On a wet, rather cold morning, a brave builder is repairing one of our walls. It draws attention to what appears to be one of the more modern parts of the building. However, the wall is, in fact, a complete patchwork. It is mainly brick, but of different hue, and possibly bricks of different sizes, and therefore different dates. Most interesting, perhaps, are the two patches of much older wall, which are similar to the section of wall highlighted in the blog last week. That wall is in part of the building which is much more obviously early, perhaps 16th century.
The new uplighters in front of the museum building pick up the texture of the old walls in dramatic fashion (see last week’s blog). The photograph above is a close-up of one section, in daylight, and just wonderful to look at.
Pause to look, and there are stories there, even without any other knowledge of the history of the place. Clearly, materials have been re-used. The basic ‘building block’ here is the flint, a local material and used in many of the older buildings in the Close. When building with ‘rubble’ (unshaped stones) it was useful to include a ‘string course’ at intervals up the wall, to create a kind of frame or skeleton, assisting the mason in keeping the wall straight. Such courses are often quite decorative, contrasting with the material of the main part of the wall and perhaps projecting outwards or highlighting windows and other features. Here it is not so much for this latter purpose, although the courses can be picked out because brick, clay roof tile and dark sand stone have been used, albeit in a rather rough manner, to add colour.
There are at least two types of sandstone used here, and some limestone. I am no great geologist and so cannot identify these with any certainty but greensand is another local material and the brownish coloured chunks here may be ironstone. Comments welcome!
The bricks are very weathered and vary in colour. It may be possible to date them from their size (see below).
If you are interested in the history of bricks, read on (with thanks to the Architects Journal)….
Brickwork offers clues to the age of a building. The Romans were the first to use clay bricks in Britain, and bricks were then not re-introduced into the country until the Middle Ages. Hampton Court was one of the first major buildings of that period to be built of brick. With the decline of medieval timber- framed buildings and the advent of canals, railways, and better roads, bricks were transported and used throughout the country.
By the eighteenth century, brick was the most common material for houses, and many old timber-framed houses were gentrified by re-facing with bricks or mathematical tiles, particularly the latter after the first brick tax of 1784.
Since the 1400s the width of a brick has always been about 4.5 inches (114mm) – governed by the need to grasp and lay it with one hand. But the length and thickness of a brick has not always been as constant as today, being influenced by government legislation, regional variations in firing thicknesses of clay, bonding, joint thickness, and local practice.
Medieval bricks were longer and thinner than modern bricks – perhaps 2″ (51mm) thick. But beware modern imitations, particularly in early 20th century buildings. Parliament fixed brick sizes in 1776 at 8.5 x 4 x 2.5 inches (216 x 102 x 63mm). In 1784, after the American War of Independence, parliament taxed each brick used, so some bricks were made larger, up to 10 x 5 x 3ins (254 x 127 x 76mm) so that fewer need be used in building and so saving costs. In 1803, these large bricks were further taxed, and this was avoided by reducing the size to 9 x 4.5 x 3ins (229 x 114 x 76mm). In 1850 the brick taxes were repealed, and brick sizes gradually standardised, rising four courses per foot (304mm), except in the north of England where they rose four courses per 13 inches (330mm) for much of the nineteenth century. However, the worst examples of ‘jerry’ building in the nineteenth century produced bricks of various sizes and sometimes with large quantities of soot mixed into the clay, leading to crumbling houses over a short period of time.
In 1851, machinery was designed for making pressed bricks in volume, eventually replacing handmade bricks, except for best quality work. Machine- made bricks, such as Flettons which were first made in the 1870s, are generally smoother and more regular in appearance than handmade bricks.
If you would like to learn more, try this site by clicking here.
In his recent talk to Volunteers about prospects for the museum after our successful NHLF bid, the Director began by referencing his arrival in 2007. It was a time when there was a need, and desire, for change. And it was important to rejuvenate the heart of the museum – the King’s House.
