Wiltshire Parish Maps

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New Local History Resource

The Redress of the Past: Historical Pageants in Britain 1905-2016 is a new free-to-use resource for local history: http://www.historicalpageants.ac.uk/pageants/

Dressing up and re-enacting the past through dramatic performance was a popular activity across much of twentieth-century Britain. Historical pageants were put on in villages, towns and cities up and down the country; hundreds of thousands of people were involved as volunteer actors, organizers, dressmakers, fund-raisers, and much else besides; millions more enjoyed these often large-scale events as spectators. Pageants told the stories of local communities through chronologically-ordered scenes or episodes featuring notable events from local history. Sometimes captured on film, these pageants are vivid, fascinating, and extraordinarily rich sources for local historical research.


Until recently, relatively little was known about the spread and extent of this ‘pageant fever’. But now a team of researchers have created a free, publicly-accessible database of historical pageants, available here. This database, which is fully searchable, contains detailed information about hundreds of historical pageants. Each pageant has its own entry, which includes factual material (e.g. names of organizers, dates and times of performances, financial profit/loss, content of episodes), but also a readable essay setting the event in its local and national context.

Few places in Britain were untouched by the pageant movement. Historical pageants were very popular in the south west, and you can find out about the events held in Wiltshire – and indeed elsewhere – by visiting our database. The Redress of the Past project website also contains a range of additional material and information, including images, details of some pageant films, and illustrated essays on particularly notable pageants.

A number of groups have found that pageants provide good subjects for talks, exhibitions, and projects of various kinds. In the last few years, for example, there have been exhibitions at Carlisle, Bury St Edmunds and Scarborough. You can read more about these exhibitions here. The Somerset & Dorset Family History Society has also started running a really interesting genealogical project on the performers who took part in the 1905 Sherborne pageant.

Please do spread the word about this project: we’d be delighted to hear what you think of it. Contact paul.readman@kcl.ac.uk or by phone on 0207 8481573.

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Alan Ball Award Local History Submissions Due – deadline next month

It is that time of year again when the CILIP Local Studies Group start calling for submissions for the Alan Ball Award for Local History publishing. Once again there are categories for the best printed and the best digital publications released, this time published between July 2016 and June 2017. The award is open to all heritage and community organisations […]

via Local studies publication and e-publication of the year award – nominations open now — Local Studies Group Blog

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50 years of Conservation Areas in England

This month marks 50 years of conservation areas in England, and the biggest birthday party of all is in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

via The First Conservation Area — Heritage Calling

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Much more than a Salisbury Suburb…

Bemerton is situated to the west of Salisbury and was once a village in its own right. It was the home of George Herbert, rector of Bemerton from 1630 until his death three years later. Some of Herbert’s works were written whilst living at the rectory in Bemerton, and he also has links with nearby Fugglestone St. Peter (the mother church of Bemerton) where he also spent time with his congregation.

          Bemerton St. Andrews and the rectory             Ref P15471, courtesy of the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

The Bemerton Local History Group was established in 2002 upon receipt of a Millennium Award which helped the group get up and running.  They have published a number of books, including ‘Memories of Bemerton in Wartime’, ‘George Herbert in Bemerton’ (an excerpt from Ronald Blythe’s book Divine Landscapes which is now out of print) and ‘Memories of the Hut’, a fond look at Lower Bemerton’s Village Hall.

Social events include walks and parish tea parties. Their hopes for the future are to publish a history of Bemerton.

To find out more about the group please contact info@bemerton-history.org.uk

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Alan Ball Award 2017

Diana Dixon from CILIP Local Studies Group committee presented the certificate for the 2016 Alan Ball Award to Peterborough Local Studies and Archives Service for their interactive website Peterborough in the Great War on May 3rd 2017. Despite keen competition this was clearly the winner and Diana pointed out how impressed she had been initially with looking at a changing display on Peterborough Station […]

via e-Alan Ball award winners get their prize — Local Studies Group Blog

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Art in the Landscape

When we think about local history, it is perhaps easiest to think about the use of the land; those who made use of it and the changes they brought. The landscape is constantly transforming from season to season. There are changes in industry, in working practices, settlement use and advances in technology from cement to the combine harvester to the motor car.

