Tag Archives: First World War

Getting Ahead

We have enjoyed a busy and involving last working week of 2016 at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (CHAC) near Yeovil.

Our volunteers helped to document new objects and photographs including images of Kelways Nurseries and Yeovil School and also assisted with a request from Ilchester Museum.

Our volunteers also helped to re-pack several items of costume, ranging from a macebearer’s hat to a suede waist coat, photographing each item and replacing the acid-free tissue as we went along.

We also completed a photographic print for a lady whose relative was in the St. Ivel Photograph in the 2017 Yeovil Calendar. We also received a request for a calender from Cheshire, as the enquirer and their Mum used to live in Yeovil and wanted a calendar as a Christmas present for ‘the stocking.’

We also have a few projects planned for 2017, including our next Yeovil Library window display due in on 3rd January – our first day back! This will reflect some of our newly donated photographs and continue with our panels on the First World War, prepared by the Imperial War Museum.

We wish to thank all our Museum contacts, visitors and groups for visiting CHAC throughout the year and thank you for your support.

We wish you all a peaceful Christmas and an enjoyable New Year.


Happy Christmas – Denners Department Store, Yeovil, early 1960s.


Princes Street Theatre, Dick Whittington, 1954 – as featured in the 2017 Yeovil Calendar!



If you want to get ahead – get a hat! Yeovil Macebearer’s Hat.




Aspiring to Greatness

Aspiring to Greatness

A busy and exciting week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

So far this week, we have shared our first loan of the Imperial War Museum (IWM) “Battle of the Somme” DVD with Milborne Port History Society with a screening on Monday 17th October 2016. This copy was returned on Wednesday 19th October 2016, only to be loaned out again to East Coker. We were particularly intrigued to hear the conversation between the group organiser which had seen the film and the one about to view the documentary. We will be even more fascinated to hear the ‘view from East Coker’ and discover their impressions. We also loaned a selection of Somme themed A4 mounted images, produced by the IWM to East Coker.

The big event this week was in Salisbury, Wiltshire as a staff member and volunteer travelled to The Salisbury Museum for training on “Caring for Social History Collections.” This was particularly thought-provoking as the first part of our discussion looked at how we define ‘social history’ in the first place. Possibly the simplest, ‘working’ definition would be ‘shaped by human intervention with written or artistic provenance and reflecting everyday life’. This helps to distinguish social history from archaeology. However, as we discussed, the parameters can be indistinct, especially when a local collector (and therefore within in a museum’s collecting policy) collects the archaeological item and makes notes about the object in a diary.

We also enjoyed practical exercises writing object condition reports and making observations. One example was a book mark with a fabric tassel, which presented issues of looking after paper and textile, but also the obvious points could be the ones we miss; as the greatest risk in terms of potential damage would simply be from bending or folding. In addition, the Winchester- themed book mark also presented issues in terms of collecting policy, as clearly Salisbury Museum would not wish to collect this object; but the book mark may have come in a book on Salisbury and be part of the object’s ‘social history.’

We also took part in conservation cleaning exercises and practical cleaning of objects with a variety of materials, including microfibre cloths.

We also learnt it would possibly be best on our next visit to Salisbury and Salisbury Cathedral with Britain’s tallest spire at 123 metres to use the Park and Ride!

The Celebrating Yeovil 2017 Calendar is now in The Courtyard Café, 27 Market Street, Yeovil BA20 1HZ (01935) 472407.

We were also looking at storage of costume this week.


One of our recently scanned photographs:



Canvassing Interest

A busy and involving week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

One of the notable features of our week so far is the number of objects and photographs which continue to be donated to the Centre. We are particularly grateful that people have our Collecting Policy of Yeovil and South Somerset in mind, which enhances the existing collection and saves us time re-locating items to another Museum.

The intriguing items included two paintings with an especially local provenance, but which also raised some concerns, in terms of condition.

The paintings are timely as they depict an early tank and a bi-plane. The tank and the aircraft are painted on a type of canvas, which we understand is the same canvas used by Westland Aircraft to cover aircraft wings in the First World War. This connection is enhanced when the donor informed us that they were painted by her mother, when working for Westland between 1915 and 1918. This is significant as we already have a photograph showing another member of the donor’s family in the ammunition factory at Nautilus Works, Reckleford, Yeovil.

