Did you read Linda’s report last week on the recent Rex Whistler tour of Wilton? Alan Crooks adds this…
As Linda said, we were all shocked at the terrible condition of Edith Olivier’s grave marker (Fig 1). I, however, was not surprised, as I had attended the first ever Wilton History Festival in 2017 during which the organiser, Dr Rebecca Lyons, now a Wilton Councillor, mentioned the awful state it was in and said that she would see whether anything could be done about it. I have reminded her about this and she has undertaken to pursue this further.
Edith, who had an interest in the paranormal, had been
familiar with the legend that two white birds would be seen flying over
Salisbury Cathedral following the death of a Bishop of Salisbury. Thus it is
particularly poignant that David Herbert, second son of Reginald, 15th
Earl of Pembroke in recalling her funeral, wrote: ‘As they lowered her coffin into the grave, with a swish of wings a
pigeon flew up into the sky. Cecil [Beaton] and I gasped and in one breath
said, ‘Edith soaring through tracks unknown!’
Close by Edith’s grave marker was that of her niece, Lillian Rosemary, who died in 2002 aged 99 (Fig 2). This is in much better condition than Edith’s. A member of our party explained that it was Lillian who bequeathed her aunt’s Rex Whistler pictures to Salisbury Museum.
Margaret, our guide, also pointed out the marble monumental effigies of Baron Herbert of Lea (Fig 3) and his wife Elizabeth within the church of St Mary and St Nicholas. Although Sidney Herbert is buried in the churchyard at Wilton, Elizabeth, who controversially converted to Roman Catholicism, is buried at the St Joseph’s Missionary College, Mill Hill, where she was a notable patron.
We were reminded that Sidney Herbert was Secretary at War during the Crimean
War and it was he who sent Florence Nightingale out to Scutari, and with
Nightingale led the movement for Army Health and War Office reform after the
Later in the afternoon, during a guided walk of Wilton House Park, Ros Liddington pointed out the busts of Gladstone and Disraeli, with associated messages, on the boathouse roof (Fig 4). The message on Gladstone’s bust says, ‘My number is 666’ whereas that on Disraeli’s bust says, ‘the time will come when…’ (I regret that I didn’t catch the rest of this, but it was equally salacious!)
As the younger son of George Herbert, 11th Earl of Pembroke, Sidney ran the Pembroke family estates at Wilton House
for most of his adult life, so therefore had the opportunity to build the
boathouse with the salacious busts. Sidney’s
mother was the Russian noblewoman Countess Catherine
Woronzow (or Vorontsov), the only daughter of Semyon, Count Woronzow,
formerly Russian ambassador at the court of St. James, and long-time resident
Sidney Herbert’s Russian ancestry caused him a lot of trouble in Parliament,
thus leading to his creation of the satirical busts.
A bronze statue of Sidney Herbert, who was MP for Wiltshire from 1832-1861,
is now in Victoria Park, Salisbury, having been moved there from Guildhall
Square in 1953 to make space for the coronation celebrations.
As Linda commented, this was a fascinating and really memorable day,
covering far more than Rex Whistler and his relationship with Edith Olivier;
and providing an opportunity to visit parts of Wilton House
Park not generally
accessible to the public. Very many thanks to Bridget for arranging it.
My name is Charlotte, and I am currently a student at Upper Shirley High school in Southampton. I study History, Spanish, Art and Citizenship, alongside English, triple Science and Maths. I have always had a keen interest in History, particularly Ancient History and Archaeology, which is why Salisbury Museum seemed like the perfect place to go to for a week’s work experience. Not only does Salisbury Museum have an amazing range of artefacts, it is also has a really lovely atmosphere, and beautiful surroundings, so I feel very lucky to have been able to spend a week here!
Leading up to this week of work experience, I was excited, but generally unsure what to expect, as I haven’t had much experience working behind the scenes in a museum. I think that overall, I was just hoping to try out a variety of things, and find out a bit more about the history of Salisbury and its surrounding area. In that sense, my time at the museum was perfect; I was able to experience working in a wide range of departments, and see many things that I otherwise would not have done.
