Amongst our Costume Collection are a variety of dress accessories, including handbags…
They all have a story; fashions may have changed, but most early examples are just beautiful to look at. And knowing how they were made is sometimes jaw dropping!
We will explore some of the stories, and who were the famous owners of some of the bags, another time. Meanwhile, enjoy a sample.
All these bags and purses date to the mid 19th century and are therefore nearly two hundred years old. This one was manufactured in such a way as to have a three dimensional pattern on it. This isn’t printed fabric, there are rectangular cells all over the surface.
This gloriously blue bag has an outer ‘shell’ created from thread made from grasses!
This elegant bag is velvet and the foliate decoration is made of tiny slivers of horn.
And finally for today, an ingenious purse. It is made up fabric cut and sewn in a single sausage shape, with sliding rings which can form and separate and keep secure, two pouches for coins. It could be held in a simple way, in the hand, wrapped around the wrist, or tucked into a belt. Why doesn’t someone re-invent it for youngsters who don’t know what to do with their handbags on the dance floor…?
Thank you to the Costume ladies, who promise more on this later.
Costume Project Volunteers are invited to come along for a project catch-up and tea, coffee and cake on:
Wednesday 20 November from 2pm til 3.30pm.
Katy England would like to discuss the exciting next steps with the ‘Look Again; Discovering Centuries of Change’ project. There will also be an opportunity to discuss other costume cataloguing issues.
Please can you let Bridget know if you are able to attend.
Henry Stafford, the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, lived at a time of great turmoil in British history and he was certainly part of that turmoil. Originally allied to King Richard III he seems to have fallen out with him, to the extent that he led a rebellion against him in 1483. One theory is that Stafford had come to hear of Richard’s murder of the princes in the Tower (sons of Edward IV) and was so shocked he turned against his king. However, other versions suggest it was Stafford himself who was responsible for the murder of the two boys.
Whatever the case, Stafford was unsuccessful in his attempt to throw over the King. He was captured by Richard and on 2 November 1483 he was beheaded in the courtyard between the Blue Boar Inn and the Saracen’s Head Inn (both demolished some time ago) in the market-place in Salisbury.
He is apparently buried in St Peter’s Church in Britford, but the tomb there, said to be his, is empty.
Meanwhile, The Salisbury Museum has a certain oak box, said to have been carved from the wood block used at Stafford’s execution.
In which case Stafford was never in the tomb at Britford at all, his skeleton being unearthed at The Saracen’s Head in 1838, together with the box.
There is more confusion, however. An early document suggests Stafford was buried at Greyfriars near present-day St Ann Street, which is more likely for a man of his standing than under the floor of an inn. in addition, there was another mysterious burial at Old Sarum which some say is Stafford.
If so, who was the skeleton, the ghost of which is said to wander Debenhams to this day…? And where is that skeleton now? And why did he have an old oak box?
Thanks to Volunteers Jean and Jane who found the box in their cataloguing and wrapping of social history artefacts, and share the story with us.
Alex was with us earlier in the summer. His account is a pretty good example of what our work experience students have to put up with!
I am Alex from St Josephs and I chose to come to The Salisbury Museum for work experience because of my interest in history. I thought it would be a good opportunity to be behind the scenes in a museum and be able to see the objects not on display. Being at the museum for the week has educated me greatly in new topics and ones I have studied. In the week that I have been here, I have participated in lots of different activities, from cataloguing artefacts to shadowing a school trip. These are the things I got up to this week:
I arrived at the museum for 10am and was met at reception by Valerie. She showed me around the museum for the induction and orientation session. I was informed of the pin numbers for the doors and the fire exits and what to do when I hear an alarm. Then, from 10:30 until 1pm I assisted Roy in cataloguing ceramics in the display rooms. This was interesting because I was able to handle the old ceramics from and was able to describe them and give measurements. Once we had written down the descriptions and measurements, we entered them onto a file on the computer called Modes so they are saved there. Once I got back from lunch at 2pm, I met Valerie at reception again, to go to the library to do some research work on something of my choice. I chose to do Clarendon palace. This is because I was intrigued about the history of Clarendon palace and wanted to research this further. I did this task until the end of the day.
