Local History News - Number 103 - Spring 2012

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1. Walking On The Edge  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby goes over the hills and far away

In early April I was walking in the Forest of Bowland, the great expanse of moorland and fell on the borders of Lancashire and Yorkshire, north-east of Preston. There’s a powerful sense of marginality here. To use the fashionable modern terms, it has ‘liminality’. As well as being on the ancient county boundary, fifteen hundred years ago it was on the borders of the post-Roman mini-kingdoms of Dent and Craven. It’s visually a borderland too. Looking west we caught glimpses of Morecambe Bay shining in the sun, northwards the great half-circle of the Lake District mountains and the Howgill Fells, and eastwards a panorama of the great hills of Yorkshire, from Whernside and Ingleborough, via Pen-y-ghent and Fountains Fell, to the long whaleback of Ilkley Moor to the south. Patches of snow gleamed in the sunshine on distant north-facing hillsides and mountain tops.  

It’s a remote, largely trackless waste, and such paths as there are tend to deceive, for they start out boldly and then peter to nothing in vast tracts of heather, moorland grass, rock and peat. We started out at the Cross of Greet, on the watershed between the Ribble and Lune catchments almost 1500 feet above sea level, and followed the ancient border eastwards. Much of it is marked by massive and wonderfully-constructed drystone walls, built of greyish gritstone. These walls follow the watershed, like the border they delineate, but they also link like beads on a necklace a sequence of monumental natural rock outcrops (on Dartmoor they’d be called tors, but that’s not a word used in Lancashire dialect).

For many centuries, maybe millennia, these landmarks have been understood as part of the human as well as the physical landscape and their names are highly evocative: Cold Stone, Ravens Castle, Hanging Stone, Rock Cat Knott, Resting Stone and the enigmatic Knotteranum. Many are identified in early medieval boundary charters: they were part of the mental map of local people in the thirteenth century. Other nearby place-names speak of the wildness of the landscape even in quite recent times: Cat Knot (there were wildcats here until maybe 200 years ago), Hell Hole, Foxhole Crags and, far to the west, Wolfhole Crag and Wolf Fell. The names add to the haunting quality of the lonely landscape. I’m minded of Beowulf.

We often forget borders, because we focus on the heartlands, but these definitions of place were profoundly important to any community. We passed (by now it was sleeting hard!) a series of rough gritstone boundary markers, tall rectangular blocks like gateposts, lying among the heather, or still proudly erect, spaced maybe a quarter of a mile apart. Each was carved with the initials of the adjacent townships – E for Easington, C for Clapham, L for Lawkland. The lettering was probably 18th century, and thinking of the labour of cutting, placing and carving these markers high on the bleak inaccessible moorland ridge brought home to use the significance of these marginal places.

At Resting Stone, a prominent tor at 1550 feet, five ancient townships meet, their boundaries radiating outwards. For two of them, separating Gisburn Forest from Rathmell to the east and Easington to the west, the boundary is reinforced because they run through a quaking bog, a formidable natural barrier: we tried to cross, and gave up as the ground around quivered, swayed, and flexed, and we heard the sinister sound of running water somewhere in the depths of sphagnum mire beneath our very feet. It’s a mournful, slightly sinister place, in a geographical no-man’s-land, made more mournful still by the abandoned farmsteads and cottages that sprinkle the valley to the south, abandoned when the catchment was depopulated by the water board when they built Stocks Reservoir further down in 1932. Now much of the valley it is forested with conifers. Gloomy, desolate and empty … it’s a marginal land still, and always will be. Maybe one day the wild cats will return!   

2. Staffordshire History Day  Show more → Show less ↓

A report by Nigel Tringham

The first Staffordshire History Day organised by the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service in collaboration with Keele University and the University of Birmingham was held in Stafford on Saturday 4 February — the day it snowed heavily in the Midlands! There was large turn-out of well over 100 people, a number staying even after it started to snow heavily in order to hear the last speakers.

Mainly intended to ‘show case’ the variety of historical research going in the historic county (i.e. including the Black Country parts), and also to provide opportunities for net-working and for local societies to have stalls highlighting their activities, the day comprised a series of both short reports and longer talks, mainly by those taking Certificate or higher degree courses at Birmingham and Keele.

What transpired from the talks was the great range of work that is being done in the county: the estates of the first Anglo-Saxon bishops of Lichfield; a late 18th-century businesswoman (actually just over the Derbyshire boundary in Ashbourne); a Rousseau-inspired (and disastrous) experiment to educate a ‘perfect wife’; tinplate-working in the 18th century; and an ‘unknown’ entrepreneur who ought to rival Boulton. There were also reports by the county archivist, archaeologist, and museum officer, and a talk by a West Midlands Heritage Lottery Fund officer.

In fact, there were perhaps too many talks and so not much time for questions. With such a large audience, developing and sustaining discussion can be difficult, but this appears not to be the case at many literary festivals, perhaps because of experienced chairmen/women. Also, the stalls laid out by societies were somewhat scattered and placed in separate rooms.

The problems could be easily addressed if (as hoped) a similar day is held next year. Certainly, in a large and disparate county such as Staffordshire with its strong North–South divide (albeit with Stafford in the middle), there is a real need to involve active local historians over the whole of its area and this History Day made an excellent start to create a county-wide sense of joint endeavour.

3. BALH Awards 2011 Show more → Show less ↓

profile of Malcolm Dolby

Malcolm Dolby has a lifelong interest in local history which continues with undimmed enthusiasm and energy, and ran in parallel with his professional career in museums. Beginning as Junior Assistant (Archaeology) at Sheffield City Museum, he moved to Doncaster, and then to Bassetlaw, where he was responsible for setting up a new museum service for north Nottinghamshire. From there he retired in 2003.

Born in Whitwell, north-east Derbyshire, Mr Dolby attended Staveley-Netherthorpe Grammar School where he was inspired by the head of history Sidney Gregory, and although already thinking about a career in museums, Malcolm followed his mentor’s advice and applied to do a degree at Borough Road College, Isleworth, which would lead him in to teaching. During the year he was there he became a founder member of the Hounslow & District Local History Society, and explored the history of the area on his BSA Bantam motorcycle. Back at Whitwell, living with his parents and working in Sheffield, he studied palaeography, archaeology and vernacular architecture at evening classes, which confirmed for him the value of adult education. For many years he has been highly regarded as a lecturer for, amongst other bodies, WEA and U3A. These are usually adult audiences, but he recently met the four-year olds at the village school who were fascinated by their predecessors who had travelled to school by ferry across the River Trent.

The list of publications to his name is impressive, and they range from expert archaeological reports to popular interpretations for lay readers. Also impressive is his range of historical interests, from Roman coins and pottery to the fate of Retford’s railings in World War II, and much between. Throughout his working life, Malcolm Dolby demonstrated the close links between the work of museums and the history of their locality. That might seem obvious, but the active involvement of professionals with ‘grass-roots’ local historians cannot always be taken for granted

He freely shares his knowledge and expertise with others in many ways: lectures, articles, guided walks, advice on publications and inspiration for research projects. He has been instrumental in helping newly formed village societies to become firmly established, and in supporting older groups as they have expanded and flourished. He started early, joining the Worksop Society as a teenager, and shortly after becoming involved with the Retford Society; now fifty years later, he serves as chairman of both.

