the Milford Street mural, what is the name of the pub that once stood there?
  6. Who was the architect of Salisbury Cathedral?
  7. In which street were the Salisbury Library and Young Gallery before their move to their present home?
  8. In which street is the building decorated with green tiles bearing the words ‘Salisbury Steam Laundry Ltd’?
  9. The surviving fragments of which building were incorporated into the foundations of the clock tower on Fisherton Street?
  10. Who was the local antiquary who first thought of collecting and displaying the museum’s ‘drainage collection’?

Keys from the ‘Drainage Collection’

Answers to last week’s quiz:

The Stuarts

  1. Who was known as “The Merry Monarch”? Charles II
  2. Who was the physician to Charles I who made discoveries about the circulation of the blood? William Harvey
  3. After Elizabeth I died there was an attempt to put another female o the throne. Who was she? Arabella Stuart
  4. What was the occupation of Orlando Gibbons and William Byrd? Musicians/composers
  5. Which architect was Surveyor to the Crown 1615 – 1642 and worked on the Banqueting House at Whitehall? Inigo Jones
  6. Who had illegitimate sons by Lucy Walter and Louise de Keroualle (amongst others!)? Charles II
  7. In 1685 the Duke of Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis in an act of rebellion – against which king? James II
  8. What office was held by Whitgift, Bancroft, Abbott and Laud in the !6th and 17th centuries? Archbishops of Canterbury
  9. Who was the last Stuart monarch? Queen Anne
  10. What word, from the 17th century, can follow “Rump” and “Barebones”? Parliament

The Merry Monarch


TSONDOKU by Volunteer Alan Crooks


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Tsondoku: the art of letting books pile up until you have time to read them (did we know there was a word for that?!)

Parallels between Defoe’s ‘Journal of the Plague Year’ and the Covid-19 Pandemic

By Volunteer Alan Crooks


The lockdown caused by the Covid -19 pandemic has inspired me to reach for a book which, in true tsondoku fashion, has been languishing on my bookshelves, unread, for over 40 years. This is Daniel Defoe’s ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’, which other columnists have already pointed out bears remarkable parallels with our current pandemic.

One similarity that I haven’t seen pointed out elsewhere as yet is the appearance of a comet which appeared in 1664, immediately before the outbreak of bubonic plague in London in 1665, as did another the following year before the Great Fire:

“In the first place, a blazing star or comet appeared for several months before the plague, as there did the year after another, a little before the fire. Ch.VIII.

Likewise, a comet, Comet Neowise, appeared unexpectedly in the northern sky in July, 2020. This was so unexpected that the BBC’s ‘Sky At Night’ magazine did not mention it in the section, ‘Comets and Asteroids’ in the July edition. This comet, officially known as C/2020 F3 was discovered on March 27, 2020 by NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting afterlife of the Wide-field Infra-Red Survey Explorer (WISE) space mission.



Comet Neowise over Salisbury Cathedral (from

Another parallel concerns the need to quarantine. The narrator of ‘Journal of the Plague Year’, H.F. had been appointed by the aldermen of Portsoken Ward as an examiner of the houses in the precinct where he lived. He had responsibility for separating those that were ‘sound’ from those that were sick, and Defoe writes:

“… but for the removal of those that were well, we thought it highly reasonable and just, for their own sakes, they should be removed from the sick, and that, for other people’s safety, they should be kept retired for a while, to see that they were sound, and might not infect others; and we thought twenty or thirty days enough for this.

Now, certainly, if houses had been provided on purpose for those that were sound to perform this demi-quarantine in, they would have much less reason to think themselves injured in such a restraint than in being cofined with infected people in the houses where they lived. Ch.LXV. ”

Certainly in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, potentially infected persons returning to the UK from overseas were quarantined in hotels for two weeks. However, with all the benefits of 20/20 hindsight, it is now clear that potentially-infected elderly patients should not have been discharged from hospitals back to their care-homes without a suitable period of quarantine in-between. That they were is a consequence of the fact that, early on, it had not been realised that there could be asymptomatic carriers of Covid-19. Here again Defoe is informative:

“Here also I ought to leave a further remark for the use of posterity., concerning the manner of people’s infecting one another; namely, it was not the sick people from whom the plague was immediately received by others that were sound, but the well. To explain myself, by the sick people I mean those who were known to be sick, had taken to their beds, had been under cure, or had swellings and tumours upon them, and the like.; these everybody could be aware of, they were either in their beds or in such condition as could not be concealed.

By the well, I mean such as had received the contagion, and had it really upon them, and in their blood, and yet did not show the consequences of it in their countenances; nay, even were not sensible of it themselves, as many were not for several days. These breathed death in every place, and upon everybody who came near them; nay, their very clothes retained the infection, their hands would infect the things they touched…. Ch. LXXIII.”

Nowadays with Covid-19, we are all too aware of the importance of social distancing and frequent hand-washing as the main means of protection. We understand that it is important to avoid touching our faces or our face-masks followed by a surface. I personally am concerned about the careless discard of potentially infected masks. Could these turn out to be Trojan horses?

Defoe writes,

“… for none knows when, or where, or how they may have received the infection, or from whom.

This I take to be the reason which makes so many people talk of the air being corrupted and infected, and that they need not be cautious of whom they converse with, for that the contagion was in the air.”

 It is worth noting that Defoe was writing this nearly 200 years before Pasteur formulated his ‘Germ Theory of Disease, 1862).

