Volunteers’ Week


Monday 3 June and the first of our events to mark National Volunteers’ Week at Salisbury Museum…a Stonehenge Landscape Guided Walk. A brilliant event, walking through the landscape around Stonehenge with its round barrows, long barrows, cursus and Stonehenge Avenue – in the very capable and informative hands of Mike Robinson and Don Carmichael – two National Trust guides. A great way to start the week!




Festival of Archaeology 2019: more talks!


…. the weekend of 13 14 July.

Last week’s blog highlighted the talks on offer on Saturday 13 July. This week we list what you can go to on the Sunday.

An excellent programme of talks is on offer, all at £8, which is terrific value for top class speakers who are at the forefront of archaeology, and several of whom you will know from television.

Sunday 14 July 10.30 – 11.30

Simon Cleggett ‘Wonderful Things: The Army Basing Programme and the Stonehenge Landscape’. Simon Cleggett has been at the forefront of the excavations just to the north of Salisbury, around Bulford, Tidworth and Larkhill, as the Army brings home its soldiers and builds houses for them (the Basing Programme). Some say the finds around the Anglo Saxon burials there are re-writing the history books. But there have been Prehistoric and early 20th c finds also. Join Simon for a talk about this cutting edge archaeology.

Sunday 14 July 12.00 – 13.00

Dr Alex Langlands ‘Britons, Bridges and Boroughs: Old Sarum from the Fall of Rome to the Coming of the Vikings’. Old Sarum has, in some ways, been an archaeological Cinderella in Wiltshire (or is it the bridesmaid to Stonehenge’s bride?), but it is all beginning to happen now. Our old friend, Dr Alex Langlands, is back again this year, both at Old Sarum, and at ArchFest,  to find evidence to shine a light on the area in the period of the Dark Ages. In addition to the talk, grab the chance to speak to Alex and his colleagues in the Meetings Room where there will also be results from their  collaboration on the project with local schools. There is an interesting Power Point presentation here from earlier work at Old Sarum.

Sunday 14 July 13.30 – 14.30

Christie Willis ‘Up in Flames: Cremation in Neolithic Britain‘ The Dead of Stonehenge. Science can now tell us so much more about cremated remains… particularly early cremations, as temperatures were not always enough to destroy all the bone. A few women, as well as some children, are amongst the remains at Stonehenge, but otherwise men. Their presence, and what we can learn from those remains, may solve some of the mysteries of this enigmatic place. Christie has written research papers with Mike Parker Pearson and we will hear the latest on this topic from her.

Sunday 14 July 15.00 – 16.00

Lorraine Mepham and Adrian Green: ‘More Cakes and Buns! Digging the Foundations of the Cafe’ We will miss Dr Phil Harding this year at ArchFest (he has another commitment) but we hope you didn’t miss Phil’s ‘dig’ in May. Over five hundred came to peer at a hole in the ground – now is the opportunity to see the film and listen to Lorraine Mepham of Wessex Archaeology (who assisted at the dig) and Director Adrian Green talk about what was found and what might still be there.

You can go to our website now…and BOOK!

T E LAWRENCE by Volunteer Alan Crooks

When Adrian Green (Director) gave his pre-exhibition briefing to staff and volunteers, he pointed out that the iconic exhibit is the painting of Col.T.E. Lawrence, 1919 (Fig.1), which was bought by the Duke of Westminster, who presented it immediately to The Tate. This painting came out of the Paris Peace Conference held at Versailles in 1919 where John was one of two official artists. Lawrence was present as adviser and interpreter for the Emir Faisal.

TE Lawrence Courtesy of the Tate

This prompted a member of the audience to recall that T.E. Lawrence’s robes could be seen at The National Army Museum in London. Adrian replied that they could also be seen at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I had the opportunity to view these when I visited for the ‘Spellbound’ exhibition (about witchcraft) last year (Fig 2).

Fig. 2. T.E. Lawrence’s robes. The Ashmolean Museum Oxford

The Ashmolean Museum writes that these are the actual robes worn by Colonel Thomas Edward Lawrence (1888 – 1935) during WW1. Headdress: Saudi Arabia from 1916, silk with gold thread and a silk core. Robe: Saudi Arabia from 1916, Silk with gold and silver thread. Shirt: (Thob) Saudi Arabia from 1916, white silk embroided. Gold dagger: (khanjar) and belt Saudi Arabia from 1916, steel and gold filigree.

In Seven Pillars of Wisdom (Ch.XX) Lawrence wrote, “I was…[fitted out]…in splendid white silk and golden-embroidered wedding garments which had been sent to Faisal lately (was it a hint?) by his great-aunt in Mecca.”

