Sunday 15th to Sunday 22nd September 2019

Sunday 15th September 2019

St Edith’s Fayre at Wilton Parish Church

St. Mary and St. Nicholas
West Street
Wiltshire SP2 0DL


10.45am: Sung eucharist, honouring St Edith, Abbess of Wilton

12.00 – 3.00pm: “St Edith’s Fayre”

Barbeque from 12.00 and stalls from 12.30 on the church grounds.

3.00pm: Mayor’s Service

4.00pm: Civic awards

Parish Office: 01722 742393

Midweek Events

Please check the time and locations of individual talks below.

Monday 16th September 2019

Wilton Historical Society

Talk: Simon Forman: ‘The St Thomas’ Church Alchemist?’

Speaker: Alan Crooks

Start time: 7.30pm

Location: Wilton Community Centre, West Street, Wilton, Salisbury, Wiltshire. SP2 0DG (

Alan Crooks’ interest in Simon Forman stems from research he is undertaking on the alchemist of St Thomas’ Church, Salisbury.

Known as the ‘notorious astrological physician of London’, Forman was born in Quidhampton in 1552 and some of his forbears are buried at Fugglestone St Peter. He tutored children at St Giles Priory at Fugglestone and for a while tutored the children of John Penruddock MP in Salisbury.

Forman’s life writings include his Autobiography and Diary and, in the latter he claims that he lived in a house in St Thomas Churchyard.

Could he be the alchemist described on a plaque near the former north porch of St Thomas Church?

About the speaker: Alan Crooks

Alan Crooks is a former research life scientist and a retired lecturer and teacher of Chemistry. He has been an Engagement Volunteer at Salisbury Museum since retiring in 2016 and frequently writes for the Museum’s ‘Volunteer Blog’. He is also an active member of Fisherton History Society and often provides articles for the The Fisherton Informer magazine.

Note: A £2 donation will be payable for all non-members of the Wilton Historical Society at this event.

More on The Wilton Historical Society (including contact details):

Tuesday 17th September 2019

Wilton Library

Event: Bedtime Story: A Wilton History Special

Time: 6.00-6.40pm

Location: Wilton Library, South Street, Wilton, SP2 0JS

More on Wilton Library:

Wednesday 18th September 2019

George Herbert in Bemerton Group

Event: ‘Lines and Life’: George Herbert’s life reflected in his poetry – a George Herbert poetry reading and musical evening

Location: Old St Mary’s Church, Wilton Market Square

Time: 19.00pm

The celebrated poet-priest George Herbert (1593-1633) spent the last three years of his life as Rector of the adjoining parish of Fugglestone-with-Bemerton, and was closely associated with Wilton through his kinship with the Earls of Pembroke. Many of his poems are autobiographical, and some of these will be used to illustrate how his verse and his life were inextricably linked. The poems will be interspersed with viol music of his period from the Kingsgate Consort.

The George Herbert in Bemerton Group

The George Herbert in Bemerton Group was formed in 2002. Mostly Bemerton residents, the nine members of the Group cover a wide spectrum of interests, both religious and secular. The Group’s aims are to:

  • study and celebrate the life and work of George Herbert as priest, writer and distinguished inhabitant of Bemerton;
  • present events relating to the works of George Herbert and the context in which he lived; and
  • liaise and co-ordinate with other bodies having like interests.

More details are available on the Group’s website:

Thursday 19th September 2019

Writing Wilton: Author Panel

Location: Old St Mary’s Church, Wilton Market Square

Time: 7.00pm

Local authors and those who write about Wilton will read excerpts from their latest books, and will discuss how the town and the surrounding area inspires their work.

The event will be followed by a wine reception and book signing.

Featured authors:

Anna Thomasson, A Curious Friendship: The Story of a Bluestocking and a Bright Young Thing (Macmillan, 2015).

A vivid and moving account of the remarkable relationship between the writer Edith Olivier and the young artist Rex Whistler.

The winter of 1924: Edith Olivier, alone for the first time at the age of fifty-one, thought her life had come to an end. For Rex Whistler, a nineteen-year-old art student, life was just beginning. Together, they embarked on an intimate and unlikely friendship that would transform their lives. Gradually Edith’s world opened up and she became a writer. Her home, the Daye House, in a wooded corner of the Wilton estate, became a sanctuary for Whistler and the other brilliant and beautiful younger men of her circle: among them Siegfried Sassoon, Stephen Tennant, William Walton, John Betjeman, the Sitwells and Cecil Beaton – for whom she was ‘all the muses’.

