PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) Volunteers continue to work their way through literally hundreds of finds brought into the museum by responsible metal detectorists. Three ‘gems’ this week, being processed by Volunteers Jane Hanbidge, Alyson Tanner and Alix Smith, together with Finds Liaison Assistant Sohie Hawke are below
Found in Wiltshire, this brooch dates from c AD 75 – 175. We often have beautiful and interesting brooches but not often are they complete. This lovely item is missing only some enamel which would have been held in the triangular cells on the middle of the bow.
Some readers will know that these brooches were worn in a manner which we would consider is upside down. Thus….
They were functional as well as decorative, worn by men and women, holding clothing together, and often worn in pairs as below:
By far the most common finds are Roman coins. This one is early:
It is a coin from the rule of Lucilla. Annia Aurelia Galeria Lucilla or Lucilla (March 7, 148 or 150 – 182) who was the second daughter and third child of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius.
A slightly (!) better example of the same coin appears here……
In the film Gladiator Lucilla was depicted as one of the most dangerous threats faced by her brother, Commodus. She was eventually executed for plotting to assassinate him and take power with her second husband but appears on Roman coins because she was briefly, through her first marriage, Empress Consort.
Every one of these finds would have been sadly missed by its owner, not least this:
As you can see, this is a tiny toy jug from a child’s toy tea set, or possibly a doll’s house piece, about 2cm across. Provisionally identified as 18th or 19th century, it is made of lead, as many toys were, well into the 20th century. It is as beautifully decorated as a full size version would be.
Our hugely knowledgeable costume Volunteers, also members of the Art Society, have uncovered some treasures recently. They, and other Volunteers, are systematically unpacking, checking, re-cataloging and re-packing the museum’s huge and important collection of costume. Week by week anything and everything which broadly comes under the heading of costume is lovingly poured over.
A fortnight ago, a petticoat of white lawn cotton and lace was unpacked by Volunteers Caroline Lanyon, Sarah Brumfitt, Selina Chudleigh, Pam Balchin. Dating from 1901, it had belonged to the donor’s mother and had been part of her trousseau that year. It had been made by Queen Victoria’s underwear seamstress. We might conjecture that, Queen Victoria having died in 1901, the seamstress had sought new customers elsewhere. and so produced this beautiful garment.
The Volunteers described the petticoat as follows:
“This lawn and lace petticoat is made in narrow vertical panels on the bodice in white work and tucked lawn cotton. The sides are gently shaped with tucked V shaped horizontal panels in lawn and the lace shaped with godet darts. The hem of 400mm depth has horizontal panels of cotton lawn and lace. Many of the panels are joined a ladder stitch insertion. The back has a gusset opening to the hips and is fastened by eight covered buttons. The button holes are hand made with two top hand-worked loops.”
The evening of Thursday 21st March, and potentially I had four different events I could attend, including one of two history societies and an astronomical society. In the event I had already purchased a ticket to attend ‘Beer Tasting with Simon Jackson’ at the Museum.
On arrival I found myself chatting with two of the Volunteers for the evening, whom I hadn’t seen since we were all involved with the Terry Pratchett exhibition. This meant that I eventually sat at a table with people I’d never met before and who, initially, didn’t seem very chatty.
Simon Jackson started by informing us that he was a Trustee of the Museum and a qualified brewer, and reminded us that Salisbury Museum is a world class museum with collections of international importance. He also pointed out that Salisbury was once an important malting centre, and which gives its name to the area still known as The Maltings, but the nearest now is in Warminster.
Simon then reminded us of the major ingredients of beer: barley, hops, water… . The quality of brewing water is particularly important as beer is 90%-95% water, and hence the pre-eminence of Burton-Upon-Trent as a brewing centre. Burton water is created by rainwater trickling through deep beds of gypsum (calcium sulphate) before resting in underground aquifers. Burton beer is known for a temporary eggy, sulphurous smell, known in brewing circles as ‘Burton snatch’. A major brewery in Burton is Whitbread, where Louis Pasteur did much of his original work.
Another key ingredient is hops, which are used primarily as a bittering, flavouring and stability agent. They are a member of the Cannabinaceae family, although they don’t contain any of the psycho-active agents. Simon informed us that we can find hops growing in the hedgerow around Tesco Extra.
None too soon we got around to actually sampling the beers, of which six were provided, along with a complementary foodstuff for each. First to be sampled was a local brew, Hopback’s Summer Lightning. Simon informed us that this isn’t pasteurised and is one of the most awarded beers in the world. This was paired with a local cheese, Somerset Brie. According to Simon, this beer was named after its creator had been reading the P.G.Wodehouse novel of the same name.
