Volunteer Coffee Mornings


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Salisbury Museum 22ndJuly17 - Photo by Ash Mills

Come along on

Tuesday 3 July or Wednesday 4 July 10.30am – noon.

Tea, coffee and cake will be served and the Learning Team will be giving a talk entitled: Thinking outside the classroom.

More details from Bridget: bridgettelfer@salisburymuseum.org.uk    01722 332151



Volunteers’ Week



An eye-opening visit to Wessex Archaeology



Exquisite Mompesson House



A special tour and talk on ceramics from Rosemary Pemberton



The Cathedral generously opens its archives



Arundells opens its doors

A wonderful week. Thank you.

Hanah and the Kettle


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Hannah Turton cropped

Work experience at the Salisbury museum – Hanah Turton

From Monday 4 June to Saturday 9 June 2018 I participated in work experience at Salisbury Museum. The experience has helped develop my understanding and knowledge of history in the Salisbury area.

The volunteers were extremely friendly, helpful and accommodating. The opportunity to talk to a variety of volunteers with different interests contributed a broad range of information about artefacts, archaeology and architecture. We also had the opportunity to delve into some of the costume collection with the help of one of the volunteers. Having access to the costume stores was so enthralling, especially when seeing all the beautiful lace wedding dresses and accessories.

In addition to the magnificence of the costume archive, we were able to participate in National Volunteers’ Week at Salisbury Museum and attended a variety of activities including a ceramics talk; and visits to Mompesson house, Arundells, Salisbury Cathedral library and archive and Wessex Archaeology. The week was full of so many interesting activities and events, all due to the organising and planning of the Salisbury Museum.

While here, Hanah was asked what was her favourite object…

The Old Sarum Kettle was first highlighted to me by volunteer Paul Marsh whilst on a spotlight tour of the museum. This first account of the peculiar object ignited a fascination in its origin and history. The earthenware ceramic pot is a peculiar shape that contrasts immensely with the modern-day kettle. By delving into the information and resources that the museum provides, I was able to gain a detailed explanation of what made this kettle so riveting.  Due to the advancement of technology, it is possible to accurately identify where the kettle originated. It did not come from the medieval City of Salisbury but the North African country of Morocco! The Old Sarum Kettle was first introduced to Watson’s of Salisbury in the 19th Century, and he presumed the kettle to have been from Old Sarum, oblivious to the true origin. Thereafter, Watson’s of Salisbury commissioned Doulton of Lambeth to recreate and mass produce the “Old Sarum” Kettle. Over 140,000 “Old Sarum” kettles were sold by Watson’s of Salisbury between 1889 and 1921. One copy of the Old Sarum Kettle is a small porcelain kettle that displays Salisbury City’s coat of arms which was created by W.H Goss (this is also on display at the Salisbury museum alongside various other imitations).

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An Old Sarum Kettle

South Wilts Grammar Student Enjoys Museum


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I’d like to introduce myself – Erica Humbey, keen Classicist with aspirations of a full and colourful future, and I am currently coming to the end of studying in Year 12 at South Wilts Grammar School. Taking exams in Latin, English Literature and Maths and with interests in Music and Ancient Greek, the museum may not seem at first glance the obvious place for me. It has been a week of revelations and endless opportunities!

Hanah (another student) and I worked alongside individual volunteers every day of the week, each of whom have been equally welcoming, generous, patient and interested in our affairs and plans for the future. Doing this has cemented in my mind how utterly invaluable such volunteers are to the existence of the museum. A fitting realisation for National #VolunteersWeek!

Incidentally, we were extremely fortunate to join the museum on this week as we were able to accompany groups of volunteers on a behind-the-scenes insight into many organisations in and around Salisbury: Salisbury Cathedral, Arundells, Mompesson House and Wessex Archaeology.