Also of interest is that, in 2016, a family friend of mine, Rodney Havelock Walker, who lived locally, died. Among his possessions were some artefacts pertaining to T.E. Lawrence. These included: 1. Book, ‘Battles and Sieges in the Peninsula, with a label fixed inside stating:

City of Oxford High School

Midsummer Examination, 1903

Prize for: Upper Fourth Form

Awarded to: T.E. Lawrence

A,W.Cave (Head Master)

2. Book: Seven Pillars of Wisdom, containing the Dedication:

“To Rodney Havelock Walker, on your Christening Day. As a memento that you were Christened in the author’s Christening robe” (Fig. 3).

3. A page from The Times newspaper, dated January 30th 1936, pertaining to ‘A Memorial to Lawrence in St Paul’s Cathedral’.

4. A pair of sandals said to have belonged to T.E. Lawrence. There was no proof of provenance beyond their association with these other artefacts.

Fig.4. below Fig.5. below

Fig.4. shows artefacts belonging to Rodney Havelock Walker

Fig.5. shows artefacts as shown on BBC TV

5. B&W photograph, labelled ‘Cyrene’ (a city in Libya) on the back.

I had the privilege of exhibiting these artefacts (Fig. 4) at a meeting of Fisherton History Society in April, 2017 following a talk on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ by one of our members.

Readers will be interested to know that the sandals were sold at auction, by Hanson’s Auctioneers of Derbyshire, in December, 2017 for £2500.

A report of this auction, in Antique Collecting, can be accessed here

Charles Hanson, owner of Hanson’s Auctioneers, commented that,

“When I pulled Lawrence of Arabia’s sandals out of a carrier bag I was astonished – and delighted. He is one of Britain’s most iconic figures, a man who played a key role in world history and inspired one of the most famous films ever made.”

We don’t know what the connection of Rodney was with T.E. Lawrence. However, Rodney’s father, Cecil, was a banker in Parkstone area of Dorset, and it is possible that this is how he encountered T.E. Lawrence, who must have become a close family friend.

What Do Kansas City and Salisbury Have in Common..?

Kansas City MO USA


To find out more you might be interested to go to Kansas City’s remarkable Union Station site (which is now actually a museum, just a bit bigger than ours…). If not, allow us to summarise…

Stonehenge artefacts, many of which have never previously left these shores, and many of which are usually in the care of The Salisbury Museum, are now in the USA, on tour. The Union Station exhibition is the first of a number of exhibitions taking place there in the coming months, with possibly more to follow. It opened on Friday 25 May to great fanfare and our own Adrian Green was there, at the invitation of the organisers. He flew back on Sunday, a journey that took twelve hours, and was back at work on Monday.

The Coat with Confetti


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We have another gem from the Costume Collection. A group of Volunteers from the Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) who come along most weeks to check and re-catalogue out fabulous costumes, have uncovered this…

Photo for cataloguing purposes only

This is estimated to have been made around 1750 or a little earlier. The Volunteers describe it thus:

“Blue silk brocade coat trimmed with sliver braid – high round neck, braid made from silver thread around neck and down both fronts to side slits. Also on two shaped pockets with flap fastened with two buttons, plus one for show. Twelve buttons of silver thread and blue velvet centre. Long shank for button holes extended for design. Curved, fitted sleeves fastened with eight buttons and trimmed with silver braid.. All in blue silk brocade, skirted shape with 220mm slit each side. Centre vent at back. Lined throughout with cream calico…”

And just look what was inside the pocket….


It certainly looks like a coat that a young man might get married in c 1750, but confetti??

The Volunteers describe it as paper confetti, some of it chopped up newspaper. Well, that wouldn’t rule out 1750…

Having used a well known internet search engine, I discover that ‘confetti’ is Italian for almond sweets which the Italians liked to throw at one another at the time of festivals, etc. Sometimes it was also mud balls, eggs or coins…This is a tradition going back to Medieval times when it was also common, at weddings, to throw seeds and grains, representing fertility. I think this has become popular again as vicars try to discourage the littering of their churchyards with paper, or worse still, small bits of plastic.

So, throwing things at people has been ‘fun’ for a long time, but apparently it wasn’t until the end of the nineteenth century that paper confetti was used at weddings in Britain. The confetti in the photograph is not contemporary with the coat.

Did someone wear it to a much later wedding? Was the coat worn in a play where confetti was used? Was it worn to an up-market fancy dress party where confetti played a part?

Whatever the case, it is a great coat to get married in…..