Malcolm Dolby has the rare distinction, for an Englishman, of being an elected Fellow of the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth (Mass.). He is a widely recognised authority on the Pilgrim Fathers, especially their origins in the Bassetlaw area of north Nottinghamshire. Again ‘history on the ground’ was important to him as he lived at Scrooby, the home of William Brewster a leading member of those who travelled on the Mayflower.

In addition to his historical interests, Malcolm has four grandchildren, is an active member of the Rotary Club, and shows his Hungarian Puli dogs at Crufts.

The citation on his nomination form reads ‘for his dedication to the promotion and development of local history in north Nottinghamshire, south Yorkshire and north Derbyshire’. As I said when introducing Malcolm Dolby on Local History Day,  the structure of county record offices, even if they are now called ‘history centres’, makes life for a local historian who lives on the borders of several counties particularly challenging. Malcolm has not found this a problem, and his wisdom and commitment has enriched the lives of many people.

With thanks to Malcolm Dolby, Colin Whitham, Michael Jackson and Royston Sluman.

4. Local History And World War One  Show more → Show less ↓

Dick Hunter on our new series

As you’ll have read in the last LHN we’d like to share ideas, resources, activities, and outlines of planned or potential research projects, relating to the First World War centennial. This LHN has the first of a series of articles suggesting issues/questions that might be researched. 

Imperial War Museum (IWM) is coordinating centennial activity in the UK. Over 200 organisations including BALH have registered as ‘partners’. Log on to www.1914.org/partners - user name: Dick Hunter; password: BALH2014 - for details of resources, and for plans in your locality. This offers members the potential to work with local and regional museums, archives, and others.

Adrian Gregory, The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War  (Cambridge, 2008, paperback) has much local and regional detail and is recommended reading for both general reader and researcher.

We look forward to hearing from you!

5. Church Of England Record Centre  Show more → Show less ↓

introduced by Rachel Freeman

A national Church and local history

The Church of England’s presence in society has made an impact - be it on the pocket or in the pew- for over four and a half centuries. At the Church of England Record Centre (CERC), we hold the records mapping this interaction between Church and locality since the creation of the first central body of the Church, the Queen Anne’s Bounty (QAB), in 1704. The result is a rich resource for the local historian covering architecture, economy, educational provision and devotion, as well as recording the effect of national events, from failed harvests to the destruction of war.

The greatest proportion of the surviving records relate to the administration of property, whether for secular or ecclesiastical use. The responsibilities of the QAB (1704-1948), and later the Church Building Commissioners (CBC, 1818-1856) and Ecclesiastical Commissioners (1836-1948), involved giving financial support for the construction and improvement of churches, episcopal palaces and glebe properties. Consequently, sources for the history of a building or an area of land can crop up in a variety of series at CERC.

The churches built under the auspices of the Church Building Commissioners, for example, are among the earliest for which CERC holds records. The buildings were subject to surveyors’ scrutiny before the Commissioners granted funds for construction:  a report for Kennington church gives an idea of both structural and stylistic concerns (widening an aisle and using different materials for the pulpit) as well as reflecting the Commissioners need to economise: the surveyor notes: ‘it appears that a Water Closet is provided for’ and questions whether such an expense should be approved (1). With the exhaustion of CBC funds, the responsibility for new churches fell to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners (EC), whose interests concentrated more on the site and the endowment which facilitated construction. The part of a church most well represented in the EC archives is in fact the chancel, due to the Commissioners’ interest in chancel repair liability.

Parsonage houses received similar scrutiny from the centre. In order to obtain a grant from the QAB, not only architectural plans, but detailed specifications of the work do be done and materials to be used had to be provided by the parish. The result is a series of plans reflecting local architectural styles as well as changes in building technique through the 19th and 20th centuries.

In the mid 19th century the Ecclesiastical Commissioners centralised the administration of chapter and bishopric estates, making them major landowners of both rural and urban property. A great variety of properties came under their management as a result, ranging from the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey in Norfolk (ECE/7/1/68522) to dilapidated cottages in Hinkley, Leicestershire (ECE/7/1/67090). On the point of transfer to the Commissioners, the vast tracts of land attached to individual chapters and bishoprics were surveyed. The result is a snapshot of the economy and property-holding in the form of description and map, often annotated with subsequent changes in ownership or tenancies.  The description of White House Farm in Hinckley, for example, provides a good indication of the standing of its occupant in the 1870s: ‘A 3 storied brick and tile house containing kitchen, parlour, dairy, 4 bed rooms and cheese room, 4 horse stable shed, sheds for 20 cows and a barn’ (2).

The subsequent management of these properties fills many a file in the EC general series. Known as the ‘five figure files’ -  which gives an indication of the extent -  the papers track the ups and downs of anybody occupying Commissioners’ land, be it a farm, quarry, hotel, public house or residential accommodation. The many vagaries to which businesses and agriculture are subjected are revealed in the Commissioners’ correspondence and in their visitation report books (ECE/SEC/EST/V/1). The struggle of individuals battling against nature to make a living is particularly apparent. The 1870s, for example, were among the wettest of the century and produced more than one petition from tenants in Nottinghamshire, who had suffered from heavy rains preventing the sowing of corn; while the high tide affecting parts of Kent in November 1897, left areas ‘practically submerged for weeks’ and even six months later the land was still tainted with salt water which would be ‘detrimental to the herbage for some years’.(3)

Estate management went beyond the mere collection of rent and repair of buildings: the early twentieth century saw the Commissioners pioneer model ‘workmen’ or ‘artisan’ dwellings in areas of South London ‘fitted with every modern improvement’.(4) These urban estates were designed to improve the standards of living across large areas and involved the wholesale rebuilding of the housing stock and redesigning of thoroughfares. The flats and cottages were accompanied by gardens and open spaces to improve the health of the tenants and afford children some sanitary playing areas. The papers of the Commissioners map the development of these housing schemes from the early twentieth century - including plans and photographs of the accommodation - and record the management of the estates  by Octavia Hill and her teams of ‘Lady managers’.

While the Ecclesiastical Commissioners were providing for the physical health of children on their estates, education was provided for by a different arm of the Church, The National Society (NS). Set up in 1811 as the National Society for the Promotion of the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church, the NS sought primarily to offer religious instruction in every parish, but also to provide children with a broader curriculum. The resulting archive at the Record Centre includes some 15,000 files on individual church schools in England and Wales. Most of the papers relate to applications by the schools’ promoters for National Society building grants, which involved providing the Society with details of attendance and accommodation. The archive often contains considerable information on the creation and early management of the school, but it should be noted that the administrative records of the schools, such as logbooks, are not to be found at CERC (usually deposited in the local record office).

Once established, educational provision in a diocese would be regularly inspected. The results were not always favourable, with one inspector finding an assessment difficult because of the unintelligible speech of both children and teachers: ‘the London pronunciation is particularly inaccurate…words such as paper, shape, train are pronounced piper, shipe, trine. …The final consonants are so feebly uttered that it is sometimes impossible to tell whether the pupil says light, or life, or like. …In many cases r appears improperly at the end of words, thus Maida-hill is pronounced as Myder-eel’.(5)

Today, the archive of the numerous bodies that have amalgamated to produce the current Church Commissioners’ and Archbishops’ Council runs to over nine kilometres. The range of subjects covered never ceases to astonish – tenants’ dinners to troop manoeuvres, railway expansion to river pollution – and the Record Centre welcomes researchers wishing to exploit this resource. It will not come as a surprise that only a minority of records are currently included on the online catalogue shared by CERC and Lambeth Palace Library (http://archives.lambethpalacelibrary.org.uk:8080/archives/), so we recommend researchers contact us with an enquiry before visiting the Record Centre. For further details about the collections and making an appointment to visit, see our web pages:http://www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/content/cerc .

