Abigail Darvill is studying for an MA in Maritime Archaeology at Southampton University and recently completed a student placement with Wil Partridge (Finds Liaison Officer)
My time at the Salisbury Museum was short under the circumstances, however, it was time well spent and very rewarding.
Through one of my courses, I had the opportunity to work with Wil at the PAS*, and in my five days there, I met very kind staff members who were all wonderfully helpful. Although I was not able to take a look at the museum fully, it seemed very intriguing, and ‘backstage’ it was just as interesting.
Working with Wil has given me great insight as I learned about the PAS and how the system runs within the archaeology sector, while acting as a staff member myself and recording artefacts from start to finish. Wil has been incredibly understanding and has been very engaging to talk to about archaeology and heritage and all of the curiosities within his line of work. I believe that what the PAS stands for in involving the public in recording artefacts and increasing knowledge is very worthwhile.
Josh, from Stonehenge School, completes his contribution to our blog…
As part of my work experience at the Salisbury museum, it has been requested that I write a short blog or piece about a chosen artefact within the museum, some information about it, and why I have chosen it. I hope that you will find this interesting, and that maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something.
The Amesbury archer is the skeleton of what is believed to be a late Neolithic/early Bronze Age man, estimated to have been around 35-45 years old when he died. He was found buried near the town of Amesbury, along with several fascinating and highly revealing archaeological finds, making his discovery of great importance and relevance. I will summarise these below, only looking over a few of the many finds buried with him.
The Amesbury Archer is believed to be part of what was referred to as the “bell beaker culture”, a late Neolithic social grouping of individuals who were all found to be buried with ceramic beakers, hence their name. Usually they were all buried with one, in what we now believe to have been their customary funeral rite or ceremony. However the Amesbury Archer was different. For you see, he was not buried with just one beaker. Nor two. Not even three. He was found buried with an impressive five beakers, a figure that has only been matched a few times.
This large number of pots is usually taken to indicate a particularly high social status and burial, meaning that whoever the Amesbury Archer was, he was a man of power. The other items buried with him only go to further support this theory.
Alongside the skeleton of this long dead man lay three copper daggers, and two hammered gold hair ornaments, and the importance of these finds cannot be overstated. As of the time of writing, these are the oldest man-made copper or gold items to be found in Britain, and indicate that the art of metal working was slowly coming to the island.
It was an art that many believe the Amesbury Archer had brought with him. Through in-depth isotope analysis of the Archers teeth, we are able to determine that he was not a native to this land, instead originating somewhere in the Alpine region of what is now known as southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
suggests that over 4000 years ago, people were beginning to travel long
distances and were spreading the finer arts of forging and metalworking to
Britain, which had for so long been isolated from continental Europe. Indeed,
it is believed from the presence of a black cushion stone and several flint
tools lying amidst his grave that he was a metalworker himself, a position that
would have undoubtedly given him much power and influence in the late Neolithic
society. If this is true, he was one of the men who started the gradual
ushering of the British Isles into the next era.
Other details can be found from his burial. His skeleton was found missing a knee cap, and the growth of the bones on one of his legs indicates that it had been used far more than the other one, suggesting that he only walked using the one leg for most his life, giving him a limp. Yet evidently he flourished, living to a great age relative to those around him.
Why did he travel all these many miles? On what sort of quest was he on? Was he seeking something, or was he fleeing troubles and dangers in his own land? These are unanswerable questions, but to me, really strike home, and are why I find this one exhibit so fascinating.
