Day School at Dorset County Museum: Lyme in Dorset and Lyminge in Kent.

Lyme in Dorset and Lyminge in KentThis is a unique opportunity to explore the story of two places linked by a common name, will take place at the Dorset County Museum on the 16th November 2013.

Talks on the day focus on the later years of the seventh century: the archaeological investigations at Lyminge in Kent, and the writings of the fathers of the Christian Church at Lyme in Dorset.

Discover how these two very different research projects provoke new insights into each other.

The day school will be hosted by Dorset County Museum Director Jon Murden with guest speaker Dr. Gabor Thomas, University of Reading and Director of the Lyminge Excavations.

Light refreshments will be provided and the event opens at 10.00am. Tickets cost £15.00 and £5.00 for students and are available now from the Museum shop on 01305 756827.  All are welcome.

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Upside Down Archaeology at Corfe

Archaeology National Trust SW

It’s a basic rule of archaeology that the deeper you go the older you get. That’s why everything is excavated in sequence. Unpacking the information backwards from most recent to most ancient.

In 1987, we were puzzled by an apparent exception to the rule. It was the second year into the access and display archaeological project at Corfe Castle in Dorset.

Corfe ended its days as a stately residence in 1646. It was captured by parliamentary forces and blown apart. During our excavation campaign we only tended to take away the demolition rubble to reveal walls and pathways at Civil War level.

An important element of the National Trust access plan was to replace in stone the slippery tarmac path which led up the steep slope that crosses the Outer Bailey up through the middle gatehouse to the West Bailey.

In the West Bailey, traces of a wall could be…

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Science Fiction Sleepover at Dorset County Museum

SciFi Sleepover at Dorset County MuseumDig out your sleeping bags and roll mats – the seventh annual family sleepover at Dorset County Museum is coming soon! It’s being held on Saturday 26th October, the first weekend of half term, and this year the theme is ‘Science Fiction’.

The sleepover is aimed at children between 7 and 12 and tickets are available now.  Activities on the night will include 3-D model-making with the ever-popular Darrell Wakelam, alien masks, rockets and flying saucers.  As usual all the materials are provided and there will be plenty of things to take home.  In addition there will be a prize for the child wearing the best fancy dress Sci-Fi costume. A display of props and costumes from your favourite Sci-Fi films and TV series will also take centre stage to provide lots of inspiration for the evening’s activities.

The first task of the evening is always finding somewhere exciting to sleep – some galleries are kept quieter for younger children while others are suitable for larger groups, just remember to bring a feast to eat later in the evening.

Free tea, coffee and soft drinks will be served all evening, and breakfast for everyone is provided on the Sunday morning. Each child must be accompanied by an adult parent or carer, but each adult can bring up to three children – why not reserve your ticket now to avoid disappointment?

You can also buy an ‘I survived a sleepover at Dorset County Museum’ badge in the Museum Shop.

Annual family sleepover is on Saturday 26th October 2013 from 5.30pm onwards. Tickets cost just £12.00 for children and £10.00 for adults and are available now from the Museum shop.  Just pop in, or telephone the museum on 01305 756827 or alternatively email shop@dorsetcountymuseum.org for further information.

Archaeology at Thomas Hardy’s Max Gate

The following article entitled ‘Some Romano-British Relics found at Max Gate, Dorchester’ by Thomas Hardy is from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’, volume 11 published 1890.

Thomas Hardy stands beside the 'Druid Stone'

Thomas Hardy stands beside the ‘Druid Stone’ in the garden of Max Gate in 1890. In 1987 excavations near to Max Gate revealed a Neolithic causewayed enclosure; the other half lies beneath the garden at Max Gate. © DCM

“I have been asked to give an account of a few relics of antiquity lately uncovered in digging the foundations of a house at Max Gate, in Fordington Field. But, as the subject of archaeology is one to a great extent foreign to my experience, my sole right to speak upon it at all, in the presence of the professed antiquarians around, lies in the fact that I am one of the only two persons who saw most of the remains in situ, just as they were laid bare, and before they were lifted up from their rest of, I suppose, fifteen hundred years. Such brief notes as I have made can be given in a few words. Leaving the town by the south-eastern or Wareham Road we come first, as I need hardly observe, to the site of the presumably great Romano-British cemetery upon Fordington Hill. Proceeding along this road to a further distance of half-a-mile, we reach the spot on which the relics lay. It is about fifty yards back from the roadside, and practically a level, bearing no immediate evidence that the natural contour of the surface has ever been disturbed more deeply than by the plough.

