Issue date: 11 June 2012
UWE Bristol historian Dr Virginia Bainbridge has presented a beautiful specially-inscribed copy of the Victoria County History of Wiltshire to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The new volume, on Cricklade and Environs, is part of the definitive history of Wiltshire which has been underway since 1947, with research led by UWE's history department since 2004.
The Victoria County History Series was originally dedicated to Queen Victoria to celebrate her diamond jubilee in 1897 and has now been rededicated to our present Queen.
The new volume tells the story of the town of Cricklade from its origins as part of King Alfred's defences against the Vikings, and its medieval career as a roadside market town, to its notoriety as a pocket borough, and its more recent role as a dormitory for Swindon.
The VCH team met the Queen when she visited Salisbury Cathedral in the lead-up to her Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Despite heavy rain during the morning, thousands flocked to the Cathedral Close hoping for a glimpse of the royal party, and the sun came out as they arrived. VCH Wiltshire Editor Dr Virginia Bainbridge was joined by Professor Miles Taylor, Director of the VCH, as she presented the latest volume – VCH Wiltshire XVIII: Cricklade and Environs - to the Queen.
Virginia was delighted to meet Her Majesty saying, "I never thought I would meet the Queen in person! As a big fan, I was very honoured, both personally, and as a representative of the Victoria County History. The Queen looked very pleased to hear that the VCH was being re-dedicated to her. What a day! I will always cherish this memory."
The work of VCH Wiltshire was on display in one of a number of medieval jousting tents erected on the west lawn of the Cathedral. VCH Wilts sponsored the tent as part of its work to bring history to the community. They were joined by colleagues from Wiltshire Council's Heritage Services, based at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, and together entertained a throng of visitors with a series of short talks on fascinating aspects of Wiltshire history that they christened The Salisbury Tales.
Virginia presented The Nun's Tale, stories of royal and aristocratic women at Wiltshire's convents - sometimes sinful, sometimes powerful, always independent. Assistant editor Dr Alex Craven gave The Juggler's Tale, a story of the brutal revenge taken by the powerful Ludlow family when a humble serving man eloped with the daughter of his master. Steve Hobbs of the Wiltshire & Swindon Archives told The Gossip's Tale, the story of the rivalry of two yeoman families from Compton Chamberlayne. Melanie Pomeroy-Kellinger, County Archaeologist, presented The Ancestors' Tale, a quick tour of some of the more interesting recent discoveries from Wiltshire's archaeological heritage. Local Studies Librarian Mike Marshman told The Brewer's Tale, a potted history of pubs and the beer trade in Wiltshire. Finally, Terry Bracher of the WSHC gave The Doctor's Tale, some of the more bizarre ailments and cures preserved in the county's archives.
Work is continuing on the VCH Wiltshire. Alex said, “We're now researching VCH Wilts XIX: Longleat and the Deverill valley, which focuses on the parishes around Longleat House. These are Horningsham, in which the house actually sits, Longbridge Deverill, Hill Deverill, Brixton Deverill, Monkton Deverill and Kingston Deverill, and - for arcane reasons - Compton Chamberlayne, which is several miles away, near Wilton.”
Image courtesy of photographer Russell Sach