Book review: From Domesday to Demolition: A History of the Flour Mill in Chippenham, Wiltshire 1086-1957

on Thursday, 22 July 2021. Posted in Architecture, Wiltshire Places

Dr Kay S. Taylor, 2015
ISBN 9781906 641818
72 pages
£6.95

The publication is one of a number of books in the series ‘Chippenham Studies’, aiming to describe subjects and places in the town and its vicinity.

Although the focus is understandably on the mill itself; the people who owned it, events that occurred such as the night attack and fire that destroyed the mill buildings in 1816, and the premises themselves, what is also included is a history of the manors associated with the mill, including Rowden and the Monkton Park Estate.

The twists and turns of ownership are laid bare alongside economic difficulties such as the impact of the corn law.

Also included is the information of the mill scale model of the C19 created by Michael Brotherwood in 2003.

Details abut the former uses and owners of properties associated with the mill and the redevelopment of the site which included the Island Park and the sad tale of the plane tree and the mill stone were fascinating. The photographs used to illustrate the text have been well chosen and varied, and the use of footnotes and a bibliography and index are a huge bonus for researchers.

The author notes that the mill was an iconic part of the town’s former landscape. This book is an interesting and detailed reminder of what was lost.

From Domesday to Demolition is available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre or to loan via your local library.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian

General Pitt Rivers: also known as the father of modern scientific archaeology

on Thursday, 01 July 2021. Posted in Archaeology

Chippenham Library Assistant Sue is our Local Studies Champion and she's very much looking forward to this month's Festival of Archaeology. Here's why!

Augustus Henry Lane Fox was born on April 14th, 1827. He inherited the rivers estate in the 1880s and through this he assumed the surname Pitt Rivers as well as the coat of arms. The Rushmore estate as it is better known, is situated within the boundaries of Cranbourne Chase.

Augustus Pitt Rivers
Augustus Pitt Rivers

His interest in archaeology began in the 1850s. He was one of the first archaeologists to investigate the prehistory of Wiltshire and to use antler picks, he also used flint and bone tools. He was highly methodical by the standard of the times focusing on everyday objects to understand the past, this gave a better insight into social conditions, which wasn’t usual practice at this time.


In August 1880 he began to excavate a round barrow in Cranborne Chase, a cremation was discovered with some fragments of bronze. It also contained flint implements and pieces of pot. After rebuilding the mound he planted a beech tree in memory of his friend Professor George Rolleston, he also named the barrow after his friend. The estate he inherited contained a wealth of archaeological material from the Roman and Saxon periods.


In April 1889 he started to excavate in Wansdyke in North Wiltshire. He found an iron knife, nail and fragments of Samian pottery. It is thought he stayed in Devizes during the excavation.

 Pitt Rivers depicted on the pub sign of 'The Museum' at Farnham'
Pitt Rivers depicted on the pub sign of 'The Museum' at Farnham', Dorset, near the Rushmore estate
He excavated over 40 sites and models of many of the sites were produced by craftsmen on his estate. His research and collections cover periods from the lower Palaeolithic to Roman and Medieval times. He owned 2 craniometers which was an instrument for measuring the size and shape of skulls.

His international collection of about 22,000 objects was the founding collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford. The Museum was built in 1885. His Wessex collection is housed in Salisbury Museum.


Pitt Rivers was appointed thee very first inspector of Ancient Monuments in 1882 because of his organisational skills and experience. There is a memorial to Pitt Rivers in St. Peters Church at Tollard Royal, he died on the 4th May 1900, his wife the honourable Alice Margaret Stanley who he married on the 3rd February 1853 is buried in the churchyard. They had 9 children who reached adulthood.

The Pitt Rivers Memorial in St. Peter's Church, Tollard Royal
The Pitt Rivers Memorial in St. Peter's Church, Tollard Royal

Sue, Chippenham Library

Further reading via your local library and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre


Bowden, Mark (1991). Pitt Rivers : the life and archaeological work of Lieutenant-General Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers, DCL, FRS, FSA. Ref. TOL.921
Mark, Bowden and Green, Adrian (2017). General Pitt-Rivers : Founding Father of Modern Archaeology. Ref. XPI.921 (available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre)
Cranstone, B. A. L. (1984). The General's gift : a celebration of the Pitt Rivers Museum centenary 1884-1984. Ref. 069.93

Hello from Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Team

on Thursday, 17 June 2021. Posted in Archaeology

I thought I would take this opportunity to introduce myself. My name is Anne Carney and I took on the role of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Partnership Manager in December 2020.

A little bit about me. I grew up in Northern Ireland during the troubles and I have now lived longer in England than in Ireland. I spent a large part of my childhood in Downpatrick surrounded by a range of historic sites which I must admit I took for granted at the time.