The donor also provided a thought-provoking detail. They understand the images of the tank and the bi-plane came ‘ready-made’ as an outline already painted on the canvas and the owner then ‘coloured in’ or ‘filled in’ with the desired colour. This would explain why we have a red tank!

The condition of the paintings, particularly the one of the tank presents an issue, notably in terms of storage. The donor’s mother nailed the canvas to a simple wooden frame to aid display. However, the canvas has become loose and is falling off the frame and the frame itself is now just about holding together. Due to the provenance, we would consider bringing these items into the main collection, but due to the condition, we are seeking specialist conservation advice. We will let you know the outcome!

The “Celebrating Yeovil” 2017 Calendar continues to do well!

The paintings on a type of canvas used to cover aircraft wings manufactured by Westland Aircraft in Yeovil. Can anyone tell us more?








Reference Remembrance

We have enjoyed a busy and eventful week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (CHAC) near Yeovil.

The highlight has to be our screening of the Battle of the Somme Film at Yeovil Library on Friday 1st July 2016, the 100th Anniversary of the start of the Battle. Copies of the film were made by the Imperial War Museum for institutions to show free of charge to the public. The Library had kindly provided the top ‘Music floor’ for our use and a lap top and projector in order to show the film. The technical side was particularly appreciated as we had arranged a back-up plan with spare lap top and projector – only to discover at 11am that our computer did not have a DVD player!

Fortunately, all worked out well and we took our prepared board display with panels also provided by the Imperial War Museum to the top floor. Librarian staff helped us set up and around 25 members of the public came to appreciate the introduction to the film and the film itself. We were also grateful to our ‘lap top’ helper who reminded staff not to let the screen lock, as we would need the librarian to keep entering their password to unlock the screen for us.

The film is around an hour-long and most people stayed for the whole screening. We also appreciated the quietness of the library; as even with the telephone ringing and general visitors, we had very few interruptions. We also hoped the afternoon was useful for the library in helping to bring in more visitors that would otherwise not have come in.

Fundamentally, we thanked Yeovil Library for helping to provide us with the means to mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in Yeovil with local people.

We are now considering other projects that could help CHAC and the Library, particularly in terms of increasing visitors and ‘usage.

Other interest was created by a visit from a gentleman and his wife to see the display of railway images we had previously shown in our Yeovil Library window display and a visit from a researcher interested in the Louisa Harris diaries – which we will report on next time.



Visitors enjoying our display panels provided by the Imperial War Museum at our screening of the Battle of the Somme film at Yeovil Library on Friday 1st July 2016.


Display of Unity

A busy and involving week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, (CHAC) near Yeovil.

First and foremost in our minds is the 100th Anniversary Commemorations for the Battle of the Somme taking place today around the world. We are marking the milestone with a screening of the Battle of the Somme film loaned to us by the Imperial War Museum (IWM). This will take place at Yeovil Library on the top floor at 2.30pm with the kind assistance of Yeovil Librarians (particularly on lap top and projector duties!)

The official IWM Guide to the Film provides useful background context:

“The Battle of the Somme film is one of the most popular films of the First World War seen by over 20 million people in Britain at the time. These momentous audience numbers make The Battle of the Somme one of the most popular films in British Cinema history. The film marked a turning point in film making, being the first feature length documentary about a war, and changed the way cinema and film were perceived by society. In 2016, IWM will be making the restored version of the film available to members of the Centenary Partnership to screen in their venues to audiences all over the world.”

We are already fulfilling this aim, as several local community and history groups wish to screen the film as part of their regular meetings. Significantly, the hosts cannot charge an entry fee, but through the screening, CHAC hopes to let people know more about our service and role and also help Yeovil Library by simply prompting more visitors to come in and see what the library has to offer.

In addition to the film, we also have a static ‘panel’ display with historical information around the time of 1916 and related to the Battle of the Somme also provided by the Imperial War Museum.

We also helped Langport and District History Society with their ‘Pop Up Museum’ as part of the Langport Festival with the last day on Saturday 25th June 2016. We loaned three small, resin, sloping display cases as the main idea was for members of the public to bring in items related to Langport to show during the period of the Festival. This was an intriguing idea and school photographs proved a popular item to be brought in. Significant items from possibly Langport’s most famous name, the economist, Walter Bagehot, were also on display, together with projected images of Langport carnival.

More next time on our Battle of the Somme Screening.


