Could You Be The Next Chairperson at Gold Hill Museum?

Have you got what it takes to lead one of Shaftesbury’s most loved institutions?
Gold Hill Museum (owned by The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society) is looking for a Chairman. It’s a voluntary role, but Acting Chairman Elaine Barratt says that the right candidate could find the position highly fulfilling. “It’s a wonderful organisation to be Chairman of,” Elaine said.
So you might be wondering why Elaine is so keen to pass on the leadership baton. “I would love to be the permanent Chairman but I doubt I would have any luck in finding someone to take on the work that I do in my other museum roles,” Elaine explained. “I basically keep the museum open, arranging all of the volunteer shifts. I also manage the shop,” she added.
If you were appointed Chairman, you would need to ensure that Gold Hill Museum remains compliant with the rules of The Arts Council for England and the Charities Commission – the organisations that it answers to. The successful applicant would be given advice on their responsibilities, of course.
“You would need to prepare the meeting agenda, check minutes and ensure that the museum remained on track,” Elaine explained. She added that she would be particularly keen to hear from an applicant with marketing skills.
So how much time would you need to commit?
It seems it is one of those roles where you’ll get out what you put in. “The job is what you make of it, really. You could undertake an enormous amount of work if you wanted to,” said Elaine. “But in terms of what is necessary, I think two or three hours per week would be the level. The committee meets every second Wednesday of the month and those meetings take up to 2 hours,” Elaine offered.

So what kind of person would make a good Chairman? Would the role suit somebody orderly, studious and happy to work alone? Or does the job require a people person?
“You need to be a bit of both really,” said Elaine, “You certainly have to be organised. You do need to like people and to get on with your fellow trustees. We also have around 40 volunteer stewards. You need to be able to talk to them, encourage them and make them feel they are a valuable part of the organisation,” she cautioned.
If you had little time for the Tudors or Tolpuddle Martyrs when you were in school, you could still be in the running for the role. “You don’t need to know much about history. I am ashamed to say that I had lived in the town for 40 years when I joined the museum in 2013. I gained so much knowledge afterwards,” Elaine said.
Elaine says that Gold Hill Museum is not a ‘stuffy’ institution. “When I started as the volunteer coordinator, the stewards were middle-class, well spoken and a lot of them were very elderly. There were very few local people involved in the Museum. I wanted to change that. And I have. We have a lot more local people with a personal, local history. It brings a different dimension,” Elaine said.
Gold Hill Museum is open daily during spring, summer and autumn. It closes for the winter but there is still work to do then.
Elaine says that any successful applicant committed to maintaining the high level of satisfaction reported by visitors, will do well. “We have a happy team of volunteers that’s what the visitor book says. They are friendly and knowledgeable. People go away with the impression that this is a happy museum. That’s all I could really ask for,” Elaine said.
If you are interested in applying for the Gold Hill Museum Chairman role, email chairman@goldhillmuseum.org.uk before their AGM on 17th July.

Click here to listen to a podcast of this interview

Copyright 2018 Keri Jones

Sir John Stuttard delves into the archives at Gold Hill Museum

Sir John on “Turbulent John” at Gold Hill Museum Thursday 21 June 3.30pm

Former Lord Mayor of London Sir John Stuttard (above) has, with the assistance of Gold Hill Museum Librarian and Archivist Ray Simpson, written a biography of prominent early nineteenth century Shastonian John Rutter. Originally from Bristol, Rutter set up a printing and publishing business in The Commons, Shaftesbury, producing local historical and topographical guides. As a Quaker and a Whig sympathiser, Rutter was viewed with some suspicion by the Grosvenor connection which dominated local politics. In an age with a very limited male electorate and no secret ballot, it was easy for powerful landowners like the Grosvenors to dictate the outcome of Council and Parliamentary elections. Not to vote for a Grosvenor candidate was to risk eviction. Shaftesbury, with two MPs before 1832, was a typical pocket borough. In opposing Grosvenor influence and advocating Reform, John Rutter encountered a great deal of hostility and was nicknamed the “Turbulent Quaker.”  As part of Shaftesbury Civic Society’s Civic Day on Thursday 21 June at 3.30p.m. in the Garden Room, Sir John Stuttard will be keynote speaker at a free EqualiTeas event.

