Posts Tagged ‘1900’

An inkwell

March 10, 2015

Today we look at an item which will not be familiar to people much younger than 60 yet it will bring back memories for the older generation.

Inkwells date from the days of dip in pens and for many of that older generation, their first experience of using a pen was a dip in pen.

Sybil Perry, former pupil AND teacher at Market Lavington school certainly remembered them – they feature in her hand written and drawn memories. In a spoken tape Sybil made she reported that she felt very grown up when she was first allowed to use a pen like these.

A drawing by Sybil Perry

A drawing by Sybil Perry

Her drawing shows a couple of pens which were dipped in the ink put in the well and then used until the ink held on the nib had been used and it was time to dip again. Sybil shows a school room inkwell but there were also domestic or office wells for desks which didn’t have special holes to put them in and that’s what we have at the museum.


An inkwell at Market Lavington Museum

This is placed against a centimetre scale so you can gauge the size.

In this case the well is mounted in a pewter drum and has four holes in which pens could be put. A lid can be shut down over the well to reduce evaporation when the ink was not in use.

We believe this item dates from the very early years of the twentieth century




Shem Butcher

April 18, 2014

It was back in 2012 that we came across the story of Shem and his donkey shay, pictured on October October 1st 1900 at Lavington Station – the day the railway line opened. Back then we hoped to come up with a better quality photo and we have got one that’s a bit better – excuse enough to revisit this wonderful story which was actually published in a 1930s newspaper. This time we have transcribed the story and here it is.


Our picture is not one of “the wonderful one-hoss shay” which Holmes immortalised in “The Deacon’s Masterpiece”. It is what might be aptly termed “Shem’s shay”.

Shem Butcher and his donkey cart - ready for a customer on the opening day at Lavington Station - October 1st 1900

Shem Butcher and his donkey cart – ready for a customer on the opening day at Lavington Station – October 1st 1900

To the younger generation it will appear to be only a picture – probably as an amusing one – but to the older residents of Devizes and around about, it is one in which they will recognise an old personality, who used to’ be as familiar in our Market Place as Drew’s pigeons. Those of the older school will recognise in it Mr. Shem Butcher and his donkey-cart, who in days gone by used to be a regular attendant at Devizes Market. Shem and his equipage were the observed of all the observers in those days – an old favourite with the locals and, his cart tied up with string and his donkey’s harness similarly kept together, were the subjects of curiosity on the part of those who saw them for the first time. Shem, now gathered to his fathers, was an old man, but it was a moot point whether he was senior in years to his donkey. What has happened to his faithful companion we do not know; according to the laws of nature it should now be enjoying its last rest, but seeing that the “oldest inhabitants” are said to have rarely seen a dead donkey one would hesitate to say that Neddy has brayed for the last time.

Shem and his shay, as seen in the illustration, are drawn outside Lavington railway station, upon the first day when the Stert – Westbury route of the Great Western Railway to the West was opened. It was there that the photographer Burgess’s camera made a picture of them which has now become historic. Upon the opening of the route the writer was at Patney Station when the first train steamed in from the Lavington direction on a beautiful October morning in 1900. But it is obvious that he went to the-wrong place from the point of view of public interest. That was surely at Lavington, where, according to an endorsement on the back of the photograph, Shem’s shay represented “the first public vehicle that plied for hire at Lavington station upon its opening.” Whether it was patronised by any of the passengers we are not told. For years after the route was opened the photograph was given a place on one of the walls of the station. It remained until, having regard to the changes which the efflux of time brought, the picture began to lose its significance because those who knew Shem Butcher became fewer and fewer. Eventually the photograph became the property of Mr. H.J. Sainsbury, the local builder, which was appropriate, as it was Mr. Sainsbury who, in a light spring cart which he made himself, drawn by a fine little upstanding cob, took the first load of goods either to, or from, the local railway station.

