The County Car, 1902-1906

on Friday, 14 January 2022. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire People

December 1903 saw the introduction of the Motor Car Act. A requirement of the new act meant that owners of existing and new vehicles had to register their motor vehicles with the local authority. Under the act, each registered vehicle was assigned a registration number, which had to be displayed at the front and the back of the car. This caused many car owners to complain, who felt they were being treated as if they drove Hackney carriages. The first car to appear in the newly opened vehicle register was a vehicle not owned by a wealthy landowner, as you may expect, but was, in fact, owned by Wiltshire County Council. This vehicle was purchased in 1902 and was used for official county business; in effect was the County Car.

WSHC F3/500/1

“AM-1 was registered on the 12th of December 1903 to Wiltshire County Council, Charles Septimus Adye, the County Surveyor, County Offices, Trowbridge. 10hp Benz Parsifal; four seated tonneau body, painted blue with yellow lines; 17¾cwt; County purposes”.

Book Review: Stourhead: Henry Hoare’s Paradise Revisited

on Wednesday, 05 January 2022. Posted in Wiltshire Places

Stourhead: Henry Hoare’s Paradise Revisited
Dudley Dodd
Head of Zeus, 2021
ISBN: 978178854620
319 pages
£40

A book cover showing autumnal trees, mist over the lake looking towards the Pantheon garden temple.In his introduction to this publication James Stourton, Stour Provost, tells us of the author’s feeling of the garden as ‘enduring rather than timeless’. Dodd looks to capture these enduring changes, of the owners, the history and landscape of this iconic site, to help us learn more about it and how it came to be.

From Stourhead: Henry Hoare’s Paradise Revisited we learn more about the dominant characters who have shaped the life of the house and gardens. Dodd enables us to get closer to the Hoare family; entrepreneurs who managed to gain a standing in society. Their interest in art and culture is illuminated, as is their expansion of creativity towards the gardens too which led to rich imaginings and radical ideas. The Hoares, like many, toured Italy, bringing a little of the country back with them through the items they bought and the influences that helped develop the house and landscape.

Cinema Comes to Wiltshire

on Friday, 17 December 2021. Posted in Architecture, Archives, Wiltshire Places

A grand building façade with boarded windows and a large sign above second story reading 'Palace' with bright blue sky behind.
The façade of the former Picture Palace, Chippenham as it looks today

Cinema as an art form has its origins in the late Nineteenth Century, when a range of techniques were developed to give paying audiences the impression of moving images beamed onto a screen. Most techniques deployed a machine through which a sequence of connected photos were driven. These amusements were usually presented by travelling exhibitors, who toured society gatherings, music halls or fairgrounds. By the 1900s photographs had made way for cellulose nitrate film which though effective in purveying motion, were also highly flammable. Following several fires the government was prompted to regulate this fledgeling industry

The resulting Cinematograph Act of 1909 gave local councils the power to grant annual licenses for the exhibition of films, provided safety precautions were in place. Breaches of these safeguards could result in a fine of £20 – a considerable sum to any proprietor. Demand for moving pictures was huge and following the Act various entrepreneurs invested their money in creating permanent cinema buildings. Though by no means complete, here are a few fine examples of early picture houses in Wiltshire.

A partially coloured plan showing building elevation for 'Queen's Hall' 'cinematograph theatre' with three archived doorways in the centre of the building.
Designs for frontage of the Queens Hall Cinematograph Theatre, Salisbury, 1910 (ref G23/760/22)

In 1910 two rival companies established cinemas in Salisbury, both located on Endless Street. On 24th August 1910 planning permission was submitted to build a new Electric Theatre situated at the north-east corner of Endless Street and Bedwin Street. The request was made by the Grampino Syndicate, based in London’s Crystal Palace, and was approved by the City of New Sarum on 1st September. Designs for the venue, to be known as the Queens Hall Cinematograph Theatre, show an impressive classical frontage, with three sets of welcoming doors. This was a single-screen venue, with seventeen rows of seats on the ground floor, plus a further six rows on an upstairs balcony. The upstairs foyer also had a small sweet shop, demonstrating that even at this early date refreshments were seen as an integral part of the movie-going experience.

