Local History News Number 111 Spring 2014

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1. Keeping up with technology Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby on the joys of a digital camera

I’ve recently completed a 12,000 word chapter on local history in the British Isles, covering the development of the subject, the vexed questions of archives and their accessibility (in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), the remarkable rise of interest in local history during the post-war period, and the many problems and challenges now faced (from the decline of university provision in the adult education sector, via the opportunities presented by the technological revolution of the digital age, to the difficulties of maintaining up membership numbers in local history societies). It was a thought-provoking experience, since my own career (if so it can be termed) as a local historian goes back to research at the end of the 1970s and my first tentative ventures into teaching at the beginning of the 1980s.

During that three and a half decades (can it really be so?) I’ve moved from pencils and notepads, and writing out articles and books in longhand, to amazing feats of digital prowess (well, amazing for me at least, I who was once told by a more progressive friend that I should be an exhibit in a folk museum, practising the ancient craft of taking notes on a pad of paper). And then there’s the digital camera, which has completely transformed so many aspects of my work – being able to take dozens of images of documents to work on later.

In that regard I am always reminded of human squirrels, hoarding their digital treasures and then, quite frequently, forgetting where they have carefully hidden them. Unless they are properly labelled, they sink into the anonymity of, for example, 2013_051201015, or 2014-01-31-072, and laborious searching is necessary to find the sought-after image. One of the many top-quality paving stones of good intention with which my road to hell is personally constructed is ‘I will label and sort all the thousands of digital photographs and delete all the fuzzy ones, the superfluous duplicates and the ones with the sea tilting alarmingly’. I never get round to it.

But it is a joy indeed to be able to go to a monument, walk through a town, study a historic landscape, visit an exhibition, and take hundreds of images which can be used for study, or can be published in books and articles, or can be used to fill the screen of my computer and remind me of that event. The liberation that the digital camera represents has been truly refreshing (although being, see above, slow to adopt new technologies and also, most unfairly, having a reputation among my family and close friends as a grumpy old man, I refuse to use my phone for the purpose – and anyway, I don’t know how, since even texting is for me an exercise in sophisticated manipulation of the device). Anyway, it’s hard to imagine that only ten years ago I was taking slides, filling box after box with transparencies, and ... oh dear, how familiar it seems, thinking that one day I really must get round to labelling and sorting them properly. La plus ça change ...

The book chapter, by the way, is in Danish. Er du imponeret? Det håber jeg! Despite being a fervent devotee of ‘The Bridge’, or Broen as of course I know it, my command of Danish is modest. I can say ‘thank you very much’, and ‘yes’ and ‘no’ so fluently that sometimes I am understood. So I wrote the chapter in English and it was translated – and I have to say that in Danish it looks absolutely sensational, with a shining literary quality, an ease of phrasing and construction which is a delight, and it is abundantly obvious that, with my Danish-derived locative surname, I am perfectly at home with the modern descendant of the language of my ancestors. All those Danish raiders on our shores a thousand and more years ago probably asked, on landing, ‘Hvor er den nærmeste lokale historie samfund’?

2. War Resisters in Britain Show more → Show less ↓

Cyril Pearce writes the next in our series on local history and World War One

Famously, in The Making of the English Working Class, Edward Thompson declared his purpose to be to rescue the stories of the lives and struggles of ordinary people from the ‘enormous condescension of posterity’[1]. To do that he immersed himself in the history of a very particular part of England, the West Riding of Yorkshire. Consequently, ‘The Making’ remains one of the very few seminal influences in English historical scholarship which was grounded in what we call Local History. It is still an inescapable presence for anyone engaged in the study of England during the Industrial Revolution. Sadly, the experiences of ordinary people and their communities during the First World War remain in the shadow of posterity’s condescension. With few exceptions, studies of Britain during that war remain preoccupied  with notions of a ‘national’ picture based on ‘national sources’. In doing that they perpetuate the nonsense that England, or even worse, Britain, can be viewed as the homogeneous whole or even a ‘United Kingdom’ which it very clearly was not [2].

The centenary of the war now offers an opportunity to challenge those views and to redress the balance. It is a challenge which is addressed particularly to the growing ranks of family and local historians. While it applies to all of the ways in which that dreadful war affected British families and their communities, answering the challenge on the question of public attitudes to the war offers the greatest opportunity to make the most important contribution and to rewrite the history books.  With good local studies, sloppy assumptions about patriotic enthusiasm based on the limited evidence of London crowds will no longer be sustainable. An essential part of those local studies will have to be an assessment of local anti-war movements. Inevitably that will concentrate on Conscientious Objectors (COs) but it must not overlook the significant numbers of women and women’s groups who supported them and helped sustain the movement when its men went to prison.[3]

However, as well as labouring under that shared handicap of the standard texts’ preoccupation with the ‘national’, studies of the history of the anti-war movement have to deal with its own unique and persistent challenges. First, the subject is irredeemably tied to the contemporary polemics of war and peace in ways which render it ‘political’ and, therefore, controversial. Second, is the grim reality that contemporary sources and ‘official’ histories, whether national or local, preferred not to give full weight to those dissenting voices and in some cases to silence them altogether. Nevertheless, for those with the ambition to respond to this challenge there remain three ‘classic’ texts which establish the context and set out some of the issues. First of these has to be John W. Graham’s Conscription and Conscience: A History 1916 – 1919. It was the very first account of the anti-war movement, published in 1922, and written by a man who was closely involved. It has recently been re-published by Forgotten Books[4]. The second of these, published in 1967 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the war is David Boulton’s Objection Overruled. Written from within the anti-war movement it shares many of Graham’s concerns but, unlike his work, has a thorough basis in the testimony of actual COs. We are now to have a fully revised edition for the war’s centenary. The third of these texts is John Rae’s Conscience and Politics: The British Government and the Conscientious Objector to Military Service 1916-1919 (Oxford U.P., 1970).  It is a necessary source of material not considered by Graham or Boulton and, at the same time, something of an antidote. Rae’s views are not sympathetic to COs and, consequently, they do open up other interpretations antipathetic to those of Graham and Boulton.

For those wanting to explore their family or community histories within the anti-war movement, 2014 will offer new opportunities.  In May the Pearce Register of British Conscientious Objectors is to go online as part of the Imperial War Museum’s digital platform ‘Lives of the First World War’[5]. Access will be free. This is the product of a continuing attempt to identify all those British men of military service age who, for one reason or another, refused to kill. It currently contains data detailing the experiences of almost 17,000 COs. Every man on the Register, at some time, identified himself or was identified by others, as a CO.  While the vast majority held fast to that view, the Register also contains some of the stories of those who changed their minds. The aim has been to record in outline the personal details and experiences of every CO identified. It will be searchable by names, addresses, places and by the details of CO experiences – for example, where and when they appeared before Tribunals, where they were court martialled and in which prisons they may have been force-fed during a hunger strike. Each datasheet contains a list of sources from which its contents have been derived and will enable users to revisit them to help construct their own more detailed pictures.

The Register is a product of one person’s work over time. It is essentially a research tool, flawed and incomplete. The intention is that once online it will be interactive and will allow those working on their own local evidence to correct its errors and to enrich the stories it can tell. That process can only be successful with the active engagement of family and local historians and their local groups. With the best will in the world, local sources and stories, family collections, and the individual biographies of local COs and their supporters can only be discovered and properly understood by people who know their own ‘patch’. The local press, if scoured for reports of local Military Service Tribunals proceedings or Police Court cases of captured ‘absentee’ Cos, can add numbers and details simply not possible in any other way. By the end of the First World War commemorative period it will have become a much more comprehensive and reliable account of this aspect of public attitudes to the war.