But though no barrow or other eminence rises there it should, perhaps, be remarked that about three hundred yards due east from the spot stands the fine and commanding tumulus called Conquer Barrow (the name of which, by the way, seems to be a corruption of some earlier word). On this comparatively level ground we discovered, about three feet below the surface, three human skeletons in separate and distinct graves. Each grave was, as nearly as possible, an ellipse in plan, about 4ft. long and 2½ ft. wide, cut vertically into the solid chalk. The remains bore marks of careful interment. In two of the graves, and, I believe, in the third, a body lay on its right side, the knees being drawn up to the chest, and the arms extended straight downwards, so that the hands rested against the ankles. Each body was fitted with, one may almost say, perfect accuracy into the oval hole, the crown of the head touching the maiden chalk at one end and the toes at the other, the tight-fitting situation being strongly suggestive of the-chicken in the egg shell. The closest examination failed to detect any enclosure for the remains, and the natural inference was that, save their possible cerements, they were deposited bare in the earth. On the head of one of these, between the top of the forehead and the crown, rested a fibula or clasp of bronze and iron, the front having apparently been gilt. This is, I believe, a somewhat unusual position for this kind of fastening, which seemed to have sustained a fillet for the hair.

In the second grave a similar one was found, but as it was taken away without my knowledge I am unable to give its exact position when unearthed. In the third grave nothing of the sort was discovered after a careful search.

In the first grave a bottle of white clay, nearly globular, with a handle, stood close to the breast of the skeleton, the interior being stained as if by some dark liquid.  The bottle, unfortunately, fell into fragments on attempting to remove it.  In the same cavity, touching the shin bones of the occupant,  were two urns of the material known as grey ware, and of a design commonly supposed  to be characteristic of Roman work of the third or fourth century. It is somewhat remarkable that beside them was half, and only a half, a third urn, with a filmy substance like black cobweb adhering to the inner surface.

In the second cavity were four urns, standing nearly upright like the others, two being of ordinary size, and two quite small. They stood touching each other, and close to the breast of the skeleton; these, like the former, were empty, except of the chalk which had settled into them by lapse of time; moreover, the unstained white chalk being in immediate contact with the inner surface of the vessels was nearly a proof that nothing solid had originally intervened. In the third grave two other urns of like description were disclosed.

Two yards south from these graves a circular hole in the native chalk was uncovered, measuring about two feet in diameter and five feet deep. At the bottom was a small flagstone; above this was the horn, apparently of a bull, together with teeth and bones of the same animal. The horn was stumpy and curved, altogether much after the modern shorthorn type, and it has been conjectured that the remains were possibly those of the wild ox formerly inhabiting this island. Pieces of a black bituminous substance were mixed in with these, and also numerous flints, forming a packing to the whole. A few pieces of tile, and brick of the thin Roman kind, with some fragments of iridescent glass were also found about the spot.

There was naturally no systematic orientation in the interments —the head in one case being westward, in the other eastward, and in the third, I believe, south-west. It should be mentioned that the surface soil has been cleared away to a distance extending 50ft. south and west from where these remains were disinterred ; but no further graves or cavities have been uncovered — the natural chalk lying level and compact — which seems to signify that the site was no portion of a regular Golgotha, but an isolated resting-place reserved to a family, set, or staff; such outlying tombs having been common along the roadsides near towns in those far-off days—a humble Colonial imitation, possibly, of the system of sepulture along the Appian Way.

