Alan Crooks – continuing the thought that “one of the great pleasures and benefits of volunteering in the museum is the amount one learns (or not!) from the visiting public” (see previous blog)…
Another visitor who had been a member of staff at Godolphin School, contemplating Methuen’s ‘The City and Cathedral of Salisbury as seen from Harnham Hill’ (1955) commented that Godolphin School has a Methuen House (which “always lost all the sporting events”). He said he had quizzed many of his colleagues, including some of long-standing, and was surprised that so few of them knew why Methuen House was so-named. Sadly, I was distracted away before he could enlighten me. However, a little research revealed that Field Marshal The Lord Methuen GCB, GCMG, GCVO, Legion d’Honneur (The 3rd Baron Methuen) was elected Chairman of the Governing Body of Godolphin School, Salisbury on June 10, 1913. This link will take you to a blog which describes his interest in education, his love of books and his knowledge of music.
Another visitor stood in front of Claude Buckle’s railway poster, ‘Salisbury: Where History Begins’ commemorating the visit of Charles II in 1651. He swore blind that Buckle had got the date wrong as Charles II “didn’t ascend the throne until 1660”. I had to go home and quickly check an encyclopaedia to find that Charles II had ascended the throne of Scotland in 1651, and so had visited Salisbury that same year. He issued the Declaration of Breda in 1660 in which he stated the terms on which he accepted the crown of England.
Our Costume Volunteers are an amazing group of ladies, many of them members of NADFAS, bringing huge knowledge and expertise in helping to identify, catalogue and look after the museum’s vast collection of costume.
Last week, over fifteen of them met for some training, given by one of their own number, Caroline Lanyon, who was, of course, able to make use of items from the collection to illustrate her points.
Caroline’s aim was to assist Volunteers in dating pieces of costume. She told her audience that eighteenth century clothes could be easy to identify as those that survive are made from woven silk brocades with distinct pattern designs. Printed cottons came later.
The early nineteenth century was characterised by the Classical Grecian look. As is often true of fashion, it helped to have a sylph-like figure! In the middle, and towards the end, of that century the styles epitomised, and of course, led, by Queen Victoria were all the rage, with bolder colours and tartans. Later, as the Queen herself went into mourning, more subtle colours became fashionable.
The Volunteers must, however, look for alterations to clothes, and for clues that the items are genuine and were not just produced for dressing up (which was not unusual), so Caroline was able to talk about looking for the right kind of stitching – rough and ready in the eighteenth century (except embroidery, which was exquisite), finely had sewn in the nineteenth and, of course, machine stitched later.
Did you know that the definition of ‘couture’ is that the item has been tailor made without machine stitching, allowing the maker to craft the clothes more precisely, but at great cost of time and expertise?
It might have been training but it was a treat!
Local Knowledge – Joshua Scamp
On 12th January 2013, I scanned another of Wilfred Chaplin’s glass plate negatives. It was the image you see here. There is no text or help in identifying Wilfred’s images. The museum was only given the glass plates, no index book, or such, with them. But I recognised it straight away. I was a member of the local Cyclists’ Touring Club for many decades. Every Sunday, those cyclists, many of whom were decades older than me, showed me all the local items of interest. Local meant within 50 miles of Salisbury. However, this gravestone is not far from Salisbury, and there is a story to go with it. It is in Odstock churchyard.
If you go to Odstock, you will still find it there, but today in a poor condition. This photograph of Wilfred’s shows that then, even after 100 years, it was still in extremely good condition. I suspect Wilfred photographed it in 1951 which is 150 years after Joshua Scamp died. I wonder who, for all that time, had kept the gravestone in such a clean condition.
The associated story I was told, was that Joshua’s son stole a horse. The penalty for such a crime was hanging. Joshua offered to be hanged in place of his son. This happened. Joshua’s wife put a curse on the church such that, if anyone locked the church door, then they would die within a year. Twice the church door was locked and twice the curse came true.