The Amesbury Archer suggests so much about the changing and evolving civilisation developing in Britain and Europe at the time, and yet gives us so little solid evidence or story that we can work from. We are left with a few fragmentary pieces, frantically trying to use them to make the full picture.
me, this is what history is. A constant struggle to find the stories and tales
of ages past, and to understand the motivations and reasonings behind the
people who shaped the events that have led us up to this moment. The Amesbury
Archer is one of these figures, who can tell us so much about the past, but
still leaving us longing to fill in the gaps.
have not written everything I could have about this subject, and the artefact
and if you want to learn more about this fascinating character, he’s on display
in the Wessex gallery today. And please, when you see him, try to fill in the
gaps for me. Make a new tale. The best thing about history is that there’s
always a new story, and always a new interpretation. I hope you find one that
Amesbury archer exhibit, in the Wessex Gallery, Salisbury museum
Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowman exhibit: Early Bell Beaker burials, A.P
Flint Arrowheads of the British Isles, H Stephen Green
” The best thing about history is that there’s always a new story, and always a new interpretation.” ‘Couldn’t agree more Josh. Thank you.
The full story of Wessex Archaeology’s discovery, excavation, etc of the Amesbury Archer can be read here.
Josh was with us in the summer and shares his experiences with us…
Hello all, my name is Joshua, and I have been doing a week’s work experience here at the Salisbury museum. I come from the Stonehenge school in Amesbury, and I am currently studying for my GCSEs, including one in History, oddly enough. I’ve had a very interesting week, and one that I will almost definitely recommend to one or two friends of mine.
I signed up for a week’s work experience here for a few reasons. Firstly, I enjoy history. It’s the big reason behind the museum, and I am fascinated by the many stories and tales hidden behind the veil of time, and I’ve had a real privilege in order to peak behind the curtain this past week.
Also, I’d never been to the Salisbury museum, and, even better, coming on work experience is free! I’ve spent a long week in the museum browsing through the exhibits (and many of the far more interesting items kept outside of the public eye), and I feel as if I have a far greater depth of knowledge regarding the artefacts on display than if I had just flown by on a quick two hour tour.
Which brings me to one of the main reasons I’ve enjoyed my time here. Everyone just has so much knowledge and passion for the items they curate and catalogue, and there has always been something new to hear or to learn. Even during the long hours cataloguing (man, we did a lot of cataloguing!) a volunteer always would have a fascinating story to tell us about one of the items, and I’d learn something new.
For example, I’ll admit that I have never been much of an artist, or a great art admirer. But actually, I’ve spent a very enjoyable three hours today looking through the archives of Rex Whistler, and surprisingly, it has actually been one of the highlights of this week.
Furthermore, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to conduct some research on my own. As part of our work experience, we’ve had to write two blogs, one of which you’ll be reading now, another of which will be on an artefact of our choice, in my case one on the famous Amesbury Archer.
For this blog, we have been allowed to conduct our own research, visiting the exhibits and the library, which small size hides a depth and scale that I may never get over. I’ve really enjoyed being able to do my own thing, and searching the dusty tomes and volumes within to find that one sentence which may improve my blog.
I’ve enjoyed viewing the behind the scenes of the museum, and learning about the vast amounts of work that has been put into this museum’s collection. It’s really made me appreciate the efforts of the above mentioned volunteers who have put so much time, passion and care into helping the museum grow and operate.
So, I’d like to say a thank you to all those who have helped improve our work experience this week, and I hope that my inaccurate and sweeping statements in my next blog don’t make you despair for the future. I’ve really enjoyed working here, and I wish you all the best for the future. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you Josh. We will hear about your research on the Amesbury Archer next week.
Alex first wrote in our blog in September. Here is what he learned about Clarendon Palace…
this week of work experience, I have been to the library a couple of times to
do my research work. The artefact / theme I have chosen to do my research on is
Clarendon Palace because it interested me with its history and what it once
Palace is located 3 ½ miles east of Salisbury and 4 miles south-east of Old
Sarum. It is shown that William the conqueror visited the site around 1072 AD,
the year when he toured his Norman possessions and marched to Scotland. At this
time, Clarendon was a hunting lodge, which was enlarged to become a palace.
