Museum Past Events and Exhibitions:

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

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 Coin Hoard

'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.

Embroiderers Guild

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.

Malmesbury Voices

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.

Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Athelstan Museum was held on September 12th 2016 in the Town Hall

The AGM was well attended. After the business part of the AGM where we learned that the museum is doing well in numbers of both members and volunteers and is in a good place financially as well as the exciting projects coming up to do with the Moravian Chapel and the Malmesbury Coin Hoard. Those present were treated to a talk given by two enthusiastic presenters from Westonbirt School. First, Steve Kenny, CEO of the Holford Foundation and Bursar at Westonbirt school, told us of some of the fascinating history of Westonbirt before the Holford family and after as well as the building of Westonbirt house. Then Joy Bell, Assistant Head of Westonbirt told us of the the school and its students and ended by telling of the recent uncovering of the servants' bells--over 60 of them!

Hidden Gems Exhibition.

This was a charming exhibition of some of our volunteers' favourite rarely-seen objects from the collection. It proved very popular with the volunteers and visitors over the summer.

1st July to 31st August 2016 - Wiltshire at War 2: Wiltshire Does It's Bit

This was the second in a series of five exhibitions that are touring the county to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I. It told the story of how the towns and villages in Wiltshire helped with the war effort.

On 1st September at 7.30.p.m in the Town Hall, Tony McAleavy gave a talk about the remarkable but little-known Saint Lull of Malmesbury.

It was another fantastic talk given by Mr. McAleavy to a packed house for the Carnival. There was much to learn about Lull, and Daniel of Malmesbury. The entertaining evening included special guests from Bad Hersfeld who were visiting Malmesbury this week.

St Aldhelm Exhibition May to June 2016.

This was a small exhibition about the life of St Aldhelm with a test of some of his poetic riddles.

Wiltshire's Story in 100 Objects. From 12th October 2015 until 13th January 2016

This fascinating exhibition told the history of Wiltshire in 100 objects. It was a collaboration between the museums of Wiltshire and Athelstan Museum was privileged to be one of the few museums in the county to host this exciting display. The objects ranged from the stunning Amesbury Archer's gold hair braids, an 1870's policeman's helmet, to a Linolite lamp made in Malmesbury and everything in between. It was very well received.