Wiltshire’s FLO (Finds Liaison Officer), Wil Partridge, his assistant Sophie Hawke and eight Volunteers gathered at Wessex Archaeology last weekend to be trained by Lorraine Mepham, nationally recognised pottery specialist, on the identification of Roman pottery.
Wessex Archaeology have a huge archive of pots and pottery sherds and it was good to be able to handle and familiarise ourselves with so many. Lorraine unsparingly shared her knowledge and expertise and we were taken through the importance of recognising the fabric of a pot (ie not just the clay, of course, but the inclusions, the slip, the glaze and other finishes). Inclusions (small particles of materials other than the clay, eg flint, sand, shell) may occur naturally but were also introduced by potters to strengthen the clay. They also used grog – crumbs of fired pot – as inclusion. We can learn a lot from being able to identify these, and because some may be geologically distinctive, it is now possible, with modern science and technology, to match pottery finds with individual kiln sites.
Even before the Roman invasion of AD 43 pottery from the Empire was being imported, even moreso, of course, after that date. But local pottery was still made (particularly coarseware – for the kitchen, etc), and eventually British potteries began to copy Roman types.
Mortaria were Roman vessels – wide, shallow pots with a gritty substance lining the base to be used for grinding fruits, nuts, garlic, etc. This is a sherd from a British version, showing the archaeologist how and when diet began to change with Roman settlement.
Copies of the famous Roman Samian fineware, eventually made all over the Empire, began to be imitated here after about AD 250. The British potteries never quite made the best. Lorraine (perhaps diplomatically) suggested this was because we didn’t have the right clays here.
Samian bowl (probably from Gaul (France)
A perhaps particularly poor British copy of Samian. The covering slip is nearly worn off, but this may, in part be due to the conditions it has endured in the last 1 800 years!
From top left clockwise: an indented beaker made in the New Forest; a strainer (spot the holes) made on the Hants/Surrey border; a flagon also made there; grey ware; Black Burnished ware made around Poole harbour and distributed all over the country.
One of our ‘costume ladies’, museum Volunteer and member of the Arts Society, Sarah Brumfitt, models a very unusual Georgina Von Etzdorf stole from our collection.
Georgina von Etzdorf is a British textile designer whose fashion label is renowned for its luxurious velvet scarves and clothing accessories, worn by royalty and celebrities . Much of her work has emanated from, as she describes it, a barn near Salisbury. We now have some of it here at the museum.
The stole is called ‘Hands’. Look again and see why! It is from a collection called ‘The Sun’s Anvil’ and was designed in 1998 for the Spring Collection that year. The pattern was laser cut on a gold a silver fabric.
Her fabrics have been mainly made into jackets, gowns scarves and ties; also into gloves, belts hats and sleep wear.
‘The Origins of Photography in Salisbury, 1839-1913’
exhibition reminded me of a box of 22 glass lantern slides I had stowed away,
given to me by a former rector of St Paul’s Church, probably in the late 1960s.
A lantern slide is a glass transparency that is viewed using a slide
projector that casts an image onto a wall or other suitable surface. The light
source evolved over time from oil lamps through limelight, carbon arc lamps,
and finally electric light. Prior to the invention of photography, painted
images on glass were projected for entertainment.
The photographic lantern slide was invented during the 1840s by the
Philadelphian daguerreotypists, William and Frederick Langenheim, when they first used a glass plate negative to print
onto another sheet of glass, thus creating a transparent positive image that
could be projected. These were used well into the 20th century for displaying photographic
images for entertainment and educational purposes. They could be mass-produced
and were thus easily available and affordable.
Lantern slides were created by placing a dry plate negative directly onto
light-sensitive glass, which was dried, fitted with a cover glass and sealed
with tape. Sometimes a black and white photographic image was hand-coloured
with special inks before covering.
Among my lantern slides were seven of astronomical interest: two of the full Moon, taken at the Lick Observatory1, four of comets taken in 1906 and 1908 and one of the 1889 solar eclipse. The latter was labelled ‘R.A.S. No. 1. 1889 solar eclipse. Pickering’ (Fig 1) and was accompanied by a snippet from ‘The Observatory’, “provided by the NASA Astrophysics Data System”.
Part of the magazine snippet read,
“American astronomers are to be cordially
congratulated on the brilliant success which has attended their efforts to make
the most of the late eclipse. It was not a favourable eclipse in many ways; the
duration of totality was short, and winter is not the best time for
observations; indeed some of the intending observers found it too cold to make
the drawings they wished. But the central line was more readily reached than
usual; indeed, though no fixed observatory was actually on the line, several
were within a comparatively easy distance of it, and the partial phase was
visible both at Lick1 and
Washington. It is satisfactory to find that the advantages thus offered for
bringing to bear larger telescopes than those which have hitherto been
selected, on the score of portability, were fully recognised; and for the first
time we find a 13-in. telescope used to photograph the corona., Mr W.H.
