Wildlife in the Moulton Archives

on Wednesday, 20 July 2022. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire People, Wiltshire Places

Alex Moulton’s personal archive is packed full of interesting material on his engineering and design work, as you might expect, but one of the things that’s always caught my eye in the collection is Moulton’s interest in the natural world. The Hall estate provided him with ample opportunities to indulge his interest: until the 2000s it offered a range of wildlife habitats including the river Avon and the estate millstream, woodland both in the grounds and at Great Bradford Wood, the house’s grounds themselves, and marshland around the Avon south of Bradford Wood.

Amongst Moulton’s personal papers I recently discovered two books which Moulton and his friends & employees seem to have used to record their sightings, both dating from around 1970. The first is a scrapbook logging wildlife sighted in the estate, into which someone has carefully glued drawings of various species seen on the grounds.

4433 286 1 1

© Alex Moulton Charitable Trust

This volume seems to be more of a log book, but occasionally there are more detailed notes about the animals’ behaviours, as well as accompanying photographs.

4433 286 1 2

4433 286 1 4

© Alex Moulton Charitable Trust

The second is a small RSPB Field Notebook, into which Moulton and his friends & colleagues have entered detailed accounts of their wildlife encounters. Both books give us a fascinating glimpse into the animals that passed through the estate or made it their home.

The Joy of Faculties

on Thursday, 07 July 2022. Posted in Archives, History Centre, Wiltshire Places

1 d1 61 40 7 a Seend

Design for a stained-glass window at the Church of the Holy Cross, Seend, 1904 (reference D1/61/40/7)

The History Centre is home to the archive of the Diocese of Salisbury – a vast and fascinating collection which continues to grow with new additions of modern diocesan papers. One of its most useful and revealing series is the diocesan faculties.

What is a Faculty?

Faculties concern building alteration projects on parish churches, churchyards and other church-owned properties. Church buildings, their contents and grounds are protected by the Faculty Jurisdiction. Under this legislation any significant alterations, repairs or additions needed to gain official diocesan consent before they could be carried out. As such a faculty acts as a sort of ecclesiastical planning permission.

Book review: Calne Place Names: discover the history of Calne through its place names

on Thursday, 30 June 2022. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Calne Place Names: discover the history of Calne through its place names
Tim Havenith, 2020
ISBN: 9798651881871
270 pages, illustrated

This A-Z of place names for Calne is much more than just a gazetteer. It begins with a look at some of the town’s developments, such as details of the award-winning Phase II which included the new library building, and also details forthcoming developments which have been put on hold due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Each entry has been carefully researched with details setting the place name in its wider historical context where possible. You can discover fascinating information about the people of the town whose names have become immortalised, such as Arthur George Angell, fruiter, grocer and mayor.

Calne Place Names is a good mix of historical and modern information, bringing the past and present together; there is a real feel of community running through the pages.

The entries are varied: from the fascinating look behind the ‘Doctor’s Pond’ plaque, to Guthrie Close and its links to Mrs Guthrie’s training school for female servants, to the search for Calne’s castle.

Engaging and clearly written with easy to view dates of origin for the streets, the book also makes it easy to locate the sources for the information, found in useful end notes. Varied quotes are included which provide added interest and with over 380 entries, this book is the culmination of what must have been a long-term research project. The dedication and enthusiasm of the author is apparent throughout its pages.

An interesting and enjoyable read for anyone who wants to discover more about Calne or who is looking at beginning their own research project but is not sure where to start.

You can view Calne Place Names at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and Calne Library, or borrow it via your local library, reference CAL.940.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian

The Bersted Sword

on Tuesday, 07 June 2022. Posted in Archaeology, Conservation, History Centre

A truly fascinating and very significant object has returned to our studio for conservation work, and I have been the lucky conservator to work on it, on behalf of the Novium Museum.

The Bersted sword is over 2000 years old, discovered during excavations for a new housing estate in Bersted, West Sussex. It was found with the remains of a man, since dubbed the ‘mystery warrior’, alongside his helmet and a very elaborate and unusual headdress. Archaeologists believe he was a refugee French Gallic fighter who fled Julius Caesar's Roman Army in Europe around 50BC.

The sword itself is bent into a v-shape, understood to be a ritual ‘killing’ of the weapon at the time of burial with its deceased owner.

A bent metal object lying on top of soft packaging covered in corrosion
Figure 1- The Bersted sword in 2010, before investigative cleaning

X-rays and investigative cleaning were undertaken by CMAS in 2010, which were able to expose parts of the sword beneath the thick corrosion products, revealing that it is fused to a ribbed iron scabbard, complete with intact suspension loop and two copper alloy rings for attaching the scabbard to a belt. Remarkably, remains of horn, which is a material frequently lost due to decomposition on burial, are still present on the hilt. The tip of the sword was missing, but discovered separately during the excavation.

A Common problem – part 1: Marginal settlement in Warminster

on Friday, 27 May 2022. Posted in Architecture, Wiltshire Places

How many people living in Warminster now are aware that certain streets on the south side of Warminster were once part of a completely separate squatter community? We recently completed a historic building study on the south edge of Warminster Common, and were utterly fascinated to discover its unique identity. This area is now rather quaint, with the stone and brick houses on a much smaller scale than those found in the main town. There are some regular streets running through the main settlement, but with scattered housing around the edges joined by little leafy lanes, giving a higgledy-piggledy appearance.

It is hard to think that this was the forerunner of a modern sink estate, and apparently legendary in its vicissitudes of human behaviour. A settlement had begun in the western section of Warminster Common by the 16th century. Animal herders built shelters along the Cannimore Brook, soon to be joined by vagrants, those seeking work and possibly outlaws. Small dwellings were constructed, the occupants being attracted by the availability of land and good sources of water; the brook itself and springs. Dwellings constructed overnight on common and waste land resulted in squatters rights, which were eventually converted to freeholds. By 1582, a number of homeless people had constructed substandard houses of mud and straw or rubble stone with roughly thatched roofs.


Extract from the Andrews and Dury map of 1773. Warminster Common is not named, but is shown below the title ‘Sambourne’ as a separate settlement along the Cannimore brook.

Attempts were made between 1739 and 1770 to stop the expansion of substandard and overcrowded dwellings without success. Lord Weymouth in 1770 made a specific attempt to take over the freeholds of cottages on Warminster Common by inviting his ‘tenants’ to dinner:

Book Review: The Hiding Places

on Thursday, 28 April 2022. Posted in Wiltshire Places

The Hiding Places
Katherine Webb
ISBN 9781409148586
408 pages

The Hiding PlacesThis Wiltshire author is an emerging talent who is now able to pursue writing full-time.The fictional tale of murder and intrigue, set in the sheltered community of Slaughterford is an interesting read.The story centres around the newly wed and new arrival at the manor, Irene Hadleigh; the tentative relationship which is formed with the stable girl ‘Pudding’ under extreme circumstances and on Irene’s internal search for herself.

Social relationships of people living in this rural community are uncovered and descriptions of the country and settlement along the By Brook. The local towns of Chippenham and Corsham are also represented.The difficulties of mental health problems and the legacy of WWI on families and communities are also touched on in a sensitive and empathetic way.There are deceits to uncover and the story takes an unusual twist which is cleverly conceived and executed.

An enjoyable and engaging read with local interest.

Available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre (reference XWE.823 ) and on loan from Wiltshire Libraries.

Julie Davis, County Local Studies Librarian

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