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:

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.

Accreditation and the Conservator

on Friday, 24 May 2013. Posted in Conservation

My name is Beth Werrett and I am a Contract Conservator for Wiltshire Council Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS). I conserve objects for and provide advice to archaeological units, museums and other heritage organisations as part of the commercial branch of the service.
A year ago I decided that, having worked for nearly five years at a variety of heritage organisations since first studying for the profession, I felt that I had developed sufficient skills, knowledge and experience to apply for professional accreditation.

What is Accreditation?

Professional Accreditation of Conservator-Restorers or PACR assesses  a conservator's professional practice within the work place. It allows a common standard to be applied across the profession, regardless of the training route taken, the conservation specialism, or the context in which a conservator may practice. An accredited conservator demonstrates a high level of competence, sound judgement and an in-depth knowledge of the principles and ethics which are key to conservation practice.

Why did I decide to apply?

The benefits of achieving accreditation were both professional and personal. For the Wiltshire Conservation Service it is beneficial to have accredited members of staff; their clients can be assured that they are working to consistently high standards.Achieving accreditation would be a significant personal achievement, providing recognition of the breadth of skills and expertise that I had developed since qualifying as a conservator. Also, I felt that the structure of continual review in place within the PACR system would help me to maintain my high standard of work and prevent me falling into bad habits!

LGBT History in Wiltshire

on Thursday, 23 May 2013.

Whilst on my work experience placement here at the WSHC, I was informed that BoBs (Best of Both) Youth Group wanted to know if there was any evidence in the archives of LGBT people living in Wiltshire in the past. My job was to lay some groundwork for the group, in order that they might then come to the History Centre and follow up the leads I had uncovered that they found most interesting. I jumped at the chance – this is a relatively untouched area of hidden history, especially in this county, and I was eager to see what could discover. However, I soon realised that this was going to be a much more difficult task than previously anticipated; they don’t call it ‘hidden history’ for nothing.


What has become evident over the course of my research is the unfortunate fact that the easiest place to find evidence of LGBT people pre-1967, when homosexual acts were made legal, is in court records. My first port of call when beginning this exploration was the Court of Quarter Sessions Calendars of Prisoners, dating back as far as 1854. One of the things to remember when searching for ‘crimes’ such as these at this period in history is that the language used to describe homosexual activity is very different to what might be used today and may be shocking to the modern reader; some of the more common terms include ‘unnatural offence,’ ‘abominable offence,’ and offences ‘against the order of nature.’ It is a stark reminder of the overriding attitudes towards homosexuality, especially during the 19th century, and the kind of labels that would have been applied to these people that they may not have been able to escape for the rest of their lives.

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.

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