Don't Miss It – Talk on Mystery Hoard


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Our own Wil Partridge, Finds Liaison Officer for Wiltshire, will be at Wiltshire Museum, Devizes on Saturday 14 March 2.30 – 4.30pm, presenting a talk:

Recent finds of late Roman pewter from within Wiltshire

Salisbury Museum Volunteers were involved in 2019 with the cleaning and preservation work on a hoard of pewter from the county (which will be included in Wil’s talk). These hoards of pewter are a mystery – unknown in the rest of the Roman Empire, while several have been found in Wiltshire.

Wil and Volunteers cleaning the pewter
Close up of the tank in which the other items were found

2020 is a Momentous Year for Salisbury



Volunteer Event

Collections in Focus Talk

You are warmly invited to attend the first of our programme of volunteer talks for the year, which will take place on Wednesday 5 February from 10.30am-12pm.

Emily Naish, archivist at Salisbury Cathedral, will be giving a talk entitled: ‘Why move Salisbury Cathedral? Evidence from the archives’.

2020 marks the 800th anniversary of the move of Salisbury Cathedral from Old Sarum to its present day site – or rather, as our 13th century predecessors considered, from the dry and barren hill to the rich and verdant valley. There are several surviving manuscripts in the Cathedral Archives and also at Cambridge University Library which tell us why this momentous decision was made. It is these manuscripts on which the talk will be based.

TAKE A CLOSE LOOK…an invitation from Alan Clarke


What is this man doing? Read on…

The two Alans are back – Volunteers Alan Clarke and Crooks – with gems for the new year. First Alan Clarke, with two photographs from our archives…

The museum has just been donated roughly a thousand glass plate negatives, some dating back to around 1875.  They are of various sizes up to bigger than A4.  The subject matter is vast but includes many local scenes such as ones of Stonehenge, New Forest and surroundings.  

According to some of the images, around the turn of the century (1900) there were a number of local baking competitions for who could make the best bread. Photographs were taken of all the competitors’ bread and their slices!  

There is little textual information with any of the 1000 plates.  Hence one is left to finding people who might recognise the images.  The rest of this blog deals with just one such image – Image A.  The quality of the original image allows a zoomed in image to be made – Image B. 

Swanage image A
Swanage image B

Below are the comments of various volunteers who have inspected the image in great detail:

This is an image of Swanage Pier, the Wellington Tower in the background was re-sited here in 1867-ish.

The square tall house behind to the right is The Grove, which, by 1907 was the Grosvenor Hotel.  It still appears like a private house in this image, which may suggest a turn of the century date.

The railway wagons are sitting on the pier having been unloaded from a coal-boat.  It is almost certainly sacks of coal, with individual lumps of coal piled up – unless you think otherwise – and is awaiting horse and carts to take it to the new coal-gas-works (for street-lighting) in Hop Pole Lane at the far end of town.  The company of Mowlem (under George Burt) is the business here in all probability.


This is possibly a very early image of Swanage Pier – the first pier, a working jetty – I note the lack of cranes.


This image must have been taken from the upper deck of the new pier, dating to it to after 1896-ish.  And the coals are not for the gas works, but almost certainly for the steamers of Cosens and Co., Weymouth, which berthed and coaled on the old pier once they had disgorged their passengers.


It dates post-1896. The modern Swanage Pier had at last been built, the old pier (pictured) had long since not been used for exporting stone, its purported purpose, and had been used primarily for the previous decade or so for the quickly increasing trade in people on steamers.  Not a good environment for passengers to disembark! 

Now, with the new parade pier built for passengers, the old pier was used for berthing the paddle steamers overnight during the April-Oct season.  Cosens of Weymouth generally kept two and sometimes three steamers here on station during the season between the 1890s and 1930s.  The pier was secure out of hours, and ideal to keep coal on.  I think these trucks have a bed of sacks of coal, with larger lumps piled centrally above.  The steamers would be coaled in the evening – there was some friction with Swanage Council at one point when the council tried to lessen the amount of fresh water the steamers could take on.  The tramway was mostly unused at this stage, it extended off the pier to a warehouse just along the promenade, but no further, so it could not be used for real transportation.


Ball clay looks like lumps of coal. See Image-C where men are cutting out the ball clay and piling it on a railway truck.


The clay industry was based out at Norden and beyond Corfe, and after 1885 the Swanage Railway would have provided them the obvious modern alternative to boats, so I don’t see these trucks as holding clay.  It might be that Cosens held a stock of coals here for sale as well, although the Swanage Railway also had a coal yard providing coal for sale.

I have captured all the above information in the jpeg images metadata because I don’t know what the truth is!  Lots of scope here for the real enthusiast to delve into. Do you the blog reader, have any more information?  Original high definition image available upon request…



The Lord of Misrule

In connection with Salisbury Museum’s ‘Tudor Christmas’ activities I was intrigued, while watching ‘A Merry Tudor Christmas with Lucy Worsley’, on BBC2 TV, to note that they described the role of the ‘Lord of Misrule’. Also known as the Lord of the Revels, the Lord of Misrule was the ringleader of all the mayhem and revelry that constituted an enactment of the ‘12 Days of Christmas’ in court and in aristocratic households around the country, this being a high point of Tudor entertainment. Often the Lord of Misrule was appointed from among the courtiers but may also have been one of the servants as, during the festivities, the strict hierarchy of Tudor England was briefly turned upside down.