The site was chosen due to its elevated height of 350 feet above sea level, so it could overlook the Clarendon forest. This appealed to the Normans as a place to hunt and Clarendon was established as a royal residence in the early 12th century. Henry I granted charters from Clarendon palace. However, under Henry II’s rule, accounts are shown to be of repairs for ‘the King’s houses of Clarendon’ occur in 1163, and at the beginning of 1164, Clarendon hosted the historic council, of which Herbert of Bosham and his master Thomas Beckett attended.
1166, another great assembly was hosted at Clarendon Palace – called the assize
of Clarendon. This assembly made laws for far-reaching importance regarding
Richard the Lion Heart did also visit Clarendon, but there is no evidence of work undertaken there by him. There are, however, references to repairs at Clarendon Palace carried out under King John, who stayed there a few times.
1273, the first year of Edward I’s reign there is a survey done on Clarendon
and of the forest of Clarendon due to the activity there by Henry III (Edward’s
Predecessor). The survey is made by the Sherriff of Wiltshire and four knights.
It describes the Palace in detail but uses plain language with the ruinous
condition of large parts of the palace.
Both Edward I and Edward II often stayed at Clarendon palace, where in 1317 Edward II summoned a parliament to assemble, the summons meeting with only a very limited response. It was in Edward III’s reign which the most effective revival of Clarendon took place. A good deal of repair and reconstruction was carried out then – the most important work done being the rebuilding of the great hall in 1358-1359.
VI also visited Clarendon Palace repeatedly. In 1454 he stayed there for a
number of weeks after being attacked in Clarendon in 1453 and being unfit to
govern for over a year.
Edward IV’s reign, he appointed wardens of Clarendon, with Edward Gower first
in 1461 and then Thomas Troys, 1472, who held his office in the first year of
Henry VII’s reign , 1485.
By Elizabeth I’s reign, Clarendon had been known to have many royal visitors staying in the palace for weeks on end. However due to the numbers of Elizabeth’s servants and gentry she took with her, the keepers of Clarendon didn’t want to house nearly 2000 people. So, like many similar palaces at the time, they brought down parts of the palace to discourage a visit from the Queen. In the end, Elizabeth stayed at Clarendon Palace once, with many of her servants having to sleep outside in tents. Due to this, Elizabeth never stayed there again. This lead to Clarendon Palace falling out of interest of the royals so it wasn’t being revived or maintained anymore.
In Shakespeare’s ‘Henry VI’, there is no hint to the existence of Clarendon Palace at all, despite Henry having visited it on many occasions. Also, in 1570, the second edition of John Foxe’s ‘Acts and monuments’ makes the mistake of placing Clarendon in Normandy.
this time, Clarendon Palace was probably being used as a stone quarry due to
being in a district poor in stone – much like Stonehenge and Avebury around the
1650, a survey of Clarendon Park was made, which contains a reference to ‘the
old gate house, called the King’s manor’.
1723, William Stukely visited the site of Clarendon palace in which he mentions
“John built him a palace, where several parliaments have been held. Part of the
building is still left, tho’ they have been pulling it down many years”. He
also drew a picture of the site which shows the ruins of the site with some low
walls above ground and a larger wall as well. It shows little woodland near the
In 1805, J Buckler did a watercolour painting of the site. It covered a smaller area of the palace remains than William Stukely, but there is a considerable increase in the trees and woodlands around the site, which shows that it had just been left there and no one had been maintaining it, even before 1723.
photograph of the same site in April 1933 from the ground facing where the
remains were, show no evidence of a palace being there. Woodlands cover the
whole outside of the palace so no one could see from outside the woods that a
palace was there. An air photograph of Clarendon Palace remains in September
the same year show the palace being covered by the trees. The remains are
surrounded by woodlands on all sides with most of the aerial view of the palace
also being blocked by treetops.
air photograph of the Clarendon palace taken in February 1935 shows how trees
on the site had been cut down but the trees surrounding it still remained. This
meant that the aerial photograph shows the full remains of the Clarendon Palace
and how big the palace was.
