The launch was held recently at Corsham Town Hall – from which there are excellent views of the High Street - attended by nearly 60 members of the public with numerous others having sent apologies but confirming their interest. Those attending included town councillors and officers. There were short speeches welcoming and supporting the project by representatives of the Corsham Civic Society, Wiltshire Buildings Record and the former Corsham Area Heritage group.
David Clarke, an eminent buildings historian, co-author of Burford: Buildings and People in a Cotswold Town and Secretary of The Oxfordshire Buildings Record, was the guest speaker and spoke about the highly relevant aspects of that project to the Corsham High Street Project [CHSP].
John Maloney, Project Facilitator and Corsham Civic Society representative, introduced the proceedings and began: Honorary Chairman, Julian Orbach (editor of the forthcoming updated edition of the Wiltshire volume of the Buildings of England), sends his apologies as because of a long-standing prior engagement he cannot be here this evening. He also sends his very best wishes for the project and asked me to say the following words on his behalf:
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner said in 1963 'Corsham has no match in Wiltshire for wealth of good houses. There are in fact no bad ones, and there are a few of really high merit'. He meant in particular the High Street, as at that date Corsham had barely begun to expand. There are many assumptions about the houses, their dates, for whom they were built, and how they worked, but we still know little. Even that much-used term 'weavers' houses' is elusive. To understand in depth what makes the High Street of Corsham such a memorable sequence requires a close look at each building, and this project promises to do that, by which the history of Corsham, and Wiltshire, will be enriched.
John noted that in order for a funding application to be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) it needed to demonstrate that sufficient owners/tenants in the High Street were prepared to allow access for recording to make the project viable and he was pleased to report that there already has been a very good response from owners of High Street buildings to informal soundings about agreeing access to their properties for recording. He made a point of stating that internal recording of buildings would be undertaken and managed strictly as agreed beforehand with owners and the aim was to record only internal features of historic significance: modern alterations and additions were not of interest and would not be noted. He stressed that in every sense it is intended that such work is non-intrusive. Thomas Brakspear, a local resident and specialist in historic buildings, who kindly agreed to be a Patron of the project, spoke of his experiences moving to Corsham and made the amusing and valid point that owners shouldn’t be concerned about the tidiness of their houses as CHSP members would be mainly intent on getting into their attics!
John noted that the project committee would ensure that every owner taking part will be provided with a free illustrated copy of their building’s report and acknowledgement in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre archives and, ultimately, the published book.
He mentioned that little more than a decade ago, the Corsham Civic Society successfully completed the HLF funded project for the restoration of the late 19th century Mayo Memorial which was erected in to the memory of Charles Mayo, a notable benefactor to the town. Colleagues on the CHSP committee were involved and so the society has a good track record with HLF. It was encouraging that on that very day work had begun on one of the oldest known buildings in the High Street which was having its roof ‘raised’ and repaired!
The speakers came together as a panel and a good ‘question and answer’ session ensued and discussion continued informally over refreshments.
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record
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.
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.
We are pleased to be running another six-week course this year, this time on 'Sources for Local History'.
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!
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.’
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.
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?!