Some sites, such as Saul Church and Struell Wells are associated with St Patrick who came to this part of Ireland in 432 A.D. For me, however, the more memorable sites are the megalithic tombs, standing stones and the stone circles that litter the landscape. My dad didn’t seem to get much time off work but I remember that he always took my sister and me to one of these sites for a picnic each Easter. My favourite was the stone circle at Ballynoe. This could, of course, have been because my sister and I got to eat our Easter eggs in amongst the stones! To reach the stone circle you had to walk along a magical sunken lane, which in my young mind fairies lived and I still remember the sense of wonder I felt coming out of the green tunnel into the field with the stones. I also remember being annoyed that my dad (whom I thought knew everything) didn’t know who put the stones there or why. It would be some years before I would find out more about these types of monuments.

Amazing Wiltshire Museums

on Friday, 11 June 2021. Posted in Museums

This week is #MuseumWeek – a worldwide festival for cultural institutions on social media. So it seems a perfect time to talk about some of the amazing museums that can be found across Wiltshire. Whatever your interests - from archaeology to transport to modern art - you will find something that appeals and inspires.

Like many other spaces, museums have been closed for much of the last year due to the pandemic. They are now able to re-open and have been looking forward to welcoming back the public once again, having made all the necessary arrangements to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit following the latest national lockdown. You can find out more information about museums in the county by visiting the Museum in Wiltshire website.

There are so many great museums it’s difficult to know where to kick off, so to quote The Sound of Music, ‘let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start’ by looking at some of the earliest objects from Wiltshire.

To find out about more about Wiltshire’s prehistory, you can’t beat Wiltshire Museum, Devizes and Salisbury Museum. Both are home to collections designated as having national or international importance, which tell the story of Wiltshire over the last 500,000 years.

Wiltshire Museum has beautiful gold items from the time of Stonehenge, some of my other favourites items on display are these exquisitely worked bronze age arrowheads.

Museum display case with gold items and other archaeological findsThree finely worked bronze age arrowheads at Wiltshire Museum

Salisbury Museum’s award-winning Wessex Gallery includes the Amesbury Archer and finds from Stonehenge.

Crust Basils, Sod Oils and Doeskin

on Friday, 21 May 2021. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire Places

Redevelopment of a former tannery site into a mix of housing and business use prompted research into the business that had previously existed there. In the centre of the village of Holt is a local business that provided employment from the 1770s until the latter part of the 20th century. The business was based on tanning and the use of leather as a material. The earliest use of leather can be dated to the Palaeolithic period and is depicted in cave paintings in Spain, showing its use as a material for clothing. The strength of the material also meant that it had other uses, including for buckets and bags, horse tack, fastenings and jewellery to name a few.

The business of J. & T. Beaven Ltd. was at one time a major employer in the village of Holt and generations of local families provided their workforce and passed down their skills. Their story begins with Christopher Beaven who bought the property in 1758, which later became the administration offices for the business. His nephew, Thomas Beaven, moved from Semington to Holt to work in the business, which was then described as a ‘Woolstapler, Fellmonger and Leather Dresser’ Business. Through his marriage he also had a stake in a Fellmongering yard at Westbury, a separate branch of the Holt business. Thomas’ sons, James and Thomas, took over the business after their father’s untimely death in 1810 by drowning in the Semington Brook near Whaddon. Sadly, James discovered his father’s body after he failed to return home. The ‘J’ and ‘T’ in the business name refers to these two sons and they continued the business by purchasing fleece wools from farms in Wiltshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire. They were later joined by the sons of Thomas junior; Albert, who was a sailor and worked in the business after twenty years at sea, Frederick Thomas who worked in the business from a young age and Edwin Charles who really wanted to become a lawyer but returned to Holt to work in the family business. It was very much a family concern and in 1935 could proudly boast that 14 male employees plus the chairman had all served the business for 50 years or more. The local Usher family had over 100 years of uninterrupted loyal service to the firm. This gives an indication of the importance of Beaven’s as a local employer during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Warminster Lake Pleasure Grounds

on Wednesday, 05 May 2021. Posted in Wiltshire People, Wiltshire Places

 Sign on a brick wall reading 'Welcome to Lake Pleasure Grounds' with a drawing of a tree, water and bandstand. Asked to do a piece for Local History Month I was considering various buildings and people of Warminster. Then with the ongoing Covid virus affecting us all I remembered my lunch time walk through the town park. A glorious spring day, people were meeting friends and family. A joyous sight, seeing grannies and grandads meeting up with young grandchildren, not seen for weeks, friends were picnicking from a distance. There was a lot of smiles and laughter. A real tonic for people after a long lockdown. We are so lucky to have this lovely environment to go to. Long may it be a place for meeting friends and family, for children to play in the playground, and paddle in the paddling pool. For friends to sit on bench’s round the lake, admiring the ducks on the lake, the glorious trees and lovely flowers. The Smallbrook Nature Reserve to walk through with lovely wildflowers and lots of birds, what’s not to like!

The History of the Park

The idea for the Town Park was originally suggested and designed as a Remembrance of the Coronation of King George V in 1911. This did not happen then, but was brought up again in 1922. After the First World War unemployment was high so it became a work creation scheme. A loan was received from The Ministry of Health in the December, and the Unemployment Grants Committee also paid an unemployment grant. Half the £8,000 cost of scheme was wages for the workers.

The site chosen was the town’s Old Refuse Tip in Weymouth Street, a boggy area, and the need for a major removal of soil, then levelling the site.

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