Events and Activities

Author's Talks

Talks and lectures




All events are held at WSHC unless otherwise stated. Tickets for events at the History Centre may be purchased in advance at the Help Desk or can be reserved on 01249 705500 (Tues-Sat 9:30-5) Numbers may be limited so please buy your ticket in advance. Please aim to arrive 15 minutes before your event begins.

Download our Events Programme

Events and Activities

FREE Conservation Surgery

Thursday 12 September, 10 October, 14 November, 12 December 2-4 pm FREE

Come and get advice from our archive and object conservators about caring for your precious family photographs, keepsakes and treasures. Booking essential!

Memory Box Reading Group

First and third Monday afternoon of every month, 2-3.30pm

Do you enjoy history and listening to stories? Our group is meeting on the first and third Monday afternoon of every month to listen to an extract from one of the amazing collection of books in our Local Studies Library. We will take time to share memories and thoughts, and also have a chat over refreshments! If you would enjoy some friendly company in a relaxed environment, this is for you. All welcome!

Free entry, parking right outside and refreshments, supported by Hob Nob Press.

Read - Reminisce - Enjoy

History Revealed: Sherston

10-4.15pm Thursday 5th September at Malmesbury Library and guided walk at Sherston village

Discover more about the people and places in Sherston through archival documents, maps, archaeology and additional resources for local history, plus afternoon guided tour around the village with architectural historian Dorothy Treasure.

£10 (bring lunch, own transport required), booking essential.


 Author's Talks


Cabinet’s Finest Hour: The Hidden Agenda of May 1940

Lord David Owen

7.30pm, Friday 13th September

Former Foreign Secretary David Owen will talk about the pivotal British War Cabinet meetings of May 1940. ¬The minutes and documents reveal just how close Britain came to seeking a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany. Cabinet’s Finest Hour is both the story of Churchill’s determination to fight on and a paean to the Cabinet system of government. ¬The post-war denial of both the existence and legitimacy of the war cabinet debates had far-reaching consequences for Britain’s foreign and defence policy for the rest of the century, starting over the Suez Crisis but reaching its nadir over the Second Iraq War. ¬The way Labour transformed itself from 1931 to 1938 and the cross-party alliance in Parliament from 1938 to 1940 bear lessons for today.

“David Owen’s masterly analysis makes a powerful case for seeing the vital British decision to fight on against the Nazis in May 1940 as the greatest moment for Cabinet government and collaborative politics” (Andrew Lawson)

The Rt Hon the Lord Owen CH FRCP was a Member of Parliament for Plymouth for 26 years from 1966-92. Under Labour Governments, he served as Navy Minister, Health Minister and Foreign Secretary. He was co-founder of the Social Democratic Party established in 1981 and its Leader from 1983-87 and 1988-90. He currently sits in the House of Lords as an independent Social Democrat. From 1992-95 Lord Owen served as EU peace negotiator in the former Yugoslavia.

£10 admission. Booking Essential. (September Special: Book onto any three of our WW2 events and get the cheapest free)


Bombweed: An Unexpected Experience of Wiltshire

Maureen Armstrong

2pm Thursday 5th September

In late spring 1944 Margaret Smith and her small daughter were evacuated from Portsmouth to Middle Lodge Farm in Pewsham.
In the following months she witnessed the preparations for D-Day, and the sky filling with planes as the Normandy invasion started. She learned the country ways of a farming family, hardly changed in a hundred years.
It was with regret that Margaret returned to her home. In 1947 she started to write a novel, based on her wartime experiences. It was fiction, but drew on the people and places she knew, including Chippenham and the farm.
That novel, now published by Margaret’s daughters, forms the basis of this interesting talk; an intimate perspective from a lady who’d never expected to discover the county of Wiltshire that she grew to love.

£4, booking advisable. (September Special: Book onto any three of our WW2 events and get the cheapest free)

Deepest Wiltshire

Gay Pirrie-Weir and Fanny Charles

10.30am Thursday 7th November

Journalists Fanny Charles and Gay Pirrie-Weir will be giving a talk on their new book, Deepest Wiltshire, a portrait of the county which looks at many aspects, including archaeology, history, landscape, wildlife, food and farming, the railways, the canals, the military, the church, folklore, colourful characters and the vibrant and varied arts scene.

Their research and interviews took them to every corner of the county, into tiny closed churches and some of the country’s grandest estates, into workshops in cowsheds, state-of-the-art technology firms and farm shops selling outstanding home grown, homemade and home produced food and drink.

Throughout the research and writing period, Fanny and Gay had great help and support from Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, and their talk will touch on some of the stories they found at the Centre, and some extraordinary stories they unearthed when they were actually researching other subjects.

Deepest Wiltshire is raising funds for Wiltshire Community Foundation, Wiltshire Air Ambulance and SSAFA, the military charity. Priced £25, the book is available from the History Centre and other locations across the county

£4, booking advisable.


Talks and Lectures 

Battlefields That Never Were: Second World War Defences in Wiltshire

2.30pm Tuesday 3rd September

With Martin Brown. Visitors to Wiltshire are often surprised to see the pillboxes and other defence works visible in Wiltshire. Defending the coast and the hinterland is readily understood, but what of these monuments of war in the depths of England. This presentation will explore aspects of preparations for the defence of Britain and how they were realised in Wiltshire.