In The Journal one disturbed person exclaims,

“I have conversed with none but sound, healthy people, and yet I have gotten the distemper!”.  I am sure I am struck from Heaven”, says another… The first goes on exclaiming, “I have come near no infection or any infected person; I am sure it is in the air… there is no withstanding it”. And this at last made many people, being hardened to the danger, grow less concerned at it, being abandoned to the danger, grow less concerned at it, and less cautious towards the latter end of the time, and when it was come to its height, than they were at first… they could not escape it, and therefore they went boldly about, even into infected houses and infected company; visited sick people; and, in short, lay in the beds with their wives or relations when they were infected.. And what was the consequence…? Ch. LXXIV.”

Well, maybe it is this sort of fatalism which is causing people to flock to the beaches and other open spaces during the current pandemic, thus flouting social distancing rules. We may already be starting to see the potential consequences of this behaviour as there are already signs of an impending ‘2nd wave’ – the seven day rolling average of new infections has been creeping upwards since 13th July.

Thank you Alan. Thought-provoking stuff , with interesting evidence from history. It is perhaps reassuring to know that 1665 was the last outbreak of  bubonic plague in London:

A Journal of the Plague Year is a book by Daniel Defoe, first published in March 1722. It is an account of one man’s experiences of the year 1665, in which the bubonic plague struck the city of London in what became known as the Great Plague of London, the last epidemic of plague in that city.


The Museum is Open!




The Close and the museum in all their glory on Sunday.


Greeted on entry by a Volunteer who takes names and contact numbers. Hand sanitizer provided.





My new favourite watercolourist – Louise Rayner– whose 19th century paintings of Salisbury are wonderfully observed.


Maps, more views of old Salisbury and local characters. Something for everybody.

It was good to see a surprising number of people sitting or strolling, just enjoying the Close and wandering across to the museum. The Cafe has been very busy and Saturday saw at least one hundred visitors to The King’s House.

Well done to all concerned for getting things off the ground once more.


Poverty in Early Stuart Salisbury


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Continued research (one of the advantages of lockdown!) into the local textile industry in the Medieval and post Medieval periods has led to a scanned  copy, on line, of Wiltshire Records Society Vol XXXI with a wonderful transcription by Paul Slack of documents to do with ‘Poverty in Early Stuart Salisbury’.

We learn that, according to the vagrancy statute of 1598 “rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars over the age of 7, found ‘begging, vagrant, wandering, or misordering themselves’, were to be whipped by the order of any justice of the peace or constable and immediately sent back to their parish of birth, or, if that could not be discovered, to the place where they last lived for a year or more.” A statute of 1604 allowed branding of such people but most local authorities were reluctant to do this.


A vagrant being whipped

Although the punishment of beggars and vagrants may come as a shock to our enlightened views, the whole system was intended to be transparent and fair, with such characters generally treated in some kind of an appropriate way. In Salisbury in 1600 £187 was raised to give relief, distributed at Easter. In 1602 a workhouse for 12 people (on a short term basis) was built in St Thomas’ churchyard but it quickly became inadequate.


Salisbury then tried to work out a system of poor relief which it could afford (there was no central government support), and which offered some kind of opportunity to youngsters, as well as support for the sick and elderly. At the forefront of these efforts, particularly after the plague year of 1628, was sometime mayor of the city, John Ivie.

As Paul Slack says of the efforts of Ivie and the the local authority, “It is the aspiration rather than the final achievement which commands respect.”

Ivie, together with colleagues Matthew Bee and Henry Sherfield raised money from donations, church and ale-house collections, and fines for swearing, in order to build a re-modelled workhouse and to set up a store house (not unlike a modern food bank) where people could buy food and other essentials at cost price (using tokens to avoid misuse of distributed funds). They also set up a municipal brewery (in Milford Street) to create work. Meanwhile, local employers were canvassed to see who could offer apprenticeships to children. It was doomed to fail, unfortunately, perhaps too early for its time. Corruption, abuse of the system, a boycott of the brewery organised by other brewers and general hard times meant the system could not deal with the numbers involved.


A 17th C token from Salisbury

‘Strangers’ continued to be returned to their place of origin and Salisbury’s Register of these for the years 1598 – 1669 still survive. Thanks to the work of Paul Slack and the Wiltshire Records Society, we can see these for ourselves.

Here are a handful of the entries here, with more to come next week. The very first entry is:

20 April 1598 1. A passport is made unto Margery Lane, the daughter of William Lane of Humington in the county of Wilts., who was taken within this city as a vagrant person and hath had and received punishment of whipping according to the statute made in the last parliament in that behalf, by which passport she is appointed to go and travel to Homington aforesaid where she was born, there to be employed in work or otherwise as in the same statute is provided, and two days is assigned for her passage &c.

In each case the vagrant was given a fixed period of time to make the journey. It appears to have been, in most cases at least, the time it would take to walk there. Homington is out by Combe Bissett.

For some it was a long way indeed:

John Hall, a vagrant and idle person, a rogue and sturdy beggar, was punished. Passport to Corcke in Ireland where he was born; 20 days assigned.

Quite a few of the vagrants recorded were women:

Magdalen Lewes with her child, Parnell, aged 4 years, helping Margaret Evans, a sick woman, from King’s Somborne, Hants, to this city. Passport to Romesey, Hants, where she was born; 2 days assigned.

What distressing ‘backstories’ so many of these people must have had.