TEL: 01305 262735

Thursday 4th January 2018 until Sunday 18th March 2018

Venue: Dorset County Museum, High West Street, Dorchester, Dorset, DT1 1XA

Made in Wessex

Discover the story of a region that has been a centre of making for thousands of years...

For the next twelve months four leading museums of the Wessex Museums Partnership Dorset County Museum, Poole Museum, The Salisbury Museum and Wiltshire Museum will be sharing the story of Wessex in the wider world by showcasing an artefact from their own outstanding collections to the other partner museums.

A cradle of prehistoric society in England and today renowned for its arts and crafts, Wessex has been a centre of making for thousands of years. The downland, heathland, rivers and coast of Wessex have shaped the making and use of artefacts, from ancient flints to contemporary ceramics. This second series of Spotlight Loans between the four leading museums that tell the stories of Dorset and Wiltshire focus on this tradition of making and reveals some surprising and fascinating objects to illustrate the theme.

Moonraker Plate

The Dorset County Museum is pleased to announce from the to 11 December 2017 to 18 March 2018, we will be showcasing a plate from Wiltshire Museum.

This highly-decorated plate is known as the Moonraker Plate. It tells the tale of the Wiltshire Moonrakers. There are many variations of the legend that have been told over the years. The Wiltshire Moonrakers got their name back in the mid-sixteenth century; at this time the wool produced from Wiltshire was known and prized all over Europe, due to its high quality. Dutch and Flemish merchants therefore set up permanent headquarters in Swindon.

It soon became apparent that there was a problem with this arrangement – the merchants’ favourite evening drinks of French brandy was very expensive to import. To address this issue, Wiltshiremen began smuggling in barrels of the spirits to avoid paying the import duty. During the daytime they would hide the barrels in church crypts or in village ponds.

This system worked very successfully, until one fateful night. Whilst the smugglers where raking in their barrels out of a pond, thought to be The Crammer in Devizes, they were surprised by a patrol of excise men. Knowing that they were very close to being caught, the smugglers had to think on their feet to avoid trouble. They quickly pointed to the moon’s reflection in the pond and told the officials that they were trying to rake in the cheese. The excise men believe this and went on their way laughing, thinking that the smugglers were simple locals. The men were able to retrieve their spirits without further interruptions; thus. the name Moonrakers was born.

The plate was made in the 1970s by the ceramic artist and calligrapher Mary White, in her studio in Malmesbury. It was donated to Wiltshire Museum by Marjorie Couzens, who composed the legend.

The Moonraker legend has appeared in numerous books, film and theatre adaptations, but it best remembered as a dialect poem by Edward Slow, and featured in 'Wiltshire Rhymes and Tales in the Wiltshire Dialect', published in 1894.

The Wiltshire Moonrakers

Down Vizes way zom years agoo,
When smuggal'n wur nuthen new,
An people wurden nar bit shy,
Of who they did their sperrits buy.
In a village liv'd a publican,
Whi kept an Inn, The Pelican,
A man he wur, a man a merrit
An his neam wur Ikey Perritt.
Ael roun about tha country voke
Tha praise of thease yer landlard spoke;
Var wen any on'em wur took bad,
They knaw'd wur sperrits could be had;
An daly it wur nice an handy,
At tha Pelican to get yer brandy.
Twer zwold as chep as tis in Vrance,
Tho a course, twer done in iggerance.

