Hello, we are Victoria and Sarah, from South Wilts Grammar school, in the Lower Sixth. We both take History and Politics with Victoria also studying Geography and Sarah studying Business. We both share a passion for history and thought a student placement at the Salisbury Museum would be a fantastic way to explore a topic we deeply enjoy.

We were fortunate enough to be here during the National Volunteers’ Week (an event organised for Salisbury Museum volunteers by the amazing Bridget Telfer in order to thank volunteers for all their hard work), and this meant that we have spent our week enjoying (and documenting) many of the activities and events of the week. Over the past five days we have experienced:

  • A three hour tour of the Stonehenge Landscape
  • A tour of the Salisbury Cathedral Tower
  • A tour of the Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry Works Yard
  • A tour and talk at Mottisfont Abbey focusing on the works of Rex Whistler
  • A very detailed tour of the Wessex Gallery held by the Museum’s own director Adrian Green
  • A tour of Wessex Archaeology as well as a thorough talk given by Si Cleggett about Larkhill 300
  • A tour behind the scenes of the Salisbury Museum   

You can imagine that we have had a very busy week, which has been utterly fascinating. However it wasn’t just a jolly week of activities (well, it predominantly was but…), we have had the responsibility of commandeering the social media accounts of the museum (we hope we have done you proud Louise), and we therefore spent all of our visits photographing and noting down interesting points, of which there were many.

Monday 3rd June: The Stonehenge Landscape Tour

We started off our week we an informative walk around the surrounding geography of Stonehenge led by the National Trust Tour Guide, Mike. It was great to see a new perspective of such a popular tourist attraction, and give greater context to the stones themselves. We learnt a great deal about the barrows in the landscape as well as excavations that delved into the mystery of Stonehenge. We also had the privilege of seeing a rare species of blue butterflies, which we were fortunate to get so close to. Overall a peaceful and informative first outing, which gave us a great start to documenting National Volunteers’ Week on social media, and starting our iMovie about the week.

Tuesday 4th June: Salisbury Cathedral Tower Tour *Sarah’s personal favourite*

Our second day at the museum kicked off with a fantastic tour up the Cathedral Tower given by Tour Guide, Leslie Smith. The journey to the top was insightful and humorous. There was a spectacular view over Salisbury, including a new way of seeing the Salisbury Museum. It took 330 steps to get to the top, but it was more than worth it for such as sight. Leslie had a boundless knowledge of the Cathedral; the next time the bell rings make sure to look out for the tower swaying gently (the force of the bells and lack of foundations means it’s surprisingly unstable).

Tuesday 4th June: Salisbury Cathedral Stonemasonry Works Yard Tour

The tour gave us an insight into the talented masonry work of the cathedral as well as the impressive skill of the masons. Head Mason, Lee Andrews, took us round the yard, telling us about the intricate process or maintaining the stonework on the stunning Cathedral. We saw the Drawing Room, the Banker Shop (where the exciting shaping happens) and their wall of inspiration that was full of interesting stone carvings (shown below). It is impressive that Salisbury Cathedral is the only Cathedral that takes care of the whole process, from the massive bits of stone to the carefully crafted details we see on the beautiful building.

Wednesday 5th June: Mottisfont Abbey *Victoria’s personal favourite*

On Wednesday morning we had a tour of the house, with focus on the Whistler room – a large drawing room designed and painted by Rex Whistler at the height of his career. Our Tour Guide, Bob, gave us much understanding of the sheer talent of Whistler through his intricate use of perspective as well as the secrets in his art. There is much debate over whether the room was ever finished as Rex left for war during his time painting the room he left Lady Maud Russell a mural implying that he would return to finish the room (it is a small paint pot in one corner). Not only did Bob tell us all about the Whistler Room he also gave a talk on the bittersweet life of the artist, who unfortunately died during active service in the prime of his career.

After the talk, we had freedom to roam the house and gardens and found our way to the stunning rose gardens which were in full bloom and made the beautiful estate even more picturesque.

Wednesday 5th June: Wessex Gallery tour

Adrian Green, the curator involved in creating the Wessex Gallery and current director at Salisbury Museum, gave a detailed tour of the gallery, with particular focus on some of his favourite objects in the museum. He started with a brief acknowledgment that the gallery is designed to go back in time, which is an interesting choice, so that visitors can start with the relatable model of Old Sarum. The object we found most interesting was the glass bowl that was found in a tomb, which is still complete. It is incredible to think that a bowl made, 1,300 years ago is still in pristine condition today. It was also uplifting to hear the story of the key and its portrait being reunited and displayed together in the gallery. Adrian Green was a fantastic speaker, and it was great to hear such detail delivered with genuine passion.

Thursday 6th June: Wessex Archaeology Tour

Our penultimate outing was a tour and talk at Wessex Archaeology, we were led round the different departments of the archaeological process, including Environment which looks at the soil composition of excavation areas, Graphics which looks at reconstruction and printing of fragmented finds – this includes a lot of 3D printing, Unit 13 – Marine and Oceanography which looks at finds in the ocean and the desalination process, and the Finds Department which labels and identifies excavated objects. After the tour, we had a fascinating talk by Si Cleggett, who described the excavation of a WW1 practise battlefield in Larkhill, he retold stories from the areas as well as plans to use their finds to create a lasting memorial to soldiers.

Thursday 6th June: Behind the Scenes Tour of Salisbury Museum

The tour, given by the very knowledgeable Roger Wadey, took us to hidden places in Salisbury Museum, where we saw incredible objects that are not currently on display. There was a selection of stuffed birds, a whole room full of geology, the library and a cupboard full of delicate artefacts, such as Victorian toys and medical equipment. It was great to see the objects up close, and even handle a few.

Overall, this week has been an incredible experience and we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to join the volunteers on their trips and events. Both of us have learnt so much about the history in Salisbury and its surrounding areas, as well as what it is like to be part of the Salisbury Museum team. We would like to say a huge thank you to all the volunteers for making us feel so welcome, and for telling us interesting stories about their lives and passions. We would also like thank Louise Tunnard for uploading our social media ideas to each platform, and the wonderful Bridget Telfer for organising and supervising us on such a fantastic week.

Thank you, Victoria and Sarah, for all your work, and your several contributions to this blog. The photo from the top of the Cathedral tower here is the best we have had in a long time.