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.
Do you enjoy history and listening to stories? Join us for a brand new reading group: The Memory Box. Our group is meeting on the first and third Monday afternoon of every month, beginning 7th January 2019, 2-3.30pm.
We'll meet and 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.
This HLF project, in conjunction with Wiltshire Council, Swindon Borough Council and participating museums and archives in Wiltshire, is now in its final year. We have made many purchases, adding to creative collections in the county by allowing curators to select significant pieces that will fill gaps in their collections while telling the story of creators who have been inspired by the beauty of our county. Participating museums include Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Salisbury Museum, Chippenham Museum, Trowbridge Museum, Pewsey Heritage Centre, Athelstan Museum, Swindon Local Studies and the Young Gallery in Salisbury.
An end of project exhibition will be taking place at Salisbury Museum from January to May 2019 and we are delighted to announce that we have employed an Exhibitions Assistant Trainee to plan and run this event. The one day a week post over the next ten months will provide valuable experience in Heritage Services, allowing our trainee to gain valuable knowledge and understanding about how a museum exhibition works, while being mentored by the Salisbury Museum Curator and staff. We are very pleased to be able to offer this unique role as part of Creative Wiltshire.
Our group of ARTeologists are planning their second exhibition, which will run from October 13th to November 3rd at Chippenham Museum. Their journey has been about exploring this ever growing Creative Wiltshire collection as a catalyst for new work and the results are beautiful and inspiring, illustrating the benefit of looking at past work of creative people to inform future directions. We are proud to see the collections used in this way. Their final exhibition will take place at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, from January 11th to February 16th 2019.
Some of the work we have purchased has concentrated on representing artists associated with the Bath of Academy of Art based at Corsham Court. It became an important educational establishment for the training of young artists thanks to the commitment of Clifford Ellis and his wife Rosemary who were instrumental in the success of the BAA. You may be interested in the upcoming exhibition at the Victoria Art Gallery, Bath; Making Art Matter. Clifford and Rosemary Ellis which is on display from 8th September to 25th November 2018.
We have also purchased work by this family; artwork has been added to the Chippenham Museum collection and archive material added to the archives held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre thereby demonstrating the importance of art education and the role of creativity in the everyday.
Wild Life in a Southern County by Richard Jefferies Wallachia Publishers, modern reprint, 2015 (first published 1887) Unpaginated, paperback Wiltshire Local Studies Library Reference XJE.570
Richard Jefferies was born in Coate, Swindon, and his love of the countryside in an around his childhood home was a great influence on his work. Jefferies was a versatile writer, publishing a children’s book and a work of science fiction, but he is best known for his nature writing. His works The Amateur Poacher (1879) and Round About a Great Estate (1880) have drawn the most attention in this genre; I chose to read Wild Life in a Southern County as a modern reprint to see what it had to offer.
The look of the book and text is more modern in feel, but this does not detract from the content in any way although the text is a little small. However, the lack of pagination is a limitation when wanting to revisit certain parts of the book and the uncertainty of how the book is arranged in comparison to the original publication is a point to consider.
Great detail is given on the habits of various species of bird in the scientific manner of study and observation, interposed with the author’s own thoughts and experiences. It is fascinating to read these entries for species such as the kingfisher and swallow. A colourful picture is created of the beauty of the creatures that Jefferies’ observes and their interaction with their environment and the human world. His description of the blackbird in Chapter 9 is poetic in nature. Jefferies included fascinating details in this book such as the folklore that surrounded the wildlife and more soberingly, how they could be hunted. His thoughts on this subject provide a fascinating insight into the mind-set of those living in the late 19th century with matter of fact descriptions of hunting and the reasons for it sounding quite alien to modern-day views.
Jefferies possesses an almost magical touch in the way he describes the landscape, this being almost mythical and dreamlike in places. The information gained from these sections is a descriptive view of the north Wiltshire landscape at a point in time although actual locations are omitted.
The author also describes farming practices, the work of craftsmen, ancient customs such as St. Thomas’ Day, the Clerk’s Ale and folk lore, and the routines of village clubs and friendly societies.
Flora and the seasons are also noted; “All the summer through fresh beauties, indeed, wait upon the owner’s footsteps. In the spring the mowing grass rises thick, strong, and richly green, or hidden by the cloth-of-gold thrown over it by the buttercups!”
Wildlife enthusiasts and those interested in local history, landscape history and folklore should very much enjoy this book. It is a shame that Jefferies himself died tragically at the age of 38 in 1887, the year this book was first published.
Other editions of Wildlife in a Southern County are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre ref: AAA.590.
Housed in the Typography and Communications department, the Centre originated with the work of Maurice Rickards, a great collector of ephemeral material until his death in 1998. Maurice was determined to demonstrate the diversity of ephemera and its potential for study. He collected 20,000 items for use by researchers and students at the University. The Centre was inaugurated by Lord Briggs in May 1993. Asa Briggs, the distinguished social and cultural historian, had long been an advocate of the study of ephemera and agreed to become the Centre's first Patron.
Our visit began, perhaps as it should, at the very beginning of the printing process, viewing the department’s current exhibition on the history of printing including its very own replica handmade traditional wooden printing press similar to the one that was used in Europe by Gutenberg in the 15th century, built by a researcher. Experiments had been done using this press with inks and paper to recreate a page from the early printed bible and other texts. We were also shown later letterpress, intaglio and lithography presses which the Typography and Communications students are allowed to use to great effect for their research projects. I can tell you that the smell from the ink and those metal machines was wonderful!
We moved on to meet the Centre’s Director Michael Twyman and long-term volunteer Mrs Pepys who talked us through the history of the collection, which has expanded massively since its early days; how the collection is managed and arranged. The material is sorted first before being categorised on ephemera database sheets and moved to its permanent housing in flat archival storage boxes. Items are grouped according to topic and are mounted on boards using archivally approved materials to protect them as they are often single bits of paper which can be quite fragile.
A thesaurus of ephemera types is used to ensure consistency, and the team are working with the Bodleian Library and European partners towards ensuring consistently over Europe in future years. The Centre proactively looks at current trends and new topics to add to the collection.
The collection is proving to be of huge value to students, researchers; even an interior designer has found a wealth of material as inspiration for their designs. English literature, history and social history are all represented here. The team at Reading are also involved with the Ephemera Society, internationally recognised as the leading authority in this field and concerned with the collection, conservation, study and educational use of printed and hand-written ephemera.
Rickards himself noted that ephemera is 'the minor transient documents of everyday life'. It is material that is often thought of as inconsequential, easily forgotten and thrown away, but in fact it can prove to be a fascinating source of treasures which help to chart the history of who we are. It is the aim of the Centre that visitors are able to feel at ease with the collection, to make a connection with the material of all shapes and sizes in order to bring history alive, as it most certainly did for us.
The sheer variety of items ranging from beer mats, dance cards and greetings cards, invitations, bills, letters, posters, public notices and even an envelope with a feather marking the advent of ‘express delivery’ was breathtaking. It was exciting and rewarding for us to have the opportunity to connect with others and share the joy and wonderment that is ephemera in all its glory. Many thanks go to Laura Weill the Assistant Curator for giving us the opportunity to visit and find out more. We will certainly be looking to expand our collections at The Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and at Salisbury Library, and to show others just how fascinating they truly are! Why not pay us a visit to discover what your Wiltshire ephemera collection has to offer…