Church of England Record Centre, 15 Galleywall Road, Bermondsey, SE16 3PB.

archives@churchofengland.org (please put ‘CERC’ in the subject line).

(1) CBC/7/1/1

(2) ECE/6/1/107, p.827

(3) ECE/7/1/59243/9

(4) ECE/SEC/EST/L/1; ECE/7/1/65065/1-2 and ECE/7/1/68193

(5) NS/9/2/24

6. Progress On The Exeter Blitz Project  Show more → Show less ↓

Jessica Beck and Helena Enright report progress so far

“On the night of May 3rd, I recall walking up the road to a vantage point during a longer than usual, noisier than usual air raid, and seeing the heart of the city of Exeter ablaze. This was The Blitz - or as my diary recorded this unfamiliar word,the Blizt. And I added, next day, with all the reserve of one of those great stiff-upper-lip wartime films, Did not bother to go to school.”

- Roger Free (11 years old in 1942)

The Exeter Blitz Project was born out of a desire to commemorate the 70thanniversary of the Blitz in Exeter using testimonies from individuals who actually experienced the May 4th, 1942 raid on Exeter.  Having worked together previously on theatre created from the transcripts of interviews, we were interested in creating a theatrical experience that would capture and present a new set of memories about the Exeter Blitz for new audiences.

Prior to Christmas, we sent out a call for stories to various organisations including Age UK and the British Legion, doctor’s surgeries and libraries. The Express and Echo, the local paper, ran a short piece in their Exeter Memories section and the response was really positive.

To date we have interviewed over twenty individuals who were between the ages of six and twenty-five in 1942. The experience has been extraordinary and we have been humbled by how welcome people have made us feel in their homes, not to mention surprised by the vividness with which people remember that night seventy years ago.

Over the last few weeks we have been busy, with the help of a number of volunteers, transcribing over thirty hours of audio recordings.  As we write we are currently in the midst of the challenging process of editing and shaping these testimonies, along with a number of stories that were submitted by post, into a script.  The aim of the play is to present the testimonies whilst simultaneously capturing the spirit of the Blitz that has emerged through the memories people have so kindly shared with us. 

The play will run from Tuesday, 1st May until Saturday, 19th May at the Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter. On Friday, 4thMay, a special anniversary performance will take place. Many of those who shared their stories will be in attendance. Throughout the run we will be raising money for Age UK Exeter. Further information about the performances can be found on www.bikeshedtheatre.co.uk and on www.vivavocetheatre.co.uk.

7. Luddite Bicentenary Of 2012  Show more → Show less ↓

John Hargreaves on some commemorations

If you live in Nottinghamshire and the East Midlands you may well have already celebrated the bicentenary of Luddism in 2011. Indeed it was the Nottingham Review of December 1811 where press coverage of the disturbances first appropriated the term Luddite to denote a new phase of machine breaking, which had erupted in March 1811 at Arnold near Nottingham. The term was derived from an obscure quasi-mythical figure from East-Midlands folklore and it has been employed ever since to describe anyone opposed to the introduction of new technology or even inclined to resist progress in general. However, it was not long before Luddite machine breaking also erupted in the Lancashire and Yorkshire Pennines early in 1812 and it is the bicentenary of Luddism in the North of England that is being celebrated in a variety of ways this year. There had, of course, been previous recorded incidents of industrial sabotage before 1811 dating back to the Restoration era and there were serious subsequent attacks on power looms in East Lancashire in 1829 and threshing machines in many agricultural areas in 1831 but the intensity of the outburst and the severity of the state’s response to the disturbances in 1812, which a BBC History Magazine feature recently claimed might be regarded as perhaps ‘the worst year in British history’ has attracted most attention from historians, novelists and dramatists from Charlotte Bronte’s Shirley to Phyllis Bentley’s Inheritance and an explosion of creative talent is poised to address the theme in 2012.

Indeed, BBC Radio 4 has already set the scene in an acclaimed documentary The Luddite Lament, first broadcast in May 2011, which examined the machine-breaking incidents in both the East Midlands and West Yorkshire focusing on the medium of folk song and which can still be heard on the web. Presented by John Tams, well known for his appearance in Bernard Cornwell’s televised historical drama series featuring the exploits of Richard Sharpe it included a moving unaccompanied rendering of the Croppers’ Song at the Shears Inn, Liversedge, where some Luddites met before embarking on their largest mill attack at Rawfolds in April 1812. A newly commissioned sculpture of a cropper portrayed with a young child, poignantly reflecting perhaps the anxieties which the cloth dressers would have felt about the future of their craft and their families’ livelihoods has recently been erected on landscaped derelict land nearby. During the half hour programme, I escorted John Tams around some of the key West Yorkshire sites where other links with the Luddite story still remain in the landscape such as the Dumb Steeple, the obelisk at the busy intersection of the Leeds, Dewsbury, Huddersfield and Brighouse roads at Cooper Bridge; the sprawling Hartshead Moor bordering the Rawfolds Industrial estate with its stark references in its street names to the Luddite story and the remains of the Huddersfield Cloth Hall in Ravensknowle Park from where William Horsfall, the only manufacturer to fall victim to the Luddites commenced his fatal journey when he was assassinated returning from Huddersfield to his mill in Marsden on 28 April 2012.

            Other events planned for West Yorkshire in 2012 include live drama, music, poetry, community events, exhibitions, heritage walks, public lectures and a conference at the University of Huddersfield on Saturday 12 May exploring Luddism within the context of other nineteenth-century protest movements. Full details of the wide-ranging programme of events can be found on the following websites: www.ludditelink.org.uk; www.uprisingevents.org;www.kirklees.gov.uk/museums.

8. Royal College Of Nursing Archives  Show more → Show less ↓

introduced by Fiona Bourne

Are you related to a Nurse?

Most people are somewhere along the way, whether they realise it or not when they start that long process of research into their family’s past. There are currently 650,000 registered nurses in the UK and 800,000 registered Health Care Support Workers. Historically, it gets harder to identify individuals in this immense workforce as you go further back. But there are a few options for searching and we at the Royal College of Nursing Archives aim to help.

The first thing that most researchers need to know is what do we mean by ‘registered’? Today, registration is a requirement by law to practice in a healthcare area such as nursing, midwifery and health visiting. This is administrated by a government organisation currently called the Nursing & Midwifery Council (NMC) who also set educational standards for qualifications in these areas and enforce standards for practice and conduct.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) was set up independently in 1916, mainly by senior nursing professionals, as a professional association for nurses, to campaign for state registration, improved and standardised education and training across the UK and professionalization in nursing. The state registration campaign was successful, with the Nurses Acts being passed in 1919. This created the General Nursing Councils for England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland (GNC), precursors of the current NMC.