Local history societies, family historians, individuals, and ad hoc groups are already beginning to explore the extent and importance of their own local anti-war activities. Indirectly, the National Archive has led the way with its project to digitise its own holdings of Tribunal records in MH47 and to co-ordinate a team identifying other surviving Tribunal material [6]. The National Library of Wales has launched digitised images of Welsh 1914-18 newspapers. Universities across the country are reaching out through their commitment to community engagement to support all manner of First World War commemorative projects, and the Heritage Lottery Fund stands ready to support them. The Peace Pledge Union has already secured funding for its own commemorative work and is concentrating on war resisters in the London area[7]. Given all of this, it is probably true to say that the centenary period will provide the best opportunity for many years to come for a truly new and credible account of Britain in the First World War based on the experiences of all its communities including those who refused to serve.


[1] E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Penguin, 1968) p.13.

[2] For a more detailed exposition of this argument see the Introductory chapter in Cyril Pearce, Comrades in Conscience: The story of an English community’s opposition to the Great War (Francis Boutle, 2001),pp. 23 -29. The title of Catriona Pennell’s A Kingdom United: Popular responses to the outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland (Oxford U.P., 2012) omits a very necessary question mark.

[3] Initial explorations of the roles played by women in the anti-war movement are to be found in Sheila Rowbotham, Friends of Alice Wheeldon (Pluto Press, 1986); Jill Liddington, The Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and Anti-Militarism in Britain since 1820 (Virago, 1989); Anne Wiltshire, Most Dangerous Women: Feminist Peace Campaigners of the Great War (Pandora, 1985).

[4] Forgotten Books www.forgottenbooks.org

[5] The Pearce Register has grown out of the work for Comrades in Conscience. Gathering as much data as possible and locating COs within their ‘home’ communities is an attempt to identify other places where, like Huddersfield, the anti-war movement had a significant presence.

[6] The National Archive www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/events/digitising-mh-47; See also James McDermott’s British Military Service Tribunals 1916-1918: ‘A very much abused body of men’(Manchester U. P., 2011) for a closely considered account of the  workings of the Northamptonshire Tribunal.

[7] It is probably worth checking out local University websites for news of WW1 commemoration projects. They are know to be in existence or in development at the University of Leeds,‘Legacies of War’ project; Universities  of Essex and Hertfordshire; Manchester Metropolitan University; the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London. Peace Pledge Union www.ppu.org.uk/coproject

Cyril Pearce is Visiting Research Fellow, School of Performance and Cultural Industries, University of Leeds; and formerly Senior Lecturer, University of Leeds. He is Chair of Huddersfield Local History Society.

3. Victoria County History Oxfordshire Show more → Show less ↓

Simon Townley reports on recent developments

Up Hill and Down Dale: Current VCH Work in Oxfordshire

Despite the inevitable funding pressures the last few years have seen a spate of Victoria County History publications in Oxfordshire, including EPE paperbacks on Henley-on-Thames and the small Cotswold town of Burford, and two main-series ‘Big Red Books’ on the Henley and Kelmscott areas –  the latter a part of the county made famous by William Morris. With a major project on the south Oxfordshire Chilterns nearing completion and work on Wychwood Forest in its early stages, now seems a good time for a brief round-up.

First, the most recent publications, all of them currently available. BALH members will be familiar with the VCH’s HLF-supported England’s Past For Everyone projects, which ran from 2005 to 2010. In Burford, a former Cotswold market and wool town, we worked with volunteers from the Oxfordshire Buildings Record to examine the town’s complex built heritage, studying domestic and commercial buildings in depth, dendro-dating a significant number, and setting them within the context of the town’s broader history. The results were published in 2008 in Burford: Buildings and People in a Cotswold Town (reprinted 2009). Henley-on-Thames: Town, Trade and River followed in 2009, focusing on Henley’s crucial relationship with the river first as an important medieval entrepot funnelling grain into the growing capital, and from the 19th century as a fashionable inland resort, underpinned by the railway and building on its earlier success as a coaching centre. The research fed into a much wider-ranging main-series volume on Henley published in 2011 (VCH Oxfordshire XVI), which also examined surrounding rural parishes. Higher up the Thames valley, the Kelmscott area volume (VCH Oxfordshire XVII, 2012) looked at a number of contrasting settlements in what was formerly Oxfordshire’s south-western corner, all of which grew up within an important late Anglo-Saxon estate focused probably on Langford. Interestingly Morris’s impact at Kelmscott was echoed a few decades later by that of Sir Stafford Cripps at Filkins, while the volume also incorporated important archaeological work by Team Team in the tiny riverside hamlet of Radcot.

Current work has taken us back to the Chilterns, looking at the dozen modern parishes which made up Ewelme Hundred. This is a diverse area, encompassing nucleated villages in the vale (with their large open fields), and more dispersed settlement on the Chiltern uplands, with their characteristic wood-pasture and early enclosure. Nonetheless the area has an historic unity, not only as an ancient hundred but as the core of an important Anglo-Saxon royal estate focused on Benson, a former coaching centre now best known for its large RAF station. Contrasts and connections between upland and lowland and the varying influence of London markets form two of the broader themes of the volume, which will appear early in 2016. Meanwhile work has just begun on another part of west Oxfordshire including the ancient royal Forest of Wychwood, for a volume to be completed (funding permitting) around 2018.

That will leave just four volumes to complete the VCH’s coverage of the county – though to achieve that will require continued intensive fundraising by the VCH Oxfordshire Trust, which (building on partnerships with the county council and Oxford university) has made possible our recent successes. Whatever the difficulties, that remains our goal, bringing to fruition a project which saw its first general volume published in 1907, and which has had a continuous existence since the 1950s. More information on the Trust,  on current projects (including downloadable draft texts), and on existing publications is available at www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/Oxfordshire. All but the two most recent published volumes are also freely available via British History Online.

Simon Townley is County Editor, VCH Oxfordshire

4. Extreme weather events Show more → Show less ↓

James Bowen wants help for a major new project

‘Spaces of experience and horizons of expectation: the implications of extreme weather events, past, present and future.’

The occurrence of extreme weather events including flooding, periods of heavy rainfall, gales, tidal surges and storms have recently dominated the national news given the widespread effects they have and their impact on communities. It is, therefore, rather appropriate that a new research project is being launched to investigate the timing, frequency and impact of historical and contemporary extreme weather events. The project, ‘Spaces of experience and horizons of expectation: the implications of extreme weather events, past, present and future’, is an investigation of extreme weather events in the United Kingdom such as droughts, floods, storm events and unusually high or low temperatures, snow and harsh winter conditions, the chronological parameters of which range between 1700 up to the present day. This three-year project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, began in November 2013 and involves researchers based at the universities of Nottingham, Glasgow, Aberystwyth and Liverpool. It takes an interdisciplinary approach, seeking to provide insight into how and why such events become inscribed into the memory of a community or an individual in the form of oral history, ideology, custom, behaviour, narrative, artefact, technological and physical adaption, including changes to the working landscape and built environment.