Also of interest were some of the Museum’s collection of brewing-related artefacts, including a ‘frog mug’ – a ceramic mug with a green frog inside. Frog mugs, also called surprise mugs or ague mugs are a type of vessel mainly used for drinking alcoholic beverages. They were part of a tradition of drinking games where the frog slowly emerged at the bottom of the vessel as it was drained. This reminded me that I still have one at home – a present from a former girlfriend.
As a scientist, I was particularly interested in the Lovibond tintometer, which I think he said was an original model. Joseph Williams Lovibond, the son of a prominent London brewery owner, set up the foundations of Tintometer Ltd in Salisbury in 1885, as a means of ensuring the high quality of his beers. He devised a system of using coloured glass strips to compare against the colour of beer, and is based upon the fact that glass does not lose its colour. Tintometer was the first company to develop the science of measurement by colour and The Tintometer Ltd company still exists close by to Salisbury.
All in all this was a fabulous and informative evening. The fact that I didn’t know any of the others on my table was of no consequence once we’d imbibed our second sample of beer, which might have been the Hopping Hare (paired with Jacob’s Twiglets) – we were talking 19 to the dozen. I felt I made the right choice from my four options and I hope this is an event that can be repeated in future.
Last week, Volunteer Christine Mason wrote for us about the remarkable story of her involvement with the museum’s Rex Whistler archive. Thanks to this talented lady, some of the Whistler story is spreading far and wide…
Nothing of what happened throughout 2018 in preparation for the show would have been possible without the help, enthusiasm and encouragement of Louise Tunnard, and it was a gamble for her, as if the event wasn’t a success the museum stood to lose money.
that there should be two readers, male and female, and I was very fortunate
that two professional actor friends, Jill Fenner and Edward Halsted, expressed
interest, so it was up to me to produce a script that would appeal to them. I
started, naturally, by reading every item in the correspondence section of the
archive, approximately 700 items, but of those 700, although some were just a single
sheet, others were six or more pages long.
I selected about 59 possibilities to work on. In the case of transcripts I could photocopy
them to take home, but for the originals the photographs on Modes had to be
retrieved, and here I was greatly indebted to volunteer David Balston for doing
that. Bearing in mind always that the
performance had to be strictly of an hour’s duration was a good discipline when
it came to editing the letters. The
first lines to go were the apologies that began almost every letter. I have said that Whistler was a reluctant
letter writer, and his correspondents always had to wait a long time for
replies, even when commissions were being offered. Repetition, references to people or events
unknown today also disappeared. Finally
27 letters and one envelope made up the script.
Once the shape was in place I had to provide a linking narrative, and
decide on the division of the letters between the readers, which was roughly
that the female would read letters addressed to women and the male those to
men, but this was not strictly adhered to.
The title, ‘Darling Edith and others’ was arrived at by Louise and me
over a lunchtime sandwich, and she designed the attractive poster advertising the
event. So with the script done, and
timed with helpful friends reading aloud with me, copies were sent to the
actors, who fortunately were both enthusiastic about it.
the script was completed, I was stewarding in the Henry Lamb exhibition, and
one of the visitors was Katherine Olivier, the great-niece of the Darling Edith
of the title. We talked, and she said
she lived in America so would not be able to come to the performance, but at
her request I sent her a copy of the script, which she reviewed very kindly and
script completed and accepted, I then had to think about the staging, bearing
in mind the limitations of the Lecture Hall as a performance venue, with its
very low stage making for difficult sightlines, and the lack of effective
lighting. Any staging, however minimal,
is a costly business. Both actors had
offered to waive their fees, but this could not be allowed. Louise negotiated with Edward’s agent, and
Jill’s costs and other expenses were sponsored.
These included a dress being made to a 1930s pattern for Jill, and a
donation to Salisbury Playhouse for the loan of furnishings, for which they
generously had made no charge, and had given me a freehand to pick anything I
wanted even including a vase of artificial flowers from the theatre’s
foyer. Other items to dress the set and
genuine 1930s jewellery were scrounged from friends. A superb copy of the self-portrait held by
the museum was made, and two personal items from the archive also helped dress
the set, Whistler’s Welsh Guard’s cap and the drinks flask he carried.
months before the date of the show, Jill and Edward came to Salisbury for a
rehearsal one Saturday when the Lecture Hall was not in use. This was our only rehearsal before the actual
day, and all other notes and directions were conducted by e-mail between the
three of us, but I could not have wished for more co-operative and amenable
morning of 7th December we were to rehearse and set the stage, so it
was disconcerting to arrive and find a decorated, artificial Christmas tree on
the acting area and the hall bedecked with totally inappropriate bunting. Fortunately, Jill’s partner who worked for years
backstage at the Coliseum for English National Opera, removed the bunting with
Wagnerian thoroughness, but his fight with the Christmas tree was more in the
style of opera comique, and apologies
if the tree was never the same again.