From 1922, the GNC registered nurses and published annual volumes of their names, registration number, permanent address, registration date, and where and when they qualified. There was a general part of the register and supplements for fever nursing, sick children’s nursing, male nurses, mental nursing and what they called ‘mental deficiency’ at that time. The GNC also published a Roll of Nurses after the Nurses Act of 1943, for those qualified to a lesser level. This gave the same details for ‘assistant’ or ‘enrolled’ nurses. Up until 1947 these volumes were printed each year with every registered or enrolled nurses’ names, but from 1948 the volumes move to a new format. They include only newly qualified nurses, and are arranged quarterly through the volume. A new section for ‘deletions’ from the register or roll appear at the end of each quarterly section. The GNC stopped publishing volumes in 1968 and moved to a card index and eventually to electronic records. Registration wasn’t compulsory until the 1940s and it was something nurses had to pay an annual fee for, but unlike other official records many nurses in permanent employment seem to have ignored this requirement without repercussions into the 1950s. A full set of the GNC register and roll volumes is available at the National Archives at Kew, and at the National Records of Scotland in Edinburgh. The NMC have a set, as do the RCN Archives.

But what can you do to find nurses earlier than 1922? It is a lot harder and depends on what they did. The majority of nurses working in Britain pre-1922 would have been working in hospitals. Hospital records have a poor survival rate, so the researcher would be very lucky to find training records or staff records for nurses. A helpful tool in searching for hospital records locations is the Hospital Records database available on the National Archives website. Created more than a decade ago, it has not been updated and so may be inaccurate in a few areas, but largely it is an excellent source for new leads. It provides a description of what type of records are available and links to the ARCHON list of archives to provide contact details. What is also impressive is the ability to search on location rather than hospital name, as institutions change name as well as authority often over the years. A good way of checking hospital names, what sort of nursing care would have been provided and as an indicator to the career pathway of a nurse is the annual ‘Hospitals and Charities’ published by Sir Henry Burdett. These were printed in the early part of the twentieth century, and we hold a few copies here at the RCN Archives. They cover the administrative and senior staffing details of hospitals, large and small; mental institutions; rest homes; private clinics; workhouse infirmaries; district nursing associations and other varied healthcare institutions. An earlier publication called ‘Burdett’s Directory of Nurses’ also includes these details, but helpfully Burdett included an alphabetical list of qualified and experienced nurses. Nurses would pay to be in the publication, so it is not comprehensive and tends towards the London area, but it was far in advance of it time as a concept. These volumes are very rare and the RCN Archives only holds copies of the 1898 and 1899 volumes.

Your nursing ancestor may not have worked in a hospital at all. Before the NHS in 1948, private nursing was a major part of healthcare. Nursing agencies hired trained nurses out to private homes to nurse individuals. In some urban areas large hospitals had their own private nursing service running alongside the hospital service. In the Archives, we are sometimes asked about ‘sick nurses’ and ‘monthly nurses’, both of whom would have worked privately. The elderly in particular often needed home based care, but any person with funds could have a sick nurse attend them at home. The monthly nurse would have attended pregnant women to provide antenatal and postnatal care. It is very unlikely to be able to find records of these nurses unless they registered from 1922 onwards.

District nurses were qualified nurses who went on to train with the Queen’s Nursing Institute in district nursing and midwifery. From 1887, Queen Victoria’s Jubilee Institute for Nurses as it was originally, provided district nurses across Britain. Their records for England and Wales are with the Wellcome Trust, and in Scotland at the RCN Archives. Locally, district nursing was originally organised by county or district nursing associations funded by local subscription and small charges to patients. Often the records of these associations are with the local county record office.

Another good are for finding records is military nursing. Many of the military nursing services were established in the last decades of the nineteenth century, but still exist today. Men and women took different routes through the military as male nurses or orderlies were a part of the Royal Army Medical Corps, whilst the female nurses had their own nursing services: the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army and Navy Nursing Services, the Territorial Force/Army Nursing Service etc. However, their military service records are all available at the National Archives. Recently many have gone online covering 1902-1939, but mainly focussed on the First World War.

Wartime service can also be traced with the help of the British Red Cross Museum and Archives as the BRC organised military hospitals, nursing staff and Volunteer Aid Detachments (VADs) during World War 1. VADs were trained in basic triage by the St John’s Ambulance for service in military hospitals at home and abroad. Their deployment was controlled by the military during World War 2.

Mental health nursing was field divided along gender and social lines. What we would now call male ‘nurses’ often started their career in mental nursing as ‘attendants’. It was far more likely for female workers to be mental ‘nurses’ than ‘attendants’.  Attendants followed a training route laid down by the medical profession, whereas nurses were trained in schools of nursing and on the wards under matrons. During the early twentieth century trade unionism flourished in the male workforce, but was less influential in the ‘female’ occupations, including nursing which meant male attendants were less inclined towards professional unity. These divisive factors for the genealogist mean two places to look for records. The GNC held a registers for male nurses and nurses working in mental fields until they were unified in 1961. Attendants were certified by the Royal Medico Psychological Association, whose remaining records are now with the Royal College of Psychiatrists. To complicate matters further, male and female nurses/attendants were part of a community around their hospitals and often married living and working together. Unlike the majority of female nurses, who would leave the profession upon marriage well into the 1950s.

There are as many variations in career paths as there are individual nurses. However, the journey to discover each story is a fascinating one. The RCN Archives staff have enjoyed hearing these stories and helping researchers since 1986. We provide a remote research service for families around the world often with great results. However, a new additional service is coming to the RCN headquarters at 20 Cavendish Square, just off Oxford Street in London in 2013. The RCN Library is currently being refurbished to provide a History of Nursing Centre open to the public.

The idea for the Centre grew out of the existing work of the RCN Archives and Library and a timely refocusing of the strategy of the organisation. The ‘RCN Foundation’ was established to run our charitable work separately from our better known trade union role. The impetus of our work has shifted towards more public engagement and improved accessibility to the College’s work on behalf of the nursing profession in education and training, setting standards, professional guidelines, career development and nurse and patient welfare.

Towards this goal, the RCN headquarters will be opening its doors to all even if it is just for a coffee. Drop-in visitors will be welcome at the History of Nursing Centre, and staff will be able to provide group workshops for genealogists and historians by appointment. Small groups can come to the RCN to learn about the resources and some of the records mentioned above. Within the Centre, we will be housing a variety of genealogy resources including the Burdett’s volumes, a Roll of members of the Royal British Nurses Association, Hospital Yearbooks, the Guy’s Hospital Nurses League annual yearbook with a list of alumni and many others. Other historical library books, nursing magazines and pamphlets will also be available in this area for those researchers who develop a wider interest in nursing. We also hope to facilitate tours of the historical RCN building gifted by Lord and Lady Cowdray to the College in the 1930s, with its stunning painted staircase.

Summer of 2013 seems a long way off for now, but the RCN Archives staff have much to do to make it all happen before then. Whether you are related to a nurse or not, we hope you will stop by and see the results and to let us know what you think about the History of Nursing Centre.

For enquiries about nursing genealogy and historical research, please contact archives@rcn.org.uk or find genealogy and research advice on our web pages atwww.rcn.org.uk/archives.

9. Memorials Of War  Show more → Show less ↓

Gill Draper writes the first in our new series of articles

This piece offers thoughts and suggestions to individuals and groups considering revisiting the local past in the centenary of the First World War. The transition from peace to war, the war years - and their legacy - will be widely marked. BALH recognises the potential for new studies while not becoming an unthinking cheerleader for ‘celebrations’ of a war in which millions died.