Nowadays, the site of the remains of Clarendon Palace is open to the public and woodland no longer covers the site. People are encouraged to visit it.
Thank you Alex – a reminder of the gem we have ‘on our doorstep’.
Milly was with us during the summer and has completed some interesting research around our collection of Beaker peoples’ artefacts.
Beakers are a distinctive form of pot which were popular in Europe and consequently spread to Britain around 4 500 years ago (Malone 2001). Although their specific origin and development is contested (Clarke 1970), it is thought that the pots were adopted in Britain in the later Neolithic (Wessex Gallery). Other trends which coincided with beaker pottery and beaker burials include individualistic burials focused on demonstrating prestige, the development of metal working skills and internationalism resulting in long distance trade (Malone 2001). It was previously thought that the purpose of beakers was to hold beer, however, the general consensus nowadays is that they were for food and non-alcoholic drinks. Malone (2001) even goes as far as to argue that they were more than just a pot, and instead were intimately linked with the social, economic and technological changes of the time.
Various beakers from
Pitt Rivers’ collection. If you look closely you can see the horizontal
decorations which are different on each beaker.
Source: Wessex Gallery.
Beakers came in various styles and decorations which developed and changed over time. Some of the decorations were achieved with cord, finger tips or twigs (Wessex Gallery). The first beakers in Britain are thought to be associated with the Netherlands because they were made from a red clay and had an s-shaped silhouette with a low belly (Malone 2001). Cord and comb was used to decorate these beakers in horizontal patterns (Malone 2001). Later on, beakers became even more decorative and had shorter, wider necks (Malone 2001). Beakers continued to change and from about 2000 to 1700BC they had bulbous, short bodies and practically vertical necks (Malone 2001). This changing of shape and decoration has allowed archaeologists to date beakers with more accuracy.
There were 3 main ways in which beaker burials could differ according to Clarke (1970); orientation, position and type. Below is a diagram from Clarke’s (1970) book which demonstrates the four common positions of the beaker in relation to the body. Although beakers could be prestige ware, general duty ware or heavy duty ware, the form of beaker found in burials tends to be prestige ware (Clarke 1970). Stone (1958) argues that people were buried with beakers so they could use them in the afterlife and so they could provide a sense of identity. Male and female beaker burials also tended to differ (Malone 2001). A typical male beaker burial was most likely a single grave, with the possibility of family being buried nearby, and included shale and jet beads, a copper or bronze awl and weapons like a dagger (Malone 2001). Contrastingly, female beaker burials did not usually contain weapons but had more beads and tools. According to Malone (2001), the contents of one’s grave suggests one’s status and position within the local hierarchy.
A diagram showing the
four main burial positions of a beaker where ‘X’ represents the beaker.
Source: Clarke (1970).
are multiple examples of beaker pottery used in burials in the Wessex Gallery,
the most famous being the Amesbury Archer. Unearthed near Stonehenge, he was a
seminal discovery as it is thought he was one of the earliest beaker burials in
Britain. Interestingly, although most beaker burials only contain one beaker,
the Amesbury Archer had five and the Boscombe Bowmen’s grave which contained
five adult males, one teenager and two children had the remains of eight
beakers (Wessex Gallery). The latter was the largest number of beakers
excavated from a single grave and is an impressive addition to the Wessex
A beaker which was found
in between the knees and feet of a skeleton in Winterslow, alongside a wrist
guard and arrowhead.
D.L. (1970) Beaker Pottery of Great
Britain and Ireland Volume 1 (Cambridge University Press).
D.L. (1970) Beaker Pottery of Great Britain
and Ireland Volume 2 (Cambridge University Press).
C. (2001) Neolithic Britain and Ireland
J.F.S (1958) Wessex Before the Celts
(Thames and Hudson).
