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19 July 2020

Mystery Pic

You may have seen in the White Horse News that we asked if anyone could identiy a mystery pic that we have in our collection but we cannot identify it.

mystery pic250Well an eager-eyed visitor to our Facebook page Old Westbury, Wiltshire spotted it and replied. Apparently it shows a Manning-Wardle & Co 'K' class locomotive which was supplied to engineering contractors Logan & Hemingway. It was a favourite type used by them when building railways. This loco could have been used in the early 1900s when the GWR was making the Reading to Taunton line a second main-line route to the west - connecting up bits of existing rail lines. Until then, GWR express trains to Exeter and Plymouth ran via Bristol and it was nicknamed the "Great Way Round".

The little loco was built around 1890. Its design was a catalogue item and parts like the cab changed over the years. Models have been made in O-gauge - perhaps the West Wilts O-Gauge group that meet in Trowbridge have an example!



17 July 2020

Vista Cinema

vista 200Many people willl remember when Westbury has its very own cinema ... the Vista on Warminster Road. It opened in November 1920 and even boasted a cafe lounge. The Wiltshire Times reported the opening saying 

The completed Vista cinema takes its place in the very front rank of provincial picture houses.

One of its first showings was Roustabout starring Charlie Chaplin. But films were just part of what the Vista had to offer - it was used for plays, concerts, fundraising events and even the crowning of the town's carnival queen. The Vista was destroyed by fire in 1988 and demolished. Vista Court housing complex was built on its site. The heritage society still has part of the original tiled entrance as well as an impressive collection of original programmes.



6 July 2020

Cannon Green

demolishing cannon 250 pxEver wondered why Cannon Green, off the Market Place, got its name? There used to be a Russian cannon in pride of place on the grass in front of the row of houses there. The cannon was brought here in 1858 with great ceremony and celebration. The cannon was brought from the railway station in a procession half a mile long that included a brass band and an accompaniment of a military escort of the Wiltshire Cavalry. The gun itself was drawn by seven hourses and the town church bells rang out to celebrate the occasion.

But by the Second World War, its glory days were over. With the nationwide call for metals for armament manufacture, the cannon was targeted. The urban council agreed it should go for the worthy cause and in March 1942 two soldiers arrived to dismantle it. The photograph shows their efforts... apparently the cannon was a lot harder to dismantle than they first assumed! It was eventually taken away by truck in pieces en route to be melted down. But it still lives on in the name of the terrace of pretty houses.



4 July 2020

Images and the stories behind them

The heritage society thought our members and visitors might like to share in some of the stories behind the many hundreds of local photographs that we have in our collection.

chalford tollhouseFor instance, did you know there used to be a toll house on the Warminster side of town? The photograph shows the tollhouse keeper probably at the turn of the century. The toll house was at the junction of Warminster Road and the road to Old Dilton. There would have been a gate across each road and travellers would have to stop to pay a toll before they passed through. The toll house was built in 1786 and there was also a well on the site. It was demolished to make way for road widening in the 1960s. We know a Lucy Woodward was the toll collector in 1870 - she gave evidence in court after a galloping horse knocked down and killed a pedestrian at Chalford.






4 July 2020

On the Move!

Westbury Heritage is on the move - albeit slowly! We will be vacating our High Street premises this month for the new venue of Westbury's historic library building. Unfortunately the coronavirus has thrown so many plans into disarray and our plans are no exception. So, while we will be moving all our collection, we cannot open to the public until the library opens.

That said the society is busy planning for the future - a grand re-opening, a series of exhibitions, talks and walks. In the meantime, heritage will be kept in the public eye with a series of features and news items in the White Horse News, here on our website and on our Facebook page Old Westbury, Wiltshire.

We know it is a strnge and uncertain time for everyone, but we really hope people will continue to support the society and visit us in our new venue when we open. Westbury is a fast-changing town and preserving its heritage is even more important than ever" said the heritage society chairman, Sally Hendry.

In the meantime, society members have been busy cataloguing and packing up our great collection of local history. Among these are literally hundreds and hundreds of local photographs that chart the changing face of our town. 



5 May 2020

Westbury at War

With the VE75 commemorations this weekend, did it get you wondering about what Westbury was like during the war?

Well, historian, Liz Argent has put together a fascinating article all about the people who lived here, the evacuees and the military who came for the duration and the events on the Home Front.  

Read it here - Westbury at War (pdf)


or view it here  



16 April 2020

April Newsletter

With the Visitor & Heritage Centre closed for the foreseeable future, find out what's been happening recently in our latest newsletter.

In this issue you can find:

  • An update on the Heritage Centre move
  • More about Hercules
  • The Hoare family and the first scouts in Westbury and
  • News about the society's forthcoming AGM

Click here to read it.  April Newsletter