A town through time: Recent excavations in Calne town centre

on Tuesday, 07 December 2021. Posted in Archaeology

We have recently had an exciting opportunity to understand more about the origins and development of the historic North Wiltshire market town of Calne. Throughout October and November, Worcestershire Archaeology (WA) have been undertaking a full excavation of plot of land to the east of the High Street in Calne. The work was commissioned by Churchill Retirement Living for development into a Residential Home for which they had planning consent. The excavation follows an earlier phase of evaluation by WA in 2016 where a sequence of buried features and deposits from Saxon to post-medieval had been revealed.

The site lies in a part of the town is thought to have been an early medieval addition to the Saxon settlement of Calne which largely lay to the south of the river around the parish church. This ‘laid out’ settlement comprised the High Street and market places from which long narrow ‘burgage plots’ were established to provide each property fronting the High Street to have sufficient space to the rear to be able to grow food, keep animals and carry out small scale industry. Historic maps depict the site divided into four or five of these burgage plots stretching between the High Street and The Pippins (formerly Back Lane). In recent decades, the site has been terraced and divided by garden walls and partially used as a car park.

The following is a summary of the findings from WA:

A New Start with a New Placement

on Tuesday, 23 November 2021. Posted in Conservation, History Centre

Hiya! I’m Sejal and I’m a trainee conservator doing my placement with the Wiltshire Conservation and Museum Advisory Service. I’m excited to start my professional work here and I am looking forward to some amazing projects.

A woman with red hair wearing a face covering stands next to a museum cabinet with 4 skulls and two knapped tools
Showing off my last big project; some anatomical skull models for the Durham Museum of Archaeology

My placement is part of my master’s degree in object conservation at Durham University. My background is primarily based in archaeology and I’ve been on several excavations, but I’ve always gravitated more towards lab work than field work. For my undergraduate dissertation, I spent a month in Portugal, helping sort through discarded ceramics from a seventeenth century kiln. It was like trying to put 100 jigsaw puzzles together at once, but you only have about 75% of the pieces.

A table covered with pottery bowls and plates, some mostly incomplete all with fragments taped together
A nearly complete set of 18th century tablewares from a kiln waste site in Portugal

I’m originally from the United States and have spent the last four years up north for my studies, so I haven’t spent much time in the southwest of the UK. So, I’m very excited to explore the region and the rich prehistory and history it holds. I also hope to visit a lot of local museums and work with a variety of institutions whilst I’m here.

Richard Jefferies

on Wednesday, 10 November 2021. Posted in Archives, History Centre, Wiltshire People

November marks 173 years since the birth of this talented Wiltshire writer whose life was so tragically cut short. Chippenham Library’s Local Studies Champion wanted to discover more about him.

Richard Jefferies (John Richard Jefferies) was born on the 6th November 1848 at Coate farm, Swindon, which now houses the Richard Jefferies Museum. His father was a farmer. His childhood had a great influence on him, providing many of the characters he later wrote about in his novels.

Between the ages of 4 and 9 he stayed with his aunt and uncle at Sydenham and went to a private school, returning to Coate during the holidays. His father would read and explain Shakespeare and the Bible and taught him and his siblings what he knew of natural history. Richard would collect bird eggs, he loved to fish in the brook, climb trees, was also a keen reader and had inherited his father’s handiness with tools. A letter he wrote to his aunt mentions his having made a sundial so he could tell the time.

At 16 he and a cousin ran off to France, intending to walk to Russia. After crossing the Channel, they soon realised that their schoolboy French was not good enough and they returned to England. Before they reached home they saw an advertisement for cheap crossings from Liverpool to America, so set off in this direction, but after buying the tickets they had no money for food and were forced to return home.

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