Regular readers of this blog site will be aware that I believe the astrological physician, Simon Forman, is a valid candidate to be the alchemist of St Thomas Church, mainly because he wrote in his Diary for 1584 that “The first of August I toke the house in St. Thomas Churchyerd, and entered there to dwell ther the 7. of September”.  I was intrigued by Worsley’s description of the Lord of Misrule because Forman wrote in his Diary for December 1583 that, “This Christmas I was made lord of the revells…”. At first I was somewhat bewildered by this as the Master of the Revels headed the Revels Office – the department of the Royal Household responsible for the coordination of theatrical entertainment at court from Tudor times until the Licensing Act of 1737. The Master of the Revels between 1579 and 1610 was Sir Edmund Tilney and I could find no record of Simon Forman ever holding this position. However, as Dr Worsley explained in her programme, the Lord of Misrule was not just a ‘court thing’, there are records of Lords of Misrule from aristocratic houses in towns and villages around the country. In this context, Simon Forman was employed as schoolmaster to the children of John Penruddock MP1 from October 1582 to about Michelmas (September) 1584, and so it is probable that Forman was Lord of Misrule in this household.

In the TV programme, Lucy Worsley explained that the ‘Lord of Misrule’ was also sometimes referred to as Lord Christmas, the Christmas Prince or the King of Christmas. This has led some historians to speculate that the Lord of Misrule was a forerunner of our present day Father Christmas. It is certainly diverting to consider the colourful character of Simon Forman, known as the notorious astrological physician of London, in such a role.

Occasionally the activities of the Lord of Misrule got out of hand and there is a record of a Lord of Misrule accidentally killing somebody in 1523!

1 John Penruddock MP (1564-1614) was a Parliamentarian with constituencies in Wilton and Southampton. He had nine children, four sons and five daughters. A number of sources state that Forman’s employer, John Penruddock, was the father of the Cavalier Colonel Penruddock of the famous 1655 Penruddock Uprising against Cromwell. This however cannot be correct as Col. Penruddock’s father was Sir John Penruddock, who was not born until 1591. In fact, Forman’s John Penruddock was the grandson of Edward Penruddock of Arklebury (1500-1541) who was the great great grandfather of Col. John Penruddock through a different line.

 John Penruddock MP had a house at Hale and two houses in Salisbury; one by the Close Gate and the other the Dolphin in New Street. It is interesting to note than in his Diary for 1582, Forman writes, “The 28th of December I toke a house in New Street

A Great Start…


Kind words from a happy customer after a family visit to our Tudor event on 14 December:


Saturday’s display was absolutely fabulous: we twice saw the Martial Arts display . We chatted with the three members coming from Wales and all three of them were very very knowledgeable and keen to share.

Having colouring/easy craft activities around the room was fab as one of my children was busy elsewhere, still listening to the talk.

What a food display ! what a lovely bunch of costumes !

Music was perfect: not too loud , not too tiring and nice and joyful in the background. Even from the cathedral entrance, it sounded great.

It was great to see the reindeer again for a Christmas feeling.

Thank you for a wonderful day!”

Thank you for coming!


A Good Time Was Had…



The Tudor Christmas festivities came, and went. And so did the crowds! Over one thousand visitors on Saturday enjoyed crafts, costumes, falcons, the table (not quite set for a King, but pretty good), martial arts, reindeer and friendly, happy company.

Thank you to the so many concerned in the preparation of it all – Owain Hughes, whose idea it all was; the sewing ladies; the pastry chefs and craftspeople; the decorators; the Albion Historical Falconry team; our friends from the Reindeer Centre,; the Salisbury Playhouse (for costumes); staff and volunteers; the Director (for letting us have real Tudor items on the table, and birds inside our beautiful King’s Room); David Davies who played the harpsichord beautifully and the man with the fife and drum, Jonathan Weekes!

And if there are any visitors reading this blog…….. Thank you for coming.

The decorations and table will remain on display until Twelfth Night, as is fitting.

More Walls

On a wet, rather cold morning, a brave builder is repairing one of our walls. It draws attention to what appears to be one of the more modern parts of the building. However, the wall is, in fact, a complete patchwork. It is mainly brick, but of different hue, and possibly bricks of different sizes, and therefore different dates. Most interesting, perhaps, are the two patches of much older wall, which are similar to the section of wall highlighted in the blog last week. That wall is in part of the building which is much more obviously early, perhaps 16th century.

Pope Joan


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What links a yellow dwarf with the Curse of Scotland, with Matrimony and Intrigue, ladies with feathers, and countries all over Europe? Read on…

1796 caricature by James Gilray showing Lady Georgiana Gordon holding the Pope (the nine of diamonds) in a game of Pope Joan.

Did you know that there is a theory that Pope John VIII was a woman? This thirteenth century conspiracy theory (conspiracy theories, it seems, aren’t a modern phenomenon) suggests that Ioannes Anglicus; AD 855–857 was a woman who disguised herself to become secretly involved in church matters (women were not allowed to be priests, of course) and proved so able that she rose up the ranks to become Pope. The best bit of the story, widely believed throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, was that her sex was revealed when she gave birth during a procession. That would do it…

Our usual source for such things is Wikipedia. Do have a look for the full story.

Meanwhile, the whole business spawned a parlour game, first mentioned in eighteenth century documents, called Pope Joan. Again, ‘Google it’ for details. It seems pretty complicated, and had overtones of religious and political bias, but became very popular in the Victorian period. If you want to have a play, used sets are available on ebay…!

Jean and Joan, our ever reliable Social History volunteers, have found a set in our archives…

These lovely mother-of-pearl counters have an archetypal Victorian look referred to as chinoiserie.

This is probably a nineteenth century set, possibly early. Chinoiserie became popular in Britain in the eighteenth century, and these counters clearly show an oriental influence.