Museum Past Events and Exhibitions:
Malmesbury in World War II: Making Vision into Power - The Secret War Factory (EKCO) 15th March 2019.
Dr Phil Judkins told the gripping story of how the radars built in Malmesbury were developed and used. Dr Judkins has a PhD in the history of radar at Cranfield and is a Fellow of both the Universities of Buckingham and of Leeds, specialising in the history of military electronics. The speaker was introduced by Bill Reed author of “You’re One of Us Now” During the Second World War, Britain was under attack both from enemy bombers, in the night-time Blitzes, and at sea from submarine attacks on Atlantic convoys. British scientists at Worth Matravers in Dorset had developed new powerful radars, but hundreds now had to be built. Where? Here in Malmesbury, at Cowbridge, where EKCO had moved its production. The entire workforce had to be trained to build these radars, then the most advanced technology in the world, and Malmesbury's success played a major part in keeping this nation safe. The event was a huge success. We sold out of tickets and had a waiting list. Dr Judkins’ talk was packed full of information, and his audience was fascinated. He answered many questions from the audience and spoke to people after the talk. He brought with him some of the equipment made here in Malmesbury, used on planes and ships during the war for us to see. His enthusiasm and depth of learning were much appreciated.
The Barn Choir January 19th 2019.
A successful first event in the new Julia & Hans Rausing Building (Old Moravian Church). The Barn Choir all the way from Dorset sang Epiphany themed arrangements together with some Moravian themes. There were 16 singers, conducted by Richard Hall who gave us interesting explanations to each piece. This was the first time that music (other than builders’ radios) has been heard in the building since the Moravians left in 1996. The acoustics are very good. We shall adjust the lighting to suit a choir. Our thanks to The Barn Choir and Museum supporters who hosted some of them for the night. All proceeds support Athelstan Museum.
The Annual Museum Quiz February 8th 2019.
A sell out, the quiz was excellent in the new building. All the new tables and chairs were in use. The atmosphere was jolly. Deborah Clogg was question master. Janet Casselden led the team who provided the ham and salad supper. Roger Griffin and Judith Burridge made extra funds on the raffle. Proceeds all went to Athelstan Museum. Watch out for tickets for the same time next year, the first weekend in February.
A Lifetime of Metal Detecting by Tony Mims and the Portable Antiquity Scheme
During the summer the museum displayed a fantastic array of metal detecting finds from Wiltshire with many of them from the Malmesbury area! This exhibit had been put up by Tony Mims the finder of the Roman Malmesbury Coin Hoard. The number of interesting objects, including coins of all periods, rings, Roman brooches, buckles and everyday objects is staggering. Tony is a responsible metal detectorist and to complement his display we had exhibit boards explaining the Portable Antiquity scheme and the Treasure act law.
Jane Austen and the Chawton connection March 9th 2018.
Richard Knight farms near Cirencester and is a descendent of the Knight family who built Chawton House, Hampshire, in the 16th century. Chawton was inherited by Jane Austen’s brother Edward. Richard is Edward’s great, great, great grandson and inherited Chawton in the late 1980’s. When Jane, her mother and sister Cassandra moved from Bath, Edward provided a home in the village of Chawton. Jane enjoyed the most prolific period of her writing life at Chawton. Richard Knight is freehold owner and trustee of Chawton House which is open to the public and which is also a library and research institute devoted to the works of early women writers.
Richard’s illustrated talk gave a fascinating account of the Knight family and its long standing connection to Chawton. Some descendants had to change their names to Knight to maintain the legacy and there were entails on the estate which affected inheritance. After Richard’s talk, Helen Combs played music of the Jane Austen period and Jackie Tong read some excerpts from Jane Austen’s writing richly complimenting Richard’s talk. The most enjoyable evening whetted our appetites for a visit to Chawton.
Wiltshire at War: A Child's War
This Exhibition on the mezzanine floor was from 30th January to 11th March 2018
Using documents and archive images this exhibition looked at the effect of the First World War on the children of Wiltshire; it featured fascinating stories about boy soldiers, fundraising, school life, and Scouts.
The exhibition included information panels with illuminating images, and was the third of five Wiltshire at War exhibitions, which are part of Wiltshire County’s multi-year remembrance of the First World War. Stories have been gathered from all across Wiltshire.
