In an earlier blog (5 March) we had two photographs, passed across to us by photographic archive Volunteer Alan Clarke. We asked if any of the people who appeared could be named, and received the following…. from none other than Peter Saunders, Curator Emeritus, and special friend of the museum.
“I don’t recall who the ‘gentlemen’ are but the thin chap with the luxuriant hair, moustache, and wearing the same tweed jacket in the photos – with the uniform of the Wilts Local Volunteers in 1977, and the Home Guard trophies in 1976 – is the then curator, me. The photos were taken while still in the old museum in St Ann Street. I note that the long hair continued in fashion into the 1980s, though by then the parting had changed sides…”
“… the photo of me with the Giant and Hob Nob and the fire engine from Downton was taken in 1981 when we had just successfully brought these treasures from St Ann Street to the new museum site, the King’s House. The fire engine was transported on an AA trailer and, dated 1768, was said to be the oldest vehicle ‘rescued’ by the AA in Salisbury. I’m smiling that our largest objects had arrived safely, and in the knowledge that we were about to engage in a little sleight of hand. It’s little-known that when onlookers and the press had departed, these objects, enormous compared with all the new museum’s doors, were walked to the rear of the building to be located in what was to become the Salisbury gallery. Few saw us unceremoniously easing them through a wall that had to be partially demolished to allow access.”
Thank you Peter! We should have recognised you anywhere!
Last week, Volunteer Christine Mason wrote for us about the remarkable story of her involvement with the museum’s Rex Whistler archive. Thanks to this talented lady, some of the Whistler story is spreading far and wide…
Nothing of what happened throughout 2018 in preparation for the show would have been possible without the help, enthusiasm and encouragement of Louise Tunnard, and it was a gamble for her, as if the event wasn’t a success the museum stood to lose money.
that there should be two readers, male and female, and I was very fortunate
that two professional actor friends, Jill Fenner and Edward Halsted, expressed
interest, so it was up to me to produce a script that would appeal to them. I
started, naturally, by reading every item in the correspondence section of the
archive, approximately 700 items, but of those 700, although some were just a single
sheet, others were six or more pages long.
I selected about 59 possibilities to work on. In the case of transcripts I could photocopy
them to take home, but for the originals the photographs on Modes had to be
retrieved, and here I was greatly indebted to volunteer David Balston for doing
that. Bearing in mind always that the
performance had to be strictly of an hour’s duration was a good discipline when
it came to editing the letters. The
first lines to go were the apologies that began almost every letter. I have said that Whistler was a reluctant
letter writer, and his correspondents always had to wait a long time for
replies, even when commissions were being offered. Repetition, references to people or events
unknown today also disappeared. Finally
27 letters and one envelope made up the script.
Once the shape was in place I had to provide a linking narrative, and
decide on the division of the letters between the readers, which was roughly
that the female would read letters addressed to women and the male those to
men, but this was not strictly adhered to.
The title, ‘Darling Edith and others’ was arrived at by Louise and me
over a lunchtime sandwich, and she designed the attractive poster advertising the
event. So with the script done, and
timed with helpful friends reading aloud with me, copies were sent to the
actors, who fortunately were both enthusiastic about it.
the script was completed, I was stewarding in the Henry Lamb exhibition, and
one of the visitors was Katherine Olivier, the great-niece of the Darling Edith
of the title. We talked, and she said
she lived in America so would not be able to come to the performance, but at
her request I sent her a copy of the script, which she reviewed very kindly and
script completed and accepted, I then had to think about the staging, bearing
in mind the limitations of the Lecture Hall as a performance venue, with its
very low stage making for difficult sightlines, and the lack of effective
lighting. Any staging, however minimal,
is a costly business. Both actors had
offered to waive their fees, but this could not be allowed. Louise negotiated with Edward’s agent, and
Jill’s costs and other expenses were sponsored.
These included a dress being made to a 1930s pattern for Jill, and a
donation to Salisbury Playhouse for the loan of furnishings, for which they
generously had made no charge, and had given me a freehand to pick anything I
wanted even including a vase of artificial flowers from the theatre’s
foyer. Other items to dress the set and
genuine 1930s jewellery were scrounged from friends. A superb copy of the self-portrait held by
the museum was made, and two personal items from the archive also helped dress
the set, Whistler’s Welsh Guard’s cap and the drinks flask he carried.
months before the date of the show, Jill and Edward came to Salisbury for a
rehearsal one Saturday when the Lecture Hall was not in use. This was our only rehearsal before the actual
day, and all other notes and directions were conducted by e-mail between the
three of us, but I could not have wished for more co-operative and amenable
morning of 7th December we were to rehearse and set the stage, so it
was disconcerting to arrive and find a decorated, artificial Christmas tree on
the acting area and the hall bedecked with totally inappropriate bunting. Fortunately, Jill’s partner who worked for years
backstage at the Coliseum for English National Opera, removed the bunting with
Wagnerian thoroughness, but his fight with the Christmas tree was more in the
style of opera comique, and apologies
if the tree was never the same again.
