Living at the Workhouse in Secret?

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Archives

An interesting enquiry recently came in from a person seeking corroboration of the birth of her ancestor in Highworth and Swindon workhouse in 1909.
This child’s birth certificate gave her address as 8 Highworth Road, Stratton St Margaret. Read on to discover why……


It provided an example of the implementation of the advice of the Registrar General, who in 1904 suggested that the birth and death certificates of inmates should have a euphemistic address, one that spared the family the disgrace of the workhouse.

The correspondent will send this example to the website www.workhouses.org.uk which alerted her to this practice, which has interesting implications for family historians. Intrigued by this I did a spot check on two births in the Devizes workhouse in December 1909. The birth register gave the address as 7 Commercial Road, Devizes. In each case the address was for the roads in which the institutions stood.

Checking the Devizes example was possible because all but the most current registers of the Wiltshire Registration Service are held in the History Centre. Its copy certificate service is now based at the History Centre and their email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Quakerism in Melksham

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Architecture

We were recently called to investigate the old Spiritualist Church in Melksham which had closed. The building was originally a Quaker Meeting House until that closed in 1959 and it was sold to the Spiritualists. Investigating the twists and turns of its history was part of our remit, and we were grateful to Harold Fassnidge who had trod this path before us.

Born of the Puritanism of the English Civil War, Quakerism was a reaction against what was perceived as a decline in the religious and moral standards of the clergy of the established church. The term ‘Quaker’ originated as a slightly mocking reference to a rebuke made by their leader, George Fox, to Gervaise Bennet, J.P. that he ought to ‘tremble at the name of the Lord’.

The Melksham branch of the ‘Society of Friends’ began to meet originally at Shaw Hill, in the home of Robert and Hester Marshman at some time before 1669, in which year eighty members were recorded as having met there. At two miles from Melksham, their house was evidently considered to be sufficiently safe from any authorities who might disapprove of, and choose to interfere with, their activities.

Sally in the Wood

on Tuesday, 18 June 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People, Wiltshire Tales

An intriguing enquiry regarding the origins of the road ‘Sally in the Wood’, which can be found just over the border in the parish of Bathford, Somerset, has led us to take a look at the origins of the name. The road forms a section of the A363 as it journeys through Home Wood towards Bathford. Explanations of the road name are many and varied, and they are also closely related to the parish of Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire.

Researching the history of disability in Wiltshire

on Thursday, 13 June 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

Some readers will be aware of the new series on BBC Radio 4 called Disability: A New History. It is a ten-part series where “Across the country, historians are discovering the voices of disabled people from the past.” You can hear recordings of the series, which are posted for only limited time, and view an image gallery on the BBC website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/

This opens up a hidden history. As the programme’s presenter Peter White said, it is as if people with disabilities didn’t exist in the past or what they did was worth recording, yet for thousands of years disabled people have been getting on with their lives.

Summer Solstice

on Tuesday, 11 June 2013. Posted in Seasons

With the Summer Solstice fast approaching we start to see our visitor numbers increase in Wiltshire. It is a bumper time for our tourist industry as people from all over the world descend upon our county and join in with this ancient celebration.


The Summer Solstice is known to Pagans as ‘Alban Hefin’ which means ‘Light of the Shore’. It occurs on the 21st June when the sun is at its highest point in the sky and the days are at their longest. The nights begin to draw in after this date, which is a scary thought as summer has only just got going. The Druids celebrate this event with special ceremonies and rituals that are believed to date back several millennia. Although the 4000 year old monument of Stonehenge has been the centre stage for these ceremonies; Avebury, Woodhenge and the Kennet long barrow have also attracted worshippers at this special time of year.

New Film given World Premiere in Trowbridge

on Monday, 03 June 2013. Posted in Art, Wiltshire People

This week I attended my first film premiere. I was delighted to join the actors, cameramen, graphic designers, photographers and voice actors of this new film, but this was no Hollywood affair with ‘A’ list celebrities, designer frocks, and red carpet. All the roles in this film were taken by local school pupils and members of the local community. Under the direction of award-winning film maker Jamie McDine, pupils from three Wiltshire schools worked with community members to produce short films animating their life stories.

This striking image was created by film-maker Jamie McDine as the cover image for the DVDs. He was inspired by the title of the project SEEME which refers to black history as hidden history, because the stories of black people are very hard to find amongst the millions of documents held in archives.

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