He is quite something! Do make sure you come along and meet him.
We have a temporary exhibition in the Wessex Gallery, celebrating the work of young people who have been part of the City Story: Historic Past, Creative Future Project, funded by an HLF grant.
Led by Salisbury Museum’s Katy England and supported by local artists, forty young carers aged between ten and thirteen years were working in the Museum on Saturday mornings, exploring objects in the museum and responding in a variety of art and craft techniques.
A taste of the display…
Well done all concerned.
I began 2019 by installing the Creative Wiltshire: A Celebration of Art exhibition at Salisbury museum. As the pictures below will show it was a very transformative experience. We began work on the Sunday, making the most of the time when the museum was shut to the public. Firstly, we took down all of the portraits which had been on display, and then with quite a few helping hands we set about painting the space.
The painting for this exhibition was one of the crucial elements. This is because I chose to paint two brightly coloured feature walls, one in pink and the other in a deep teal. As the exhibition is about celebrating creativity in Wiltshire I wanted to show that museums can be creative too. I also thought it would be a great way of exciting interest in, and conversation about, the exhibition.
The painting took a few days but after some finishing touches we were ready to install the art. We began by hanging the paintings and photographic pieces on the walls. As we had quite a lot of pieces to hang, some of which were very large, this took two days and more helping hands to complete. By this point the space was beginning to come together. We then installed the objects, mostly ceramic and sculpture, which with a little bit of moving around, fitted into the space very well. I was then able to install the colour co-ordinated captions. Finally, the two wall panels were added, completing the space and look of the exhibition.
Overall, I am really pleased with how the exhibition has turned out. I think it highlights how versatile the space can be and shows you do not need to shy away from using bright colours, as when used correctly they can be effective. I hope the exhibition shows visitors the great creativity Wiltshire has to offer.
The exhibition officially opens on Saturday 19 January and runs until 4 May 2019.
Two very busy ladies… Megan Fowler (Wessex Museums Collections Manager) and Emily Smith (Creative Wiltshire Exhibitions Assistant)
The hoards are going. If you missed our ‘Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain’ exhibition, you missed a gem (no pun intended!). It closed on 5 January and is now being dismantled with as much care, and security, as it was put up.
It will be replaced by our ‘The Origins of Photography in Salisbury 1839 – 1919’ exhibition opening on 19 January. A lot of work for Megan in the next ten days!
Also on its way, coming, is ‘Creative Wiltshire: A Celebration of Art in Wiltshire’ 19 January – 4 May 2019
It is eye-catching already! Emily has set the scene…
Our own Alan Clarke (Salisbury Museum Volunteer, archivist of our Photograph Collection) has a wonderful article (with accompanying photos, courtesy of Salisbury Museum) in the latest edition of Sarum Chronicle (Issue 18:2018). It is entitled Salisbury High Street 1853.
It nicely complements our new exhibition The Origins of Photography in Salisbury 1839 – 1919, open to the public 19 January to 4 May.
Alan says in his article “The thing I enjoy about old photographs is discovering the information hidden within them.” We know Alan, and always enjoy it when you share your discoveries with us!
Sarum Chronicle is on sale in the Museum shop at £8.95 and available to Volunteers at the usual discount.
In addition to this being Hallowe’en week, I was further inspired to write this piece on seeing the Scold’s (or witch’s) Bridle being displayed in the foyer, as part of the ‘Wicked Wessex display (Fig 1). A bridle was placed over a suspected witch’s head so they were unable to speak, especially so they were unable to place a curse on anyone. The accompanying information says that Salisbury has two reported witch hangings, that of Anne Bodenham – ‘the Wiltshire witch’ – in 1653 and widow ‘Goody’ Orchard in 1658.
Fig. 1. Scold’s or Witch’s Bridle
This reminded me of the legend of the Handsel sisters, three Danish girls who arrived in Wilton in 1737, their arrival coinciding, unfortunately, with an outbreak of smallpox which killed 132 people in the town. The sisters were branded as witches, bludgeoned to death and buried in separate graves. Nowadays one can see three distinctive beech trees, which were either planted, or mysteriously appeared, over their graves on Broad Drive in Grovely Wood, the far-end one being on Grims Ditch, an Iron-Age boundary. Figure 2 shows one of these trees, festooned with clouties1.
Fig.2 One of the ‘witch trees’ in Grovely Wood
Also of interest to me, in the current ‘Hoards’ exhibition, is a hollow flint stone containing gold coins (staters), part of the Westerham Hoard from Kent (Fig 3).