Shem was often the butt of jokes on the part of the younger generation, and a story as to that is perhaps worth telling. The donkey and cart were standing unattended in the drive of Clyffe Hall at Market Lavington while the aged owner was doing business inside the house. A few young rascals of the locality came along and removed the donkey and cart to the other side of the road, where the Awdrys used to have their cricket pitch. There was situate a five-bar gate, which was locked, but one of the perpetrators of the joke had the key. He with the contrivance of the other young scallywags, unlocked the gate, unhitched the donkey from the cart, and Put the shafts through the bars, hitching Neddy in again on one side of the gate with the cart on the other. Then they locked the gate and awaited the arrival of the owner. What Shem said can be imagined. The culprits of the incident were in hiding, and eventually one of them, having heard the owner’s story, “happened to have a key in his pocket and wondered if it would fit and unlock the gate!” Needless to say it did.

Mr. Butcher who latterly resided in a cottage adjacent to the Clock Inn at Lydeway was formerly a farmer at Cheverell Common, having a herd of some 20 cows. He made a speciality of producing mangold seed, with which in those days he supplied a number of farmers in the neighbourhood.

It may be of interest to recall that this first section of the new short route to the West from Stert to Westbury was opened for goods traffic at the end of July 1900 and for passengers on 1 October the same year. From the new station, called Patney and Chirton, to which the single line of the old Berks and Hants extension railway from Hungerford had already been doubled, it is 14½ miles long, and for the first mile runs alongside the old line to Devizes. Save for a brick viaduct, 120 yards long and 40 feet high, near Lavington, there are no engineering features worth mentioning, but the earthwork was heavy and much trouble and delay was caused in the early stages by slips. Until the opening of the Castle Cary and Langport line, which had not then been begun, its only effect was to shorten the distance between London and Weymouth, and of course all stations below Westbury, by 14½ miles. This, however, was of some importance in connection with the competitive Channel Islands traffic, which was constantly increasing. Two new twin-screw boats, Reindeer and Roebuck, similar to Ibex, had been placed on the station and a summer daylight service established in 1897, in addition to the regular night service.

Unidentified young lady

March 29, 2014

Old and unlabelled photos are something of a nightmare. The one we show today is labelled only by the name of the photographer who was (who else) A Burgess , photographer of Market Lavington.

That, of course, gives it the provenance we need to have the photo as an item at our local museum, but of course we’d love to know who the young lady is.

Unidentified lady as photographed by Alf Burgess of Market Lavington in about 1900

Unidentified lady as photographed by Alf Burgess of Market Lavington in about 1900

The photo is cabinet photo size and it looks as though it has been mounted in a hand cut frame to get the photographer’s name on the front. The back of the photo is entirely blank. The subject of the photo, the lady, has been vignette – no background has been included and only the head and only her head and shoulders show.

Virtually everything about this photo and mount point to it being from the first decade of the twentieth century. If a single year had to be picked we might suggest 1900 itself.

But who is the lady?


If we enlarge the lady and alter the contrast we can see that she was a glasses wearer and has the most wonderful and elaborate hat.

If anybody does recognise her, then do get in touch. Bear in mind that she might not be a Market Lavington lady. Photographers were few and far between in rural Wiltshire at that time.

Warm enough for you?

March 9, 2014

Now what on earth is this little wooden item?

An elegant wooden case

An elegant wooden case

It is certainly an elegant little tube and it contains an elegant little thermometer.


Inside there is a delightful thermometer

This has about the size of an old fashioned clinical thermometer, but its temperature range goes from what we’d call sub-zero temperatures up to the sort of temperature one might get on the hottest ever summer day down by the Mediterranean Sea.

The thermometer clearly contains mercury – wholly safe so long as the thermometer is not broken. With that in mind, note the square end to the cap of that wooden tube. It stops the tube from rolling. It’s a cunningly simple safety measure.

This thermometer has temperatures on the Fahrenheit scale.


This Fahrenheit thermometer, dating from around 1900, can be found at Market Lavington Museum

This Fahrenheit thermometer, dating from around 1900, can be found at Market Lavington Museum

The scale actually runs from 20o to 120o which is about -7 to 48 on the Celsius scale.