To our great
relief the evening was completely sold out, and the performance went
smoothly. It had to end with a
black-out, which was difficult to do, so I hid on stage behind a screen before
the audience arrived, and Louise joined me after her introduction. We had to have four hands on four switches to
achieve the black-out, and we had been unable to synchronise this at the afternoon’s
rehearsal, but by a miracle we managed it when it mattered.
It is very
gratifying, that after so many months’ work by everyone involved, ‘Darling
Edith and Others’ will be seen again.
Lewes Little Theatre, Sussex, with a suitable donation to the museum,
has programmed it into their next season as a Sunday afternoon foyer
performance on 31st May 2020, so if you missed it in Salisbury. . .
The artist Rex Whistler, 1905-1944, is less well known than his contemporary Eric Ravilious, 1903-1942. One only has to look at the greetings cards in the museum shop to realise that. Both were killed in World War II, both at the age of 39, and at the height of their powers with so much more to give. Salisbury Museum is in a unique position to promote Rex Whistler’s work to a wider audience.
been retrospective exhibitions of Whistler, notably the Army Museum 1994,
Brighton Art Gallery 2006 and Salisbury Museum 2013. Whistler’s younger brother, Laurence, amassed
a huge archive of everything and anything connected with his sibling, and this
remained with the family after Laurence’s own death, and was purchased by the
museum after the 2013 exhibition. It is
the most appropriate home for it, as a few years before his death Whistler had
taken a lease on 69 The Close, a near neighbour of the museum.
volunteer steward at the 2013 exhibition, I was invited to an evening’s viewing
of part of the archive soon after its arrival.
This was heaped on the tables in the Meetings Room, and it was almost
impossible to pick out what to look at first, and the Director assured us it
was only a small sample of the whole collection, which had never been fully
catalogued. In the five years since
then, and most importantly, almost everything has been stored in protective
sleeves where necessary, and proper storage boxes. Where Laurence had put items into manila
envelopes or similar, the contents have been removed, and the envelopes kept
and added to the records, as they often provide clues on what they previously
held. The cataloguing continues, and the
collection has been photographed. As the
cataloguing records are completed in longhand in pencil, the details are then
transferred to Modes.
The cost of
holding the archive did not stop with its purchase. The materials for its protection are
expensive, and some of the original works of art are in need of conservation,
having been kept in unsuitable conditions or folded when they should have been
is, of course, available to bona fide
researchers, and the Talking Objects scheme adopted by the museum during summer
months, has given a wider public a taste of Whistler’s enormous talent in
portraiture, mural painting, book illustration, film and theatre design,
advertising, etc., etc. This small
selection also includes photographs and some of his correspondence, he being a
reluctant but skilled letter writer, even though his spelling was always
was asked to give an illustrated talk to fellow volunteers, which I did. Subsequently I took this talk to an outside
group, and a generous cheque was sent by them to the museum, and further
bookings are in the pipeline with the possibility of more fees for the museum.
This gave me the idea of using the archive as performance matter, rather than lecture material, and early in 2018 it was agreed that something along those lines could be programmed into the museum’s events calendar. I was given the date of 7th December to work towards, and I decided to base the evening on the correspondence tracing Whistler’s life from a 12 year old boy just starting at boarding school, through his work and the high society life of the 20s and 30s to his army service with the Welsh Guards from 1940 until his death in 1944.
This fascinating account of a Volunteer’s interest becoming a public performance is continued next week… Thank you Christine!
Volunteer Alan Clarke, who, as regulars will know, looks after our photographic archive, has sent in two apparently random photographs, from the collection, for us to enjoy.
But they are not random of course. Both the Home Guard of the 1940s and the local volunteers of the eighteenth century had taken on the same task- when all else failed, when the enemy was ‘at the gate’, they would defend it.
Volunteer forces were set up after 1859 when the government realised that half the British army was scattered to foreign parts, defending the Empire. In the Crimean War (1853- 56) even the yeomanry (volunteer cavalry regiments raised from landowners) had been sent out to make up numbers. Some arrangement was needed to defend things closer to home.