Fig. 3. Hollow flint nodule containing gold staters (Iron Age)
This reminded me of an artefact known as a geode or aetite.
Colleagues will be aware that I have been researching the ‘alchemist’ of St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury2, and believe that there’s a sporting chance that, if he’s not apocryphal (as has been suggested to me by a respected academic historian) that this could have been the astrological physician, Simon Forman, who was born in Quidhampton in 1552. Forman left Salisbury in 1589 in order to practice medicine in London but little is known of his life in Salisbury beyond what he himself has written in his ‘Autobiography’ and ‘Diary’ (1564-1602). From these we know that he attended schools in Salisbury and Wilton and for several years was apprenticed to one Matthew Commins, a general dealer from whom Forman learned what J.K. Rowling described in the Harry Potter books as ‘herbology’. Among his other wares, Commins sold drugs and ingredients for compounding medicines.
Forman attended Oxford University as a ‘poor scholar’ and, on his return, worked as a school master in several schools. He lived in several places in Salisbury including a house in St Thomas’ churchyard, but it was while living in the parsonage of Fisherton Anger that he claimed to have discovered his ‘miraculous powers’ of being able to call up spirits, and thus acquired a reputation as a necromancer. He also began practicing medicine, physic and surgery and, in his Diary for 1581, wrote that he “cured the fellowe of Quidhampton of the king’s evill”3,
In his Diary Forman writes for 1583, “The 17th of December I had my ring mad with the egles stone.”.
An Italian scholar, priest, astrologer, Marsilo Ficino (1433-1499) wrote that the Eagle’s Stone is used to ease the pain of childbirth, and ascribes this ability to the astrological influence of the planet Venus and the Moon. Furthermore, Occult Physick, (1660) notes of eagle stones, “It is good to be worn for the Stone… Feavers and Plague. It doth also dissolve the knobs of the Kings Evil (i.e. scrofula), being bound to the place grieved”.
Encyclopaedias inform us that eagle stones were nodules of iron oxide, called aetites, which rattled when shaken.
I contacted the Museum of Witchcraft at Boscastle to enquire whether they had an example of an Eagle Stone, especially one set in a ring as described by Simon Forman. They replied that they don’t but “we do have an object which we believe is an eagle stone as it rattles when moved and is a large seed or nut” (Fig 4.).
Fig. 4. Eagle Stone (Museum of Witchcraft, Boscastle)
The Museum of Witchcraft informed me of what one Cecil Williamson had to say about eagle stones:
“EAGLE STONES. Tradition has it that Eagles placed one or more of these stones (they are in fact a nut having an exceedingly tough outer skin protecting the inner fruit). When shaken the inner fruit can be heard to rattle against the hard outer shell in their nests. It was believed that the reason for the Eagles action lay in the fact, that without the Eagle Stone the eggs would not hatch. To obtain an Eagle Stone was no light undertaking consequently they were held in high esteem. In many places it was believed that if an expectant mother were to strap an Eagle Stone to her thigh, that it would help to give an easy delivery for her child.”
This is pertinent as there was a predominance of women among the patients who consulted Simon Forman in his London practice, and about 12 percent of those in the appropriate age group consulted him over issues related to childbirth or to their reproductive systems,
During his time in Salisbury, Simon Forman was frequently in trouble with the law, his main bête noir being the JP, Giles Estcourt. On one occasion, in 1579, Forman was sent to gaol for 60 weeks, apparently on the grounds of practising magic or for some involvement with the occult. On another occasion the judges at the Lent Assizes bound him over to abstain from his quackery.
Certainly many of Forman’s activities and interests of the time would quite possibly come under the umbrella of ‘witchcraft’. Following the Terry Pratchett: HisWorld’ exhibition in this Museum last year, we are familiar with the teenage trainee witch, Tiffany Aching (Fig 5), being involved with issues such as childbirth and end-of-life care. For example, in Pratchett’s book, ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’ Tiffany is called upon to assist when a pregnant thirteen-year old miscarries after being assaulted by her violent, alcoholic father, Tiffany uses ‘hedge-magic’ to relieve the girl’s pain before burying the foetus.
Fig. 5. Tiffany Aching (Book cover of ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’, Paul Kidby)
It is of interest to me, considering Forman’s interests and activities around the occult, that his punishments were not more serious than imprisonment. For example, contemporary with Simon Forman’s time in Salisbury, a canon, Leonard Bilson, was living in a house in The Close, now replaced by Arundell’s. In 1562 he was pilloried on charges of magic and sorcery is said to have been still in prison in 15714.
