Review: Bombweed by Gillian Fernandez Morton

on Saturday, 13 April 2019.

Bombweed by Gillian Fernandez Morton
Silver Wood Books, 2018
ISBN 978-1-78132-979-5
Paperback, £11.99

The story was originally created by the author’s mother Margaret Smith in 1947 from her own experiences of wartime Britain. The original typescript was inherited by her daughters, edited and readied to finally be published in the 21st Century.

It is a work of fiction, woven from Margaret Smith’s time spent in the city and the countryside, focusing on the lives and loves of one family as seen through the eyes of the youngest sister, Vivienne.

The ties that bind us and the intricacies they hold are brought to bear in a well-constructed and engaging narrative, interwoven with what feels like first-hand experiences of living through the Portsmouth bombing. Chippenham, Devizes and a nearby Wiltshire farm also feature. The descriptions of life as an evacuee for a mother and baby in particular are thought provoking.

Margaret’s daughters note that she wanted to remember the reality of wartime Britain, ‘the struggles and fear, and the love and friendships that got them through’; the book has achieved this aim. It is a well-crafted story, well edited, and well worth a read.

Julie Davis
County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Copies are available to view at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, and to loan from Wilshire Libraries.

Extraordinary General Meeting of Wiltshire Local History Forum

on Saturday, 02 March 2019.

At an extraordinary general meeting of the Wiltshire Local History Forum held on Saturday 16th February at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre it was decided to dissolve the WLHF due to the departure of the current Chairperson, Claire Skinner, and no new volunteers for the role. Please read the minutes of the extraordinary general meeting if you would like to know more about the decision taken.

It has been a very successful group, and all its members have benefited both intellectually and recreationally from its existence. There will hopefully be new opportunities for a local history network, similar to that in Swindon, with meetings held in Devizes Library. Any updates will be shared on this News blog, so keep an eye out or please contact Julie Davis, County Local Studies Librarian on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like to express a particular interest.

Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre: a Tribute

on Friday, 01 March 2019.

This week we were extremely sad to say farewell to our Principal Archivist, Claire Skinner, who is leaving Wiltshire for new adventures. A wealth of experience and knowledge as well as an extremely kind and caring person, she will be greatly missed by staff, volunteers and researchers!  


Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre: a Tribute
To the tune of: Raindrops on Roses
(Apologies to Oscar Hammerstein II and to all lovers of real poetry)

Archives boxed neatly in a clean and dry strongroom
Wrapped up in acid-free folders or tissue
No rusty paperclips or dusty old string!
These are a few of my favourite things…

Working on projects from Lacock to manors
Helping the council from legal to planners
Gathering archives from Aldbourne to Zeals
These are a few of my favourite things…

Dressing in costume for Open Day outreach
Reading old handwriting; helping to teach it
Sharing the history eight hundred years bring
These are a few of my favourite things…

When the stacks break
When my room’s cold
When my laptop’s flat
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so bad!

Researching the history of wonderful women
Arts in the Archives with Storybox and Now in Then
Watching a stone axe being shaped by Phil Harding
These are a few of my favourite things…

Hearing Kate Adie and Michael Wood talking
To hundreds of people filling our searchroom
Working with volunteers who transcribe and list
These are a few of my favourite things…

Last but not least are my colleagues so friendly
Laughter and kindness with cake-eating a plenty!
Memories that will last like our mummified cat
These are a few of my favourite things…

When the stacks break
When my room’s cold
When my laptop’s flat
I simply remember my favourite things
And then I don’t feel so sad!

Thank you to everyone who has made the last thirteen years so special
– to the depositors who share their archive treasures and make them available to the public to enjoy;
- to colleagues in Wiltshire and Swindon Councils who share their knowledge and expertise so generously;
- to the researchers who have shown us so much support and appreciation over the years;
- to the volunteers who give of their time, skills and enthusiasm and really are the bedrock of all we do;
- to the Family History Society, the Local History Forum, the VCH and many other groups and organisations who have supported our work in financial and other ways
- and last but not least, to my colleagues at the History Centre who have carried me through the last thirteen years with their warmth, kindness, laughter, and oodles of cake.
Thank you. You will be very much missed.

Claire Skinner, Principal Archivist

ARTeology: inspiration and interpretation

on Friday, 18 January 2019.

ARTeologists Julie Smith and Mervyn Grist tell stories within a story about how artists respond to archives as an often neglected source material for inspiration and contemporary interpretation.
Julie and Mervyn will give an informal talk and performance on ARTeology projects to date which follow a pattern of enquiry and reflection common to both artistic creation and academic research.
This talk, on 7th February 2019 at 6.30pm compliments the ARTeology exhibition at Town Hall Arts and you can book your free ticket by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Box Office - 01225 774306.

Creative Wiltshire: A Celebration of Art

on Friday, 18 January 2019.

Creative Wiltshire: A brand new exhibition showcasing some of the best creative talent from our county

The New Year will see Salisbury Museum opening a unique and exciting exhibition of collected, recently gifted or purchased art by Wiltshire artists. Creative Wiltshire: A Celebration of Art in Wiltshire will open on 19 January 2019.

The exhibition is the culmination of a five year Creative Wiltshire project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to collect and celebrate the work of the county’s creative people. Featuring paintings, prints, ceramics, textiles and glass, the exhibition will give the viewer a ravishing insight into the work of the talented makers of this region.

Some of the artworks on show, have only very recently been acquired by Salisbury Museum, so this will be a unique opportunity to view paintings by Rex Whistler and Wilfred de Glehn; bronze sculpture by Jonathan Wylder; and etched glass by Sir Laurence Whistler.

The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, who have also been involved in the project, will be loaning many beautiful artworks to showcase the talents of artists like Joe Tilson, and ceramicists like Katherine Pleydell-Bouverie and Patricia Volk.

Adrian Green, Director of Salisbury Museum says, ‘Museums are built around collections, but it can often be difficult to purchase new objects in the current funding climate. This HLF funded project has enabled Salisbury Museum and other museums across Wiltshire to reverse that trend, particularly focusing on what has been made in or linked to creative people from the county. The result is that we have acquired many significant objects that we otherwise wouldn’t have secured’.

This promises to be an eclectic, visually stunning celebration of art in Wiltshire. The exhibition runs until 4 May 2019.

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