To our great
relief the evening was completely sold out, and the performance went
smoothly. It had to end with a
black-out, which was difficult to do, so I hid on stage behind a screen before
the audience arrived, and Louise joined me after her introduction. We had to have four hands on four switches to
achieve the black-out, and we had been unable to synchronise this at the afternoon’s
rehearsal, but by a miracle we managed it when it mattered.
It is very
gratifying, that after so many months’ work by everyone involved, ‘Darling
Edith and Others’ will be seen again.
Lewes Little Theatre, Sussex, with a suitable donation to the museum,
has programmed it into their next season as a Sunday afternoon foyer
performance on 31st May 2020, so if you missed it in Salisbury. . .
The artist Rex Whistler, 1905-1944, is less well known than his contemporary Eric Ravilious, 1903-1942. One only has to look at the greetings cards in the museum shop to realise that. Both were killed in World War II, both at the age of 39, and at the height of their powers with so much more to give. Salisbury Museum is in a unique position to promote Rex Whistler’s work to a wider audience.
been retrospective exhibitions of Whistler, notably the Army Museum 1994,
Brighton Art Gallery 2006 and Salisbury Museum 2013. Whistler’s younger brother, Laurence, amassed
a huge archive of everything and anything connected with his sibling, and this
remained with the family after Laurence’s own death, and was purchased by the
museum after the 2013 exhibition. It is
the most appropriate home for it, as a few years before his death Whistler had
taken a lease on 69 The Close, a near neighbour of the museum.
volunteer steward at the 2013 exhibition, I was invited to an evening’s viewing
of part of the archive soon after its arrival.
This was heaped on the tables in the Meetings Room, and it was almost
impossible to pick out what to look at first, and the Director assured us it
was only a small sample of the whole collection, which had never been fully
catalogued. In the five years since
then, and most importantly, almost everything has been stored in protective
sleeves where necessary, and proper storage boxes. Where Laurence had put items into manila
envelopes or similar, the contents have been removed, and the envelopes kept
and added to the records, as they often provide clues on what they previously
held. The cataloguing continues, and the
collection has been photographed. As the
cataloguing records are completed in longhand in pencil, the details are then
transferred to Modes.
The cost of
holding the archive did not stop with its purchase. The materials for its protection are
expensive, and some of the original works of art are in need of conservation,
having been kept in unsuitable conditions or folded when they should have been
is, of course, available to bona fide
researchers, and the Talking Objects scheme adopted by the museum during summer
months, has given a wider public a taste of Whistler’s enormous talent in
portraiture, mural painting, book illustration, film and theatre design,
advertising, etc., etc. This small
selection also includes photographs and some of his correspondence, he being a
reluctant but skilled letter writer, even though his spelling was always
was asked to give an illustrated talk to fellow volunteers, which I did. Subsequently I took this talk to an outside
group, and a generous cheque was sent by them to the museum, and further
bookings are in the pipeline with the possibility of more fees for the museum.
This gave me the idea of using the archive as performance matter, rather than lecture material, and early in 2018 it was agreed that something along those lines could be programmed into the museum’s events calendar. I was given the date of 7th December to work towards, and I decided to base the evening on the correspondence tracing Whistler’s life from a 12 year old boy just starting at boarding school, through his work and the high society life of the 20s and 30s to his army service with the Welsh Guards from 1940 until his death in 1944.
This fascinating account of a Volunteer’s interest becoming a public performance is continued next week… Thank you Christine!
Volunteer Alan Clarke, who, as regulars will know, looks after our photographic archive, has sent in two apparently random photographs, from the collection, for us to enjoy.
But they are not random of course. Both the Home Guard of the 1940s and the local volunteers of the eighteenth century had taken on the same task- when all else failed, when the enemy was ‘at the gate’, they would defend it.
Volunteer forces were set up after 1859 when the government realised that half the British army was scattered to foreign parts, defending the Empire. In the Crimean War (1853- 56) even the yeomanry (volunteer cavalry regiments raised from landowners) had been sent out to make up numbers. Some arrangement was needed to defend things closer to home.
