Wiltshire Places

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!

History on the ground in Atworth

on Thursday, 18 July 2013. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Last March I wrote about planning an interpretive day course for the village of Atworth and made it an excuse to talk about Great Chalfield Manor and the Tropenell family, as Chalfield is now in Atworth civil parish. We held the day course last month, and very successful it was too. Course members, mainly Atworth villagers, spent an enthralling morning looking at books, maps and documents in the History Centre to discover the development of the village of Atworth over several centuries. It was a little complicated as there were three manors, the sites of which were fairly confidently identified, and the village itself was often referred to as being in three parts.

There’s a tithe barn, contemporary with that at Bradford on Avon, though only half its length; both were built by Shaftesbury Abbey, whose manor house or grange would have been here. Near the church is a triangular area, formerly a rectangle, which is called the market place. Folk memory and some evidence for penning indicated that sheep were sold here and it was thought likely that sheep fairs were held here as no market charter seems to have been granted.

Celebrating Wiltshire Wildlife: 50 years of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

on Tuesday, 18 December 2012. Posted in Wiltshire Places

This year the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is celebrating its 50th anniversary. To highlight the trust’s valuable work in the county, I thought I’d take a look at the history behind one of Wiltshire’s many tranquil reserves, Blakehill Farm.

Blakehill straddles two parishes, that of Cricklade and Purton. The area of Blakehill Farm was called Blake Hill on a map of 1774; ironic as its later use required a flat area!

Celebrating Wiltshire Wildlife: 50 years of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust
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