Set against a backdrop of the madcap parties of the 1920s, the sophistication of the 1930s and the drama and austerity of the Second World War and with an extraordinary cast of friends and acquaintances, Anna Thomasson brings to life, for the first time, the fascinating, and curious, friendship of a bluestocking and a bright young thing.

Anna Thomasson is a cultural historian and author. She studied for an M Phil in Biography at the University of Buckingham. Her thesis was shortlisted for the Biographers’ Club Prize and formed the backbone of her first book, ‘A Curious Friendship’, which tells the story of the friendship between the artist Rex Whistler and the writer Edith Olivier. She is currently writing her next book which will be published by Picador.

Dr Russ Foster, Sidney Herbert: Too Short a Life (Hobnob Press, 2019).Sidney Herbert

£25, ISBN 978-1-906978-70-9 (also available as paperback, £16.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-69-3)

Christian philanthropist and patron of Florence Nightingale, Sidney Herbert was hailed in his own times as a statesman, administrative reformer and co-founder of the modern Liberal party. It can be argued that only fatal illness deprived him of the keys to Downing Street.  Strangely neglected since his death, this is the first full-length study of ‘one of the most worthy Wiltshiremen who ever lived’, a figure described by Nightingale as ‘A man of the most varied and brilliant conversational genius I have ever known.’

Russ Foster is a graduate of Southampton University. Now a freelance historian, he has written well over 100 articles on subjects ranging from Alfred the Great to Margaret Thatcher. He is also the author of three books: The Politics of County Power (1990), Wellington and Waterloo: The Duke, the Battle and Posterity 1815-2015 (2014), and Sidney Herbert: Too Short a Life (2019). Russ is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Nikki Copleston, author of the D.I. Jeff Lincoln books, A Saintly Grave Disturbed and The Shame of Innocence

Nikki Copleston grew up in Wilton, where her parents taught at the primary school. After a career as a librarian in London, she moved back to the West Country and returned to her first love: writing.

She has published two crime novels set in an area not unlike Salisbury, and a third novel will come out in the autumn. She is now working on the fourth in the series, featuring Detective inspector Jeff Lincoln. She retains a huge affection for Wilton and the countryside around it.

Friday 20th September 2019

Daytime Events:

1. Salisbury Civic Society Heritage Open Day: Wilton Town Council Chambers

Time:  10.00am – 14.00pm
Location: Wilton Town Council Chambers

Wilton Town Council is delighted to provide access to its Council Chambers for National Heritage Open Days on Friday 20th September 2019. A portrait by Rex Whistler of Wilton’s first female Mayor, Edith Olivier MBE; medieval town charters; royal portraits, and a fifteenth-century chest are just some of the treasures housed in this beautiful building. The history of the Chambers themselves are just as rich, and include use as: a Wesleyan Methodist chapel; the home of the Wilton Total Abstinence Society; a canteen for troops during World War I, and a Masonic temple. Come along and see this fascinating part of Wiltshire’s history for yourself!

The Chambers will be open to the public between 10.00am-14.00pm. Information will be provided, and volunteers will be available to provide assistance.

Accessibility: The Chambers are up some stairs (first floor), but are wheelchair accessible (via a wheelchair stair lift).

2. Wilton U3A Friday Talk

Talk: ‘Blick Mead: The Discovery of the cradle of Stonehenge.’

Speaker: Andy Rhind-Tutt

Location: Wilton Town Council Chambers

Time: 14.00pm

Hosted by Wilton U3A. Free of charge. All welcome.

Evening: Wilton’s Dark History – A Guided Walk

Guide: Dr Rebecca Lyons, Wilton Town Councillor

Start time: 18.00pm, Friday 20th September 2019

Start location: St Peter’s Church, Fugglestone (the church just next to Wilton roundabout)

End location: The railway bridge just before The Hollows and Water Ditchampton

Distance: We will be walking around central Wilton, covering 1-2 miles in total.

Duration: 1 – 1.5 hours

Attire: Please wear appropriate shoes and dress warmly, bringing waterproofs and umbrellas in case of rain.

Disclaimer and content warning: This guided tour discusses aspects of Wilton’s history that some audience members may find uncomfortable, and is not suitable for children. Recommended for ages 16+. Individuals take part at their own risk.


Saturday 21st September 2019


St. Mary and St. Nicholas Church
West Street
Wiltshire SP2 0DL


10.00am: Church doors open – all welcome to explore the church before the symposium begins at 12.00 noon.

