A Watch Pocket



The costume ladies have come across an interesting little gem…

We all know that in the 1800s, portly gentlemen would reach into their waistcoat pocket for their watch, gaze at it short-sightedly and return it there, safe on its gold or silver chain.

But what did women do?

They had a watch pocket like this, attached to a belt..

This example dates from the early 1800s. Rather charmingly, someone has embroidered it with a representation of a herb. We think it is thyme….

Can you read the inscription?

PLANNING THE TUDOR FEAST by Volunteer Mary Crane



(…or, “The Conversation Went Something Like This!”)

Peacocks with feathers,
Boar's head on a plate.
Pies full of minced meat.
Is that all they ate?
Swans, hams and jellies,
Spiced ale - that sounds good!
And biscuits and sweetmeats..
Is that Tudor food?
Remember this banquet
Is fit for a King.
It's not peas and pottage,
It's all Tudor bling
We won't admit feta
But blocks of hard cheese
Look very appealing
When spread out on leaves!
It must look realistic
But cannot be real.
It's got to be fake
With real Tudor feel!
Don't worry, we'll Google it,
Check it all out.
We'll make it authentic
So there is no doubt.

Volunteer Mary Crane waxes lyrical to tell the story of the conversation which kicked off the Tudor Christmas.

Staring at a Wall…


What’s in a wall?

The new uplighters in front of the museum building pick up the texture of the old walls in dramatic fashion (see last week’s blog). The photograph above is a close-up of one section, in daylight, and just wonderful to look at.

Pause to look, and there are stories there, even without any other knowledge of the history of the place. Clearly, materials have been re-used. The basic ‘building block’ here is the flint, a local material and used in many of the older buildings in the Close. When building with ‘rubble’ (unshaped stones) it was useful to include a ‘string course’ at intervals up the wall, to create a kind of frame or skeleton, assisting the mason in keeping the wall straight. Such courses are often quite decorative, contrasting with the material of the main part of the wall and perhaps projecting outwards or highlighting windows and other features. Here it is not so much for this latter purpose, although the courses can be picked out because brick, clay roof tile and dark sand stone have been used, albeit in a rather rough manner, to add colour.

There are at least two types of sandstone used here, and some limestone. I am no great geologist and so cannot identify these with any certainty but greensand is another local material and the brownish coloured chunks here may be ironstone. Comments welcome!

The bricks are very weathered and vary in colour. It may be possible to date them from their size (see below).

If you are interested in the history of bricks, read on (with thanks to the Architects Journal)….

Brickwork offers clues to the age of a building. The Romans were the first to use clay bricks in Britain, and bricks were then not re-introduced into the country until the Middle Ages. Hampton Court was one of the first major buildings of that period to be built of brick. With the decline of medieval timber- framed buildings and the advent of canals, railways, and better roads, bricks were transported and used throughout the country.

By the eighteenth century, brick was the most common material for houses, and many old timber-framed houses were gentrified by re-facing with bricks or mathematical tiles, particularly the latter after the first brick tax of 1784.

Since the 1400s the width of a brick has always been about 4.5 inches (114mm) – governed by the need to grasp and lay it with one hand. But the length and thickness of a brick has not always been as constant as today, being influenced by government legislation, regional variations in firing thicknesses of clay, bonding, joint thickness, and local practice.

Medieval bricks were longer and thinner than modern bricks – perhaps 2″ (51mm) thick. But beware modern imitations, particularly in early 20th century buildings. Parliament fixed brick sizes in 1776 at 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 inches (216 x 102 x 63mm). In 1784, after the American War of Independence, parliament taxed each brick used, so some bricks were made larger, up to 10 x 5 x 3ins (254 x 127 x 76mm) so that fewer need be used in building and so saving costs. In 1803, these large bricks were further taxed, and this was avoided by reducing the size to 9 x 4.5 x 3ins (229 x 114 x 76mm). In 1850 the brick taxes were repealed, and brick sizes gradually standardised, rising four courses per foot (304mm), except in the north of England where they rose four courses per 13 inches (330mm) for much of the nineteenth century. However, the worst examples of ‘jerry’ building in the nineteenth century produced bricks of various sizes and sometimes with large quantities of soot mixed into the clay, leading to crumbling houses over a short period of time.

In 1851, machinery was designed for making pressed bricks in volume, eventually replacing handmade bricks, except for best quality work. Machine- made bricks, such as Flettons which were first made in the 1870s, are generally smoother and more regular in appearance than handmade bricks.

If you would like to learn more, try this site by clicking here.



One of our Trustees, John Perry, has arranged for this wonderful uplighting which will adorn the museum frontage until the new year.

If you haven’t seen it, it is worth coming out in the late afternoon to enjoy the effect.

John has been working with Southampton-based company Evolve Technical Services from whom we have hired the lights and who have done a very efficient job. They have also been very generous with the museum.

Under Way…



Volunteer Sally Brown hard at work before the museum opens in the morning….

If you have been in to the museum recently you will have seen it beginning to be transformed, forward in time to Christmas, and back to Tudor times.