One winter, Crismis time about,
Thease lanlords tubs as ael ran out.
Zays he, this yer's a purty goo,
Var mwore what ever shall I do;
Thie smugglin Zam's a purty chap,
Ta lave I here wieout a drap;
An wen a promised dree months back,
A hooden vail ta bring me whack.
Bit praps tha zizevoke voun his trail,
An med a pop'd inta jail,
Howsemdever, I'll zen and zee,
Ta marrer wats become a he.
Zoo nex day at nite he off did start,
Two girt chaps wie a donkey cart.
Ta Bristil town thay took ther way,
An got there as twer gettin day;
Tha smugglers house tha zoon voun out,
An tould'n wat they wur com about.
Ael rite, zays he, I've plenty bye,
Bit we mist keep a cuteish eye,
Var tha zize voke, they be in tha watch,
An two or dree have lately cotch.
Zoo tell woold Perritt thats tha razin
I coudden zen avore ta pleaz un.
Soo wen twur dark thase smuggler bwold,
Got dree tubs vrim a zacrit hould;
An unobsarved he purty smart,
Zoon clap'd em in tha donkey cart;
An tha top a covered up we hay,
Then zent tha chaps an cart away;
Ael droo tha streets quite zaef an zound,
Thay zoon jog'd out a Bristil town.
An vore tha vull moon ad rose,
To ther neative pleace, wur drawin close;
Wen to ther girt astonishment,
Thay met wie a awkurd accident,
In passin auver Cannins Brudge,
Tha stubborn donkey hooden budge;
Tha chaps thay leather'd well his back,
Bit a diden keer var ther attack;
Bit jibb'd an beller'd, shook his mean
Then kick'd bouth shafts right off za clane.
Up went tha cart, tha tubs vill out,
An in tha road zood roll'd about;
An vore tha chaps cood ardly look,
Ael dree ad roll'd straite in tha brook.
Well here's a purty goo zays one,
Why will, wat ever's to be done?
I'd like ta kill thic donkey quite,
If thee wurst, zays Tom, tid zar un rite.
Doost knaa wat tha matter wur?
I thinks a got a vorester;
Var I nevir knaw'd un hack like this,
Unless zummit wur much amiss.
Look at un now he's in a scare,
An gwain as hard as he can tare;
We bouth shafts danglin on tha groun,
A wunt stop till he gets wom I'm bown.
Zoo let un, I dwoant keer a snap,
Var then thay'll gace thease yer mishap;
An zen zumbiddy on tha road,
Ta help ess get wom saef tha load.
Bit zounds, while thus we do delay,
Tha tubs, begar, ull swim away;
We mist get em out at any price,
Tho' the water be as cwoold as ice.
Dwoant stan geapin zo, var goodness zeak,
Run to thic rick an vind a reak;
I thinks that I can reak em out,
Var ther thay be swimmin about.
Two reaks wur got, an then thaese two
Did reak an splaish we much ado;
Bit nar a tub diden lan,
Thay hooden zeem ta com ta han.
Zays Tom, I'm tired a tha job,
An hooden a tuck un var ten bob;
I ad a mine ta let em goo,
An zoo I will if thee hoot to.
Get out, girt stup, we mist get in,
Tho we do get wet ta tha skin.
Till never do ta let em be,
Zo tuck thee pants up roun thee knee.
Tha chaps then took tha water bwould,
Tho thay wur shram'd ni we tha could;
An jist as thay did heave one out,
Ael at once a feller loud did shout--
HEL'OH, me lads, wat up to there,
NIGHT POACHERS, ah, if teant I swear.
Let goo, zays Will, I'm blow'd if tent,
Vizes excizemen on tha scent;
Push off tha tub var goodness zeak,
Get out tha brook, teak hould a reak;
Reak at tha moon a shinin zee,
An dwoant thee spake, I'll tackle he,
Bit av ad a mishap as ya see.
Comin frum Vize we donkey cart,
On tha bridge tha donk mead zudden start;
An jirk'd, an jib'd, then gied a kick,
An het bwouth shafts off purty quick.
Out went our things wich as ya zees,
Lays ael about, an yer's a cheese;
He roll'd rite on straite in thease brook,
An Tom's a reakun vor'un look!
Tha Zizeman swallered ael o't in,
An ta zee Tom reakun, gun ta grin,
Girt vool, zays he, as true's I'm barn,
Why that's tha moon, thee beest reakun vor'n
An then a busted out agean,
An zed of ael, that beat all clean;
Ta zee a crazy headed coon,
Reak at the shadder of the moon.
Will wink'd at Tom, Tom wink'd at Will,
Ta zee how nice he'd took tha pill;
Ah, zur, you med laff as long as ya please,
Bit we be zure it be a cheese.
Zee how he shows hisself za plain,
Com Tom, lets reak vor he again.
Zo slap an dash went on reakin,
While Zizeman he var vun wur sheakin;
An off a went houlden his zide,
Var longer there a cooden bide.
We grinnin his eyes did auverflow,
Ta zee thay chaps a reakin zo;
An ta think that now he'd tould em zo,
Tha girt vools hooden ther frake vergo.
Zoo up a got upon his hoss,
An as tha brudge a went across,
He zet up another harty grin,
Wen a look'd an zeed em bouth get in;
An zed girt vools till zar em rite,
If thay da ketch ther deaths ta nite.
Bit wen he ad got clane away,
Tha tubs wur got wieout delay;
And hid away, quite zeaf and zoun,
Var a dark nite wen tha moon wur down.
Then at the Pelican thease chaps,
Purty zoon wur tellen ther mishaps;
Bit ael ther troubles they vergot,
Wen they'd emptyied well tha landloards pot,
An wen he a coose did pay em well
Thease little stowry not ta tell;
Zo wen tha Zizemin nex did com,
Woold Perritt he a coose wur mum.
An in a glass did jine wie glee,
Wen Zizemin twould tha tale ta he;
Bit he laff'd mwore wen zeaf one nite
Tha tubs wur brought wom snug an tite;
An many a bumper went a round,
To think thay'd beat tha Zizemin zound.
Bit he tha tale did zoon let out
To ael the countery roun about;
An to thease day, people da teeze,
All Wilsheer voke about tha cheese.
Bit tis thay as can avourd ta grin,
To zee ow nice a wur took in.
Zoo wen out thease county you da goo,
An voke da poke ther vun at you;
An caal ee a girt Wilsheer coon,
As went a reakun var tha moon.
Jist menshin thease yer leetle stowry,
And then bust out in ael yer glowry,
That yer smeart Excisemin vresh vrum town,
Wur took in wie a Wilsheer clown.

Four Wessex Museums are working in partnership to inspire and engage people with the amazing story of our region in new and exciting ways through its outstanding art and heritage.

While you are here in Wessex…why not visit one of our partner museums? 



For further information contact the Museum on 01305 262735 or Contact Us

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Wessex Museums Spotlight Loan Tour