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Please see last week’s blog about the tunnel at Old Sarum.  

Alan writes “Regarding the Old Sarum tunnel, the museum has 51 of Austin’s photographs concerning the tunnel…Austin Underwood himself is in some of the photos!”

Notice the graffiti from decades before.  Notice also the dowser or diviner, with his ‘Y’ shaped branch. Diviners have been used to search for water, graves, mines and tunnels over the ages.  As recently as the 1960s the US army used them to seek out the enemy underground in Vietnam.  Presumably this gentleman was employed to try and follow the line of the Old Sarum tunnel under the walls.

If any local readers have any stories about these events, we should love to hear from you.


The City Story Project


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City Story: Historic Past, Creative Future

Exhibition at Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre and Wessex Gallery Showcase

The City Story: Historic Past, Creative Future project has been a great success with young people taking part in afterschool clubs, Saturday workshops for young carers and sessions for schools and colleges at the museum.

The 11 – 18 year olds have been working with inspiring local artists to explore the extraordinary objects in the museum’s Salisbury History and Costume collections.

They have learnt new skills in a variety of techniques including ceramics, printing, glass and painting with light on the museum’s unique Coo Var Glow Wall.

The museum has also been working with fashion and textile students from Wiltshire College to create a range of textile items inspired by the collections.

In October, an exhibition opened at the Five Rivers Health and Wellbeing Centre in Salisbury to celebrate the work of those taking part in the afterschool clubs as well as the project with Wiltshire College. The display shows the amazing art work that has been created by the young people.

The work of the young carers who have taken part in the programme of Saturday workshops at the museum is also being celebrated in the Wessex Gallery Showcase at the museum. A vibrant selection of the ceramics, textile and 2d art that has been created by these talented young people will be on display in the museum until January 2018.

City Story: Historic Past, Creative Future has been generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund Young Roots Grant.

Our own Katy England has been leading this project, with help from local artists and from a small group of Volunteers. Thanks and congratulations to all involved.

City Story 5 Rivers opening Oct 2017

The Ooser is Coming!


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More about him later.  Meanwhile….



After the success of the first Spotlight Loan tour from the Wessex Partnership we have decided to continue with our own spotlight tours. This second series of Spotlight Loans between the four leading museums (Dorset County Museum, The Salisbury Museum, Poole Museum and Wiltshire Museum) will focus on ‘Made in Wessex’.  Wessex has been a centre of making for thousands of years. The downland, heathland, rivers and coast of Wessex have shaped the making and use of artefacts, from ancient flints to contemporary ceramics. The new tours will tell the stories of Dorset and Wiltshire focusing on this tradition of making, and reveals some surprising and fascinating objects to illustrate the theme.

Our first spotlight loan will be four examples of Crown Dorset Pottery. The Crown Dorset Art Pottery was established by Charles Collard in Poole in 1905. The pottery produced was very similar to that of the Devon potteries where Collard had previously worked, although Collard also developed new styles.

The pieces you see in the image below are examples of Cottage Ware, produced for the tourist and cheaper end of the market in a range of shapes and sizes. These were usually decorated with country scenes and a motto in Dorset dialect, often quoting the Dorset poet William Barnes.

Between November 2017 and November 2018 you will see the following objects:

Crown Dorset Pottery (Poole Museum)

Dorset Ooser (It’s a mask! Dorset County Museum)

Wiltshire Moonrakers Plate (Wiltshire Museum)

The Tunnel at Old Sarum


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This story has been revived for us by Volunteer Alan Crooks who was, in turn, reminded of it on the recent SALOG visit to Old Sarum.

These are notes taken after reading a Salisbury Journal article by Austin Underwood, dated October 13 1988.

This blog is written on the 60th anniversary of the rediscovery of the tunnel (November 1957) by Austin Underwood and others.

Stonehenge 4

Site of collapse over part of tunnel today. Photo by Alan Crooks.

The tunnel was originally discovered in 1795, running from the outer bailey into the countryside on the north side of the site. Severe weather had caused a collapse near the sealed up entrance. Although the local farmer tried to discourage visitors, it became well known for a while and was much visited but was again sealed and largely forgotten until the 1950s when a group of local historians discovered it again.

The description in the Salisbury Journal article of that 1957 find is almost as exciting as that of Carter’s breaking through into Tutankhamun’s tomb. The men crawled in to the tiny entrance to the tunnel, despite their wives’ pleas not to, and in a way that health and Safety simply would not allow today.

They discovered a tunnel which was 7 feet wide in places. It was full of two hundred year old grafitti – much the same as any you would see today, reports Austin Underwood. After walking in for 57 feet they could go no further. Further exploration or conservation was out of the question as funds are never available.

The purpose of the tunnel, and indeed, who built it, is not known.  It could have been a sally port (allowing defenders to exit secretly and come up behind the attackers) or simply somewhere from which the castle’s inhabitants could retreat). It might have been built in Roman or Norman  times, probably not earlier.