Notes and References
- Cloutie, A Prayer tie, Traditionally they were small pieces of cloth, tied around the affected area that were infused with the energy of something malign, such as a skin blemish (e.g. a wart), pain, or even an unwanted lover.
- I wrote more extensively about ‘The Alchemist of St. Thomas’ Church in a blog dated 29th August, 2017.
- King’s Evil. Scrofula or a tuburculous swelling of the glands of the neck. Traditionally, since the time of Edward the Confessor (11th Century), it was thought to be curable by the ‘Royal touch’.
- Arundell’s. Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society website. accessed 30/10/2018.
It was a full house for Dr Eleanor Ghey’s talk ‘Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain’ on Thursday of last week. Dr Ghey is responsible for reporting on Iron Age and Roman coin hoards found in Britain for the Treasure Act, working at the British Museum.
She explained that hoards were sometimes bulk items that were ‘stashed’ but were sometimes also collections of items that had been added to over time – sometimes hundreds of years. Either way, we can only guess at the reasons for their existence.
Some are excavated as part of a burial, many are chance finds from sites apparently in the middle of no-where.
The Bronze Age was apparently very rich in hoards and one, a hoard of Bronze Age spear heads found in the Thames, was carefully gathered up, only for archaeologists to find a hoard of much earlier flint weapons underneath. This must have been a place of offerings, probably over hundreds of years.
Weapons, when found in a hoard, have often been deliberately destroyed. When we consider the value (in every sense) of axe and spear heads to the average Bronze Age person, we begin to understand that what ever ‘magic’ such offerings were believed to produce must have been very strong indeed. Otherwise, what a waste! Such hoards, which appear to have been offerings (see earlier blog) remained common up to and including the Roman period.
Any degradable material within a hoard will normally have disappeared over time but Dr Ghey gave some remarkable examples of exceptions. At the Must Farm excavation (Cambridgeshire)* metal axe heads have been found with their wooden handles still attached. One hoard from Bath was made up of bags of money where the bags themselves had survived. Some hoards which have included vessels still retain their packing of leaves or chaff (see earlier blog).
We heard some interesting, not to say odd, stories about the discovery of hoards. One Roman hoard included a statue of an unknown goddess. No problem. It was labelled with her name! Some coin hoards are found in purpose-made ceramic money boxes.
One hoard, found in gravel workings in 1927, was made up of a series of gold coins inside a hollow flint. This one is in our exhibition. The workman who found the flint poured his tea into the flint, probably to dislodge the earth, and found the coins poured out when he turned it upside down. Another hoard of coins was found tucked inside a hollow cow bone.
The Salisbury Hoard from Netherhampton was ‘discovered’ when significant items turned up for sale in markets and antique shops and historians and archaeologists began to wonder where they had come from. Dr Ghey explained that the Portable Antiquities Scheme, which encourages metal detectorists to have their finds recorded on the British Museum database before they are then returned to the detector, has made illegal excavation less (but not completely) unlikely. It is important that anyone finding a hoard does not disturb it (tempting though that may be) but reports it to their local Finds Liaison Officer to allow things to be properly excavated. Its a bit like a crime scene – evidence must not be destroyed!
*This is an excellent site, worth a look if interested in archaeology.
Salisbury Museum’s exhibition (in partnership with the British Museum) ‘Hoards: A Hidden History of Ancient Britain’ has opened and continues until 5 January. Please bring your family and friends to this one. The artefacts are stunning. These photos do not do the objects the justice they deserve but may, nevertheless, tempt you. Come and see for yourself!
And, associated talks include Thursday 18 October 6pm (exhibition), 7pm talk
‘Lost and Found: The Stories Behind the Hoards’ a talk by Dr Eleanor Ghey
Thursday 29 November 6.30pm
‘Hoards During the Earliest Age of Metal c 2 500 – 800BC’ a talk by Dr Neil Wilkin
Hello! I’m Emily Smith and I have recently started working at Salisbury Museum as the Creative Wiltshire Exhibition Assistant. I work one day a week and my job is to organise an exhibition which celebrates creativity in Wiltshire and which will run from January to May 2019.
This is not my first time at the museum as I previously worked as a gallery steward for the Cecil Beaton, J M W Turner and Terry Pratchett exhibitions. I have also been a collections and an admin volunteer.
I have grown up around Salisbury and have just moved to the city so this is a great opportunity for me to learn more about local artists. I am hoping this role will give me valuable experience of how to design and organise an exhibition which is what I would like to do after I finish my PhD.