Frances (Fanny) Burney 1752-1840 (2)

Dr Deborah Jones Makes A Case For The Brilliant Burneys

Deborah Jones is Secretary of the Burney Society UK and definitely a fan. The best known of the family, Frances (Fanny) Burney, was a writer of novels, plays and a revelatory diary in an age when women weren’t encouraged to write or publish. During the Revolutionary Wars with France she married a French exile and went to live for over a decade in Napoleon’s Empire. She survived the most drastic surgery despite the total absence of anaesthetics and antiseptics.

The rest of the family were no slouches either. We have perhaps forgotten that they were, as Deborah says, “Stars of the 18th Century.” In her illustrated talk at Gold Hill Museum at 2.30p.m. on Tuesday 05 November Dr Jones will argue that “One family dominated the cultural life of eighteenth-century England: music, writing, exploring, Court life – all were affected by the Burneys. Dr Johnson, Joshua Reynolds, and David Garrick were among close friends of the father, Dr Charles. Fans of one daughter, Fanny, included Jane Austen, George III and Napoleon.” Deborah will address the questions of who the Burneys were and how they achieved such celebrity.

“The Brilliant Burneys: Stars of the 18th Century” is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £3 at the door.

Also at Gold Hill Museum on Wednesday 30 October from 2 till 4p.m. Half Term Autumn Fun is promised for all ages. Activities include making your own fresh apple juice and spicy soap, plus crafts related to Hallowe’en. Entry is free though donations for materials are welcome. Children should be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Shaftesbury Remembers Dorset Regiment Territorials

“Shaftesbury Remembers” Website Expands Coverage

The Shaftesbury Remembers website, created by Gold Hill Museum with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to reflect the locality during World War 1, has become established as a source of reference on an international scale. Volunteer Chris Stupples, who has researched many of the soldiers’ stories featured on the website, is now seeking information about survivors of the Great War. As he writes:  

Work continues in order to reflect the service of those who eventually came back to their families and loved ones in Shaftesbury and District after the conflict was over.  There is still much to be done on this front and names are being sought from various sources and researched so that their stories can be told to future generations.  Over 100 stories have been added thus far and there are very many known names still to research, but given that many of the Service Records were destroyed by enemy action in the Second World War, some are bound to be missed.

The Museum would be pleased if anyone who knows of a local relative who served in World War 1 and returned home could let us know, so that we can be assured they will not be forgotten by generations to come.

The Shaftesbury Remembers website can be accessed by clicking on this link or via the Home Page at and any information can be advised through the Museum on 01747 852157 or by e-mail to

Steven Gunn at The Sale of Shaftesbury Exhibition

Shaftesbury Miller Meets Unfortunate End

Oxford Professor Steven Gunn gave a polished and pacy Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture to an appreciative audience in Shaftesbury Town Hall on 24 September. Based on his findings from the Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in sixteenth century England Research Project, Steven was able to cite several local examples. Robert Mitchell was killed by a falling stone while admiring the ceiling of Sherborne Abbey. Jane Whyte of Chedington died after spending the night in a drunken stupor in a hedge on Rampisham Down. Closer to home, miller Leonard Pytman was dragged into the machinery of the mill at Anketil’s Place.

Alcester Mill accident 1598
Alcester Mill accident 1598 (courtesy of Steven Gunn)

In response to questions from his “cheery and attentive audience” Steven explained that coroners’ juries, consisting of between 10 and 24 men, had the body of the deceased in front of them at the inquest. As a result the coroners’ reports often give graphic detail (in Latin) of the shape and size of fatal injuries. Yes, he was in process of writing a book about his analysis of the records from several thousand inquests; he had reached chapter five of sixteen, but would have to postpone further work once his students returned to Oxford. After a quick tour of Gold Hill Museum in the morning (where it was possible to locate Anketil’s Place on the map of the 1919 Sale of Shaftesbury) Professor Gunn caught the train to resume his duties as Acting Warden of Merton College.

