For over 33 years, Windrose Rural Media Trust and its predecessor, Trilith, have been chronicling life in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. Its archive film shows have drawn packed houses in village halls, theatres, cinemas and arts centres all over the three counties. With the help of a great many people in local communities, Windrose has discovered, saved and copied thousands of reels of cine film dating from the 1910s to the 1980s depicting our history in moving image.
Although the film archive will be the most familiar part of Windrose's work for many, the Trust has also created a huge range of community based media projects which have enabled local people to learn how to work in video and radio or through which Windrose has made its own original productions about changes in life around us and about valuable community initiatives.
It has all been concerned with how rural life has had and can still have a special character and importance. The Trilith-Windrose Archive allows us to have a long perspective: to look into the past in the most vivid way possible and to understand how history has shaped the way we are and the way we may choose to go.
Windrose has thus accumulated a vast archive of film, video and audio recordings since work started in 1984. Most of these are on pre-digital formats and much of the archive has either been unseen for many years or has never yet been accessible. A great deal of work is needed to bring this fascinating material to the public.
Thanks to National Lottery players through a £67,000 grant award from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), very significant progress can now be made. Crucial support has also come from the Alice Ellen Cooper Dean Charitable Foundation, the Valentine Charitable Trust, Dorset History Centre and Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. The total resource available is £93,700.
Windrose's application for National Lottery funding was backed by letters of support from show venues, museums and educational bodies which have long known and used the Trilith-Windrose Archive.
The thousands of original recordings are being preserved under temperature and humidity controlled conditions at Dorset History Centre. Windrose will be working in partnership with Dorset History Centre, Somerset Heritage Centre, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and Bournemouth University. As well as the major task of protecting, cataloguing and making as much of the archive available as possible, there will also be important educational and therapeutic work. Placements will be available for Bournemouth University students and volunteers to enable them to research and learn about the background of films and other material in the archive. Old films will be used to interest and help people with dementia, learning difficulties and hearing loss.
As well as touring shows and DVDs/CDs, much material from the archive will be made available on Windrose's Close Encounters website: www.closeencounters-mediatrail.org.uk This is organised geographically. You click on a symbol on a village or town in which you are interested and discover film or audio recordings relevant to life there. Although Close Encounters is still in its early stages, it is already well worth a visit.
Trevor Bailey, Director of Windrose, said: “It comes as a shock sometimes to realise how big and varied this archive has become. When we were standing in freezing fields shooting our early productions, helping young people to make their first radio programmes or out in the evenings taking old films to the smallest village halls, we didn't have time to spare to sort out its future. You gradually realise that all that work since we started in 1984 has created something that really matters in 2017 and in years to come. Thanks to National Lottery players, we now have three years of fresh work ahead of us, bringing this archive to the public in a more thorough way than has been possible before and doing so by using modern technology.”
“We are very grateful to our funders and partners for making it possible for this to happen.”
“It should not be thought, though, that we shall stop creating new media-based projects in Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire. We have several on the stocks, some using the archive of course. If we can get them funded, there will be plenty more to announce! We are renewing ourselves. Several members of our team, Ali Grant, Debra Hearne, Amanda Boyd and James Harrison – all names that will be heard more, are pursuing exciting ideas. All of this will, of course, go on adding to the archive. Archives don't end.”
Dorset County Archivist, Sam Johnston, has worked closely with Windrose on the application to the Heritage Lottery. He added: “We are delighted to hold the Windrose archive on behalf of Trevor and his colleagues and very much look forward to playing our part in the forthcoming project to preserve and open up access to this really important historic collection. Film is a potent medium, instantly accessible to audiences young and old. It will be great to be able to share this with the wider public in due course.”
1-7 June is Volunteers Week and a chance to celebrate the valuable contribution that volunteers make! Here at the History Centre we have many wonderful volunteers who work in all our different departments; Archives, Local Studies, Archive Conservation, Archaeology, Wiltshire Buildings Record (WBR). We are sharing aspects of our volunteer’s work on social media throughout Volunteers Week 2017.
Wiltshire Buildings Record is a non-profit organisation (charity no 280382) partly funded by Wiltshire Council and specialises in investigating the history of built heritage.