Pickering having taken from Harvard the instrument provided by the Boyden Fund”.
This eclipse was visible across western United States, and central Canada. Partiality was visible
across the northern Pacific Ocean including Hawaii,
and all of the United States.
William Henry Pickering (Fig.2) was the younger brother of the distinguished astrophysicist E.C. Pickering, and was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 15 February 1858. He was educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his brother had been professor of physics; and both were associated with Harvard University virtually their entire professional lives. Thus both were later directors of Harvard Observatory facilities; Edward serving as the Director of the principle observatory for over four decades and William serving as the director of several Harvard substation observatories; one in Jamaica, another near Mt. Wilson and another, Boyden Station in Peru. William was appointed an assistant professor at Harvard observatory in 1887 and set up Harvard’s Boyden Station at Arequipa, Peru in 1891. Around 1900 he led expeditions to Jamaica, and from 1911 he was in charge of a permanent Harvard observing station there. On retiring in 1924 the Jamaica station became Pickering’s private observatory.
William Pickering was a pioneer in dry-plate celestial photography, and the Harvard photographic sky survey was undertaken at his suggestion. He also made extensive visual observations of the planets and their satellites and in 1888 he produced some of the earliest photographs of Mars, using blue-sensitive plates and the 13-inch Boyden refractor telescope2 (Fig 3).
He reported “oases” on Mars (1892), and claimed short rotation periods (now
known to be incorrect) for Jupiter’s Galilean satellites.
In 1899 Pickering,
in a search for possible new satellites of Saturn, had photographic plates
taken, on which he discovered Phoebe, and demonstrated that it has a retrograde
orbit. Saturn was the first planet known to possess both direct and retrograde
From 1907 Pickering
paid considerable attention to predicting the location of trans-Neptunian
planets; and after Pluto was discovered, faint images of it were located on
plates taken for him in 1919. Although Percival Lowell is generally accorded
greater credit for this discovery, Pickering’s
observation was quite independent and more accurate in many respects.In 1924, Pickering
came up with a seemingly bizarre and ridiculous idea. He had recorded apparent changes in the
albedo of the lunar surface, which he attributed to hoarfrost and vegetation,
and suggested that changing shadows on
the floor of the crater, Eratosthenes could be swarms of insects or herds of
small animals. These ideas, however, are perhaps not quite so fantastic as they
first appear; one should recall that as recently as the 1960’s the possibility
of lunar life forms was taken sufficiently seriously to require the first
Apollo crews returning from the Moon to undergo extensive decontamination and quarantine protocols. Peter
Ryan in his book, ‘The Invasion of the Moon 1957-70’ (Penguin, 1969) wrote:
decimation of many primitive or isolated earth communities upon first contact
with diseases common to the ‘civilised’ world, NASA had been under pressure
from many scientists to take steps to prevent a repetition in the space
I have donated this whole set of lantern slides to the
Museum and Volunteer Alan Clarke has informed the Director, Adrian Green, that
these slides, together with two other sets of lantern slides, constitute a collection of
Lick Observatory. Lick Observatory is the world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California. It is situated on the summit of Mount Hamilton, near San Jose, California.
Boyden 13-inch refractor telescope. This was constructed in 1888 by Alvan Clark & Sons for Harvard College Observatory. In 1889 it was relocated to Mount Wilson Observatory in California. During its time at Harvard and Mt. Wilson, Pickering used it to take some of the earliest photographs of Mars, and the following year it was moved again to Harvard’s southern station at Arequipa in Peru.
A Volunteers’ workshop for making dummy parachutes (see blog ‘Lots Happening’ below) set us wondering. Here is what a blogger (called GemSen) wrote about them on the Forces War Records site blog. It is primarily a site for genealogists but has some interesting articles also.
“Sheds can be a haven for men of certain age — perhaps that is why an old WWII D-Day dummy chose to make its home there? Tongue-in-cheek aside, it is not known how this rare parachute dummy made its way back from Normandy to Britain after a woman found it in her late grandfather’s garden shed. Paradummies were used as a decoy during the WWII D-Day landings in order to deceive the Germans into believing that a large force had landed, drawing their troops away from the real landing zones. You may remember them featuring in the well-known D-Day movie ‘The Longest Day.