In spite of the numerous vestiges that have been discovered from time to time of the Roman city which formerly stood on the site of modern Dorchester, and which are still being unearthed daily by our local Schliemann (Edward Cunnington) one is struck with the fact that little has been done towards piecing together and reconstructing these evidences into an unmutilated whole—such as has been done, for instance, with the evidences of Pompeian life — a whole which should represent Dorchester in particular and not merely the general character of a Roman station in this country — composing a true picture by which the uninformed could mentally realise the ancient scene with some completeness.

It would be a worthy attempt to rehabilitate, on paper, the living Durnovaria of fourteen or fifteen hundred years ago—as it actually appeared to the eyes of the then Dorchester men and women, under the rays of the same morning and evening sun which rises and sets over it now. Standing, for instance, on the elevated ground near where the South-Western Station is at present, or at the top of Slyer’s Lane, or at any other commanding point, we may ask what kind of object did Dorchester then form in the summer landscape as viewed from such a point; where stood the large buildings, were they small, how did the roofs group themselves, what were the gardens like, if any, what social character had the streets, what were the customary noises, what sort of exterior was exhibited by these hybrid Romano-British people, apart from the soldiery? Were the passengers up and down the ways few in number, or did they ever form a busy throng such as we now see on a market day? These are merely the curious questions of an outsider to initiated students of the period. When we consider the vagueness of our mental answers to such inquiries as the above, we perceive that much is still left of this fascinating investigation which may well occupy the attention of the Club in future days.”

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Hardy’s Poetry of the First World War by Professor Tim Kendal

Hardys Poetry of the First World WarIn 1899, at the outbreak of hostilities in South Africa, Thomas Hardy was moved to express his loathing of war. Yet at the same time he confessed that his passions were stirred as soon as war became inevitable: ‘few persons are more martial than I,’ he told Florence Henniker, ‘or like better to write of war in prose & rhyme.’

Unlike his Boer War writings, Hardy’s poems of the Great War rarely attempt a documentary account, but they are similarly divided. Moments of Vision (1917) juxtaposes decent and dutiful verses like ‘Men Who March Away’ and ‘A Call to National Service’ with poems like ‘A New Year’s Eve in War Time’ describing horrors, griefs and self-doubt.

On Thursday 24th October 2013 at 7.30pm, Professor Tim Kendal of the University of Exeter will attempt to make sense of these apparent contradictions through an account of Hardy’s complex aesthetic and political reactions to the War.

Entry to the talk is FREE but a donation of £3 is encouraged to cover costs. Everyone is welcome and there is no need to book. Doors open at 7.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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The History and Finds of Weymouth’s Sandsfoot Castle

The following article entitled ‘Notes on Sandsfoot Castle’ by T. S. Groves is from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’, volume 3 published 1879.

Sandsfoot Castle

Sandsfoot Castle taken in 2008 before restoration in 2012 © DCM

“This prematurely ruined structure, described by Leland in his well-known itinerary “as a right goodlie and warlyke castle, having one open barbicane,” dates from no further back than 1539, the year when Henry the VII. compelled the surrender of the larger monasteries, and when consequent on the vigour of his assaults on Popery, he began to fear a coalition of Catholic sovereigns against his kingdom.

Portland Castle, on the opposite side of the bay, had been built a few years previously, the two being mainly intended to provide protection from foreign cruisers for English ships frequenting the “Roads,” and prevent the assembling of hostile navies therein with a view to invasion.

A ground-plan of Sandsfoot Castle was published in 1789 by Delamotte, of Weymouth. It appears to be authentic, but from what source he obtained it I am not aware. No good elevation of the castle in perfect state is known to exist, nor is there any adequate description of it in that condition.

As a ruin it has been often engraved, but the artists have usually shown themselves more desirous of attaining picturesque-ness of effect than accuracy of detail.

Grose, who wrote during the latter half of the last century, gives, in his “Antiquities of England,” the best verbal description we have of it.

