Collections

Wessex Gallery

Discover the collections at Salisbury Museum, ranging from archaeology to fine art and costume. These pages are arranged according to the galleries and displays at the museum.

Swallowcliffe Mount

The museum’s archaeology collection is one of the most significant in the UK outside a national museum and is estimated to be in excess of 100,000 objects. Our collections are central to understanding the story of the region. Highlights include finds from every 20th century excavation at Stonehenge, the Amesbury Archer, the medieval finds from Old Sarum and the Salisbury drainage collection.

Art

The museum’s art collection is strong in topographical scenes, images of local personalities, particular events and everyday life. It includes five watercolours by J. M. W. Turner, a pencil drawing by John Constable, an oil painting by Augustus John, watercolours of the city by Louise Rayner, the archive of 20th century sculptor Peter Thursby, and the archive of 20th century artist Rex Whistler. The collection (excluding the Rex Whistler and Peter Thursby archives) comprises approximately 4,000 items.

This collection consists primarily of English pottery and porcelain of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a connoisseur’s collection and there are approximately 2,000 items. In addition the museum has more humble crockery manufactured locally in Dorset and Hampshire and items produced for the local tourist market.

Pitt-Rivers medal

Known as the ‘father of modern scientific archaeology’, General Pitt- Rivers made many important discoveries digging on Cranborne Chase between 1880 and 1900. This collection was given to the museum by the Government in lieu of death duty in 1975. It not only contains important local finds, but also hand made models of archaeological sites and ethnographic items from the former Pitt-Rivers Museum at Farnham, Dorset.

Giant and Hob Nob

Of particular significance in the collection are the relics of the ancient guilds of Salisbury, most memorably the Merchant Tailors’ Giant and his companion Hob Nob. Civic objects include items salvaged from the Council House fire in 1780, standard weights and measures and collections of Salisbury-made bells, clocks and watches, silver, guns and cutlery. More recent manufacturing history is represented by a Scout Motor car made in Salisbury in 1912 – one of only two surviving today.

The museum has an important costume and textile collection, which focuses on items made by or associated with local people. The collection is strongest in late 18th and 19th century material and holds an estimated 5,000 items. It represents various aspects of life in south Wiltshire including farming, sporting, military history, church and domestic life.

Included in the costume collection is a Downton Lace collection which includes patterns, prickings and samples, bobbins and bolster-shaped pillows, illustrations, and equipment.

Rex Whistler Rome Sketchbook

The artist Rex Whistler (1905-1944) is most famous for the exceptional mural designs he was commissioned to undertake for the Tate Gallery restaurant; Plas Newydd, Anglesey; Port Lympne and Mottisfont Abbey. His skills as an artist covered a vast variety of different media including stage, set and costume design for theatre, opera, ballet; book illustration; advertising and portraiture.

The museum has five oil paintings on display by Whistler and also holds his archive which we acquired in 2013 with support from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, V&A Purchase Grant Fund and Friends of the National Libraries.