William Blackmore (1827-1878) and Augustus Pitt-Rivers shared more than a birth-year. They were both interested in archaeology, collecting from many of the same sites in Europe and North America, but also they both lived in Wiltshire, though not at the same time,  and later became a business-man based in Liverpool and in the United States of America.


William Henry Blackmore was an English lawyer. He was born in Salisbury, and worked first in Liverpool for the firm of Duncan, Squarey and Blackmore, later opening a second office in Lothbury, London. He married Mary Sidford in 1851. His first trip to America was in 1963 where he began to invest in land and started his fortune. It was in America that he began to become interested in archaeology. In 1864 he acquired a large collection of Native American artefacts. In 1867 he founded the Blackmore Museum in Salisbury, Wiltshire. In 1878 he committed suicide at his home in Grosvenor Gardens, London.

Pitt-Rivers and Blackmore

It is clear from Hamber, 2010, that Pitt-Rivers and Blackmore actually knew of each other. Hamber provides details of a social event held in honour of a visiting American senator, James W. Nye to England. This event was held at Blackmore's house in Carsholton. It is unclear when this event took place as 1873, the suggested year, was after Blackmore had left this residence. It does appear to have taken place in June, in a year before 1867.[1] Other guests included Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 'Mark Twain' (Nye's then secretary), Sir John Evans, John Lubbock, Joseph Prestwich and Pitt-Rivers (among others). They were both members of the Ethnological Society (Blackmore having joined in 1866) and Anthropological Institute, and they both served on the organizing committee for the International Congress for Prehistoric Archaeology. According to Hamber [page 100] Pitt-Rivers lectured in the Blackmore Museum at Salisbury in the 1890s. Although both men lived in Grosvenor Gardens, London, they were not neighbours as Blackmore died there in 1878 and Pitt-Rivers did not inherit his house in the Gardens until 1880.

Pitt-Rivers and the Blackmore Museum, Salisbury

Pitt-Rivers lived close to the Blackmore Museum in Salisbury but he does not seem to have had very close relations with it. He exchanged letters with Edward Thomas Stevens who was the Curator, which is held by Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum and he also gave a lecture at the museum, see here for what he said at that lecture. The Museum had been opened in 1867 by William Blackmore (see above) with the expressed aim of  'exhibit[ing] the earliest known work of man and to show the ubiquity of stone implements’ [Willoughby 1960, 317 quoted in Leckie, 2011: 115]. Blackmore’s also stated ‘one great lesson which I conceive to be taught by my collection is Progress’, expressing very similar sentiments to Pitt-Rivers. [1960, 320: quoted in Leckie, 2011: 115].


[1] Hamber does not state this, merely querying the year given in his source {Brayer see footnote 63 on page 98 of Hamber], but the event must have taken place before 1867 when Mark Twain published an account of his service with Nye (around 1861) in Sketches Old and New see here for a more recent publication.

Bibliography for this article

Hamber, Anthony. 2010 Collecting the American West:The Rise and Fall of William Blackmore Salisbury: Hobnob Press.

Leckie, Katherine. 2011. 'Collecting Swiss Lake Dwellings in Britain 1850-1900'. Unpublished PhD Manuscript. Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge.

Willoughby, R. W. H. (1960). "The (William) Blackmore Museum." The Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine (1958-1960) 57: 316-321.


AP, March 2011, updated April 2011, January 2012.

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