Charles II Needlework Decorative Box

Dorchester Privilege Visit for S&DHS Members

The 2019 Summer Outing for members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society took them to two Dorchester Museums, one presently closed for a massive redevelopment and the other recently opened in 2018. The Dorset County Museum received one of the last large Heritage Lottery Fund grants of £11 million. Members were able to view the ongoing building works from the rear of the site. Clearly marked were the locations for the concrete piles which will be driven 15 feet into the ground and support a new five storey structure. Collections Manager Elizabeth Selby then kindly opened up one of the object stores and showed a handful of the Museum’s four million artefacts, including a late seventeenth century box decorated with exquisite needlework depicting Charles II and his Queen Catherine of Braganza.

Elizabeth Selby shows stored artefacts
Elizabeth Selby shows stored artefacts

The second venue was a short walk away at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum, which had been ably described in the February lecture of the Society’s winter programme. Here members could explore the cells which had once held the Tolpuddle Martyrs and follow in the original courtroom the trials of such unfortunates as Shaftesbury petty criminal Elijah Upjohn or Elizabeth Martha Brown, whose public hanging in 1856 was witnessed by the young Thomas Hardy. The afternoon concluded with tea or coffee and cake in Shire Hall’s tea room.

Please click here for details of membership of The S&DHS. A preview of the 2019-2020 winter lecture programme is available here

BBC South re-create the Hovis ad

TV News Crews Flock to Gold Hill

On Monday 03 June the famous Ridley Scott Hovis ad was re-launched on ITV. Both Meridian and BBC South contacted Gold Hill Museum and sent reporters to mark the occasion. Part of the BBC South Today evening bulletin was broadcast live from Gold Hill, with chair of Shaftesbury & District Historical Society Trustees Elaine Barratt adeptly fielding questions from Matt Graveling.

Matt Graveling and Cameraman
Matt Graveling and Cameraman

Earlier the intrepid BBC newshound had raided a local charity shop for a flat cap and borrowed an apron from the Salt Cellar restaurant so that he could reprise the part of the baker’s boy. Most of a recorded interview with Trustee Ian Kellett ended up on the digital cutting room floor; indeed the Meridian reporter said that he was only looking for 15 seconds of usable material.

Anything a 13 year old could do
Anything a 13 year old could do

Carl Barlow, the child actor in the original ad, was 13 in 1973 when he flew down the dangerous cobbles of Gold Hill with his feet off the pedals. Both Matt Graveling and his Meridian counterpart attempted the same feat, though understandably and sensibly over much shorter distances.

While it is nearly half a century since Ridley Scott made the Hovis ad, it appears to have become a significant landmark in British popular culture. It is certainly figuring in a forthcoming BBC documentary by Andrew Marr. It is constantly revisited by modern advertisers, most recently by a company promoting electric bikes. Gold Hill Museum would be pleased to see any material relating to the making of the original ad.

Please click here for the ThisisAlfred report on the remastering of the 1973 Hovis ad.

Byzant Procession 2019 (2)

Byzant Ceremony Revived For Second Year During Food Fair

Gold Hill Museum volunteers and supporters were prominent among the re-enactors of the Byzant Ceremony during the 2019 Shaftesbury Food Fair. The procession formed up at the Gold Hill Museum stall near The Commons and made its way down Tout Hill to Enmore Green, the location of the springs which once supplied most of the town’s water.

Byzant Food Fair Stall
Gold Hill Museum Food Fair Stall

After one of many blessings en route the procession was greeted by the Lord of the Manor of Gillingham and his Lady, who offered refreshments. The symbolic rent for access to the springs was handed over, and in the case of the mace-like Byzant, returned to the representatives of the town. Other elements of the payment in kind included a calf’s head, a pair of gloves, a cask of ale, and bread.

Byzant Offerings to Lord of the Manor
Byzant Offerings to Lord of the Manor

Music and dancing followed, after which the procession somewhat wearily ascended the steps to Castle Hill and made its way along Magdalene Lane to the Westminster Memorial Hospital, and the War Memorial on Park Walk – the limit of the numerous stalls of the thriving Food Fair – before terminating in Holy Trinity Churchyard.

The original Byzant can be viewed in Gold Hill Museum. The story of Shaftesbury’s water supply is traced in one of this year’s intriguing temporary exhibitions. Gold Hill Museum is open every day 10.30a.m. – 4.30p.m. until 31 October, and admission is free. Thanks to ThisisAlfred for the photograph of the head of the Procession.


Tudor Accidents of the Month: May 2019

Tudor England was a dangerous place. There were plagues and wars, perilous childbirths and shocking infant mortality. But what risks did people face as they went about their everyday lives? Steven Gunn of Merton College and Tomasz Gromelski of Wolfson College are investigating this problem using evidence from coroners’ reports preserved in the National Archives. The four-year project entitled ‘Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth-Century England’ is based in Oxford and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, with support from the Faculty of History and Merton and Wolfson colleges.

Professor Steven Gunn is the 2019 Teulon Porter Memorial Lecturer. At Shaftesbury Town Hall on Tuesday 24 September at 7.30p.m. he will give an illustrated talk on ‘Everyday Life and Accidental Death in Tudor Dorset and Wiltshire’. This event is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £5 at the door.

May 2019. Mining has always been dangerous. Although tin mining was one of Tudor England’s major extractive industries, accidents are not well recorded. This was because for much of the sixteenth century the coroners of Devon and Cornwall were less efficient in sending in their reports, and perhaps in holding their inquests, than those of other counties. Yet when fatalities do crop up they are eloquent. May 1571 brought the death of Ewen Taylor, struck in the stomach by an iron bar while mining at Ilsington, and Oliver Hannaford, wounded with his ‘tynhoke’ while digging for tin at Ashburton.

