A Wiltshire Wander in blazing sunshine brought a group of magnificent vehicles to the Museum forecourt today.
Thank you for your visit – safe journey onwards.
On Monday, volunteers from The Salisbury Museum and other local organisations had the opportunity to visit Avebury, meet and socialise with one another, and to have a guided tour of the site, as well as visit the manor, church and museums. Forty attended in all, eighteen from our museum, seven from Wessex Archaeology, nine from Wiltshire Museum and six from Stonehenge, English Heritage. It was organised by the Stonehenge and Avebury Learning and Outreach Group (SALOG), and hosted, of course, by Avebury itself who opened up their doors and made sure that, amongst other things, we had excellent refreshments by way of coffee, tea and cake.
Feedback from volunteers:
“Thanks for this little adventure, Bridget. Very enjoyable, even if once again I asked awkward questions! Not intentionally, of course!”
“Thank you so much for organising the trip today. No matter how many times I visit Avebury I am always in awe of our ancestors and always learn more about our past. It was a great day out and the Manor House was a revelation too. Mo and I took every opportunity to handle and examine the exhibits. As Miranda would say “such fun”. Thank you.”
“I’ve been before, but not for many years. I had no idea how vast it is. It was so special to have a guided tour.”
Excavations suggest that Avebury was begun around 2 600 BC, with the digging of the spectacular ditch and bank. The addition of the stones, sarsens, was a little later, and presumably undertaken over a considerable period of time. It is said that as many as six hundred stones may have been erected, creating a huge outer circle, two inner circles and marking two avenues, each well over a mile (which is about 1.5km) long . It is thought possible that there were, in fact, four avenues, but there is no evidence as yet. The stones weigh up to ten tons (or tonnes) each.
Most of the stones had fallen or had been broken up for building purposes when, in 1935, Alexander Keiller (of marmalade fame) bought the manor house and much of the land around about. His work followed on from that of earlier archaeologists and antiquarians. He had the stones re-erected and where they were no longer available, he marked the places with concrete posts. This was not guesswork. Stones which had earlier been removed to be broken up for building would have had a fire set beneath them. This was the best way to do it – the hot rock eventually splitting and taken away in wheelbarrows or on carts. It is, of course, the burning in the soil that tells the archaeologist where the stones have been. This is how the archaeologists have been able to trace the avenues, where very few of the original stones remain.
The bank is nearly a mile around and encloses about 28 acres (11 hectares). It is calculated that it would have taken about 1.5 million man hours to complete. It encloses the ditch (originally about 30 feet or 9m deep) , suggesting that the bank was for watching from and the ditch to prevent the ‘audience’ from getting any closer to what was going on. What ever it was, it was important.
Described variously as the largest henge in the world, in Europe, but certainly in Britain, this monument is apparently pre-dated by Stonehenge (in its earliest form), although both were almost certainly in use at the same time in the third millenium BC and it is possible that Avebury is earlier than currently estimated (see recent newspaper reports). Were they used for the same purpose, or same sort of purpose? Were they linked in some way? Were they rivals? Why were they built in this part of Britain? How were so many people drawn in to help construct these places? The assumption is that it is religion (in the broadest sense) that provides the motive and impetus, the focus, for such undertaking. Is it just so far from our modern view of the world that we can’t quite comprehend it?
A great day out. Many thanks to Bridget and all others concerned.
Museums at Night – a twice-a-year event when museums, galleries and heritage sites try to do something a bit different to highlight British culture.
Friday 19 May was a damp evening, in contrast to the weather recently, but visitors turned out to see Greg Chapman, back by popular demand. His lively (juggling, story telling and unicycling) version of history is not to be forgotten!
A first visit to this exhibition is a delightful surprise. Apart from anything else, there is such variety – Stonehenge on everything from photographs to phone cards! And for those of us of a certain age, those wonderful Shell posters of yesteryear…..
A favourite? Perhaps John Constable’s tiny, exquisite, pencil sketch but it will take a few visits to make a final decision.
As I write, there are considerable numbers of visitors in the galleries and great Volunteers looking after them.
