More from James…

You may have read the blog contribution from James Fraser last month (27 November). We are publishing, below, some extracts from his own work diary.

“…today I have met with new people in the museum and I have got to know them and shake their hands and take photos of them in the part where they have been working. I have been independent like an adult…”

“We went to look at things made of clay, like pots and tiles.

I made a clay pot with coils. I went into the library and saw how to move the rolling shelves with a wheel.”

James remarked how he had been confident when meeting people in the staff room.

“We saw Adrian Green, the Director, who was giving out an interview to the BBC.”

A highlight seems to have been the crossbow! “We went to the Social History Store. I looked at a model of Stonehenge, an old clock, old pots…and a crossbow. I chose the crossbow because it needed packing carefully to protect it. I took the crossbow down to the workshop. I used tissue paper and foam and polywrap and I tied it up with tape and included its name and number.”

We have received a lovely letter from the family and include an extract here…

“…the balance between… expectations, and a supportive, encouraging environment was just what he (James)  needed to experience for the future. As parents we very much hope that some sort of museum would allow him to volunteer when he is older, and this has been the perfect start for the future.”

Thanks again James.


A Mutual Opportunity…


A new range of gifts to buy has appeared in the shop… tsm GIFTS.

The museum shop is looking for artisans and makers of interesting and original products to sell. If you make something that is unusual, unique,useful, frivolous, amazing, or just beautiful, please get in touch, we want to start a conversation with you.

With apologies to all concerned that these photos may not do justice to the beautiful items currently on display, here are some of the items we stock at the moment under the new tsm label – exclusive shopping!

If there is something you make, please be in touch, as we might like to sell it. Read more here.

Second-hand (pre-loved!) Books…


You may have noticed that the museum shop is collecting books for re-sale. Previously they have been available through the cafe (and are temporarily back there to make room for Christmas decorations) but from now will have a higher profile in the shop itself. 

More quality books are needed, proceeds to our fundraising efforts. Currently we have books on Art, we have biographies, books on politics and lots of novels, but welcome anything which might interest our visitors.

Please bring any contributions to Reception or let Jan Thorne know if you have a large number. 

Thank you from Bridget


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Raising money for Melanoma Research

On 25 November my husband and I ran the Downton Half Marathon in memory of my dad Trevor. I ran it in 1hr 50m, and my husband in 1hr 42m. It was a great (and very hilly!) run. We had an amazing and very noisy support team of my mum, sister and kids – equipped with whistles and metal doorknobs (my 4 year old son’s ingenious idea!).

Thank you to everyone that has helped us to raise over £1000 for Southampton University to continue their amazing research work into melanoma treatment. My dad passed away in February this year from melanoma and was treated at Southampton Hospital with an immunotherapy drug – a new treatment that is giving hope to lots of people diagnosed with the disease.

Last year Dad was watching us run and joining in the celebrations afterwards – he loved an excuse to celebrate – and we missed him greatly this year.

If you would still like to donate we have a Just Giving page at:

Thank you for your support – Bridget

Well done Bridget!



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Some years ago I recall reading of a plague stone, described as being at the entrance to Salisbury and South Wilts Golf Club on the Netherhampton road. I think this could have been in a book describing local walks, but I have been unable to recall the source. From time to time I have tried to find this plague stone, but with no success, this including asking people whom I thought were likely to know.

I was reminded of this more recently when, in helping my son to tidy the loft of a house he’d just moved into, I came across a book, ‘Motor Trips At A Glance in England, Wales,Scotland, Ireland and France’ (1911). This has a chapter entitled ‘Illustrations of Roadside Curiosities’ in which there were photographs of the plague stones at Bury St Edmunds and Penrith (Figures 1 and 2).

Fig 1
Fig 2

Plague stones were often placed at or near to parish boundaries in order for victims of disease, not necessarily plague, to leave disinfected coins in payment for food left for them by townsfolk. Plague stones often had a shallow depression on top to contain vinegar which acted as the sterilising agent.