The depth of some tin works, reached by long ropes, caused the deaths of two other victims more indirectly. At Polgooth in St Mewan in Cornwall in February 1591, Thomas Hicke, tinner, was working at the tin mine when the ‘wynder wyndinge rope’ caused him to fall into ‘the Tynworke poole or pitt’, where he drowned. At St Neot in December 1588, Michael Tapnell hoped to exploit the depth of the mine to avoid arrest for debt when his creditor turned up from St Blazey to take him into custody, bringing two other men to help. He let himself down into the tin working on a rope, intending to slip away into the furthest part of the mine, but suddenly his hands slipped and he fell to the bottom of the pit and broke his neck.

Extracts from the website of the Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth Century England Project by kind permission of Steven Gunn.


Shaftesbury Camera Club Exhibition 04-10 May 2019

Shaftesbury Camera Club return for their fifth Annual Exhibition in the Garden Room at Gold Hill Museum, opening at 1p.m. on Saturday 04 May and running until, and including, Friday 10 May. Entry to the Exhibition is free at any time during the normal opening hours of the Museum (also free to enter), between 10.30a.m. and 4.30p.m. Access to striking and original images is guaranteed.

“Me and my mate” photograph by courtesy of Sue Boddington of Shaftesbury Camera Club.

Gold Hill Museum Volunteers 2019

An invitation to join the volunteer team

Each week during the season (starts Monday 01 April) Gold Hill Museum needs 42 volunteers to meet and greet the visiting public. That’s three pairs of stewards per day each doing a two hour stint. All our regulars, who met this week for two lunchtime social gatherings and briefings, comment on how rewarding it is to interact with visitors from all parts of the world. The visitors in turn remark on the warmth and friendliness of the Museum’s welcome. If you enjoy meeting people and sharing your enthusiasm for our district and its story, then please come and join us. There are also vacancies for those who would like to work behind the scenes in Collection, Display or Garden. Full training will be given. Email or phone 01747 852157.

Fire Brigade Cartoon

Tea and Talks – Tuesday 02 April 2.30pm

The Tea and Talks session provides an informal opportunity for members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society to share with others historical gems that they have discovered recently, as well as enjoy delicious home-made cake. This year Richard Clarke has observations on the Hinton St Mary Roman Mosaic; Kathie Clarke has been collecting Postcards of Old Shaftesbury; Ray Simpson has unearthed some Notes on the Shaftesbury Fire Service from the Gold Hill Museum Archives; and David Grierson reports on a Skeleton in the (Family History) Closet.

Shaftesbury Fire Service
Shaftesbury’s Fire Brigade turns out for a happy event

This event is free to members. Non-members might like to consider joining The S&DHS. £15 for an individual annual membership gives access to next season’s 2019-20 programme as well as supporting the work of Gold Hill Museum.

Roman Gardens

Chinese Dragon Lanterns, Snowdrop Tiles and Roman Gardens

By Friday 01 March Shaftesbury & District Historical Society Trustee Claire Ryley will have contributed to three educational events in ten days. At Gold Hill Museum on Wednesday 20 February, 10a.m. till noon, the education team from Gold Hill and Shaftesbury Abbey Museums will be helping workshop participants make Chinese Dragon Lanterns. On Thursday 21 February 10a.m. till noon it’s a clay workshop making Galanthus dragons, snowdrop tiles and tealight holders. Both workshops cost £3 per head and are suitable for all ages; children must be accompanied by a responsible adult, with free admission for accompanying adults. Tickets in advance please from Bell Street Tourist Information Centre. Click here for details of other 2019 All Age Events.

On Friday 01 March at 7.30p.m. Claire will be giving an illustrated talk on Roman Gardens to members and guests of Shaston Gardening Association at Bell Street United Church Hall. Claire is the author of the splendid Roman Gardens and their Plants and as Education Officer at Fishbourne Roman Palace helped re-create the Roman garden there. Subsequently she appeared on the TV archaeology show Time Team as a Roman gardens consultant. Non-members are welcome on payment of £3 at the door.

Shillingstone Station

The Station They Never Closed – Lecture 2.30pm Tuesday 05 March

Shillingstone Station opened in 1863 lit by oil lamps and closed just over a century later, still without gas or electricity. Built by the Dorset Central Railway, it became part of the Somerset and Dorset Junction Railway which provided a through route from Bath to Bournemouth. From 1910 The Pines Express gave holidaymakers from Manchester and the North direct access to the South Coast. Unusually for a small country station Shillingstone boasted a canopy, giving shelter to King Edward VII when alighting to visit his friends the Ismays at Iwerne Minster.

In February 1915 war poet Rupert Brooke marched with colleagues of the Hood Naval Battalion from Blandford Camp to entrain for Avonmouth and Gallipoli. It was easier to load the Battalion’s mules at Shillingstone rather than at Blandford. Brooke, well known for such lines as: Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea? died from septicaemia following an infected mosquito bite off Greece.

In 1966 Dr Beeching’s axe fell on the Somerset and Dorset line. The track was lifted in 1967; since 2005 volunteers of the North Dorset Railway Trust have been working to restore the station and some of the track. Jack Bath, Curator, and fellow Trustee David Caddy will tell the story of The Station They Never Closed (officially) at 2.30pm on Tuesday 05 March. This illustrated talk is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £3 at the door.