The museum:

We were first presented with the ceramics collection and inspected a small number of pieces of commemorative ware. Under the guidance of volunteer Roy Wilde we improved our eye for ceramics and gained a basic understanding of the process of cataloguing. Later in the week a talk from ceramics enthusiast Rosemary Pemerbeton illustrated the breadth and depth of the collection so that we understood the significance of the pieces standing in front of us.

In the afternoon it was our pleasure to be conducted around the museum by volunteer Paul Marsh for a tour in which Paul talked with us about particular features within the museum. One’s visit can be greatly enhanced by singular focus on individual items. It brings to life the stories behind them which roll beyond stagnant objects in a case (although due to expert curatorship Salisbury Museum’s displays are anything but stagnant). We heard about the museum building, the King’s House, the history of which makes it not just enclosing walls but an artefact in itself. We also discussed the tender and charming image of writer Edith Olivier in the selection of Rex Whistler’s paintings facing the windows into the courtyard. Shadowing volunteer Catherine Hazard the following day assured me that any visitor could gain valuable insights from an Engagement Volunteer on their meander around the museum, and feel as personally inspired by the museum as I did.

With volunteer Anne Oaten we spent some time in the costume stores and catalogued a number of items as well as tracked down a set of artefacts which will be on display in an exhibition at Mompesson House next March. These two items, a dress and matching shoes, have a story which I rather like and I look forward to seeing the fully formed exhibition next year. As well as giving us the opportunity to help her with cataloguing Anne encouraged us to spend time in the costume store rooms which are filled to bursting with rails of hanging garments: an unparalleled opportunity! We satisfied our eyes with ornate fabrics, working smocks and wedding dresses as well as children’s wax dolls and a set of old Bishops Wordsworth’s school uniform which was a particular surprise as the school is so familiar to me!


A Child’s Doll – about 4 inches tall

Costume store

The Costume Store – rails of intrigue!

More from Erica next time…..

The Bronze Age Axes




Salisbury Museum PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) Volunteers enjoyed an exciting day of training last week. We have met James Dilley, of Ancient Craft, before, trying out flint knapping, but this was even better. Making a replica of a Bronze Age axe.

On an initially rather disappointingly grey day we gathered early on the lawn behind the main museum building to find James ready for us with bellows already ramping up the temperature in a small furnace.


We were shown how to prepare a two piece mould from green sand (which was actually red) with care being taken to pack the sand properly to avoid problems which could include the whole thing blowing up. The required impression in the sand was created by placing an axe head (one made earlier!) within the sand and removing it before placing the mould close to the furnace to take the melted metal.

With the furnace at around 1200c, bellows being patiently pumped by one of our number, the mix of 9 parts copper to one part tin, placed in a crucible nestling in the charcoal, was poured into the mould. Glowing white, silver, yellow and red, the molten bronze quickly filled and then overflowed the mould. Within moments, it was cool enough to pull the two pieces of the mould apart (with gloves) and to pick out the already solid axe head with tongs, dropping it carefully into water in an iron pot nearby. Hissing and bubbling followed, but again, within moments, it was cool enough to pull out by hand. What magic for us, and what magic it must have been for our forebears four and a half thousand years ago.




The process was not, of course, exactly the same for us as it would have been for Bronze Age peoples. For them, the whole business of obtaining and transporting the right ore, extracting the copper (probably in Britain it mostly came from Ireland) and the tin (Cornwall) and experimenting endlessly with the right proportions, building furnaces that worked, finding the right materials for moulds, and so on, must have been testing. But worth it. And for us, we learnt so much about how and why the historic artefacts we receive and record might sometimes have had imperfections in them, how decorative features would have been achieved, why sometimes it went horribly wrong, how the axe heads were fixed to handles, how they were sharpened, polished.

We also understood, more than ever before, why these objects were apparently close to sacred to the people at the time. The ones we made were pretty special to each one of us.

TATE BRITAIN by Volunteer Christine Mason


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Christine and Nicola Trowell

Aspire Partner Seminar – Tate Britain, Friday 1st June 2018

Tate Britain hosted a full day seminar involving all the partners in the five year project, Aspire,  surrounding John Constable’s 1831 painting, ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’, and its journey round the UK.