Using a combination of archival research and oral history interviews the project seeks to firstly, develop a set of local and regional climate histories in order to identify periods of unusual weather and extreme events. Secondly, it will investigate the scale of impact and the nature of human responses to these events and the way in which time and place specific contexts may have influenced both impact and response. Thirdly, it will examine how individual and community responses to climate variability, including the recording and recollection of events, have varied over the course of recent centuries and are still changing. Lastly, it will explore how social memory of and adaptions to past events may have influenced perceptions of relative resilience and vulnerability. An interactive website and user friendly database of extreme weather events will be created through which memories and experiences of extreme events can be recorded and preserved. A set of case study regions in the United Kingdom have been identified for investigation by the project. Based on previous research, future predictions and the Department for Environment Farming and Rural Affairs’ 2012 Climate Change Risk Assessment, these areas are currently recognised to be vulnerable to climate change and extreme events. They are north, west and south Wales, specifically isolated rural communities, small coastal communities and upland farming areas at risk from flooding, drought and extreme winters. The East Anglia coast and northwest Scotland regions have been identified as being at risk of flooding and storm events. The Midlands and Central England region is vulnerable to flooding, water scarcity and drought. The South West of England is projected to suffer most acutely from storm events and flooding as well as heat waves.

Whilst intended to inform members of the British Association for Local History (BALH) about this exciting research project and raise its public profile, this article is also a call for support. The research would benefit from the interests and knowledge of members of the BALH and we would encourage anyone with information which you think might be of interest to contact the project team using the details provided. The findings of research will be posted on the project website and published. Conferences and public engagement events will be organised along with project partners English Heritage and the Royal Geographical Society. For further information about the project, visit the project website and blog at the following addresses: http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/groups/weather-extremes/index.aspx and http://blogs.nottingham.ac.uk/weatherextremes/. The project email address is: weatherextremes@nottingham.ac.uk.

James Bowen is a Postdoctoral Research Associate based at the University of Liverpool working on the  AHRC funded project 'Spaces of experience and horizons of expectation: the implications of extreme weather events, past, present and future'.

5. BALH Awards 2013 Show more → Show less ↓

profile of The Magic Attic by Graham Nutt

In June 2013 one of the recipients of a BALH Award for Personal Achievement was Graham Nutt, who accepted it on behalf of the team at The Magic Attic. Instead of the usual personal profile, Graham has written about this unique community project:

The history of the Magic Attic Archives, Swadlincote – in a nutshell.

For many years the archive of the Burton Mail Newspapers was kept in their South Derbyshire offices at Swadlincote. In 1986, Graham Nutt, who regularly used the archive for research, was made aware that it was in danger of being lost to the district, as the Mail was moving to smaller premises.

Graham and his friend Joe Storer, an Environmental Health Officer at the local council and a keen local historian, decided to try to keep the collection in Swadlincote. They secured space in an attic above The South Derbyshire Snooker Centre. Following discussions with the Burton Mail the collection was handed over to them.

On Sunday morning April 5th 1987, around 30 volunteers arrived at the newspaper’s office with all types of transport. A chain of people loaded the volumes and then unloaded them again; within three hours they had moved the archive (around eight tons) a quarter of a mile to its new home.

In the following weeks a rough wooden shelving system was produced from reclaimed pallet timber (no money for grandiose schemes) and the volumes were racked in date order.

Local libraries were informed they could pass the word that the archive was open to the public between 7.30 until 9.30 on Monday and Thursday evenings. Alan and Lynda Harrison, proprietors of South Derbyshire Snooker Centre, and their patrons, cannot be praised enough for their help and tolerance towards those who had arrived above them. The premises were a mixture of old and new buildings. The archive was housed in the older section which was initially the upper floor of a barn built in the mid-1700s, alongside a farm which for a number of years had belonged to William Sharpe.

It was by no means the ideal place to keep a paper archive, some of it dating back to the 1780s. Parts had already been subjected to the ravages of time including being caught in floods. On some occasions sparrows found their way in. It was too warm in summer and chilly in winter.

After a shaky start, when some doubts crept in, new faces did appear, and also a number of researchers. Among these was one gentleman, who, having reached the top of the stairs, surveyed the scene and said, ‘This is the Magic Attic’! From out of the community the name was born.

There was no money and no rent was asked for from any quarter. A collection box was placed at the top of the stairs, and donations were given for use of the facility.

At the beginning of 1988 Clyde Dissington and Harry Robinson joined this rather ‘rocky’ set-up. Both were invaluable. Harry could repair almost anything and was an ace with his camera. Clyde was immersed in local and family history and had a wealth of knowledge about the local area. He is still with the organisation. Sadly both Harry Robinson and Joe Storer have passed away (far too young).

By 1990 locals were bringing in maps, photographs, works records, catalogues and many other items, usually following the death of a relative or if they were moving house. We eventually had enough in the funds to acquire a second-hand photocopier. This made it easier to create material for displays and also to raise a little more revenue by being able to offer an immediate service to researchers who required copies. More bound newspaper volumes arrived from areas throughout Derbyshire and Staffordshire. On various occasions the British Newspaper library at Colindale borrowed an assortment of copies for micro-filming.

Boards were found from different sources to create displays. These proved to be extremely popular. The Attic has now attended South Derbyshire Festival of Leisure for over 20 years, which has enabled the organisation to raise its profile, and to funds from a book stall, tea stall and raffle.

Around 1998 those running the archive, and other local groups, were approached by the local council who were looking at the possibility of setting up a museum or heritage centre. They planned to renovate an old pottery on the outskirts of the town centre which had been opened in 1821 by William Sharpe, a farmer who was mentioned earlier. Since closing in 1967 it had become virtually derelict. Under the umbrella of Sharpe’s Trust the project went ahead; following numerous disappointments grants totalling £1.7million were raised and in 2003 the Sharpe’s Museum was opened. Two floors in the building were given over to Magic Attic which had been in the original agreement when the group joined in with the Trust. So the Archive was moved again, by volunteers as in 1987.

At this point the Magic Attic became a Registered Charity. Keith Brealey became treasurer, and Keith Foster, who was to use his IT knowledge to kit the place out with computers, printers, etc, began to apply for small grants. This allowed new furniture and equipment to be purchased. A metal shelving system, being disposed of at the Burton-on-Trent Library, was bought for a very low price and the original shelves were removed.

The archive now holds around 18 tons of material, including four thousand volumes of bound newspapers, over 25,000 photographs on computer databases, maps, catalogues and works records.

The Magic Attic now pays a rent to the museum and for all its services. Finance for day to day running is raised from donations, book and photograph sales and various fund-raising projects.

Today there are 32 volunteers including the trustees, drawn from all walks of life: builders, painters, ex-miners, clay-workers, farmers, librarians, retired teachers and a geologist to list a few. There are no paid staff and never have been.

The archive receives enquiries and visitors from across the UK and abroad. Several groups hold meetings, talks and lecture programmes in the premises and other groups including school children come on visits. The Magic Attic opens 16 hours a week to the public and all visitors are made welcome being offered a free drink and biscuits, (part of the Swadlincote psyche someone once said).

It is not a library and not a record office and at times the chatter and swapping of information can become boisterous but this makes for a pleasant and friendly atmosphere.  Many visitors say the archive and the way it operates is unique. Really Magic!