But what about the impact art has made on the landscape? Creativity goes hand in hand with inspiration of the landscape, and we often see the results of this creativity in art galleries, museums; in our own homes. The 2014-2019 HLF funded project Creative Wiltshire is looking at the impact that creativity has made on our county, acquiring items made by creative people on behalf of the county’s participating museums, archive and local studies libraries. More recently the project has been considering public art; the extent, location and condition of works in Wiltshire and the role it plays to enhance the places where we live and work.

Statue at Dewell Mews in Old Town, Swindon with embellishment!

I have been running a number of volunteer workshops, calling for volunteers to help locate, investigate and map public art in the county, and our discussions have centred on that quite often very personal idea of what exactly is public art? To some it is an eyesore, to others a show of creativity to inspire others, a display of craftsmanship, perhaps sometimes evoking a sense of community effort or setting a community’s celebration or commemoration in time.

Public art is vulnerable; sometimes temporary, sometimes controversial, but without it we would not be a society which strives, which shares, which inspires, which provokes thought in spaces that are open to all. What a richer society we are because of it.

Art is part of who we are. It is an important addition to local history which gives us an insight into the mindset of communities past and present.

There’s still time to take part in the Public Art Project. Visit

Visit Creative Wiltshire and I hope to see you soon!


Julie Davis

County Local Studies Librarian & Project Co-ordinator

Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


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Avebury Squaring the Circle on Radio

You can find out more about our astonishing discovery at Avebury by listening to the Radio 4 Today programme podcast (interview at 53 mins 30 secs) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08vwn6f

via Avebury – Squaring the Circle Radio Interview — FragmeNTs

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Chalk Badges to be Restored

The Fovant badges are famous, but less well known are those at nearby Sutton Mandeville. The Sutton Mandeville Heritage Trust has received £88,300 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore the regimental badges of the Warwickshire Regiment, and the 7th (City of London) Battalion of the London Regiment which are sited alongside each other on the hillside and which have both become overgrown. They were cut by soldiers in 1916 when they were training at Sutton Mandeville before they were sent to the Front.

Local people decided they wanted to restore the badges to commemorate the centenary of the First World War. Work is beginning this summer.

Find out more about the work and the Heritage Trust here.

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The Villages on the Turnpike Road

Alderbury & Whaddon lie to the south east of Salisbury, east of the River Avon. They consist of two villages which have evolved into a linear development on the old turnpike road.

The Alderbury & Whaddon Local History Research Group are undertaking various projects including field archaeology, a study of the mediaeval landscape, a study of smallholdings and allotments, a study of field names, research into crime in Alderbury and the history of sport. They are also working on indexing local news stories in the local newspapers. The group has developed a historical walk map which will take you around the village, noting the historical features as you pass.

Farm workers loading wheat-sheaves onto a hay-cart at Whaddon Farm, also known as Matron’s College Farm, Alderbury c. 1907. Courtesy of the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, ref: P56736 and with thanks to Diana Covey

If you have any memories of memories of Aldebury & Whaddon during WWII the group would love to hear from you. Please contact them at enquiries@alderburyhistory.org.uk

The group has been active in producing publications which include The Royal Observer Corps at Alderbury (2013). They are also focusing on ‘village voices’, enabling residents past and present share their memories of life in Alderbury and Whaddon, starting with  Molly’s Memories: Dairying and Dressmaking in Alderbury (2014) and recently John’s Jottings: Wheelwrights, Carpenters and Builders in Alderbury (2016).

If you are interested in joining the group please email enquiries@alderburyhistory.org.uk putting Alderbury History in the subject box.

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