If you look up Joshua Scamp on Google, now, you will find quite a few hits with versions of this story. The stories appear to have been written since I scanned this plate back in 2013. Many of the stories claim Joshua was 40 years old when he died, whereas the image here of the near perfect tombstone clearly shows he was 50 years old. Go and look at the original tombstone and see the addition of a metal plate with further text. Wilfred’s image shows how, after the first 150 years, the legend has grown and the evidence altered! Note, however, that there was, even back in Wilfred’s time, a wild rose growing behind the tombstone.
As regular readers will know, volunteer Alan Clarke looks after our photograph collection. His observations are an endless source of delight, and bring these photos to life again.
Where is this new museum?
- Over 350 visitors pass through in an hour and a half.
- Sixty 3D dinosaur reconstructions vie for display space. Do you know your stegosaurus from your triceratops?
- Visitors investigate Charles Darwin’s theories of the evolution of beaks and the similarities between human and primate behaviours. Do your facial mannerisms resemble those of chimpanzees or orang utans?
- Art works in clay, pastels, water colour and collage vividly demonstrate the impact of Stonehenge on the artist’s imagination. How would you depict sunrise behind the trilithons?
- Entry is free and visitors enthusiastically chat with exhibitors and staff about the displays, how they have been curated and their contribution to learning.
- All this joy of learning without tests!
This all happened at Wyndham Park Infant School mini-museum – the culmination of an outreach project organised by our Learning Officer Owain Hughes with Sharina Yark, Wyndham Park History co-ordinator.
The idea grew from Owain’s suggestion (to the local primary school history cluster) that we can support schools in delivering their curriculum through visits to Salisbury Museum and outreach work from Owain and his team of volunteers.
In this case, the three Year 1 classes visited the Wessex Gallery and Owain’s workshops and the three Reception classes and three Year 2 classes each received visits and support in school. The climax of the project was the mini-museum. All 270 pupils contributed to a display in their school hall which opened for an afternoon with all classes visiting, as well as families dropping in to enjoy the exhibition of the children’s work.
As well as providing a vehicle for much enjoyable learning in school, the project clearly raised awareness of, and enthusiasm in the community for, our museum and the services it provides.
Thank you, Ian Dixon, Kate Wickson, Sue Bale and Catherine Hazard
A message from Bridget….Can you help with the Museum’s Spring Clean?
Many of you have helped us out in previous years with our annual ‘Big Clean’ of the museum. It is that time again when we are in need of your help to give the museum an enormous Spring Clean – both the public areas (including the display cases) and behind the scenes.
Considering the size of the museum this takes a lot of effort and we would really appreciate it if you were able to spare a morning or afternoon to help us out. This is a very important job both to ensure the museum stays looking attractive for visitors and to ensure that we look after the collections and minimise the risk of getting pests in our stores!
We intend to carry out the work every Wednesday in March. Morning sessions will be 10am-12.30pm or 1pm/ and afternoon sessions will be 2pm-4.30pm or 5pm. Please can you let me know if you can do any of the below sessions:
- Wednesday 1 March AM or PM
- Wednesday 8 March AM or PM
- Wednesday 15 March AM or PM
- Wednesday 22 March AM or PM
- Wednesday 29 March AM or PM
There will be cake!
Austin Underwood was an extraordinary photographer. He would go places that others wouldn’t think of going, to get a good photograph. Even the freezing weather of the cold winters of the late 1950s and early 1960s didn’t deter him. This photograph shows a water tower at High Post (High Post is on the A345 between Salisbury and Amesbury). In the distance, on the right horizon, one can see the High Post Hotel with its lettering across the top of the building. There are currently some traffic lights at the High Post cross roads. The road from these cross roads down to the Woodford valley runs along the horizon in this photograph from right to left. The water tower used to stand in the middle of the field which was, during WW2, a Spitfire runway. Austin must have endured the cold to get to a position to take this image and have the Hotel in the background. A good photographer always makes use of the background.
The museum has these images in high resolution where one can explore the background in detail and discover all kinds of things. If climate change means we don’t have freezes like this anymore, his images of the cold, which might have been common place at the time, will now be a unique record of what Salisbury and the surrounding area was like during such weather.