Volunteers are in the museum each morning, before opening time, to start putting the decorations up. Sophia Sample and Sally Brown have been paramount in creating the green swags, table and window decorations. Mary Crane and an enormous team of stitchers have produced Tudor Roses which now find their moment, as you can see…

More than a dozen stitchers, some anonymous, have contributed their time and expertise to produce these unique decorations
Mary Crane and Pam Balchin begin the dressing of the King’s Room

Saturday 14 December.

Not to be missed!



, ,

On Monday (25 November) I was delighted to be able to attend a ‘Collections in Focus’ talk given by Simon Cleggett, Project Manager at Wessex Archaeology.

Entitled ’Echoes of the Voices from WW1: The Larkhill 300’, this concerned the exciting and varied discoveries made at Larkhill, Bulford and Tidworth for the Army Basing Programme, whereby some 30,000 troops and their families will need to be accommodated following their return to the UK. The archaeological investigation has entailed stripping some 33 hectares of land back to the bare chalk, revealing artefacts dating from the Early Neolithic to modern ‘conflict archaeology’ pertaining to World War 1.

Wessex Archaeology excavations at Larkhill

Click here to read more about Wessex Archaeology’s excavations

Among the early Neolithic finds was a causewayed enclosure which is, in fact, the closest causewayed enclosure to Stonehenge yet found, and dates to about 900 years pre-Stonehenge Phase 1. Thus it’s not too fanciful to consider that the people involved in its construction may have been involved in the conceptualisation of the future Stonehenge. There are just over 80 causewayed enclosures in the UK and they are thus fairly rare.

As a scientist (albeit a chemist, but I did once study ‘A’Level zoology) I was intrigued to learn that (being Caprinae) sheep and goats are anatomically uncannily very similar – almost identical. Hence distinguishing between the two requires outstanding observational skills and extensive practice. This has been quite problematic archaeologically, and archaeologists refer to such skeletons as sheep-goats. (This reminded me of how embarrassed I once was when having a lift home from work with a colleague. Noticing a large number of animals in a field, I exclaimed, “Blimey, look at all those goats!” He fell about laughing and said, ”Those are not goats, they’re sheep that have recently been shorn”!). I now don’t feel quite so foolish.

In terms of  ‘Conflict Archaeology’, Larkhill turns out to be the largest WW1 practice battlefield ever excavated. It was very poignant that, occurring during 2016-2017, the excavations occurred during the centenary of WW1 itself. This did not go unnoticed by the archaeologists on site. The excavations revealed WW1 practice trenches and tunnels, the entrances of which had graphitic graffiti of soldiers (rank, name and number) who were training there, and whose families may therefore be traceable. There were 400 pieces of graffiti pertaining to 300 names, this inspiring the title of Simon’s talk.

It is anticipated that the many artefacts found during these excavations will eventually be housed in Salisbury Museum.

Thank you Alan, as always.

…there’s always a new story…


Skeleton and reconstruction of the Amesbury Archer burial at The Salisbury Museum

Josh, from Stonehenge School, completes his contribution to our blog…

As part of my work experience at the Salisbury museum, it has been requested that I write a short blog or piece about a chosen artefact within the museum, some information about it, and why I have chosen it. I hope that you will find this interesting, and that maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something.

The Amesbury archer is the skeleton of what is believed to be a late Neolithic/early Bronze Age man, estimated to have been around 35-45 years old when he died. He was found buried near the town of Amesbury, along with several fascinating and highly revealing archaeological finds, making his discovery of great importance and relevance. I will summarise these below, only looking over a few of the many finds buried with him.

The Amesbury Archer is believed to be part of what was referred to as the “bell beaker culture”, a late Neolithic social grouping of individuals who were all found to be buried with ceramic beakers, hence their name. Usually they were all buried with one, in what we now believe to have been their customary funeral rite or ceremony. However the Amesbury Archer was different. For you see, he was not buried with just one beaker. Nor two. Not even three. He was found buried with an impressive five beakers, a figure that has only been matched a few times.

This large number of pots is usually taken to indicate a particularly high social status and burial, meaning that whoever the Amesbury Archer was, he was a man of power. The other items buried with him only go to further support this theory.

Alongside the skeleton of this long dead man lay three copper daggers, and two hammered gold hair ornaments, and the importance of these finds cannot be overstated. As of the time of writing, these are the oldest man-made copper or gold items to be found in Britain, and indicate that the art of metal working was slowly coming to the island.

It was an art that many believe the Amesbury Archer had brought with him. Through in-depth isotope analysis of the Archers teeth, we are able to determine that he was not a native to this land, instead originating somewhere in the Alpine region of what is now known as southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

This suggests that over 4000 years ago, people were beginning to travel long distances and were spreading the finer arts of forging and metalworking to Britain, which had for so long been isolated from continental Europe. Indeed, it is believed from the presence of a black cushion stone and several flint tools lying amidst his grave that he was a metalworker himself, a position that would have undoubtedly given him much power and influence in the late Neolithic society. If this is true, he was one of the men who started the gradual ushering of the British Isles into the next era.

