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We have another gem from Alan Clarke who works with our photographic archive.

In early November 1972, that is 46 years ago, at least one bell arrived at the museum.

Bell 7

The museum has many fascinating objects.  One or two are what I would call extremely heavy, defined as my not being able to lift them unaided.  How did they get to the museum and to their place on display?

People love to speculate and invent theories as to how these heavy objects arrived and were moved around.  Just look at the large number of theories as to how the very large stones at Stonehenge were moved around.  This is where photography can help provide the answers.

Bell 1972


Ed: this photo includes Hugh Shortt (right), Curator of Salisbury and S Wilts Museum in the 1970s.


In our project to scan all the Salisbury Journal negatives we have so far achieved twenty years’ worth – from 1953 to the end of 1972 (yes, that is 20 years, not 19).  In the collection of images for November 1972, there were three photographs which referenced Salisbury Museum.  These three images show a large bell arriving at the museum, and how it was moved within the museum.  No Sampson, no great crane, just the skill of several workers cheered on by the management.  However, careful examination of one image does show that the van, with its tailboard down, has an arm mechanism for swinging the bell out from the van’s floor, and lowering it down to the museum floor.  As you can observe in the images, great use was made of lengths of 4 inch by 2 inch wood to protect the floor.  Also, in the image with the bell arriving, there is a second bell already in the museum.  Salisbury was famous for bell making in Culver Street and Guilder Lane until around 1730, and hence the museum has some displays illustrating this lost industry.  However, I must admit that I thought the museum only had one large bell.  I couldn’t even find this bell on the museum website.  ‘Must have been overlooked.  I should go and look around the museum more carefully.*



Looking at the footwear in the images, I would advise that, when the bells are moved again, steel capped industrial shoes are worn by all in the vicinity, just in case a rolling bell…  (This is an ellipsis in honour of Terry Pratchett.  You did see the exhibition with the ellipsis bell on the mantlepiece, didn’t you? He used to ring it whenever Rob Wilkins wrote “…”)






Editor’s note: The bell on display in the Salisbury gallery is a fibreglass replica. I wonder if what we see in the image of the bell arriving is the original and the replica together? We shall find out…