Graham Nutt is Chairman and founder of The Magic Attic Archives – Swadlincote

6. Recent local history Show more → Show less ↓

William Evans argues for more attention to be given to 'now'

In the days of free school milk and orange juice, history ended at 1918. It was later extended to 1945. Anything after was either current affairs or ignored. Whilst one suspects that the cut-off date was dictated by the content and span of school textbooks, it could be justified rationally. Sources for the recent past might be unknown unknowns, or known but inaccessible unknowns, not least because of what was then called the 30-year rule. Researchers could not be sure they had the full picture. Writers risked seeing their narratives falsified should more information come to light. And the closer you are to events the less likely you are to be objective about them, especially if you have participated in or been involved in them yourself.

By about 1985, some historians, whilst recognising these difficulties, sought to overcome them, and contemporary history became a recognised, if not respected, branch of study. If journalism is the first draft of history, it is not surprising that some of the foremost proponents of contemporary history, such as Peter Hennessy, began as journalists. Sometimes it shows in their prose. Professor Hennessy tends to write political and diplomatic history, as do practitioners like Dominic Sandbrook, though others such as David Kynaston write social history as well. Contemporary history now has its journals, its professors, and its radio and television programmes. Museums now display to incredulous children items their parents remember from their own childhoods, or later.

Contemporary or recent history does not seem to have taken up residence in local history. It has made occasional visits. A history of a village or other community may end with a chapter mentioning recent changes such as the demise of post office, pub, chapel, shop and bus into town. A history of a business, especially if commissioned to mark its centenary, may whiggishly trace the firm’s evolution from market stall or backyard workshop to its present pinnacle of panglossian perfection, state of the art technology, deliriously happy workers and drooling customer satisfaction. Many a school history ends with a description of the present-day offering, though its value, whether as history or as contemporary source material, is often vitiated by marketing hype, in all the colours of the Photoshop rainbow. But by and large, when local history people take a spade to the past, they tend to dig through the layer that is most recent.

I’d like to suggest that recent and contemporary changes are an interesting and worthwhile field for local history people to explore. The amount and pace of change in the late twentieth century was prodigious, and so far the twentyfirst shows no signs of early retirement. There have been changes in demographics: population, its movement, the rate of its changes, and its make-up. New towns are no longer new. If we wondered what out-of-town shopping centres might do to high streets, the impact of the internet was yet to come. Railways went; motorways and the channel tunnel came. Public services from utilities to schools have been refashioned, and not just in terms of ownership and democratic control. Similarly with health and welfare. New charities have appeared. Some charities are now big businesses and difficult to distinguish from their commercial counterparts. Local government is so unrecognisable as to risk being a false trade description. Education has been a political football nationally, but it is locally that the kicks have been felt. Higher and further education have grown and their buildings with them, with consequences for places where their institutions are located, especially towns that did not already have one. The built environment has changed, as have patterns of employment, leisure, sport, communications and travel. Ecological considerations are now part of politics, with local consequences. The financialisation of many human activities has indirectly impinged on local communities as well as individuals. So have national fiscal policies and decisions. Some industries, factories, skills, have ceased to exist only recently. Those that remain may no longer be locally owned. In every locality there must be recent facts to establish, explore, analyse and interpret, and narratives to write.

This is work worth doing. If the results suggest that what happened somewhere was not much different from what happened elsewhere, at least there will then be empirical evidence on which non-local historians can base generalisations and abstractions which will no longer be the result of guesswork, assumption, inference, stereotyping or prejudice. If the local picture proves to differ from national wisdom, that calls for exploration of what made it so and why. This is all the more important because of the concentration, penetration and influence of the media, largely London-centred and self-referential, and often projecting as typical of the nation homogenised images that may not be true locally.

Although the electronic revolution poses problems in locating, accessing and retrieving archival material, lots of modern local data sources are in written form. Because many of them are held by public authorities they are accessible to the public as of right. Particularly useful will be minutes and reports of local authorities, especially surveys made by planning departments ostensibly to inform policy-making; and local newspapers, more of which are now available online, assuming that your local library has not closed and your local newspaper has not folded in the metaphorical sense. Recent local history, I suggest, is there for the making.

William Evans, a retired public sector and charity lawyer, is honorary treasurer of BALH members Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society and Avon Local History and Archaeology.

7. Electronic sources Show more → Show less ↓

Jacquie Fillmore gives valuable advice

Whether you are writing up research for academic publication or as an article in a local journal, academic convention and Copyright Law requires you to cite where you found the information you refer to.   Electronic sources are those pieces of information found on the World Wide Web and include blogs, discussion lists, e-books, emails, e-newsletters, films, online images, online journals, pdfs, podcasts, radio broadcasts, social media, television programmes and websites, as well as items sourced through a database, such as journal abstracts and articles, magazines, newspapers or other publications.  When referencing electronic sources it is important to make sure all correct information is cited.  Unlike books or journals, web pages change and content may be added or taken away so it is important reference is made to the date the page was accessed.  This clearly shows the reader when the information was available.

Two main referencing standards used in the UK

The Harvard System uses partial referencing in parenthesis, e.g. (surname, date), as part of the text either within or after the sentence, and at the end of each section or chapter a full alphabetized citation listing is given.  This System is used by many universities so, for further information on how to reference electronic sources using this method, search on the web for university student guides to the Harvard System.

The MHRA Style Guide uses footnotes.  At the first use of a source full bibliographic details should be given in the footnote, but thereafter an abbreviated form may be used.  It is possible to buy a copy of the MHRA Style Guide, but it can also be downloaded as a free pdf at http://www.mhra.org.uk/

It would be too confusing to list out all the ways to reference electronic sources here, so I suggest you check out both styles on the web and see which sits happiest with you.  If you are writing for a particular academic institution check out their preferences as some have different interpretations of the rules.  Whichever style you choose, it is important to address all references in the same manner choosing one referencing system for the whole of your document or article. 

How much of the website address (url) do you need to cite in a reference?

This is a question I often get asked.  You need to cite all that takes you to the page that you have used.  The way to do this is to work from the back to the front of the website address.  When the page you wish to reference is no longer brought up then you know you have gone too far.  Consider your reader – when following up a reference they need to be able to find the page immediately. 

Web addresses usually include slash marks, and this denotes the different pages of the website.  If there are no slash marks it is the sites main web page.  Google has recently started to use black and grey in their url’s.  This has made it easier as the words written in black are the ones that refer to the website’s main page and anything in grey are secondary pages.  The best way to see if all the url is needed for referencing is to type the whole url into the search box of your browser, and then move back slash by slash deleting as you go. 

Let us look at the Lancashire Police Database as an example.


If you clicked on the above you would see that this page describes the police database and what it includes, and from here it is possible to start searching the database.  Removing separately the words police.asp and records bring up the Lancashire Records Office page.  Removing record_office brings up the main page of Lancashire County Council.[1] The correct referencing for this website, therefore, would be the whole url.  If the url includes characters such as ampersands, asterisks, underlining then they will also be needed in the citation.  When writing a web page these characters would have been used as a way of signposting the server to the page.

