In the last quarter of 2019 we received several new archives to add to our resources. From artists’ sketchbooks to property documents, all our new acquisitions further our knowledge and enjoyment of the history of our county. Here are a few recent highlights.
In November we acquired a range of documents from the Wiltshire-born artist Janet Boulton (collection reference 4469). Early in her career Janet worked at the Westinghouse Brake and Signal Company in Chippenham, and during her lunchbreaks made sketches of urban landscapes and factory details. We have acquired two of Janet’s sketchbooks plus some of her monoprints and colour collages. These were inspired by her time at Westinghouse and by industrial equipment at a farm at Stanton Fitzwarren. Janet has a long association with the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, going back over 40 years, from her early exhibition Windows and Reflections in 1977 to her 2017 'A Seeming Diversity' retrospective. Janet’s work was also included in a 2019 exhibition at Salisbury Museum. Both these latter events formed part of the HLF-funded Creative Wiltshire initiative.
From Westbury we have a scrapbook donated by the Westbury Town Twinning Association, to add to their existing collection of newsletters, minutes and programmes (reference 4130). This loose volume includes items from the early years of the association in the late 1970s until its termination in 1998, such as newspaper cuttings, photographs, invitations and paper souvenirs.
Elsewhere in Westbury comes an accrual to the archives of the Westbury and District Hospital League of Friends. This new addition (references J2/163/25 and J2/163/26)) comprises pages from a scrapbook packed with newspaper cuttings and event invitations, plus a printed history of the Friends organisation. The group was established in 1954 by George and Phyllis Cundrick, and over the years raised around half a million pounds for the hospital. The collection also documents the Friends’ protests against the threatened closure of the hospital. Sadly the hospital finally closed in 2012 after over 100 years of service to the town, after which the Friends continued to raise money to support healthcare provision in the community.
Our friends at Athelstan Museum in Malmesbury have transferred to us a series of property documents from the nineteenth century concerning properties in the Market Cross and Oxford Street area of the town (collection reference 3678D). These leases, conveyances and other legal documents make reference to various parties from the town and beyond, including the Reverend George Rushout Bowles of Burford House, Shropshire, who by the 1860s was Lord of the Manor of Malmesbury and Westport. These properties changed hands at various points during the nineteenth century, so the collection provides useful information on the buildings and their ownership.
Our archive of the Great Western Railway already includes over 18,000 plans and drawings depicting railway buildings, engineering structures and tracks from all over the British Isles. To this massive collection has been added a modest but welcome accrual of three track diagrams dating from between 1952 and 1968. Specifically, these depict the Amesbury Ground Frame (catalogue reference 2515/410/2205MS), the Salisbury Tunnel Junction (2515/410/2206MS) and the Westbury South signal box (2515/410/2207MS). Another piece of the huge GWR jigsaw has fallen into place.
The Friends of Malmesbury Abbey have donated a collection of their minutes, newsletters and correspondence (reference 4310). This includes correspondence regarding alterations to the Abbey’s fittings such as the provision of a new organ and the refurbishment of the Parvise exhibition area. In addition, we now have a plan and section of the abbey made by the architect Harold Brakspeare in the 1920s, which outlines proposed repairs to the pulpit, lectern and misericords. The collection also sheds light on a design competition for a new sculpture for the East Wall, held between 1967 and 1969. As well as correspondence, this file (4310/4/2) contains photographs, cuttings, minutes and reports on the submitted designs. The winning sculptor TB Huxley-Jones died the day after winning and a second design, by Walter Ritchie was selected in its place. Ritchie's scheme was approved by numerous official organisations but rejected by the Cathedrals Advisory Committee Inspectors in 1969 and subsequently no commission was undertaken. The space remains unfilled to this day.
And finally we have received a fascinating 1947 sale catalogue concerning the sale of large portions of the Longleat estate (reference 4472/1). The sale was necessary to pay death duties, presumably following the death of the fifth Marquess of Bath the previous year. The sale comprises over 200 lots including many houses, farms and plots of agricultural land, as well as the George Inn at Longbridge Deverill. This is a valuable social history document for its evidence of field sizes and uses, and its descriptions of identifiable properties in parishes including Corsley, Chapmanslade, Crockerton, Sutton Veny and Warminster.
As always, we are grateful to all our donors for contributing their collections to the History Centre. Further details of these and the rest of our holdings can be found on our archive catalogue. The collections themselves can be made available for research in our reading room.
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.