I had a room full of interested attendees for my first History Revealed day. For those of you who are familiar with our Interpretation courses at the History Centre, this is a variation on a theme. I would like to extend the scope of this type of event which to date has been reliant on the morning study session being within easy reach of the field visit in the afternoon, tying us to the Chippenham area. My grand plan is to use our wonderful public libraries as a base for the study session to allow us to explore further afield.
This was our first ‘test case’, although not much further afield I grant you! However, it did coincide with Calne Heritage week which was very fitting.
Calne Library proved a great venue for hosting the morning session where attendees enjoyed a presentation beginning with guidance on what to think about when tracing the origins of a village. I continued by explaining how to make the most of secondary sources, including material by local authors, academic works, the census, local directories and much more. Bremhill was used as a case study with examples and details highlighted to prove how much can be gleaned from these types of sources. They are a good place to start as the legwork has already been done for you!
I continued with a look at maps – the enclosure award was a big hit and rightly so, the field names in particular are fascinating to look at, especially when studied in conjunction with older and more recent written and map sources.
My colleague, Archivist Ally McConnell, then shared a number of archive sources for Bremhill with the group, explaining just how they can be utilised for local history research. These included plans, school records, sales particulars and more.
We concluded the session with a look at a number of online sources which can aid research into village history and attendees got hands-on with a number of books available at Calne Library which can help with local history research in general and at Bremhill.
St. Martin’s Church was the site for us to reconvene and conduct our field visit in the afternoon, using the skills learnt to study the development of the village at first hand. It was a great opportunity to view the topography and see how it shaped the settlement, and to hear about the architectural history of the buildings from Dorothy Treasure of the Wiltshire Buildings record who joined us for the afternoon session.
The day was very well received with comments including “fascinating,” “very informative,” “useful guidance for future research,” with the attendees enjoying finding out about new sources that would be of use to them.
The morning session proved extremely successful, although it would have been nice to allow more time and have more space for people to view the library books and small amount original material brought over from the History Centre at the end of the presentation. The afternoon sessions always prove difficult to manage; people tend to congregate and chat in groups, but herding them along officiously doesn’t really seem appropriate! I’m not sure if there is a solution to this problem and if anyone out there has discovered one I’d love to know… However, it was a sign that everyone was enjoying the tour.
Many thanks also go to Calne’s Community Library Manager Jo Smith who helped organise the venue.
I hope to run two further History Revealed days next year in the spring and autumn but I haven’t yet planned which will be my next location – what do you think?
County Local Studies Librarian
Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre