Archaeology and Art at Salisbury Museum


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The Old Sarum Landscapes Project, a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the University of Swansea, is continuing its excavations near Stratford sub Castle this summer (more news of this later) and we look forward to the talk by Alex Langlands this week on this very topic.

Meanwhile, as part of the project, Volunteers and students from Southampton Archaeology have been collaborating for more than a week now on an art activity  associated with the project.

This Volunteer, always happy to have a go with pen, pencil or brush, arrived one day last week, and with another Volunteer and a talented young History student, Sam, and were introduced to things by Luke Sollars. Luke is a freelance archaeologist who is usually to be found in Egypt, in an office behind the temple at Karnak (!), but he is also a bit of an artist.


The room was piled high with papers, paints, glue, scissors, pastels, pencils, pens and ink. At first the brief seemed very odd – produce artwork based on Old Sarum or other archaeological landscapes showing the link with the archaeological methods and processes. We all got going, however, and the remarkable results can be seen this weekend at ArchFest, and at the Society of Antiquaries Open Day on 27th July.

This was another lovely opportunity for Salisbury Museum Volunteers. Did you miss it?


The Axe and the Princess..


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Emily True studies at Sarum Academy and recently completed her work experience at the museum.

I find Salisbury Museum interesting because of the vast and varied array of items in storage and on display.

One of my favourite objects is the Figheldean jade axe (above), on display in the Wessex Gallery. The axe head was made around 4000-3700 BC and made from eclogite from near Mount Visco in the Italian Alps. It is highly polished and has remained in almost perfect condition to this day. The axe would have represented power and probably hardly ever used.

Another one of my favourite displays is that of the Swallowcliffe Princess It is a re-creation of the burial of a young woman of 18-25 years at her time of death. She is called the ‘princess’ because she was presumably important to those around her or of high status, shown through the objects that she was buried with. She was laid on her wooden bed and surrounded by items such as two glass palm cups (one of which is still perfectly intact and in good condition) and a decorative mount with repousse decoration from a satchel.  The thing that interests me most about this is that no one will ever know exactly how she died or how she lived her life and all there is to do is speculate, based on her burial.


Every artefact has a story, is rich with history and has the answers to many questions.

..the costumes I have seen inspire my Art..


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Ella 1

Hello my name is Ella Louden. I am 17 years old, I have just finished my first year of A-levels, studying Art, Biology and Maths at Godolphin school. I am thinking about going to university and I am considering art courses. I am particularly interested in textiles and fashion.

I decided to do work experience at Salisbury Museum, shortly after visiting the museum with the school and a few of us come down to look at the costume collection. The aim was to start off our new art project which I am currently doing. It is a personal investigation on “Flowers in Art”. For my project I wanted to get the chance to have a closer look at some of the costumes they have here hidden in the boxes and also learn about the history. This experience has given me the chance to use what I have learnt and the photos I have taken to develop my project. Not only will the costumes I have seen inspire my art but also the ceramics and any other items that contained floral prints and patterns. Working at the museum has also given me the experience of learning how to catalogue, and to work alongside a lot of different people.

Ella 2


Ella 3

What I particularly enjoyed was the ‘spotlight tour’ on Monday. This was a good start to the week as I could get a feel for the museum and what it had it to offer. I don’t know the museum very well and it was handy learn more about it before working with the volunteers.  Of course I also really enjoyed the costume cataloguing and although on the Wednesday some curtains weren’t particularly exciting, I realised you had no clue what was going to be inside some of the boxes. It was quite intriguing. I was able to see some of the beautiful lace and patterns in the fascinating clothes they used to wear and what the fashions were like in those days.  On my last day I really enjoyed cataloguing the Rex Whistler Archive. It was incredible to see he was so talented at drawing and painting even at such a young age. I got to see some of his beautiful costume designs that he had done for ballets. It was fascinating to see these designs – a bit different to his paintings shown in the museum.

Overall my week was very good and it’s been pleasure to meet all the lovely staff and volunteers who work at the museum. It is astonishing to know how little of the fascinating collection of artefacts the museum have on display and how so much effect is needed to go through the collections and catalogue it all.



