About  Artcare at Salisbury District Hospital

By Lesley Self, from ArtCare at Sailisbury District Hospital

ArtCare is the charitably funded arts in health service at Salisbury District Hospital and has been working with public for nearly 30 years. Our current projects include the following: 

  • engaging with our community through creative activities, healthcare topics, science and local history projects 
  • organising visual arts, performing and participatory events to inspire staff, patients and visitors to the hospital 
  • curating temporary exhibitions and acquiring permanent artworks for display around the hospital site and advising on interior design 
  • continued evaluation and learning built into projects, providing web-based resources and networking to promote good practice, stimulating and inspiring a wider audience 

We also care for Salisbury District Hospital’s historical collection. With items dating back to the building of Salisbury General Infirmary in 1766, this online resource provides an exciting insight into Salisbury’s past health care, science and innovations. 

ArtCare is funded through Stars Appeal, charitable donations, exhibition sales, grants for specific projects, ArtCare Friends and Salisbury League of Friends.

At Salisbury District Hospital we have over 4000 NHS staff many of whom working in demanding situations and stress. During Covd-19 lockdown we were all working in new ways and ArtCare needed to respond in order to support staff wellbeing activities and when we were approached by Wessex Archaeology to participate with Lost and Found digital museum it was an innovative and exciting project we wanted to contribute to.

Our team of hospital staff explored the collections and were led by a knowledgeable and friendly team of experts from Wessex Archaeology who encouraged us to find out more about their unseen objects. We also got close-up experience of the technology used to record our chosen artefacts and learnt more about their historic context. With weekly online sessions we got to know each other and produced our own creative responses to themes and discussions raised during the workshops. It was fascinating to see each week the individual stories unfold, curating ideas and words produced. More than anything these sessions offered a chance for us all to pause from our daily pressures, enjoy the time to share and be creative together.

The Artcare at Salisbury District Hospital group have kindly given permission for us to share their images and artworks created created as part of these sessions. 

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"I really enjoy hearing the stories behind the objects and imagining what may have happened for those objects to have been found the way they were. The library of boxes was really interesting. After a busy day at work, I liked the fact that I could just sit back and relax and listen, rather than be under pressure to join in as well."

"Being able to ask lots of questions and Erica feeding back to us. It was nice to have Leigh as she asked questions I hadn't thought of. I was first in the virtual room and felt welcomed by both Tom and Erica and we had a nice chat before the others joined. I didn't feel like it was difficult to engage in conversation with everyone."

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"I enjoyed listening to the others object choices and why they chose them. It was lovely to hear we all chose the same two objects to take forward as it felt like we were coming together as a team."

"I loved hearing other people talk about their special object and what it meant to them. It was so varied but the passion was them same from each person."

"Watching the object being scanned in real time and take shape in front of us was fascinating - presented really clearly."

"I was amazed by the information we can achieve from a little object. I have confidence in going forward with this project and I feel supported in my journey."

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"For me it was an opportunity to relax and enjoy myself. I have recently been diagnosed with anxiety and I'm having medication, mainly following covid, so I'm always looking for ways to do this. Theses sessions have been really helpful to me during this time."

"I am enjoying the home tasks which are making me think about what object to choose, the symbolism and how that links to an extended story. It is also interesting to hear everyone else's take on the homework and how each have various interpretations and but also similar strands of memories and connections to others."

"Yes, and I love everyone else's and how they have interpreted the task. We've all have different ideas on what the same words mean, the mind is a wonderful thing."

"...previously been a bit daunting. Now that I know there is no wrong answer and we can be creative (its not something I'm so used to doing.) I'm using my imagination and enjoying it!"

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"I wasn't sure what I was expecting but really loved the last two items shown, especially their back story around where they were found. I have realised that I connect with objects that I can understand and feel their place in the world at the time."

"THANK YOU, this is amazing and we are lucky to have this opportunity."


The Artcare at Salisbury District Hospital groups reason for choosing their objects:

  • I love history that is more present, something my grandparents could have touch or experienced. Something that's used and has a story, something I can imagine using in another life
  • I chose the seal due to the intricate design and what kind of person might have worn it. I chose the fire extinguisher because I liked the science behind the workings of it.#
  • I felt a connection with those objects emotionally. I loved their stories of what they were and how they were found and I thought others would too.

The Artcare at Salisbury District Hospital group have selected two objects from our archives to go into this online museum. Please do explore the objects below, we hope you enjoy them.

14th century seal

A 14th century copper alloy seal matrix that was recovered from a site at Bedwin Street in Salisbury which covered the former Vanner’s Chequer. This is a circular seal, with a hexagonal conical handle ending in a trefoil loop. The seal features a Lombardic legend around a heraldic shield featuring an animal – possibly a boar. The legend appears to read S’ P DEBREIYER ROG, which would mean that it was the seal of P DEBREIYER. This surname is either Anglo-Norman or French, and may well be derived from the verb breier which means “to crush herbs in a mortar.” The letters ROG could be the beginning of a place name, or could refer to the Latin Rogator, a word sometimes used to denote a lawyer. This seal could therefore have belonged to a French heraldic gentleman, who came to Salisbury and lost his seal.

Early 20th century fire extinguisher

An early 20th century fire extinguisher made by Mather and Platt Ltd. This model is a Simplex No. 2. It would originally have had a knob at the top and hose attached to the side. The hole for the hose can still be seen. To operate this fire extinguisher the user had to “strike the knob” – this instruction was printed on the side of the fire extinguisher – which set off a reaction that would pressurise the water inside to force it out through the hose to enable the user to direct the water at the fire. This item was found in the backfill of a First World War training trench at Larkhill. Other evidence from the site showed that the troops at Larkhill were using many sources of open flame for heat and light, including spirit stoves, candles, paraffin lamps and braziers, so a fire extinguisher would have been a vital piece of equipment to have to hand.


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