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.
When you walk along Silver Street from Barclays Bank to the Poultry Cross, if you look carefully, you will see that the pavement has been widened. This happened over 50 years ago as evidenced by this photograph. I doubt if it is an easy task without photographs such as this to determine when this pedestrian enhancement occurred. The buildings in this 1965 scene look much the same now as they did then but they almost all had different tenants.
It is thanks to the amazing foresight and gymnastic abilities of the photographer, Austin Underwood, that we have this photograph. Somehow he must have managed to gain access to the upper stories of the Barclay bank building to take this photograph. Maybe someone could manage a repeat and obtain a “now” photograph from the same vantage point and check my following comments. The first shop, visible on the left, is Hepworth’s the tailors where I bought my first suit, paid for by working nights at Welworthy’s piston ring factory in Harnham. The premises is now (2017) occupied by the coffee shop, Nero.
Robinson Rentals, now also Cafe Nero, is next door . In 1965 many families rented their TV. Now we rent our mobile phones but choose a different word than ‘rent’. One can make out Bollom the dry cleaners. Then there is FHW (Freeman Hardy and Willis) the shoe people who moved round the corner to Minster Steet, and have now left Salisbury all together. ‘Toni and Guy’ are now here. On the other side of Silver Street, one can see that Marks and Spencers occupied the building that Boots the Chemist now (2017) have. Woolworth’s had a large foodmarket on this side as well as their premises in High Street. Robert Stokes remains in name only along New Canal, the other side of their premises here in Silver Street. Lipton, the self service grocers, eventually moved into Butcher’s Row before disappearing into the annals of history. Now the premises is occupied by Santander. Timothy Whites (Chemist) can be made out, squeezed between M&S and Robert Stokes. They were taken over by Boots shortly after this photograph was taken. Curry’s sign can be seen down Butcher’s Row. They moved out of town a few years ago to the Southampton Road with many other retailers.
Besides the architecture and the shops, there is much more of Salisbury’s social history in this image. For example, double decker buses used to have a driver and a conductor. Look carefully in this photograph to see the driver. Butcher’s row appears to be pedestrianised. One can just make out the “No Entry” sign but note the van parked pointing in the wrong direction. Over eight premises have their blinds stretched out over the pavement. How many shops now have a working blind?
One can observe lots of shopping bags but no shopping trolleys or mobility vehicles.
Only the men appear to be wearing the trousers back in 1965!
To my shame, this was my first visit to Avebury since 1983, when I attended a Royal Society of Chemistry Mid-Southern Counties Local Section Summer Excursion to Avebury, Silbury Hill, and the West Kennet Long Barrow. I attended the SALOG visit as part of a self-imposed mission to visit all the sites depicted in the current exhibition, ‘British Art: Ancient Landscapes’. To this end, following a week’s holiday in Seaton last week, I made a detour to visit the Cerne Abbas Giant (and the village of Cerne Abbas itself) on my way home. Then, following the SALOG visit to Avebury, being such a lovely day, and following lunch at the on-site café, I embarked on the two mile walk along a bridleway to visit West Kennet Long Barrow, taking in Silbury Hill en route. At West Kennet Long Barrow, I was entranced to watch a swallow feeding her brood of chicks which were on a ledge in one of the burial chambers.
At Avebury, it was a delight to have the opportunity to chat with fellow volunteers from the other organisations involved. (I had a fruitful conversation about witches and alchemists, concerning some research I’m doing on a matter unrelated to Ancient Landscapes).
I was interested to hear from our Guide about the two types of stone, ‘pillar’ stones and ‘diamond’ stones, which represent male and female, and these face each other in the Avenue as sexual pairs.
The Guide for my party told us that the heaviest stone weighs an estimated 100 tons. On its outfacing side, she pointed out the head and neck of a ‘dragon’ – a result of natural erosion. (One of my fellow Volunteers pointed out that this is the same stone on which, in the exhibition, the artist has shown the face of William Morris, and indicated that this is to the left hand side of the dragon).
