We’re lucky in Salisbury in that we have a museum that’s as interesting on the outside as the inside. I posted about the outside the other week, so now, let’s have a look at what’s on the inside.
Almost the first thing you see on entry is a stuffed Great Bustard, the biggest and heaviest bird that can fly. It used to be found on Salisbury Plain and, in fact, is incorporated in the city’s arms, But, it became locally extinct in the early 19th Century, However, efforts are being made to re-introduce it to the Plain with some success, using chicks from Russia.
There are, of course, pictures and artefacts from the past of Salisbury itself, right from its inception at a most unlikely site, at the confluence of five rivers. They solved the problem by laying the city out around a network of canals. They’re now covered over, but they were once described as ‘pleasant little rivulets’, one writer even going so far as to describe Salisbury as an ‘English Venice’.
There is much there from Stonehenge, including interpretative displays, the most fascinating of which is a model, with lights showing the passage of the sun on Midsummer’s Day. Most famous is the Pitt-Rivers Collection, put together by Major-General Sir Archibald Pitt-Rivers back when he owned the land on which Stonehenge stands. I’d recommend, if anyone wants to make a serious study of Stonehenge, he should come here first, before visiting the monument itself.
The latest acquisition is the ‘Amesbury Archer’, discovered during building work near where I live. Several fascinating things were learnt from his remains, and the objects buried with him … but I do feel that, when the scientists had finished, he should have been laid to rest again. I mean, I don’t think I’d care to be dug up and put on public display in 4000 years’ time!
Another slight issue I have is why isn’t some of this stuff in Amesbury? I suppose it’s because there isn’t, as far as I know, anywhere suitable to keep them, but cater for those who wish to see them. And, after all, this is’ officially, the ‘Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum’
Since the above was written, the Amesbury Historical Centre opened its doors, and there’s a comprehensive display at the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre. So, you can now see some of the stuff in Amesbury … and, the owner of the land on which Blick Mead is situated has stipulated that any finds MUST remain in Amesbury.
Correction: Maj-Gen Pitt Rivers’ given name was Augustus, not Archibald, and he didn’t own the Stonehenge Estate; just did some digging there.