I hope this article has made electronic referencing a little clearer.  To finish, here is a glossary of terms you may see as part of a url:

asp / aspx

active server page extended file – these files are often used on for web forms.


short for web log – usually personal observations on a particular subject


stored information on your hard drive – you may see a cache version if the original cannot be accessed.  Don’t rely on the cache version as the cache version will change over time.


file transfer protocol – a way of transferring files from one computer to another.

htm / html

hypertext markup language – web coded formatting language


hypertext transfer protocol – the language computers use to speak to each other.


hypertext transfer protocol secure


portable document format – can only be opened in ‘Adobe Acrobat’.  Cannot be edited.


uniform resource locator – web address


world wide web

[1] Correct at 5 April 2014

Jacquie Fillmore is Vice-Chair of BALH. She is the author of the hugely popular publication from the Association Internet Sites for Local Historians: a directory. A new edition is in preparation and should be available later in the year.

Additional note: Adobe Acrobat is the program which can be purchased to write and read PDFs. If you wish to only read PDFs it's possible to download a free program called Adobe Reader.  Another program Nitro pro 9 has also beenrecommended to us for reading PDFs.

8. Home Front Legacy Show more → Show less ↓

an important archaeology project

Help us find the forgotten history of Britain’s First World War

Last month saw the launch of Home Front Legacy 1914-18, a project on which the Council for British Archaeology are working with English Heritage, Historic Scotland, Cadw, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and partners right across the UK to record the physical remains of the First World War surviving in our landscapes.

CBA President, Dan Snow started the campaign at a recently identified practice trench system near Gosport in Hampshire with Army and Navy servicemen and women.

Dan explains: “This replica First World War battlefield shows us how seriously they took the business of training. They had to send the guys out to France ready to do the hardest of tasks, something no-one had done before, that is to defeat the German army when they were dug in, with deep trenches, pre-sited artillery and machine guns, and how to break that deadlock. The answer is right here in front of us and that is massive preparation with the resources required.”

David Hopkins, county archaeologist for Hampshire County Council visited the Browndown Camp trenches when they were first identified by Gosport Borough Council conservation officer, Rob Harper.

He is keen to point out the vital role that archaeology plays: "There are virtually no records for this and many other sites across Britain. Archaeological methods are invaluable for increasing our understanding of this hugely important period in our history by investigating what remains."

UK heritage bodies want to get local people to help fill in gaps in our national and local records and for the first time to properly record the remains of the First World War that are still all around us today. 

Dan Snow explains, “The Home Front Legacy campaign turns us all into archaeologists. With the help of members of the public armed with their mobile phones, tablets or just a pencil and paper, we are going to map the drill halls, munitions factories, training camps and places across Britain that were part of the lives of our families, and shaped the way we live today.

“The findings will also be submitted to the local Historic Environment Record which offers some protection for our Home Front places by guiding local planning decisions that may affect their future.

“Soon I hope that our map of UK sites on the project website will be covered with little red map pins as people from Co. Fermanagh to Orkney and Cornwall to Cardiff rush out to survey their local sites. This really is history for everyone.”

Follow the latest sites and stories on Twitter @homefrontlegacy and www.facebook.com/homefrontlegacy

Upload your local First World War sites to our Flickr gallery at:  https://www.flickr.com/groups/homefrontlegacy/

Help us map sites in your area

You don’t have to be an arcbaeologist to take part. Send us basic information on the location, type of site and its condition, using our easy-to-use recording form or app, along with current photographs of the site and a simple sketch plan. The project website contains plenty of guidance and resources to help you get started.

If you want to research the site and the people associated with it, and attach copies of old plans, maps, photographs and postcards, then even better.

Register to access the recording toolkit at: www.homefrontlegacy.org.uk

Louise Ennis is Head of Strategic Development, Council for British Archaeology

9. Baroness Dimsdale's doughnuts go global Show more → Show less ↓

Heather Falvey experiences the media

In the August 2013 issue of The Local Historian, John Chandler tried to initiate a debate about the future of record societies, but no-one subsequently took up the challenge.  As editor of several volumes for various societies I read his article with some trepidation since it initially seemed that he was questioning their relevance in the age of the online datasets and digitised records.  However, from his rather gentle attempt to suggest that they have had their day, it became clear that he believes that record societies do have a role to play and do provide a service for historians – family, local, academic – not least because they make accessible records that would otherwise remain stored away and disregarded.

I have recently edited for the Hertfordshire Record Society The Receipt Book of Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale, c.1800, a volume of recipes mostly collected during the late eighteenth century and copied into a book in the first few years of the nineteenth century.  Some time ago Mr Robert Dimsdale, the current owner of the Baroness’s book, suggested that the society might like to publish an edition of it, since this would be something a bit different from the usual record society fare.  Founded in the 1980s, the HRS had already published some innovative volumes: its back-catalogue includes not only ‘typical’ publications such as wills, inventories and churchwardens’ accounts but also an edition of letters written by Julian Grenfell, a serving officer during opening months of the First World War, and a facsimile of two of Humphry Repton’s landscape designs for adjacent properties in the county.  Elizabeth Dimsdale’s book presented something of an editorial challenge since it contains nearly 700 recipes and more than 80 household hints and tips written up in no particular order.  To give the volume structure and clarity, I decided to organise the recipes into the various chapters presented in Elizabeth Raffald’s The Experienced English Housekeeper (1769), thus there are chapter such as ‘Soups’, ‘Made Dishes’, ‘Cheesecakes, Creams, Custards’ and ‘Cakes, Biscuits and Bread’. 

John Chandler’s article highlighted one of the problems faced by record societies: many individual members renew their membership out of loyalty to the society, rather than because they have a burning desire to own such a wide-ranging collection of volumes relating to the county in question.  Volumes are duly distributed to members but how to persuade other people to purchase the remaining volumes in the print run presents a challenge. One solution is to have volumes reviewed in suitable journals and thus to publicise them more widely to the academic community. The Reviews Editor of The Local Historian is always sent a copy, and, for example, Rural History published a review of our Repton volume.  The Dimsdale volume proved more difficult to place for review purposes: not rural enough for Rural History, not social enough for Social History and not agricultural enough for the Agricultural History Review. So where to send it?  One obvious recipient was Prospect Books, an independent publishing house specialising in books about food and cookery and also the originator of Petits Propos Culinaires, a food-based journal (see: https://prospectbooks.co.uk).  We then thought about contacting a local newspaper:  Elizabeth Dimsdale and her husband, Thomas, the famous smallpox inoculator, had a home in Hertford and she had attributed a number of the recipes to friends and acquaintances living in north east Hertfordshire.  The Hertfordshire Mercury, which covers Hertford and Ware, was sufficiently interested by the volume to interview me over the phone and to publish a two-page feature article on 24 October.    

Not long before the Receipt Book went to press, an American food writer based in New York had contacted the Hertfordshire Association for Local History for assistance with his research into the history of doughnuts.  Michael Krondl had deduced that doughnuts originated in Hertfordshire, the earliest reference he could find being in William Hone, The Year Book of Daily Recreation and Information (1832).  He enquired whether any HALH member could shed further light.  It rang a bell with me and, sure enough, there on page 111 of Elizabeth’s book (p.100 in the HRS edition) was a recipe for ‘Dow Nuts’.  They are clearly recognizable as forerunners of the modern doughnut: they are ‘nuts’ of flour, butter, eggs, sugar and yeast cooked in hogs-lard almost boiling hot, although they are not coated in sugar.   Michael was delighted to hear of this recipe which moved back the production of doughnuts by a number of years, although by exactly how many it is impossible to determine for Elizabeth had received the recipe from ‘Mrs Fordham’.  Elizabeth had compiled her book between 1800 (the date of the paper’s watermark) and 1808 (the date of the last entry, a household hint taken from a publication of that year); however ‘Mrs Fordham’ cannot be positively identified.  There are at least five possible candidates: Edward Fordham of Therfield (1721-1778) and his wife, Mary, had four sons, each of whom married, so any of these four sisters-in-law or their mother-in-law may have supplied the recipe.   

