Wiltshire People

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:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/

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.

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.

The Mysterious John Hillier

on Tuesday, 07 May 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

While working on the SEEME Wiltshire Black History Project I was checking through some leads to an early black presence in the county, when a couple of lines about the death of a black cook sent me on a journey through the archives to find out about him and his family. The Salisbury and Wiltshire Journal reported on 22nd January 1848:

'An Election's A Fair'... Bribery & Corruption at Wiltshire's Parliamentary Elections

on Tuesday, 30 April 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

Bribery, corruption, intrigue, rotten boroughs and riots …oh dear, that will be Wiltshire’s parliamentary elections in eighteenth and nineteenth century! Present events always give us an opportunity to take the long-view and here at the History Centre we have a range of resources on the political history of the county and borough, from excellent accounts published in the Victoria County History for Wiltshire to election squibs, poll books and original documents.

Wiltshire’s early claim to political fame was the impressive size of its parliamentary representation. Until 1832 it elected two Knights of the Shire (representing the whole county), two MPs for Salisbury, and two burgesses for each of its 15 boroughs, a grand total of 34 seats. Only Cornwall had higher. This was especially impressive given that many of the boroughs were the size of a village, and few of their residents could vote.  The most notable, of course, was Old Sarum, which retuned two MPs and in 1768, it is claimed, had an electorate of, er…one, though usually could count on seven. Other small boroughs included Great Bedwyn, Cricklade, Downton, Heytesbury, Hindon, Ludgershall and Wootton Bassett. Yet other towns like Bradford on Avon, Corsham, Trowbridge, and Warminster could not send representatives to parliament.

The remaining boroughs electing two MP’s were Calne, Chippenham, Devizes, Marlborough, Malmesbury, Marlborough, Westbury and Wilton. But don’t think for one minute that the larger towns necessarily had a bigger electorate. Malmesbury weighed in with a total electorate of 13, and if this was not enough it was notable for being one of the most corrupt boroughs in England. Cricklade, on the other hand, through the Act of 1782, had its franchise extended to all freeholders in the surrounding area, numbering 1,200. This made bribery and corruption more difficult, but unfortunately fewer than fifty voters actually lived in the borough itself.

Wilton on the Carpet

on Wednesday, 06 February 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

When researching some of our properties some unusual stories can come to light. One such is the interesting tale of Pardoe Yates, a businessman of Wilton at the end of the C19 and how this seemingly upstanding gent was exposed to be yet another typical example of Victorian double standards…

In 1895, Kelly’s directory lists Pardoe Yates, J.P., as an alderman on Wilton Town Corporation and a director of the Royal Carpet Works, manufacturers of Axminster and Wilton carpets. His father, Samuel Pardoe Yates, had originally manufactured carpets in Bridgnorth, before buying the Axminster looms and later moving the business to Wilton where he took over the existing carpet factory run by Henry Blackmore, in the 1860s. Yates was initially in partnership with Wills (of the cigarette manufacturing family), as ‘Yates & Co. Ltd.’ Samuel Pardoe was short-lived. His later obituary in the Wiltshire Times reported after his sudden and unexpected death that ‘he paid a visit of several months to the States for business purposes last autumn.’

The Archvist’s friend and other Wiltshire Inventors

on Thursday, 24 January 2013. Posted in Wiltshire People

I am often guided by those twin pillars of research: serendipity and curiosity. It was these two trusty old friends that led me Henry Charles “inky” Stephens (1841 – 1918). While tidying my desk as part of my New Year resolution I was left with just a few paper clips and two rulers on the work surface, which reminded me of a patent I had spotted in our indexes for “the parallel ruler” (yes, sadly someone had invented this before me).  The patent seems to enable …er…two parallel lines to be drawn, more seriously it was used by navigators to draw parallel lines on charts and originally invented by Fabrizio Mordente in 1584 and others sought to improve it. But there was more, with the documents were further patents for inkstands and an adjustable pencil, plus specifications for various ink manufacture and the chemistry behind them. Of course, what I had started to look at was part of an archive relating to the Cholderton estate, once owned by the family and an individual whose single small invention arguably helped change the course of writing.

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