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.

Operation Warhorse by Julian Richards

The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society’s January lecturer is local archaeologist and broadcaster Julian Richards. At 2.30p.m. on Tuesday 05 January 2016 at Gold Hill Museum, Julian will be telling the real story of horses during the First World War, based on his recent excavation of an equine hospital on Salisbury Plain. This lecture is free to members and non-members may pay £3 at the door.

The Horse Artillery Gunner in the photograph is Harold Edwards [1897-1985] of Street, Somerset. His story has been archived by the Society’s Heritage Lottery Funded Great War Project, and is told in more detail in the December edition of The Byzant, the S&DHS Newsletter.

Dickensians meet Alfred The Great

Visitors to Gold Hill Museum’s late-night Christmas shopping experience on Friday 04 December were welcomed by a cast of historical characters. Ken Howe could have stepped down from the traction engine steaming in The Commons, and Janet Swiss out of her Tudor mural of the Byzant ceremony. Elaine Barratt in full Victorian garb of bonnet and crinoline squeezed into the kitchen to provide excellent hot and spicy mulled wine. Even the Secretary donned a muffler and top hat.

More Christmas family fun is promised in the Garden Room on Sunday afternoon 06 December, 2.00 till 4.00p.m.

Dorset Clay Pipes

Dorset Clay Pipes

December’s lecturer, Robert Lancaster, brought an array of examples and a wealth of knowledge of his subject, Dorset clay pipes. By looking at the size and shape of the bowl, and any imprints on the bowl or stem, he could identify the period of a pipe and frequently the location and name of its maker. Pipes were often given away with the purchase of beer or tobacco, and so pipe-makers were usually poor and illiterate. In Wareham in 2011-12 Robert excavated the site of the kiln of Augustus Moore, who in 1834 was convicted of theft and sentenced to be transported for seven years. It is doubtful whether he ever returned to his five children and wife Sarah, who was listed as a pauper in 1861. The advent of cigarettes at much the same time put paid to the craft of clay pipe-making. Members of the audience, including Shaftesbury students Ella and Bethany, were intrigued by Mr Lancaster’s account of the rise and fall, and the bewildering variety, of clay pipes.

Christmas Fun

Christmas Fun at Gold Hill Museum

Sunday 6th December 2015 – 2-4pm

Free Event All Welcome

Handbells, stories, craft activities, and help us decorate our tree.
Refreshments included.
Children must be accompanied by an adult.
No booking required

Click here for poster

November News

Gold Hill Museum closed its doors at the end of the regular season on Sunday 01 November. About 25 of the volunteer stewards who contributed the 2580 hours required to keep the Museum open every day from 28 March attended a social event, at which they were thanked for their dedication. As a result 20,267 visitors were able to enjoy the permanent and temporary exhibitions, and make the donations and purchases which are the lifeblood of the Museum.
On Monday 02 November the Secretary and Treasurer of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society attended the Shaftesbury in Bloom celebration evening wearing their gardening hats. They were surprised and delighted to receive first prize in the Gardens of Public Buildings category [photograph]. The Museum and its garden will be open to the public during the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival in February 2016, when there should be significantly more snowdrops on display, and an opportunity to try out a new garden seat donated by friends of the late Leonore Schafarik.
On Tuesday 01 December at 2.30p.m. Robert Lancaster will give a talk at Gold Hill Museum on the subject of “Dorset Clay Pipes”. Audience members are invited to bring samples for dating. This event is free to S&DHS members and visitors may pay £3 at the door. From 6 till 8.00p.m. on the evening of Friday 04 December visitors to the Museum and its shop can expect mulled wine and mince pies, while traditional Christmas Family Fun activities take place on the afternoon of Sunday 06 December.