World Heritage Day 2019

on Wednesday, 17 April 2019.

April 18th is World Heritage Day or to give it its proper name the International Day for Monuments and Sites. For over thirty-five years, 18 April has been a day to celebrate and promote cultural heritage, and an opportunity to raise awareness about its diversity, its relevance, how vulnerable it can be and what the needs and benefits of its conservation are.

The Day represents an unparalleled opportunity to foster communication and build links with communities while acknowledging their involvement in the creation, existence, evolution and richness of these rural landscapes, and no doubt, in their conservation.

This year the theme is Rural Landscapes and here at the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Coordination Unit we have been working with children from Kennet Valley C of E VA Primary School and Chisledon Primary School. With thanks to the Avebury World Heritage Site Charity, we were able to commission Create Studios to help the children make animated storyboards depicting some of the key issues concerned with managing the monuments at Avebury.

To start the project 30 Year 4 and 5 children from both schools enjoyed a walk and talk in the landscape with Sarah Simmonds, our Partnership Manager. They were excited to explore the giant Henge and stone circle and we were fortunate to witness a religious ceremony taking place inside the inner circle. Running up and over Waden Hill the impressive Silbury Hill rising out of the valley, they were given a real sense of the scale of the landscape. Back in the classroom they were introduced to Patrimonito, the international mascot of World Heritage Education and we considered what messages they would like to share about Avebury. They discussed the thorny issues of traffic, roads, tourism, too many people and burrowing animals. The children came up with ideas for storyboards and Henry and Jaime from Create taught them about characters, plots, shots and non-verbal communication. Meanwhile at Chisledon the rest of the school got involved making a giant picture of Avebury created with messages of hope and care for the future of the World Heritage Site.

Helen Miah, Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Partnership Officer

Guided Archaeology Walks

on Saturday, 13 April 2019. Posted in Archaeology

Devizes Arts Festival guided walks (led by Wiltshire County Archaeologists)

Please book via the Devizes Arts Festival website

Sunday 9th June, 10.30.  Fee payable for Devizes Arts Festival  - Roundway Down. 

An opportunity to explore the historic landscape of Roundway Down and Oliver’s Fort, guided by experts from the Wiltshire County Archaeology team. In this walk, we will look at the archaeological features of Roundway Down and Oliver’s Fort, and you will hear tales of the bloody Civil War battle and the nearby holy wells.

Sunday 2nd June, 10.30. Fee payable for Devizes Arts Festival  - Historic Devizes. 

An opportunity to explore the main features of the historic town of Devizes, including exciting new evidence from recent excavations, guided by experts from the Wiltshire County Archaeology team. In this walk, we will explore the main features of the town of Devizes, discussing its development through time and especially the influential role of the castle where recent excavations have revealed exciting new evidence.

Guided walks led by Wiltshire Council Archaeologists

Anyone who is interested in the below walks to please email the Archaeology Service at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for further details.

Friday 12th July, 7.00-9.00 pm - Romans, Saxons and Kangaroos: Archaeology in Market Lavington.

Join Martin Brown (Wiltshire Council Archaeology Service) on a walk into the past of Market Lavington. See the site of the and find out how our forebears shaped the land we inhabit. We will walk from the church through the designed landscape north of the village, before returning through the medieval village to the Market Place (and pub), via a Saxon cemetery and Roman temple.

Sunday 14th July, 2.00-4.00 pm – Ludgershall Castle.

Join Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger, County Archaeologist, on a walk exploring the varied history of Ludgershall Castle, from Prehistoric earthwork to sixteenth century garden.

Saturday 27th July, 2.00-4.00 pm – South of Stonehenge Landscape.

Join Sarah Simmonds, Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Partnership Manager, on a walk exploring this complex and compelling landscape and to understand why it’s a World Heritage Site. 

Review: Bombweed by Gillian Fernandez Morton

on Saturday, 13 April 2019.

