Over Court: the life and death of an Elizabethan Manor House

"Wealthy Bristolians have always escaped the pressures of city life for the peace of rural South Gloucestershire. Country estates frequently changed hands as fortunes were made and lost and fashionable mansions were built with the profits of trade, including the Slave Trade. Sarah Hands has traced the story of Over Court from its medieval origins".

Elmington Manor Farm: 1584-1911

"Elmington Manor Farm is the best-documented farm in the Lower Severn Vale Levels, which is why James Powell chose as his topic 'The Estate Management of Elmington Manor Farm and environs 1066-1950'". From sources in "public archives, planning departments, libraries and museums" Powell looks at the earliest records of the farm, and how it survived to be surveyed by the "Second World War Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries".

Gleanings from Wiltshire Parish Registers 1538-1812

Parish registers have long been regarded as the preserve of family historians, and, more recently, demographic historians. They should be regarded not only as bureaucratic records of the rites of passage, or sources of population data, important as these are, but also as chronicles of communal memory and experience. In this study, Steve Hobbs reveals the wide range of historical research that can be informed by the memoranda and jottings found in these sources.

The Origins of the Royal Bath & West Society and its Trial Grounds

The Royal Bath & West Society, as it is now known, has its origin in a society founded in the City of Bath in 1777 'for the encouragement and improvement of agriculture, arts, manufactures and commerce'. The founder, Edmund Rack, was soon appointed Secretary and the 1inch pin of the group. He vigorously conducted a wide range of correspondence and guided a programme of field experiments and prizes and rewards for improvements in agriculture and related practices. In this essay, Owen Ward uncovers the story of one of the Society's more 'spirited' and ambitious plans.

Magistracy and the Crisis of Paternalism in the 1790s: The case of George Donisthorpe of Somerton

George Donisthorpe was the resident magistrate of the town of Somerton in Somerset. In 1796 he was tried for 'wilful neglect of his duty as a magistrate' in refusing to assist in quelling a riot and 'with having rather encouraged it.' The public prosecution of a Justice of the Peace was a rare occurrence. Traditionally, the local magistrate was represented as a paternal figure 'guiding the conduct' and ensuring the wellbeing of the deferential poor. Their wealth and status placed them beyond reproach. In this article, Rose Wallis illustrates the increasingly precarious position of magistrates in the period, as their discretionary powers and paternal authority were eroded by the centralisation of government control.

‘A larger handsomer animal’: a brief history of the Wiltshire Horn sheep breed

This article uncovers the genetic history of Wiltshire’s own breed of sheep: the Wiltshire Horn. Looking right back to the ancient origins of the sheep, Virginia Bainbridge covers the farming practices and environmental factors that played a role in the evolution of this breed.

‘Rich men had gotten all into their hands’: opposition to corn badgers at Midford, 1630

Market practices could be the cause of many disorders throughout the early modern period, so food riots were a common occurrence. Rural customs and traditional rights were based on the belief that the rural community were entitled to a fair price of grain, even in times of dearth. These core beliefs naturally came with strong rules about which market practices were acceptable, and which were not. In this article, we meet a particular type of market villain: the ‘badger’. Neil Howlett uncovers the story of a Midford food riot in 1630 following the arrival of corn badgers.

Archaeology’s Best Known Skeleton

Brian Edwards explores the mystery of the barber-surgeon, the fourteenth-century skeleton found beneath a stone at Avebury megalith. Edwards recounts the discovery by archaeologist Alexander Keiller and considers how Keiller’s background may have influenced what would become the dominant narrative about the identity of this mysterious character. The article introduces other potential identities of the barber-surgeon, based on texts about the Avebury Stones that were not available when the original conclusion was drawn. Even with this new evidence, the story of the skeleton is no less tantalizing.

Invoices from the Past: The household expenses of a farming family in early 19th century Wiltshire

The Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office is home to a remarkably complete collection of invoices from two branches of the Pyke family of nineteenth century Wiltshire. This article highlights just how much information can be drawn from a simple source like a bill or a voucher. Through these sources, archivist Steven Hobbs provides a window not only into the household economy and estate expenditure of the two farms, but also into the local community. A full spectrum of local trades and skilled workers are revived in this short article, along with information about the kinds of products that were available in nineteenth century Wiltshire.

Wood-taking and customary practice: William Hunt’s Justices Notebook, 1744-49

'The surviving notebooks of eighteenth century magistrates can be used by historians to investigate the extent to which customary culture was constrained and regulated by law. Wood-gathering may have been essential to the economy of the rural poor, but it remained theft in the eyes of the law. Carl Griffin opens the notebook of William Hunt of West Lavington in Wiltshire and finds that it was a crime that kept the magistrate peculiarly busy'.