New Accession: The Reverend Meade’s Scrapbook

on Friday, 14 June 2019.

Sample page from Meade’s scrapbook

Alongside our council, ecclesiastical and business archives, the History Centre also houses many collections created by individual people. These may be the holders of public office within their locale, or notable for achievements in their chosen field. We recently acquired one such personal archive, a single volume heavy leather-bound scrapbook compiled by the Reverend Sidney Meade (born Oct 1839, died Mar 1917). The scrapbook covers the years 1856 to 1914, and contains documents relating to both local and national events. The scrapbook has been given the archival reference number 1405A.

Sidney trained for the church and took his first curacy at St Mary’s Church, Reading. Between 1869 and 1882 he served as Curate for the parish of St Mary the Virgin in Wylye, and subsequently moved to the curacy of Christ Church, Bradford-on-Avon. Documents in the scrapbook tell us that Sidney was also a Canon of Salisbury Cathedral and a Justice of the Peace.

Sidney Meade was born into the nobility. He was the third and youngest son of Richard Meade, the third Earl of Clanwilliam, a prominent diplomat who became Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in the Earl of Liverpool’s government. Sidney’s mother was Lady Elizabeth Herbert, daughter of the 11th Earl of Pembroke. His brother Richard (who inherited his father’s title in 1879) was by 1880 commander of the naval Flying Squadron, with his flag in the frigate HMS Inconstant. A cutting of this date gives us details of the ship’s construction and a list of the names of officers and men serving under him. Sidney also obtained a document from the Admiralty which details the Proposed Route of the Detached Squadron under Richard’s command, with the estimated speed and days at sea for each leg of the journey. A banquet seating plan of 1891 names Richard as Admiral of the Fleet, sat at the head of the high table alongside the future George V. Similarly, we can chart the career of Sidney’s brother Robert, who served as Head of the Colonial Office between 1892 and 1897, and at the time of his death the following year was the Permanent Under-Secretary for the Colonies.

A public notice for a Peace Festival to mark the end of the Crimean War (1856)

Perhaps as a result of his family’s achievements, Sidney had a keen interest in national and international politics, which is reflected in his choice of documents in this volume. On one page, we find a vivid newspaper account of a Conservative Party fete held at Hedsor Park, near Maidenhead, and nearby, cartoons lampooning William Gladstone and Randolph Churchill. There is also a detailed diary of the war in South Africa printed in a newspaper from 1900, plus a copy of a newspaper letter Sidney himself wrote to the Salisbury and Winchester Journal in 1877 to campaign for the Russian Sick and Wounded Fund. One of our favourite documents is the poster notice of a forthcoming Peace Festival to mark the end of the Crimean War in 1856. The list of rural games which took place at Green Croft, Salisbury seem bizarre to modern audiences – climbing a greasy pole for a new hat and a leg of mutton, or the odd-sounding “jingling for a prize”.

Sidney’s family also often appeared in the society pages, which in themselves are rich with contextual detail. A newspaper account of the marriage of Sidney’s daughter Constance to Lieutenant-Colonel Sitwell of the Fifth Fusiliers regiment in 1902 includes a full list of the wedding gifts. These items vary from a diamond and ruby ring and ostrich feather and tortoiseshell fan from the groom, to a Chippendale looking-glass and a carved ivory Japanese umbrella handle from friends. This list gives us a wealth of detail of the family’s social circle and fashions in ornamental gifts at this time, and includes the intriguing information that the gifts of the Earl and Countess of Clanwilliam included a diamond spray of flowers which originally belonged to Queen Anne.

Calne Through Time

on Monday, 20 May 2019.

For Local History Month 2019 Calne library produced a video charting the history of Calne town centre.

Sources such as maps, trade directories, census, postcards and photographs reveal the fascinating history of the people and places in Calne through time.

Do you have memories of Calne? Why not leave them in the comments below or head over to Calne Library's Facebook page. Or visit us at the History Centre and use some of these sources to find out about your own community!

Thanks to Jackie Notman, Senior Library Assistant at Calne Library for creating this video.


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.

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