Bombweed by Gillian Fernandez Morton
Silver Wood Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-78132-979-5
Paperback, £11.99

The story was originally created by the author’s mother Margaret Smith in 1947 from her own experiences of wartime Britain. The original typescript was inherited by her daughters, edited and readied to finally be published in the 21st Century.

It is a work of fiction, woven from Margaret Smith’s time spent in the city and the countryside, focusing on the lives and loves of one family as seen through the eyes of the youngest sister, Vivienne.

The ties that bind us and the intricacies they hold are brought to bear in a well-constructed and engaging narrative, interwoven with what feels like first-hand experiences of living through the Portsmouth bombing. Chippenham, Devizes and a nearby Wiltshire farm also feature. The descriptions of life as an evacuee for a mother and baby in particular are thought provoking.

Margaret’s daughters note that she wanted to remember the reality of wartime Britain, ‘the struggles and fear, and the love and friendships that got them through’; the book has achieved this aim. It is a well-crafted story, well edited, and well worth a read.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Copies are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, and to loan from Wilshire Libraries.

Extraordinary General Meeting of Wiltshire Local History Forum

on Saturday, 02 March 2019.

At an extraordinary general meeting of the Wiltshire Local History Forum held on Saturday 16th February at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre it was decided to dissolve the WLHF due to the departure of the current Chairperson, Claire Skinner, and no new volunteers for the role. Please read the minutes of the extraordinary general meeting if you would like to know more about the decision taken.

It has been a very successful group, and all its members have benefited both intellectually and recreationally from its existence. There will hopefully be new opportunities for a local history network, similar to that in Swindon, with meetings held in Devizes Library. Any updates will be shared on this News blog, so keep an eye out or please contact Julie Davis, County Local Studies Librarian on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to express a particular interest.

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre: a Tribute

on Friday, 01 March 2019.

This week we were extremely sad to say farewell to our Principal Archivist, Claire Skinner, who is leaving Wiltshire for new adventures. A wealth of experience and knowledge as well as an extremely kind and caring person, she will be greatly missed by staff, volunteers and researchers!  

 

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre: a Tribute
To the tune of: Raindrops on Roses
(Apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II and to all lovers of real poetry)

Archives boxed neatly in a clean and dry strongroom
Wrapped up in acid-free folders or tissue
No rusty paperclips or dusty old string!
These are a few of my favourite things…

Working on projects from Lacock to manors
Helping the council from legal to planners
Gathering archives from Aldbourne to Zeals
These are a few of my favourite things…

Dressing in costume for Open Day outreach
Reading old handwriting; helping to teach it
Sharing the history eight hundred years bring
These are a few of my favourite things…

When the stacks break
When my room’s cold
When my laptop’s flat
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad!

Researching the history of wonderful women
Arts in the Archives with Storybox and Now in Then
Watching a stone axe being shaped by Phil Harding
These are a few of my favourite things…

Hearing Kate Adie and Michael Wood talking
To hundreds of people filling our searchroom
Working with volunteers who transcribe and list
These are a few of my favourite things…

Last but not least are my colleagues so friendly
Laughter and kindness with cake-eating a plenty!
Memories that will last like our mummified cat
These are a few of my favourite things…

When the stacks break
When my room’s cold
When my laptop’s flat
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so sad!

Thank you to everyone who has made the last thirteen years so special
– to the depositors who share their archive treasures and make them available to the public to enjoy;
- to colleagues in Wiltshire and Swindon Councils who share their knowledge and expertise so generously;
- to the researchers who have shown us so much support and appreciation over the years;
- to the volunteers who give of their time, skills and enthusiasm and really are the bedrock of all we do;
- to the Family History Society, the Local History Forum, the VCH and many other groups and organisations who have supported our work in financial and other ways
- and last but not least, to my colleagues at the History Centre who have carried me through the last thirteen years with their warmth, kindness, laughter, and oodles of cake.
Thank you. You will be very much missed.

Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist

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