Journey to Pewsey

on Wednesday, 09 April 2014. Posted in Museums

As Museum Documentation Assistant, I am currently spending a great deal of my time working with our chosen collections management database, MODES.

Recently the History Centre and some of our Wiltshire museums have upgraded their software to the new and innovative Modes Complete system and I have been helping them in this process. One of the nicest things about the upgrade is the chance for me to go and visit the various museums and their committed volunteers.

As a non driver living in Corsham, I have explored the various transport opportunities to get me into the Wiltshire countryside and as the county is so big and our museums spaced so widely, this has been challenging!

One of the highlights was a trip to Pewsey to visit the Heritage Centre and to do some work with them. This journey comprised a bus from Corsham to Chippenham, a rail journey to Swindon and another bus ride from Swindon to Pewsey. All very mundane but actually a fascinating trip which travelled through the various strands of Wiltshire’s past and present.

From passing the parkland of Corsham Court, a summer palace for the kings of Wessex in the 10th century; arriving at the station at Swindon past the great 19th century rail works which enabled the town to grow and prosper and then taking a marvellous bus route (top deck, front seat), through the Marlborough Downs and its former sheep grazing, so vital for the prosperity of Wiltshire; past Liddington Castle, one of the earliest hill forts in Britain and possible site of Mount Badon and the British victory against the Anglo-Saxons; following the River Og past various Ogbourne settlements to Marlborough, site of the Great Fire of 1653 which burnt down the Guildhall, St Mary’s Church, the County Armoury and 244 houses. After two more devastating fires, an Act was passed through Parliament to prohibit covering buildings with thatch, and the rebuilt town looks much as it does today with the second widest high street in England (Stockton-on-Tees claims the widest).

My journey continued past the Iron Age hill fort of Martinsell, site of various local customs, including the painful one of local youths slithering “down the escarpment on horse’s skulls” into the fertile and arable Vale of Pewsey.

The increased growth of Pewsey is recognised to be linked to the building of the Kennet and Avon Canal between 1807 and 1810 with Pewsey Wharf enabling townsfolk access to supplies and an outlet for produce. Pewsey is also home to a spectacular carnival which began life in 1898 as a dozen decorated bicycles riding around the town.


I saw no decorated bicycles… but arrived at the Heritage Centre which is being refurbished. Housed in a former foundry of 1873 with much of the historic machinery still in place, the Centre has a new roof and front doors, new lime washing and is opening again after a two and a half year wait on the 12th April. Staff from the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service (CMAS) as well as Pewsey Heritage Centre volunteers will be there to chat to visitors. The museum collection will be coming out of storage in the next few months with new displays being planned.
Opening times will be 10.00am - 4.00pm, Mondays to Saturdays.

Do go and see the new Pewsey Heritage Centre and try and use public transport – you will have a great journey.

Jacqueline Ramsay
Documentation Assistant


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