12.00-12.15pm: Welcome and Introduction

12.15-1.30pm: Panel One: Wilton Abbey and Royal Connections in the Middle Ages

1.30-2.00pm: Comfort break

2.00-3.15pm: Panel Two: Communities and Contexts of Wilton and the Wylye Valley: Medieval to Modern

3.15-3.45pm: Comfort break

3.45-4.45pm: Panel Three: Wilton Characters

We will then have a fifteen-minute break before inviting all attendees to gather outside Wilton Place at 5.00pm for the unveiling of Wilton’s first Blue Plaque.

17.00pm: Blue Plaque Unveiling

Location: Wilton Place, West Street, Wilton


Saturday Symposium: Detailed Programme

Welcome and Introduction: The Wilton History Festival Returns!
Dr Rebecca Lyons

Wilton History Festival Director and Wilton Town Councillor


Panel One: Wilton Abbey and Royal Connections in the Middle Ages
Deborah Wood

‘“If you need something doing, ask the young”: Case Studies from Anglo-Saxon Wilton.’

On driving into Wilton, almost all of us have, at some point, been greeted by the bold assertion that it is the “Ancient Capital of Wessex”. But what does that really mean? This paper will examine the rich past of Wilton’s role in the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, both as a hub of communication and trade, and as a crucible of change. Through the lens of two crucial figures to Wilton’s history, it will explore the stories of King Alfred the Great, and St Edith, abbess of Wilton Abbey to unearth the influential changes made by these two young leaders, and bring them back into our public memory.

Speaker bio:

Deborah Wood began her History career by winning the Chalke Valley History Festival’s Young Writers competition in 2013. She followed this up with winning entries to both the Salisbury Cathedral short story competition and the Salisbury Cathedral Close Preservation Society’s essay competition. About to begin her third year studying History and English at Royal Holloway, University of London, Deborah has developed a keen interest in Old English and the Anglo-Saxon world, giving a paper on St. Edith of Wilton to the Old English Reading Group International Summer Conference in May. She has worked with both the conservation and guiding teams at Wilton House since she was 14 and is the voice behind the Wilton History Festival’s social media pages.


Dr Amy Heneveld

‘Women reading at Wilton Abbey in the 13th century: The Bodmer 82 and the Life of Saint Edith.’

Speaker bio:

Amy is a writer and scholar with a PhD from the University of Geneva. She wrote her dissertation on the Bodmer 82, a 13th-century compilation manuscript that belonged to Wilton Abbey, researching how the compilation represents medieval ideals of complex compositional unity. She is also a poet and artist who works with plants. She is currently living in Vermont.


Dr Claire Harrill

‘Wilton Abbey in the Eleventh Century: A “Finishing School” for Elite Girls.’

Popular perception of the medieval word often perpetuates the idea that women weren’t literate, educated or influential, but we know now this wasn’t true. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, elite women were trained and educated for positions of influence – and sometimes even independent power, and Wilton Abbey was a prime establishment for such education. In this talk, I will shed light on the education available for women in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and demonstrate how this affected some of the key political events of the time.

Speaker bio:

Dr Claire Harrill is a former lecturer at the university of Birmingham with a PhD in medieval literature. She now works for the education charity The Brilliant Club, training academics to share their research with gifted and talented students in state schools across the UK.


Panel Two: Communities and Contexts of Wilton and the Wylye Valley: Medieval to Modern


Dean Irwin

‘The Jews of Thirteenth-Century Wilton’

Wilton was the home to a small Jewish community for much of the thirteenth century. It was also one of the centres at which Jewish debts could be registered. As a result there are some important documentary sources which provide us with a glimpse of the function of that community. In particular, the 1262 receipt roll includes a section of debts which were transferred by Jews in that community to the Crown. Equally, in the legal records, there is evidence of Wilton Jews and Christian’s using the courts to enforce or evade debts. Consequently, this paper will examine what can be learned about the oft overlooked history of the Wilton Jewry. Moreover, it will situate the Wilton community within the context of the Anglo-Jewish community more generally.

Speaker bio:

Dean Irwin is a PhD student at Canterbury Christ Church University working on the records generated by Jewish moneylending activities between 1194 and 1276. He has published on the topic of medieval Anglo-Jewish records and also recently contributed to a forthcoming television documentary with a segment on Jews and execution.


Dr John Chandler

‘Crockford’s Flock.’

Thomas Crockford, who died in 1634, ministered as priest to four communities in the Wylye valley, and was a near neighbour of the celebrated poet-parson George Herbert of Bemerton and Fugglestone. Herbert’s manual describing the duties of the ideal parish priest was published after both men had died, but Crockford seems to have epitomised its portrayal, knowing intimately all his parishioners and their lives. He was a scholar too, like Herbert, and when one of his flock died or married he included in the register a brief biography, written in Latin that in his parish only he could understand. So he could be honest about their vices and virtues, and what would have been a mere name in a list became a character. Crockford’s registers will be published (in translation) next year by the Wiltshire Record Society, and today’s presentation introduces them and suggests their potential for social historians.

Speaker bio:

John Chandler BA PhD FSA is consultant editor to the Victoria County History in Wiltshire, and a local publisher (Hobnob Press). He has been researching, lecturing and writing about Wiltshire’s history for some forty years.


Hugh Abel

‘Wilton (and Axminster) Underfoot.’

A brief history of the Carpet Industry, the Wilton Carpet Factory, and glimpses into the past.

Speaker bio:

Hugh trained at the Salisbury College of Art and the West of England College of Art, Bristol, before later embarking on a career at the Wilton Carpet Factory as a Designer for twenty years from the early sixties to the early eighties.


Panel Three: Wilton Characters

Anne Marsh Penton

‘Wilton’s almost-forgotten voice: a re-introduction to Edward Slow’

In Edward Slow (1841-1925), Wilton’s very own dialect poet, chronicler, unofficial educator, public campaigner, carriage-builder and Mayor, there emerged during the latter half of the nineteenth century a local character who in many ways personified the town and its sense of history.

Over the course of his life, Slow was to witness life in the raw: early death of a parent and two siblings, extreme poverty, acts of God and world war.  All these experiences, together with the everyday happenings and issues concerning the Wilton community of his time in whose life he played a considerable part, he wrote into his verses (or ‘rhymes’, as he preferred to call them), in South Wiltshire dialect, which he would read at festive gatherings, seeing himself as a spokesperson for the common man.

The speaker, Slow’s great-great-great-niece, has further established a link, through his great-nephew David Cuthbert Thomas, with the poet Siegfried Sassoon, who was to spend much of his life at nearby Heytesbury House.

Speaker bio:

Anne Marsh Penton is a pianist and composer, who runs her own piano-teaching practice in Cambridge. She is musical director of the Dollard Collectief, an international not-for-profit poetry and music group, supported by Diadorim Arts, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Anne also writes about her forbears such as Edward Slow and David Cuthbert Thomas.


Christine Matthews

‘Dacres Olivier – Wilton’s Remarkable Rector’

The talk begins with Dacre’s arrival with his baby son in Wilton to make a fresh start after the tragic death of his wife. Fifty years later, after producing nine more children, plus a community room, a memorial in mosaic to his second wife, and a magazine which lasted 150 more years, he retired with his memories of a narrow escape from death, an accident  involving a noted composer, and an encounter with a naked lady!

Speaker bio:

Formerly a history teacher, Christine is a Wessex Blue Badge Guide, Clerk to the Trustees for Wilton United Charites and the Parish Secretary at St Mary & St Nicholas Church, Wilton. Author of: ‘A Small Town in the Great War – Wilton’s WWI’.

The Unveiling of Wilton’s First Blue Plaque: Edith Olivier MBE

Join us for this historic event – the unveiling of Wilton’s first ever Blue Plaque! Commemorating Wilton’s first female Mayor, Edith Olivier, the unveiling will be held at Wilton Place – Edith’s childhood home directly after the symposium at 17.00pm.

Ceremony to be overseen by Wilton’s current Mayor, Cllr. Ivan Seviour.

Sunday 22nd September 2019

Wild Wilton

Location: Wilton Community Centre (Room 2), West St, Wilton, SP2 0DG

Start time: 12.30pm

The final day of the festival celebrates Wilton’s natural history, and looks forward to its greener future. The day will consist of talks by wildlife experts on aspects of Wilton’s flora and fauna, and will be followed by a Wildlife Walk with the Founder of the Wilton Wildlife Group

Talks from 12.30pm:

Maria la Femina (Founder of the Wilton Wildlife Group)

‘Wilton Wildlife Group: Improving the Biodiversity of the Town’

Stuart Roberts (Former chair of BWARS (Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society) and Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Reading)

‘Wild Bees: more than just honey’


Guided Walk, 3.00pm:

Guided Wilton Wildlife Walk with the Founder of the Wilton Wildlife Group, Maria la Femina

Start time: 3.00pm

Start location: Wilton Community Centre, West Street

Walk time/distance: 1 and a half hours approx. around the town centre area

Guidance: Wear suitable walking shoes and clothes for variable weather. No unaccompanied children. Walk is taken at your own risk.


Open Day:

Old St. Mary’s Church, ‘The Flowers of Mary’
Location: Wilton Market Place 
Time: 10.00am – 17.00pm
Organisers: Friends of Old St Mary’s and Wilton & District U3A
A chance to look at the history of this ancient church and some historic artefacts plus the new Mary gardens.