September 2019 Mailing to Members

Bumper September Mailing Includes Bonus Pamphlet

Members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society should have received a bumper September mailing including the Byzant Newsletter, the 2019-20 Lectures & Events Programme, and a separate illustrated pamphlet on the 1919 Sale of Shaftesbury written by member Matthew Tagney. There is still time to see the exhibition on the Sale, curated by Matthew, at Gold Hill Museum (until 31 October.)

The 2019-20 Lecture season begins with the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture at 7.30p.m. on Tuesday 24 September at Shaftesbury Town Hall. Oxford Professor Steven Gunn will talk on Everyday Life and Accidental Death in Tudor Dorset and Wiltshire. Professor Gunn and a colleague have examined the documentary records from thousands of Tudor inquests, and been able to shed light on the myriad ways our Tudor predecessors put their personal safety in jeopardy in the course of their daily lives. Please click here for ThisisAlfred’s interview with Steven Gunn.

This illustrated talk is free to S&DHS members and open to members of the public on payment of £5 at the door. This charge will be refunded to anyone deciding to join The S&DHS. Single adult annual membership costs £15 and gives access to five more lectures and a summer outing to a place of historical interest, as well as supporting the work of the volunteers at Gold Hill Museum.

Tudor Disregard for Health and Safety at its Peak in the Summer

Professor Steven Gunn of Merton College Oxford is leading a project to sift through 9,000 sixteenth-century coroners’ reports from all over England held in the National Archives and has found that most fatal accidents occurred between April and September. On Tuesday 24 September at 7.30pm he delivers the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture in Shaftesbury Town Hall when he promises examples of Everyday Life and Accidental Death in Tudor Dorset and Wiltshire. The lecture is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £5 at the door. Prof. Gunn is one of our leading scholars of the Tudor period with numerous books to his name and delivered the prestigious Ford Lectures in 2015.

He said: ‘Most people are enjoying the recent warmer weather but this wasn’t always good news in Tudor England, in which nearly three-quarters of all fatal accidents in 1558-60 occurred between April and September when farming work was at its height.

‘Deaths happened in various and unexpected ways – some were straightforward accidents with scythes or cart crashes, but other unfortunate people are recorded as mangling themselves in the machinery of windmills or watermills, turning carts on top of themselves when loading them with barley, falling out of trees when gathering fruit and nuts and even falling asleep by piles of hay that collapsed and suffocated them.

He added: ‘The autumn was a bad time for pig-famers, though, as October was the prime month for falling out of oak trees when collecting acorns to fatten up swine for slaughter.’

Today building and mining rank alongside farming as dangerous industries to work in and it was just the same in Tudor England. Miners were suffocated by coal-damp in Staffordshire and Yorkshire and workmen fell from roofs in Huntingdonshire and Westmorland. Timber was important for building and firewood and 14% of work accidents involved cutting or transporting wood.

Prof. Gunn said: ‘Tudor lumberjack technique seems to have been a bit wanting. Men in Bedfordshire, Cumberland, Hampshire, Somerset, Westmorland and Yorkshire were all hit by ash, oak or poplar trees they were cutting down. John Broke, a cloth-maker from Dalton in Yorkshire, was particularly unlucky because he was building a fence when an oak tree cut down some time before suddenly rolled downhill and hit him.’

The increased use of machinery means that nowadays only one per cent of fatal workplace injuries are caused by livestock, but animals were a major cause of fatalities in Tudor England. Prof. Gunn said: ‘We have found fatalities caused not only by horses and cattle but also by sheep and pigs. One five-year-old boy from Huggate in Yorkshire was attacked by the pigs he was herding. But horses were the most dangerous animals, causing 93% of livestock injuries by throwing their riders, kicking people, dragging them into water or running away with carts.

He added: ‘The crowded streets round London must have been a particularly dangerous place to ride. One poor butcher’s boy, William Randall, fell into a pit at the side of the road in St Martin-in-the-Fields parish at eight o’clock on a February evening trying to carry a calf slung across his horse’s saddle back to his master’s shop in St Clement Danes.’

