Guest blog: Creation is Inspiration… Collecting and Celebrating Wiltshire’s Creativity

The five year Creative Wiltshire & Swindon Heritage Lottery Funded project has now been running for almost a year, and we’ve been thoroughly enjoying researching (with the help of volunteers) creative people who have been, and who still are, working in and being inspired by the county of Wiltshire. Their mark on the county can often be seen in their work, but how much of it remains in Wiltshire for us all to view and enjoy?

“Although heritage collections in Wiltshire and Swindon already include some local artists (mainly paintings) and writers, the broader creative industry is not well represented and therefore remains a largely hidden part of our county and borough’s heritage. Yet sometimes their work forms or reflects part of our daily life, such as our home furnishings or gardens, the music we listen to and the art that responds to familiar landscapes, past and present.”  Terry Bracher, Archives & Local Studies Manager, Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre.

The Creative Wiltshire & Swindon project aims to fill significant gaps in the collections at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre and at Wiltshire and Swindon’s Museums (a full list can be found under About on our Creative Wiltshire site). We have now identified over 500 individuals, many of whom can be included in the project, and are busy actively acquiring items.

Some highlights so far have been…

blue pot watermarkedA set of 1930s ceramics by Katharine Pleydell-Bouverie. Katharine, of Coleshill House near Swindon and Kilmington, Warminster, was one of the founder members of the Craftsman Potters Association. She was also instrumental in setting up the Crafts Study Centre at Holbourne Museum, Bath. Her glazes are very well documented and have been a source of inspiration and study for many potters ever since. The new acquisitions will find a home at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery, and will complement the few pieces of Katharine’s work already held there, visit their website to find out more.

Tanner watermarked final versionAn etching by Robin Tanner of Kington Langley, 1930. Robin was not only a unique etcher; he was also influential in bringing art and creativity to the school curriculum and environment with his pioneering work at Ivy Lane School, Chippenham, in the 1930s and later as HM Inspector of schools. The Edwin Young Collection and Wiltshire Museum hold Robin Tanner prints and associated material; this print will be located in the Wiltshire Historic Print and Photograph Collection at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham to represent Robin’s link with the area and its local community.

Desmond MorrisSupertramp VinylA book of the surrealist paintings of Desmond Morris from Purton, best known as a zoologist. Desmond is also a highly competent artist and it has only been in the last few years he has released enough of his life-time’s work for people to discover not only how superb his strange breed of biomorphic surrealism is, but also his huge contribution to and importance in, the history of British painting.  The Supertramp LP Breakfast in America. The co-founder of the 1970s band is Rick Davies from Swindon. The image on the album cover features Rick pouring sugar onto his copy of the Swindon Advertiser!

Aldbourne bells low resA set of 18th century handmade bells from the foundry at Aldbourne with the help of Terry Gilligan (who has been researching the foundry) regarding the authenticity of the items which were on sale in the USA. The bells would originally have been mounted on a leather block to be used on the neck of a cart horse or load pulling ox. Bells produced at Aldbourne have a distinct style of their own for which they have become renowned. The foundry itself can be seen as a ‘technical leader’ in the art of the bell founding method.

Male Common blue butterfly sunbasking on grass flowers, Corsham, Wiltshire. June 2009.

Male Common blue butterfly sunbasking on grass flowers, Corsham, Wiltshire. June 2009.

Red giant flying squirrel, Taiwan. May 2003.

Red giant flying squirrel, Taiwan. May 2003.

We have had the pleasure of acquiring some eye-catching photographs by the talented award winning wildlife photographer Nick Upton. Nick has lived in Box for 21 years and the photographs we have acquired can be seen as a record of his worldwide travels, and of Wiltshire’s flora and fauna. They are a fantastic record of the creativity of an individual working in our county, and it’s wonderful to be able to include them in our Wiltshire Print and Photograph Collection, stored safely for perpetuity with free access for all.

We have also just received the archive of sculptor Roger Leigh, assistant to Barbara Hepworth and teacher at the Exeter School of Art. He moved to Aldbourne in 1966 and, alongside his wife, organised the acclaimed Sculpture in the Landscape Show at Aldbourne in 1969. It is an exciting deposit; a treasure trove representing his life and growth as a sculptor.

What are we learning from Creative Wiltshire & Swindon?

Just how many creative people can be found in our county; the diversity of their skills and artistic expression, and their passion for their work. We’ve also begun to realise that creative work is not just a solitary endeavour. Creative people often play a full part in their local communities and this can be seen both in their work and the help or skills they offer to others. It is fitting that their work be recognised as part of Wiltshire’s heritage, celebrated and collected for the benefit of all.

Don’t forget that you can keep up to date with the project’s progress and new acquisitions on our WordPress site Creative Wiltshire and our Pinterest site. We’ve also just begun to add images to History Pin, so watch this space!

The culmination of the project in 2019 will focus on a travelling exhibition, visiting each of the participating museums to give everyone a chance to view the items that have been acquired.

But for now… why not make the most of the opportunity to get a sneaky preview of some of the items we’ve purchased at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre’s free OPEN DAY on Saturday 31st October 2015 from 9.30am to 4pm.

If you have information about creative people working in Wiltshire recently or at any time in the past, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us at

Julie Davis and Joy Rutter, Project Officers


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