Tuesday I met Owain at reception at 9:30 to shadow a school trip visit from one
of the local primary schools. Owain made a presentation of Old Sarum for the
primary school which was interesting to watch. We then went over to the Wessex
Gallery where the children were shown round and they were fascinated by what
they saw in the gallery. They also had a task to draw old Sarum from the model
in the gallery, and to also draw a gargoyle. After lunch, they were shown round
the Salisbury gallery – the giant, the drainage collection and different
artefacts on display. We then went back to the lecture hall where we made our
the school trip had finished, I helped Catalogue social history from 2pm to the
end of the day. This involved taking donated items out of their boxes and
wrapping them up carefully in non-acidic paper. This was to preserve the items
for years to come.
I arrived at the museum for 10am where I was met at reception by Pat and Tessa to help catalogue archaeological archives. This involved taking the artefacts out of the boxes and wrapping the up better in the non-acidic paper. The first item that we catalogued that morning were 5000 year old antlers that were found at Stonehenge, near the inner circle. These were used by the Stone Age people to dig the holes for the stones to sit in as the antlers were used as picks or rakes. The next thing that we catalogued was loads of small boxes of animal bones and ceramics found at Stonehenge by Gowland in the early 20th century. These were contained in any boxes it seemed that Gowland could get his hands on. They were in old soap boxes, cardboard containers and metal containers. There was also one in a matchbox. We had to put the bones in a transparent plastic bag, the original label in another bag and put that back in the box which also goes in a bag with a new label added. At the end of this session, I was shown a Bronze Age sword from the archives which was great.
the afternoon, from 1pm onwards, I was in the library finishing my research of
Clarendon Palace. For this task I used the books in the library and also
knowledge of the palace that I had picked up through my week at the museum.
This is the basis of my other blog.
arrived at the museum for 10am once again, and was met at reception by Sue,
Joan and Muriel. I helped them in cataloguing the costumes/ pieces of clothing
donated by people to the museum. These items included a man’s jacket worn at
his wedding in the 1920s, and a girls clothes from late Victorian times to
early Edwardian. This was interesting because it gave an idea pf how people
used to dress in the early 20th century / late 19th
the afternoon, I did admin support work. This was to correct booklets that were
being given to volunteers. I did this by sticking labels over lines that had to
be taken out, or by writing the correct information over the labels.
Overall, this week has been a great week. It was an amazing opportunity working in the museum and seeing how it is all run and how much work has to be done. The staff here are very friendly and I have had great experiences being part of the Salisbury Museum – even just for a week. I would recommend coming to the museum for work experience if you are interested in museums or history because the activities I took part in over the week were great.
My name is Jack, I am 17 years old and am studying for my A-Levels at Bishop Wordsworth’s School.
Having helped in the summer with the museum’s Festival of Archaeology and then with the children’s activity events in August, I had hoped to find another volunteering role to undertake at the museum from September onwards.
Engagement volunteering was undoubtedly an excellent activity to help with. After some organisation, it was confirmed that I was to come into the museum on Fridays after school at 4pm, shadowing engagement volunteer Ian Dixon. My role was simply to help welcome visitors to the museum and show them the exhibits, which first involved learning about the collection. However, because I was only present at the end of the day on Friday, the museum tended to have relatively few visitors. This fortunately meant that there was more time to learn about the fascinating exhibits in the museum.
I enjoyed learning a great deal about prehistory and local history which was hugely fascinating. I feel that the exhibits in the Wessex gallery are particularly interesting. Favourites included the Warminster jewel in addition to the polished Neolithic axe, not just for their physical beauty, but for the brilliant stories which they and many other exhibits hold.
And then there is of course the Amesbury Archer, which I believe is the greatest exhibit in the museum in that it reflects most clearly what I believe is the greatest appeal of archaeology to us: how the mere physical remains of something can incite so much speculation and imagination in their interpretation. Ian frequently told visitors about the exhibit in my presence and so by the end of my time as an engagement volunteer I could essentially explain all of the features of the artefact to the public which was great. Also, the relatively small number of visitors meant that we were able to spend more time helping particular visitors to explore the museum more thoroughly.
