Thank you



This, from one of the exhibitors at ArchFest this weekend. It says it all about everyone involved:

I haven’t stopped laughing yet!! What a way to end the weekend!!

Despite all the little difficulties, we had a brilliant two days – better than last year. The visitors who braved the conditions were genuine enthusiasts and the discussions (often protracted due to showers keeping them under cover with us) extremely varied, challenging and productive. We were all hoarse by the end of each day.

A great part of the success was due to the hard work of your team of volunteers who retained their good humour throughout. In particular the tea and coffee team really sustained us all, by their constant attention and steady supply of the cheering brews.It didn’t seem to matter what queries and problems we exhibitors threw at anyone, staff member or volunteer, they were dealt with quickly and cheerfully.

The Fire Drill was a stroke of genius to wind up the proceedings just when the rain was beginning to make us a bit despondent!! Sorry – joke intended. But again I have to say how impressed I was at the efficiency and professionalism with which you all cleared the building. I don’t know how long it took, but it was pretty damn quick – clearing the gazebos was a bit more difficult, but you still did it.

Congratulations to everyone concerned.



Emergency procedures were flawless (it wasn’t a practice!)

Survey of Public Art



This email has been received from Julie Davis, County Local Studies Librarian:

I would like to take this opportunity to ask for your support for a project which aims to locate, record and photograph public art, namely artwork made by an artist, arts practitioner or craftsperson and located in publicly accessible spaces and places in Wiltshire. At present very little is known about the whereabouts, extent and condition of public art in the county.

Data collected as part of the project will be made available in the Local Studies Library at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre with images deposited in the Historic Photograph and Print Collection. The images will then be pinned to the Know Your Place site to map their location geographically. More details can be found at the link below.

A series of volunteer workshops are being run across the county for those interested in getting involved in the project to initiate the beginning of the data collection phase. Confirmed venues are:

Marlborough Library, Thursday 20th July, 6-7pm. Book now via Eventbrite

Malmesbury Library, Monday 14th August, 6-7pm. Book now via Eventbrite

Corsham Library, Monday 21st August, 6-7pm. Book now via Eventbrite

Events are also planned in Corsham, Salisbury and Swindon in August, and hopefully in Devizes and Warminster too. To stay informed please visit

Each session will include:

Background, introductions and timeline of the project

Definitions – detailing what will be classified as public art in terms of the project

Grid references – quick guide to grid referencing for those who feel they need guidance

Data recording – what to record and how

Photography – a guide to what is required

Administration – how data will be sent to the History Centre, plus registration, support and co-ordination information. There will also be an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.

Volunteers can devote as much or as little time as they can spare until December and join this community effort to help support public art in the places that matter to them.

I look forward to meeting representative(s) from your society at one of the workshops. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.

Julie Davis County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre Tel: 01249 705500 Email:  Web:





Hello again!

Monday (earlier this month) marked my last day at Salisbury Museum as a Collections volunteer. I have had a brilliant few months working with Tracy McClelland and I feel as though we have accomplished a lot. We managed to completely document one whole chest (which doesn’t sound like a lot but trust me it is!) by sorting through it and updating MODES. This will have hopefully made the fine art collection more accessible and kept it up to date.

It has been a great experience working closely with the lovely pieces of art held in the museum’s collection and seeing what lies behind the scenes. My particular favourites were some old maps of Wiltshire that were really interesting to look at.  The placement has also greatly developed my knowledge of how to document collections and given me useful practical experience to accompany my Masters course.

My placement has been a fantastic opportunity that I will recommend to many people, so a big thank you to the museum and particularly to Bridget, who was so helpful in organising it. I’m very sad to be leaving the museum, but I will definitely keep popping in and visiting the exhibitions.

Farewell Emily. Our best wishes and thanks go with you…

Smith close up

I MADE A FILM… by Emily Lomas


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20170705_155043 Emily Lomas

Hello! My name is Emily Lomas and I’m a Year 12 student at Godolphin. For my A levels I’m studying Latin, History of Art, Maths and Chemistry. I hope to go on to study Classics or History of Art at university, and I am considering working in a gallery or museum after that.

One of the reasons I chose to come to Salisbury Museum for my work experience was because it is a familiar place for me, having come here a lot with my family when I was younger, and having volunteered at the Festival of Archaeology last year. I also wanted to learn more about what it would be like to work in a museum and the different types of jobs that you can do.

During my first two days, I helped with school ceramics workshops, where the children were encouraged to look around the museum and gather ideas which they then combined with inspiration from the artist Antony Gormley to form designs for clay structures which would be part of an art exhibition at their school. I found it very rewarding to see children who had initially been reluctant to join in sketch some ideas and eventually produce some really good work.

I also helped with after-school art workshops for teenagers, which was more relaxing as they were smaller groups than the ceramics workshops, until I was asked to join in myself! Not being much of an artist, I was slightly reluctant at first to produce a sketch of an object from the collections, but it didn’t turn out too badly and it helped me to focus more closely on one particular object, rather than scanning a whole display case quickly without really examining each item.