We started off with a quick induction session, to give us an idea of where everything is, and of what the museum has to offer. After that, we spent some time cataloguing the Ceramics collection. During the week, we were also given the use of the Museum Library and public displays for our own research in to a chosen artefact. This was great, as an opportunity to see the amazing collections, and understand what independent research in a Museum is like.
not only got the opportunity to catalogue some of the Ceramics collection, but
also the Social History collection, Archaeological archives, Costume
collection, and Rex Whistler archives. This gave us a real taste of the work
that goes on behind the scenes, and some time to see and handle the amazing
artefacts here at Salisbury Museum. Aside from cataloguing, we were taken on a
brilliant spotlight tour of the museum, and heard some wonderful stories whilst
shadowing an engagement volunteer.
have really enjoyed my week at the museum, especially being able to see the Rex
Whistler archives, and hearing some engaging stories and facts about the
building and its collection. It was a good chance to learn about Salisbury’s
history and how museums function behind the scenes.
I want to offer massive thanks to all of the volunteers and staff here, I really appreciate the time taken to help and talk to us, and how welcoming everybody was. It was brilliant to spend time with so many dedicated and passionate people. This is a lovely museum!
Thank you Charlotte. We are glad you enjoyed yourself and obviously gained much from your stay with us.
Some extracts from recent emails after ArchFest 19:
“Many thanks … for all of your help and support in the months leading up to the event, it really was appreciated.
We very much enjoyed the event and are glad you are pleased with our contribution. Your visitors were great, all of them so interested in what we brought with us, and as for your team at the museum – what absolute stars!! We have never been looked after so well.
Thank you so much for all that you did to make such a fantastic event, we do appreciate how much work goes into the planning and organising and you did such a splendid job.”Wererod
“Thank you and all your team for managing a splendid festival and for looking after us so well.”Ancient Wessex Network
“Thank you again for the lovely event this weekend. It was delightful to see so many interested (and interesting) members of public and such a high quality of other stand holders.”De Caversham Household
On Thursday 18 July Volunteers joined a walk around Wilton and the Wilton Estate on the trail of artist, and soldier, Rex Whistler.
It was the 75th anniversary of his death, on the battlefield in Normandy.
Volunteer, Linda, who has loaned us this photograph and who arranged for the plaque which you can see, writes this:
“In the morning the guide, Margaret, gave us a great
insight into how important Wilton was and how many historic places are hidden
in its streets. We finished the morning with visiting Edith Olivier’s grave.
She was not just an important person in Rex’s life but a very important lady in
the town of Wilton, so it was with great sadness we viewed the terrible
state of her memorial in the grounds of the beautiful Italianate
But of course the highlight of the day had to be actually walking where Rex walked and being in the garden of Daye House. Yes, we were transported into the paintings in the corridor. You could almost imagine Rex looking out the window and doing a quick sketch of this large group of people from the museum, probably giving us all mortar boards and gowns with his sense of humour.
A really memorable day; thank you Bridget for organising this.”
Ancient Wessex Network; Blast from the Past; College of Chivalry; Historic England; Friends of Clarendon; Salisbury Cathedral Education; Tim Lowe; Alex Langlands and team; Wil Partridge (FLO); Kate and Wiltshire Scrapstore; World Heritage; Chris Elmer (Southampton University); The De Caversham Household; The Outside; WARG (Society for Winchester Archaeological and Local History); Weorod; Wessex Archaeology; Wessex Museums Partnership; The Rifles Museum; Cranborne Chase Area of Natural Beauty, and, for their earlier ‘dig’, Phil Harding and Lorraine Mepham. Also thanks to Tony Wheeler (Tony of the Gate), the Cafe, our neighbours in the Close, people of Salisbury area and visitors from afar.
Thanks also to speakers, staff and Volunteers who worked tirelessly to make The Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology 2019 a happy, wonderful (literally) occasion.
I am Artemis, a Lower Sixth international student from a local school. I do A-level History, English Language, and Psychology. As a student who is looking at Archaeology and cultural studies as a viable degree/career path, Salisbury Museum was really the best place for me to start.
During my week of work experience – as arranged by the wonderful Ms Bridget Telfer (without her I would not have had this incredible week) – there were chances to sit in with various cataloguing volunteers as well as opportunities to help out with learning activities for kids. I also had the privilege to use the museum’s hidden library, which held extensive information accumulated through the years. Being able to sit in a room full of old books on all sorts of topics ranging from BC through the 17th century to current date was absolutely mind-blowing – all the history and knowledge and stories, documented in words and objects and images, concentrated in one tiny room! It was absolutely wonderful.
MON – ceramics cataloguing and library research
TUE – school group visit and social artefact cataloguing
WED – archaeological and costume cataloguing
THUR – costume cataloguing and library research
FRI – Under 5’s Friday morning
As you can see the schedule was packed with all sorts of behind-the-scenes and hands-on activities that gave a feel of what was entailed in working at a museum in general. Every day was very fulfilling and informative; all the volunteers and staff were ever so friendly and enthusiastic about their work, and really helped with getting used to the museum’s system.