Thank you Sue Alleby, Muriel Reading, Joan Moore and Helen Carlett

Festival of Archaeology 2019 : talks


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Mary-Ann Ochota. Photo by Joe Bass

Summer is coming! And with it, The Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology 2019. It is just a little earlier than usual this year, so please make a particular note in your diaries (if you haven’t already!) that it is the weekend of 13 14 July.

There will be the usual mix of serious archaeology and fun activities which makes it such a fantastic event for families as well as history buffs.

An excellent programme of talks is on offer, all at £8, which is terrific value for top class speakers who are at the forefront of archaeology, and several of whom you will know from television.

Saturday 13 July 10.30 – 11.30

Mary-Ann Ochota ‘Hidden Histories: a Spotter’s Guide to the British Landscape’. Mary-Ann has written a book with this title and presented programmes for Channel 4, ITV and Animal Planet as well as being co-presenter for some of the later Time Team series.

Saturday 13 July 12.00 – 13.00

Ella Al-Shamahi ‘Are You a Neaderthal?’. Ella is a paleoanthropologist and archaeologist specializing in Neanderthals—and she is a stand-up comic, so this should be fun! An interesting article in the Times about Ella is well worth reading, and may tempt you to buy tickets for her talk.

Saturday 13 July 13.30 – 14.30

Richard Osgood ‘A Gothic Tale: Spears and Javelins at Barrow Clump’ Richard will be talking about the huge Anglo-Saxon cemetery out on Salisbury Plain. As many of us know, his talks are not just fascinating, but moving too, as he describes excavations which include working with Veterans who are rebuilding their lives after military action and sometimes devastating wounds. Not surprisingly, Richard is currently Archaeologist of the Year after a nationwide poll. You can read more about him here.

Saturday 13 July 15.00 – 16.00

Helen Wass ‘People Time Place: Historic Environment on HS2’. HS2 may be controversial but at least the archaeology is being done! The BBC2 television series on this will be out towards the end of the year. You can say you heard all about it here……

More next week when we will have details of the programme for Sunday. If you can’t wait, you can go to our website now…and BOOK!

A Young Archaeologist



Henry was with us recently as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme activities which include a period of volunteering…

As a long-time member of the Young Archaeologists’ Club held at Salisbury Museum and someone with a passionate interest in history and archaeology, it seemed perfect to me that such a brilliant organisation, based so locally, was willing to take me as a volunteer for my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From January to March, I was delighted to assist Engagement Volunteers Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard in their roles in the museum and help Katy England in running the wonderful Young Curators’ Club.

Initially applying for the student placement was a smooth and trouble-free experience, particularly when aided by the helpful Volunteer Co-ordinator Bridget Telfer, and something I’d recommend anybody with a bit of spare time and an interest in history to do. From then on, I had arranged to work alongside Katy, Christine and Mike for a few hours on Saturdays. Thankfully, on my first day in January I quickly picked up the induction information and was ready to begin the placement.

Young Curators’ Club was my first mission. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy tailed at 10am; eager to help out with whatever tasks would be thrown at me. I was tasked with some necessary duties for the new year of the club, but soon we ventured farther into the museum and were allowed entry into the museum’s costume gallery, where all of the members were so eager to engage in the fascinating local heritage showcased in the museum. Needless to say, it was an interesting insight into the running of clubs which spark so much interest in young people, just as YAC did for me.

My other role in the student placement was in engagement volunteering; a role I value greatly from the immense amount I learned during my placement. Not only had I become familiar with the vast array of incredible exhibits open to the public in the museum, I also learnt about the role of stewarding at museums and was able to try my hand at it myself.

Throughout the entire experience, with the help of Christine and Mike, I familiarised myself with all of the collections that a visitor might ask me about when stewarding. As someone currently studying History GCSE and hoping to pursue the subject at A Level and beyond, I could not have asked for a better opportunity, not only to enhance my knowledge of local heritage, but also in skills applicable throughout the entire discipline. Public engagement, spontaneity and retaining information were all skills that I practised and improved during my placement, skills I’m sure will be invaluable for both my further pursuit of history and life in general.

For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike: patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience. Secondly, I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Getting a glimpse behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life, particularly as I could view such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on.

For this incredible opportunity I’d like to thank Bridget Telfer, Katy England, Christine Mason and Mike Mitchard especially, but also the friendly community of volunteers working at the Museum who were so encouraging and welcoming. For this experience I could not be more grateful.

