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Open 7 days: Mon-Sat 10-4, Sun 12-4. Mid-way between Stonehenge and Avebury.

Cunnington Letter Book Conservation Appeal

Thank you to everyone who has supported our appeal.  As at today's date (3 February 2020) we have received donations totaling £1,095 towards the £1,850 needed.  The Appeal is still open and you can donate below.  Thank you again for your support of this important project.

Dear Member and Supporter

Biennial Appeal:  Conserving letters written by pioneering archaeologists to William Cunnington

For this year’s members’ appeal, we are seeking your help to conserve a book of antiquarian letters in our Collection.  Members of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society have a long history of helping to care for our collections and I do hope you can support this appeal.

The fascinating ‘letter book’ (pictured right and over) contains 246 letters sent to William Cunnington (pictured right) between 1799 and 1810.  Written to him by fellow antiquarians they discuss archaeological discoveries as they began exploring some of Wiltshire’s prehistoric sites.  The letters contain information about many of the objects in the Museum’s Prehistoric Wiltshire Galleries and are much used by researchers.

Each letter urgently needs cleaning, strengthening and the paper de-acidifying.  Many have writing close to the paper’s edge, which is often curled, tatty and torn: with the risk of text being lost.  The original binding is failing, and the letters are becoming loose.  We want to remove the letters from the binding and store them flat in bespoke archival ring binders, which will protect them and improve accessibility.  In addition to improved conservation the letters will also be digitised and transcribed.

The conservation of these important letters will cost £6,600.  We have been awarded a grant of £4,750 towards the project by the Association of Independent Museums Conservation Scheme, but additional funding of £1,850 is needed to ensure all the conservation work required can be undertaken.

Should we be successful in raising more than the funds required the balance will be put towards further library projects.

Many thanks in advance for any help you can offer.

Best wishes

Jane Schön

Collections Officer: Library and Archive

Cunnington Letter Book Conservation Appeal

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Donation Total: £10.00

Portrait of William Cunnington - engraving of the portrait by Samuel Woodforde in the Museum.

William Cunnington corresponded with Archdeacon Coxe, Henry Penruddock Wyndham, Philip Crocker, Abraham Crocker and Sir Richard Colt Hoare. They discussed early archaeological theories alongside travel arrangements and their health. The letters give an insight into the history of archaeology and the foundations of modern archaeology.

The letters shown are all from Philip Crocker to William Cunnington. The two letters on the right-hand side are dated 7 October 1808 and 21 November 1808 respectively. In the top one, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Philip Crocker are discussing the watercolours that Crocker has been working on. Colt Hoare will be returning to Stourhead the next day and Philip Crocker will give him 'all I have in my possession'. He says he has not finished many of the drawings as he has been 'engaged upon the General Survey. Has surveyed Longleat Park and the camp on Roddenbury Hill’. Many of these watercolours and drawings are in our collection. In the second letter he says he is unable to find his survey of the Roman road through Spy (sic) Park, he thinks Sir Richard Colt Hoare has it at Stourhead. He gives directions for finding the Wansdyke in the Bowden Hill / Spye Park area and mentions that the locals call it the Devils Ditch, also known as Wandsditch. It also gives details of its route. Philip Crocker (1779 -1840) was a surveyor and draughtsman. He assisted the Ordnance Survey in the production of the first 1" to 1-mile maps of Wiltshire. In 1807 he began surveying and drawing maps for Sir Richard Colt Hoare and in 1809 left the Ordnance Survey to become Colt Hoare's steward. This is just a summary of two letters, but the conservation work will enable full digitisation and transcripts to be done, providing not only invaluable information about items in our collections, but add to Wiltshire’s history.