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.

Our new archaeology gallery is a journey back in time from the medieval period to the earliest evidence of human occupation in the Salisbury area.

Here you can discover ancient Wessex and its pivotal place in the story of England and see the nationally important finds and treasures from Old Sarum, Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape.

You can find out about Lieutenant-General Pitt-Rivers (1827-1900) and the birth of archaeology. Meet the ancestors including the 4,300 year old Amesbury Archer.

Aspects of medieval life are revealed by the finds from Ivychurch Priory, the Royal Palace at Clarendon, the deserted medieval village at Gomeldon and the pottery kilns at Laverstock.

The 'Drainage Collection' is an important group of everyday objects discovered in the open sewers which once flowed through the streets of Salisbury. This collection led to the formation of the museum in 1860.

Towering above all else is St Christopher, the Salisbury Giant, the pageant figure of the Tailors' guild. Displays of city crafts and industries are shown, including cutlery, bell founding and gun making.

The Victorians who founded the museum were also renowned collectors. Their ceramics and glass collections are displayed in the King's Room, and include rare and unusual items. These include a complete set of figures of the five senses from the Bow factory.

The arrangement of the gallery is by theme rather than by factory and everyday earthenware made in the Verwood district, and widely used locally, is shown to be as significant in its way as fine wares from Worcester, Cheslea or Leeds.

The collection dates from the 1750s onwards, women's dress predominating. The emphasis is on local social historical material, so that displays relate closely to Wiltshire rather than to the history of fashion generally.

In this gallery there are also dolls, samplers, some early clocks and locally made 18th century stringed instruments. Items not to be missed include the Downton Lace collection, an 1812 volunteer uniform and two exceptional pieces of 17th century stumpwork.

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 and V&A Purchase Grant Fund.