“We are house detectives, revealing your home’s hidden secrets!”
Dorothy Treasure is Principal Buildings Historian and the only member of paid staff:
“I would like to highlight the work that our Wiltshire Buildings Records volunteers do. We literally wouldn’t be able to function without their help in the office and in the field.
If not for her we would all be drowning in material to be accessioned. We have a team of people who come out and help record buildings including Alyson Curtis, Clive Carter, Paul Jack, Peter Filtness, Alison Goodall, Kylie Coles, Nigel Walker, Tom Smith and Pam Slocombe.
Also not forgetting the work of Margaret Parrott and Louise Purdy here at the History Centre researching the buildings we record – we couldn’t function without them either.
Wiltshire Buildings Record is currently running several projects:
‘Dated Features’ project run by volunteer Paul Jack, which aims to collect datestones, etc from Wiltshire Buildings. We are trying to build up a dated chronology of buildings in Wiltshire, and would love the help of people who know their area and can find these features.
Our other project is ‘Farmsteads’, where volunteers go out into the field to record the traditional farmsteads of Wiltshire. These are one of the fastest disappearing types of building in Wiltshire due to pressures of development and redundancy.
One of our most recent volunteer-led projects is ‘Enrich the List’ where Historic England have asked us to upload information under their official online listing, so that WBR can share its information, and to signpost back to WBR (and by extension, the History Centre)."
The other services at the History Centre have a range of volunteers at the moment, carrying out various tasks, either carried out as a hobby or in the hope of gaining work experience. Their work is immensely valuable to our service and we are very grateful to them all. We hope that in return the volunteers will get something back in terms of improved well-being and the chance to meet other people and work as a team.
Over three hundred Wiltshire parish registers, dating back to 1538, have now been digitised by Ancestry working in partnership with Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, a service funded by Wiltshire Council and Swindon Borough Council. This will open up access to over 6 million names of ancestors who were baptised, married or buried in the county of Wiltshire. Ancestry.co.uk is a subscription based genealogical website which is available free of charge at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, and in libraries in Wiltshire and Swindon.
Wiltshire has had its fair share of famous inhabitants over the years. Among the people born in the county are talents as diverse as musician James Blunt, born in Tidworth; the actresses Billie Piper and Diana Dors, both daughters of Swindon; comedian David Mitchell, born in Salisbury; and even the Youtube vlogger Zoella, born in Lacock!
Famous people were not just born here, but have lived and died here too. War poet Siegfried Sassoon lived in Heytesbury; the creator of ‘James Bond’, Ian Fleming, is buried at Sevenhampton; and Prime Minister Edward Heath had his ashes interred in Salisbury Cathedral, among many others.
A small selection of the famous Wiltshire inhabitants you can uncover in the Wiltshire parish registers are:
Sir Christopher Wren - the architect who designed St Paul’s Cathedral, was born and baptised in the village of East Knoyle, in Wiltshire. Son of the rector of East Knoyle, also called Christopher, Sir Christopher was not the first child with that name. The first Christopher was baptised 22 November 1630.
Sadly but fairly typically of this era, the first Christopher did not survive, although his burial is not recorded in the registers.
The second Christopher, who went on to become the famous architect, was baptised the following year, 10 November 1631:
“Christopher 2d sonne of Christopher Wren D[oc]t[o]r in Divinitie & Rector”
I found this particularly interesting as according to the Dictionary of National Biography Christopher was born 20 October 1632 – so the last year is incorrect in the latter. I did double check the baptism register for 1632 and 1633 and there is definitely no further baptism of a Christopher Wren in that period.
Wren spent the first eight years of his life at East Knoyle, where he was educated by a local clergyman. His family moved to Windsor when his father became Dean there, and Wren completed his education at the University of Oxford. A distinguished scientist as well as a gifted architect, he and his colleagues were responsible for rebuilding at least fifty two churches in London, after the devastation caused by the Great Fire of 1666. His masterpiece was St Paul’s Cathedral, still a key feature of the London skyline today despite modern development. Other major projects he worked on are the Royal Naval College, Greenwich and the south front of Hampton Court Palace. He was buried on the 17th March 1723 in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
William Henry Fox Talbot is another Wiltshire inhabitant who achieved international fame.
