Articles tagged with: Wiltshire

Feasting on Heritage

on Wednesday, 14 March 2018.

What is a Wiltshire loaf if it’s not bread? And who knew that kisses contain calories?!

You can discover the answers to these culinary questions and sample some tasty heritage recipes when we throw open our doors for its first ever Food Festival.

We are celebrating Wiltshire’s food and drink heritage on 14 April with a day of free activities, talks and displays. The Women’s Institute will also be on hand with a pop-up café, selling tea, coffee and heritage cakes throughout the day.

Food historian and author Sally McPherson and chef Deborah Loader will talk about the history of food and the herbs and spices used as flavourings down the ages. Sally has carried out extensive research at the History Centre for her books M’Lady’s Book of Household Secrets: Recipes, Remedies and Essential Etiquette and The Royal Heritage Cookbook.

For visitors wanting an actual taste of Wiltshire heritage there will be a pop-up café run by volunteers, and led by Alison Williams, from Lacock WI. Members will be recreating some of the historic recipes held in the archive and visitors will have the chance to sample the results, including possets, raspberry and ginger cheesecake, and traditional ice cream. All good cafés need cake and they will also be producing such delights as chocolate porter cake, violet cakes, Duke of York’s cake, Maids of Honour and kisses (small meringues).

Wiltshire is of course famous for its cheese and dairy industries and we are delighted that local cheese-maker Ceri Cryer will be joining in on the day. She has revived the traditional Wiltshire Loaf, a semi-hard cheese popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, which she makes at the Brinkworth Dairy using her great grandfather’s recipe. Ceri will be talking about the cheese and there will be samples to try.

Going back even further in time, and one for the children, local historian Lucy Whitfield will be creating medieval gingerbread and a Roman olive relish.

If that is not historic enough you can discover just what the builders of Stonehenge were eating 4,500 years ago. Historians from English Heritage will be on hand with a display on food and feasting at the ancient monument, including the latest archaeological research which reveals what our ancestors were eating, how they cooked and that early man probably invented the concept of food miles.

18th century cheesecake recipe from the Lacock archive

The day would not be complete without a display of just some of the fascinating archives housed here – from sumptuous feasts enjoyed by the wealthy people to the diet of gruel endured by workhouse inmates. Wiltshire’s bacon and dairy industries will also be celebrated with displays about Bowyers, Harris’ and Nestlé.

Sources for Local History Course

on Tuesday, 16 January 2018.

We are pleased to be running another six-week course this year, this time on 'Sources for Local History'.

postcard [colour], ducking chair last used in a pond near the Crown Hotel, High Street, now in Town Hall, Wootton Bassett, Wiltshie, 1908

The course is designed to help you discover the wealth of archives and published resources available for researching local history led by our team of professional archivists and the County Local Studies Librarian.

The sessions will take place on Tuesday mornings from Tuesday 1 May to 5 June 9.30am-1pm.

The cost is £40 for 6 sessions. Places are limited to 20 so book your place now on 01249 705500!


Bright Ideas in Salisbury

on Tuesday, 04 July 2017.

In 2016 ArtCare, the charitable art service at Salisbury District Hospital, were awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to start looking after the amazing medical and historical collection at Salisbury District Hospital.  During this work, guess what they found…

The story of the first kidney dialysis machine created, here in Salisbury, in 1946 by Dr Darmady.  Not only that, it was made using parts recycled from  WW2 Spitfire Engines that had been built in secret in Salisbury city and ArtCare have film footage to prove it!

Inspired by this past, ArtCare have set up a Crowdfunder project to work with students and young people to motivate future inventors for healthcare and engineering.

Salisbury District Hospital has a long tradition of medical innovation and in our history collection we have discovered loads of examples that could be used to inspire future inventors and engineers.   

There is the Odstock Dropped Foot Stimulator (ODFS®) that helps patients walk independently again after Stoke, spinal or brain injury.  Innovative instruments used by Burns Unit Plastic Surgeons created by Mr Barron at Salisbury District Hospital and lots of titanium inserts used in reconstructive surgery

Lesley Meaker, ArtCare’s history project co-ordinator, says ‘Rather than these items lying around in the storerooms or languishing in the archives ArtCare want to inspire young people, schools and youth groups to come up with the next generation of incredible machines, adaptations and designs to help the future world of medicine and ArtCare have created a challenge for these creative inventors called Bright Ideas.’

To find out more

What is Bright Ideas?  ArtCare want to create an annual challenge cup for any person or team under the age of 21 to enter an invention or idea of future medical machines. ArtCare will work with wide range of schools, youth groups and community venues in the Salisbury and South Wiltshire region over the coming year to get the pilot scheme off the ground.

There will be 3 medal categories, a shield and a cup in our challenge:

• Re-purpose and re-cycling
• Healthy innovation, adaptation or improvement to human lives
• Wild-card (open theme)
• Best teamwork shield
• Overall winning idea

The project will be extended out to a wider audience through the availability of online materials, including inspiring ideas and experiments

Your support will mean ArtCare and Salisbury Hospital can provide a unique chance for schools and young people to get real, hands-on experience of medicine, engineering and local history, with resources to inspire imagination and learning outside the classroom. 

If you are interested in taking part or want more information contact ArtCare: 01722 336262 ext 5618, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  and online

Wiltshire Parish Registers

on Friday, 19 May 2017.

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. 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.

Image: National Portrait Gallery

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.

William Henry Fox Talbot public domain image

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:

For more information about the Talbot family of Lacock please see:

Hannah Twynnoy

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?!

Other examples of wild animals in the county can be found at:

Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre


Treasure Hunting in the National Trust Archives

on Saturday, 21 November 2015.

People often think of archives in terms of national historical importance – the Magna Carta, for instance, or the Domesday Books, or the Atlantic Charter – which is indeed true. What is less well-known is the importance of archiving for organisations, councils and companies: the charities, government structures and businesses that are a large part of society’s fabric. Documents such as minutes, agreements, court cases and correspondence all link an organisation to their past, and all may be needed in the future.

We at The National Trust are currently carrying out a complete review of our records and archives. Being the second largest landowner in Great Britain, The National Trust has hundreds of thousands of files, which are mostly stored in an old stone mine just outside of Bath. A lot of these files aren’t catalogued - so nobody knows exactly what’s down there. Our project objective is to decide which of these need to be kept and archived and which need to be destroyed, and to catalogue accurately and in detail those we decide to keep – making it easier for others to access the information and to preserve The National Trust’s history for the future.

Our usual process for sorting our records consists of the files arriving at our workshop, which are then appraised and catalogued: staff look through the files, and using a retention schedule, appraisal guidelines and a good sprinkling of common sense, decide whether they need to be kept permanently or destroyed. Those which are destroyed are shredded, but those which are kept are catalogued on our Archives and Records Management System (ARMS) with a title, a unique ID, keywords and a description of what the file contains – which can be anything from war damage claims to disgruntled tenants to property acquisitions. Some of the files are horrible – staples so rusty they have completely crumbled, cardboard covers water damaged and on their last legs – so we replace the metal and file covers and send the finished items, reprocessed and repackaged, back for storage.

However, this week we have been based at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, where we keep our permanent archives. These are any executive and regional committee minutes, any important documents which show us how the Trust has developed over time, and anything that dates before 1940. As the Trust began in 1895 this covers just 45 years, but some of the most important years for the charity: the original acquisitions, statutory rights, the war years – in general, the work that would be the foundations for the flourishing charity we are now.

Most of the archives we’ve been cataloguing this week have fallen into the latter category – that is, they are all dated pre-1940, and, as a result, we have come across some intensely interesting documents.

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