Victorian School Life: Some things never change!

on Friday, 08 March 2013. Posted in Schools

School today seems so different to the experience of Victorian pupils. Computers, interactive white boards and televisions would certainly seem as foreign to those children as slates and dipping pens would to today’s students. However, a recent trawl through the delightful school log book collection for extracts to show teachers also found some things in common.  All the teachers agreed that whether it was bad weather, uniform, behaviour in class or the challenges of teaching maths and English, parts of school life from 140 years ago seemed very familiar.

Counting Sheep with an Old Romantic

on Thursday, 07 March 2013. Posted in Art

The pastoral landscape is often considered to be unchaining and bucolic artworks are often overlooked as sleepy reminders of the past. And yet contemporary artists have returned time and again to the agricultural heritage of this country; exploring the relationship between the individual and place, between landscape and memory and between representing life as it really is with life as we would want it to be. These themes of representation (and the creation) of a sense of place through the recounting of landscapes and the depiction of man’s relationship with nature can be seen running through much of Edwin Young’s work.

Tropenell and Chalfield and Naughty Lady Constance

on Saturday, 02 March 2013. Posted in Architecture

Last week I visited an enthusiastic meeting of the Atworth W.I. and talked about the meanings of pub names. At the end of the meeting I suggested that I might run a History Centre day course about the history and development of the village later in the year; this met with approval and I will be organising it for June 2013. At the moment we’ll selling surplus copies of older and better quality (although not always better physical quality) Wiltshire books; this week a gentleman came in and bought the two volumes of the limited edition Tropenell Cartulary as he is writing a new guide to Great Chalfield Manor (in the civil parish of Atworth). This reminded me that I once had a friend with the surname Trapnell, descended from that medieval family. All these coincidences gave me a subject for this blog!

Thomas Tropenell was born around 1405 and married twice, both times to widows, but it was only from his second marriage, when he was over 50, that there were any children. He seems to have been a man of the law and claimed the manor of Great Chalfield as he was a descendent by marriage of the Percy family, who had held it from 1201 until a time of dispute by various branches of the family in the early 15th century.


An interesting sidelight on this family is provided by the antics of Sir Henry de Percy’s second wife Constance, described as “bedfellow and cosyn to Maister Robert Wayville, bisshoppe of Salisbury, born to no land, neither to none arms”. Possibly because of “the naughty lyf the said Constance his second wyf lyed in with the bisshoppe Wayvile and with others” Sir Henry went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1354. Unfortunately he never reached the city, dying at Cologne. Constance managed to survive a further three husbands, including John de Percy, no relation to her first husband, of Little Chalfield.

The Artist who Became an Inspiration in Education

on Thursday, 21 February 2013. Posted in Art

The proposed changes to our education system have rightly been a topic of the press recently. As it so happens, a man who spent most of his life in North Wiltshire was pivotal to the development of art in education -  I’d like to tell you a little about him here…

Robin Tanner was born on Easter Sunday, 1904, the third of six children. He spent his teenage years in Kington Langley, the birthplace of his mother.

Robin attended Chippenham Grammar School before moving on Goldsmith’s College, studying to become a teacher. Whilst at the college he took evening classes to learn the craft of etching. He was one of a number who turned their backs on the popular ‘en plein’ air etchings, fashionable in the 1920s. Tanner covered the whole of his plates with etching, wanting to create a ‘pastoral revival’. He loved his home in Kington Langley ‘a pastoral dairy country with small meadows and high hedges. There is an ancient church every three miles or so in any direction’. Many of Robin’s etchings were created at his house and were of local scenes, such as the wicket gate into Sydney’s wood where the renowned 19th century poet and clergyman Francis Kilvert often walked. Tanner’s father also had artistic talent, becoming a craftsman in wood.

After marrying Heather Spackman from Corsham on Easter Saturday in 1931, the Tanners moved to Old Chapel Field in Kington Langley. Robin began teaching at Ivy Lane School, Chippenham, in 1929 (he had previously spent a year there as a student teacher). Heather was a writer, and they produced some works together, such as ‘Country Alphabet’ and ‘Woodland Plants’, using Heather’s text and Robin’s etchings.

 

The ‘Lacock Unlocked’ project needs YOU!

on Thursday, 21 February 2013.

Regular readers of our blog will know that last year we applied for Heritage Lottery Funding to acquire and make accessible the wonderful archives of the Lacock Abbey estate, dating back at least 800 years. After a nail-biting few months we were both relieved and delighted to hear at the end of last year that our application was successful. The HLF have kindly agreed to donate £490,000 to acquire the archives and promote their use by the public.


Now the real work begins and we need your help to make this project a success – there are lots of ways in which people can get involved.

We need volunteers to help:


• Catalogue and index original records

• Conserve and repackage records

• Photograph documents to facilitate indexing from home

• Test a mobile phone ‘App’ being produced by Wiltshire College students

• Write about Lacock’s history for the new Lacock community archive website

• Moderate and administer the new website

• Record oral history – whether interviewing local people, or being interviewed, about memories of life in Lacock; plus editing and transcribing the resulting interviews

• Run outreach activities such as family learning workshops and creating an exhibition

No previous experience is necessary, and full training will be given. Please note the project is taking place over three years so not all the activities will be happening at the same time, and you are welcome to take part in as few or as many as you like.

We also need people to take part in the workshops and use and enjoy the ‘App’ and website when available. Everyone is also welcome to attend the regular community archive forum meetings which help steer the overall project.

We will be holding an open evening on Wednesday 24 April between 6 and 8.30 pm where you can come and view the archives and find out more about the volunteering opportunities available.

In the meantime if you are interested in taking part, please contact Claire Skinner in the first instance – e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or telephone 01249 705500 and leave your contact details. We can then send you more detailed information about the activities involved, and an application form where you can specify which activities you are most interested in and let us know your availability.

Thank you very much in anticipation – Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist.

Art to Illuminate Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 19 February 2013. Posted in Art

As I travel from Corsham to Chippenham by bus to work at the History Centre, I often think of what past local inhabitants might make of the ‘Sainsbury’s Roundabout’, the Methuen industrial park or the sprawl of post-war housing leading into Chippenham itself. Local artists have often recorded changes to the environment in their art, not always intentionally but as a consequence of the time in which they have been working. Wiltshire’s museums contain hundreds of such drawings, sketches and paintings of the people and landscape that makes this county so special.

 


One such local inhabitant was Robin Tanner (1904–1988) who was born in Bristol but grew up in Kington Langley, near Chippenham. Whilst training to be a teacher at Goldsmiths College in London during the 1920s he studied etching during the evenings. This etching was to become the means by which he expressed his deep appreciation of the countryside. Later returning to Wiltshire - moving into a house at Old Chapel Field, Kington Langley, where the diarist Francis Kilvert's ancestors are buried - to earn a living as an artist, his etchings show the strong influence of Samuel Palmer, the visionary Victorian romantic painter, depicting a world of thatched ricks, hedges, gates and stiles. 

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