Listen to Keri Jones’s podcast of his interview with Sir John by clicking here

First floor Chapter House Wells Cathedral (2)

S&DHS Members Enjoy Privilege Visit to Wells

Eighteen members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society enjoyed their summer outing on 05 June to the Somerset City of Wells. An expert guided tour by Cathedral volunteer Anne Smith highlighted the sculpture-laden West Front, the secular stories (frequently featuring toothache) carved in the capitals of internal pillars, and the unusual Scissor Arches inserted to strengthen the Crossing under the weight of a central Tower. The tour was timed to include the noon striking of the fourteenth century clock, with its rotating jousting knights and quarter-jack Jack Blandiver. Welcomed to the nearby Wells and Mendip Museum by Trustee Andrew Fawcett, members were able to examine plaster casts of the four capitals telling the story of a grape thief and his salutary punishment, and walk through an impressive reconstruction of a Great War trench. The afternoon concluded with a privilege visit to the City of Wells Almshouses, courtesy of the residents, with a tour of terraces dating from the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and tea and home-made cake in the Guild Room. This was the meeting place of Wells Council until the eighteenth century saw the building of the Town Hall, which plays the part of Warleggan Bank in the latest series of Poldark.

Shaftesbury Camera Club Exhibition 2018

Shaftesbury’s Photographers Give Us Their Best Shots

Twenty years ago, serious photographers had to invest thousands of pounds in expensive and often bulky equipment in order to win awards. Today, the high quality lens in the smart phone in your pocket allows anyone with an eye for composition to compete with owners of more costly and cumbersome kit.

You’ll see what can be achieved on a range of cameras during the Shaftesbury Camera Club’s Annual Exhibition.

“We’ve had extremely good work submitted on smart phones. They are perfectly acceptable,” says the club’s David Lampard.

David will discover which images are being displayed just a few days before the start of the week-long exhibition at Gold Hill Museum.

David expects that 25 members will each display up to six prints. That limit prevents over-enthusiastic entrants dominating the exhibition. He reckons that there’ll be around 100 works on show.

Some of the entrants could be considered semi-professional. “We do have members who sell their work,” David adds.

You’re being encouraged to view the entries and vote for your favourite three photos. The overall winner will then be determined by the public poll.

The Shaftesbury Camera Club was formed eight years ago and David says he’s pleased with the steady growth in membership. “We had 40 people last year but there are 46 members attending now,” he says.

David is hoping that the annual presentation will pique interest and bring additional recruits. “A few people usually join us following the exhibition,” he says.

Club members travel up to 12 miles to attend the twice-monthly meetings on the second and fourth Thursdays at the Royal British Legion Club in Shaftesbury. There’s an additional session during months containing five Thursdays.

You can judge the photographers’ creative talents at Shaftesbury Camera Club’s fourth annual exhibition in Gold Hill Museum’s Garden Room between Saturday 5th May and Friday 11th May.