I was also fortunate to be at the museum when there were a number of excellent temporary exhibitions, of which the exhibition of hoards was my favourite. Furthermore, I got on very well with Ian and very much enjoyed shadowing him, and it was great to volunteer with Nick as well. My time at the museum was very useful as it helped me gain further experience working around members of the public and I have learnt so much about our local history and archaeology. Thank you.
Jane and Jean are two Volunteers who work on the checking, cataloguing and re-wrapping of the museum’s Social History archives. More often than not, ‘gems’ appear, and they have kindly agreed to share some of them with us via the blog.
This week, we have what has been itemised as a pomander. We all know what that is, more or less. Its name is from the French – pomme d’ambre, apple of amber. Later they used scented wood, fruit spiked with cloves, or a small container of lavender, held to the nose to avoid the stink of the Medieval town. This was important when it was thought that miasma , or the smell of the filth, was what caused illness.
Traditionally these pomanders were apple shaped and so held comfortably in the hand.
This doesn’t quite look right. Whatever it is,it is clearly intended, not to be held, but to stand on a flat surface, a table. Technically it may be a vinaigrette, though not as we understand it today. A sponge or soft cloth, steeped in vinegar, would be stuffed inside a decorative container and the lid opened to allow the aroma to escape into the room which would otherwise smell unpleasant. Does this sound a bit like something some of us have at home today…?
This beautifully carved object, in the shape of a fashionable shoe, has a sliding lid with the moustachioed face of a man on it. Antique dealers describe these as, in fact, snuff boxes. Snuff was already common by the seventeenth century, which is apparently the date for this item. Ours has a drilled hole at the front of the toe. Now that is unusual. Was it re-purposed in some way?
On the toe of the shoe is a date – 1651 – and around the heel, a name – Richard Minifie. Richard did, indeed, live in ‘New Sarum’ in the 17th century, and at one point was mayor. The family were still here a couple of hundred years later. It is said they came here from Somerset, and were in the lace trade, although some sources suggest ‘our’ Richard was a milliner. In St Thomas’ Church there is a memorial to a later Richard Minifie.
All thoughts and ideas are the bloggers, not the museum’s. Your research is as good as mine, or perhaps there are some experts out there?
Next time, we can look forward to finding out about Salisbury and the Duke of Buckingham. Or just muddying the waters…..
Museum Volunteer Rosemary Pemberton will be giving a talk entitled ‘Pitt Rivers: Museum Director and Entertainer at Rushmore’, which will explore how Pitt Rivers had another vision for his large estate, aside from the archaeology. He was committed to public education and collected thousands of items from English ceramics to Benin bronzes for his museum at Farnham. He put on entertainments at the ‘Larmer Grounds’ as inducements. Using some documents from Salisbury Museum archives, this talk will look at another aspect of this interesting man and what happened to his land and collections after he died.
Thursday 17 October and Tuesday 22 October: Volunteer Coffee
Adrian Green, the Museum Director, will be giving a talk entitled ‘Salisbury Museum for Future Generations: Heritage Fund Success’. Come along and hear about our exciting plans to re-develop the museum following our successful bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We would also love to hear what you think about our proposed plans.
is no need to RSVP for either of the above talks. Please just turn up on the
Artemis has contributed some lovely articles to our blog in the last month or so. Her most recent piece, on the Amesbury Archer, appeared last week and here is the final one. Each time, I have been encouraged to look again at items in our collection. Perhaps you have too? The Downton lace is certainly worth it!
The second object of interest was the Downton lace industry. I’m a complete numpty when it comes to pretty things like fashion and fabric – I know nothing about it, except that designer brands aren’t worth their price and that skinny people can get away with pretty much anything. Given that, I was shocked to realise that I had actually heard of Downton lace before – specifically Downton lace! – albeit very vaguely, and so delved into research during the hours in the library.