Wikipedia includes this about the volunteer forces:
Corps were only to be formed on the recommendation of the county’s lord-lieutenant.
Officers were to hold their commissions from the lord-lieutenant
Members of the corps were to swear an oath of allegiance before a justice of the peace, deputy lieutenant or commissioned officer of the corps.
The force was liable to be called out “in case of actual invasion, or of appearance of an enemy in force on the coast, or in case of rebellion arising in either of these emergencies.”
While under arms volunteers were subject to military law and were entitled to be billeted and to receive regular army pay.
Members were not permitted to quit the force during actual military service, and at other times had to give fourteen days notice before being permitted to leave the corps.
Members were to be returned as “effective” if they had attended eight days drill and exercise in four months, or 24 days within a year.
The members of the corps were to provide their own arms and equipment, and were to defray all costs except when assembled for actual service.
Volunteers were also permitted to choose the design of their uniforms, subject to the lord-lieutenant’s approval.
Although volunteers were to pay for their own firearms, they were to be provided under the superintendence of the War Office, so as to ensure uniformity of gauge.
The number of officers and private men in each county and corps was to be settled by the War Office, based on the lord-lieutenant’s recommendation.
The website of the Wardrobe, the museum of the infantry regiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire (also in the Close – a neighbour of ours), says this about our volunteer regiments, some early versions of which already existed in the county when things were formalised in 1859:
In 1860 the volunteer units were formed into two Battalions of Rifle Volunteers, each 1000 strong. The 1st covered the Southern half of the county with its headquarters at Salisbury, and included Wilton, Warminster, Westbury, Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon. The Northern half embraced the 2nd Battalion and included Devizes, Market Lavington, Chippenham, Calne, and Swindon. In the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the volunteer units were incorporated into the Regimental District. Before being organised into battalions the uniforms of the volunteer corps were bright varied and original. The Wiltshire uniforms were based on “Rifle green and black and remained so right up to 1914. The original uniform of the 1st Battalion was dark green with black lace, similar to that of the rifle brigade. The original Badge was two rakes crossed, with, in the centre, the historic barrel and moon of the Moonraker legend. It was consider merging the two battalions at this stage but no action was taken to facilitate this for twenty two years. About 1889 the 1st and 2nd Battalions, Wiltshire Rifle Volunteers, were renamed respectively the 1st Wiltshire Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the 2nd Volunteer Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment. In 1900, during the Boer War, a volunteer Company was recruited from the two volunteer Battalions as reinforcement to the 2nd Battalion on active service in South Africa. The company was commanded by Viscount Folkestone, joining the Regiment in Bloemfontein in April 1900, and returned home at the completion of its year of service, having seen much active service, and having proved itself in all respects up to the standards of regular troops.
If you are interested in reading more, do visit their website, or plan a visit!
Whether or not the description of the uniform matches the one in our photo is for you to decide. Alan does not give us any clues. If there are any experts in military history amongst our readers it would be good to know exactly what the photograph does show. Some thoughts to be going on with – the colour of the uniform does not seem to be green, the style is earlier than 1859 (perhaps late 18th century) and the cap badge is probably GR – one of the Georges…..
Meanwhile, the very mention of the Home Guard raises a smile, due in part to a certain very popular comedy TV series. However, when Churchill said “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” it would have been the Home Guard which, amongst others, would have swung in to action. Road signs had already been taken down to try and confuse the enemy if they landed. Documents from the time (this sort of thing is available in local records offices), show that in one village in Dorset, the then secret orders to the Home Guard commander were, that in the case of a landing by the enemy. a cart should be pulled across the bridge on the outskirts in order to stop their advance. A cart.
Again, we may be tempted to smile, even mock, but imagine knowing that the cart was your last defence, that there would be nothing else you could do and you would be expected to do it. And they would have done, too…
“The Home Guard (initially Local Defence Volunteers or LDV) was an armed civilian militia supporting the British Army. Operational from 1940 until 1944, the Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the regular armed services (regular military service was restricted to those aged 18 to 41); or those in reserved occupations. Excluding those already in the armed services, the civilian police or civil defence, approximately one-in-five men were volunteers. Their role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies.
The Home Guard were to try to slow down the advance of the enemy, even by a few hours in order to give the regular troops time to regroup; and also to defend key communications points and factories in rear areas against possible capture by paratroops or fifth columnists. The Home Guard continued to man roadblocks and guard the coastal areas of the United Kingdom and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down, and finally disbanded on 31 December 1945, eight months after Germany’s surrender. Men aged 17 to 65 could join. Service was unpaid but gave a chance for older or inexperienced soldiers to support the war effort.”
