Aldbourne Heritage Centre

Marcus Rouse

During the Festival of Archaeology it was my privilege to share memories about two of our village #HumansOfArchaeology, Andrew Sewell and Howard Gibbs.  Today seems an appropriate day to recall another gentleman in the village, who many will remember, and whose inexhaustible ingenuity supported many projects:  Marcus Rouse.

In the very earliest days of the ‘Aldbourne Archive’, Marcus was kind enough to offer much advice on photographing objects.  This included our original effort for 3D photography.  The Aldbourne Carnival Crown he made, commissioned by the Cheney family, was our very first project (2005).  Marcus explained the symbols in the metalwork.  Dabchicks, The Square, Bells, and the Cross on the Green, the coloured cord around the base of the metalwork represents the sallies or bell-ropes in the Church Tower.  Hours of fun with a turntable, DIY lighting and a VERY DIY background, and a PowerPoint followed.  I can remember long chats when we bumped into each other around the village, once Marcus was inspired by a project his enthusiasm knew no bounds! Much missed.

Marcus contributed a bell wheel for the exhibition in the Memorial Hall during the 2010 Festival.  He made a wooden cut-out of a bell, to show the relative size of bell and wheel.  He also brought along a bell clapper on wheels; so that small people could safely judge the weight.  As I said, a man of great ingenuity.

One of my prized possessions is an acrylic block shaped like a barn which Marcus presented as a memento of a barn dance celebrating my 40th. The year will remain a mystery!

For the first Aldbourne Festival in 1970, Marcus created a bell foundry on the Green.  There was a photograph of this in a fundraising calendar for 2001 and the Aldbourne Heritage Centre have one of his bells, and a model foundry, on display.  I hope to find time to search through pictures in the Aldbourne Photographic Club collection at the Heritage Centre to find a photo of the man himself.  There’s also a fleeting glimpse of the foundry in the film taken by Moya Dixon during the 1970 Festival

Moya Dixon (original cinefilm 1970. With thanks to Ron Morley and Sam Hutchings for their help digitising and publishing this lovely window on Aldbourne history.
Calendar (2001). One of several created by Maureen Albright as a fundraiser for St Michael’s Church, Aldbourne
Bell founded by Marcus Rouse at Aldbourne Heritage Centre
http://aldbourneheritage.org.uk

I’m putting together a collection of Dabchicks (if anyone has a spare number 39 – April 1997) that would be fab!  Today is an appropriate day to publish these reminiscences following this article by Marcus that I discovered whilst sorting through the collection.

Marcus Rouse Dabchick Magazine October 1996

Howard Gibbs Remembered

Howard Gibbs (1928 – 2010)
‘Aldbourne Archaeologist’, Howard’s interest in the distant past was kindled when he volunteered during excavations at Littlecote in the 1970s. I had many chats with Howard about his research, and the wonderful model of the villa he created (displayed in the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes). His poems always seemed to focus of the heart of our village, and the landscape in which we live. There is also one about a frog that went ‘a-wooing’ – not sure that it should be posted on-line – bit saucy! His archive (possibly including the saucy poem) is now deposited with Aldbourne Community Heritage Group – please contact the Curator for more information)

An obituary for Howard by Bryn Walters and Grahame Soffe can be found in the Association for Roman Archaeology Newsletter (Issue 23)

75th Anniversary of the Council for British Archaeology
ArchaeologyUK #FestivalOfArchaeology #humanofarchaeology

Exercise: Digging Band of Brothers

Visiting Aldbourne with local experts and members of the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group in January 2019.

UPDATE June 2019 – photos from the Dig by Harvey Mills, ARPS

75 years after the 506th PIR, 101st Division, including Easy Co, dropped into Normandy, a team of military veterans, service personnel and volunteers from Operation Nightingale/Breaking Ground Heritage are examining the sites where the soldiers lived here in Wiltshire. 

This exercise is already well underway, the team having already undertaken a careful scrutiny of the Heritage Environment Register (Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre) and aerial photos at the Historic England archive; plus geophysics surveys in Ramsbury and Aldbourne. 

Richard Osgood, Senior Archaeologist at Defence Infrastructure Organisation, and his team would like to say a special ‘thank-you’ to Aldbourne Parish Council, landowners, local experts and the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group for their great support thus far on this project.

Operation Nightingale is an initiative from the MoD to help assist the recovery of injured soldiers by getting them involved in archaeological operations.

If you would like more information about Exercise: Digging Band of Brothers, Operation Nightingale/Breaking Ground Heritage or if you have village history to share about the American presence here in WW2 we’d love to hear from you.