For those new to our blog, Alan looks after our Salisbury Journal photographic archive. His observations from the photographs are extra-ordinary…
On Monday, 5th December, Salisbury Museum staff and volunteers manned the Charities’ Chalet at the Salisbury Christmas Market. The centrepiece was, of course, Constable’s ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’ – but seasonably adapted by Christopher Tunnard with Father Christmas and his herd of reindeer flying in the sky above the Cathedral spire. Would Constable have approved? Well, ‘By George’, it certainly made for an eye-catching and witty picture!
Staff and volunteers spent the day promoting the Christmas activities as well as the numerous other events and exhibitions presented by the museum; there were also museum shop items for sale. Over the day, staff and volunteers engaged with 169 people and handed out museum leaflets to many other members of the public. I was on the evening shift which was quiet and slightly chilly (thank you Joyce for the hot chocolate, that kept me going!) but even then we got to talk about the museum to locals and visitors alike. One lady I spoke to was going to place the leaflet about the Christmas activities on her notice board at work.
As a way of engaging with the local community and visitors, the Christmas market pitch seemed to work well, getting information about Salisbury Museum to people who probably would not otherwise have picked up a leaflet or thought to visit. After all, how many people expect live reindeer at the same venue as Constable’s ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’? This is what I love about Salisbury Museum, a huge range of activities and exhibitions to cater for all ages and interests.
Volunteering comes in all shapes and sizes. That’s what I like about it. One day you are cataloging keys from the Drainage Collection, another day you are putting up a gazebo for the Festival of Archeology weekend, or balancing precariously on top of a ladder with a dripping roller brush of grey paint as you transform a gallery into a new exhibition space. So when it’s Christmas – think “Santa and his reindeer”! That’s why I was to be found, late one Monday afternoon in early December, manning the fort – or rather the chalet – at the Salisbury Christmas Market and telling everyone who passed that the following Saturday the Museum was host to not only Santa but also “real reindeer”.
The Christmas Market makes one of the chalets available for local charities to advertise and to sell their wares. Monday was the museum’s slot. For our day, what else could we do but put up a large reproduction of our Constable painting – complete with Santa and his sleigh galloping along that rainbow. We handed out leaflets about the museum generally and especially about the Constable exhibition – and, of course, about our family fun day the following Saturday, enticing passers-by with promises of “real reindeer”. Naturally we targeted families with younger children for that one. However, we were also able to engage people about the museum more generally. One American couple over here on holiday seemed very tempted to visit the museum once we had extolled its virtues and we also got a few takers for some of the lectures in the new year. Even if, to be honest, the bratwurst and gluhwein on the adjacent stall were perhaps a slightly bigger draw, we were still able to spread the word a little bit and who knows, maybe some of those who passed by and took our leaflets might be tempted to come along to the museum as a result of our efforts.
It was fun – if a little cold. The buzz of the market, the slightly hackneyed Christmas music (I have to admit I did find myself joining in and dancing along at some points), the whole Christmas atmosphere….. what’s not to like!
Photo by Ash Mills
On the evening of Wednesday 16th November the Museum hosted the Elizabeth House Social Club members, a club for adults with disabilities.
I was one of several volunteers there to guide people around and be generally welcoming and chatty! This was the second year this event has been held and people had clearly looked forward to coming , some hoping fish pie was on the menu again (it was, and very popular) and, in one case, delighted to re-acquaint herself with the bustards! Naturally food came first, the cafe coming up trumps as always, with lots of second helpings asked for and provided.
Afterwards we looked round the Constable exhibition (“Is it our Cathedral? That one out there?”). I escorted two ladies who wanted to see Dr Neighbour’s surgery, and also to put some distance between themselves and a very loud ( but very good) duo of trumpet and guitar. One lady turned out to be a great fan of Time Team and her friend was awfully fond of Julian Richards! Both knew an incredible amount about Old Sarum and Stonehenge and prowled happily round the Wessex Gallery. Eventually everyone ended up in the Wessex Gallery listening to the duo. For me the highlight of the evening came right at the end when R, a gentleman I used to work with and have known for years, sang ‘ Hallelujah ‘ with the guitarist. It was such a joyous evening. Thanks to all the Museum staff. Please do it again next year. I volunteer in advance!