Do any of our readers recognise any of the gentlemen in the photo? If so, please let us know who they are. Is there anyone amongst our volunteers who was in the Home Guard and could share a story? Please do contact Bridget if you can contribute on this.
Thank you Alan, as always. We look forward to more photos soon.
The first exhibits to capture my attention when ‘The Origins of Photography in Salisbury, 1839-1913’ exhibition opened at Salisbury Museum in January were the stereophotographs and viewers (Fig 1).
This was because I was reminded of my own Vistascreen stereoviewer and stereocards, obtained free with Weetabix breakfast cereal during the 1960s (Fig 2).
Vistascreen was a system for viewing photographs or illustrations in 3D, which superseded and was similar in concept to the earlier Stereoview . The Vistascreen Co Ltd was formed in the UK in 1955. Although a competing View-Master system was already available at this time, the content of most of their ‘reels’ was of limited interest in the UK. View-Master ‘reels’ are thin cardboard discs containing seven pairs of small, transparent colour photographs on film, which were manufactured and sold by Sawyer’s (Fig 3). The components of each pair are viewed simultaneously, one by each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.
In Vistascreen, each card consists of two images,
side-by-side, and taken from slightly different angle so that, when viewed
together through a special viewer, a single stereoscopic image is produced. The
Vistascreen stereoscope is a ‘lens stereoscope’ which consists of two
simple magnifying lenses mounted with a
separation equal to the average interpupillary distance of the human eyes (6.5
Most of the original sets of black and white
Vistascreen photographs were taken by ex-RAF photographer Stanley Long using a 1920s Rollei
Heidoscope stereo camera with a plate back. Picture cards were supplied in
packs of 10 cards, and eventually almost 300 Vistascreen sets were produced. Most
Vistascreen cards were sold as souvenirs at UK tourist attractions, but a small
number of glamour photos were also available by mail order.
The original Vistascreen viewers were manufactured
in ivory coloured plastic, with plastic lenses, and were designed to fold flat.
The Weetabix cereal company bought out Vistascreen
in the 1960s, whereupon the viewers had the Weetabix logo embossed in gold on
the viewer’s reverse (Fig 4).
Single cards were given away with Weetabix cereal in a promotion which lasted for several years and which featured six different sets of 25 cards; Working Dogs, Thrills, British Cars, British Birds, Animals and Our Pets. Viewers could be purchased by mail order directly from the Weetabix factory. The cards given away by Weetabix were of poorer quality than the original Vistascreen picture cards, which had a glossy, photographic finish.
I was interested to note
that, recently (February 2018) a Weetabix 3D Vistascreen Viewer with 125 Stereo
Cards was put up for sale on ebay for over £40 – including postage and packing.
In researching this article, I was interested to learn that Queen guitarist, Brian May, who has a pHD in Astrophysics from Imperial College, London, also has a long-standing interest in stereophotography, dating from the time when he himself collected Weetabix VistaScreen cards as a child. In an interview for the Daily Telegraph1 he commented, “I found it magical. I was in my own world with a stereoscope. It’s like having earphones on – you’re completely in contact with your subject matter.”
From collecting stereo cards May graduated into
making his own, commenting, “I had an
appetite for that stuff; so I took my two and sixpenny Woolworth’s camera and
took two pictures of my bike. I stuck them on cardboard and put them in the
Weetabix viewer and it worked.”
Stereoscopy works by replicating human vision
using the phenomenon of parallax; the right eye sees a slightly different image
to the left eye, but the brain fuses these together and constructs a 3D image.
If one covers one eye, one will apparently still see in 3D, but this is, in
fact, largely an illusion as the brain has adapted to use other depth cues such
as shadows. If one closes off one eye,
the loss of perspective does, however, render the judging of distance to be
Stereography began to make an impact during the
early 1850s, being demonstrated at the Great Exhibition of 1851 at Crystal Palace. During Victorian times stereography
was a very accessible and popular form of entertainment; most middle-class homes
would have had a stereo viewer and a stack of cards. It was also possible to
hire a viewer for an evening, and to borrow cards from a library. The less
affluent could see them at fairs whilst, at the other end of the social spectrum,
Queen Victoria herself had several hundred cards. At the height of its
popularity in the 1860s, thousands of stereo cards were produced and sold from
the Oxford Street
premises of the London Stereoscopic Company (LSC) which had a Royal Warrant. The
majority of cards depicted built or natural wonders, such the pyramids,
glaciers and the Crumlin Viaduct in Wales – but the market for
sentimental tableaux and supernatural scenes was also large.
