24.1.11

WARMINSTER MEMORIES

Some of you might know that over the past year I’ve been working with David Simpson on producing a DVD of interviews with people who were involved in the Warminster ‘scene’ in the 1960s and early 1970s. We’ve just about finished videoing the interviews, and have spoken to twenty people about their experiences on and around Cradle Hill at that time. The next massive task is going to be editing all the interviews we have collected into a coherent narrative.

I was never a regular Warminster visitor, but still have memories of that strange and rather numinous experience, and it’s been fascinating listening to so many people who knew the place and its people far better than I did.

One thing that has come across strongly from everyone we’ve spoken to is the incredible sense of community that Warminster engendered. Over and over again our interviewees have said “it was a real community”. And this was demonstrated by how many of the people we met were still close friends of people they had met sky watching on Cradle Hill over 40 years ago.

I was amazed to find that many of the young people who came to Warminster in those days were so entranced by it that they not only returned again and again over many years, but in some cases even moved to live and work in Warminster, sometimes just for a year or two, some even marrying and settling down in the town or nearby. People told us that even after the UFO excitement died down, they would still come to Cradle Hill just to relive the experience, and more often than not they would meet others doing the same. The Hill itself became part of peoples’ lives.

Another feeling which came over very strongly was the enormous warmth and affection the visitors had for Arthur Shuttlewood. In almost every interview we heard phrases like “he was a real gentleman”, “a great personality”, "a charming character", “genuine and sincere”. Even people who thought he was hopelessly misguided took care to point out that he was no fraud; he climbed Cradle Hill, even to the detriment of his health, because he had to communicate his own beliefs to others.

Some of the people we met brought along scrapbooks of news-clipping from the era, and photo albums recording their visits. We have seem meticulously maintained log-books and diaries recording sightings of UFOs, and describing the scene amongst the dozens of people who clustered on top of The Hill in all weathers.

There is a huge social history to be unearthed about Cradle Hill and Warminster, and Kevin Goodman and Steve Dewey began this task with their books relating their own experiences and thoughts. But we now appreciate that this is only a fraction of what could be written.

It would be tragic if the material we have seen, and that which we know exists elsewhere, were to be lost - so much of it already has - but in this country we lack the resources of the Swedish AFU library, and there seems to be no safe repository for such material. At the moment we can at least note what and where such material is available.

It would certainly be feasible to produce a digital record of photographs and documents, and I would very much like to hear from anybody we haven’t spoken to who may have any such material which they think might be added to an archive like that. Just drop me a line at
johnrimmer@rocketmail.com.

As I said, my own experience of Warminster was very limited, and listening to peoples’ stories and memories over the past year I regret that. I believe Warminster was something unique, more than just a ‘flap area’. It had something to say about a particular time and place that has stayed with everyone who was involved it . -- John Rimmer.

 

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