Wiltshire Places

What's Inn a Name?

on Wednesday, 16 July 2014. Posted in Traditions and Folklore, Wiltshire Places

Some of the most popular talks I give are those dealing with the meaning of inn and pub names. Currently we don’t have a great variety of pub names in Wiltshire but we do still have some interesting ones. The Green Dragon at Alderbury was used by Charles Dickens in Martin Chuzzlewitt, as he was staying nearby while writing this novel. Dickens used many hostelries in his books and in this case he renamed it the Blue Dragon; perhaps the sign was somewhat faded to a pale blue and he misinterpreted it as it would have been unlikely that the name was on the building.

The green dragon came from the earls of Pembroke and many of the early names used the badges of great families. The red lion of John of Gaunt, the black bear of the earls of Warwick and the white hart of Richard II are still common today. From the 18th century the full coat of arms was often used so that in Fovant we have the Pembroke Arms. The association with the badge or coat of arms often indicated that the family owned the property or were the chief landowners in the area.

Avebury Manor Reborn

on Wednesday, 28 May 2014. Posted in Wiltshire Places

We have been experiencing some very fine weather recently and with this day trips come to mind, and visits to some of Wiltshire’s lovely country houses. One such is Avebury Manor, run by the National Trust and restored in 2011.

Lacock - A Wiltshire Home for Generations

on Saturday, 17 May 2014. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire Places

Lacock is a village known to tens of thousands of people around the world, but how many people really know it? They visit the abbey and museum of photography, have lunch in one of the pubs, look at houses dating from medieval times to the 18th century, and have tea and cakes in one of the tea rooms. If they’d been one of the participants in our Lacock interpretation day course last week they’d now know a great deal more about the history and development of this village!

 

Fire!

on Tuesday, 25 March 2014. Posted in Events, Wiltshire Places

I feel I can safely say that almost no town, village or hamlet in the county has been untouched by fire at some point during its history. It must have been an ever-present fear for every community – all that was needed was one little spark. Barns and hayricks were often to be found in the proximity of dwellings, and fire could quickly spread…

All houses were constructed of flammable materials, with thatch roofs being particularly vulnerable. When added to this the presence of naked flames, it presented a high degree of risk to person, property and livelihood.

Ramsbury, June 1648
The Ramsbury Fire of June 14th, 1648 destroyed the houses and belongings of 130 people. The county committee authorized collections throughout Wiltshire, but eleven weeks after the fire those affected had still not received much aid (the Civil War and many other needy appeals were occurring at the same time).  Shockingly, the Ramsbury inhabitants had also found that a forged ‘brief’ was being used to raise money for the cause which they would never receive. They had to act quickly, placing a notice of the circumstances in the London newsbooks of the day, telling of the validity of the fire and the illegality of the first brief. In fact none of the newsbooks had mentioned the fire at the time as they were too concerned with war movements.

Churches often included ‘briefs’ in their sermons, asking for donations for help with the church roof, but also for events such as this. After initial local assistance, further assistance could be raised on a regional or even national scale by raising a charitable brief, ‘a licence to collect relief which was issued by the Lord Chancellor’.

Wiltshire enters Discworld

on Tuesday, 17 December 2013. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Sir Terry Pratchett has lived in south Wiltshire for many years and is well known in the county for his work at literary, community and charity events. In some recent books the influence of the chalk landscape in which he lives has been very apparent. However it is his latest book that has just been added to the Wiltshire Collection at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. In Raising Steam the power of steam locomotion comes to Discworld and the small settlement of Swine Town on the Sto Plain becomes a fast growing centre of engineering, mirroring the growth of our own Swindon. His railway company also provides homes and social facilities for railway workers, just like the GWR. There also happens to be a Fat Controller, the original of which was created by the Rev. Awdry after living in Box when a boy, listening to the steam locomotives chuffing and puffing around Box Tunnel, and later writing Thomas the Tank Engine books based on these memories.

Dr Who and his Journeys to Wiltshire

on Friday, 22 November 2013. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Unless you are one of the minority of people who do not own a television, you will no doubt be aware that 50 years ago the BBC began broadcasting a television programme which has become a cultural phenomenon. ‘Doctor Who’ was predicted to last only five years but is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this month, an incredible achievement and one that the BBC is celebrating with a documentary about the making of the show, as well as a special anniversary episode called ‘The Day of the Doctor’.

However a much smaller number of people, mostly die-hard ‘Whovians’ or local people who remember the filming, will be aware of the connections between Dr Who and the county of Wiltshire.


Wiltshire has provided the landscape for episodes of Dr Who on a number of occasions – memorably in 1971 the village of Aldbourne provided the backdrop for the Jon Pertwee story: ‘The Daemons’. Aldbourne was transformed into the fictional village of ‘Devil’s End’ where the Doctor’s nemesis, The Master, was masquerading as the local Vicar in a diabolical plot to take over the world. The five part story culminated with the destruction of Aldbourne church – fortunately not in reality!

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