Part of my History A-level course involves a depth study of Louis XIV, the Sun King of France 1661-1715. As such, when I learnt that the lace industry of England largely started due to the Huguenots’ mass migration to England under Louis’ harsh anti-Protestant policies, I marvelled at how learning history can tie events together by chance like this. The Huguenots bringing over their lace trade was a major revolution in the English fashion industry; their craft, having been influenced and developed by Italian and Venetian laces of Louis’ luxury imports, was much more developed than that in England. By the 1730s and certainly by the end of the 18th century, Downton lace had become an established trade that was practised by most women and children, and went on to become a family tradition of past generations. Before official schools were established, there were “lace schools” in villages where kids over 5 would go to learn how to read and how to make lace, regardless of gender. Generally lace was used in a bartering system with other goods. As a whole, lacemaking didn’t pay very well, but lacemakers and their families managed with the “male” incomes as well as bartering with their handiwork.
Unfortunately, the Industrial Revolution meant that much of the handmade lace industry was replaces by more efficient machinery. At the same time, job opportunities increased in factories that needed workers, and so the practice became reduced to an “old person’s hobby”. By the end of the 19th century women in Downton came to realise that this practice was something that they should preserve, so they gathered up what few lacemakers they had left and started classes for young girls to relearn the tradition. It is thanks to them that handmade Downton lace survives to this day, even though they are relatively few.
lacemakers have had the privilege of lacemaking for the royal family throughout
the 19th and 20th centuries for major events like
weddings and coronations. The work of unique lacemaking methods and patterns,
which aren’t so easily achievable by machine (an expert would be able to tell
you the exact differences, but I can’t) are the reason why they – and most
handmade laces — are so highly priced today.
Most samples of Downton lace are found as insertions or edgings, such as trimming for handkerchiefs and nice underwear. Around 100 patterns are still practised today, and most are named (e.g. the Grecian, the Shell, the Garland, and the Duke’s Garter are all named Downton patterns). There are older and more complicated patterns, but those have largely been abandoned for the sake of time and convenience – not to mention the time needed to practice and perfect the creation of each lace pattern. Passed down from the Huguenots, a cheaper French lace named a torchon is still handmade, but it is much quicker and easier to make and as such lowers its market value. Downton lace generally uses finer thread and has more complex patterns, which is why they are more couture and expensive to commission.
The bobbins of Downton lacemakers are the most unique part of their industry. The earliest dated bobbin found is from 1789, but given that there is a Salisbury bobbin dated 1693, it is highly possible that there are other Downton bobbins that are even older, but simply without an engraved year. Generally the bobbins are smooth and simple, possibly engraved with the owner’s initials, but a lot of them have beautiful geometric designs or engravings of birds, sometimes filled in with wax. To make beautiful lace, they probably wanted beautiful instruments as well.
is it about lace that has entrapped people’s fantasies for centuries? Is it the
quiet nature of lacemaking itself? The mystery of how on earth people managed
to figure out such delicacy in a time without modern technology? Or just the
beauty of it, so thin and fragile, like the fashionable version of a spiderweb?
I still don’t know anything about fashion, and I doubt I ever will; basic sewing is all I need to get on in life. But maybe over the summer I’ll try making paper lace.
Thank you Artemis, and best wishes to you. We have more to come from the students who have been on work placement with us this summer. I hope you, and they, will look forward to that.
Artemis has written in our blog before (see July 10) and has recently completed two pieces on her favourite items in the museum. We include one today. The other will appear next week.
The Salisbury Museum is, of course, chock full of all sorts of curious objects that people would find intriguing, no matter where their interests lay. That is the allure of a museum. I’ve only been studying in England for three years, having done my GCSE’s at Godolphin (and now continuing my A-levels there), and in my first year of GCSE Art we came down to look at the artefacts – specifically ceramics. No offence to anyone, but I grew to dislike looking at old ceramics after that experience where we were expressly forbidden to look at anything but pots! So my first impression of the museum was unfortunately not that great. Now that I have had a full week to explore the museum more in depth and have been able to adapt to my own tastes better, there were two objects that I found particularly interesting that I hadn’t had the chance to properly study before.
