Bath's Victorian Time Capsule

on Thursday, 21 March 2013. Posted in Conservation

The Archives Conservation team are currently working with the Contracts Conservation team to conserve a glass bottle containing two 18th Century documents from a Victorian time capsule.
The time capsule was found during excavations carried out by AC Archaeology within the foundations of the Gainsborough Hotel, Beau Street in Bath. This was previously the original location of the Bath United Hospital and the time capsule was buried in 1864 to commemorate the building of a new part of the Hospital, The Albert Memorial Wing. Work is currently underway building a new hotel on the site.

The bottle contained a book of subscriptions to the Working Men’s fund and a parchment scroll.

The Gravels Give Up Their Secrets!

on Friday, 15 March 2013. Posted in Archaeology

Over the last thirty years gravel has been commercially extracted from the North East of Wiltshire in the Upper Thames Valley, close to the border with Gloucestershire. This has always been a landscape rich with natural resources and has been exploited by human communities since time began. The gravel extraction has clearly changed the appearance of the landscape with the subsequent creation of lakes, many of which now make up the Cotswold Water Park.

The scale of this gravel extraction and the planning requirement for the developer to fund archaeological excavation has led to an unprecedented opportunity for archaeologists to investigate and record vast area of landscape settled and used by past communities. In the last 10 years three projects in particular have had amazing findings and over 100 hectares of land has been archaeologically investigated.

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.


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