To add spice to the feature in the Hertfordshire Mercury, I told them about the doughnut recipe (and the OED had also been informed).  It seems there was not much news on Thursday 24 October: the Press Agency picked up the story about the earliest recipe for doughnuts.  That afternoon The Daily Telegraph and The Times contacted the Hertfordshire Archives for a picture of the original (although this was never published because the owner needed to be contacted and the various editors wanted it instantly); several papers rang my home for more information but as I was out (shock, horror) their online editions simply regurgitated what was in the Mercury.  I was also contacted by a Hertfordshire local radio station and one in Ireland and subsequently gave telephone interviews which were broadcast.  The record society’s email address received several messages, including one from an Australian who was researching the history of doughnuts. There were even some comments on Twitter.  Needless to say, the ‘global’ reporting was not completely accurate: the Mercury reporter had reproduced our conversation more or less verbatim but when the online versions of the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror took the story up, aspects were embroidered or dropped.  For example, Elizabeth became a member of the British aristocracy (her husband’s title of ‘Baron’ was Russian, awarded by Catherine the Great) and the articles only mentioned the doughnut recipe. 

So, what did all of this do for the Hertfordshire Record Society?  Few sales were generated as a result of this brief global exposure: the recipe was published in full in several places so doughnut researchers did not need to buy the book.  However, the Mercury feature did produce extra sales locally, which was the original purpose of the exercise.  And the exposure suggests that record society volumes are still relevant: no commercial publisher would have taken on Elizabeth’s book, and if the HRS had not done so, the earliest recorded doughnut recipe (so far) would never have come to light.

A slightly different version of this article appeared in the Rickmansworth Historical Review February 2014

10. The Kennedy family of Crosby-on-Eden Show more → Show less ↓

in Cumbria archives

David Kennedy of Craig, Ayrshire married Elizabeth Dalton of Carlisle in 1800.  She might have been described as an “eligible spinster” since she was the sole inheritor of not only her grandfather’s estate (James Graham, apothecary and mayor of Carlisle) but also her father’s estate (George Dalton, also mayor Carlisle). 

David gave up his lieutenancy in the Princess Royal’s Own Light Dragoons and settled down to married life in a house in Abbey Street which had been built for his father-in-law 1774-1776.  David became involved in the county militia, and managed his wife’s estates in Bassenthwaite, Brunstock, Carlisle, Crosby-on-Eden, Kirklinton, Linstock, Oulton and Rickerby.  He continued his military career as an ensign in the 53rd Regiment and as commander of the 1st Company of the Loyal Carlisle Volunteers.

Elizabeth was the matriarch of the family probably because she “held the purse strings.”  Following her husband’s sudden death in 1819 she had to settle his debts and take over the management of her estates with the help of two agents, William Wood and William Morley.  Crosby House which she and her husband had built about 1807 was let to Fergus Graham of Netherby in 1821 and Elizabeth rarely lived there again.  In 1824 she sold the Brunstock estate and moved in 1825 to Rugby where both her sons were at Rugby School.  She sold the Oulton Hall estate in 1830 and the Crosby estate in 1837, partially to pay off her elder son’s debts.  She appears to have lived in Cheltenham from 1832 until she died there in 1851.

David and Elizabeth had five children who, perhaps, never lived up to their mother’s expectations since she often had to help them financially.

Elizabeth was born in 1801 married the Revd. John Besley in 1829; she died in 1834. 

Georgiana was born in 1805 and married Captain John Molloy of H.M. Rifle Brigade in 1829.  Later the same year they emigrated on Australia as one of the first settlers of the Swan Colony which eventually became the city of Perth.  The archive includes “a list of clothes and equipment needed by a lady going to India”, Georgiana’s journal of the voyage from England on The Warrior to Australia; and her account of the birth and death of her first daughter, Elizabeth, in 1830.  In Australia she became a well-known botanist.

Dalton was born in 1808.  After Rugby School, he followed a military career in the 12th Regiment of Foot and bought an ensignry for £450 in 1827 but resigned when he was unable to buy a lieutenancy for £500 in 1831.  Between 1834 and 1836 he was involved in debt and bankruptcy proceedings and spent some debt in Newgate Prison in London where debtors were incarcerated.  He returned to the Kennedy family estate in Ayrshire and married the estate agent’s daughter.

Mary Jane was born in 1811.  The Revd. J.S. Lowry of Stanwix proposed marriage in 1835 but Mrs. Kennedy would not agree.  Mary then emigrated to Australia to live with Georgiana but returned to England in 1840 and married a sailor on board ship on the return journey!

George was born in 1813.  He was expelled from Rugby School in 1830 because of his poor academic performance which did not improve even with a private tutor.  However he was apprenticed to train to be a surgeon at Cheltenham Casualty Hospital.  The archive includes letters about the national cholera epidemic of 1832.  He married in 1836 but died in 1838.

David Bowcock has recently retired as Assistant County Archivist at Cralisle Archive centre, Cumbria Archives

11. World War One commemorative events in Wales Show more → Show less ↓

Maggie Escott reports

Cymru'n Cofio
Wales Remembers 1914-1918

Members of Welsh local history societies affiliated to the BALH, indeed anyone with past or current connections with Wales or interests in the First World War may be pleased to learn of BALH representation on the Programme Board and Working Groups of Wales Remembers. 

For a wealth of information go to www.cymruncofio.org / www.walesremembers.org -  the official site for information on how Wales will mark the centenary of the First World War. This site provides a focal point for details on the latest news, projects, events and signposting services for the programme of commemoration which will take place in Wales from 2014 to 2018.  

Forms for publicizing key individual and multiple events (e.g. organized by a society) can be found in the 'Events' section of this website.

Alternatively try Twitter: @cymruncofio / @walesremembers  or Facebook: Cymru’n Cofio Wales Remembers 1914-1918. 

Portals are also available to the groundbreaking digital archives launched by the National Library of Wales (http://www.llgc.org.uk) and  CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales http://wales.gov.uk/topics/cultureandsport/museumsarchiveslibraries/cymal

The National Library of Wales’s Cymru1914 The Welsh Experience of the First World War digital archive (http://www.llgc.org.uk) has launched a unique collection of manuscript, newspaper, photographic, film and audio sources relating to the First World War as it affected all aspects of Welsh life.

