Just Published! Volunteer Sue Allenby…


, ,

Just published is a novel written by one of our volunteers to give to Salisbury for the 800th anniversary of its founding in 1220.   Elias: a story of the founding of Salisbury – the cathedral and the city together – is based on historical research from the sparse source material available. Sue Allenby is also able, however, to draw conclusions from other architectural projects with which Elias of Dereham was involved, as well as from all that would have influenced the lives of those people in the story.  

Sue writes this novel with real and imagined characters, their outlook and thinking distinctly thirteenth century, showing that the resilience and optimism of this lovely city was there right from the beginning. The museum’s own drainage collection is a testament to life in the medieval city, and the crafts and skills and  willingness to innovate is celebrated today in the Salisbury gallery in our museum. The King’s House itself, of course, is a significant part in the history of The Cathedral Close.  Together with the cathedral, the museum will benefit from profits from the novel.

Sue Allenby at the recent launch of her novel.

A wonderful undertaking and generous gift to cathedral and museum!


Super Speaker: Simon Cleggett


, , ,

Volunteer Event

Monday 25 November: Collections in Focus talk

Times 10.30am-12pm

Simon Cleggett, from Wessex Archaeology, will be giving a fascinating talk entitled ‘Wonderful things: the army basing programme and the Stonehenge Landscape’. This is a repeat of the wonderful talk that Simon gave at this year’s Festival of Archaeology.  For five years, Wessex Archaeology has excavated Bulford, Larkhill and Tidworth in preparation for the Army Basing Programme. International media has followed the discovery of henges, a causewayed enclosure, Neolithic pits, prehistoric burials, Anglo Saxon burial grounds, a WWI practice battlefield and WWII anti-tank devices. Simon’s talk details the revelation of some truly wonderful things.

There is no need to RSVP for either the above talk. Please just turn up on the day.

I recall the excited reaction of those who attended this talk at ArchFest in July. A brilliant speaker and thoughtful and sensitive archaeologist… If you didn’t hear Simon speak then, grab this opportunity next month.



, ,

I have written before about how I find it astonishing the extent to which my previous careers as a research scientist and science (chemistry) teacher interdigitate with my post-retirement role as an Engagement Volunteer here at the museum.

Such an occasion occurred again a fortnight ago as I was attending the Salisbury Playhouse production of ‘Breaking The Code’, concerning the life and work of the codebreaker, Alan Turing. I attended this out of interest following a recent visit to Bletchley Park with Sarum U3A. Also, last year, whilst on a P&O cruise to the Baltic, I attended a series of five ship-board lectures on Bletchley Park (or ‘Station X’ ) by a guest speaker who is a Guide there.

Partway through the second half of the play it was mentioned that Turing’s colleague at Bletchley Park, Dillwyn Knox (‘Dilly’) had had a homosexual relationship with the author and biographer, Lytton Strachey. As a scientist, I’d never heard of Lytton Strachey until his portrait was exhibited in the ‘Henry Lamb – Out of the Shadows’ exhibition at Salisbury Museum last year. This left me wondering how Dilly Knox had come to meet Lytton Strachey.

 ‘Google’ helped me out by informing me that he was the brother of the crypotographer, Oliver Strachey. Oliver Strachey had been in the Government Code and Cypher School between the Wars and in 1934, together with Hugh Foss, he broke the Japanese naval attaché machine cipher. In World War II, he was at Bletchley Park,  heading the ISOS section deciphering various messages on the Abwehr network involved with turned German agents (part of the Double Cross system).

Another such occasion occurred last week when I was fortunate enough to be ‘on shift’ when one gallery of the current ‘Trinity Buoy Wharf Drawing Prize’ exhibition opened a day early. Immediately facing one as one walks in is a vivid blue drawing entitled ‘Ghost Nets’ (Frances Gynn, 2019). Although I’d never heard the phrase ‘ghost nets’ before, I immediately perceived these as fishing nets which could entrap marine species. Later that week I was watching the BBC1 TV ‘Countryfile’ programme, which contained a lengthy section on marine plastic pollution – including ghost nets. These are indeed fishing nets which have been discarded or lost in the ocean by fishermen. They are often nearly invisible in the dim light and can be left tangled on a rocky reef or drifting in the open sea. These can trap fish which die, thus attracting scavengers which will also get entangled, thus creating an escalating problem. Lost fishing gear, or so called ‘ghost gear’, is now among the greatest killers in our oceans.