Salisbury Museum was represented by Adrian Green, Louise Tunnard, Nicola Trowell (Aspire Trainee), and later in the day Katy England, and exhibition stewards Chris Frost and Chris Mason.  Getting its priorities right, the Tate first served a buffet lunch in the elegant Grand Saloon of sandwiches and salads, which gave everyone the opportunity to circulate, renew acquaintances among the Tate staff, meet representatives from the other centres and look at the two screens showing a continuous film of scenes from all the locations, including, of course, our own contemporary shot of the water meadows from Constable’s viewpoint with the sheep behaving very nicely.

The first session was open discussion, chaired by Caroline Collier, around four topics, the first being the Aspire Vision, the aim of which had been to equate Constable with Turner as the major figure in 19th century British landscape painting, and to bring new audiences to view the iconic painting.  The painting’s first location was the national Museum of Wales, Cardiff, and it was also shown at the visitor centre of Oriel y Parc, St David’s Pembrokeshire, where it caused great interest as visitors to the National Park, had not expected to see such a painting there, and queried if it was the REAL thing, but returned in their thousands for another view.  Salisbury had the advantage of being the actual spot where it was created, which made for a powerful experience, and the reproduction in Lego brought in a whole new audience.  The Scottish National Gallery was the only other partner to pursue the Lego theme, and removed a painting to accommodate it, which caused complaints by regular visitors to the gallery, but that was resolved by putting the Lego in the gallery’s foyer.

The second topic was Partnership Working, with everyone in agreement that it was successful, partly as five was a manageable number with which to work together.  Ipswich and Colchester felt they had moved to a new level of knowledge and new skills, after having had hard work convincing their Council of the worth of having the painting.

Thirdly, Workforce Participation was the subject, and it was widely agreed that the partnership had shown how to work in different situations, with different colleagues, with the benefit of others’ expertise, and all learnt from one special painting.

The last section of this session was devoted to how, over the five years of the project, changes have occurred in staffing, building works, organisational priorities, etc. and what lessons could be learnt from running a five year programme.

Tate trip 2

After a cup of tea and biscuit the second session was a panel discussion, again under four headings, with representatives from each partnership giving a short account beginning with Star Works and Tourism. Ipswich and Colchester Museums, based at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich, felt they were rather off the beaten track of tourists, so they needed the local community to visit regularly , and having a ‘star work’ helped this aim. The Welsh National Park was in agreement with this, and said how much the painting had caused conversation and brought in locals.  Salisbury said to isolate a star work from its usual surroundings made it shine.

In the marketing section Tate said the ambitious project had exceeded all targets, and all participating had done well in bringing in new audiences.  Salisbury said to help achieve this all schools in the area had been sent flyers and the Lego had brought many families in as they had actually been engaged in putting in the tiles.

Under Access Training there had been Visual Awareness sessions headed by the Tate.  Cardiff had done and continued to do work with the visually impaired and had a guide dog blogger.

The fourth subject in this session was the all important subject of curating Constable, which had been organised differently by each partner for their own particular venue.  As Ipswich has a collection of early Constable paintings of his home ground, these were grouped with the Salisbury Cathedral painting.  Scotland teamed it with works by William McTaggart, 1835-1910, Scottish landscape painter, who as Constable was to Suffolk and Salisbury, McTaggart was to Kintyre.   Tate Britain has taken it back to its original Royal Academy hanging of 1831 and it has one wall to itself, but Turner either side of it.

The next move was to view Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows in its shiny new frame and hanging in splendid isolation, but with the Turners nearby.  The meeting then shifted to the Clore part of the building for a luxurious celebratory tea, with champagne and a welcoming address from the Tate Britain Director and a representative from the Art Fund.