Exhibitions and digital archives have also been launched by the National Museum of Wales and museums, archive repositories and libraries countrywide. Details of the are available through the portal of CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales - http://wales.gov.uk/topics/cultureandsport/museumsarchiveslibraries/cymal


Amgueddfa Cymru: www.amgueddfacymru.ac.uk

Amgueddfa’r Ffiwsilwyr Brenhinol Cymreig: www.rwfmuseum.org.uk/cym/index.html

Comisiwn Beddau Rhyfel y Gymanwlad: www.cwgc.org

Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri: www.welsh.hlf.org.uk/InYourArea/Wales/Pages/Croeso_i_Gymru.aspx

Cyngor Archifau a Chofnodion Cymru: www.archifaucymru.org.uk

Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru: www.celfcymru.org.uk

Cymdeithas Ffrynt y Gorllewin: www.powell76.talktalk.net

Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru: www.wlga.gov.uk/cymraeg

Cytûn: www.cytun.org.uk/indecs.html

Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru: www.eisteddfod.org.uk

Imperial War Museums: www.iwm.org.uk

Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru: www.llgc.org.uk

Llywodraeth Cymru: www.cymru.gov.uk/?lang=cy

Partneriaeth Canmlwyddiant yr Imperial War Museums: www.1914.org

S4C: www.s4c.co.uk/hafan

Y Fyddin yng Nghymru: www.army.mod.uk/structure/28225.aspx

Y Lleng Brydeinig Frenhinol: www.britishlegion.org.uk

Y Llynges Frenhinol: www.royalnavy.mod.uk

12. Pauper Prisons... Pauper Palaces (Midlands) Show more → Show less ↓

a second successful project conference

Second Conference Report

In last Summer’s edition of the Local History News (Number 108) I reported on the first Pauper Prisons…Pauper Palaces (Midlands) project conference held at Southwell Workhouse in Nottinghamshire.  Following that hugely successful event we held our second conference on 23rd November at the Museum of Carpet in Kidderminster.  This was open to members of the public as well as those working on the project and we were very pleased to have a good mix of attendees.

The day was introduced by Paul Carter who set the scene by giving a brief description of the history of the new poor law and the MH 12 correspondence records.  Our first speaker, Ann Taylor, examined the reasons why the poor may have considered emigration, such as changes in various industries, low pay and unemployment.    Next was David Cooper-Smith whose talk was based around the case of James Perks, a six year old inmate of the Kidderminster workhouse who was tied in a sack and suspended off the floor by John Stokes, Porter, for wetting the bed. The clerk of the union took out a summons against Stokes for assault and Stokes was eventually dismissed.  Derek Wileman gave a paper on cases of staff dismissals in the Basford, Mansfield and Southwell Poor Law Unions in Nottinghamshire.  He compared the number of staff with the number of inmates the workhouses contained for 1841 and 1851, and examined the different types of complaints that were made against members of staff, and how these complaints were dealt with in the different unions.

During lunch there was time to have a look around the museum itself, which is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of the carpet industry in Kidderminster and the lives of those who worked in the trade.  There are documentary records of the industry and a number of functioning looms of various sizes and types, which were in action on the day of the conference so we were able to see (and hear!) these incredible machines working.

David Jackson’s paper was about the poor law as a family business, looking at how one family could come to hold a number of posts in the New Poor Law system.  This was followed by Gay Hill with a talk on issues around immorality in the Kidderminster Union, which opened discussion on the bastardy clause and the effect this had on women. 

After tea we were given an introduction to a very different sort of historical resource by Roy and Mary Clinging.  Roy is a folk singer who has developed a reputation as an interpreter of traditional music in contemporary settings.  He and his wife had done some research into songs of poverty that would be contemporary to the material we have been studying, and they performed a number of folk songs and songs derived from broadside ballads, many of which directly related to themes highlighted by other speakers.

The last talk of the day was by Anna Kingsley-Curry who looked at the ‘bending of the rules' on out relief by the Bromsgrove Poor Law Union.  One of the main features of the New Poor Law was the move towards the prohibition of out relief for the able-bodied.  However, in practice local union officials often preferred to give some out-relief rather than take families into the workhouse.

We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the day and we enjoyed it very much.  We are now planning a further poor law conference in the Staffordshire area.

Natalie Whistance, Research and Records Co-ordinator, Pauper Prisons…Pauper Palaces (Midlands)

13. Who's Who? Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby looks at his audience

Almost everybody who reads this will have been involved in one way or another with a local or county history society, for they are a mainstay of local history in Britain. Over the years I have talked to many dozens of societies, and have always been intrigued by the role that they play, and sometimes pondered on what benefits the members derive from them. I’ve also written the histories of two such organisations. Now I’m one of the authors of a forthcoming history of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, which celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2016. 

Part of that work has involved researching the people who were the founders and early members of the Society, the mid-Victorian gentlemen (and, much less frequently, ladies) who decided to get together to pursue the past in that beautiful corner of England. In doing so I’ve been reminded of the wittily acute Victorian cynic who magnificently summed up the membership of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, founded in 1848.

There were, he said, four types of archaeologists (for which we can also read ‘local historians’). The first were the archaeologists proper. They were the serious ones, who wanted to learn and investigate. The next category was the harkaeologists. These were the people who came to listen to lectures. After them came the larkaeologists, the members who were involved ‘for the fun of things’ and generally had a good time. And finally there were the sharkaeologists, whose main concern was that they should enjoy the excellent luncheons.

I suspect that this is alarmingly close to the truth in some societies to this day. We all know the people who turn up faithfully every month, and yet never seem to become involved. They are excellent for keeping seats warm, filling the rows of chairs in draughty church halls and library meeting rooms, but they never quite seem to do anything else, and often disappear as soon as the lecture is finished. Are they the harkaeologists?

What about the sharkaeologists, who can’t wait for the tea and biscuits at the end of my talk (or even get up halfway through and noisily swift on the urn, rattle cups in the kitchen, and start chattering to each other not sufficiently sotto voce. Or who spend a very long time before my talk in explaining the menu at the forthcoming annual dinner, complete with a range of dietary options.

And we still have larkaeologists, the lovely people who so obviously take pleasure in the subject, the company and the idea of helping to run the society and support its various activities – signing up for the coach trip, running the secondhand bookstall, organising the raffle and (best of all) laughing appreciatively at my witty asides and looking entertained by the content of my talk.

Archaeologists, or their equivalent, are also present. Sometimes they sit, frowning and gently shaking their head as I deliver my erudition, as though condemning it as flimsy and insubstantial, academically misguided or factually unsound. Or they might be taking copious notes, filling page after page until I wonder if I can really be saying so much.

I condemn them not, for every society needs all of them. We hear so often that “we can’t get people to be treasurer/chairman/secretary/programme organiser” but imagine if all the harkaeologists suddenly decided to become larkaeologists – we’d have to have contested elections, ballots, canvassing, the Electoral Reform society would be called in to scrutinise proceedings. Better the usual ‘elected en bloc unopposed’! We can allow the sharkaeologists their indulgence, especially since most of them double up in other categories. And of course no society can be without its archaeologists (or equivalent) for they are in principle the raison d’etre of the whole enterprise. But I worry: when I am on the other side of the counter, listening to someone else talk, or helping in the running of a society myself, which category best suits me?

14. Trustee profile Show more → Show less ↓

Jo Mattingly

Dr Joanna Mattingly

My interest in local history began at the age of eleven.  As an aspirant archaeologist, I visited Nottingham Record Office searching for a name to match initials on a 1623 boundary stone.  Four years later I saw my first parish register and was hooked by the idea of deciphering it.  

Although school and university history courses weren’t really my cup of tea, I enjoyed my optional subject - a regional study of five S.E. England counties.  Based at Goldsmiths’ College, University of London, my tutors were Jeremy Goring and Jennifer Ward, and the latter became my PhD supervisor.  The thesis spanned the period 1422 to 1558 and compared Isleworth hundred in Middlesex with Cookham and Bray hundreds in Berkshire.  

