'Lacock Unlocked' is unlocking secrets already!

on Tuesday, 20 August 2013. Posted in Archives

It is about two months now since I started working on the Lacock collection and every day I am finding something noteworthy in the boxes. The collection contains a range of beautiful and informative documents: legal documents and correspondence are particularly good at providing valuable insights into the Talbot, Davenport, Feilding and related families who are associated with the Lacock estate. Different documents appeal to different researchers according to their area of research but also their personal preferences. An example here is a series of letters discovered as part of the Davenport collection.

Henry Davenport (1678-1731) was married twice, the second time to Barbara Ivory, the younger sister of John Ivory Talbot who was one of the owners of Lacock. Later, the Lacock estate would come into the hands of Henry and Barbara’s descendents, first in trust to their daughter-in-law Martha (Talbot, who married their son William) and then to their grandson William Davenport Talbot. Sharington Davenport (1709-1774), Henry’s son by his first wife Marie-Lucie Chardin, attended Eton and many letters have survived from his school days and into his time at Cambridge, written to his father and stepmother Barbara Davenport from him and also from his tutors and servants at Eton. These letters are fascinating, and show his character as a slightly rebellious and highly amusing schoolchild, also displayed from various letters written to his father by his aunts (spinster sisters Arabella and Leticia Davenport). Henry Davenport kept many varied letters especially from family memmembers and Sharington’s schoolboy writing is particularly clear and consistent.

Barrow Clump - more exciting finds in the second season!

on Friday, 02 August 2013. Posted in Archaeology

A couple of weeks ago, the archaeology team visited the Operation Nightingale excavations at Barrow Clump. This is the second season of excavations on this Scheduled Monument. I’m going to talk about our site visit, but if you would like to know more about Operation Nightingale generally or the Barrow Clump excavation specifically, there is more information here: http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/barrow-clump

This excavation is being undertaken because the barrow (which is one of a large cemetery of Bronze Age barrows) is being badly damaged by badgers. Previous excavations had revealed that, in addition to Bronze Age remains, the site had an Anglo-Saxon cemetery that included some high status burials. The excavations have Scheduled Monument Consent, which means that only the specifically agreed works can take place. The barrow is still scheduled and so unauthorised works, including metal detecting, is illegal.

The team visited on a beautiful, sunny day. The first thing we were shown was the earlier ring ditch that is inside (and covered by) the later Bronze Age barrow.

Finding out about a missing past: Adoption

on Tuesday, 06 August 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

As an archivist I am well used to helping people trace their family back into the past. The further back the better satisfied people usually are! I shall never forget the customer who told me they had been able to trace their ancestry back to the Stone Age. They believed that their surname sounded like the kind of noise a prehistoric person would make when banging two rocks together (No, I’m not making this up – I only wish I were!) The mind boggles at how they would go about tracing a family tree for a time when no records exist, but never mind…

However, what I get asked to do on occasion, less frequently, is to help someone come forward in time rather than going backwards. This type of research is what you might call a ‘missing person enquiry’. This type of enquiry is quite challenging and potentially sensitive. If you are trying to find information about a missing person you might like to look at: http://www.look4them.org.uk/ This website is a collaboration between various official organisations who are experienced in helping find missing persons. However as this is a very broad topic, I’ve decided to focus on one type of enquiry in particular, namely research into the childhood of children who were formerly in a children’s home or fostered. This is because recently I’ve been helping a couple of people find out more about their childhood, and it has made me appreciate how important our archives can be. They really can be life-changing! People can find missing pieces of a jigsaw puzzle put into place – things which happened when they were very young, and not fully aware of what was happening, start to become clear in adulthood after consulting the records. This can help bring peace of mind after years of confusion. Obviously not all the answers people find will be comforting – there are many instances of painful facts, such as evidence of childhood habits such as bed-wetting, which people need to be prepared for. But overall some may feel the benefits of knowing more about their past can outweigh the difficulties.

Arts and Archives

on Tuesday, 30 July 2013. Posted in Art

The National Archives has recognised the unique nature of the work that has been happening at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre to engage artists and develop new creative ways of working. On the 30th of September the History Centre will host Artists in the Archives, a regional conference to draw together best practice from across the south west and provide an opportunity for artists to learn more about what opportunities there are to explore the creative potential of archives.

History on the ground in Atworth

on Thursday, 18 July 2013. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Last March I wrote about planning an interpretive day course for the village of Atworth and made it an excuse to talk about Great Chalfield Manor and the Tropenell family, as Chalfield is now in Atworth civil parish. We held the day course last month, and very successful it was too. Course members, mainly Atworth villagers, spent an enthralling morning looking at books, maps and documents in the History Centre to discover the development of the village of Atworth over several centuries. It was a little complicated as there were three manors, the sites of which were fairly confidently identified, and the village itself was often referred to as being in three parts.

There’s a tithe barn, contemporary with that at Bradford on Avon, though only half its length; both were built by Shaftesbury Abbey, whose manor house or grange would have been here. Near the church is a triangular area, formerly a rectangle, which is called the market place. Folk memory and some evidence for penning indicated that sheep were sold here and it was thought likely that sheep fairs were held here as no market charter seems to have been granted.

The Suffragist Pilgrimage: Their March, Our Rights

on Friday, 12 July 2013. Posted in Events

1913 was a significant year in the campaign for women’s suffrage and is widely remembered for the increasingly militant acts of the suffragettes and in particular the death of Emily Wilding Davison at the Epsom Derby. However, a less well known protest also marks its centenary, the nationwide march of suffrage pilgrims from all parts of the country converging in London in July 1913. Thousands of women marched through towns across England spreading their message of women’s right to vote in a peaceful and law abiding way. In some towns they met a warm response with parades, teas and flowers in others their voices were drowned out and they were threatened with violence and had to be protected by the police. As the march which began at Land’s End on 19th June arrived in Wiltshire this mixed response to the pilgrims was evident. The march took six weeks.

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