Chippenham from Old Photographs

on Tuesday, 24 November 2020.

Book Review

Chris Breach
Stroud: Amberley Books, 2019
ISBN 978 14456 591 4
96 pages, paperback £14.99, paperback

This is the latest in the ‘From Old Photographs’ series from Amberley, and it doesn’t disappoint.

There is a short introduction to the origins of the town, alongside a colourful artist-drawn map marking out some of the prominent sites. The contents are split up by area with a variety of historic photographs on display including shops and industrial premises, built features such as bridges; even an ice rink and diving board, but also events like floods and fire, and celebrations; processions and even elephants in town!

The author’s caption commentary is interesting and informative; many images are referenced. The photographs date from the early 1900s to the 1920s.

If you know the town of Chippenham, you will delight in looking at the finer details in the photographs which are well reproduced. The construction of the roads, how wide they look with no traffic… to the long-lost paddling pool at John Coles Park. This publication is well worth perusing. An interesting, relaxing and entertaining read.

Chippenham from Old Photographs is available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Ref. CHP.771 and will be coming to Wiltshire Libraries soon.

Julie Davis

County Local Studies Librarian, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The Bulford Kiwi: The kiwi we left behind

on Thursday, 08 October 2020.

Book Review

The Bulford Kiwi: The kiwi we left behind by Colleen Brown, 2018
New Zealand: Bateman Publishing
ISBN 9781869539849
176 pages, paperback, includes index

The Bulford Kiwi Cover

The Kiwi story can be seen as a voyage of discovery, both for the author and for others who have been touched by the emblem and its place in history. Readers will be taken on a journey back to discover the causes for the emblem’s creation; political and personal.


The difficulties facing the New Zealand troops who were so very far from home during WWI and after are laid bare. There were also the practicalities of caring for the Kiwi as time passed. The role of the British Army, the New Zealand Government and the Kiwi Polishing Company are examined alongside the personal stories of the soldiers themselves, written home at the time. Disease, illness and an exacting military regime also had their part to play in the events that unfolded.


The Kiwi is an emblem forged of frustration and despair, cut into the landscape for the memory of those who had been lost. The author has shown that its future has been secured due to the respect and honour for those it stood for, who had already sacrificed so much.


The illustrations are interesting and well placed and the story is a good mix of factual data, interwoven with personal stories. It will prove particularly interesting to those who have seen the emblem and would like to find out more about its history and legacy, and to anyone interested in the history of the area and the part it played in WWI.

A captivating read.

Copies of The Bulford Kiwi (ref. BUR.353) are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and Salisbury Library, or to loan via Wiltshire Libraries, with one copy kindly donated by Collen Brown herself.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

History Centre working as a partner to help ease isolation

on Wednesday, 13 May 2020.

Celebrating Age Wiltshire receives £385,500 from the National Lottery Community Fund to improve health and wellbeing of older people living in isolation

As people around the world are asked to keep their social distance, for many older people the difficulty of living in isolation is all too familiar. With a tremendous new £385,500 grant award from the National Lottery Community Fund, the pioneering ‘Celebrating Age Wiltshire’ partnership project will increase support for the county’s older and most vulnerable people through a transformational five-year programme.

The project, which has been running since 2017 with funding from the Arts Council, Baring Foundation and Wiltshire Community Area Boards’ Health and Wellbeing Project Grants, uses cultural activity as a vehicle to improve the health and wellbeing of older people, including those who are socially isolated or vulnerable due to dementia, reduced mobility, ill health or caring responsibilities.

Wiltshire Music Centre leads the initiative with regional partners Pound Arts, Wiltshire Creative, Age UK Wiltshire, Wiltshire Libraries, Community First Wiltshire, and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, who work together to deliver a year-round programme of specially-curated, free-to-attend monthly events for older people in community settings. From concerts in care homes to dance workshops in village halls, reading groups in libraries and reminiscence events in sheltered housing residents’ lounges, the partnership draws on its breadth of expertise to deliver a wide-ranging programme which engages thousands of older people every year. Over the last three years, there have been over 4,000 participations in Celebrating Age Events.