One of our recent blogs was re-blogged (as in re-tweeted!) by another blog (click to see Em’s Museum Musings):

South Wilts Grammar Student Enjoys Museum

“Brilliant blog post by student, Erica! Loved reading how Salisbury Museum created so many exciting opportunities and provided eye-opening experiences. Proof that making museums more accessible is the key for all!”


HAROLD IRA COUCHMAN, RFC, RAF (1897-1961) by Volunteer Alan Crooks




This week, being the week that the Royal Air Force officially celebrates the centenary of its formation,  from the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service, seems as good a time as any to relate part of the story of the father of my late step-mother, who was a member of both the RFC and RAF.

Although I had known part of his story from my step-mother, who was very close to, and proud, of him, my interest was particularly stimulated when, in conducting her house clearance, I came across several artefacts including his khaki tunic complete with RAF Flying Wings (Squadron Leader John Sharp, Project Director at Boscombe Down Aviation Collection commented that, although he was aware that such artefacts existed he had never seen one), his forage cap, his RFC Aviation Certificate and his Flying Log (Fig 1). Intriguingly, with the collection there was also a pen or pencil sketch of the R34 airship, signed ‘Frank Boorman’ (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1. Collection of artefacts belonging to Harold Ira Couchman


Fig. 2. Pen/ink drawing of R34 Airship

The 1901 and 1911 censuses show that Harold was born at Crockham Hill in Kent, his father being Samuel Herbert Couchman, a butler who was living at Chartwell. His date of birth, shown on a Royal Aero Club Flying Certificate (Fig 3) was 18th February 1897.


Fig.3. Royal Aero Club Flying Certificate

His profession at the time of taking this certificate is given as ‘Motor Coach Proprietor’. Indeed, around 1925, Messrs Newton and Couchman, trading as Wylye Valley Motor Services, took over a bus service operating from Chitterne via Codford and Sutton Veny; this business itself being taken over by J&O Withers in 1955.

The vehicle he was thought to have been using at the time he sold his business to Withers is a 1942 Bedford OWB with a Roe utility body (Figure 4), which he bought second hand in 19481.

Couchman’s vehicles had red livery. A 1934 timetable is reproduced in Figure 52

It is thought that Withers didn’t acquire any of Couchman’s buses as they purchased a Bedford OB from another bus company and Couchman’s OWB would have been too old by this time1.


Fig.4. 1942 Bedford OWB bus of Wylye Valley Motor Services


Fig.5. Timetable for Wylye Valley Motor Services

Harold appears to have first gained a Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate on 12th March 1918, when he was a sergeant serving with the Royal Flying Corps, and this is shown in Figure 6.


Fig. 6. Harold Couchman’s Royal Aero Club Aviator’s Certificate (1918)

 As mentioned above, on the 6th October, 1932, he took another flying certificate with the Wiltshire School of Flying on a Redwing aircraft.

The Wiltshire School of Flying was founded in 1931 with a membership of 120 and was based at High Post Aerodrome, Middle Woodford (Figure 7). This airfield featured in the recent film ‘Secret Spitfires’ which tells the tale of how over 2000 Spitfire aircraft were built in Salisbury and test-flown at Highpost. This airfield closed at the end of 1945 as it lay directly in line with the new runway at Boscombe Down).  Wiltshire School of Flying was equipped with one Robinson Redwing and one Spartan Arrow aircraft. The Chief Instructor was E.G. Hordern and Harold was one of the original members.

RAF7Fig. 7. High Post Aerodrome, Middle Woodford, ca 1930s.

The Robinson Redwing was a British two-seat single-engined biplane, which had folding wings, and first flown in 1930. Twelve were produced, selling mostly to clubs, of which one survives, G-ABNX (Figure 8).


Fig.8. The last surviving Robinson Redwing, G-ABNX

An article from a local newspaper from October 1932 makes fascinating reading and is reproduced here in toto:




The first accident to any machine from the Highpost Aerodrome, near Salisbury, which occurred at Highpost Hill on Wednesday evening, was marked by the extraordinary escape of the pilot, Harold Couchman, a motor services proprietor of Codford.