Tudor Coat of Arms All Saints Wyke regis

The Royal Coat of Arms, carved in stone, was removed from the castle and now is over the south door of All Saint’s Church, Wyke Regis. © DCM

He says, ” The body of the castle is a right angled paralellogram, its greatest length running from north to south. At its north end was a tower on which were the arms of England, supported by a wivern and an unicorn. (These arms, carved in stone, were many years ago removed from the gateway of the castle and affixed to the north wall of the chancel of Wyke Eegis church). The north part seems to have been the governor’s apartment, and is all vaulted. Near its south end is a lower building, said to have been the gun room; this being broader than the other part of the edifice, forms flanks, which defend its east and west sides, and on the south the front is semi-circular; before there was formerly a platform for cannon. On the east and west sides there are embrazures for guns, and below them two tiers of loopholes for small arms, the lowest almost level with the ground. The north front is nearly destroyed, but the remains of an arch or gateway show that the entrance was on that side.

The whole edifice seems to have been cased with squared stones, the walls were thick and lofty, and the buildings, though small, were not inelegant. Since the «’ restoration ” it has been neglected and suffered to fall to ruin. The north, east, and south sides were, at a small distance, surrounded by a deep ditch and earthen rampart, through which, on the east front, was a gate faced with stone, part of which is still remaining.”

In this description there are several inaccuracies. The lower building on the south side is not semi-circular, but octangular, its eighth side forming the southern end of the main body of the castle. The ground-plan I have referred to shows that five of the sides were pierced for embrazures, three of which pointed seawards, the other two covering respectively the shore to the right and left. The sixth and seventh sides are not fully developed, and were not pierced for cannon; the flanking effect must, therefore, have been produced by loopholes for small arms in the upper story, of which indeed indications are given in Buck’s engraving (date 1733).

There is reason also for objecting to his description of the east and west sides of the main building. The lowest tier of apertures on the west sides are evidently those of windows for lighting the cellar of the castle ; the tier next above these are, or rather were, loopholes, but the facing stones having been removed the contraction of the openings that originally existed is no longer apparent. The uppermost tier is simply a range of windows—the places where the iron bars were inserted being plainly visible.

From the east side the cellar received no light, consequently there is one tier of perforations less.  On this side was a doorway and four loopholes on the ground floor, and four windows above.  I doubt very much whether there were on either the east or west side embrazures for cannon.  The ground-plan certainly gives a figure of what appears to be a cannon lying in one of the eastern openings, but it must I think be an error, as at the point in  question,   immediately behind the  supposed embrazure is the head of a staircase leading to the cellar.   The castle on the land side was in fact very weakly fortified.     It relied perhaps for defence in this direction on its ditch and rampart, the latter doubtless furnished with cannon, especially at . the bastions at its east and west angles.

The “open barbicane” mentioned by Leland is not visible. He must, I think, have inaccurately applied the word to the gun-room at the southern end. The term is rightly employed to indicate a port in advance of the main building for the purpose of protecting the entrance gate and drawbridge, if any.

Grose omits to mention the grooves in which slid the portcullis, and which are still visible at the north and principal entrance.

Inside Sandsfoot Castle

The interior of Sandsfoot Castle after restoration in 2012 © DCM

The arrangements of the interior will best be understood after actual inspection, I will, therefore, refrain from describing them. It is evident that a very large portion of the octagonal gun. room has fallen owing to the sea having undermined its foundation. A large block is now lying on the rocks below, undergoing the gradual disintegration by the action of the waves that has in my time dispersed many still larger fragments. In my father’s time, sixty years ago, a carriage could be driven between the castle and the cliff, and in 1859, if an ancient map may be credited, the castle, surrounded on all sides by a moat, stood in the centre of the field.

The dilapidated (a word here most correctly applicable) condition of the outer walls is said to have been occasioned by the stones having been torn from their places and carried to Wey-mouth for building purposes. Two houses in St. Thomas street have been pointed out to me as having been mainly constructed out of the spoils of Sandsfoot Castle. One is half inclined to wonder how such a thing could have happened seeing that the building has never passed out of the hand of the Crown. But there were giants in those prae-reforrm days—at peculation and robbery!