I started teaching local history for the WEA and University Extra-mural department and, joining the Association of Local History Tutors, met David Dymond, Kate Tiller and others. Moving to Cornwall, I worked for four years as tutor-organiser for the University of Exeter Extra-mural department, and set up Certificate courses in Local and Regional History.  

Twenty-eight and a half years later I am still in Cornwall having forged an alternative career in museum interpretation and display alongside freelance lecturing on churches, church houses, holy wells, and, more recently, tea cosy history.  I produced a book Cornwall and the Coast: Mousehole and Newlyn in 2009 for the Victoria County History of Cornwall, and am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.  

As a BALH trustee I am particularly  interested in education and promoting better local history interpretation.

15. News from Archives Show more → Show less ↓

From 24 May to 8 June, the annual Wandsworth Heritage Festival again brings to life some of the history of the borough. Events take place at different locations right across the borough and include talks on a broad range of subjects, guided walks and fun family workshops organised by Wandsworth Heritage Service and local societies. For more details, the programme of events is available in Wandsworth libraries  or go to the website www.better.org.uk/libraries

Chester History & Heritage between 7 July and 19 December will be holding exhibitions under the banner ‘Cheshire’s Great War Stories’. This includes The Nurses Story featuring photographs, and notes written by Amelia Miles, born 1882, who as a trained nurse joined a unit travelling to France at the outbreak of war.  Email chh@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

The new online exhibition from Bedford & Luton Archives & Records Service highlights some of the documents in their collections relating to global travel and adventure. For centuries people have been migrating to and from the county, businesses have traded far and wide, and travellers have recorded their experiences in letters and photographs. www.bedford.gov.uk/archive

A splendid new building for Herefordshire Archives and Record Centre will be completed in the winter of 2014/15. At the moment the record office is closed to the public in preparation for the move, but their research service continues as usual. Email archives@herefordshire.gov.uk

News from The National Archives: TNA’S World War I related activities: the Operation War Diary website launched in January had by mid-March attracted over 148,000 visits to the site and had seen transcriptions completed of 85 diaries. Many visitors (about 77%) said it was the first time they had used the TNA website. The second batch of WO95 was released in March and comprised almost 4000 new diaries. The collection covers all of the cavalry divisions and the first thirty-three infantry divisions deployed on the Western Front. Future events include TNA’s First World War 100 Conference on Saturday 28 June 2014. 

MH 47 Central Military Service Tribunal and Middlesex Appeal Tribunal: Minutes and Papers, 1915-1922. The funding provided by the Friends of TNA and the Federation of Family History Societies has allowed this collection to be made available as free downloads for a 10 year period. The records comprise case papers for over 8,000 individuals seeking exemption from conscription into the army in Middlesex during the First World War. http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/first-world-war/

16. News from Museums Show more → Show less ↓

In 2012 Bradford-on-Avon Museum in Wiltshire received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a Lidar survey of an area of 12 sq km, just to the north-west of the town. The investigation has been completed and a booklet about the results has been published by the museum. Lidar (Light Detection and Ranging) is a new way of making surveys of difficult terrain, providing much more detail than older methods. It records very slight variations with great accuracy, and can even map the ground surface in woodland. The illustrations in this booklet demonstrate the Lidar results alongside documentary sources such as the tithe map, and earlier aerial photographs. Anyone planning to undertake a survey in their own area would find this booklet very useful, including the technical appendix about processing the raw data. Copies can be obtained from I Slocombe, 11 Belcombe Place, Bradford-on-Avon BA15 1NA, price £3 +£1 postage, cheques to Bradford-on-Avon Museum.

The Museum of Lincolnshire Life is the venue for a new exhibition ‘Past and Present: Celebrating 170 years of the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology’ which will run until 25 July 2014. This marks the close relationship between the museum and the society. www.slha.org.uk

The Staffordshire Hoard Mercian Trail is being developed both to explore the mystery of the hoard and to bring to life the exciting history of Mercia. The route across ‘the heart of Anglo-Saxon England’ goes to the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Lichfield Cathedral and Tamworth Castle, with suggestions for venturing further. A fully illustrated booklet is available as a guide. www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk

For everyone who enjoyed watching Tudor Monastery Farm there is a treat at Weald & Downland Open Air Museum. As the location for the filming viewers will be familiar with the buildings, and through the summer there will be special guided tours of the site on 19 May, 13 June, 8 July, 4 August and 18 August.

Weald & Downland will be holding a special event marking the First World War on the weekend of 7-8 June.  ‘Horses at War: Remembering WWI and WWII’ will include re-enactments, parades and demonstrations, focusing on the courage of horses in war, and their roles on the battlefield and on the home front. The museum is joining forces with Andy Robertshaw curator/manager of the Royal Logistics Corps Museum who was the historical consultant on the Stephen Spielberg film, War Horse. www.wealddown.co.uk

The Yorkshire Museum of Farming has received a grant from the AIM (Association of Independent Museums) for the conservation of Women’s Land Army uniforms.  Their WLA collection contains a large archive, including the administrative material of the regional co-ordinator for Yorkshire, artefacts, photographs and uniforms.  With the grant they have been able to conserve, clean and present to the public this collection which was previously in storage.  www.murtonpark.co.uk www.aim-museums.co.uk

The British Postal Museum & Archive has a travelling exhibition ‘Last Post: remembering the First World War’ which explores the vital role played by the Post Office during the war. This is at Mansfield Museum from 5 April to 11 June 2014, and at Guildford Museum from 16 June to 13 September 2014.  A flagship extended version is at the Coalbrookdale Museum of Iron from 10 April 2014 until 27 March 2015.

2014 will see significant milestones on the route towards a new home for the Postal Museum. In 2013 some long-term funding agreements were secured and Royal Mail Estates granted BPMA a 999 year lease on Calthorpe House where the new museum will be based.  An application is in for major funding for the building from HLF. Apart from fund-raising this year will also see the development of activities that will form the future public programmes at the new museum, including community engagement and school partnerships. www.postalheritage.org.uk

Enfield Museum Service is putting on a free exhibition to mark the centenary of the First World War. It examines how the war affected the residents of Enfield both in the trenches and on the home front.  28 March 2014 – 11 January 2015. Edmonton Hundred Historical Society www.edmontonhundred.org.uk

Chertsey Museum has received a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to organise a programme of activities and events to commemorate the First World War centenary.  A major research project has begun to record details of the 1914-18 conflict as reported in the Surrey Herald newspaper.  There will be an exhibition in the summer detailing the war in the borough and the impact it had on its residents.  On September 20 the museum will host a re-enactment day. The grant funding has also allowed the museum to work with the re-enactors to make free visits to local schools. www.chertseymuseum.org

At the Florence Nightingale Museum, 2 Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1, an exhibition of ten remarkable paintings never before been on display to the public can be seen until 26 October. ‘The Hospital in the Oatfield: The Art of Nursing in the First World War’ shows paintings by Victor Tardieu of the field hospital run by Millicent, Duchess of Sutherland. www.florence-nightingale.co.uk

Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum will be running a First World War Centenary Exhibition programme called ‘Oxfordshire Remembers 1914-18’.  Their striking new building in the grounds of the Oxfordshire Museum at Woodstock is due to open in Spring 2014 just in time for the commemorations.  Oxfordshire Local History News 127 www.olha.org.uk

This is of course but a very small sample of the exhibitions and other events planned in museums and galleries throughout the country to mark the centenary of the First World War, not even all those mentioned in newsletters received by the Association.