Some studies begin with the obvious starting-point, the town or village war memorial, for example, S. Bond,Cuckfield Remembered. (1) The author is a family historian who has added the following to transcriptions from Cuckfield (Sussex) war memorial: each man’s regiment, letters sent home describing conditions endured, and injuries suffered. Letters were sent by army chaplains to parents at home on the death of their son, framed in terms of the bravery shown when they were killed. Perhaps to lighten this reality of their deaths Bond mentions times of great family pride when men were promoted, and the valuable role women played in the war effort, including at the hospital set up in the Queen’s Hall of Cuckfield, recorded in the local newspaper. She returns to the theme of death with a note of the many memorial services held, and reflects how some historians of relatively recent wars anticipate that ‘family remembrance’ is a motive for studying these deaths: for Cuckfield’s young men  killed and buried abroad (most of them), the book gives ‘a reference position of each foreign grave or memorial [which] will help those who may wish to visit the site’. The author accepts a simple view that these young men ‘gave their lives’, and expresses the widespread convention that such a book will help ensure these lives are not forgotten.

Last first world war veterans were turned into living memorials by Stephen Moss is an interesting contrast, and worth reading. He argues that as the FWW survivors reached their own centenaries at the end of the twentieth century ‘a mini-publishing industry grew up around them’. Their memories had been smoothed by time, re-telling, and survivors’ guilt, so that little reliance could be placed on their recollections of battles. Contemporary letters such as Bond used in her book were a better guide to the past and ‘the real story of the first world war lay with the dead’, not the distant memories of the living.(2) This comment in an article by Stephen Moss  is available online, with links to many others of interest.

Stephen Bates notes that details of 44,000 British sailors who died at sea have been put online by Ancestry.co.uk. He retells the story of one of them, Fred Blackwell, who was killed at Jutland with 6000 others, and discusses his family’s ‘mawkish’ memorial card. Dan Jones of Ancestry acknowledges the ‘harsh reality’ of these thousands of naval deaths but, like Bond, adopts the comforting thought that ‘for the relatives and descendants of our nation's seafaring heroes, these records will help preserve the memory of their sacrifices’. Bates suggests that contemporary comments are of more value for the writing of history, a point epitomised in Admiral David Beatty’s famous remark at Jutland that ‘there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today’.(3)

I have started controversially, recalling my daughter and her friends returning from the funeral of a classmate killed during a much more recent war. Sevenoaks Chroniclerecorded the thoughts of the classmate’s father, himself a military man, that he took comfort from the sacrifice of his son’s life for his country. The newspaper subsequently recorded the father’s betrayal when it was revealed that his son and a number of other youngsters had died not in combat but because of incompetent and inadequate maintenance of military equipment. Writing the history of war is a charged subject and I am certain BALH members can do better than the pious platitudes which will be part of another ‘mini-publishing industry’ with the FWW centennial.

A book which explores the role of collective remembrance in the making of history, is  Remembering War: the Great War between Memory and History in the Twentieth Century(Yale University Press, 2006) by Jay Winter. He warns that it is treacherous for historians not to enter the ‘theatres of memory’ and make their contributions; if they do not enter, they leave the field open to those who use past wars to justify future ones (Hitler in Mein Kampf), to ‘ethnic activists’, say in the Balkan peninsula or, less dangerously perhaps, to pacifists.

If BALH members pursue FWW studies commemoration may be a popular theme. I usually work on this theme in a different context: that of civic élites in the late medieval and early modern periods, men who often died late in life in well-fed comfort. The parallels with deaths in wartime are not immediately obvious but, that said, commemoration can sometimes be a long-term local activity, perhaps particularly in rather remote areas where families, or at least surnames, can be traced down through the centuries. A good example is the work of T. Bellinger in revising the extensive earlier lists of monumental inscriptions in the parish church of the town of Lydd, on Romney Marsh.(4) Here the sometimes-florid records of the sad deaths of young men at sea in earlier centuries is extended by tight-lipped memorials to sons who died in WWI.

If your parish has such a record, or the names on a war memorial, they provide a possible starting-point for the ‘history of collective remembrance from the angle of small-scale, locally rooted social [inter]action’ (Winter). My reservations about the approach to the power of remembrance taken by Bond in Cuckfield and by similar books should be viewed against a very positive review which notes that her book provides ‘a social history of the period, describing to us the events from the outbreak of war, the call up for soldiers, the response to the loss of their friends and neighbours, through to the end of the war and the victory celebrations’. Bond does exactly what Moss suggests historians can and should do in the case of war history: to speak through contemporary voices to give ‘their interpretation of current events not our view of a historical event’.(5) The book is therefore a model worthy of consideration, perhaps especially for the South East, since Sussex and Kent are counties with heavy involvement in conflict. In ‘The Name of the Fallen’, for example, Peter Donaldson examines the establishment of sites of communal mourning from sources similar to Bond’s. He argues that this did not represent ‘spontaneous outpourings of collective grief’ but rather ‘carefully orchestrated attempts’ by three civic authorities to mould and direct group memory.(6) Comparative studies of the commemoration of the Great War in different parts of the country would be of great interest and something individual BALH members and societies could achieve through research and publication.

Articles in The Local Historian are a useful source, with abstracts on the BALH website:

Keith Graves, 'Investigating Local War Memorial Committees: Demobilised Soldiers, the Bereaved and Expressions of Local Pride in Sussex Villages, 1918-1921', in vol. 30 (1), Feb. 2000.

Lorraine Knight and Nick Hewitt, 'War Memorials and Local History: the UK National Inventory of War Memorials', in vol.31 (4), Nov. 2001.

Catherine Switzer, 'Letters of Imperishable Gold: Lists of Names in the Experience and Commemoration of the Great War', in vol. 38 (3), August 2008.

The UK National Inventory of War Memorials website iswww.ukiwm.org.uk


1. York Publishing, no year of publication given (ISBN 978-0-955891106)

2. The Guardian 5 May 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/05/first-world-war-veterans-claude-choules?INTCMP=ILCNET-TXT3487 [accessed 11 January 2012

3. The Guardian 5 April 2011

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/apr/05/first-world-war-naval-deaths-records?intcmp=239 [accessed 11 January 2012]

4. Available via the website of the Romney Marsh Research Trust http://www.redcourt.dsl.pipex.com

5. http://www.ffhs.org.uk/news/books.php [12 January 2012]

6. P Donaldson 'In the Name of the Fallen: legitimising of the Great War in East Kent', Archaeologia Cantiana CXXXI (2011) pp 153-58

10. New VCH Publications for Jubilee Year  Show more → Show less ↓

Elizabeth Williamson reports from the Victoria County History

The Diamond Jubilee year is well underway, and the VCH is celebrating in many counties with special events and ventures as well as fundraising campaigns. Do support the VCH where you are by visiting our exhibitions, donating to your county appeal or joining volunteers to further the research work of the VCH. The best way to find out what is going on is to consult the special section of our website, www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/diamond-jubilee-2012, or through VCH News available under ‘Publications and Projects’. One of the highpoints is the VCH and Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre tent at the festival being held in Salisbury on 1st May to coincide with the Her Majesty the Queen’s visit to Salisbury cathedral, but there will also be a VCH exhibition in Hereford, talks in Taunton and Oxfordshire, two important events in Cornwall, a special presentation of new VCH research on the VCH Cumbria website, as well as the Marc Fitch Lecture on 25th June in the University of London and our special commemorative publication.  