A Masterplan was prepared. A priority was to update the prehistory displays as Stonehenge would have its own new visitors’ gallery after 2013. In July 2014 the Wessex Gallery opened and Part One was complete.
The Salisbury Galleries, meanwhile, date to the 1980s, and also need re-designing.
Conserving the Grade Two listed buildings is vital and potentially expensive. Tiles fall off, leaks and damp are occasionally serious, as a ceiling collapse a few months ago reminded everyone.
Meanwhile, the museum continues to take in new material, including large items such as the Scout car.
A big plus is the recently acquired Hurricane Store’ at Old Sarum but there are still problems, generally, with storage.
The museum needs 45 000 visitors a year to be stable financially. At the moment the annual figure is 30 000. Commercial opportunities are being developed, eg the use of the King’s Room (which also needs updating), but, for example, a lift is needed to make it more accessible.
With NHLF funding, and other monies, the Salisbury Gallery will be re-developed during 2020 – 2022. It may involve revamping rooms and buildings, and Wiltshire Council and Heritage England are supportive of changes to the ground floor but there is much to consider.
Adrian stressed that we have a ‘Round One’ pass only from NHLF at the moment and certain criteria must be met before we gain ‘Round Two’ funding.
And, of course, we need to raise match funding to go with the Lottery grant. Fundraisers have been appointed and staff to fill new posts will follow. Conservation Architects will be needed, designers for interiors, business planners, Quantity Surveyors, etc, etc. In addition a Membership drive is planned.
Onward and upward..but a lot of hard work yet to do!
Hole lot of history dug up – Your Valley News
Not many people would choose to spend their May Bank Holiday watching a hole being dug, unless of course the person wielding the spade was world-famous archaeologist Dr Phil Harding, assisted by Lorraine Mepham. At Salisbury Museum the crowds went to see Phil and Lorraine digging an exploratory test pit in the grounds of the museum.
The dig was part of an annual project in which Phil and Lorraine have been investigating the history of The King’s House, home to Salisbury Museum. For the past three years, the dig was on the Festival of Archaeology’s weekend in July but, due to Phil’s commitments elsewhere, the dig was moved to early May.
As part of the 40th birthday celebrations for Wessex Archaeology, the whole dig was filmed to be premiered at the Festival of Archaeology, July 13 and 14.
The specific question the digging duo were set to answer this year was: ‘how old is the wing of the museum, now the café?’ Previous surveys have suggested that it was built in the 15th century, replacing an earlier building and perhaps 200 years after the cathedral.
Digging down against the café wall, just a lot of wet mud was produced, and by lunchtime, it felt as though the dig might not provide answers. Late afternoon, a small fragment of pottery was found and instantly recognised by the expert eye of Lorraine to be early medieval, contemporary with the foundation of the cathedral itself.
Having lain undiscovered for hundreds of years the humble shard of cooking pot was cheered as it was cleaned and shown to an appreciative audience, providing a link to someone who may have witnessed construction of the iconic building. Sadly nothing was found to confirm the date of the café- a challenge for another day.
Phil and Lorraine returned to the pit on Tuesday to meet nearly 300 children from local schools keen to see archaeology in action – and meet the man in the hat from Time Team.
Having been seen by just under 900 people in two days, and many more viewers online, the dig was recorded for the archive and finally backfilled when the last school group left. To see the film, and hear how the project went, go to the Festival of Archaeology, July 13 and 14, at Salisbury Museum.
Thank you to Valley News
Phil Harding and finds specialist Lorraine Mepham, both of Wessex Archaeology, have been at the museum this week – in a hole! An excavation in the grounds of the museum attracted over six hundred on Bank Holiday Monday and huge numbers of school parties today.
Wil Partridge, Finds Liaison Officer, was on call today, together with Megan Gard, student, showing school parties some of the objects from the museum collection.
Thank you, as always, to all concerned, especially the Volunteers!