To me, the ‘dragon’ looked more like a snake, and this led me to put two and two together to perhaps make five, in wondering whether this is what inspired William Stukeley to depict Avebury as a serpent whose head rested at the Sanctuary on Overton Hill and whose body was formed by West Kennet and Beckhampton.
This was a very interesting, enjoyable and worthwhile visit. Many thanks to all concerned with its conception and organisation.
Alan Crooks (Engagement Volunteer)
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.
A new exhibition opens on Saturday 20 May: The Art of Stonehenge. This is designed to complement the major exhibition, British Art, Ancient Landscapes, and allows the museum to display its probably unique collection of paintings on the subject.
The exhibitions continue to be supported by talks and other activities. You may be interested in Ancient Landscapes Through the Lens, a guided photographic walk to Breamore with David Walker and Peter Norton on Tuesday 23 May (see earlier blog). There is a further such adventure on Tuesday 20 June, this time a photographic walk to Fyfield, again with David and Peter. There are are limited places on these walks so booking is essential.
See also Rock Art: Prehistoric Art in the Prehistoric Landscape, a talk by Professor Richard Bradley scheduled for Thursday 25 May at 6.30pm (booking advised £10).
Don’t forget ArchFest17 (The Salisbury Museum Festival of Archaeology 21 to 23 July): full details, and tickets now available on-line here.
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!
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.
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.
The digitally enhanced image here is from one of Wilfred Chaplin’s glass plate negatives. Unlike prints, you can’t really write on the back of glass negatives. There was no index book or any other documentation whatsoever with Wilfred’s collection of glass plate negatives. However we have managed to identify where most of them were taken, as they are local. The odd footpath in a wood with a fungal growth on a tree will perhaps remain forever as “unknown location” but at least the fungus is identified!
One image in bright sunlight of the impressive wrought iron gates at the entrance to Wilton house took a visit to confirm.
We were reasonably sure that this well image was local as all the other images were local but no-one could say where it was or had been in the 1950s. One volunteer spent some time identifying the shield carved on the side; probably from Italy was his conclusion! Was it a font that had been moved outside or the surrounding church demolished? The bucket mechanism wasn’t right for a working well. Simple buckets float on the water surface and do not collect any water. Then one day I was visiting Heale House gardens in the Woodford valley and there in a field in the distance, the other side of the river was this well-head complete with its ironmongery. The story is that in the 1900s, when Peto “did’ Heale House garden, he brought this well head back from Venice and made it the centre piece of a large rose garden which required a number of full time gardeners. The rose garden is now gone and the land is pasture again used for farming sheep. This well-head now stands incongruously in the middle of a field. At last Wilfred Chaplin’s image location is identified, and it is local despite what many sceptics had speculated.
Alan is cataloguing our photo archive…
More fascinating stuff from Alan Clarke and the photographic archive…
Much of Salisbury Museum’s image archive consists of film negatives. For example, the Austin Underwood collection consists of around sixty thousand 2 ¼ inch square individual negatives. We scan these negatives at 4800 dpi which means they end up as approximately 10,000 by 10,000 pixel jpeg digital images. We have scanned over 6,000 so far.
One such image here shows that Austin had got down onto the railway line.
The railway is long closed, and the cutting, at this point, filled in. The road over the railway line, with the bus passing, is the road down to Folly Bottom from Boscombe Down (Grid Reference SU168416). My wife, Ann, looked at this image on my computer screen and asked if I could zoom in and see where the railway line went. I promptly did so and to my amazement, Amesbury railway station, with its semaphore signals and platform bridge, came into view. See second image here.
You can see that it was definitely downhill from his vantage point to the station. Austin’s camera and the quality of his film was such that all this detail was captured in the 2 ¼ inch square black and white negative. If I was to match one pixel of the scanned jpeg image to one pixel of my computer screen, I would need a screen 8 feet square to show the whole image.
It makes me think how many more of Austin’s images have such gems hidden in them, if only I was to zoom in enough or print on a poster 8 feet square.