Wikipedia includes this about the volunteer forces:
Corps were only to be formed on the recommendation of the county’s lord-lieutenant.
Officers were to hold their commissions from the lord-lieutenant
Members of the corps were to swear an oath of allegiance before a justice of the peace, deputy lieutenant or commissioned officer of the corps.
The force was liable to be called out “in case of actual invasion, or of appearance of an enemy in force on the coast, or in case of rebellion arising in either of these emergencies.”
While under arms volunteers were subject to military law and were entitled to be billeted and to receive regular army pay.
Members were not permitted to quit the force during actual military service, and at other times had to give fourteen days notice before being permitted to leave the corps.
Members were to be returned as “effective” if they had attended eight days drill and exercise in four months, or 24 days within a year.
The members of the corps were to provide their own arms and equipment, and were to defray all costs except when assembled for actual service.
Volunteers were also permitted to choose the design of their uniforms, subject to the lord-lieutenant’s approval.
Although volunteers were to pay for their own firearms, they were to be provided under the superintendence of the War Office, so as to ensure uniformity of gauge.
The number of officers and private men in each county and corps was to be settled by the War Office, based on the lord-lieutenant’s recommendation.
The website of the Wardrobe, the museum of the infantry regiments of Berkshire and Wiltshire (also in the Close – a neighbour of ours), says this about our volunteer regiments, some early versions of which already existed in the county when things were formalised in 1859:
In 1860 the volunteer units were formed into two Battalions of Rifle Volunteers, each 1000 strong. The 1st covered the Southern half of the county with its headquarters at Salisbury, and included Wilton, Warminster, Westbury, Trowbridge and Bradford on Avon. The Northern half embraced the 2nd Battalion and included Devizes, Market Lavington, Chippenham, Calne, and Swindon. In the Cardwell reforms of 1881 the volunteer units were incorporated into the Regimental District. Before being organised into battalions the uniforms of the volunteer corps were bright varied and original. The Wiltshire uniforms were based on “Rifle green and black and remained so right up to 1914. The original uniform of the 1st Battalion was dark green with black lace, similar to that of the rifle brigade. The original Badge was two rakes crossed, with, in the centre, the historic barrel and moon of the Moonraker legend. It was consider merging the two battalions at this stage but no action was taken to facilitate this for twenty two years. About 1889 the 1st and 2nd Battalions, Wiltshire Rifle Volunteers, were renamed respectively the 1st Wiltshire Volunteer Rifle Corps, and the 2nd Volunteer Battalion the Wiltshire Regiment. In 1900, during the Boer War, a volunteer Company was recruited from the two volunteer Battalions as reinforcement to the 2nd Battalion on active service in South Africa. The company was commanded by Viscount Folkestone, joining the Regiment in Bloemfontein in April 1900, and returned home at the completion of its year of service, having seen much active service, and having proved itself in all respects up to the standards of regular troops.
If you are interested in reading more, do visit their website, or plan a visit!
Whether or not the description of the uniform matches the one in our photo is for you to decide. Alan does not give us any clues. If there are any experts in military history amongst our readers it would be good to know exactly what the photograph does show. Some thoughts to be going on with – the colour of the uniform does not seem to be green, the style is earlier than 1859 (perhaps late 18th century) and the cap badge is probably GR – one of the Georges…..
Meanwhile, the very mention of the Home Guard raises a smile, due in part to a certain very popular comedy TV series. However, when Churchill said “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” it would have been the Home Guard which, amongst others, would have swung in to action. Road signs had already been taken down to try and confuse the enemy if they landed. Documents from the time (this sort of thing is available in local records offices), show that in one village in Dorset, the then secret orders to the Home Guard commander were, that in the case of a landing by the enemy. a cart should be pulled across the bridge on the outskirts in order to stop their advance. A cart.
Again, we may be tempted to smile, even mock, but imagine knowing that the cart was your last defence, that there would be nothing else you could do and you would be expected to do it. And they would have done, too…
“The Home Guard (initially Local Defence Volunteers or LDV) was an armed civilian militia supporting the British Army. Operational from 1940 until 1944, the Home Guard was composed of 1.5 million local volunteers otherwise ineligible for military service, such as those too young or too old to join the regular armed services (regular military service was restricted to those aged 18 to 41); or those in reserved occupations. Excluding those already in the armed services, the civilian police or civil defence, approximately one-in-five men were volunteers. Their role was to act as a secondary defence force, in case of invasion by the forces of Nazi Germany and their allies.
