Malmesbury Chronicles

Malmesbury Chronicles

circa 1980

Last year we started taking photographs of places where people work in Malmesbury because nowadays the town changes very quickly.

In that short time there have been many arrivals and some sad departures.

As far as we know there is no set of photographs in the county of Wiltshire which shows the diversity of working activity in a small town. We thought it would interest everyone to see how varied are the places in which people work and so a lot of our pictures are “mug-shots” of buildings with some of the people who work in them standing on the doorstep.

It would be easy for an individual to organise and finance this kind of activity, but with help from Wiltshire Library and Museums Service and from our district councillor, Christine Napier, we obtained funding from the MSC Community Programme through their local sponsor, North Wilts District Council.

Manpower Services Commission fund the Community Programme to enable people who have been unemployed for a long time to work for one year in a job which will provide useful experience and have some benefit to the community. Our team has had to learn how to take and print photographs, and how to organize and document their work so that it will be accessible to everyone in years to come.

We intend to store our photographs in the Athelstan Museum for future study. We are using black and white film and paper because we hope it will store better, and because it is easier to process. The series is not yet complete, but we hope you will let us know about any omissions. We were greatly encouraged and helped by The Friends of the Athelstan Museum who have very kindly paid for some of our photographic materials.

Our series of panoramix is intended to help people to remember the way the town looks now. We hope the pictures will be a useful reference in the local planning and conservation dialogues. We specially want to emphasise the value of open spaces that lie so close to the centre of town, and to show that the natural texture and scale of buildings is worth trying to conserve.

We are grateful to the Malmesbury Civic Trust for their generous help with funding for the Panoramix. When the work is complete, we would like to store it in the Malmesbury Public Library where everyone will be able to refer to it.

We are also very interested in the way people used to work and in the social life of the area in days gone by, and we have made some recordings which are quite entertaining. We hope to continue this work through our second year and to edit tapes into short “programmes” about particular kinds of work. Let us know if you would like to hear the material collected so far. And if you would like to tell us about your working life, we would love the chance to meet you !

MSC have agreed to fund this work for a second year. During this time we shall finish our photography in Malmesbury and begin to look at the surrounding villages. We are thinking about adapting the panoramix formula to popularize some of the pretty country walks in the area. Do tell us if you think of any fresh ideas for us to include. We do like meeting people !