Admission £4. Booking advisable. (September Special: Book onto any three of our WW2 events and get the cheapest free)

Echoes of the Past: Calne

7pm Wednesday 18th September at CALNE LIBRARY

With Julie Davis. Rediscover the stories of Calne residents past through archive and local studies material at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre.

A glimpse into the lives of everyday people using books, photographs, documents and archival records. We will touch on events, businesses and family connections, weaving our way through history to find out more about Calne and its communities.

£4, booking advisable. NB This event is held at Calne Library.

Changing Times: The Impact of Total War in Wiltshire and its Effects Post-War, 1939-1955

10.30am Thursday 19th September

With Julie Davis. WWII touched the lives of everyone, including those living in Wiltshire. Changing Times explores a range of issues on the Home Front which affected the county and its people, from an influx of ‘visitors’ to wartime working, civil defence duties, planning and construction.

£4, booking advisable. (September Special: Book onto any three of our WW2 events and get the cheapest free)

Wiltshire’s Enemy Aliens: The Internment of Foreigners in the Second World War

10.30am Thursday 26th September

With Tom Plant. The early days of the Second World War saw increasing suspicion of foreigners living in the UK. As the tides of war turned against Britain this suspicion quickly became paranoia, followed by hysteria. By early 1940 tens of thousands of people had been imprisoned without trial simply for being foreign born; many of them were Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution. Many were deported, most were eventually released. Few had committed any crime. This talk will explore the history of internment in Britain, and show the impact of national policies on Wiltshire’s many foreign-born citizens.

£4, booking advisable. (September Special: Book onto any three of our WW2 events and get the cheapest free)

How to Care for Old Books

2pm Wedndesday 25th September

Old volumes can be easily damaged if not looked after. Archive conservator Sophie will be demonstrating how to keep your bindings beautiful; with advice on what potential problems to look out for, basic cleaning and how to protect and store them safely.

£4, booking advisable.

How to Look After Your Wedding Dress (or any special outfit)

2pm Wednesday 23rd October

Have you often wondered if your cherished outfit will survive for future generations? Join us in our conservation lab where Object Conservator Kayleigh will demonstrate using a vintage Kimono to show the best way to package and store special garments.

£4, booking advisable.

Hidden Houses Revealed – from Wolf Hall to a Tobacco Factory on the Plain

10.30am Thursday 24th October

With Dorothy Treasure. Discover some of the fascinating secrets to be found in Wiltshire’s buildings, from the quirky to the amazing! A must for budding house historians.

£4, booking advisable.

Caroline of Brunswick, Wife of George IV 

10.30am Wednesday 13th November

With Eileen Sutherland.

One of royalty’s most disastrous marriages. Forgotten by history today, we take a closer look at this unruly and unwanted queen. Reviled by her husband and put on trial for adultery, we question whether she was treated unfairly or the author of her own misfortune.

£4, booking advisable.

How to Care For Your Jewellery

2pm Wednesday 20th November

Object Conservator Kayleigh will be demonstrating how to clean and protect silver jewellery and other precious valuables to keep your gems sparkling.

£4, booking advisable.

Corruption, Murder and Suicide: Coroner’s Records for the Family Historian 1194 – 1916

10.30am Thursday 28th November

In 1194 new reforms were set up which included new county officers called the Coroner. Their role was simple: to generate as much income for the King as possible. Even one hundred years after the conquest, the Saxons still had a terrible habit of killing Normans. A fine was imposed on the village were a body was found, as it was presumed to be Norman. The fine was known as “Murdrum”, from which the word murder derives. Coroner’s inquests dealt with these cases and the revenue from the fines imposed went to the King. In 1752 an act was passed which entitled coroners to travel expenses. These records survive and provide a glimpse at the hazardous lives that men, women and children of the 18th and 19th century had to endure on a daily basis.

This talk will provide you with an insight into the records that have survived since the 12th century and offer the family/local historian the opportunity to learn about an interesting and underused class of records.

£4, booking advisable.


An Introduction to

Saturday 10 Aug, 31 Aug, 21 September, 12 October, 2 November, 23 November, 14 December all 9.30-10.30am

Are you unsure how to use the website but would like to get to grips with your family history? Ancestry contains many useful sources for family history. Find out how to get started in this hands-on workshop with Ian Hicks
(Workshop repeated – only need to book on one!)

Admission £5. Limited places - booking essential.



Reception Foyer:



Tickets for events at the History Centre may be purchased in advance at the Help Desk or can be reserved on 01249 705500 (Tues-Sat 9:30-5) Payment by credit card or cheque is only possible for 2 more tickets. Numbers may be limited so please buy your ticket in advance. Please aim to arrive 15 minutes before your event begins.

Download a PDF version of our events programme

Disclaimer: We may take photographs at events for future publicity purposes. Please make a member of staff aware if you would prefer not to be included in any images. Permission will sought for images which include children.


Accredited Archive Service