Archives

Lacock’s Great Hall Commemoration

on Monday, 02 February 2015. Posted in Archives

For my blog on Lacock this time I want to look at a bundle of documents only recently discovered in the Lacock archive, during my listing of some final boxes. The documents concern the 200th anniversary of the commemoration of the Great Hall in Lacock, which was rebuilt by John Ivory Talbot, the owner of Lacock at that time.

Talbot and the architect Sanderson Miller designed the Great Hall in a Gothic style and anyone who has been to Lacock will vividly remember the prowess of the room, with its great high ceilings, coats of arms decorating the ceiling, and breathtaking sculptures adorning the walls. Outside, Talbot built some grand steps.

In 1755, Talbot invited the friends whose coats of arms he had had put on the new ceiling to a commemoration event at Lacock Abbey to celebrate the completion of the work. Talbot invited 40 of his friends and neighbours to the event. An article in the Wiltshire Times 200 years later said that the emblazoning of the coats of arms “was most original, and a graceful compliment to his neighbours”. Whilst many sceptics would say that it was a way of really getting in with the local nobility, it is clear that Talbot himself was a high-standing member of the community and I’d like to think that his neighbours were pleased to be represented on that ceiling. The party brought together the local nobility and must have been a very grand event – if it happened. Unfortunately only a letter suggesting the possibility of an event was found, not any documents confirming that it had taken place.

200 years later, the final owner of Lacock Abbey before its presentation to the National Trust, Matilda Talbot, decided to host an anniversary event to commemorate the commemoration, and her intention was to recreate the event of 200 years earlier, by inviting representatives of those friends and neighbours of Matilda’s ancestor to the party. Although Matilda no longer owned the abbey, she continued to live there from 1944 until her death in 1956. Members of her family, the Burnett-Brown family who were descendants of her brother William, were living at the abbey as well and they also attended the event. The family and some acquaintances did some tireless research to find representatives of the 1755 party. Peter Summers of the Kingswood School did most of the research, which involved firstly trying to work out who some of the coats of arms on the ceiling were for anyway, and then painstakingly tracing their descendants down to the family member who appeared to be their most ideal representative. Those representatives were then invited to the commemoration event.

A Question of Identity

on Tuesday, 20 January 2015. Posted in Archives

At the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre we help people with their family history research on a daily basis but last night I met a lady – let’s call her Mary - who has more challenges to her research than anyone I think I have ever met. I won’t go into too many details because I want to respect her privacy, but Mary is one of the small number of people who is a ‘foundling’. That is to say, she doesn’t know anything about her parents or possible siblings, because she was found as a baby, lying in the open, many years ago, and taken to hospital. The only thing she has from her birth family is the pink dress she was found wearing. After a few months in hospital she was very happily adopted and is close to her adoptive family – but there still remains a nagging question. ‘I don’t need a new family – I just want to know who I am’, she told me. I think that need to know who we are, and get a sense of our roots, is what underpins a lot of the research here at the History Centre.

 

War Horses of Wiltshire

on Monday, 12 January 2015. Posted in Archives

©IWM

©IWM

Wiltshire has a history of an association with the military and during the First World War the county was home to one of the few female run remount depots at Russley Park, near Swindon.

Remount depots were established by the army in order to provide fresh, healthy and well trained horses, donkeys and mules for army use in peace time and during times of conflict. In 1887 the remount section was established within the army replacing the earlier responsibility that each individual regiment had for providing its own animals. The South African War (1899-1902) had established a ‘best practice’ in order to get the most out of these animals and a horse registration scheme was introduced. This identified suitable animals for possible purchase and army use and depots to deal with them were established at Woolwich, Arborfield near Reading and Melton Mowbray, employing three inspectors to oversee the potential purchase and care of the animals.

In the event of war it was estimated that 110,000 animals would be needed and in 1912 and 1913 a horse census was undertaken, dividing the country into 24 sections each with a Remount Officer responsible for the identification of potential horses. This groundwork proved invaluable and when the First World War began 140,000 horses were purchased efficiently and quickly.

Strictly Come Dancing Wiltshire!

on Thursday, 11 December 2014. Posted in Archives, Traditions and Folklore

With the final of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing approaching, it seemed a good chance to explore the history of dancing in Wiltshire and the archival documents and historic photographs we have in our collections… there are some gems!

The English country dance was an ordinary, everyday dance, danced for pleasure, without ceremony and relatively easy to learn. Many people are familiar with country dancing from their school days, and it was an integral part of the social life of many English villages for several centuries.

Dancing often formed the focus of a community festival or celebration. A spring time festival known as ‘clipping the church’ involved parishioners assembling in the church yard, holding hands and enclosing the church before performing a short dance. This was sometimes performed by school children, including in Warminster, Trowbridge and in Bradford-in-Avon, where the Shrove Tuesday tradition continued until the mid-19th century.

Morris dancing was more ceremonial, spectacular and only performed by men. The first reference to Morris dancing dates back to 15th century, and by the end of the 16th century it had become particularly associated with May Day and village fairs and fetes.

Although Morris Dancing declined during the 19th century, this 1856 broadside advertising ‘Celebration of Peace’ in Salisbury, celebrating the end of the Crimean War included ‘Morrice Dancers’ as part of the procession.

 

Community Archives and Oral History

on Monday, 08 December 2014. Posted in Archives, Events

I have just started a year traineeship called 'Transforming Archives' with the National Archives and have been based here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre for just over two months.  I am working on the HLF funded Lacock Unlocked project focusing on community engagement and collections development.  My task will be creating a community archive and producing oral history interviews for the village of Lacock which is what I want to talk about today and about how you could be a part of it.

So, what are community archives?

Community Archives are becoming an ever more prominent feature of the archive field.  They are a collection of materials that tell the story of a local community, organization or group.  These can include documents, images, diaries, etc. which form a vital part of the community's memories.  They also provide an alternative method to the traditional archive system and provide a format for local memories to be recorded by the communities themselves - essentially a living archive!    Our hope is to create an engaging and sustainable archive for Lacock and the surrounding areas.  We are creating our own website (picture below) where the community history of Lacock can be uploaded to, viewed and commented on.  We are hoping that the community will engage with this idea and help create, and eventually run the archive.  If you have any memories or photos relating to Lacock then please do get in contact!

Lacock Unlocked Website

Collecting Cultures – Creative Wiltshire and Swindon

on Friday, 21 November 2014. Posted in Archives, Art, Museums

https://creativewiltshire.wordpress.com/

We are used to looking at a wonderfully rich source of materials in our Local Studies Libraries, Archives and Museums, but how many of you have ever wondered  how those books, photographs, newspapers, archive collections and museum objects got there? Some material of course has been collected over many years, some of it gifted and others purchased; while for Archive services material is often deposited but still owned by the depositor. When material comes up for sale, usually at auction, a decision whether to attempt to buy an object or an archive collection is made on case by case basis (with the help of grants from various bodies raised at short notice). Now this can work well, but as you might imagine this is a reactive process rather than proactive; consequently gaps in our collections can emerge. This means that the heritage for future generations is incomplete and does not tell the full story of our communities past and present.


In Wiltshire and Swindon we have been thinking about this problem and looking at how libraries, archives , museums and art galleries can work together to identify and fill significant gaps in our collections; thinking about what we should collect, what do local  communities think is important to their heritage, what would we leave for future generations? In particular we have been looking at the heritage of our local creative industries, something that is part of our everyday lives now and has been for past generations, but not always given the full attention it deserves. Now, with the aid of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are able to take a strategic approach to collecting materials for our creative industry and, importantly, we have a significant fund to purchase items.

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