I was further reminded of the Netherhampton plague stone having recently been lent a book, ‘My Lord Pembroke’s Manor of Netherhampton’ by Henry Shute (1986). Here, Shute quotes one Miss Mould who made the Netherhampton contributions to a little book called ‘Moonrakings’1, published by the Women’s Institute. Miss Mould claimed that the stone on the main road to Harnham, at the foot of the old road to the Race Plain, is a memorial of a skirmish led by Walter in the Civil War. Shute writes that Miss Mould’s memory was faulty and her statements,at times, ambiguous, and that her ‘battle stone’ “would appear to be the plague stone at the crossing of the West Harnham and old Roman roads. Elsewhere in ‘My Lord Pembroke’s Manor of Netherhampton’ Shute writes that traders between the towns of Salisbury and Wilton, when afflicted by plague, exchanged goods by depositing them at the Netherhampton-Harnham boundary, in a bowl of vinegar (presumably Shute means that the coins are deposited in a bowl of vinegar!)

Shute very helpfully included a sketch map of Netherhampton in his book (Fig. 3) from which I discerned I’d been searching on the wrong side of the road for the plague stone. This prompted me to have another search,which again was unsuccessful – not surprising as closer inspection of the map revealed that it actually says ‘Site of plague stone’!

Shute wrote that the plague stone ‘disappeared’ in 1986 when the Parish Council had resolved to identify it with a commemorative plaque.

Alison Kidd’s book, ‘Down Your Way’ (Vol. 1) (1989) gives an alternative explanation of its fate, stating that “A kerb-crawling gardener stole Netherhampton’s plague stone for a rockery…”!

If anyone has any further information or illustrations of this plague stone I would be most interested to receive it.

Fig. 3. from ‘My Lord Pembroke’s Manor of Netherhampton’, H.Shute (1986).

1. Moonrakings: Wiltshire Stories arr. by Edith Olivier and Margaret S. Edwards. Pub. Coates and Parker Ltd. Warminster. Reprinted 1979 (to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the Wiltshire Federation of Women’s Institutes).

Thank you Alan for another fascinating piece of local history.

Dates for your Diaries


Hoards During the Earliest Age of Metal c 2 500 – 800BC

Talk by Dr Neil Wilkin, Thursday 29 November 6.30pm in the Lecture Hall. Dr Wilkin is responsible for  the Bronze Age collection at the British Museum. £10/£8 for members.

Don’t forget the Volunteers’ Christmas Party!

Tuesday 4 December 2pm – 4pm for mince pies, mulled wine, a raffle and music, and to meet old friends. Please remember to let Bridget know if you are coming.

Christmas and New Year opening

Closed: 24, 25, 26 December

Open: 27, 28, 29 and 31 December

Closed: 1 January 2019

The Gardeners

Safely indoors on this wet Tuesday, Volunteers Jenny Maw and Brenda Talbot (colleague Jane Taylor not in today) , together with the museum’s own Val, were planning ahead…for 2020!

(From left to right) Jenny, Brenda and Val

Jenny is a member of the Hardy Plants Society and, through their seed sharing scheme, is able to buy seeds at a reasonable price. These will be germinated in the spring and go into our front plant beds to flower in 2020.

It is no random thing. Records and photographs are kept and the types of plants carefully chosen using a variety of references, as well as the four ladies using their knowledge and expertise.

Donations of plants and seeds (hopefully to fit in with the plan!), as well as any suggestions are gratefully received. A recent donation was a number of holly hocks which will go in next year. Thank you to all who have contributed, including the cafe, whose customers particularly enjoy the gardens in summer.

Val  says she is looking for two volunteers to look after our back gardens after the retirement of the previous pair there. Tools are provided and Jenny, Brenda and Jane will share and swap plants from the front as necessary. If you are interested in joining this happy crew, please contact Bridget.

James Fraser’s Student Placement

My name is James Fraser

I am studying History and Art at school, and I like learning about history from all over the world.  I wanted to work in the museum because I have autism and it’s easier to take my time in a museum.  It is a peaceful place to work and I can think easier.  I love history so I like the museum.

I enjoyed everything about working here – I cleaned the Giant and the chests, I could visit secret rooms in the museum and I met all the staff.  I learned to tie knots to wrap up a crossbow and took lots of photos.

Thank you James!