Crucial for the VCH in any year is the publication of new research. This year sees three new volumes appear. The history of Great Driffield, charted by Graham Kent and David and Susan Neave, in VCH Yorkshire IX is typical of the best VCH work in its ambitious coverage from the origins of the ancient parish as the centre of an important Anglo-Saxon manor (Aldfrith, king of Northumbria was buried at Little Driffield) to Driffield’s role as a thriving market town, and the home in the township of Elmswell of the 17th-century farmer and diarist, Henry Best.

This year has the publication of an important thematic study. VCH Essex XI: Clacton, Walton & Frinton: North-East Essex Seaside Resorts, edited by Christopher Thornton with Herbert Eiden, covers only 200 years but makes a major contribution social, cultural and economic history of seaside resorts. Although Walton, and later Clacton and Frinton, were first promoted as high-class resorts, working-class excursionists changed the social tone of both Clacton and Walton. By the 1920s and 1930s Clacton had become a highly commercialized holiday destination, and though Walton remained attractive to families, only Frinton maintained a ‘select’ character.

The forthcoming Oxfordshire volume, VCH Oxfordshire XVII: Broadwell, Langford & Kelmscott examines an area almost as well-known as the Essex resorts, chiefly because of Kelmscott, where the designer William Morris rented Kelmscott Manor as a summer home from 1871. Less known is Filkins where the Labour politician Sir Stafford Cripps worked with local craftsmen to build several Cotswold-style houses and community buildings. All the villages included in this volume developed in diverse ways, displaying contrasting 'open' and 'closed' characteristics, some experiencing a marked survival of Roman Catholicism while others became focuses of 19th-century Protestant Nonconformity.

Publication of both the Essex and the Oxfordshire volumes mark the launch of important appeals for funds to continue research, on the pre-resort history of the north-east Essex coast, and Ewelme Hundred in Oxfordshire. Please support work in both those counties by donating to time or money, and follow the progress of research into Howdenshire in Yorkshire East Riding (seewww.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/counties).

11. Pauper Prisons ..Pauper Palaces  Show more → Show less ↓

BALH project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has made a grant of £36,100 to the ‘Pauper Prisons... Pauper Palaces (Midlands)’ project.

This project aims to create and support a volunteer research community who will be working to uncover and make better known the history of the Victorian poor in areas across the East and West Midlands. 

It will focus on increasing access to - and the use of - the correspondence created and collected by the Poor Law Commission (later the Poor Law Board) relating to its administration of the poor law in various areas of the East and West Midlands.

The records date from the mid-1840s through to the early 1870s and are held by The National Archives (TNA). They tell us much about the lives of ordinary people who, finding themselves unable to gain adequate employment, lived under the harsh ‘deterrent’ Victorian workhouse system which had been ushered in nationally under the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.

The project will focus on Poor Law Unions in Basford, Mansfield (Nottinghamshire), Bromsgrove, Kidderminster (Worcestershire), Newcastle-under-Lyme,  Wolstanton and  Burslem (Staffordshire). The archive material will be digitised and allow people to work on it locally. This will ultimately lead to on-line public access to the collections for the first time. Training workshops, research seminars and local meetings will be organised for the local volunteer project members, with conferences for the wider community. BALH will provide archival and historical research advice to volunteer project members which will enable them to produce and deliver talks as their research progresses, and will also give advice and support to project members on how best to publish their research.

In the light of current health, housing and general welfare changes, the language of Poor Law reform appears very modern. People were assigned into the categories of able-bodied poor, single parent families or those moving from place to place looking for work.  The volunteer project members will be examining the impact of these ideas in the Victorian period. Welfare has been a feature of the British state for hundreds of years. Who receives benefits (poor relief), what levels of relief should they get, and how can people move into waged employment are all issues that concerned the Victorians. The answers to some of these long-standing questions will come out of this project.

Just one example of thousands of individuals concerned was Charles Moore of Mansfield. In 1856 he was an able bodied stocking maker and had been in the workhouse with his wife and three children for the previous eighteen months. Employment had been found for him but as all his goods were sold prior to him becoming an inmate a subscription was raised by his parish and the Mansfield Poor Law Union guardians ordered five shillings and 24lbs of bread for one week to help start him off. Without such assistance it is likely that Moore and his family would never have left the workhouse.

12. BALH visits to Newcastle and Freemasons' Hall, London  Show more → Show less ↓

reports from two successful visits


 On a cold blustery day, I embarked on my first BALH guided visit. This was to the Literary & Philosophical Society (affectionately known as the Lit & Phil) and the Mining Institute in Newcastle upon Tyne, on 10th March 2012.  Unfortunately, response to the visit had been poor, and it was only a very small group that presented themselves to Pat Lowry, our excellent guide for the morning at the Lit & Phil.  It soon became apparent that we were the ‘fortunate few’, as we were escorted by Pat through the warm and ambient surroundings of the country’s largest independent library outside of London.  Founded in 1793 as a ‘conversation club’ the magnificent reading rooms have remained unchanged since 1825.  Pat had arranged for us to have sight of a book entitled - 'Caius Crispus Salustius ab Ascensio familiariter explanatus' , by Sallust (1504) which is believed to be the oldest book in the library’s collection.  A gardening guide, 'Paradisi in Sole Paradises Perrestris' by John Parkinson (1629), containing exquisite drawings of flowers, was also produced for our perusal.  Pat’s talk on the history and development of the library and its grand architectural surroundings proved to be both interestingand informative.  At the end of the morning, the temptation was to curl up with a good book but it was time for tour number two.                            

Adjacent to the Lit & Phil is Neville Hall, a Grade II listed building built in 1872, and home to the library and offices of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers,(NEIMME).  Simon Brooks, Trusts and Partnership Manager, greeted us at the door, and we were then escorted up the staircase to the Wood Memorial Hall Library.  Described by Pevsner as ‘Romanasque with an arched and glazed roof’, it is dominated by the seated marble statue of Nicholas Wood, the Institute’s first president. The library reputedly houses the world’s largest collection of mining safety books and its shelves contain a variety of material related to mining, metallurgy, railways and geology, in keeping with the philanthropic and educational purposes of the Institute.  Simon was very keen to share his knowledge of the building and provided a fascinating account of his own recent personal research into the building’s history and architectural design.  Simon concluded his tour and talk in the Lecture Theatre, aptly described on the Institute’s website as ‘a masterpiece of carpentry executed in mahogany’, and which is still regularly used by the Institute as a venue for meetings and lectures.

The libraries of the Lit & Phil and the Mining Institute are open to non-members.   I certainly enjoyed my tour of these remarkable buildings and would like to thank the BALH for organising this event.  I certainly intend to make a return visit.