Click here for a very detailed account of the archaeology and history of Old Sarum

Costume of the Week



An occasional series – highlighting some of the museum’s incredible collection of costume and the excellent work of our NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) Volunteers…

c 1852 Day Dress (a photo taken for cataloguing purposes only)


Described as “A long blue and cream plaid dress with three quarter length sleeves. Front fastening to the waist with three linen buttons. Cape attached at neck”

Sir Walter Scott’s novels of the early nineteenth century had romanticized life in the Scottish Highlands and he was a great advocate for all things Scottish.  The romantic image of clan members in kilts and maidens in fields of heather charmed English ladies, including Queen Victoria. Tartans became very popular. Balmoral, built by Victoria and Albert in 1853, was furnished exclusively in tartans – carpets, curtains, upholstery – and Victoria herself wore tartans.


Queen Victoria in tartan


Bridget Goes To London


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Last week, our Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridge Telfer, went to the British Museum for the week as part of the Knowledge Exchange programme that the British Museum runs. The exchange allows the sharing of knowledge and skills between organisations and in turn organisations gain new ideas and experience. Bridget had a fantastic week at the museum learning how they manage their team of c 600 volunteers! And next week Salisbury Museum is hosting the British Museum’s Volunteer Manager Francesca Goff. Read Bridget and Francesca’s blogs over the next few weeks….

SALOG VISIT by Volunteer Alan Crooks


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SALOG Volunteers’ Visit to Old Sarum and Stonehenge Visitor Centre

Just before the museum closed for the day one evening in mid-October, I was intrigued to see Professor Mike Parker-Pearson of the Stonehenge Riverside Project deep in conversation with somebody in the café. My curiosity was satiated the following day when watching BBC TV ‘South Today’ during which it was reported that he was due to open a new exhibition at the Stonehenge Visitors Centre,  ‘Feast! Food at Stonehenge’, which invites visitors to explore the diet and lifestyle of the people that built Stonehenge; and the culture, rituals and identity of food in prehistory (see photos of reconstructed buildings at Stonehenge, below).


This was the subject of the second part of a SALOG Volunteers social afternoon on Monday 30th October.

On arrival at the Stonehenge Visitors Centre, Volunteers from Salisbury Museum, Wiltshire Museum, English Heritage, the National Trust and Wessex Archaeology were given time to mingle and to enjoy coffee and biscuits before being given a ten minute introduction to the exhibition by the Interpretation Officer, Hannah Brown. We were then allowed to explore the exhibition at leisure.

By way of background, the objective of the Stonehenge Riverside Project was to examine the relationship between the Stonehenge stones and surrounding monuments and features, including the River Avon, Durrington Walls, the Cursus, the Avenue, Woodhenge, and various burial mounds, and nearby standing stones. The main aim of the project was to test the hypothesis that Stonehenge was a monument dedicated to the dead, whilst Woodhenge & Durrington Walls, two miles away, were monuments to the living and more recently deceased.

It is believed that the builders of Stonehenge settled in nearby Durrington Walls in the 25th century B.C. and excavations of this site have revealed an abundance of food waste, stone tools and pottery, which are thus available for analysis.

From these artifacts, scientists have been able to show that our ancestors were bringing animals from as far away as Scotland, some 500 miles away, suggesting that Stonehenge was an important site known right across Britain at this time, and that people were travelling these sorts of distances in order to participate both in the building of the monument, which occurred in several phases, and in midwinter feasts. Some discussion ensued as to the logistics of driving animals these distances, and the time it would take.

As a chemist, I was particularly interested in the techniques used to establish these facts. For example, animal bones can be identified by inspection and it is clear that our Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge were deriving meat from a variety of sources: cattle, pigs, sheep and goats. The distances travelled were established by analysing the ratios of strontium isotopes in their teeth by the technique of Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy. Strontium compounds, which mimic calcium compounds and therefore enter animals’ teeth, are present in the soil and enter the animals through the food chain. The particular ratios of strontium isotopes identified reflect the underlying geology where the animal once lived. As a chemist and, latterly a chemistry teacher, I was impressed by the clarity of the diagrams used to illustrate these points, and would have been delighted to have had this example and diagram illustrate this analytical technique (Fig 1).

Stonehenge 1

Figure 1. Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy of strontium compounds in animals’ teeth

Another point of interest for me was the fact that Neolithic people were lactose-intolerant, and had to turn milk into products such as cheese and yoghurt before consumption (Fig 2 below):

This reminded me of a particularly popular experiment I devised for Key Stage 3 Science students, where we used rennet to curdle milk to make junket. We flavoured the product with strawberries and were able to consume it afterwards, having taken appropriate H&S precautions during the preparation. Again, this would have been a useful illustration to have used at the time.

Stonehenge 2

Preparation of yogourt

Earlier there  was a visit to the inner bailey at Old Sarum.


Being only a mile from my home I am very familiar with this site. Nevertheless, some new things were brought to my attention, for example a ‘mason’s mark’ on a stone block in the east range of the courtyard house (Fig 3).

