Q) How to spend a rainy day in Wiltshire when getting out is a must, but the weather has taken the outdoorsy options off the table?

A) Wander round a quirkily named museum, peek at some gorgeous historic homes and round it off with coffee and cake at a cosy cafe.

The Museum: Riflemen in The Wardrobe

‘ Riflemen in The Wardrobe’

Sounds like a creative writing prompt or the name of a wartime mystery novel, doesn’t it? It’s actually the unofficial name of a Salisbury museum better known as The Rifles Berkshire & Wiltshire Museum.

It’s a military museum charting the history of the Berkshire and Wiltshire regiments, now known as The Rifles. Please don’t be put off if military history isn’t your thing. This museum is not so much about campaigns of old and regimental history. It’s about people and places and the stories that came with them.

Exhibits are many and varied. There’s a dog who went to war and was decorated by Queen Victoria, beautifully embroidered WW1 postcards and some very interesting additions to military uniform; hat from Afghanistan crafted from yak leather and trimmed with wolf fur, anyone?

The exhibition that drew me in is called, ‘Never Mind About Your Wife!’ and is billed as, ‘A look at the difficult and dangerous lives of the women and families that followed our regiments throughout the centuries’.

The exhibition charts the lives of military wives through history, beginning with days when women ventured onto the battle field with their soldier and then romping through the dangers, perks and evolving living conditions faced by soldier’s wives.

It were a terrible time…my second boy was born on board the boat just three days before we were wrecked…the storm broke out. The first I heard was all the ships company running and someone called to my husband, ‘never mind about your wife’

Louisa Turner, Wife of Sgt James Turner.

For example, did you know that accompanying families used to live in barracks, screening off their own space as best they could? Or that wives who lost their husbands were not allowed to remain with the regiment? For women posted overseas, this often meant remarrying within the regiment within weeks to ensure security.

One of the most touching exhibits is a beautiful textile tribute to the Cawnpore Massacre. In July 1857 over 200 women and children posted in Bibighar were captured and killed. The bodies were thrown down a well which later became a shrine.

Elsewhere in the museum there is weaponry galore and military kit from through the ages. There’s also a surprising amount of beautiful things, from embroidered flags and postcards to elaborate place settings from the officers mess.

The contents of the museum are fascinating, but the building itself is also rather grand. Dating back to the 1200’s and rebuilt in the 15th century, it was formerly used to store the Bishops robes; hence known as ‘The Wardrobe’. It’s had various uses and residents over the years and each has left a mark.

You’ll also find beautiful gardens to the rear, sadly closed on the day of my visit due to a regimental reunion. I did snap some quick shots from the windows though and will go back another day to wander. Garden only entry tickets are just Β£2.

Find opening hours, directions and ticket prices here, free entry for serving members of UK & Allied Armed Forces (on production of current Service Identity Document if not in uniform)

The Rifleman’s Table

The best days out involve coffee and cake, don’t you think? The Rifleman’s Table is a cosy cafe tucked in by the museum.

The name gives a nod to the neighbours and the table numbers hold a touch of Rifles heritage but fear not; no military rations here. There are examples of those on display in the museum and they aren’t a bit tempting.

Rifleman’s rations might be grim but the Rifleman’s table offers a warm welcome, a selection of coffees and some flippin’ gorgeous cakes. Biscoff cupcake recommended.

Things Helen Loves image of traditional cupcake in white papercase with brown icing topping. A fork is to the left of the cupcake on a white napkin.  A table number with a Rifles military logo is to the rear of the image.

On a dry day you could sit out for Cathedral or garden views. Advisable to book ahead if you can, several walk ins were turned away during our visit.

Cathedral Close, Salisbury

Speaking of Cathedral Close, I can’t pass by this place without going for a wander to admire the historic buildings and pretty corners. It’s a beautiful place in all weather and shouldn’t be missed when visiting Salisbury.

The National Trust has published a short circular walk of the close which begins and ends at Monpesson House, a beautiful 18th-century townhouse with walled gardens now cared for by the NT.

You can read about my visit to Mompesson House gardens here, it too is keeper of a lovely little cafe. I’m saying you should eat cake twice in one day when exploring this beautiful and historic corner of Salisbury, I’m just saying you could if you wanted to.

I know I’m definitely capable of it.

Helen x

24 thoughts

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      We made the best of a wet day, and it was interesting delving into the history of the place.

  1. Museums and art galleries are great places to visit on a rainy day. Not only will you stay dry, but you’ll also get to learn something new! Thanks for sharing and have a good day πŸ™‚ Aiva xx

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      Thanks Aiva, rainy days tend to be the ones where I’ll do something completely different as I’m usually outdoors and with the dog at my heels. It’s good to change things up a bit!

  2. I’ve visited Cathedral Close in Salisbury numerous times Helen but haven’t yet been to the Berkshire Rifles Museum which looks to be a great place to visit on a rainy day, Your cupcake looks lovely too!

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      The cupcake was perfection Marion, it was a case of goodbye to good intentions! A little of what we fancy, I suppose!

  3. I’m one of those not into military history but I think I would be fascinated by the exhibition on the women that followed the armies. And of course both the gardens and the cake look lovely πŸ˜ƒ

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      The factual side of military history I’ll take or leave, but the stories always fascinate me. I’m sure you’d get some great images of the building itself Sarah, it’s a beauty but my limited photography skills couldn’t do it justice.

      1. You’re being rather harsh on yourself, it looks lovely in your shots πŸ™‚

  4. A Military Museum would not be my first choice, but you drew me in with this compelling account of women’s lives following their military menfolk. And I’d certainly stop by for gardens, tea and cake!

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      The campaigns and weaponry don’t really grab me either, but I love the people’s stories. And am easily swayed with the promise of cake!

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      I’m sure there are days I look a bit like that! Ha ha, it’s not been a bad life for me, always intrigued to learn how wives who went before me stepped up so remarkably.

  5. It’s obviously very different for military wives these days, but I still don’t envy you, hon. You have to be more selfless than I can manage. Cake? Well, I guess that helps. I have a friend here who has absolutely no resistance, but looks cheerfully guilty if she has more than one portion a day.

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      It’s a life of ups and downs Jo, and cake is always welcome! I try to be sensible about it. I do try…

  6. I must say I usually have the dog when we go for a day out, so we are usually demoted to the grounds and gardens. Interesting exhibitions though especially the Military Wives one.

    1. ThingsHelenLoves says:

      The military wives exhibits were of great interest to me. Highlighted how much somethings have changed, and how much some things haven’t! Yeah, we usually have the dog with us but he’s crate trained so we squeezed in a few hours away. He’s not a city dog!

      1. Aw, what a good boy he is being crate trained. He gets to go on lots of out and about adventures anyway. πŸ™‚

  7. You are obviously one of life’s optimists, not to be beaten by a little bit of rain. I’ve been to that Museum, it is good, and the stories live with one. ne of my friends is writing her memoir of her days as an army wife during WW11 and afterwards in Hong Kong, Malaysia ad Singapore. It sounds fascinating and she’s enjoying so much the research to back up her story.

  8. I love love love Salisbury, especially Cathedral Close πŸ™‚ I had such a wonderful day there a couple of years ago on a staycation with my parents.

  9. What an interesting museum, Helen. You’ve certainly captured and shared the diversity. It’s good that we can find plenty of things to do.in the wet

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