Buddhist Monks Create Religious Artwork for Shaftesbury Fringe Weekend

You’ll be able to watch Buddhist monks create beautiful patterns and perform traditional Tibetan dance in Shaftesbury this summer.
The eight men are visiting from the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in India, which was established when the order was exiled from Tibet in 1959.
Over the course of five days from Monday 25 June the visitors will use millions of grains of brightly coloured ‘sand’ to create an intricate ‘Mandala’ design on a tabletop in Gold Hill Museum.
Tour organiser Jane Rasch says the work is deeply symbolic. “It’s made as a meditation, a sacred circle,” Jane says. “At the centre is the image of a Buddha represented by a thunderbolt. It’s made is to take away any negative effects which may come about as a result of taking a life, whether intentionally or unintentionally.”
There’ll be a talk about the Mandala process at Gold Hill Museum at 6.30pm on Wednesday 27 June.
The monks’ work will then be destroyed, to promote the principle of “impermanence and non-attachment,” at 11.30am on Monday 2 July.
Jane says spectators are often visibly moved as the painstakingly created vibrant colours are swept together into a pile of grey dust. Each grain is considered a blessing and visitors will be able to keep a small bag of the sand.
During their stay, the monks will also perform the masked dances and ‘extraordinary chanting’ associated with the Tibetan New Year festivities at Shaftesbury Town Hall at 7.30pm on Thursday 28 June.
The monks previously visited Shaftesbury during Gold Hill Fair. Jane says that they are keen to return in time for the town’s Fringe festival before heading to the world-famous Edinburgh event.
For more information listen to the podcast by clicking here

The Mayor & Mrs Lewer, Ray Simpson and Roger Guttridge

S&DHS Members Snap Up Signed Copies of Shaftesbury Through Time

At the official launch party held at Gold Hill Museum on 28 March, over forty members and friends of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society were quick to snap up signed copies of Roger Guttridge’s latest book. In the presence of the Mayor of Shaftesbury and Mrs Lewer, and introduced by S&DHS Librarian/Archivist Ray Simpson (centre), Roger (right) was keen to acknowledge the importance of historic photographs from Gold Hill Museum’s Collection and the indispensable help given by Trustees Ray and Claire Ryley. Also featured in Shaftesbury Through Time are twenty vintage postcards loaned by Barry Cuff. The book juxtaposes Then and Now photographs, with explanatory text. While seeking the same viewpoints as earlier photographers Roger was frequently frustrated by lines of parked cars and much taller trees and shrubs.

Shaftesbury Through Time is available in the Museum shop at the discounted price of £12.50 and each sale benefits the funds of The S&DHS, a registered charity.

Janet Swiss and Byzant Mural

BV Dairy Sponsors New Gold Hill Museum Exhibitions

Gold Hill Museum opens for the season on Saturday 24th March with two new exhibitions, sponsored by BV Dairy.
One of the displays features life on a North Dorset dairy farm in 1940. It reveals how we take modern luxuries for granted.
“I want people to realise how recently mechanisation hit farming,” says organiser Janet Swiss. “Our featured farm employed four men and three horses. All the muck-spreading and milking was done by hand,” she says.
“Each cow was known by name – like Princess, Daisy and Queenie,” Janet adds.
Janet’s display includes a life-sized cow, as well as a scale model of the riverside farm that straddled ‘chalk and cheese’ arable and dairy land. The display also features the farm’s first foray towards modern mechanisation – a model of a small Massey Ferguson tractor.
Janet is hoping that visitors will have fun guessing the use of a more unfamiliar implement – a mangold chopper.
“Thomas Hardy referred to this area as ‘The Vale of Little Dairies.’ I wanted to record how important these farms were in the social history of our area,” Janet says.
Jim Highnam, Managing Director of BV Dairy, says, “It is a pleasure to be asked to support the Museum’s latest exhibit, which obviously has such a close connection to our business. We hope it brings pleasure to the many people who will visit Gold Hill Museum in 2018,” Jim adds.
Shaftesbury-based BV Dairy was founded in Kington Magna, a village in the Blackmore Vale.
“The Dairy continues to have strong relationships with, and purchases milk from, farms within this beautiful area,” Jim says.
You’ll be inspired to dig your garden in a hunt for treasure when you visit the museum’s second exhibition, also sponsored by BV Dairy.
‘Found Underground’ features sixteen items discovered by locals on their land.
Whilst you’re unlikely to find artefacts to rival the 1940s ‘Shaftesbury Hoard’ of 11th century silver coins, Janet says most objects uncovered reveal an interesting story.
“Oyster shells are regularly unearthed here,” says Janet. “The shellfish was considered cheap food and was transported from Poole to a fish market on Gold Hill.”
Visitors will be able to touch all the exhibits, including a hoop of metal called a patten. It formed part of an overshoe. “It would keep your shoe off the ground and out of the wet. People had damp, cold feet until very recently,” Janet says.
If your own digging reveals an unusual item, you can bring it to the museum for identification by Ciorstaidh Trevarthen, the Finds Liaison Officer for Dorset, on the morning of Saturday 14th July.

