New Face in the Garden at Gold Hill Museum

Biffo the Gargoyle has taken up residence in the Museum Garden. At least the Head Gardener thinks that he “bears” [groan] some resemblance to the one-time cover star of the children’s comic, the “Beano”.  Biffo was carved and donated by Gordon Blackwell from Blandford. Gordon has been a great contributor to our Heritage Lottery Funded Great War Project and the 2014 exhibition from which the Project grew.  Supporting Biffo is THE stone – weighing 14lbs – found by Ken Howe for last year’s Rule of Thumb exhibition on the History of Weights and Measures. Biffo has joined the Garden Gallery newly published on the Museum website.

Dorset Mayors Visit Gold Hill Museum

Over 30 Dorset Mayors and their consorts visited Gold Hill Museum on the afternoon of Sunday 21 February. They were the guests of Shaftesbury Mayor and Mayoress Richard and Karen Tippins during their Civic Day, and had previously visited Swan’s Yard, the Arts Centre, Trinity Grounds, and the Heritage Snowdrop Collection at the Abbey Museum. Newly appointed Chairman of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society, David Silverside [centre], was delighted to greet the assembled civic dignitaries, who were also addressed by The S&DHS President Jo Rutter. Jo gratefully acknowledged the part played by the Town Hall in housing the Museum in its early days, before it moved to various premises on Gold Hill.

Ancestry Afternoon Friday 26 February Fully Booked

The opportunity to uncover Family History with the help of experienced researchers via the Ancestry website has been snapped up. Claire Ryley and Ann Symons organised the Ancestry Afternoon at Shaftesbury Library on Friday 26 February from 1.30 to 3.00p.m. under the aegis of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society’s Heritage Lottery Funded Great War Project. All the slots have been filled, but Claire and Ann can be contacted about future plans at

Equally popular at Gold Hill Museum this week were the Snowdrop Festival midweek craft sessions and Anna McDowell’s Saturday Dorset Buttons Workshop. All sold out.

Gold Hill Museum is open to visitors until 4.30p.m. on Sunday 21 February, and re-opens for the main season on Saturday 19 March. There is no admission charge, but donations are welcome.



Reminiscence Afternoon Tuesday 23 February 2.30 – 3.30p.m.

In conjunction with Shaftesbury Library, Claire Ryley and Ann Symons are running a Reminiscence Afternoon on Tuesday 23 February from 2.30 to 3.30p.m. Participants in this free event at Shaftesbury Library will be able to discover more about life in Shaftesbury and the surrounding villages at the time of the First World War. There will be the opportunity to share family stories and examine objects from Gold Hill Museum’s collections over tea and cake. For further details, please contact Claire and Ann at

Open Free Admission

Gold Hill Museum Open for the Snowdrop Festival

Take refuge from February’s biting winds in the light and warmth of Gold Hill Museum. Bring a young family member to one of the snowdrop-themed craft workshops on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday morning, 16-18 February. Learn how to make a Dorset Button at one of Anna McDowell’s expert tutorials on Friday morning or Saturday afternoon, 19-20 February. [Please book tickets in advance for these activities from Shaftesbury TIC or Arts Centre.] Venture outside to the winter corner in the Museum Garden. Take home a snowdrop souvenir from the Museum Shop. Our friendly volunteer stewards will be delighted to assist you.