From mid November 2017 until the end of January 2018 an excellent exhibition of the history of Hankerton village was displayed.
Museum Shop Sunday - November 26th 2017.
Almost 200 people attended this National event to promote museums.
Bill Reed signed his new book "You're One of Us Now" and Roger Griffin signed his new book "Street Names". Janet Casselden organised children's activities while Sue Wilson, local jeweller, Phillip Kingsbury, lino print cards and pictures and Hector Cole, local artist in metal, sold their wares.
The museum shop was well stocked with new items and tickets for the Christmas Hamper sold well. The draw will take place on Late Night Opening on Friday 1st December.
The event was a great success. Thanks to all who supported it.
The Romans in our Region on 16th November 2017
As part of the Heritage Lottery supported Malmesbury Coin Hoard Project a very full house in the Town Hall was entertained and informed by an excellent talk about the Romans in the Cotswold area given by the eminent archaeologist and CEO of Cotswold Archaeology, Neil Holbrook.
Special Display of South West Wiltshire Metal Detecting Finds - Autumn 2017
The museum was fortunate to have a number of fascinating objects on display from throughout South West Wiltshire. They were on loan from the Western Region branch of the National Council for Metal Detecting.
The Cleveland Connection
At the AGM on 11th September 2017 Sue Poolman gave a presentation on The Cleveland Connnection, based on the Exhibition which she and Mike Elam recently created for the Museum. This is the remarkable story of the nineteenth century emigration by more than four hundred Malmesburians to Cleveland, Ohio. Several of them - notably Samuel Andrews, Maurice Clark and his brothers, John Alexander, Daniel Shurmer and John Teagle - became involved in the beginnings of the oil industry and amassed huge fortunes as partners and competitors of John D Rockefeller. Most of the emigrants remained in America but John Alexander eventually returned to Malmesbury to live in Abbey Row, and to become a pillar of the community. Sue's researches continue and she is writing a book for the Museum. It is also hoped that we will forge links with similar institutions in Ohio: our Exhibition could well find its way across the Atlantic in due course.
Lull - Malmesbury's Missionary Monk
The exhibition "Lull Malmesbury's Missionary Monk" was displayed downstairs in the museum.
The exhibition included many interesting items kindly loaned from the museum of Bad Hersfeld that explain the relationship Saint Lull had and continues to have with the people of Hersfeld and Malmesbury. Included in this generous loan is a wonderful 16th century painting of Archbishop Lull.Visitors learned about this fascinating monk from Malmesbury who lived and worked in 8th century Germany and is the beloved founder of Bad Hersfeld, Germany with whom Malmesbury is forming an official friendship agreement.
A new book on Lull by Tony McAleavy and Maria Marsh is available in the museum and this has recently been translated into German and is on sale in Bad Hersfeld.
The Walter Powell Eclipse commemoration weekend in aid of the Moravian Church Restoration Fund. 19th to 21st May 2017
Athelstan Museum held a weekend of exciting events to commemorate the 1881 Eclipse balloon flight by Malmesbury’s MP Walter Powell. On Friday evening there was a lecture in The Town Hall when James Gray told the story of Walter Powell and his deadly passion for ballooning. There is a new booklet on sale in the Museum if you would like to know more. World famous explorer Sir David Hempleman-Adams spoke about his own adventurous ballooning escapades and thrilled everyone with descriptions of the hazards and highlights of his exploits. Members of the audience in Victorian dress added to the occasion. On Saturday afternoon there were guided walks around the town illustrating Walter Powell’s lasting influence on Malmesbury. Unfortunately the rain came down but we were assured by one father in the Museum afterwards that his children had enjoyed it none the less.
Sunday afternoon saw The Cross Hayes closed to traffic and the people of Malmesbury coming in their thousands to watch our attempt to re-create Walter Powell’s 1881 Eclipse flight which took off from the Cross Hayes and used up the town’s gas supply in the process. Sir David Hempleman -Adams and James Gray attired in Victorian costume were ready to fly with two passengers also splendid in Victorian outfits. Prizes were presented to local school children who had entered the Art Competition, with prizes kindly donated by MDFAS, the Malmesbury Celebration Band played the original music for Walter Powell’s flight, the original prayer was recited by Sara Crabb, the balloon was inflated and ready to go. Sadly the winds were not in our favour and at the last moment the flight was aborted owing to wind turbulence.
