The Spotlight Loan programme of the Wessex Group of Museums (of which Salisbury Museum is one) has been intriguing for its choice of objects. Each of the five museums involved has contributed just one item to the tour.
So far we have seen three. Last year we had the Tibetan teapot from the Russell Coates Museum in Bournemouth, more recently the Poole Pottery plate with its seaplane motif from Poole Museums. Each item tells part of the story of the town, and is in its way iconic of the place. We could have fun trying to do the same thing for our own home town or somewhere we visit on a holiday..what single item is there in the local museum which could be said to speak for the place over the ages?
Currently on display at Salisbury are the leg shackles from Dorchester County Museum. These were used to restrict the movement of inmates of the nineteenth century Dorchester Prison. They bring to mind the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, six agricultural labourers of the Dorset village of that name who were convicted of taking an illegal oath of loyalty to, and secrecy about, their Friendly Society. The setting up of this Society was part of their effort to negotiate a better wage at a time of great hardship in the countryside.
The men were eventually pardoned but not before they had been transported to Australia for their crime.
The men are celebrated today as heroes of the early Trade Union movement.