It seems that round shot of stone were used, at least occasionally, for the service of the guns. Some schoolboys, playing about the castle, crawled into one of the large drains that opened on the cliff, and found there a stone shot of some six inches in diameter. A similar shot was found at Portland, and brought to Sir John Coode, who had the curiosity to know whether it was really a shot or only a natural concretion. He therefore placed it under a steam-hammer, and gave it a blow so judicious that it cracked into two exactly equal pieces, when lo ! in the centre was found a perfect specimen of a petrified Cardium of some sort. The split shot is to be seen at the Engineer Office, Portland. There can be no doubt I think of the stone being really a shot—its perfect sphericity would seem to prove that— but there is reason to suppose that in order to save labour the ancient artificer had selected a stone already partially rounded, a concretion in fact founded on the shell of the Cardium.

Sandsfoot Castle can scarcely be said to have a history. It must have changed hands again and again during the Civil Wars, but existing records make no mention of any siege whatever—a fact which strengthens my argument that the castle was indefensible on tho north or land side. Probably it followed as a matter of course the fortunes of the neighbouring fortified town of Weymouth and Melconibe Regis. The names of some half-dozen of its Governors are known, but no interest would attach to their enumeration.

The same must be said of the references, few and far between, to  the existence of the castle and its garrison, in the borough archives—archives which are alas in private hands, and probably about to suffer  dispersion to the four winds of heaven under the very noses of a body of men whom I fear I must characterise as indifferent to the history of their borough, and more antiquarian in their notions than in their tastes.”

The follow-up article entitled ‘Sandsfoot Castle, Weymouth’ by  W. C. Norman is from the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’, volume 41 for 1920, published 1921

“I have recently read with considerable interest T. B. Groves’s “Note on Sandsfoot Castle, which appeared in Vol. III. (pages 20, &c.) of the  Proceedings of our Club. This to a great extent is accounted for by the fact that my school days were spent at Weymouth, and naturally I was well acquainted with this ruin.

For this reason, and because of what is related further on, I thought I might, without presumption, add a few remarks on the subject.

My earliest recollection of the Castle reaches back to a period of over 60 years, and is, that it was then on the edge of the cliff. Indeed, most of the gun-room was gone, and its south-eastern and south-western walls projected over it considerably, as a result of being undermined by the disintegrating action of the sea.

An old ostcard of Sandsfoot Castle and Gardens

An old postcard of Sandsfoot Castle and Gardens

At this time there was no way round the Castle and the sea cliff outside it, except the dangerous one of climbing round the overhanging ruins, which afforded a very precarious foothold, and from which to the rocks below was a sheer drop of 40 feet.

There was a large fall of masonry from the south-front in 1835, and there have been others at various times since.

I will briefly refer to Mr. Groves’s remarks in passing.

From a plan of Sandsfoot Castle dated 1789 (in my possession) and which I was, many years ago, (by the courtesy of an official) allowed to copy from one in the War Department Office, on Bincleaves, the dimensions of the Castle are there given as :— length, 100 feet; width, 50 feet.

The east, north and west sides still have the protection of the ditch and rampart, and it is fair to assume that similar works defended the south side; but all traces of these must have been obliterated more than 70 years ago, by the occasional subsidence of the cliff into the sea.

Sandsfoot Castle

Sandsfoot Castle taken in 2008 © DCM

That the opening in the east rampart was a gateway or entrance is, I think, open to grave doubts. On a map and plan of the Castle which I saw more than 50 years ago, and which was then in the keeping of the War Department at their Office on the Bincleaves, that opening is described as being a magazine. Years ago there reposed in the ditch, directly behind the so-called u gateway,” a massive door jamb of stone. The upper end of the jamb was turned, so as to form half of the head of a semi-circular door arch. When the corresponding jamb was in position it would accommodate a door measuring 3ft. by 4ft. 6in. in the rabbet formed for this purpose. A door of this size, although suitable for a magazine, would be totally inadequate for the general purposes of the Castle. When I last saw this jamb, it had fallen from the ditch on to the undercliff below. I searched for it in June, 1918, but could not find it. Possibly it was hidden by the rank growth of weeds, or had sunk in the soft earth.The grooves in which the portcullis moved are clearly in view, also the stone stairway leading to the chamber (over the main entrance) in which was the machinery used for raising or lowering this.