The final session of the day was in the Clore Auditorium and a short film of the reframing of the painting.  The Tate’s framer, Adrian Moore, and two young members of staff were in the film and present for the discussion after.  It was decided to reframe the painting as the previous frame was in the style of the early 18th century, so would not have been what Constable himself would have used.  The current frame is a design that would have been familiar to Constable in 1831.  The film showed the plain wooden frame, the mouldings being attached and the gold leaf applied, a lengthy and painstaking business.

Three of the four Aspire Trainees, including our own Nicola Trowell, then spoke of how the training had helped them further their careers, and all felt the educational part rewarding.

After a summing up, we were invited to enjoy ourselves at Late at the Tate.  The Tate’s young people groups were in the galleries with creative workshops, music, etc., Aspire themed.  We had been given vouchers for the street café, which had opened in the Tate’s café, and we relaxed with a delicious supper and glass of wine outside on the terrace.

It was a wonderful day, and brilliantly organised by the Tate, but of course we couldn’t leave without saying, ‘Hello’ to our very own Rex Whistler’s self portrait which hangs at the entrance to the restaurant he decorated so beautifully.

It Will Be a Treat!


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Alan Clarke is well known to us here on the Volunteer blog. He is a regular contributor, treating us to his observations of the fascinating detail in some of the photographs in the museum collection.

Now join him for his talk, which will be a real treat, in the Lecture Hall, on Thursday 7 June at 6.30pm. The Salisbury Museum holds an incredible archive of old images. These include the Salisbury Journal photographic negatives archive dating back to 1953, and 60,000 negatives which form The Austin Underwood collection. Photographer, museum volunteer and blogger, Alan Clarke will talk about how the image collection has been scanned, recorded and ordered, and the work that remains to be completed. In the process of putting the archive into order, some fascinating images have been unearthed and this is a unique opportunity to see these. Discover how this vast resource is being used and the search techniques available.

ArchFest 18


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The Festival of Archaeology programme has now been published. We hope you have the dates in your diaries and will be here, either looking after our visitors, supporting the show people and speakers, or simply enjoying the Festival.


It is always a great day out for families, with the living history displays and craft activities very popular with the young. We have quality speakers again, and a superb range of topics.

Dr Ellen Royrvik will talk about our disputed Viking heritage. This is very much in the news at the moment. Fans of Lindsey Davis’ Falco novels will be thrilled to meet her and hear her talk about her work and tell us about a whole new series of books. Richard Osgood, frequently appearing on TV as a result of his involvement with military veterans’ archaeological work and with digs within battle sites, will be bringing a tank (sort of..) and talking about excavating WWI tanks at Bullecourt.

Alex Hildred will be speaking about the Mary Rose. Have you been to the new Mary Rose museum at Portsmouth? Not to be missed! Nathalie Barrett from the University of Winchester will be telling us about the famous Pitt-Rivers landscape models, many of which are in our museum with one or two on display in the Wessex Gallery. They are beautiful, as well as functional,  representations of his excavations.

Dr Louise Love and Prof Margaret Cox will tell the story of a joint Australian and British government mission to recover soldiers from mass graves in France. We have, sadly, become used to the dead being flown back from battlefields, but it was not so one hundred years ago. Scientific and historical research to identify the soldiers led to their being interred in new Commonwealth graves.

A great friend of the museum, Dr David Roberts, will be here to talk about his work with Historic England on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This topic  is always fascinating as we continue to struggle to understand this exciting landscape which we all call home. And every time we excavate, we find more. And we find more questions!

Finally, we welcome back more friends of the museum – Dr Phil Harding, with Lorraine Mepham, and Dr Alex Langlands. Phil will be digging outside the historic cafe building and speaking about his findings on the Sunday, while Alex and his team will be in the museum all weekend showing and talking about the fruits of their 2017/18 work at Old Sarum.

Salisbury Museum 22ndJuly17 - Photo by Ash Mills

Phil and his ‘dig’ 2017 (during a brief dry spell!)                  Photo: Ash Mills

Pause to consider how lucky we are to have the opportunity to meet and listen to professionals of this calibre, speaking about cutting edge archaeology and historical research, All on one weekend.