On Wednesday morning I made a film using footage of students exploring stories and the Salisbury History Gallery collections using the Glow Wall. This was really fun to make and I really enjoyed seeing all the ideas they had come up with and incorporating them together into a short video. (We hope to put this video up for your enjoyment soon.)

On Thursday I assisted with a group of primary school children who came to learn about the museum. They were taught about the history of the building and then we helped them dress up and do some Tudor role play, which they really enjoyed! The most difficult bit was sorting out the costumes afterwards, and trying to match the ‘Tudor Lady 2’ petticoat with the ‘Tudor Lady 2’ skirt! However, it was worth it to see the children laughing as they were instructed to bow and curtsey to the visiting “prince”.

In the afternoon I went round Salisbury to deliver leaflets about the upcoming Festival of Archaeology, which, although I was a little nervous at first and I had to cope with the 30 degree July heat, turned out to be an enjoyable and valuable experience, and everyone I spoke to was very friendly.

I had an extremely enjoyable and useful week, and I would like to thank everyone at the museum for making me feel so welcome and for offering me the opportunity to do my placement here.

Thank you Emily.  You are always appreciated!

HARVEST TIME by Volunteer Alan Clarke



Whilst scanning negatives, there are always surprises.


This image here from the museums’s Austin Underwood collection is one such surprise. For many decades I have cycled many miles throughout the county and never seen Christmas-tree stooks like these.  I did an image search on Google for stooks but I found none looking like these.  On the far side of this field, there are the conventional stooks. These can still (2016) be seen and photographed in at least two places in Wiltshire where materials for thatching are grown.  I do not know where Austin took this photograph.

There is a village beyond this field with its church tower, which is why I think it is a village.  One of the village houses has a television aerial on the chimney stack.  There are many telegraph poles; one with four arms and its array of white insulators for telephone lines as compared to power cables.  I guess that this photograph was taken around 1963 and it shows quite a prosperous village to have so many telephone lines for that year. However the fields are small by today’s local standards and hence labour intensive and not so profitable.  I cannot make out any farm animals in any of the fields, which might be due to the far fields being out of focus.

If you have ever seen stooks like this or can identify the village, I would love to know and would add the information to the Museum’s records for this image.

As most of you will already know, Alan looks after our photographic archive and provides endless gems like this one with thought-provoking commentary.  Thank you as always Alan.




More accurately, it was just for four days, between Tuesday and Friday, but who’s counting?

20170705_154941 Hannah Aziz

To kick off my summer holidays, I organised a work placement with the museum, and as an aspiring Art Historian, I would not have wanted it any other way. I’ve been working closely with Joyce Paesen, the Exhibitions Officer. This has presented me with the opportunity to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes in a museum and in exhibitions; both the process leading up to one, during and after. I felt like I was involved with the process, even if a very minor role – having been assigned tasks that met with my capabilities as a young A-levels student who is only just learning the ropes.

On my first day, I was told to do exhibition research on Peter Thursby for his exhibition coming mid-summer next year, and to write up a summary of his work by the end of the day. I was given a name, a book and a laptop. Although I had no knowledge of him at the beginning of the day, I feel I can safely say that I know all there is to know about him now. That day made me realise my underlying hobby for research on artists by encouraging me to use my research skills and apply it to the museum workspace.

Other tasks I was assigned were to lend a helping hand; this included helping with the workshops for students, and going around the museum to look for questions to pose in a quiz meant for an upcoming event. Performing these tasks made me realise just how interactive this museum is with its visitors, as they actively find ways to encourage them to participate in activities and be involved with the museum. I also enjoyed having to look for the questions because that meant I was able to roam around the museum, paying careful attention to the captions in order to pick out information, and by doing so, I learnt so much.

Even if I was assigned with other tasks that did not require me to roam around the museum, I was allowed to do so. The office has such a relaxed environment, everybody is so nice and helpful, too, that I felt comfortable working there in the short period of time that I did. All I can say to the Salisbury Museum is thank you for this opportunity!

Hannah undertook a student placement with us recently. Thank you Hannah, we enjoyed your stay with us.

More from our student visitors next week.



Highest Security in the Close



We will all have had the last minute, intriguing, email from Bridget last week, informing us that access into and within the Close was to be severely restricted on the Thursday. During Wednesday, the grass to the west of the Cathedral was transformed with tiered seating and marquees and there was the sound of military bands and marching boots as rehearsals took place.  The sadly now familiar business of pulling up man-hole covers and careful resealing them after a search, took place. On Thursday police were everywhere and bags were searched, but it is to everyone’s credit that this manages to be done in a still relatively relaxed atmosphere.

Who was coming? What was happening? Again, sadly, once upon a time it would have been all over the newspapers and local people would have been able to join in the fun but it is the way of the world now that it cannot be. Nevertheless, those of us in the Close were pleased to watch and enjoy the Army Air Corps celebrate its 60th anniversary with Prince Charles.