Mr Couchman, an experienced pilot, who served with the Royal Air Force in the war, was flying solo in a Redwing aircraft, belonging to the Wiltshire Flying Club, to which he belongs. His machine had been in the air only about twenty minutes, when flying above the by-road which leads from the main road to the Club’s aerodrome, it struck some overhead electricity high tension wires, tore down telephone wires on the other side of the by-road, travelled a short distance with the wires entwined about it, and crashed on its nose.

The craft turned turtle and was twisted, and the front portion was wrecked.

An attendant from a near-by garage dashed to the machine and found that the pilot was already out of the cockpit and was lying on the wing, dazed. He had received only minor facial injuries and a broken knee. A nurse who was playing golf on the Highpost-Course hurried to render first-aid.  Motorists went for other assistance; the telephone wires being down, and ambulances from the R.A.F. Station at Old Sarum and the Salisbury City Fire Brigade were quickly on the scene.

Mr Couchman was taken to a Salisbury Nursing Home in the Air Force Ambulance. He had been a member of the Flying Club since it was formed twelve months ago, and had been frequently piloting machines.

 This accident happened on Wednesday 12th October, 1932.

Tragically, in November of that same year, Harold and his wife, Greta’s, son, Peter, died from septicaemia, aged 7 years. He had fallen over in the school playground, cutting his leg, but didn’t tell his Mum until he was in the bath later that evening. His grave is at Codford St Mary.

Harold Couchman died on 31st March, 1961 and his grave is in the ANZAC War Graves Cemetery in Codford St Mary (Figure 9).


Fig. 9. Harold and Greta’s grave at the ANZAC War Graves cemetery, Codford St Mary

Harold Couchman’s personal items, depicted above, have been donated to Boscombe Down Aviation Collection at Old Sarum. Also among Harold’s artifacts is his ‘The Ideal Royal Flying Corps Loose Leaf Note Book’ containing his training notes, Lecture 1 being on ‘Map Reading’.  BDAC inform me that the RAF Museum at Hendon is very interested in this because, although they have details of the training syllabus for RFC pilots, information on how the course was delivered is scant.

BDAC intend to put use these artifacts as part of a new display on the Royal Flying Corps..


  1. Phil Groocock for the Warminster Vintage Bus Running Day Team (Personal Communication).
  2. Motor ‘Bus & Coach  Proprietors of Wiltshire in 1933. Roger Grimley; and






ArchFest 18


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ArchFest 18

ArchFest is nearly here! The sun is shining and it may well be set fair for the weekend of 21, 22 July.

Salisbury and the museum are OPEN. We have an excellent programme of speakers, numerous exhibitors and living history groups, some old friends and some new, and it is an excellent weekend for children, as many of you know. There will be food, music, famous historical novelist Lindsey Davis, Phil’s Dig and Alex Langlands to talk to about the Old Sarum excavations.

Tickets for talks can be booked on-line at, all at only £8 :

Saturday 21 July 10.30 – 11.30 Dr Ellen Royrvik ‘Are You a Viking?’

Saturday 21 July 12.00 – 13.00 Lindsey Davis ‘The Historical Novelist Talks’

Saturday 21 July 13.30 – 14.30 Richard Osgood ‘Operation Nightingale’s Search for the WWI MkII Tanks at Bullecourt’

Saturday 21 July 15.00 – 16.00 Alex Hildred ‘Henry VIII’s Mary Rose – Workplace, Home, Tomb’

Sunday 22 July 10.30 – 11.30 Nathalie Barrett ‘Model Approaches to Landscapes’ (Pitt-Rivers records)

Sunday 22 July 12.00 – 13.00 Dr Loe and Prof Cox ‘Uncovering the Fallen’ (recovery of WWI soldiers in France)

Sunday 22 July 13.30 – 14.30 Dr Phil Harding and Lorraine Mepham on the Dig

Sunday 22 Juky 15.00 – 16.00 Dr David Roberts ‘Historic England Fieldwork..Stonehenge..’

Thank you to all who have volunteered to help over the weekend. 

Alex Langlands – not to be missed!


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Alex Langlands – photo by Russell Sach


From Bridget Telfer: I am very pleased and excited to announce that our next Collections in Focus talk will be an exclusive talk given by Dr Alex Langlands about the archaeological project he has been working on at Old Sarum. This talk will take place on Wednesday 18 July 2018 at 11am at the museum. Booking is essential – please RSVP to me. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis.