Through these informal events, the project provides an opportunity for older people to socialise, to share sensory experiences, to meet new people and to find out about other activities and support available to them locally. It also aims to establish new personal and community connections that are so important in the prevention of loneliness and feelings of isolation.

“I do get very upset because I’ve got the most gorgeous flat – there’s 96 flats there – and it’s like a ghost town.  You do not see a soul….  I find that coming to see these [events] is like a new lease of life – it’s like, you know… to see people, because I make sure that I go down to [name of town] every day – even if it’s only to talk to the dogs!  I’ve got to talk to somebody every single day because otherwise I would have a nervous breakdown.” Elsie, Celebrating Age Wiltshire participant

Over the next five years, Celebrating Age Wiltshire will use the new funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, to significantly scale-up the reach and impact of the project. The funding will enable the continuation and development of activities across six existing project areas (Trowbridge, Calne, Amesbury, Corsham, Salisbury and Royal Wootton Basset), and support the most isolated and vulnerable older people in these communities. Furthermore, the grant will enable the project to expand into four new areas (South West Wiltshire, Melksham, Warminster, Chippenham), to support the wellbeing of thousands more older people through 100 events every year.

Critically, the funding will also support partnership development – which has been vital to the strength and success of the project to date, advocacy, networking and sharing activities, including artist development days to support sector-wide development, as well as strategic work to embed  Celebrating Age Wiltshire in social prescribing activities and adult social care initiatives across the county.

“We believe in the power of culture and heritage to bring people together and transform people’s lives – Celebrating Age Wiltshire is evidence of just how important and effective this is for older people. We are absolutely thrilled to receive funding from the National Lottery Community Fund to enable this vital project to continue and grow, to improve the wellbeing of lonely and isolated older people in our communities.” James Slater, Artistic Director, Wiltshire Music Centre (Lead Partner)

The five-year programme will begin in autumn 2020. In the meantime, Celebrating Age Wiltshire continues to reach out to participants digitally, via online concerts and events shared through Wiltshire Music Centre’s YouTube Channel and broadcasts on BBC Radio Wiltshire.

More information about the project can be found here.

Living in Lockdown – collecting Covid-19 community stories

on Tuesday, 05 May 2020.

The Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre needs your help to create a new archive – Living in Lockdown.

We want to make a collection which reflects the experiences of people from Wiltshire and Swindon as they live through the Covid-19 pandemic.

This crisis will be closely studied by future generations who will turn to the archives to discover how we made sense of this life changing experience. And this is where we need the public’s help. We want you to make a record of your experiences during lockdown – you might already have begun to do this, or this appeal might prompt you to begin a diary, write a poem, make a scrapbook, or a piece of artwork.

We want you to think about creating something future generations can use that shows how our personal and working lives have been transformed by this global crisis. Many of us already have personal archives – old family photos, letters, news clippings – so now is the time to add your story and make a creative response to challenging times.

As well as your own response to living in lockdown we would like people to keep hold of ephemera – leaflets, newsletters, posters, flyers – which can also be added to our Local Studies collections.

Whatever your circumstance or experiences it is your stories that we want. Visit the WSHC website for more details.

Maps and Journeys Exhibition: A Creative Response

on Wednesday, 19 February 2020.

A group of Level 3 Art and Design Students from Wiltshire College and University Centre have created an exhibition of artwork made in response to archives and to work collected as part of the Creative Wiltshire, National Heritage Lottery funded project.

The students were inspired by items including dream diaries of artist Roger Leigh, hand-painted maps of Chippenham and even a dead cat! We are delighted to be hosting an exhibition of the work they produced and to showcase a new perspective and interpretation of archives and of the work we have been lucky enough to collect thanks to the Creative Wiltshire project.

The exhibition can be found in our entrance foyer, and in a display case in the main search room. It is available to view during our opening hours until 11 April 2020 and well worth a visit!

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