Their pride was evident in the immaculate uniforms, marching and music. Prince Charles arrived, appropriately, in a helicopter, which landed in the Close and after speeches, presentation of colours and a brief service, we understand that a good lunch was enjoyed by all.



Happy Birthday!

The Quest for Mounds


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Last week, we reported on Dr Leary’s talk about his team’s work at Marden henge in the Vale of Pewsey.  Just part of the work involves the study of the remains of the hill within the henge, called Hatfield Barrow, now flattened.

It had been excavated by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in the early nineteenth century, found to be largely empty, and when it collapsed into the excavation hole it was levelled by the farmer. The modern excavations of the remains show this mound was contemporary with Silbury, though smaller than, (the largest pre-historic mound in Europe), built circa BC 2 400. Dr Leary was sufficiently intrigued by this to consider an excavation of another, apparently similar, mound in the area, Marlborough Mound in the grounds of Marlborough School.

Legend has it that Marlborough Mound contained the bones of Merlin, and it certainly was the motte on which the Norman keep of Marlborough Castle was built around AD 1100. Was it older than this? With considerable support from the College itself, and from other agencies, Dr Leary was able to co-ordinate the extraction of cores from the mound which, with carbon dating by English Heritage, showed that the mound was also originally built c BC 2 400.  Three such mounds in one small area!


Silbury – the largest of the three mounds mentioned here

For Jim Leary, this raised the question – what about the other mounds, scattered around the country, and most, like Marlborough, assumed to be Norman mottes?

He was able to do similar research on a number. The audience at the museum talk waited with bated breath as the slide with time-lines went up on the screen, to reveal….. No, all the mounds further investigated were, as originally thought, about one thousand years old, ie Norman. Except one.  It wasn’t circa 5 000 years old, but Iron Age (just over two thousand years old). And the only known example in this country.

It is at Skipsea in Yorkshire.  On the Continent these Iron Age hills were the wealthy ‘seats’ of nobility, always associated with enclosures which, in turn, always show, through finds, amazing cultural links with far-flung places.  Does Skipsea have an enclosure?  Oh yes……. it does. What a time to be in archaeology!

See the Round Mounds Project for more.


Does Size Matter?


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It does when it comes to henges, apparently.  At another of the museum’s excellent talks last week, Dr Jim Leary spoke about his work over the last few years at Marden, in the Vale of Pewsey, and about the amazing discoveries there, with Reading University and Historic England (formerly English Heritage). Marden is described as Europe’s largest Neolithic henge, enclosing over 15.7 hectares, and an even larger one is probably waiting to be excavated at nearby Cat’s Brain (yes, really!), both beating Avebury for size.

MardenMarden Henge, Vale of Pewsey

The Vale of Pewsey lies between Stonehenge and Avebury but is not part of the World Heritage Site. Nevertheless, it is as full of archaeological ‘goodies’ as anywhere else in Wiltshire.  Perhaps even more so.  Dr Leary explained that the relative lack of interest in the area is because, unlike the higher ground where Stonehenge and Avebury stand, the Vale has been ploughed continuously for thousands of years and any remains are less obvious.

As with Avebury , the ditch around the henge at Marden is on the inside, with a bank outside of that.  The assumption is that this was to protect the people/audience/congregation from what was inside.  Whatever that was! Like Avebury, and, indeed, Durrington, there is evidence of Neolithic buildings on the site before the banks and ditches were built.  In this case, there is a rectangular building with a chalk floor where the archaeologists are even investigating the layer of dirt and dust which had accumulated on the floor when it was in everyday use. A PhD student is doing a thesis on what this dirt can tell us!  There is evidence of burning in the area, the same signs of  ceremonial feasting as at Durrington, and a midden.

The artifactual finds are of astonishing beauty (exquisite arrowheads) and possibly unique (pottery with a white ‘slip’ made from crushed bone, possibly human).


Thanks to Wiltshire Museum in Devizes and English Heritage for this photo. Wilts Museum has an on-going display of information and artifacts from this excavation

Inside the henge was a large conical mound known as the Hatfield Barrow (now levelled) and an inner henge. Hatfield barrow stood tall in the eighteenth century when it was mapped but was later ploughed out.  It was likely to have been similar to Silbury.  This had Dr Leary on a mission.  How many other mounds in the area, in the country even, might have been built in Neolithic times?  More on this next week.

The smaller henge has been excavated and shows evidence of huge holes which must have held timber, or possibly stone, at some early time, now completely gone.  There is evidence of similar such holes at Stonehenge, marked in the carpark there.

What a time to be in archaeology. Scientific advances will allow that PhD student to do her research on a layer of dirt just a few millimetres thick. DNA and isotope analysis allow us to pinpoint dates and origins to a very exact degree. Dr Leary said that things were changing so fast he was never able to recycle his lectures to students anymore!

The excavations continue this year, having begun in 2015.  After that will come the analysis of what has been found and the publications.  If we want to visit the Marden site we are more than welcome.  The team are there every day this summer except Fridays and the students of Reading University conduct guided tour for visitors. Go in the coming weeks or miss the chance! Click here for further details.