A new Bronze Age barrow and associated burials, plus a roundhouse!

on Saturday, 18 May 2013. Posted in Archaeology

In 2010 and 2011, some geophysical and trenched evaluation was carried out at a site near the Woodbury Iron Age Settlements Scheduled Ancient Monument. This revealed some undated pits and an extension of the prehistoric field systems that are known to be present in the area, which are thought to relate to the Woodbury settlement. Although the initial results were unpromising, a fragment of human bone in one of the fills from the pits suggested that there might be more to this site than met the eye. Wessex Archaeology undertook the work for this site.

Once the site had been stripped of the topsoil, it became clear that there was more here than had been thought initially. The first and most obvious feature was the remains of a round barrow. The barrow was only now visible as a circular brown ditch cut into the white chalk. This picture shows the barrow, with the later Iron Age ditch running through it. This suggests that, unlike many other contemporary barrows, the mound for this one had been levelled before the Iron Age use of the land had started. In the base of the ditch was a a placed layer of flint pieces and part of an antler time, which may well have been used as a pick when the ditch was dug out.

Discovering more than meets the eye: dating old photographs

on Friday, 17 May 2013. Posted in Photography

How often do we discover old photographs or family albums tucked away or which have recently come into our possession but which frustratingly contain little or no information about their subjects? It is possible to discover more about these images than meets the eye, if you know what to look out for.
I hope that the following suggestions will be helpful when looking at clothing but the most important element is to look carefully, analysing each small detail. Everything within the photo is a clue to help us in the process of indentifying our ancestors.

The photographic process developed through the nineteenth century and must have had a tremendous effect on a family, as they began making up their first family albums and displaying images of each other. The type of pose can be an indication of period; the 1850s and 1860s tend to include a full length figure, sometimes seated, but by the 1870s the camera was moving closer to the person, perhaps producing a three quarter length image and including a prop, such as a lectern or a chair. By the 1890s the head and shoulders shot became more common. A ‘vignette’ where the background is white and the head and shoulders are almost oval in shape is also typical of the 1890s.

1914-18 Centenary

on Tuesday, 14 May 2013. Posted in Art, Military

The Centenary years of the First World War offer a unique opportunity for communities to work with artists to explore their heritage. Communities hold within their collective memories the most fascinating glimpses into the real lives of people during the First World War and the History Centre is keen to develop a vibrant network of community lead projects that research and explore these fragments of our county and nation’s story.

For more information about what the History Centre is doing to support both artists and communities to commemorate the Centenary years and to develop creative projects please follow the links below.

The Mysterious John Hillier

on Tuesday, 07 May 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

While working on the SEEME Wiltshire Black History Project I was checking through some leads to an early black presence in the county, when a couple of lines about the death of a black cook sent me on a journey through the archives to find out about him and his family. The Salisbury and Wiltshire Journal reported on 22nd January 1848:

The new arrivals that have it all plan'd out...

on Friday, 03 May 2013. Posted in Archives

We have recently received the first part of series of deeds from the Salisbury diocesan registrar which will be an important source for local historians. In the early 19th century, two enabling Acts of parliament permitted the exchange of land and property in order to improve the estates which supported parish clergy, known as glebe. Each incumbent was tenant for his term of office, without power to buy or sell. Now it was possible to rationalise scattered glebe lands and to acquire new parsonages or vicarage houses. The deeds have detailed maps, often the earliest for the land being exchanged. Highlights among the first batch include a deed of 1817 for Long Newnton (now in Gloucestershire) with a plan of the entire glebe, surveyed by John Hayward, Rowde in 1811.

But the star of the group is an 1826 deed of houses in St Mary Street Chippenham. The plan offers a detailed ground plan of both houses with less detailed one of the church. The then present vicarage house, on the east side of the churchyard was exchanged for one on the other side of the street opposite the church. It has the date stone GL 1717, which refers to Gilbert Lake, vicar from 1716. The new vicarage, now a care home, is called The Old Vicarage. The other property now called St Mary House, should perhaps be named ‘The Even Older Vicarage House’.

'An Election's A Fair'... Bribery & Corruption at Wiltshire's Parliamentary Elections

on Tuesday, 30 April 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

Bribery, corruption, intrigue, rotten boroughs and riots …oh dear, that will be Wiltshire’s parliamentary elections in eighteenth and nineteenth century! Present events always give us an opportunity to take the long-view and here at the History Centre we have a range of resources on the political history of the county and borough, from excellent accounts published in the Victoria County History for Wiltshire to election squibs, poll books and original documents.

Wiltshire’s early claim to political fame was the impressive size of its parliamentary representation. Until 1832 it elected two Knights of the Shire (representing the whole county), two MPs for Salisbury, and two burgesses for each of its 15 boroughs, a grand total of 34 seats. Only Cornwall had higher. This was especially impressive given that many of the boroughs were the size of a village, and few of their residents could vote.  The most notable, of course, was Old Sarum, which retuned two MPs and in 1768, it is claimed, had an electorate of, er…one, though usually could count on seven. Other small boroughs included Great Bedwyn, Cricklade, Downton, Heytesbury, Hindon, Ludgershall and Wootton Bassett. Yet other towns like Bradford on Avon, Corsham, Trowbridge, and Warminster could not send representatives to parliament.

The remaining boroughs electing two MP’s were Calne, Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Westbury and Wilton. But don’t think for one minute that the larger towns necessarily had a bigger electorate. Malmesbury weighed in with a total electorate of 13, and if this was not enough it was notable for being one of the most corrupt boroughs in England. Cricklade, on the other hand, through the Act of 1782, had its franchise extended to all freeholders in the surrounding area, numbering 1,200. This made bribery and corruption more difficult, but unfortunately fewer than fifty voters actually lived in the borough itself.

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