BV Dairy’s award-winning Dorset Clotted Cream is available in many independent retailers throughout Dorset and they produce a range of specialist chilled dairy products for the manufacturing, catering and food service industries. These include soft cheeses, mascarpone, yogurts and other cultured milk products. BV Dairy also produce cultured milk and yogurt drinks for the retail sector. See www.bvdairy.co.uk, or telephone 01747 851 855.

Click here for a podcast created by Keri Jones.

Shaftesbury Through Time compilers

New Photo History Book: Cameras Capture Decades of Shaftesbury Development

Shaftesbury Through Time is published on 15 March by Amberley and available at Gold Hill Museum from 24 March. Click here for a sound podcast.

A new picture-filled book reveals how Shaftesbury has changed since the early days of photography.
Journalist Roger Guttridge (left) and Gold Hill Museum volunteers Claire Ryley and Ray Simpson have produced Shaftesbury Through Time.

The book includes over 200 photographs with some dating back to the 1890s. An archive image and a snapshot of the current view illustrate the story of each location.
Claire thinks readers could have fun by covering up the newer images and trying to guess where the archive pictures were taken. “You can go around the town with the book open,” says Claire. “It makes you much more aware of how places have a history,” she adds.

Roger has worked as a journalist in Dorset since 1970. Although Roger is an experienced writer, he says the help of the Gold Hill Museum team was critical. “I couldn’t have done it without access to the museum’s old photographs. The book would not have happened without help from Claire and Ray,” Roger says.

The timing of Roger’s approach to the museum was perfect because the volunteers have recently collated photographs of Shaftesbury for their Great War project.
The museum has also recently digitized its collection of over 400 photos.
“We were very lucky that there was a photographer in the town in the first two decades of the 20th century and he took many photos of Shaftesbury and the surrounding area,” Ray says.
But capturing new photographs for the book proved a challenge in some parts of town. “Many streets have vans or cars parked there, sometimes 24 hours a day,” says Roger. “There are parts of Bimport that are never free of cars.”

So how much has changed in Shaftesbury?
“The town centre hasn’t altered as much as people would imagine,” says Roger. “Gold Hill and Park Walk have changed very little and long may that continue,” he adds.
The High Street is still recognisable from the old photos until you go back to the period when the market hall stood in the middle of the street.
“We have included drawings from those pre-camera days to illustrate how different that scene was,” Roger says. “We’ve also included a sketch of Shaftesbury Abbey in the 16th century, when it was being ruined.”

Roger recognises that most major differences have occurred on the periphery of town with the new housing developments.
Readers would be unlikely to identify the scene of children walking down a rural country lane as Mampitts Lane, even though the modern view of new homes reveals the location of the archive picture.

Some of the most contrasting old and new images feature the town’s roundabouts.
“The houses at Ivy Cross appear the same but the modern roundabout, petrol station and fast food shops add a rather different perspective,” Roger says.
“Outside the Royal Chase Hotel there was a toll house until about 60 years ago,” Roger continues. “It was in the middle of the roundabout at the place where the Salisbury and Blandford Roads met,” he says.

Claire thinks readers will notice many changes if they study the pictures closely. “I was keen for Roger to include a picture of the former police station on Bell Street,” Claire says. “The library is on that site now and the only clues to the former occupant are the posts, which are decorated with crowns.”

