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Sherborne Museum has opened out its winter talks to the general public and warmly invites you to come along. We think the levels of expertise, knowledge and interest of our speakers are well worth £5 each, especially as all talks have tea and cake included. However, if you decide to become a member of the museum, with the exception of the two bookending memorial lectures at the Catholic Church Hall at which members also pay, you can experience these talks absolutely free! Thus saving £25 and still having tea and cake!

Membership enquiries: You may download details and an application form (PDF) here or contact Sandra on

All lectures start at 2.30pm. Doors open at 2.00pm

Admission for the Gerald Pitman Lecture and the Jim Gibb Lecture at the Catholic Church Hall: £5 with students at £2 (members and public)

Admission for the main winter talks programme at the Raleigh Hall: £5 non-members, members free.



John Slade of Sherborne, Maltster and Bankrupt: A Tale of Financial Ruin in Early Nineteenth Century Dorset

Saturday 14th October at the Catholic Church Hall, Westbury, Sherborne, 2.30pm.

This year’s Gerald Pitman Lecture will be given by Robert Nantes, Postgraduate Researcher at the University of Exeter.

In the late 1820s John Slade borrowed heavily in order to set up as a maltster and brewer in Sherborne. In the few years that he traded something was to go very wrong, and he began to be pursued for debt. The situation became so bad that he fled from Sherborne at Easter in 1830 and was never heard of again.

This talk affords a unique insight into an unusual aspect of the Sherborne world.

Chetnole VAD hospital Chetnole VAD hospital


Thursday 2nd November at the Raleigh Hall, Digby Road, Sherborne, 2.30pm

The museum’s archivist, Luke Mouland, explores how Sherborne played a pivotal role in nursing the wounded during the First World War; its contribution sustained largely through the efforts of voluntary female labour. The town was not only the first in Dorset to register a Voluntary Aid Detachment but became the first in the country to adopt the “group system” and also pioneered the use of open-air treatment for victims suffering from gas poisoning and septic wounds. Sherborne’s important contribution in this regard can be brought to life through the artefacts, photographs and personal stories cared for in the museum’s collections.


Thursday 7th December at the Raleigh Hall, Digby Road, Sherborne, 2.30pm

When Barbara Elsmore was invited to mount an exhibition at the museum on Lord Digby’s School, she turned to some of the Old Girls for assistance and was to attract many former pupils. The school was founded in 1743 by Lord Digby who gave ‘a dwelling house’ in Westbury (now part of the Britannia Inn) ‘for the education of 13 poor girls’ in memory of his wife, Lady Jane. In 1898 the school moved to a now demolished house in Newland and in 1932 moved over the road into Sherborne House leased from the Digby Estate. Becoming a Grammar School in 1944, it was amalgamated in 1991 with Foster’s and St Aldhelm’s Schools to become the present Gryphon School. Members of the Old Girls Association are to join us and Katherine Barker will mount material relating to the story of this historic building.


Thursday 11th January at the Raleigh Hall, Digby Road Sherborne, 2.30pm.

On 7th May 1794 the Old County Bridewell (in South Street) built in 1628 was put up for sale by auction at the Half Moon Inn in Sherborne and purchased for £470 by Earl Digby. The consequent lease and re-lease, dated 9th and 10th July, are the first in an unbroken series of deeds still in the possession of the owner of the property and which are being published as part of a history of the Old Bridewell; the pillars of its gate still stand. Barry Brock will review new evidence about the origins of the property, describe its role as a House of Correction (some of the accounts make for distressing reading) and then piece together the story of what happened to the property after the auction.

Pack Monday horn Pack Monday horn played in Teddy Roe’s Band
Sherborne Museum


Thursday 8th February at the Raleigh Hall, Digby Road, 2.30pm

The museum’s President, Katherine Barker, describes Pack Monday as Sherborne’s only surviving medieval street fair, and one duly listed in Owen’s 1824 ‘Book of Fairs’, a calendar used by itinerant traders and entertainers. The earliest, little-known, colourful description dates from the 1790s - the Fair ‘ushered in’ when ‘the boys assemble with their horns and parade the town with noisy shout.’ We read on to learn about the wide range of stalls, entertainments, the gingerbread men and the bustle, horses, carriages and mules, the flocks and herds, the fiddle playing and frolicking.

The Fair, of course, changes over the years; it is not our ‘dead’ history locked in the stonework of our buildings but our ‘living’ history for us all to enjoy, cherish and enhance so as to ensure its ‘protection’ on into the 21st century.


Thursday 8th March at the Raleigh Hall, Digby Road, Sherborne, 2.30pm

We always invite a speaker from another heritage attraction and this year we warmly welcome Sylvia Andrews, Director of Blandford Town Museum, which has a wide range of displays on the history of the town, including a depiction of the great fire of 1731. It is fortunate in attracting a very able team of volunteers with a wide range of research interests. Also Education Co-ordinator, Sylvia notes that ‘one of the most fulfilling groups to work with are young enthusiastic volunteers...they bring buckets of skills that are not often available in small museums. But keeping them engaged is often tricky.’ This talk will discuss some of the difficulties encountered at Blandford and some of the solutions to solving these problems.


Saturday 10th March, The Catholic Church Hall, Westbury, Sherborne, 2.30pm.

On 18th March 1539, the parish register records ‘Expulsio Monachorum de Shurborne’ and the abbey estates passed to the King to be disposed of, ‘privatised.’ It is easy to forget that up to this date the church fulfilled a number of social functions, not least those of hospitality, education and care of the poor. The next generation witnessed the building of the New Inn, the founding of a Grammar School and an Almonry set up in what is now Sherborne Museum. In his lecture Prof. George Bernard, Professor of Early Modern History at Southampton University, will suggest that it was not, however, solely for financial reasons that Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell dissolved the monasteries and that there were other vitally important factors involved.

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