Aldbourne Heritage Centre
  • New Early Carnival Photograph February 21, 2023

    We were recently lucky enough to aquire this photograph

    Horsedrwn farm carts decorated as carnival floats

    On the reverse is pencilled “Aldbourne” and I’m willing to believe that – this photograph came from the same source as another showing the fire engine “Adam” being used in a wartime demonstration of firefighting, that photo also had “Aldbourne” on the back in the same handwriting. So we went ahead an purchased this photograph. Upon scanning it to a high resolution we could read that the front farm cart says “BROWN” across the front. It’s not identical to this one which is held by Devizes Museum, which is know to have come from Aldbourne.

    Farm wagon with "W. Brown, Aldbourne, Wilts" painted across the front
    Farm cart marked “W. Brown, Aldbourne, Wilts” at Wiltshire Museum

    So it seems very likely that it really was Aldbourne. So, if we believe that, it seems highly likely it shows Carnival entries. It’s the earliest photo I’ve ever seen of carnival floats in Aldbourne, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one of horsedrawn floats before. But if anyone knows any different and has an earlier photo we’d love to see it.

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  • Recent Acquisition: Letters of Charles McEvoy January 24, 2023

    In our village it is fairly well known that in 1910 the playwright Charles McEvoy turned the Old Malthouse into a theatre and used it to stage his play “The Village Wedding”, which starred villagers; the music was provided by some of the band members. A few years ago were were lucky to acquire an annotated script of the play.

    We keep an eye on the internet for interesting Aldbourne items, and one such was a group of letters from Charles McEvoy being sold mainly for their autograph value. The description was minimal, but made it clear that some where typewritten and some handwritten. So we went ahead and purchased them, they are all interesting, but for me the star is the one below. Not only was it written shortly after the first performance, but it is on headed notepaper, which Charles must have had printed – I suspect that cannot have been very cheap – interesting as the whole production seems to have been put together as cheaply as possible using what was available in the village. It also shows that he was the licensee – this is nothing to do with alcohol, but it shows that Charles McEvoy had done what was required under the 1843 Theatres Act – new plays had to be submitted to the Lord Chamberlain for his approval – this was a form of censorship, but was a more relaxed systemn than the Licencee Act of 1743. Under the earlier act the Lord Chamberlain could block the performance of a play for any reason, and he did not have to explain his ban. Under the later act he could only block the performance of plays if he considered that “it is fitting for the preservation of good manners, decorum or of the public peace so to do”

    Photograph of a letter written on headed notepaper by Charles McEvoy to a friend shortly after the first performance of The Village Wedding
    Letter written by Charles McEvoy to Mr Whelan
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  • Kew Visit November 10, 2022

    View of National Archives at Kew on a sunny day

    I’ve been up to Kew again today (old photo – it wasn’t sunny today). Can’t say that I’m a fan of what iscalled Brutalist Architecture, but the contents are all sorts of things. Previously I’d visited doing military research, but this time I was researching Aldbourne schools. But while I was there I took the opportunity to photograph a bunch of other records. These included:

    • Duchy of Lancaster Records of Doyley vs Hayne – there were a number of files about this case from the 1620s – I hope there’s  interesting story in there, but the handwriting is nothing like a modern hand, Either I’ll have to teach myself to read it, or persuade someone else to transcribe it
    • Inland Revenue tax records
    • Chancery records of multiple cases – same problem with the handwriting – they and the Duchy records are all written on vellum – it’s amazing to handle documents that old and they’re still really robust – even if you do have to wash you hands after to get rid of a certain amount of historic grime!
    • And lastly the hearth tax exemption document from 1671, this is it:

    photo of hearth tax exemption document for Aldbourne dated 1671

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  • Book Release: Aldbourne’s Military and Wartime Past by Cassie Rust October 12, 2022

    Cassie Rust has written a detailed book (350 pages!) about the military and wartime history of Aldbourne. It is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback formats. This is the link to Amazon: Aldbourne’s Military and Wartime Past: Rust, Mrs Cassandra Diana: 9798846802148: Books

    The book covers from Roman times onwards through the Civil War, Victorian, First World War, Second World War and post-war periods. It does contain material on the Band of Brothers including a photograph not many people will have seen before

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  • Not Aldbourne #1 August 5, 2022

    Some of the research I’ve done turns out not to be Aldbourne related, but I’d like to put it on the web in case someone finds it useful.

    Air Crash at Avebury 21 April 1941

    P/O Siwek (A free Polish pilot) was flying a Proctor Gypsy (number P-6307), it was a training flight, he was carrying Aircraftman (2nd class) Chesnutt (from Glasgow), who was under instruction as a wireless operator. They were attached to No 9 Signal School.

    At about 17:05, the Proctor was at a height of about 1400 feet when it went into a steep turn and then a left hand spin. It came of of the spin at about 300 feet, only to immediately re-commence spinning (in a flat spin). It crashed on Avebury Down about one mile South East of Avebury. Both the men were killed, Chesnutt was thrown clear by about 10-15 feet.

    The investigation suggested the cause was most likely pilot error, this seems plausible as the pilot only have 16hours experience flying this type of aircraft.

    P/O Siwek was buried in Yatesbury Churchyard.

    [These details from from file AIR 81/6103 at the National Archives]

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