Intriguing Items



The Spotlight Loan programme of the Wessex Group of Museums (of which Salisbury Museum is one) has been intriguing for its choice of objects. Each of the five museums involved has contributed just one item to the tour.

So far we have seen three. Last year we had the Tibetan teapot from the Russell Coates Museum in Bournemouth, more recently the Poole Pottery plate with its seaplane motif from Poole Museums. Each item tells part of the story of the town, and is in its way iconic of the place. We could have fun trying to do the same thing for our own home town or somewhere we visit on a holiday..what single item is there in the local museum which could be said to speak for the place over the ages?


Currently on display at Salisbury are the leg shackles from Dorchester County Museum. These were used to restrict the movement of inmates of the nineteenth century Dorchester Prison. They bring to mind the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six agricultural labourers of the Dorset village of that name who were convicted of taking an illegal oath of loyalty to, and secrecy about, their Friendly Society. The setting up of this Society was part of their effort to negotiate a better wage at a time of great hardship in the countryside.

The men were eventually pardoned but not before they had been transported to Australia for their crime.

The men are celebrated today as heroes of the early Trade Union movement.

Archaeobotanist – Ruth Pelling




Recently, Dr Ruth Pelling spoke at one of our evening lectures, describing her work as the Senior Archaeobotanist at Historic England to identify and interpret plant remains from Historic England excavation projects or funded projects. With her permission, we have borrowed from her blog at the National Heritage Science Forum.  It is a bit technical, but please stick with it. Like her talk, it is totally fascinating…

“Archaeobotany is the study of plant remains from archaeological sites. Most commonly this involves the examination of charred grain, chaff, pulses, fruit and nut remains, tubers, rhizomes, weed seeds, and charcoal which have survived as a result of being burnt. Plants can also be preserved in anaerobic deposits where oxygen is excluded (most commonly due to water-logging) thus preventing bacterial and fungal action. Leaves and even flowers may survive in such conditions. A third type of preservation is mineral replacement, in which all or part of the structure of the plant is replaced by mineral salts, most commonly calcium phosphate, or mineral preserved remains where material is preserved due to its proximity to metal corrosion products. Identification is based on the physical characteristics of the item: the morphology (shape and form), surface cell structure, and internal cell structure.

My job as the senior archaeobotanist is to identify and interpret plant remains from Historic England excavation projects or funded projects. I also provide advice and support to other archaeobotanists, including those employed in the commercial sector. I identify research priorities in archaeobotany, either locally or nationally, and answer individual enquiries from helping with identification to developing sampling strategies. At the moment I am working on a really exciting project examining material held in the Pitt-Rivers archive at Salisbury Museum.

Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers (14 April 1827 – 4 May 1900) was one of the leading anthropologists and archaeologists of the Victorian age. He conducted a number of excavations, particularly in the area of Cranborne Chase in Dorset, and was an avid collector of antiquities and ethnographic artefacts. In 1975 Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum was gifted the Wessex collections by HM Treasury. Amongst the archive were a number of cigar and pill boxes full of charred grain, complete with the original labels and identifications. It is a great honour to be able to look at this material and re-identify the cereal remains with a more scientific eye.

Pitt-Rivers did not employ modern sampling and flotation methods as practiced today, so his plant samples are derived from grain caches which were substantial enough to be spotted during excavation. As such the material represents unusual burning events of stored grain, or grain accidentally burnt during processing events, as opposed to the everyday processing losses we usually encounter. A complete catalogue of the samples, possibly coupled with radiocarbon dating, will enhance our knowledge of Iron Age and Roman farming in the Dorset region and highlights the value of archived material, particularly when contextual information is as thorough as that provided by Pitt-Rivers.

Amongst the samples in the collection are two boxes of grain from the Swiss Lake settlements labelled ‘burnt wheat from the Swiss Lakes, Brice Wright’s Sale’. The Swiss Neolithic lake dwellings were first discovered in the mid-19th century when wooden house posts were exposed in Lake Zurich during the winter of 1853-4 due to exceptionally low water levels. Finds from the sites were sold to visitors from all over the world in the late 19th century. This included samples of plant remains. It is likely that the Pitt-Rivers samples derive from Robenhausen, where archaeological layers dated from the Neolithic (4th and 3rd millennium BC) to the Late Bronze Age. Interpretation is limited as there is little by way of contextual information but the material shows how amazing preservation of this ancient plant material can be. Burning grain deposits were presumably fairly rapidly extinguished when the house platforms fell into the water, where they lay in stable waterlogged conditions within the lake silts until discovered thousands of years later. Similarly remarkable preservation has been uncovered at the site of Must Farm in Cambridgeshire which is currently being studied in Cambridge.”


Burnt wheat from the Swiss Lakes


More burnt plant matter from the Swiss Lakes




HASTINGS? PERHAPS… by Volunteer Alan Clarke


Another gem from what is now a semi-regular series from Alan Clarke.  Long may it continue!

Hastings 1905 or 1907

When I find interesting old images I can’t recognise, I send them to my photographic detective friend Tony.


I sent him the seaside image you see here.

Broderick 3

The original was discovered hidden away in the museum, and has now been scanned, referenced and enclosed in a numbered box in one of the museum’s image archive rooms.  This is Tony’s reply, slightly altered by me.

“I’m sure that you will be pleased to know that I have managed to identify the location of the seaside photo.  I started investigating soon after you sent it.

I assumed that it was taken in the UK as there is a union flag flying on the seafront.  I also guessed that it could be on the south coast so I looked for a Victorian resort, built on rapidly rising ground and, having a pier and an unusual hexagonal building.  I found that in some respects Hastings seemed to be a good match so I found an aerial view of Hastings on Google Earth and studied it.

Broderick 1

The photo shows what could be a flagpole and what might be the end of a wall.  See annotation on photo.  From the Google Earth view of Hastings I found a flagpole in the castle and took the wall to be the castle wall.  Starting at the flagpole in the castle grounds, I drew a line on the Google aerial view which crossed the castle wall just before the wall ends.  Assuming it is Hastings and the flagpole position has not changed in 110 years, by this use of parallax, the camera was positioned somewhere along this line.

Both the photos and the Google aerial view show multi-storey houses with bay windows, and both also show a coast road which bends sharply as it approaches the west end of the picture.  So far so good.

What I wanted to find, as confirmation, was a photo of Hastings showing the distinctive hexagonal building and the pier.  I found pictures of piers at Hastings through the ages but none was of the design shown in the picture, and I could find no reference to the hexagonal building.

Additionally, the Google aerial picture shows a far larger distance between the sea and the base of the rock formation on which the castle stands.  Thus, if it was Hastings, at some time since the Victorian era, land has been reclaimed.  This would place the coast road shown in your photo further back from the current coast road shown in the Google aerial photo.

At this stage I felt there was insufficient evidence to say with certainty that Hastings was the true location.

Returning to the task a few days ago I looked at the lower right of the photo, which I had dismissed as containing nothing of interest, to see BRODERICKS SERIES.  This is embossed on the photograph where I have placed the green exclamation mark.  I discovered that Frederick Nutt Broderick 1878-1913 was a photographer based in the Isle of Wight.


Frederick Nutt Broderick’s photographic business was established when picture postcards were being introduced into England.  In the 1900’s, Broderick travelled along the south coast taking photographs of seaside towns, later publishing them as picture postcards; including a number of postcards featuring views of Hastings in 1905 and 1907.  His eldest daughter Aurora acted as his assistant and, rather predictably, when he issued his postcards of Hastings, he published them as the Aurora series.  A photograph taken around 1910 showing a white bearded Broderick with his wife Emily and his two daughters, Aurora and Emmeline, appeared in a recent book on Hastings in old photographs.

These are the links to Mr Broderick:

I suspect that the photo could have been taken from a Hastings hotel in which Mr Broderick was staying.  It would have been a good vantage point and a hotel room with a bay window would have been a convenient place to set up a plate camera.”

Alan continues: On receiving this communciation from Tony, I went back through the museum’s archive of photographs and found three more images with Broderick embossed faintly on them;  Carisbroke Castle, Carisbroke Church and the Needles from Alum Bay, all three the Isle of Wight.  Thus, Hastings, as the fourth photo, doesn’t fit this set as it isn’t on the IoW.

The discrepancies of the hexagonal building, wrong pier structure and land reclamation worried me.  Could there be somewhere like this on the Isle of Wight?  Ventnor came to mind, so I queried Google as to whether Ventnor ever had a pier.   Yes it did!  I soon came up with the second image here, an almost perfect match.  So, it is Ventnor IoW, and not Hasting, after all.


Feedback This Week


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“Thank you for the Blog. I really enjoy being kept up to date with what is going on at the museum.”

“Well done! Another fascinating and detailed Blog. Interesting articles,and such enthusiasm for the younger trainees.  It is evident that there is a wonderful training team behind the Museum, who are fostering interest in archaeology and museum technology. Well done and keep it up. Retention of these artifacts in our local museums is vital for the education and history of our nation, and fostering interest in younger people will help to continue this. Much credit must go to Adrian and his team of paid employees for their interest and enthusiasm, which infects all of us! Thanks to you all.”

Thank you for such encouraging feedback. We welcome your comments, ideas and contributions.  Please be in touch.