The title of the talk is: ‘Old Sarum, New Perspectives: Excavations in the western suburbs’.

In this lecture archaeologist and historian Dr Alex Langlands will review some of the evidence for Old Sarum in the post-Roman and early medieval period. Drawing on old maps, place-names, archaeological excavations, geophysical survey and aerial photographs, a complex picture of urban development can be observed in the area immediately surrounding the hill-fort. Whilst archaeological excavation has been undertaken in the eastern suburbs – given a brief review in this talk – the evidence for occupation on the western side of the will be explored in more depth. King William’s desire to create a centre of Norman power at Old Sarum are clear – with the Oath of Salisbury and the creation of a new diocese at Old Sarum representing a bold attempt to bring church, state and royal power together. But was William choosing Old Sarum as a blank canvas upon which to paint his ambitions or was the hill-fort already a centre of royal power in the late Anglo-Saxon period?

Have some fun!


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JMW Turner c.1827–28

Monday 9th July – Tuesday 24 July inclusive (excluding weekends) :

Daily art workshops, with a tutor, for Volunteers at the museum, with small groups of University of Southampton archaeology students who are also learning.

These are being organised by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Southampton as part of the Old Sarum excavation project. 

Create works of art based on Old Sarum, using pen and ink, charcoal or pencil, watercolour, linocut and similar. The artwork produced will then be used in a final display for the Festival of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum; at a day event in the Society of Antiquaries; and will be used in the future for the Old Sarum Landscapes Project.

 Would you like to take part? Some details:

·       Workshops will run each day from 10am-4pm at the museum

·       You only need to commit to one workshop – but you can opt to do more if you would like

·       The workshops run from Monday 9 July – Tuesday 24 July (week days only)

·       Each workshop can only accommodate 2 volunteers – you need to book via me

·       All equipment will be provided – there will be no cost for the workshop

·       There will be a tutor to give support and advice

·       No prior experience in necessary

 Do let me know if you would like to book onto one of the workshops:         01722 332151


China or crockery?


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Rosemary Pemberton’s recent very knowledgeable, fascinating, talk to Volunteers about the museum’s ceramics collection started with a good question – what is the difference between china and crockery? It had us thinking. It is the kind of thing where you know the difference but articulating it is rather more difficult. There is a good attempt to do so on an internet blog:

“…”crockery” is a generic functional word for the mugs, cups, plates and saucers – that I eat from and drink out of.
On the other hand “china” carries for me a definite connotation of “delicate and expensive”. I’d say, for example:
“Don’t put your best china in the dishwasher” or
“The removal men broke a lot of our china” (where “china” could include decorative pieces such as ornaments).”

I think most of us would agree with that. But what about the differences between pottery, earthenware, porcelain, and china and bone china? This is more technical.

Dictionary definitions generally suggest pots, dishes, and other articles made of fired clay are generally called pottery and can be broadly divided into earthenware, porcelain, and stoneware. Earthenware is not fired so hot and so chips fairly easily.  Porcelain is fired at very hot temperatures (vitrified so that it is glass like) while stoneware has, as its name suggests, some stone in the clay which makes it stronger.

Verwood earthenware

Verwood pottery – earthenware – in the Salisbury Museum ceramics gallery.

So, your best ‘china’ is probably porcelain. Some of that crockery might be stoneware…

Bone china (white) has, as you might guess, bone ash in it. It is a type of soft-paste porcelain, typical of English manufacturers since about 1800. Hard paste porcelain  was originally made from a compound of the feldspathic rock petuntse and kaolin fired at very high temperature, usually around 1400°C (thank you Wikipedia!). It was first made in China around the 7th or 8th century, and has remained the most common type of Chinese porcelain.

Bone china

Bone china with the characteristic shiny white finish (painted or with transfers)

No one in Europe could copy imported Chinese porcelain until the early 18th century. Much was imported which hit the home-grown industries hard. Fine china (from China) was decorated for the European market which led to some oddly hand-painted scenes on some items and encouraged surviving British chinaware factories in turn to copy Chinese patterns (think Willow pattern plates).

The rest is history as they say. And with very few young couples interested anymore in ‘fine china’, what does the future hold?