We don’t know a lot about the origin of this thermometer. Our guess is that it dates from around 1900. It was acquired by our former curator at a Market Lavington jumble sale in about 1980. We’ll probably never know who actually used it and why they felt they needed it.

The Horse Bus

January 26, 2014

Edwin Potter’s horse bus service connected Market Lavington to the rest of the world. Until the railway arrived in 1900, the only way out of our parish was by road and the only regular bus service was that provided by Mr Potter. This photo is a lovely portrait of the bus. We do not know just where it was taken. Clearly it is on a country lane. It is dated at around 1900.

Edwin Potter's Market Lavington to Devizes bus in about 1900

Edwin Potter’s Market Lavington to Devizes bus in about 1900

Our photo is clearly a copy of one in an album.

We can see the bus in the charge of two horses. They may have been deemed a little flighty as blinkers are being worn.

By 1900, Mr Potter was finding this service uneconomical but it looks as though he would earn money as a carrier. His bus roof is heavily laden.

Operating the bus tended to be a family affair. That could be Edwin, himself, driving and possibly a son leaning on the bus at the back.

There is a rather attractive young lady making use of the bus service.

A bus passenger

A bus passenger

She must have decided she’d be in the photo.

The arrival of motor buses ended the reign of the horse on this service. By 1911 Edwin was earning his keep on his farm.

An ancient gramophone record

January 18, 2014

What would we do without the Williams family of Easterton? Many of our lovely exhibits, given in recent years have come from that family whose ancestors held the Manor of Easterton and also Eastcott. A recent gift has been gramophone records which it is believed the family have owned from new. Here is just one example from the collection.

An early Berliner Gramophone record now at Market Lavington Museum

An early Berliner Gramophone record now at Market Lavington Museum

This record is one of Emil Berliner’s Gramophone records. Emil Berliner invented the name gramophone for his disc system which was a rival to the Edison phonograph. His first records were really only toys and came out in the 1880s. By the 1890s Berliner had moved on to larger, 7 inch records like the one shown and in 1898 he set up a British company.

For the first three years of production, records did not have a paper label. The required information was embossed and scratched on the surface of the newly pressed disc. The record, above, tells us it is a ‘talk’ – John Morton on Trousers and that it was recorded in London. It also gives us the date of the recording.

The date of the recording - 28th August 1900 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne

The date of the recording – 28th August 1900 when Queen Victoria was still on the throne

And there we have the date for this one – 28th August 1900.

We are still trying to find out more about these records. They play on a standard ‘old’ 78 rpm gramophone, but they seem to need to revolve at a slightly lower speed. Most wind up gramophones have a controller which allows the speed to be varied.

It has to be said that Mr Morton’s talk on trousers is comedic in nature and very hard to understand. Brass band music comes out quite well.

The records themselves have spent years in a barn and need gentle cleansing.

The museum doesn’t own a gramophone itself and seeks one with appropriate local provenance. Can any local help by offering us one? Lack of space means a portable would be most suitable, but others can be considered.

A cigar holder

May 2, 2013

At Market Lavington Museum we have no love for smoking but we can accept it is, sadly, an addictive habit and one that many people, in the past, took up. Once started, they found themselves unable to give up the habit, even had they wanted to.

We certainly do not favour the slaughter of elephants for ivory either but here we have an item of smoking history that is, in part, made of ivory.

It is a cigar holder, presented in a neat case which looks like a very miniature violin case.

Miniature case at Market Lavington Museum

Miniature case at Market Lavington Museum

Here we see the holder. The non-ivory part of this cigar holder is made of amber.

Amber and ivory cigar holder which once belonged to Norman Neate of Market Lavington

Amber and ivory cigar holder which once belonged to Norman Neate of Market Lavington

This little item – some 8cm long, dates from about 1900 and it belonged to Norman Neate who was the last commercial brewer in Market Lavington, selling his produce at a pub called The Brewery Tap on White Street.

You can see this item in our entrance room at the museum, displayed for the first time in many a year.