Well Worth A Look


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From our website this week.  Well worth a look…

Back in September 2016 we announced a Rainbow Photographic Competition, inviting photographers to capture a rainbow over the skies of Salisbury. This was inspired by John Constable’s painting ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’ on display at the museum. We are thrilled to announce the prize winners are First – Martin Cook, Second – Marie Jones and Third – Alan Clarke. Here is Martin’s award-winning image. Thanks also to the Salisbury Branch of London Camera Exchange, who donated the prizes. The winning photographs will go on display at the museum soon. See all the entries on YouTube


Hot Off the Press


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Hot off the press and in fact, not even published yet! Our own Richard Henry, Wiltshire’s Finds Liaison Officer, based here at The Salisbury Museum, was commissioned to write the latest in the series ‘Fifty Finds From…’, in this case, of course, Wiltshire.

The book is effectively an excellent history of the county from  Neolithic to post medieval times, through discoveries that have been made by local detectorists and others, and which have been passed to Richard and his team to process for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

Beautifully and copiously illustrated, one of the joys of this book is that we see the history of the county through the items owned and used, often manufactured by, the local people. At the same time, we see an early world which nevertheless had links far and wide, for many of these items were imported. What journeys they must have known!

Watch for a further review of this book in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile you will be able to buy it via the museum shop after 15th March. Don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, museum PAS Volunteers (particularly Alyson Tanner, Claire Goodey and Jane Hanbidge) all have their work included here. Well done to all concerned, especially Richard himself.

A Treat for Costume Volunteers


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Our Costume Volunteers are an amazing group of ladies, many of them members of NADFAS, bringing huge knowledge and expertise in  helping to identify, catalogue and look after the museum’s vast collection of costume.

Last week, over fifteen of them met for some training, given by one of their own number, Caroline Lanyon, who was, of course, able to make use of items from the collection to illustrate her points.



Caroline’s aim was to assist Volunteers in dating pieces of costume. She told her audience that eighteenth century clothes could be easy to identify as those that survive are made from woven silk brocades with distinct pattern designs. Printed cottons came later.

The early nineteenth century was characterised by the Classical Grecian look. As is often true of fashion, it helped to have a sylph-like figure! In the middle, and towards the end, of that century the styles epitomised, and of course, led, by Queen Victoria were all the rage, with bolder colours and tartans. Later, as the Queen herself went into mourning, more subtle colours became fashionable.

The Volunteers must, however, look for alterations to clothes, and for clues that the items are genuine and were not just produced for dressing up (which was not unusual), so  Caroline was able to talk about looking for the right kind of stitching – rough and ready in the eighteenth century (except embroidery, which was exquisite), finely had sewn in the nineteenth and, of course, machine stitched later.

Did you know that the definition of ‘couture’ is that the item has been tailor made without machine stitching, allowing the maker to craft the clothes more precisely, but at great cost of time and expertise?

Costume pic

It might have been training but it was a treat!



AN INTRIGUING STORY by Volunteer Alan Clarke


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photo gravestone

Local Knowledge – Joshua Scamp

On 12th January 2013, I scanned another of Wilfred Chaplin’s glass plate negatives.  It was the image you see here. There is no text or help in identifying Wilfred’s images.  The museum was only given the glass plates, no index book, or such, with them. But I recognised it straight away. I was a member of the local Cyclists’ Touring Club for many decades.  Every Sunday, those cyclists, many of whom were decades older than me, showed me all the local items of interest.  Local meant within 50 miles of Salisbury.  However, this gravestone is not far from Salisbury, and there is a story to go with it.   It is in Odstock churchyard.

If you go to Odstock, you will still find it there, but today in a poor condition.  This photograph of Wilfred’s shows that then, even after 100 years, it was still in extremely good condition.  I suspect Wilfred photographed it in 1951 which is 150 years after Joshua Scamp died.  I wonder who, for all that time, had kept the gravestone in such a clean condition.

The associated story I was told, was that Joshua’s son stole a horse.  The penalty for such a crime was hanging.  Joshua offered to be hanged in place of his son.  This happened.  Joshua’s wife put a curse on the church such that, if anyone locked the church door, then they would die within a year.  Twice the church door was locked and twice the curse came true.

If you look up Joshua Scamp on Google, now, you will find quite a few hits with versions of this story.  The stories appear to have been written since I scanned this plate back in 2013.  Many of the stories claim Joshua was 40 years old when he died, whereas the image here of the near perfect tombstone clearly shows he was 50 years old.  Go and look at the original tombstone and see the addition of a metal plate with further text.  Wilfred’s image shows how, after the first 150 years, the legend has grown and the evidence altered!  Note, however, that there was, even back in Wilfred’s time, a wild rose growing behind the tombstone.

As regular readers will know, volunteer Alan Clarke looks after our photograph collection. His observations are an endless source of delight, and bring these photos to life again.