Nicknamed Ruperts, the fake parachutists were made from
hessian cloth bags and filled with sand and straw, arranged to resemble a human
figure. And even though they were just under 3ft tall — much smaller than real
soldiers, to people looking up at them from the ground and against a dark sky
— they were actually pretty deceiving. The deception was known as
‘Operation Titanic’ in which 500 fake cloth dolls each attached to a parachute
were dropped in four different locations all over Normandy while the real
Allied airmen landed in their targeted drop zones.
Operation Titanic Carried out by the Royal Air Force and the Special Air
Service (SAS), ‘Operation Titanic’ involved a force of 40 aircraft including
Hudsons, Halifaxes and Stirlings responsible for dropping the dummy
parachutists, rifle fire simulators, and SAS men. The SAS men landed with the
dummies and played recordings of battle noises to make the decoy plan even more
believable. Two Stirlings were apparently lost in the operation. ‘Titanic’ took
place during the night/early morning of the 5 and 6 June, 1944 and saw 200
dummies dropped near to the base of the Cotentin Peninsula, 50 more east of the
River Dives, and 50 to the south west of Caen. 200 more dummy parachutists were
dropped at Yvetot —30 miles south west of Dieppe. In order to allow the news of
these landings to be spread the SAS had orders to allow some of the enemy to
escape to spread the message about the landings, hopefully unbeknown to them as
The crude dummies made from a simple series of cloth bags connected together were also equipped with an explosive charge that would set the cloth on fire and prevent the enemy discovering that they were a deception, which is why there aren’t many examples left. This hoped to suggest that the man had burnt the parachute and lay hidden, ready for action or sabotage. The idea apparently began with the Germans who dropped similar decoys during the Battle of the Netherlands in 1940. They were used throughout WWII by both sides and during the operation the Americans dropped their own dummies and called theirs ‘Oscars’. Going, going, gone! Leaving it’s beloved ‘man cave’ – the shed – the dummy has since been sold for £900, and Kevin King, of Buckinghamshire-based auctioneers Marlow’s told the Mirror newspaper: “It is quite rare to come across previously unknown paradummies now. “Back in the 1970s a whole batch of them were found on an airfield and some of them are in museums now. “If the paradummies were any bigger then not that many of them would have fitted on the aircrafts. “When an object is high up in the air it is very difficult to get a proper perspective of it from the ground, especially in darkness.” “The woman vendor was having a bit of a clearout of her grandfather’s shed when she found it.” The recently discovered Rupert has now been sold alongside a set of orders and maps for an RAF squadron that was tasked with spotting the results of the Royal Naval bombardment of the German defences on D-Day. What an interesting buy!”
Thursday 25 April at 2.30pm, and Tuesday 30 April at 10.30am:
Adrian Green will be giving briefings on the forthcoming Augustus John exhibition: ‘Augustus John: Drawn from Life’.
is no need to RSVP for this event.
Tuesday 7 May: Volunteer Workshop – Make a ‘Rupert’ Parachutist
Join us in
making mini ‘Rupert’ parachutists to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.
Nicknamed ‘Rupert’s’, these decoy parachutists were made of sack cloth filled
with sand, straw or wood shavings. They were parachuted over enemy territory to
create the false impression of a very large invasion force. On 6 June 1944
aircraft dropped 500 Rupert’s along the French coast to divert German troops
away from the actual zones. The
mini ‘Rupert’s’ will go on display in the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum
in June 2019. At the workshop there will also be a selection of handling items
relating to D-Day, including a replica ‘Rupert’ parachutist. No sewing
book a place on the workshop please email me or call 01722 332151.
Thursday 9 May and Tuesday 14 May: Volunteer Coffee Mornings
along to meet other volunteers and have tea, coffee and cake with us! The
Learning Project Officer and two volunteers will be giving a talk
entitled: ‘Look Again: Discovering Centuries of Fashion’. Hear
about this exciting costume project working with youth groups and Art Society
volunteers. See some of the gems buried in our costume store! The project will
result in a re-designed costume gallery at the museum – come along to find out
There is no
need to RSVP for this event.
Monday 20 May at 11am-12pm, and Thursday 23 May 10am-11am:
Dementia Friends Information Sessions
Gregson, the new Community Curator for Salisbury Museum, will be running these
Dementia Friends Information Sessions as part of National Dementia Action Week
(21-26 May 2019). Later this year we will be starting to run a monthly memory
group at the museum for people living with Dementia and their carers. This
means that we will see more people with Dementia coming to the museum. We would
like staff and volunteers to be confident in engaging with people with Dementia
and their carers. These information sessions are run by volunteer Dementia
Friends Champions, who are trained and supported by Alzheimer’s Society. During
the session you will learn more about dementia and how you can help to create
dementia friendly communities. If you can’t make either of these sessions we
will be running more of these training events in the future on different days
book a place on the workshop please email me or call 01722 332151.
PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) Volunteers continue to work their way through literally hundreds of finds brought into the museum by responsible metal detectorists. Three ‘gems’ this week, being processed by Volunteers Jane Hanbidge, Alyson Tanner and Alix Smith, together with Finds Liaison Assistant Sohie Hawke are below
Found in Wiltshire, this brooch dates from c AD 75 – 175. We often have beautiful and interesting brooches but not often are they complete. This lovely item is missing only some enamel which would have been held in the triangular cells on the middle of the bow.
Some readers will know that these brooches were worn in a manner which we would consider is upside down. Thus….
They were functional as well as decorative, worn by men and women, holding clothing together, and often worn in pairs as below:
By far the most common finds are Roman coins. This one is early:
It is a coin from the rule of Lucilla. Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla or Lucilla (March 7, 148 or 150 – 182) who was the second daughter and third child of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
A slightly (!) better example of the same coin appears here……
In the film Gladiator Lucilla was depicted as one of the most dangerous threats faced by her brother, Commodus. She was eventually executed for plotting to assassinate him and take power with her second husband but appears on Roman coins because she was briefly, through her first marriage, Empress Consort.
Every one of these finds would have been sadly missed by its owner, not least this:
As you can see, this is a tiny toy jug from a child’s toy tea set, or possibly a doll’s house piece, about 2cm across. Provisionally identified as 18th or 19th century, it is made of lead, as many toys were, well into the 20th century. It is as beautifully decorated as a full size version would be.
Last month, our Volunteer blog was visited 627 times. That’s not quite the record figure but not bad!
Last year we had 6136 visitors in total, so with your continued interest and involvement we should beat that figure this year. Thank you for joining us.
As you know, we have a small group of wonderful regular Volunteer bloggers whose expertise, experience, knowledge or thoughtful comment on their work at the museum has intrigued and entertained us for several years now.
Volunteer Linda Robson wrote (26 Feb) about a scheme she was involved with and, as a result, managed to find Volunteers to help. We give voice to students who visit from local schools and colleges and universities, and from partner organisations. We like to publicise some of the special events which staff are involved with. We try to keep our Volunteers up-to-date with what is happening and report on events for those unable to attend; to shine a light on as many different areas of the Volunteers’ work and of the museum as we can. Occasionally we receive responses which add to everyone’s knowledge but most comments are an encouraging “well done” from our readers.
We have over 250 Volunteers and hope that more will join in the blog by writing about why they came to Salisbury museum, about their work and experiences, about their past lives. We know, from conversation, how fascinating is the latter! Please consider putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and sharing. Anonymously if preferred….
Our hugely knowledgeable costume Volunteers, also members of the Art Society, have uncovered some treasures recently. They, and other Volunteers, are systematically unpacking, checking, re-cataloging and re-packing the museum’s huge and important collection of costume. Week by week anything and everything which broadly comes under the heading of costume is lovingly poured over.
A fortnight ago, a petticoat of white lawn cotton and lace was unpacked by Volunteers Caroline Lanyon, Sarah Brumfitt, Selina Chudleigh, Pam Balchin. Dating from 1901, it had belonged to the donor’s mother and had been part of her trousseau that year. It had been made by Queen Victoria’s underwear seamstress. We might conjecture that, Queen Victoria having died in 1901, the seamstress had sought new customers elsewhere. and so produced this beautiful garment.
The Volunteers described the petticoat as follows:
“This lawn and lace petticoat is made in narrow vertical panels on the bodice in white work and tucked lawn cotton. The sides are gently shaped with tucked V shaped horizontal panels in lawn and the lace shaped with godet darts. The hem of 400mm depth has horizontal panels of cotton lawn and lace. Many of the panels are joined a ladder stitch insertion. The back has a gusset opening to the hips and is fastened by eight covered buttons. The button holes are hand made with two top hand-worked loops.”
The annual Archaeology of Wiltshire Conference, held in the Corn Exchange in Devizes and hosted by Devizes Museum, was sold out last Saturday. It was, as always, an eclectic mix of fascinating talks about current archaeology in the county.
Salisbury Museum was there in the form of some Volunteers and our own Sophie Hawkes (Finds Liaison Assistant) who was looking after the Portable Antiquities stand. An old friend joined us for a while….