Wessex Gallery, Salisbury Museum.
From Encyclopedia Britannica :The Beaker People received their name from their distinctive bell-shaped beakers, decorated in horizontal zones by finely toothed stamps. (Their culture is often called the Bell-Beaker culture.) The graves of the Beaker folk were usually modest single units, though in much of western Europe they often took the form of megalithic tombs. A warlike stock, they were primarily bowmen but were also armed with a flat, tanged dagger or spearhead of copper, and a curved, rectangular wrist guard. Their extensive search for copper (and gold), in fact, greatly accelerated the spread of bronze metallurgy in Europe. Probably originally from Spain, the Beaker folk soon spread into central and western Europe in their search for metals. In central Europe they came into contact with the Battle-Axe (or Single-Grave) culture, which was also characterized by beaker-shaped pottery (though different in detail) and by the use of horses and a shaft-hole battle-ax. The two cultures gradually intermixed and later spread from central Europe to eastern England.
Ed: In fact it is now thought that the Beaker people eventually almost completely replaced the DNA of earlier peoples in England.
Nicole was with us for a number of weeks in the summer….
“My name is Nicole and I’m a History student studying at Queen Mary University of London. I wanted to volunteer at the museum over the summer to gain more general museum experience and focus my future work experience and career. I have wanted to work in Archives or Museum Education and my placement at the museum has really helped consolidate this decision. Whilst at the museum, I worked in three areas: the Portable Antiquities Scheme, the library Ephemera collection and the Discovery Days family education events as well as at this year’s Festival of Archaeology. These are three stand out moments from my summer at the museum…
I spent my Tuesday afternoons at the museum cataloguing two boxes of family history from the library’s ephemera collection. The boxes, EPH 11 and EPH 11A, were filled with letters, education certificates, in memoriam cards, memoirs and photographs and taking time to really look at each object as I catalogued them, first by hand and then onto MODES, was a really great way to spend sun-filled afternoons in the library.
One piece that really struck me was this Valentines letter, cut into the shape of a heart with fold out pages. Each fragile page was filled with moving words, and really stuck out amongst the legal documents, certificates and photographs in the rest of the box.
I spent a lot of time working with the Portable Antiquities Scheme during my placement and catalogued 51 small finds in total including a lot of Roman coins, some jettons, brooches, buckles, axe heads and rings. I also became very well acquainted with the magic wand tool on Photoshop and found editing photos quite enjoyable, which was music to the ears of the PAS team.
One of my most memorable moments was an impromptu trip to the Barrow Clump site, run by volunteers as part of Operation Nightingale, which I’d heard a talk about at the Festival of Archaeology. After a tour round the site, including some WW2 arborglyphs, we went to the trench the volunteers were working on – just as they were uncovering a crouch burial. Absolutely great timing and a very exciting first visit to an archaeological dig.
I also engaged with the events and education the museum has to offer during my placement, both at the annual Festival of Archaeology and with the ‘Discovery Days’ which were artist-run family education workshops every Tuesday. Activities ranged from creating a ‘Museum of Me’ to Archaeology-themed stop motion animation, monolith climbing and a corn dolly workshop. Seeing children focus so intently on twisting damp ears of corn into intricate weaves and plaits, muddling our way through instructions and finishing it off with a little ribbon was fantastic – one family in particular really got to grips with it and made increasingly more intricate creations.
This sharing of ancient crafts was something that also stuck me at the Festival of Archaeology, and for me one the highlights. Re-enactment groups sharing knowledge, crafts and tangible glimpses into the past with such engaged young people was great to see and I myself was quite entranced by the flint knappers and ancient dying process.
My summer at the museum has given me an insight into the impact of local museums on the community both in terms of history through my work with ephemera, with detectorists and archaeologists as part of PAS, and through a summer events program which I saw engaged so many young people and families.
Thank you Nicole. ‘Enjoyed working with you on the PAS.
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.
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.