There are a number of talks and events associated with this exhibition. Notice ‘Ancient Landscapes Through the Lens: A guided photographers walk to Breamore’ led by David Walker and Peter Norton on 23 May 10am – noon. For details, click here.
Photo courtesy of David Walker
We hope this one is in your diary already – Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 July. ArchFest has been enormously successful in its first two years and we have our fingers crossed for fine weather (that helps!) and happy crowds once again this year.
Tickets will soon be on sale for the talks (click HERE for link), and will be, soon, for the ‘taster sessions’ which we hope will include calligraphy, Roman cooking, spinning and weaving, and sword skills for adults. The latter could be very popular so book soon!
Two gatherings took place recently to mark the publication of our own Richard Henry’s Fifty Finds From Wiltshire, with brisk sales following these two events. The first was here at Salisbury Museum, attended by fifty or so local landowners, metal detectorists and Volunteers. The occasion was by way of thanks to all of those who have contributed to the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and in some way to the book.
Everyone had a tour ‘backstage’ at the museum, led by Director Adrian Green or by Richard himself. This was very much enjoyed, and an ‘eye-opener’ for those for whom this was a first visit.
The second gathering was last Friday at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, where, as at Salisbury Museum, many of the finds described in the book are on display.
The book is on sale in the Salisbury Museum shop at £14.99. There is a ten percent reduction for volunteers!
After our sad farewell to Constable we look forward to ‘British Art: Ancient Landscapes’ opening on Saturday 8 April. Our new Events booklet also draws attention to the amazing series of talks, walks and complementary exhibitions associated with the works of Turner, Ravilious, Piper, Hepworth, Moore and, yes, Constable, and others, all on display until 3 September. One of the talks is by Professor Sam Smiles who curated the exhibition. This includes a private viewing – Wednesday 26 April 6pm. Book soon!
In 2010 a gallery space was created at Mottisfont Abbey near Romsey. It made use of redundant rooms at the top of the house and it now has a growing reputation as an art venue in Hampshire.
The current exhibition of Rex Whistler’s work, entitled “More than just Murals” began on January 14th. It draws on items from several different sources, the Welsh Guards Museum, Plas Newydd (NT) Anglesey, and his archive from the Salisbury museum.
It reflects various aspects of his short life, his school and student days, his varied output of murals, his work on the stage, book designs and advertising material. The exhibition is further enhanced by a beautifully crafted film, made by Daniel Whistler, Rex’s nephew.
Rex was influenced by the work of the architect Palladio. The Palladian bridge in the grounds of Wilton House appears in many of his classical landscapes, all created accurately from memory.
The exhibition closes on the 23rd April
Bob Andrews Collections Volunteer
From our website this week. Well worth a look…
Back in September 2016 we announced a Rainbow Photographic Competition, inviting photographers to capture a rainbow over the skies of Salisbury. This was inspired by John Constable’s painting ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’ on display at the museum. We are thrilled to announce the prize winners are First – Martin Cook, Second – Marie Jones and Third – Alan Clarke. Here is Martin’s award-winning image. Thanks also to the Salisbury Branch of London Camera Exchange, who donated the prizes. The winning photographs will go on display at the museum soon. See all the entries on YouTube https://youtu.be/Z8DXRnzOtwg
Hot off the press and in fact, not even published yet! Our own Richard Henry, Wiltshire’s Finds Liaison Officer, based here at The Salisbury Museum, was commissioned to write the latest in the series ‘Fifty Finds From…’, in this case, of course, Wiltshire.
The book is effectively an excellent history of the county from Neolithic to post medieval times, through discoveries that have been made by local detectorists and others, and which have been passed to Richard and his team to process for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Beautifully and copiously illustrated, one of the joys of this book is that we see the history of the county through the items owned and used, often manufactured by, the local people. At the same time, we see an early world which nevertheless had links far and wide, for many of these items were imported. What journeys they must have known!
Watch for a further review of this book in the coming weeks. Meanwhile you will be able to buy it via the museum shop after 15th March. Don’t miss it!
Meanwhile, museum PAS Volunteers (particularly Alyson Tanner, Claire Goodey and Jane Hanbidge) all have their work included here. Well done to all concerned, especially Richard himself.