Glenys Coote, Secretary of Crook & District Local History Society


The Oddfellows, Foresters, Gregorians, Masons, Buffaloes and Female Friendly Society are all examples of secular, non-political fraternities. It has been said thatbefore the welfare state, 50% of the population belonged to a friendly society as such as these which provided funeral costs, some financial security and moral leadership as well as sociability, equality and mutuality. In order to meet as a group legally, one had to prove the provenance of such an organisation and often legend or myth provided the essential past ingredient.  Each group developed their own ritual, their own ‘uniform’, collars, aprons and badges with a certificate as proof of membership. At the Freemasons’ Museum, there is a vast collection of ephemera belonging to these organisations.  For the Masons, the record is more extensive: records of membership with age at joining and their occupation, minute books, signature books and lodge petitions for relief.  All this can build up a picture of a community, here and overseas, and of the individual members, their status, their charitable interests and often a photograph is available. The visit on April 18th was extremely informative; the archivist demonstrated the use of their records for local history and willing helped members with their individual research. The staff provided a very enthusiastic programme which was appreciated and enjoyed by the members present. The building itself is equally impressive: an ‘art nouveau’ masterpiece built as a memorial to those masons who died in WW1. Both the building and the archives warrant a further visit.

Jan Shephard

13. Early English Laws free online Show more → Show less ↓

Gill Draper

The study of law codes and the origins of the common law has been revived in recent years, opening up questions about the structure of Anglo-Saxon society, the ideology of its kings, the impact of the Norman conquest on law and peoples, and the rise of bureaucratic government.  

A new and freely-available resource has been launched on www.earlyenglishlaws.ac.uk. This aims in time to cover all legal texts issued by  1215, beginning with the law code attributed by the Venerable Bede to Æthelberht I of Kent (d. 616). Previously these laws were usually consulted in the three-volume edition by Felix Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen (1903–1916) and William Stubbs’ Select Charters and Other Illustrations of English Constitutional History (9th ed., 1921). These editions are still cited as standard for most of the texts that will eventually be published on Early English Laws. This immense new resource gives access to print editions and manuscripts of the laws which are preserved in many archives, notably the British Library and the John Rylands Library [to which BALH has a guided  visit on 15 June'>more.... Bibliographies of new works which include commentaries also appear on the website, for example Lisi Oliver on the early Kentish codes in The Beginnings of English Law (Toronto, 2002). Digitised images of the most important manuscripts such as the Textus Roffensis- the earliest record of the codes of the Kentish kings- can be viewed, and in time there will be a transcription and translation. More such editing work remains to be done on the manuscripts, and indeed anyone wishing to view the many folios of the Textus Roffensis which are not concerned with law codes needs to consult the website of the Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre. The MALSC website has a valuable introduction to the whole of the complex book known as Textus Roffensis (the book of Rochester) including its charters, the names of those liable to repair Rochester bridge, and a list of pre-Conquest churches in Rochester diocese. To find the introduction and all the images, enter the words Textus Roffensis cityark into your search engine.

The study of early English laws is rather specialised area, and not one which is usually studied from a local perspective, but this resource will make it more accessible. The following gives a little idea of the kind of material it contains: ‘Æthelstan’s Faversham code: this text was issued after a meeting at Faversham in Kent. It may originally have been written in Old English but now survives only as transmitted in Latin in the twelfth-century legal collection known as Quadripartitus. The text refers to some of King Æthelstan’s other codes and it seems likely that it owes its survival to the involvement of Archbishop Wulfhelm of Canterbury’.

I recommend a look at this great new resource which is clear and easy-to-use. If this area is unfamiliar to you, however, a good place to start is by reading Bill Griffiths,An Introduction to Early English Law: the law codes of Æthelbert of Kent, Alfred the Great, and the short codes from the reigns of Edmund and Æthelred (Anglo-Saxon Books, 1995 and reprints).

14. Book Review: Celebrated Ales  Show more → Show less ↓

Peter Howells

The Shepherds and Shepherd Neame Brewery, John Owen

Faversham Kent, 1732-1875

 ISBN 98 0 9559997 3 4

As the name implies, this is a history of a family and its association with a brewery that survived the frantic takeovers, amalgamations of the 1970s and 1980s to maintain its reputation for the production of fine, traditional, beers and to become something of an icon in the real ale movement. However, the book is not a business history and its narrative stops well before the upheavals that saw many local rivals, Fremlins (Maidstone) and Tomson and Wotton (Ramsgate) are two examples, disappear almost without trace. Those who want a history of the business would do better to consult Theo Barker’s Shepherd Neame: A story that’s been brewing for 300 years (1998).*

What we have here is essentially a family history. It has eight chapters, each devoted to one or more family members, arranged in chronological order. There is also a brief postscript followed by fifty pages of footnotes, illustrations, maps, tables and family trees. These make up nearly half of the book of 124 pages. What do we learn from it?

The answer is pretty much what we would expect to learn about any middle class family engaged in trade over this period. As entrepreneurs, they had mixed success, missing out, as the author shows, on the possibilities opened up by the Napoleonic Wars but getting it right when the railways arrived. The years from 1860 to 1875, when the family’s association with the firm ended, saw a rapid expansion of the brewery’s tied estate and production and profits. One unusual feature of the history is the low key entry to and departure from the firm of the Shepherd family. They were not the founders.  For reasons which are not entirely clear, Samuel Shepherd (living in Portsmouth and with no obvious connection to the brewing trade) moved to Kent and then to Faversham where he married the widowed owner of the brewery in 1732. The Neame family’s association began in 1864 when Percy Beale Neame joined the firm as a partner, bringing a much-needed injection of capital in this period of expansion. But when Henry Shepherd died in 1875, his widow sold the business and the local home and moved away. She and Henry were not even buried in Faversham.

This is a nicely produced book and though it contains no startling revelations it has been well-researched (from rather limited resources) and well-written.

*The author was a student of Theo Barker, likewise your reviewer. The latter can confirm that an excellent pint of Shepherd Neame cost 1/8d (8p) in the University of Kent in 1967.

15. Out And About: Trail Leaflets  Show more → Show less ↓

A popular method of sharing local history research and encouraging an enjoyment of the local historical environment is to publish a trail/walk/ramble leaflet, for which the favoured format is an A3 sheet folded in half, then into thirds to create a ‘pocket-sized’ guide. These have featured in Local History News many times over the years, and there are two more to hand for this issue. Skinningrove History Group has devised Skinningrove Valley Trail ‘A heritage walk through some local history’ and the colourful folded sheet to accompany it is an excellent example of the production mentioned here. Opened out, there is a straightforward map with numbered points that relate to the sections of information describing your progress on the route. Although there is no scale, we are told the linear walk is 1.5 miles or 2.5 km.  There is also a map of the village in 1846 from the tithe map that is clearly echoed in the modern plan, and some fascinating historical details, such as the 1846 description of the village as ‘presenting many charms to the admirer of the romantic and picturesque’ only two years before the beginning of ironstone mining transformed the area.  As well as a list of useful websites of relative organisations, links to longer walks are mentioned in case anyone wants to make this part of a more major expedition. So the Cleveland Way National Trail, the North Sea Trail, and the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast are nearby. Skinningrove History Group Riverside Building, New Company Row, Skinningrove, Saltburn TS13 4AU

Much further south, on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border and the edge of the New Forest, you can take ‘An Historical Ramble through Redlynch & Woodfalls’ with the leaflet produced by Redlynch & District Local History Society. This is a three-mile circular walk, distinctly marked on a neat hand-drawn map on the first opening of the sheet (so you have an A4 page to carry to find your way). Key places are numbered and listed, and you open to the A3 inside to discover the descriptive detail and illustrations. The wealth of detail known about each individual building or other landmark is fascinating, though it is telling of modern times in rural areas that we read of a village store closed 1998, school closed 2006, and the famous post office at Lover renowned for its special Valentine postmark for which mail was sent from across the country. http://www.southwilts.com/site/Redlynch-and-District-Local-History-Society/

On the subject of walks The Brixton Society has published Brixton Markets – A Heritage Walk which supplements the guided walks provided by members of the society.  The British Postal Museum and Archive organise walking tours called ‘From Pillar to Post: GPO London’, starting at Farringdon Station and ending near Bank Station, lasting around 2 hours. The final one in the current programme is on 23 June.