For me, the absolute highlights of this experience were definitely when I was allowed free rein in stewarding by Mike; patrolling the Wessex Gallery eager to answer any questions thrown at me by interested members of the public was an exhilarating and highly enjoyable experience, and also when I was allowed by Christine to look at some of the Rex Whistler project collections she had been working on. Seeing behind closed doors in a building that I have been visiting for years was a unique experience, particularly whilst seeing such an amazing collection that the Museum rightfully prides itself on, one that I shall treasure for the rest of my life.

Henry – thank you for your memories and thoughts, and most of all your help and enthusiasm.

Fine Tuning


Huge apologies to Peter Barnes, and further apologies, and thanks, to David Davies (and several others), who sent us a note to say that we had got this all wrong. It is Peter Barnes who was tuning our harpsichord! Thank you, gentlemen (and others!).

Peter Barnes

The harpsichord is not as old as you might think. It was built in 1984. It has a great sound (when in tune) and is notable for its decoration, soon to be added to by no less than artist Diana de Vere-Cole.

And if you have ever wondered what tools a harpsichord tuner uses….

The wrench worries us a bit….!

A Wonderful Day in the Close


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Wonderful in a lot of ways! The weather was glorious, the crowds huge and happy, and the setting, of course, fantastic as always.

BBC favourite Antiques Roadshow was in town…

A stunning spring (early summer?) day

Rumour has it that there were 7 000 people there. One hopeful lady was in the Close for five hours of queuing but she reported that the atmosphere was so cheerful that it was a really enjoyable wait. Total strangers became friends, and places in the queue were saved while people took the chance to go and have a coffee or to go to the loo. Office workers, laden with their treasures, were turning up at the end of their working day, unable to believe the queues which were still hundreds strong.

The Salisbury Museum had its moment ‘in the sun’ with over 500 coming across to see the museum’s Scout car from 1912, and a set of stuffed peregrine falcons from the museum’s store (to go with the live ones in the tower of the Cathedral) were filmed with presenter Fiona Bruce.

Well done to staff and Volunteers who welcomed visitors and distributed leaflets. Thank you to MG Cannon who generously transported the car from our store at Old Sarum. And congratulations to the Cathedral for hosting the event. There is no firm date for the transmission of the programme but Autumn has been mentioned….



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Volunteers were asked recently if they would like to try making mini ‘Rupert’ parachutists to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Nicknamed ‘Rupert’s’ after the famous childrens’ comic book character (or were they??), these decoy parachutists were made of sack cloth filled with sand, straw or wood shavings. They were parachuted over enemy territory to create the false impression of a very large invasion force. On 6 June 1944 aircraft dropped 500 Rupert’s along the French coast to divert German troops away from the actual zones. The mini ‘Rupert’s’ will go on display in the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum in June 2019.

Volunteer Barbara Martin was there…

It took me the whole session to make one ‘Rupert’.  The figures were cut out and ready to sew and it wasn’t long before I realised how intricate the task would be.  Where to start?  The head was fairly straightforward but the limbs had other ideas.   The stuffing went so far and no further, which resulted in  muscular arms and legs but flat hands and feet. I had time to give him button eyes and add his parachute before handing him over to Lorna. By far the best part of the day was being with Lorna and Linda.  They were such good company and some of our comments on our work had us falling about with laughter.  I had expected a somewhat studious atmosphere but had a wonderful morning full of fun.  I am looking forward to seeing all the ‘Ruperts’ at the Apache café at the Army Flying Museum in June.

So was Linda Robson…with a different version of the origin of the nickname!

Whilst many of the  other volunteers were enjoying the coffee morning and talk, Barbara and I were upstairs busy making our “Ruperts” with the guidance of Lorna. Although short on numbers we were not short on laughter! We discovered our hand sewing was not of the speedy kind as it took us an hour and half to complete one small Rupert. But half that time was spent laughing, as fortunately  we all seemed to have the same wacky sense of humour.

We were delighted to hear that our Ruperts would be on display, but so high up in the Apache cafe in the Army Flying Museum, no-one can see or inspect that our parachutist could do with a good meal! Our endeavours to fill them equally  with stuffing had not been that successful.

 After making them we did think of releasing them out the window, to see if they worked, but Phil Harding was below us talking to the children about his dig! 

And now the serious part: On the 5/ 6th June 1944, 500 decoy three foot  dummies, accompanied by a handful SAS troopers, were dropped at four locations in France. When the Ruperts landed, they would self destruct leaving just a charred white parachute behind, consequently few originals survived. Interestingly it was code-named Operation Titanic. They were nicknamed Ruperts as  with typical army humour, that  was a derogatory name the ranks used for Officers.

Well done ladies! I wish I hadn’t missed this one…