Fig 1. Ghost Nets ((Frances Gynn, 2019))

In this same exhibition I was particularly attracted to ‘Love Hurts’ by Fiona G. Roberts. This depicts 147 women who had been killed (murdered) by their partners during the 12 months of 2018. Their faces appear as pictograms in a horizontal bar graph for each of the 12 months. Thus one can see that 13 women were killed in January. The joint most number of women (16) were killed in the months of May and August. One can see that these women are of different ethnicities, colour, religion (i.e. one is wearing a muslim head-dress), one is wearing spectacles… So, the scientist in me wants to sub-categorise these to find out if one particular type of women falls victim in any particular month or season… . For me, this made a link with a current major BBC Radio 4 series called ‘The Art of Innovation’ which explores the overlaps between the sciences and the arts. As was said during one such episode, “Both science and art need imagination to move forward. As the sciences become more theoretical and conceptual, art explores scientific thinking in areas that exceeds the limits of what we can perceive”

Fig 2.  Love Hurts (Fiona G. Roberts, 2019)

Bags of handbags…



Amongst our Costume Collection are a variety of dress accessories, including handbags…

They all have a story; fashions may have changed, but most early examples are just beautiful to look at. And knowing how they were made is sometimes jaw dropping!

We will explore some of the stories, and who were the famous owners of some of the bags, another time. Meanwhile, enjoy a sample.

All these bags and purses date to the mid 19th century and are therefore nearly two hundred years old. This one was manufactured in such a way as to have a three dimensional pattern on it. This isn’t printed fabric, there are rectangular cells all over the surface.

This gloriously blue bag has an outer ‘shell’ created from thread made from grasses!

This elegant bag is velvet and the foliate decoration is made of tiny slivers of horn.

And finally for today, an ingenious purse. It is made up fabric cut and sewn in a single sausage shape, with sliding rings which can form and separate and keep secure, two pouches for coins. It could be held in a simple way, in the hand, wrapped around the wrist, or tucked into a belt. Why doesn’t someone re-invent it for youngsters who don’t know what to do with their handbags on the dance floor…?

Thank you to the Costume ladies, who promise more on this later.

Tudor Music

Looking forward to our Tudor Christmas? There will be falcons, costume, the ‘feast’, decorations and music. If you would like a taster of the latter, you might be interested in the late Tudor/early Baroque music by Maniera, Wednesday 30 October, part of Celebrate Voice in Salisbury.

The Wilsons Piccolo Theatre, to be set up in Guildhall Square, 25 October – 2 November will bring us everything from opera to jazz, A Cappella to folk music.

Maniera is fronted by Sophie Brumfitt, daughter of Salisbury Museum Costume Volunteer Sarah Brumfitt. Sophie is a well-known singer of period music. Together with two colleagues, who will perform on period instruments, the work of Barbara Strozzi, a daughter of early 17th century Venice.

Go to www.celebratevoice.co.uk or the City Hall Box Office for tickets.

Update on Sarum St Michael Degree Ceremony 2/3/20

For Volunteers with very old links with 65 The Close (ex-students of The College of Sarum St Michael), we have this request from our contact:

” If you haven’t already registered and are experiencing any difficulties with the process could you please try to contact Winchester University by email in the first instance (not by phone). They have their own graduation ceremony over the next two weeks and are obviously very busy with that. 
Also they have asked us to remind everyone that the number on the back page of the brochure is incorrect. 
It SHOULD be  01962 827561
The recipient of the wrong number is receiving large numbers of calls and is of course unable to help. 
Many thanks”

The deadline for Registration is the end of November. Please don’t leave it too long!

Costume Project Volunteers



From our collection

Costume Project Volunteers are invited to come along for a project catch-up and tea, coffee and cake on:

Wednesday 20 November from 2pm til 3.30pm.

Katy England would like to discuss the exciting next steps with the ‘Look Again; Discovering Centuries of Change’ project. There will also be an opportunity to discuss other costume cataloguing issues.

Please can you let Bridget know if you are able to attend.

Volunteer Coffee Mornings and Latest News of Plans…


Onward and upward (photo by Sue Martin)

Adrian Green, Director, will be giving a talk ‘Salisbury Museum for Future Generations: Heritage Fund Success’ on Thursday 17 October and Tuesday 22 October at 10.30am, and there will be coffee and cake too!

The future of the museum is important to us all and the exciting plans to develop the museum after our successful bid to NLHF will affect all Volunteers. This will be an opportunity to share thoughts and ideas as well as hear plans.

No need to RSVP – just come along.

Christmas is Coming…




Last Thursday saw another happy and productive workshop; preparation for the museum’s Tudor Christmas. In total, more than twenty Volunteers were involved over two days last week, some attending both days.

We don’t want to give away too much, but beautiful foliage, mouthwatering ‘food’ and gorgeous hangings were produced. Please put 14 December in your diaries now!