There were two entrances to the cellars, one at the northeast angle of the Castle, the other a few yards to the south of this, When a school-boy, I, with three boy friends, resolved to clear the steps of the last-mentioned entrance from the earth which, in the course of very many years, had accumulated there. We devoted a half-holiday to the object. We began at the top, and had nearly reached the bottom, when I found a small coin, which proved to be a Rose farthing of Charles I., 1635. This type is similar to the Harringtons’, the difference being, that these bore the Rose on the reverse, in lieu of the Harp, which distinguishes the Harringtons’.It is evident that the old map showed the Castle as it was at some early date of its history, and not as it stood in 1859; as, at this time, not only had the rampart, ditch and intervening land between them and the Castle entirely disappeared, but also a considerable portion of the building itself had fallen into the sea.

As I was one of the school-boys referred to in Mr. Groves’s paper (Vol. III., p. 23) I feel quite qualified to give a few details relating to the finding of the stone shot.

About the year 1855 I was walking, with two other boys, on the sea-shore under Sandsfoot Castle, when we “spotted” the opening of a drain which a fall of the cliff had brought to view.

It was directly under the south-west angle of the Castle, and about 30 feet above the shore. The opening  was almost closed with earth. We had a strong desire to investigate ; but how ? It was not an easy matter at that time, as the cliff was then nearly perpendicular. I was deputed to make the ascent, and, by the aid of my pocket-knife and a pointed piece of wood, foot-holes were cut in the face of the cliff, and the upward journey began.

At length I reached the drain, and cleared its mouth. Inspection revealed the fact that its bottom was covered by a few inches of earth, and that it extended about six or eight feet in a direct line, when it appeared to be choked by fallen masonry. This ended the first introduction to the drain; but we arranged to pay it daily visits in order to carry on the work, and, in order not to interfere with our school duties, these visits had to be made in the early morning. So, for some time, we rose with the lark, and reached the scene of operations at 7 a.m. This gave just an hour for work, before we had to start for home, breakfast, and school.

The Poisoned Cup by Joseph Drew

‘The Poisoned Cup’, a short novel by Joseph Drew set in the reign of Elizabeth I has Sandsfoot Castle as its backdrop. © DCM

As our operations were carried on in semi-darkness, lying prone, and in a very confined space, our progress was not rapid. The earth had to be loosened and scraped forward; then the worker wriggled backwards, drawing the earth forwards until the outlet of the drain was reached, when the result was sent over the cliff. As the clearing progressed, the one working in the drain was occasionally quite hidden from view. One morning, when I was at work, and nearing the obstacle, I came upon something which for a time defied my efforts to remove it; but at last I loosened it, and took it from its bed, where it had probably been resting for centuries. I wriggled back to daylight with my unknown prize, when it was seen that it was a hollow cylinder of iron, open at one end, and closed at the other. There was a handle on one side. What it was I knew not then; but the heavy burden was cheerfully borne as, with light hearts, we trudged back to breakfast. Another visit sufficed to clear the floor of the drain of accumulated earth and rubble, and to enable us to see clearly the nature of the obstruction. I should state that in the roof of the drain and about six feet from the outlet, a perpendicular drain joined it; and down this had fallen a rectangular piece of stone measuring about 2 feet x 10in. x 10in., which was firmly jammed at the angle formed by the junction of the perpendicular and horizontal drains.

