Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, Steven Hobbs


During the summer the record office moved to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, together with Local Studies, Archaeology, Museums and Conservation, and the Victoria County History and Wiltshire Buildings Record. As a result the service is now known as Wiltshire and Swindon Archives.

The move of the archives, which started as we closed the office in Trowbridge at the end of April, was completed, on time, by mid July. As the boxes and volumes were removed the static shelving was dismantled, which opened up whole new vistas in the strong rooms. One of them had been used as a badminton court and its white lines were exposed. The relief of the building at being unburdened from the huge weight of archives was expressed in some movement which made doors stiffer to open and gave a springier feel to the floors.

The removal of the entire archive, comprising 28,000 boxes, 3000 maps and plans and several thousand volumes, required 91 journeys by removal lorry between Trowbridge and Chippenham. The archives have been placed in order on the shelves of the four strong rooms although some inevitable fine-tuning was necessary to ensure they were readily available when the Centre opened on 31 October. The Local Studies Library moved in mid September.

For the staff it was a busy, if strange time. The Open Day, held on Saturday 13 October, proved a great success with 732 people visiting the History Centre. Many spoke very favourably about the building and were excited by the prospect of returning to their family and local history researches in a now fully integrated Archive and Local Studies service.

Behind the scenes it was very much a case of business as usual, with several new accessions of interesting and important material. Our strong links with the south of the county have been maintained through deposit of new material from the earl of Radnor of Longford Castle and the earl of Pembroke of Wilton House. From the latter came a small group of deeds relating to the Maudlin charity in Wilton (2057/C1). The earliest deed of about 1170, which is one of the earliest in the entire Wilton House archive, relates to a mill in Wilton granted by Hawise, abbess of Wilton, to Isemberd, the son of Ives. The rent was to be waived for two years on the understanding that Isemberd would repair the mill and its equipment which had been damaged by fire. The connection with the charity is not clear and the deed and a later one of the same property may have been wrongly placed. According to the account of Wilton in Wilts VCH vol 6 members of the Isemberd family were the principal mill owners in the town from the 13th century. This deed may mark the beginning of their rise. The survey of the estates of the earl of Pembroke in 1566 refers to Isemberd’s mill, and the deed may be its earliest documented reference.

The deeds of the charity cover over 600 years of its history from c1270-1832. It was founded to maintain 13 ‘poor Magdelens’ to pray for the souls of the founders of the convent at Wilton. Subsequently its management passed to the earls of Pembroke and, as a result of an endowment in 1826 by the 11th earl, it developed into an almshouse charity for former employees of the estate and their dependants. The present day buildings are located at Fugglestone, along the A36. One deed is of particular note, because it adds to our knowledge of Wilton abbey. In 1428 a chaplain was given a building within the hospital. His duty was to pray for the soul of Juliana Giffard, a former abbess, at the altar of the Virgin Mary in the abbey, which was called ‘Requiem’. The wording of the deed strongly suggests that this was the name of the altar and not the prayer, although it could also have been known as this.

The deeds came in a purpose made wooden box, with a metal clasp and painted title, which is also being kept in the archive.