The Home Guard were to try to slow down the advance of the enemy, even by a few hours in order to give the regular troops time to regroup; and also to defend key communications points and factories in rear areas against possible capture by paratroops or fifth columnists. The Home Guard continued to man roadblocks and guard the coastal areas of the United Kingdom and other important places such as airfields, factories and explosives stores until late 1944 when they were stood down, and finally disbanded on 31 December 1945, eight months after Germany’s surrender. Men aged 17 to 65 could join. Service was unpaid but gave a chance for older or inexperienced soldiers to support the war effort.”
Do any of our readers recognise any of the gentlemen in the photo? If so, please let us know who they are. Is there anyone amongst our volunteers who was in the Home Guard and could share a story? Please do contact Bridget if you can contribute on this.
Thank you Alan, as always. We look forward to more photos soon.
I am in my first days as the Wessex Museums Partnership Community Curator (Wiltshire) and have had a fantastic time so far. In past lives I have been a community theatre practitioner, a producer and a tour manager for theatre in education. However, the bulk of my work over the last 15 years has been coordinating and managing programmes of learning and community work for Oxford Playhouse and the Corn Exchange in Newbury. Most recently I have been developing arts & health projects and managing a three year programme of creative work for people over 55, including work in care settings. I also have two small children so some of you may see me at Under 5’s Fridays from time to time.
I am incredibly excited by working in museums and all the potential these organisations have to benefit the local community, in the broadest sense. Community Curator is a brand new role so the job will evolve over time but I will be looking ways to build projects for particular groups, to find ways to overcome the barriers people might face in engaging with us or in life more generally. I will also find ways to take our work out to people in their own familiar settings. I will also aim to establish smaller things we can do to welcome people to our buildings who have never been before. In essence my work should have a social impact and ensure that more and more people benefit from these marvelous collections.
I will be based at Salisbury Museum but also working at the Wilshire Museum in Devizes and will be taking the next few weeks to really familiarise myself with the great work that is already going on in and around both buildings.
When Thomas A’Beckett was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, the miraculous healing properties of his blood quickly became legend, and high status visitors, from home and abroad, began arriving to take caskets of relics, including flasks of ‘waters’, home to their own churches and cathedrals. Soon, humbler types were arriving and local metal workers neatly climbed on board the bandwagon by producing miniature versions of common flasks, called ampulla, which could be bought cheaply, and displayed, if so wished, as a sign that they had been to Canterbury!
Other religious centres caught on, one of the most prolific
being the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in N Norfolk where production of
ampullae probably continued right up until the Reformation in the mid 16th
Ampullae were also produced in Europe, and the shell pattern, being the accepted symbol across the continent of pilgrimage, became the most common decorative feature on an ampulla. Other motifs included, flowers, shields and letters eg ‘W’ for Walsingham. The little bottles were made of lead or lead and tin alloy – easy to melt and therefore to mass produce. They were basically circular, but flattened, with a slightly flared neck and with a small loop either side of the narrowest part, to which a cord could be attached (to be worn around the neck) or by which the ampulla could be sewn to a cap. The neck could be crimped if the water, oil, or perhaps dust (anything from the site would do) was to be held secure before being scattered or transferred. Occasionally ampulla are found that have not been opened, but the substance has escaped over time.
Pilgrim badges became popular later, perhaps as ‘display’ became more important, for whatever reason.
However, by the later Medieval period, ampullae were common again. It is currently thought that it may have become a ‘tradition’ of some kind to open the ampullae and spread the contents on fields, perhaps to bless the field and encourage fertility, or simply to bring the sacred back, literally to home ground. The bottles, with their necks ripped off, are commonly to be found in, or alongside, fields. They are also found in river banks or close to graves.
We might reflect that little changes. Using something to show where we have been (from a good tan to a sticker in the car – make your own list!) has never gone away. And all over the world little workshops produce cheap souvenirs for us to take home and show our friends. Neither have beliefs about special places, or people, which we (in our secular age) might describe as ‘superstitious’, become completely irrelevant. Indeed, in many societies pilgrimage remains important.
We have a temporary exhibition in the Wessex Gallery, celebrating the work of young people who have been part of the City Story: Historic Past, Creative Future Project, funded by an HLF grant.
Led by Salisbury Museum’s Katy England and supported by local artists, forty young carers aged between ten and thirteen years were working in the Museum on Saturday mornings, exploring objects in the museum and responding in a variety of art and craft techniques.