Finding Pitt-Rivers at Gold Hill Museum

Jane Ellis-Schon brought a tiny sample of the 15,000 objects in Salisbury Museum’s Pitt-Rivers Collection to her compelling and comprehensive February lecture at Gold Hill Museum. In 1880 Augustus Henry Lane-Fox inherited the Pitt-Rivers title and 27,000 acres of Wiltshire estates from his great-uncle. Already a serving soldier in the Grenadier Guards, Pitt-Rivers applied his military surveying skills to recording the largely untouched archaeology of Cranborne Chase, preserved by centuries of hunting rather than farming. When Rushmore House overflowed with artefacts, he built a museum at Farnham; Jane’s photographs showed glass cases from floor to ceiling and serried ranks of ancient animal bones. Pitt-Rivers opened the [Larmer Tree] Pleasure Gardens for the benefit of his estate workers, who were often employed on archaeological digs in the winter months. A lodge was pulled apart in 1889 to confirm its mediaeval origins, and rebuilt as an art gallery named, on no great authority, as King John’s House. Pitt-Rivers pursued a fairly destructive style of archaeology but understood the need for the preservation of historic sites, to which he contributed as the first Inspector of Ancient Monuments, appointed in 1882, and kept detailed records and copious specimens. Jane’s aim in the “Finding Pitt-Rivers” Project is to connect the objects with the records, and to build up a searchable on-line database. Shaftesbury & District Historical Society members are promised an intriguing privilege visit in June to see Jane’s curatorial work in the new Wessex Gallery at Salisbury Museum.

On Tuesday 01 March at 2.30p.m. in the Garden Room David Childs will tell the story of the “Heirs to Achilles” in his illustrated account of the ill-starred Allied attempt to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

Celebrate the Snowdrop at Gold Hill Museum

Anna McDowell, seen here [left] with her cousin Catherine Erskine planting snowdrops in the Gold Hill Museum garden in October, returns for two Dorset Button-making workshops on Friday 19 February 10.30a.m. – 1.00p.m. and Saturday 20 February 2.00 – 4.30p.m.  Participants will leave with their own Dorset Singleton Button featuring snowdrops or a Dorset Cartwheel Button in snowdrop colours. Tickets are £10 and available from the Shaftesbury TIC or Shaftesbury Arts Centre.

“Lots of messy fun” is promised for accompanied children aged 3 – 12 who attend the Snowdrop Clay workshops on Tuesday 16 February and Thursday 18 February 10.00 – 12.00. An Arts and Crafts session is scheduled for Wednesday 17 February 10.00 – 12.00. Tickets for each workshop are £3 from the TIC or Arts Centre.

Prior booking is essential for all these events.


BBC Radio Solent Visit Gold Hill Museum

Steve Harris, “Breakfast in Dorset” radio presenter based in Dorchester, is seen here talking to Marjory Kellett in the Gold Hill Museum Library on 27 January. Steve was collecting sound-bites to illustrate the answer to the quiz question: “What connection does Dvorak’s New World Symphony have with the town of Shaftesbury?”  The answer, well known by locals to relate to Shaftesbury’s most famous landmark, is likely to be broadcast on BBC Radio Solent in March.

Standing Room Only For Julian Richards

TV archaeologist and Shaftesbury resident Julian Richards attracted a bumper audience to his engaging January Gold Hill Museum talk on “Operation Warhorse.” Late-comers and obliging members had to stand at the back and in the corridor to hear Julian describe his 2014 dig at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain. No substantial remains were found of the temporary buildings of the horse hospital, but Julian’s workforce, including 350 local schoolchildren, young soldiers in training, and disabled veterans, uncovered hundreds of evocative small finds. “Do horses suffer from seasickness?” wondered Julian over photographs of horses being shipped from Canada, as he placed the Larkhill site in the context of the 1914-18 War effort. Some images of horses in the front line were too graphic to show. This Heritage Lottery Funded dig and educational project clearly made an enormous impression on its mainly young participants, aided in no small way by Julian’s charm and enthusiasm.

The local archaeological theme continues on Tuesday 02 February at 2.30p.m. at Gold Hill Museum with Jane Ellis-Schon describing the progress of Salisbury Museum’s “Finding Pitt-Rivers” project. In 1880 soldier Augustus Henry Lane-Fox inherited Wiltshire estates rich in archaeological remains and became a pioneer of scientific excavation. Part of his vast collection of artefacts was housed in a museum at nearby Farnham until dispersed in the 1960s. The major part formed the basis of the Pitt-Rivers Museum in Oxford. This lecture is free to Shaftesbury & District Historical Society members, while visitors may pay £3 at the door.