Archives

Keeping fit Lacock style!

on Tuesday, 13 May 2014. Posted in Archives

We’re all starting to think about the summer and maybe some of us are concerned that the results of the large appetites gained over Christmas and the numerous Easter eggs consumed are not being shifted in time for our holidays. Well, fear not, because an answer has been found in the Lacock archive!


Casually sifting through a box of varied documents, mostly belonging to Matilda Talbot, I was intrigued and amused to discover these four pages of handwritten exercises. The exercises were created and drawn by the International Association of Margaret Morris Movement. Margaret Morris Movement still exists today (and runs classes throughout the UK and overseas, if anyone is interested!) and specialises in creative dance movement, particularly breathing techniques. Although the exercises are unfortunately undated, it can be assumed that they were written around the 1930s. They contain breathing and movement exercises, and, wonderfully, also contain diagrams of how the exercise should be done.

Sitting Pretty with Picture Postcards

on Saturday, 26 April 2014. Posted in Archives, Photography

With the help of our Sheldon 6th Form volunteer Laura Bailey and our work experience students we have been making great inroads into our vast collection of uncatalogued postcards from the early 20th century. The aim is to give each an entry on our electronic catalogue alongside a digital image to enable easy access for the public via the online site Wiltshire Treasures (see link at end of this article). At present we have over 4,000 postcards catalogued. I thought it would be interesting to discover a little more about the history of postcards in this country and just why they became so popular during this period.

The Importance of Archives

on Tuesday, 22 April 2014. Posted in Archives

As an archivist I’m often so bogged down in the nitty-gritty of day to day work that I forget just how important archives are for society as a whole. A recent news item has brought home to me the importance of archives and the vital role that an archivist can play. I am sharing this, not to boost my own ego, or those of my colleagues, but just to make others think about how archives can be taken for granted in our society, and recognize their immense value for all of us.


The news item which made me wax philosophical was the announcement of the opening of an inquest into the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. This has only been made possible because of the work of three archivists who were employed in 2009 to catalogue and make available over 450,000 documents relating to that tragic incident. As we now know, their work, alongside that of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, uncovered terrible truths which have been covered up for decades. The panel report is available using the link at the bottom of this article.

‘Now in Then’ – getting creative with archives!

on Thursday, 20 March 2014. Posted in Archives, Art

In 2014 a new project called ‘Now in Then’, funded by the Arts Council England, has been launched, which includes a series of Saturday workshops involving creative writers using archives here at WSHC. I have been involved from the outset in helping to choose the themes for the workshops, alongside the tutor Angela Street, and I have had free rein to choose the archives to help demonstrate those themes. Not being a creative person myself, I am greatly enjoying working with others who are, who can help me see the archives in a new light.


The theme for this term is ‘Lives in the Landscape’ and the first session (on 1 March) looked at the ownership of land. Most of the records I chose for this came from manor courts. The history of manors is worthy of a detailed blog in its own right but in the meantime if anyone is particularly interested they can read up on it on the University of Nottingham website (link at end of this article).

Put simply, a manor is a landed estate with the right to hold its own manor court, which, prior to the Tudor introduction of Quarter and Petty Sessions, was the main local court of law for minor offences. The concept of manors dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, and central to the operation of the manor court is its monitoring of communal behaviour, known as the ‘View of Frankpledge.’ This basically was a system of mutual responsibility meaning that a tithing (a group of about 10 households) agreed to work together to keep law and order within their grouping.

Some Treasures from the Lacock Archive

on Saturday, 15 March 2014. Posted in Archives

Over the last few months, I have been cataloguing the Lacock archive with the help of several volunteers and just about every day I come across some interesting documents, some of which I hope to share with you over the next few months.


Recently, for example, I have been able to find out information gained from wills and other legal documents about the identity of illegitimate children of John Talbot (1717-1778), one of the owners of the Lacock estate who was married but widowed after only two years, and had no children from the marriage. He did, however, have at least four children with local women. At least two of the children were provided for in John Talbot’s will (another had died, and it is assumed that the fourth did too but no evidence has been found). However, he was clearly very concerned about the welfare of his children and tried to ensure that they would be provided for not just in a legal sense. A very touching letter has been found in the archive, dictated just before his death to his friend John Santer, which shows his concerns. This is a lovely thing to find in the archive as it shows the human side of an aristocratic family who, especially with the issue of illegitimacy and inheritance, tended to keep very discrete.

A transcription of some of the letter shows John’s troubled mind:

Wiltshire's Conscientious Objectors

on Thursday, 23 January 2014. Posted in Archives, Military

Some of you may have listened to the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 this morning (23rd Jan) or have seen newspaper reports on the National Archives recent release of online material relating to World War 1 Military Conscription Appeal Tribunals for Middlesex. http://ht.ly/sPK8W  and http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/jan/23/who-conscientious-objectors-first-world-war?CMP=twt_fd

It is suggested that these records are one of only two complete sets of such records to survive as the tribunal papers were supposed to have been destroyed after the war. So we thought our blog readers might be interested to know that the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre also hold a series of tribunal papers.

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