The London Stereoscopic Company was dissolved in
1922 but, in 2008, Brian May, together with a fellow enthusiast and
photo-historian, Denis Pellerin, resurrected the company and hope one day to
publish stereo cards again. Meanwhile, Pellerin is cataloguing and researching May’s
collection, which is one of the biggest in Britain .
Chris Elmer, lecturer at the University of Southampton, will give a talk: ‘It’s all in the mind: how museums make the past come alive’.
Come along, meet friends, enjoy beverage and cake and what will be an excellent talk. No need to book.
Wednesday 27 March 10.30 – Noon
Collections in Focus Lecture
Volunteer Anthony Hawley will give a talk on his grandfather William Hawley, who was an archaeologist, amongst other very varied things. He worked on Stonehenge and had connections with the museum over seventy years ago. ‘Should be fascinating. No need to book.
When Thomas A’Beckett was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, the miraculous healing properties of his blood quickly became legend, and high status visitors, from home and abroad, began arriving to take caskets of relics, including flasks of ‘waters’, home to their own churches and cathedrals. Soon, humbler types were arriving and local metal workers neatly climbed on board the bandwagon by producing miniature versions of common flasks, called ampulla, which could be bought cheaply, and displayed, if so wished, as a sign that they had been to Canterbury!
Other religious centres caught on, one of the most prolific
being the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in N Norfolk where production of
ampullae probably continued right up until the Reformation in the mid 16th
Ampullae were also produced in Europe, and the shell pattern, being the accepted symbol across the continent of pilgrimage, became the most common decorative feature on an ampulla. Other motifs included, flowers, shields and letters eg ‘W’ for Walsingham. The little bottles were made of lead or lead and tin alloy – easy to melt and therefore to mass produce. They were basically circular, but flattened, with a slightly flared neck and with a small loop either side of the narrowest part, to which a cord could be attached (to be worn around the neck) or by which the ampulla could be sewn to a cap. The neck could be crimped if the water, oil, or perhaps dust (anything from the site would do) was to be held secure before being scattered or transferred. Occasionally ampulla are found that have not been opened, but the substance has escaped over time.
Pilgrim badges became popular later, perhaps as ‘display’ became more important, for whatever reason.
However, by the later Medieval period, ampullae were common again. It is currently thought that it may have become a ‘tradition’ of some kind to open the ampullae and spread the contents on fields, perhaps to bless the field and encourage fertility, or simply to bring the sacred back, literally to home ground. The bottles, with their necks ripped off, are commonly to be found in, or alongside, fields. They are also found in river banks or close to graves.
We might reflect that little changes. Using something to show where we have been (from a good tan to a sticker in the car – make your own list!) has never gone away. And all over the world little workshops produce cheap souvenirs for us to take home and show our friends. Neither have beliefs about special places, or people, which we (in our secular age) might describe as ‘superstitious’, become completely irrelevant. Indeed, in many societies pilgrimage remains important.
Megan Fowler tells us…..The Salisbury Museum has lent Stonehenge-related objects to an exhibition created by the artist Jeremy Deller. Wiltshire B4 Christ is based largely on Stonehenge, and the museum has lent objects such as tools used at Stonehenge and bones found from feasts. The exhibition is at Store X, 180 The Strand in London and runs from Wednesday 16 January until Sunday 27 January.
Upcoming Exhibition WILTSHIRE BEFORE CHRISTA collaborative project by Aries, Jeremy Deller & David Sims In partnership with The Store X The Vinyl Factory
16 – 27 January 2019 Free Entry
Opening Hours 12pm – 7pm Daily
Conceived and produced by Aries in collaboration with British artists Jeremy Deller and David Sims, Wiltshire B4 Christ will take the form of an immersive exhibition, an art book, a limited-edition capsule collection and merchandise.
Shot at some of Britain’s key Neolithic sites including Stonehenge and Avebury, it engages with mysticism, pagan symbolism, and a particularly British exploration of identity, time and place.
The exhibition features a new film by Deller, light boxes by David Sims, painted murals, and artefacts from the Salisbury Museum. The exhibition also features the capsule collection and merchandise.
The exhibition will later tour to Milan in February, The Store X Berlin in March, before travelling to Tokyo and Florence.