To remove this was both difficult and dangerous. The working space was cramped; the prone position of the operator most uncomfortable. Moreover there was the knowledge that when the obstruction moved it would come with a rush; and then it would be a case of stand clear, or be crushed. The obstruction was at length removed without mishap, and when it came down into the drain, I found to my great joy, that three stone shots, which had lodged behind it, were now released. These I drew towards me, and wriggled back to the outlet with them. They were received with shouts each took one. We were a happy trio as we wended our way homewards.

A few years later I found an iron shot, about 3in. diameter, 18 inches beneath the surface of the gun-room floor.

Some years after this, when visiting the Tower of London, I found that the iron cylinder was a breech chamber of a 15th Century cannon in which the charge of powder was placed. It was then inserted in an aperture in the cannon and pressed forward in the direction of the muzzle, and secured in this position by a bar of iron which passed through holes in the sides of the gun and rested against the end of the chamber, thus preventing it from moving. There was a touch hole in the chamber. The shot was then inserted in the muzzle and rammed home, and the gun was ready for action.

Formerly there was a tradition that when Henry VIII. built Sandsfoot Castle, he used some of the material which he obtained from Bindon Abbey (which, like so many other religious houses, fell a victim to his rapacity) for its construction; but there appears to be no proof of this. However, a close inspection of the Castle walls show that there are, among the rubble, many fragments of worked and carved stone, including two archaic corbel heads which evidently came from some ecclesiastical building. This appears to give a little colour to the report; but it is too slight for anything but the merest conjecture.

My three “finds” at Sandsfoot Castle referred to in the foregoing pages, viz., the breech-chamber, stone shot and iron ball, are in the Dorset County Museum.

In writing the above I merely desired to place on record circumstances which are in my personal knowledge, and which otherwise might have been lost sight of.

Loading the Cannon Pierrier

Loading the Cannon Pierrier © DCM

N.B – Since this paper was written I have received information from the Royal United Services’ Institution, Whitehall, to the effect that this early breech-loading weapon, known as the cannon pierrier, was much used in the early part of the Sixteenth Century for throwing stone shot from small castles. The accompanying sketch, from a drawing by Grosse, in the Royal United Services’ Institute shows the progress of loading the cannon pierrier. The small stone or iron balls were apparently inserted at the breech. (See middle gun).

The large stone balls, 6in. diameter, which we found, would be used not in a pierrier, but in a howitzer.”

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Alfred Russel Wallace and Natural Selection by Dr. Peter Raby

Wallace100Alfred Russel Wallace was one of the late nineteenth century’s most outstanding scientific thinkers. He is probably best known as the co-discoverer (with Charles Darwin) of the principle of natural selection but he also made significant contributions in many other fields and founded the discipline of biogeography.  Followers of Wallace still regard him as the pre-eminent field biologist, collector and naturalist of tropical regions – he collected over 125,000 natural history specimens in South East Asia alone.

Alfred Russel Wallace

Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., L.L.D., D.C.L., F.R.S.

However, his work in many areas is not well-known even today and his significant achievements remain poorly recognised.  In his talk, Dr. Peter Raby of Homerton College, Cambridge, who wrote a biography of Wallace in 2001, will seek to redress the balance.  He will describe how Wallace wrote to Charles Darwin excitedly outlining his new theory of natural selection, throwing Darwin into a panic.  Just two weeks later Darwin’s outline and Wallace’s paper were jointly presented in London. The following year Darwin, using much of the material from Wallace’s meticulous research, published ‘On the Origin of Species’ to wide acclaim.  Wallace, meanwhile, was still on the other side of the world – his crucial contribution to the work largely overlooked.

Dr. Raby’s talk, The Man who Selected Darwin,  complements the Museum’s current exhibition Alfred Russel Wallace: A Centenary Celebration which provides a rare opportunity to see its entire collection of brightly coloured bird skins from Wallace’s Malay Archipelago trip in 1854-1855.  Dr. Raby has also written widely on drama
and the theatre and is the editor of the Cambridge Companions to Oscar Wilde and
Harold Pinter.

The lecture takes place at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23th October 2013. Entry is FREE and the doors are open from 7.00pm.

For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or check the website on www.dorsetcountymuseum.org

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