Not all change is bad. The book’s images portray some changes that could be considered improvements. Greenery and trees have flourished in the last 100 years. “You could see much more in the old Victorian and Edwardian pictures looking towards St James from Park Walk,” says Roger, when reviewing the lack of foliage back then.

Claire also feels that the modern town centre is neater.
“The Town Hall had public lavatories, which were like scruffy conservatories on either side of the entrance,” she says, adding that the older pictures revealed a cluttered streetscape. “There used to be signage all over the place and zebra crossings,” Claire says.

As an experienced press reporter, Roger found the pictures relating to the St James’s fire of 1955 fascinating.
“Seven terraced cottages went up in flames,” he says. “We have three old pictures of that and a modern image of the same location. The exact spot was hard to pinpoint because the cottages appeared very similar.”
But Roger had a stroke of luck. “I stopped a woman in the street and showed her the fire pictures. She recognised her grandparents’ house and she told me that the blaze started when a decorator’s blowtorch set fire to a thatched roof.”
Back then thatch was often covered by galvanised iron. “That meant they couldn’t rake off the burning roof and it spread quickly in the strong winds,” he says.

The new book’s pictures also reveal long-forgotten social and entertainment venues.
“There were proper cinemas in Shaftesbury,” says Ray. “There was one near the Bargains shop and the Savoy Cinema was in Bimport, where Savoy Court is today. There was a third cinema in the market, which you could walk through from the High Street to Bell Street.”

Claire lives in Salisbury Street and the book’s images reveal that it was once an extension of the High Street, with many more stores. She has enjoyed collecting stories about the former businesses there.
“Next door to the recent shoe shop called Stomp was a wonderful old store owned by a Mr Peach. When snow caused a water shortage everybody went there because his supply was deep underground and didn’t freeze. I’ve spoken to the current owner and the supply is still there,” says Claire.

Roger is hoping that residents who buy the book will learn more interesting facts about their immediate neighbourhood. “Few people know that part of the workhouse on Umbers Hill has survived. Today it is a single storey property, tucked away in the middle of a modern bungalow estate,” he says.
Roger has read many of the previous Shaftesbury history books in researching the new publication and he believes that the pictorial format of Shaftesbury Through Time will ensure a broad readership, although there is still a lot of information for readers to digest.
“Surprisingly, it contains around 11,000 words, which are used in captions, heading and descriptions,” he adds.
Shaftesbury Through Time by Roger Guttridge will be available from 15 March and Roger can rely on at least one sale.
“I’m very pleased with it. I’ll buy one,” laughs Ray.


Shaftesbury Abbess

Veteran Diplomat Talks On His Ancestor Mabel Giffard

Mabel Giffard was elected Abbess of Shaftesbury in 1291. She would be one of the most pre-eminent women of her day, as head of the most prosperous Abbey in the south of England, founded in the ninth century by Alfred the Great. Retired diplomat and local resident Sir Sydney Giffard shares the results of his researches into his ancestor at 2.30p.m. on Tuesday 06 March at Gold Hill Museum. This talk by Sir Sydney, formerly the UK’s Ambassador to both Switzerland and Japan, is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society, while non-members may pay £3 at the door.

Snowdrops Gold Hill Museum Garden

Make Your Own Snowdrop Dragon on Thursday 15 February

Tickets for the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival event at Gold Hill Museum on Thursday 15 February 2-4p.m. are now available from the Bell Street Tourist Information Centre at £3 per person. Participants will be making their own Snowdrop Dragon using natural materials. All ages are welcome but children must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

This is the first of the 2018 Programme of All Age Events jointly organised by Gold Hill and Shaftesbury Abbey Museums. There will be a Pilgrims’ Trail to follow on Good Friday and a Viking longship to build on Sunday 02 September. Further details about these and other free events by clicking on the link and by emailing office@shaftesburyabbey.org.uk