Stonehenge 3

A question was asked and some discussion ensued about the little-known tunnel which once existed through the northern rampart, the site of which is still visible (Fig 4).

Stonehenge 4

The English Heritage ‘Old Sarum’ guidebook tells us that this tunnel was first discovered in 1795. This discovery was recorded in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ of February 2nd, 1795. Following this, the tunnel was much visited by members of the public for several years before being re-sealed in 1822.

The tunnel was re-excavated in 1957 by the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (now Department of the Environment)  assisted by members of the archaeology section of the Salisbury and District Field Club, including Davids Algar, Sanders and Truckle, during which, among other things, examples of dated 18th Century obscene Anglo-Saxon graffiti were found.

Nobody is quite sure who built this tunnel, or for what reason. Its construction was apparently beyond the skills of Iron Age Man, but various people have speculated that it was built by the Romans or the Normans. One theory, which was also that espoused by our EH Guide during this visit, is that it was a ‘sally-port’ to enable an enemy force to be attacked from the rear or, if the city were besieged, to provide a means of escape from it.

A fuller description of this tunnel and the 1957 excavation can be found in The [Salisbury] Journal of 13th October, 1988, ‘’Old Sarum’s Secret Tunnel’ .

SALOG vols together 30.10 (37)

 By Volunteer Alan Crooks Monday 30th October 2017

It Is Hard to Pick the Stand Out Pieces


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The second part of Shannan’s moving piece about the Terry Pratchett: HisWorld exhibition…

It’s hard to pick the stand out pieces in the exhibit because there were just too many. I was overjoyed to see Terry’s hat. Terry’s hat! There it was, in a glass case. I was centimetres from it. The recreation of his office was brilliant. I loved seeing the six computer monitors and the cat bed cut in to the desk. It was amazing to hear a woman gasp as she saw one of the crocheted Terry dolls she had made sitting on the bookshelf.

With Terry's Hat

I marvelled at all of Paul Kidby’s paintings and drawings. What fascinated me most about seeing these artworks up close is just how much detail you can soak in. You can see every brush stroke, every pencil line, even the fibres in the canvas. I picked up so many details that I’ve never noticed before when looking at the prints in The Art of Discworld by Paul Kidby. I never noticed that Death was carrying kitten in his robe as he rode out with the other horsemen of the apocalypse.  Another show stopper was the fact that some of these paintings were gigantic. Some took up entire walls. Again, when you’re only used to seeing them on pages of an art book or prints on a greeting card to see them in real life, in actual size, is mind boggling.

Pieces that pulled at the heart were the pieces that highlighted Terry’s plight with Alzheimer’s. The test sheets show how his ability to see, read, write and draw was deteriorating. Not far from these sheets was the destroyed hard drive that held unfinished Discworld novels. Personally, I was happy to read that it was destroyed in line with his wishes. It also meant that the Discworld is now complete. It’s nice to know that whatever stories Terry had planned are for him to keep.  No other author is going to take those ideas and try to continue the series. Discworld without Terry is like a decadent cake without the chocolate ganache icing; and where’s the fun in eating that?

With Paul and Rob

With Paul and Rob

It was the most amazing experience to meet Rob and Paul. They were so lovely and so generous of their time. Rob even offered me his seat so I could give Paul a closer look at my sleeve. They signed my museum book and the Granny Weatherwax notebook my mum bought me for my 30th birthday that I was using as my travel journal. I was also lucky to get a few photos.

Playing dress ups - Salisbury Museum

I was at the museum from 10am and didn’t leave until well after 3pm. The exhibition was absolutely incredible and the whole team at Salisbury Museum are so lovely and really looked after me.


After leaving Salisbury and a packed tour of brilliant museums in London, I joined a tour that took us through parts of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and Wales. As much as I loved the tour I found there was too much time on the bus and not enough time exploring. So, I now think of the tour as a ‘taster’ and have made notes of places I’d like to visit again with more time. Most of all I loved the history and lush green landscape. The country towns were adorable and it was brilliant to be able to walk through them. I loved walking over the cobbled streets and seeing buildings that are older than Australia’s colonisation.

I had a wonderful time in the UK. I achieved more than I ever thought I would and the experiences I’ve had will never be forgotten. Some people say that you “find” yourself when you travel. I don’t think that I found myself but I did learn that even with the depression, the anxiety and OCD, I really can do anything and I can do it all by myself.

Shannan Rodda

17 October 2017

Thank you


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It is always nice to receive thanks, and to have some feedback….

Thank you for a super afternoon on Monday.  The information gained added to what we already knew, and Stonehenge Visitors’ Centre displays were particularly interesting.  I know from talking to others that our “work” as Engagement Officers has already been enhanced by Monday’s experiences, and additional information given to visitors at Salisbury Museum has been appreciated.  These days out also enable us to meet up with other volunteers, which is great!

From a Salisbury Museum Volunteer