Jo Hutchings aldbourne.archive@thedabchick.org.uk

‘Extraordinary Whirlwind’ & Last Word from Miss Foster

weather aldbourne 1863 whirlwind

Cutting at Wiltshire Museum

A century after the hurricane that ‘blew so hard at North’ this report appeared in August 1863.  The article was collected into Rev E H Goddard’s scrapbooks and can be found in the library at the Wiltshire Museum, Devizes (along with many, many other fascinating snippets about the village!).  I’ve seen another item about a lady who was carried some distance by a strong wind under her skirts (!).  I’ll track it down again eventually ….  In the meantime, I’ll leave the weather for today with a final word from Miss Foster; taken from Tony Gilligan’s Parish News December 1985.  A copy of the ‘Fisherman’s Diary’ referred to can be found in the Aldbourne Heritage Centre (open Easter – September and by request); drop them a line if you’d like to know more.

parish news aldbourne december 1985 muriel foster weather

Parish News December 1985

Aldbourne Tradition Revived: The Mummers Are Back!

mummers return 131218

It was great to find out why the December gathering of the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group was entitled ‘Mum’s the Word’ and witness the performance of a Mummers Play.  I have heard a rumour that the Mummers will return again at the Blue Boar this Twelfth Night, thus participating in an ancient celebration.

Some sources suggest that the idea of ‘keeping mum’ comes from the old English word ‘mum’ meaning to remain silent – hence ‘mumming’; but since there’s very little peace and quiet associated with the Mummers I’ve met, I’ve always wondered if an alternative explanation holds true.  You’ve got the Greek word “Mommo”, meaning a mask, to consider.  Since the plays when spoken tended to include local references and gibes, it’s possible that the tradition of blacking the face, or wearing a mask, to avoid recognition (and retribution!) has it’s origin there.  Who knows?  Whatever the derivation it’s all jolly good fun!  Maybe I’ll find time to have a really good chat to some Mummers I know and do further research before next year.  A good starting point is the library and archive at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes and in the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine. Warning: the Rev Goddard’s notes are addictive – fascinating stuff; loved the reference to ‘up goes the donkey’ which was a topic for Twittering during the Terry Pratchett Exhibition at Salisbury Museum last year – but that’s another story …

 

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The only reference I’ve personally found to Mumming in Aldbourne comes in part from Ida Gandy, chapter 3 of The Heart of a Village mentions William Walters, who in ‘his early days played in a band of village mummers’.  I think this was a mistaken name since a newspaper account from 1933 carries the same words, and relates to William Walker.  Thanks to Hannah White-Overton, William’s great-grandaughter, I am able to include a copy of the newspaper cutting below.

 

waes hael to all and sundry on Twelfth Night and for 2019

Early Call from Aldbourne Band

Band on Church

Aldbourne Band were out and about this morning, following their time honoured tradition to herald Christmas Day.  For those of us who partake of social media, it was fun to watch the comments appearing as the group of stalwart players made progress through the streets and of course to hear the soft notes (we’re not near a streetlamp these days) of ‘Silent Night’.

Read the account of a ‘new American friend’ who visited the village in 1985 to explore the custom (with thanks to Graham Smith for the copy of the article).  Brass Caroling with Aldbourne Band – Douglas Smith (pdf opens in new window).  For lots more information, please visit Aldbourne Band – A History by Graham Palmer on the Aldbourne Heritage Centre website – particularly chapter 13, Christians Awake!

Perhaps shy of being in Bethlehem itself the experience of responding to the musical strains of ‘O Come, Let us Adore him, Christ the Lord,’ played beautifully from atop the church tower on that snowy Christmas morning, will linger in my memory as no other. The band did not sing, they did not have to.  Their playing, the dedication which motivated it, said to their American observer everything that needed to be said about the good news of Christmas.

Dr Douglas Smith, professor of church music at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, writing for the British Notebook in The Church Musician September 1985

 

Aldbourne Oral History Project 2007

Autumn in the Square, Aldbourne

The Aldbourne Oral History Project contains accounts from many contributors sharing their memories of events and life in this Wiltshire village (prior to 1953).

Two cds were published in 2007 by David Lee, supported by the Oral History Project Group, on behalf of the Trustees of the Aldbourne Memorial Hall, Oxford Street, Aldbourne, Wiltshire. This undertaking would not have been possible without the personal support of many members of the community and the financial support given by village organisations, businesses and individuals.

The “Complete Highlights” contains the accounts from 44 contributors and was designed to be played on a computer; the “Edited Highlights” contains 36 accounts and was designed specifically for audio playback on a cd player. This enabled the project to be distributed to the widest possible audience. Copies of the CDs are still available to buy from the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group. The sound files have also been published on the Aldbourne Community Heritage Group website. www.aldbourneheritage.org.uk