History is Revealed at Bremhill

on Tuesday, 19 September 2017. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire People, Wiltshire Places

I had a room full of interested attendees for my first History Revealed day. For those of you who are familiar with our Interpretation courses at the History Centre, this is a variation on a theme. I would like to extend the scope of this type of event which to date has been reliant on the morning study session being within easy reach of the field visit in the afternoon, tying us to the Chippenham area. My grand plan is to use our wonderful public libraries as a base for the study session to allow us to explore further afield.

This was our first ‘test case’, although not much further afield I grant you! However, it did coincide with Calne Heritage week which was very fitting.

Calne Library proved a great venue for hosting the morning session where attendees enjoyed a presentation beginning with guidance on what to think about when tracing the origins of a village. I continued by explaining how to make the most of secondary sources, including material by local authors, academic works, the census, local directories and much more. Bremhill was used as a case study with examples and details highlighted to prove how much can be gleaned from these types of sources. They are a good place to start as the legwork has already been done for you!

I continued with a look at maps – the enclosure award was a big hit and rightly so, the field names in particular are fascinating to look at, especially when studied in conjunction with older and more recent written and map sources.

My colleague, Archivist Ally McConnell, then shared a number of archive sources for Bremhill with the group, explaining just how they can be utilised for local history research. These included plans, school records, sales particulars and more.

We concluded the morning session with a look at a number of online sources which can aid research into village history and attendees got hands-on with a number of books available at Calne Library which can help with local history research in general and at Bremhill.

St. Martin’s church was the site for us to reconvene and conduct our field visit in the afternoon, using the skills learnt to study the development of the village at first hand. It was a great opportunity to view the topography and see how it shaped the settlement, and to hear about the architectural history of the buildings from Dorothy Treasure of the Wiltshire Buildings Record who joined us for the afternoon session.

The day was very well received with comments including “fascinating,” “very informative,” “useful guidance for future research,” with the attendees enjoying finding out about new sources that would be of use to them.

Many thanks also go to Calne’s Community Library Manager Jo Smith who helped organise the venue.

I hope to run two further History Revealed days next year in the spring and autumn but I haven’t yet planned which will be my next location – what do you think?

If there is a Wiltshire village you’d love to find out more about let me know - maybe the next History Revealed day will cover a village that matters to you!

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian

Comments (3)

  • maree whyte

    maree whyte

    17 October 2017 at 21:13 |
    Hi, it seems to me that settlements such as Whitley & Shaw and Seend have particularly interesting stories to tell as development has taken place piecemeal along the numerous lanes which make up both. At Whitley the older properties are mostly set back from the road; the church, being relatively modern, has presumably had less influence than in villages with church, manor house, etc..I have only visited Seend once, but was particularly taken by the large number of very fine houses and looking at the OS Explorer map, the large number of farms that make up the neighbouring settlements of Seend Cleeve, Seend Park, etc.. I understand it also has an industrial element to its history. What effect did being in Melksham Forest have on these early settlements?


    • Naomi Sackett

      Naomi Sackett

      18 October 2017 at 14:13 |
      Hi Maree
      Yes, they would interesting candidates for interpretation days! Thank you for your suggestion. I have passed your comments on to Julie.
      Best wishes
      Naomi, Community History Advisor


    • Naomi Sackett

      Naomi Sackett

      08 November 2017 at 12:49 |
      Thank you for your comment on my blog about Bremhill; I found researching the origins of the village fascinating. It sounds like the villages of Whitley and Shaw are also interesting from your observations of them, and also Seend which has been covered on our Community History website http://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/getcom.php?id=197 The village has had an interesting past, like Bremhill having both a canal and railway nearby and being positioned on a hill. The history of the village in terms of industry also looks interesting with both the cloth industry and iron quarrying and smelting affecting the life of the community. This and Melksham Forest would have affected the roads in and around Seend, and regarding your question about how the Forest would have affected the community I feel would be fascinating to research.

      The manor of Seend was not mentioned separately in Domesday and so was probably included in the royal manor of Melksham (VCH Vol. VII). Certainly, licences would have been needed to dig for iron ore in the precincts of the forest, and there would have been other restrictions on settlement too I believe. The Victoria County History Volume 4 contains a map of the forest extent in the 13th and 14th centuries and also takes an in-depth look at Melksham Forest. It contains a quote from the antiquarian John Aubrey, writing of Seend in the 17th century:

      “This village is on a red sand hill, from which it has its name... In this hill underneath, the sand is iron ore and the richest I have ever seen, for the smith can make the ore which he takes up from the street melt in his forge, which ore in the Forest of Dean will not do... Melksham Forest reached to the foot of the hill. It was full of good oaks which were cut down about 1634... Now there are very few oaks left in the parish or thereabout and so this rich mine cannot be smelted.”
      Julie Davis


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