The first is the famous Amesbury Archer. I had glanced at him (longingly) two years ago, but on Monday I got to really inspect the display. (The staff and volunteers often joked that he had received more media coverage than the whole museum combined throughout the years.) His remains were found near Stonehenge, dating back to the late Neolithic period. The reason why he was so interesting was because of the finds in his burial, which suggested that he was a man of extremely high status despite one non-functional leg. His teeth traced his origins to somewhere near the Alps. He was, seemingly, one of the founders of metal-working in Britain, which was what gave him such a wealthy burial, with the oldest gold and copper items yet found within the UK.
interest lies in archaeology, but the main influence on that is in all types of
ancient mythology (also mainly in ceremonial rites like funerals and weddings, but
that isn’t really relevant right now). The Greeks believed in a blacksmith god
named Hephaestus, or the Roman Vulcan, who was crippled with a smashed leg when
Hera threw him off Olympus as a baby for being too ugly. He landed on high
mountains – some believed he landed on a volcano, which made him also the god
of volcanoes (hence the word derived from his Roman name). After being raised
by the older generation of “monstrous” immortals who taught him the trade of
metalworking, Hephaestus travelled far and wide, ultimately seeking revenge
against his immortal family for his mistreatment. Mortals associated him with
gold and bronze.
that in mind, the first thing that came to me upon seeing the Amesbury Archer
was the similarities he had to Hephaestus. Both crippled, metalworking men who
came from the mountains, treated with high prestige and immense respect by the
locality; the coincidence was all too much. Could it be possible that the Stone
Age Archer was a reincarnation of the Ancient Greek God?
The reincarnation theory is highly prominent in Asian religions and mythologies, and it has certainly spread worldwide in providing interesting plotlines (e.g. see the film A Dog’s Journey). Of course the common person would scoff at my association of the Amesbury Archer with an Ancient Greek myth, but it left a lasting impression on me and certainly allowed my imagination to wander far and wide.
Thank you Artemis. Fascinating, and thought provoking.
A student on her work experience at Salisbury Museum (Charlotte; see her blog below) has done some interesting research on a snuff box which is part of one of our collections…
The object I have chosen is a souvenir coffin shaped snuffbox from the 19th century. I chose this object because of its immediate irony and dark humour, as well as the intriguing local history behind it.
Most wooden snuffboxes were made by country craftsmen, which can make them hard to date, and have less delicate designs. Country craftsmen had no need to keep up with fashions, so many snuffboxes are shaped and decorated with humour or simple design, as opposed to the latest style. Whilst the shape of a coffin is initially shocking, it is not unusual; there were quite a few snuffboxes shaped as coffins, some even containing miniature skeletons. The snuff powder these skeletons would be replaced with would serve as a macabre reminder of the dust we all return to. A few snuffboxes also bore engravings of skulls, further exemplifying this surprisingly dark humour.
This particular snuffbox in the form of a coffin, was made by Benjamin Best of Tisbury, from a piece of the ‘Parliament Tree’ allegedly felled sometime in the late 19th century. It bears the inscription: OLD SARUM DIED 7th JUNE 1832 AGED 584.’ Here the reference to the death of Old Sarum is about the passing of the Reform Bill, the local political history that makes this object so fascinating.
The Reform Bill was passed in the 1830s, and deprived Old Sarum of the right to return two members to Parliament. Old Sarum had retained this right previously, even though the town had been completely deserted for many years. By the 19th century, the town was often known as a ‘rotten borough’, or ‘pocket borough’; a place where a small number of electors voted under the control of their landlord (in this case, because it had been abandoned for Salisbury).
This box not only relates to the ‘death’ of Old
Sarum in writing, but it is made from the ‘Parliament tree’, beneath which the
polling tent would have been set up. The tree is also said to have been
situated on ‘election acre’ although there is not a decided location for it. A
second snuff box was made from this tree. Inscribed: OLD SARUM DESERTED IN YEAR
1217, DISFRANCHISED JUNE 7 1832’, which bears a similar message to the coffin
shaped one I have chosen.
I find the coffin shaped snuff boxes really
interesting, as they are the product of a certain type of dark humour and irony
that many of us would consider to be more modern. Snuff boxes shaped as coffins
are an unusual combination of fear and fascination with death, and a morbid
This specific box’s relation to the Reform Bill and subsequent ‘death’ of Old Sarum, makes it all the more engaging. There were very mixed emotions surrounding the reform bill, so this symbol of the death of the old town may have been like a political statement, not just an ironic souvenir. I would be interested to know how the maker of it, Benjamin Best, felt about the bill.
I think that this snuffbox is an interesting object in itself, but also with an engaging message, and story behind it.