Born in 1800 over the county border at his mother’s childhood home of Melbury, Dorset, Fox Talbot did not move to Lacock Abbey until 1828 (despite inheriting the estate at a very young age) as the property was leased to a tenant before this. While at Lacock William began to work on the project which has made him still famous today as one of the pioneers of modern photography – he developed the ‘calotype’ method of photography between 1837 and 1841. In 1842 he was rewarded with a medal from the Royal Society for his work, which facilitated the generation of any number of photographic prints from a single negative. Something of a renaissance man, Fox Talbot published various works on photography, botany, mathematics, astronomy and physics, as well as being a keen amateur archaeologist. He served as MP for Chippenham from 1832-1835, and was High Sheriff of Wiltshire in 1840. Fox Talbot died on 17 September 1877 and is buried in the churchyard of Lacock parish church. His burial is recorded in the parish registers of Lacock for 21 September 1877 thus:
Last but not least, I thought I would finish this survey of Wiltshire inhabitants with someone you may not have heard of but who perhaps deserves to be more well-known. Her name is Hannah Twynney (or Twynnoy) and she has the rare distinction of being the first person in Britain to be killed by a tiger! Hannah’s extraordinary death is recorded in both her tombstone in Malmesbury Abbey graveyard and in the parish register of burials, thus:
“October…24th Hannah Twynney Kild by a Tygre at the white lyon”
Her tombstone reads:
“In memory of Hannah Twynnoy Who died October 23rd 1703 Aged 33 years In bloom of life She’s snatched from hence She had not room to make defence; For Tyger fierce Took life away And here she lies In a bed of clay Until the Resurrection Day”
According to Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury there used to be a memorial to Hannah in Hullavington church which stated: “To the memory of Hannah Twynnoy. She was a servant of the White Lion Inn where there was an exhibition of wild beasts, and amongst the rest a very fierce tiger which she imprudently took pleasure in teasing, not withstanding the repeated remonstrance of its keeper. One day whilst amusing herself with this dangerous diversion the enraged animal by an extraordinary effort drew out the staple, sprang towards the unhappy girl, caught hold of her gown and tore her to pieces.”
Poor Hannah will be remembered for posterity for her foolishness, but who will spare a thought for the tiger, no doubt killed by its keepers soon after?!
"Gone were the buxom femininity of the Edwardian lady and the bluff machismo of the Edwardian gent. The new woman lopped off her hair, first bobbing it, then shingling it … and then cutting it all off into an Eton crop, the shortest of all. She wore cloche hats and sporty, androgynous-looking jumpers, her breasts bound beneath them. She wore scarlet lip-stick, she smoked and drank. And as the girls looked like boys, so the boys looked more like girls. They shaved their beards so that their faces were as smooth as their lacquered hair. Some wore make-up. This look of infantile androgyny both denied maturity and knowingly undermined the conventional distinction of sexual difference."
A Curious Friendship The story of a bluestocking and a bright young thing Anna Thomasson
The Fabric of Life is a Heritage Lottery Funded project which will see young people look at the history of fashion as a form of identity with particular focus on gender and sexuality. We are a partner in this Wiltshire Council’s Arts Service and Wiltshire Youth Arts Partnership (WYAP) project along with local museums like Trowbridge and Chippenham.
The project began in January this year and will culminate with an event in November. We’re pleased to have already hosted a group of young people here at the History Centre while another group have enjoyed a trip to the Fashion Museum in Bath.
Since then research has also taken place at local museums and given participants a real insight into the wealth of Wiltshire’s fabric history, how fashion has changed and how identity can be formed out of what we wear.
You can follow updates on the progress of the project on the Arts in Wiltshire blog which will be updated by Project Coordinator Emily Malcolm
We need your help
We need individuals and groups to help us gather data on public art in the community such as location of the item, its condition, what is known of it and a photograph of it in situ. Workshops will be run to help prepare, organise and collate material. Data collected as part of the project will be made available in the Local Studies Library at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre with images deposited in the Historic Photograph and Print Collection. The images will then be pinned to the Know Your Place site to map their location geographically.