Fatal accidents in the outdoors became such a problem that handbooks were even made to warn people of unexpected dangers. Prof. Gunn explained: ‘Dealing with pests was just as risky. Tudor farming handbooks advised caution when climbing trees to kill crows in their nests. It sounds like health and safety gone mad, but given that we have found several men who fell to their deaths doing just this, perhaps it was necessary!’

The project is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and its website can be accessed by clicking here

Annual Garden Party 2019

Perfect Weather for Garden Party

The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society chose one of the hottest days of the year for their Annual Garden Party on Tuesday 23 July. At the preceding AGM, Chairperson Elaine Barratt paid tribute to the indispensable contributions of numerous Society members and volunteers, including retiring Trustee Claire Ryley who would continue to volunteer for both Museums in the town. Unfortunately the Society had lost a former Chairman in Terry Atkins, a former President in Geoffrey Tapper, and a regular steward and cataloguer in Jill Wilkins. Elected as Trustees were Elaine herself, Ian Kellett and Paulette McManus. The meeting decided not to increase annual or life membership subscriptions, which remain attractively priced at £15 and £75 respectively for an individual; and £25 annually for a family or partners at the same address. It was agreed that the Trustees would look at the possibility of more flexibility in the starting times of some lectures in the 2020-21 season. The 2019-20 programme is already arranged and visible on the Gold Hill Museum website. With the business of the AGM concluded in little over half an hour, members were delighted to socialise alfresco while admiring the handiwork of the team of garden volunteers.

Mary Arden's Farm

Tudor Accident of the Month: Making and Taking Worming Powder

July 2019. Intestinal worms were an unpleasantly common affliction in sixteenth-century England. In his book on horsemanship in 1566 Thomas Blundeville explained that one of the three kinds of worms affecting horses was ‘long and rounde, even lyke to those that children do most commonly voyde’. In June 1580 at Lawshall in Suffolk fourteen-year-old Anne Wyffyn resolved on drastic action to cure herself. She ground up some ratsbane – arsenic used as rat poison – into a very fine powder, mixed it into a pot of ale and drank it, aiming to kill the worms and not suspecting that she would poison herself in the process. She soon fell ill, however, and two days later she was dead.

Professor Steven Gunn of Merton College Oxford is co-director of the ‘Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth Century England’ Research Project. On Tuesday 24 September at 7.30p.m. in Shaftesbury Town Hall Professor Gunn will deliver the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture, when he will focus on ‘Everyday Life and Accidental Death in Tudor Dorset and Wiltshire’. This talk is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £5 at the door.

Perce-pierre or rock samphire

Tudor Accident of the Month: Gathering Rock Samphire

June 2019. Rock samphire is a succulent coastal plant, nutritious to eat but dangerous to harvest. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, Edgar and Gloucester look down from a cliff and spot ‘one that gathers samphire, dreadful trade’. John Pantridge was practising that trade at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight on 18 June 1576 at a place on the cliffs called ‘peppers mede’, perhaps near Old Pepper Rock. He fell 170 feet onto the rocks below and broke his neck. One month later, on 20 July, the same fleshy, spicy treat lured John Turle to his doom at Fairlight, Sussex. He fell only 13 feet, but it was enough to break ‘his hed and scull’. And women as well as men braved the coast for samphire. At Weston-super-Mare in Somerset on 27 May 1587, Joan Davys fell on a rock and broke her neck when gathering ‘Sampyer’.

Professor Steven Gunn of Merton College Oxford is co-director of the ‘Everyday Life and Fatal Hazard in Sixteenth Century England’ Research Project. On Tuesday 24 September at 7.30p.m. in Shaftesbury Town Hall Professor Gunn will deliver the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture, when he will focus on ‘Everyday Life and Accidental Death in Tudor Dorset and Wiltshire’. This talk is free to members of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society while non-members may pay £5 at the door.

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.