One of our most frequent enquiries at the History Centre is along the lines of ‘I’m trying to find out where my great aunt is buried; her death was registered in Salisbury in 1923…..’ We can usually help them track down the place of burial, but what they really want is to find the plot to visit. People assume that all churches have a plan of their burial ground, when the reality is that most don’t.
My interest in this subject began as a small child when I accompanied my father, who mowed the grass in our village churchyard. While he was busy mowing I was busy wandering around looking at all the grave stones. Who were these people, where did they live, what did they do? Horningsham also has a number of listed tombs which are bigger and grander than a headstone and often commemorate whole families. I was fascinated by all these people and wanted to find out more about them.
Many years later I found two friends who were happy to help me survey the churchyard and this was the beginning of my project. Horningsham is a challenge geographically, as the church is on a hill and the burial ground is divided into three sections, all on different levels. I soon realised that this was not going to be straight forward! However, with the help of my friends (I couldn’t possibly have done it on my own), and countless visits to check my drawing, I have at last finished. It has taken me years and five attempts at drawing a map I am happy with, but it is a huge sense of achievement to have finished at last. Along with the map I have also transcribed the inscriptions and photographed all the stones.
Is this something that might interest you? There are countless parishes still to be done and the staff here are always happy to help you. The archaeology team will be able to provide you with a large copy of the ordnance survey map, to give you an accurate ground plan to work from. The first thing I did was to draw an outline of the church, as I used the row of pillars on the south wall as fixed points from which to measure the stones. The scale I used was 1:100. The graph paper was marked in millimetres.
From here I began plotting each stone from two fixed points.
On a 1:100 scale, 145cm and 130cm reduce to 14mm and 13mm. You then draw two arcs (using a compass), and where the two arcs meet is the centre of your headstone. A cross will probably suffice to mark a headstone, but a tomb will need a square.
Fortunately, I had the church on one side of the square and a wall on a second side which gave me a straight line of graves that were easy to plot. Together, these gave me two sides of fixed points that helped me plot the remaining graves.
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!