However, disappointing as this was, the event displayed the spirit of the people of Malmesbury who supported The Museum and donated to the Moravian Church Restoration Fund. The atmosphere was wonderful, the sun shone, children made hot air balloons which are hung in the Museum for the week. The sight of the huge blue balloon and the crowds filling the traffic-free Cross Hayes will remain in our memories for many years to come. If you would like to donate to the Moravian Church Restoration Fund go the donation button on the website:
or leave your donation in the Museum. Thank you.
Wiltshire at War: Keeping the Home Fires Burning until 15th May 2017
This enlightening exhibition on the impact of World War I on Wiltshire included the stories of Belgian Refugees, the enigmatic Albany Ward who provided film entertainment around the county, stories about lady postmen and many more. This was exhibition 4 of the Wiltshire at War county-wide exhibit commemorating WW1.
Lace Day on Saturday 29th April 2017
The museum's Lace Day was well attended by lace makers from across the country. The day offered an opportunity for like-minded lace enthusiasts to meet up and discuss the latest news and techniques. Specialist suppliers were on hand with a wide range of goods, including the museum's new line of lace-themed mugs and Athelstan bobbins. Joanne Huntley gave a well-received talk on the history of lace.
Marc Allum - An Evening of Antiques - Tuesday 25th April 2017
This fundraiser for the Malmesbury Coin Hoard was very entertaining and enlightening. Marc Allum of the BBC Antiques Roadshow treated us to his expert commentary on numerous objects brought in by the audience and the museum, and to many humorous anecdotes of his time in the antiques business. From a butcher's bell in the shape of a pig to a simple nostalgic hat-stretcher Marc's choices showed his wide-ranging knowledge and passion for collecting. We're very grateful for Marc donating his time to support the museum.
The evening was in support of the Malmesbury Coin Hoard. Visit the website:
'Malmesbury Voices' on Wednesday 22nd March 2017 in Malmesbury Town Hall
Following the success of his first talk, Bill Reed launched the Second Series with a further selection of his recordings of people's Memories of Malmesbury. This very entertaining evening included photographs of people and events being described by 'The Voices'. There will be more to come.
Visit to Westonbirt on Wednesday 15th March 2017
We had a wonderful visit to Westonbirt on Wednesday. The weather was idyllic, all the tickets were sold, the tour was most interesting and the tea was scrumptious. The Camelia House looked its best and we had time for a leisurely stroll in the gardens. Many thanks to Christine MacLachlan for organising it so efficiently.
Grand Opening of Wiltshire at War on Friday 3rd March 2017
The grand opening of Wiltshire at War Keeping the Home Fires Burning was an inspiring and highly enjoyable evening. Guests had a chance to have a drink and view the current exhibit. After an introduction by the Mayor of Malmesbury and an overview of the project, the folk singer Louise Jordan entertained an audience of 70. She kept us spellbound with many songs and fascinating stories about the unsung women of WW1 while playing a variety of instruments. It was a perfect introduction to the new exhibit.
In 2016 the Malmesbury branch of the Embroiderers Guild created a group of textile art works to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the birth of Capability Brown. They were inspired by the gardens and artefacts from Bowood House where the finished pieces were on display over the summer. This was part of a nation wide project organised by the Embroiderers Guild with various National Trust and other private properties which Lancelot 'capability' Brown designed. The excellent works of art were displayed upstairs in the museum.
There was a launch of Bill Reed's collection of recordings on Wednesday 5 October 2016 in the Assembly Room at the Town Hall, Malmesbury.
Bill Reed gave a short presentation with extracts from the recordings he has made, and we were shown how they are being made available to Museum visitors.
This project, which was proposed in summer 2015, now comprises about 50 separate items. While the architecture and artefacts of the town, broadly, remain for future generations, the voices of residents, sadly, do not. The Museum Council considers that this project is not only a significant contribution to Malmesbury records, but that through the immediacy of the voices it constitutes a unique expression of the spirit of Malmesbury. New contributors are constantly coming forward or being suggested to us, and we hope to be able to extend the collection and its display. Bill included some suggestions for this in his talk, and will also welcome your suggestions and comments.