Assisting Langport and District History Society with their ‘Pop Up’ Museum with the loan of display sloping cases as part of the Langport Festival.



Timely Trips

Another busy and varied week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

This week has seen staff attending a photographic archive care course at Taunton Castle House, Taunton, Somerset. This was organised by the South West Federation of Museums and conducted by the Conservation and Museums Advisory Service, based at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Chippenham, Wiltshire.

A wide range of Museums were represented from Cornwall to Bristol and included two of our CHAC Volunteers. The day was a useful balance of theory and practical examples, particularly in terms of the type of photographs and when they were produced and the possible problems each can experience. We also enjoyed a documentation exercise with a series of Wiltshire-themed images. In groups of two and three, we detailed the salient points of each image and read these out to the group. Our black and white image was particularly interesting as it depicted a parade in Salisbury, with a procession representing 100 year blocks of local history. Our snapshot had caught a period with knights on horseback and a sign which read 1572-1672. We also looked at condition reports and recording damage and marking and labelling. There was even an opportunity to view the Museum of Somerset’s latest exhibition, which showcased landmarks of the world made out of Lego!

The following day we provided a talk to the Ladies Moose in Yeovil, looking at ladies in the First World War within the gloving and aircraft industries. We focused on one lady in particular, Louisa Harris. Louisa from Yeovil wrote a diary from 1887 to around 1920, before moving to Weymouth, Dorset. This recorded and highlighted many local links with soldiers from Yeovil and local industries like Petters and the contribution made to the war effort.

Calendar sales are also doing well – though they may suffer somewhat as I have just had my photograph taken with one for a report in our local newspaper!


A timely trip to the Great Dorset Steam Fair, where what should we find – but a 2015 Yeovil Calendar!

Learning to Fly

Another intriguing and thought-provoking week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre.

One of our main projects at the moment is our exhibition to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Westland Aircraft. This will be on show in Yeovil Town House, Union Street, Yeovil and we can let people know when this starts.

Selecting objects and photographs for the exhibition has proven to be an interesting process, especially as many of the objects were only recently donated to the Centre.

An initial search of the collection, found the Petters era (prior to the formation of Westland Aircraft) well covered in terms of objects, photographs and written information but less so on Westland and particularly the early years at the start of the First World War.

Due to this fact, we set out on a programme of ‘active collecting’ with a press release in the local newspaper. This led to some significant finds including A folder containing the original plans and drawings for the Westland Wizard dated 4th January 1928. It was handed to Mr Bruce who played such an important part in the formation of the Westland Aircraft Works in 1915 and was accessioned by our volunteers. Interestingly, this also came with another document, which details the Westland Aircraft produced in the First World War Period and how many of each type were manufactured, annotated in pencil above each image. They are also labelled ‘Confidential’ not to be taken from Mr Bruce’s office!

We also received a folder of Westland information assembled by one person, which included extra details on existing items in the collection, to enhance our knowledge of these areas. Examples included a booklet detailing the Flight over Everest by a Westland PV3 (Wapiti) and PV6 (later became a Wallace) in 1933 and a flyer for a play “First over Mount Everest” written by Kate Blacker and performed by Chris Crooks. The “specially commissioned illustrated lecture commissioned by the Discovery Gallery, London of the celebrated Houston Mount Everest Expedition was created from Colonel Blacker’s original lecture notes and magic lantern slides by his grand-daughter, Kate Blacker. In 1931, Colonel LVS Blacker, an officer in the Indian Army, assembled a committee including Lord Clydesdale, author John Buchan, Lord Peel and the Maharajah of Nawanagar to plan the conquest of Mount Everest by air.

We now have the labels completed and the objects selected and hope to install the exhibition towards the end of July 2015. This also raises another interesting environmental issue. We recently attended an “Introduction to Collections Course” organised by the South West Federation of Museums, which was held at The American Museum in Britain at Claverton Manor near Bath. One of the areas that stayed with me was ‘lux hours’ or the length of time an object is exposed to light and the type of light involved (direct sunlight or artificial light). As the Westland items are likely to be on show we will monitor this with humidity strips and regular visits. This is one of the main reasons why a ‘condition report’ is completed before an object selected for exhibition goes on display – to see the level of  deterioration or marking before, during and after display.

As in most things and particularly like Westland, we are learning all the time.

A ‘Wizard’ Find! and model of a Westland Wessex aircraft

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