Other details can be found from his burial. His skeleton was found missing a knee cap, and the growth of the bones on one of his legs indicates that it had been used far more than the other one, suggesting that he only walked using the one leg for most his life, giving him a limp. Yet evidently he flourished, living to a great age relative to those around him.

Why did he travel all these many miles? On what sort of quest was he on? Was he seeking something, or was he fleeing troubles and dangers in his own land? These are unanswerable questions, but to me, really strike home, and are why I find this one exhibit so fascinating.

The Amesbury Archer suggests so much about the changing and evolving civilisation developing in Britain and Europe at the time, and yet gives us so little solid evidence or story that we can work from. We are left with a few fragmentary pieces, frantically trying to use them to make the full picture.

To me, this is what history is. A constant struggle to find the stories and tales of ages past, and to understand the motivations and reasonings behind the people who shaped the events that have led us up to this moment. The Amesbury Archer is one of these figures, who can tell us so much about the past, but still leaving us longing to fill in the gaps.

I have not written everything I could have about this subject, and the artefact and if you want to learn more about this fascinating character, he’s on display in the Wessex gallery today. And please, when you see him, try to fill in the gaps for me. Make a new tale. The best thing about history is that there’s always a new story, and always a new interpretation. I hope you find one that satisfies you.


  1. The Amesbury archer exhibit, in the Wessex Gallery, Salisbury museum
  2. The Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowman exhibit: Early Bell Beaker burials, A.P Fitzpatrick
  3. The Flint Arrowheads of the British Isles, H Stephen Green

” The best thing about history is that there’s always a new story, and always a new interpretation.”Couldn’t agree more Josh. Thank you.

The full story of Wessex Archaeology’s discovery, excavation, etc of the Amesbury Archer can be read here.

“…A Real Privilege…”



Josh was with us in the summer and shares his experiences with us…

Hello all, my name is Joshua, and I have been doing a week’s work experience here at the Salisbury museum. I come from the Stonehenge school in Amesbury, and I am currently studying for my GCSEs, including one in History, oddly enough. I’ve had a very interesting week, and one that I will almost definitely recommend to one or two friends of mine.

I signed up for a week’s work experience here for a few reasons. Firstly, I enjoy history. It’s the big reason behind the museum, and I am fascinated by the many stories and tales hidden behind the veil of time, and I’ve had a real privilege in order to peak behind the curtain this past week.

Also, I’d never been to the Salisbury museum, and, even better, coming on work experience is free! I’ve spent a long week in the museum browsing through the exhibits (and many of the far more interesting items kept outside of the public eye), and I feel as if I have a far greater depth of knowledge regarding the artefacts on display than if I had just flown by on a quick two hour tour.

Which brings me to one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed my time here. Everyone just has so much knowledge and passion for the items they curate and catalogue, and there has always been something new to hear or to learn. Even during the long hours cataloguing (man, we did a lot of cataloguing!) a volunteer always would have a fascinating story to tell us about one of the items, and I’d learn something new.

For example, I’ll admit that I have never been much of an artist, or a great art admirer. But actually, I’ve spent a very enjoyable three hours today looking through the archives of Rex Whistler, and surprisingly, it has actually been one of the highlights of this week.

Furthermore, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to conduct some research on my own. As part of our work experience, we’ve had to write two blogs, one of which you’ll be reading now, another of which will be on an artefact of our choice, in my case one on the famous Amesbury Archer.

 For this blog, we have been allowed to conduct our own research, visiting the exhibits and the library, which small size hides a depth and scale that I may never get over. I’ve really enjoyed being able to do my own thing, and searching the dusty tomes and volumes within to find that one sentence which may improve my blog.

I’ve enjoyed viewing the behind the scenes of the museum, and learning about the vast amounts of work that has been put into this museum’s collection. It’s really made me appreciate the efforts of the above mentioned volunteers who have put so much time, passion and care into helping the museum grow and operate.

So, I’d like to say a thank you to all those who have helped improve our work experience this week, and I hope that my inaccurate and sweeping statements in my next blog don’t make you despair for the future. I’ve really enjoyed working here, and I wish you all the best for the future. It’s been a pleasure.

Thank you Josh. We will hear about your research on the Amesbury Archer next week.

Interesting Ventures

Well-City Arts at the Museum

On Monday 25 November, from 1.30 – 4pm, you are invited to help us by coming along to a taster workshop in the Lecture Hall at the museum, testing out a range of arts and craft courses which we hope to make available as part of the Well-City project later. All we ask is that you spare some time at the end to feed back on your experience.

No experience necessary. Refreshments provided. Contact Sarah Gregson at the museum.

It’s Good to Talk!

On the first Monday of each month, from 10.30 – noon, all sorts of people gather in the Lecture Hall at the museum……for conversation.

It is said to be a lost art, but not here!

Each month objects are taken from the museum collections and displayed as starting points for conversation and the sharing of memories and ideas.

These are sessions that include refreshments and everyone is welcome.

Are you interested, or do you know someone who might be? Do come along and see what happens.

Spring dates: 6 January; 3 February; 2 March; 6 April.

£4 to cover costs. Free to companions.