Although my main subject of interest in the museum was Archaeology, I came across the most wonderful thing while doing costume cataloguing. Along with a lawyer’s gorgeous velvet court suit, which had been very well-preserved and that dated back to 1907, its box also contained the rusted tip of the man’s decorative rapier. Now I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to swords and historical weaponry, and even though the tip was only approx. 220mm long, I took about 30 pictures of it in different angles, trying to catch the light so that you can clearly see the blade:
Being able to hold such objects, I think, is really the most wondrous and fascinating part of history and historical preservation. Of course the same thing went for all the other cataloguing that I did, such as the immense number of bone fragments that we were handling so carefully in the archaeology storage, and the delicate microscope slides from the 19th century that were in beautiful leather boxes in the social history cupboards.
One of the most valuable things I have gleaned from this experience is that if you are willing to ask, people in the field are likely willing to help. After a lunchtime discussion with Mr Owain Hughes, Learning Officer, I now have contacts to staff personnel at the Wessex archaeology project – a prospect that would have been beyond imagination were I still studying in Hong Kong (my home and city). My main interest in archaeology lies further in mythological areas, but regardless, the possibility of being able to actually watch an excavation – and possibly even help out!!! – makes me absolutely jittery with excitement. And imagine how impressed university admissions officers would be…!
None of this would have been accomplished without the museum giving me this opportunity of a week-long student placement. From the depths of my heart, thank you sincerely to all who I’ve come in contact with through this priceless learning experience. And a huge thank you to the Salisbury Museum.
At this time of year it is always very busy at the museum, as we welcome students from a variety of institutions – school, colleges and Universities – who opt to join us for a while as part of their on-going experiential education…
Here is another, Olivia…
Before the summer holiday, I spent a week working with the Salisbury Museum. As an ambitious art history student, this was the perfect place where I wanted my work placement to be. I was assigned to do a variety of tasks working with different people during the week, which allowed me to learn a lot about the way that a museum works ‘backstage’.
I started my week at the museum by cataloguing ceramics collections with the friendly volunteer Roy Wilde. I was immersed in the tranquil atmosphere of the ceramics gallery and all the beautifully crafted potteries. To begin with, Roy showed me several types of jugs and bough pots with different modelling. We discussed how a museum person would describe pottery in a professional manner and I learned the way to measure each item accurately. Roy then introduced Modes, which is the software that the museum uses to catalogue the archives, giving me a taste of how the cataloging of collections works in such an organised and logical way. In the afternoon I was given an informative spotlight tour of the museum, which deepened my understanding of the history of the museum and each gallery.
Other assignments included lending a helping hand to visitors. On Tuesday, I assisted with a primary school visit to the museum. As the theme of the day was ‘surviving the Stone Age’, I helped set up the lecture hall and the game for the children. It was a fabulous chance to get involved with an educational and interesting programme that the museum designs to introduce basic skills of archaeology to the next generation. Apart from this, I had a lot of fun working with kids!
I also enjoyed the costume cataloguing, and was shown some precious male court dress and an intricate hand-embroidered skirt. It has given me an opportunity to learn about the historical context of the costume and the significance of the materials. Beyond my expectations, I found cataloguing the social history collections immensely absorbing, which I hadn’t realised before. We examined a large number of fascinating collections dating from centuries ago. For instance, we looked at some extremely exquisite English seals from the 18th century, including one of Shakespeare! We also catalogued a set of roundels with incredibly detailed and ornamental printings that represents each month. Besides being intrigued by these magnificent curios, I was taught how to wrap and label each item properly.
It has been an absolutely amazing week. I’ve had a chance to work in different areas of the museum and have definitely learnt various aspects about a museum workplace. Salisbury Museum has such a lovely team working in a relaxed and friendly environment, where everyone is so accommodating and helpful. All I can say to the museum is a huge thank you.
Southampton University students have been in the museum today. Having been excavating at Old Sarum they have a ‘cross curricula’ opportunity to create art using the history and landscape as their inspiration.
From today until Friday 19 July, Volunteers are invited to take part in these workshops. They happen every weekday and we are welcome at just one, or more, from 10am to 4pm. Bookings via Bridget.
Some of us joined in last year and it was relaxing and fun. No previous experience needed. Almost like being young again!