As Local History Day is in Manchester this year, a recent newspaper report (with a map) caught my eye, about a ‘smell tour’ of the city. The UK’s leading expert on the interplay of odours and the environment lead walk through the streets of Manchester ‘from a new sensory perspective’. Food, flowers and plants, different building materials, the canalside and the streets all produced different effects, and the participants said they had had a very special experience. The Independent 21 April 2012.

Jane Howells

16. Laughter In Church  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby got the giggles

As a visitor, I always behave in church. I buy the guidebook, study it carefully, talk in a very low voice, do not climb on monuments, and do not whisper heretical utterances. In the churchyard I tread carefully to avoid graves, do not drop litter, and study inscriptions and look at exterior architecture in a seemly and appropriate fashion. I respect the place, its history and its purpose. Indeed, I click my tongue with a ‘tut tut’ at other visitors, less well bred or sensitive than myself, who do not. But in March I disgraced myself.

The scene of my shame was the church of All Saints at Minstead, in the New Forest. It was, fortunately, an occasion on which only one other person was present - and that was Mrs Crosby and she disgraced herself too. Nobody (at least on an earthly plane) witnessed our loud and raucous mirth, and the frivolity with which we besported ourselves. This is a blessing, for otherwise we would – and indeed should – have been presented at the next sitting of the consistory court.

It was the funniest church I have I ever visited, from its eccentric appearance, via its wonderfully idiosyncratic guidebook, to the occupant of the pulpit and the tombstone by the path. The exterior is remarkable, apparently a ramshackle farmhouse which happens to be embellished with a tower. Inside, it is T-shaped, with what is described as a south transept (though isn’t properly so) which is longer than the nave. On the north side are two large rooms, separated from the nave by half-height walls and gateways. These are family pews, and are completely distinct from the main body of the church. One has an outside doorway, so that a servant could come early in the day to light the fire (the pews have hearths and chimneys) and, it would seem, to bring in sustaining snacks during the service itself. An at-seat trolley service is something the modern C of E could definitely consider.

The guidebook was a collective effort, written by the congregation and disarming both in its honesty and its sense of humour (‘we may be regular attenders here, but our church is definitely irregular’). To read in the second sentence that ‘no one claims it is the definitive history’ is truthful indeed, and the quirky character of the text is refreshing. The Castle Malwood pew, we learn, belonged to Major General Robbins Daniel Hanbury and was given to the church in 1949 when the house was sold to the Southern Electricity Board: ‘a gift that may have spared the pew from being privatised some years later’.

Someone had attended to the magnificent 17th century three-decker pulpit, the lower tier of which was for the parish clerk, the middle one for readings from the lectern, and the top one for the delivery of sermons. It was partly draped in purple, for Lent, and recognising that it might seem empty without an occupant, a kindly member of the congregation had gone to the delightful children’s corner and taken away a large teddy bear, resembling Sooty, who now stood, arms raised in benediction, gazing down upon the church from the top tier.   

Outside, led that way by the guidebook, we searched for and found the grave of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his wife, complete with a pipe (the tomb, not Lady Jean) presumably placed there by a Sherlockian as a votive offering. And then the high point of a vastly entertaining visit – a headstone beside the path to the church door, erected to Thomas White who died in 1842 aged 81 years. The inscription could in other circumstances be moving: ‘A faithful friend, a Father dear/ a            husband lies buried here’ … but between ‘a’ and ‘husband’ a deep rectangular space has been chiselled away. I return to the excellent guidebook: ‘the word “faithful” used to precede ‘husband’. Mrs White had wanted both words on the headstone until village gossip reached her widowed ears. With great aplomb she left her husband’s memorial, but had the inaccurate word removed’. Perfection!  

17. Notes News Issues  Show more → Show less ↓


In February Helen Good resigned as chair of BALH, for personal reasons. Good wishes were extended to her, and Council was pleased to hear that she intends to retain involvement in the work of the Association. Helen has been co-opted to the Conferences Committee.


There are still some tickets available for Local History Day on 16 June. Over the years people have asked why LHD has always been held in London, so going to Manchester is an exciting opportunity for members in that region to support the event. And remember there is a great deal to see and do there for at least a weekend, as well as the BALH visit to Rylands Library on Friday 15 June.

Jan Shephard writes


One of my grandchildren is interested in history (a child after my own heart), but I sometimes shudder to hear what the schools are teaching in history.  His 9 year old class are ‘doing’ the Second World War.  Their teacher asked for grandma/ granddad participation in their topic lesson to tell of their memories. This I was happy to do; they asked some good questions: did you have a birthday cake?  Rationing was something they found hard to understand!  But there does not seem to be any coordination between schools as to what they cover.  The teenagers I guided round the church were also to ‘do’ WW2 so I mentioned the war Commission Graves in the churchyard, only to be told: ‘oh miss we did that in primary!’ So I was interested to read of the government’s response to Darren Henley’s Review of Cultural Education.  (No, I’d not heard of it before either.) The plan is to ‘pump prime initiatives to inspire children and young people to take part in cultural activities to enrich their learning’. They go on to say there is: ‘currently no over-arching strategy for….the delivery of cultural education’.  My above experience bears that out. So the government ‘supports the principle of greater partnership working between cultural organisations and schools’.  Perhaps we should watch this space.


The Events Committee has had two resignations from their number recently so we would welcome any member who might wish to join us and help lead some of the visits arranged during the year.  We could do with a wider spread of members nationally so as to include places and archives of interest further afield.  London still remains a major attraction despite our efforts to arrange visits outside the capital.


Good and bad news: The government has recognised the need to protect our war memorials especially after the spate of vandalism in the country. But on the other hand, repairs and restoration of our heritage buildings, especially our churches, now attracts VAT at 20%. This will make it so hard for repairs to be carried out; more money will have to be raised.

18. News From Archives  Show more → Show less ↓

Network Rail holds an archive of some five million records relating to the history of the railway’s infrastructure. A new virtual archive provides public access to a small sample of the total. Together with ‘ask the archivist’ and blog sections, the website will grow into a fascinating resource for transport, architecture, landscape and other historians. The oldest items date back to the 1680s, including the deeds for the land on which Charing Cross is now built, bearing the signature of Sir Christopher Wren. Visitors can purchase prints of the images.www.networkrail/virtualarchive

New additions to the Berkshire Record Office include a number of health-related items. Their newsletter The Berkshire Echo lists the papers of midwife Margaret Ross who was based at Wantage Cottage Hospital between 1935 and 1941; and a memento booklet issued to patients at St Andrew’s Convalescent Hospital, Clewer, which was built in the 1860s. Medical Officers of Health reports of various parts of the county, bye-laws including public health provisions, and some hospital plans have also been acquired. The Office holds the archive of Broadmoor hospital and have recently added a scrapbook of the staff dancing class 1873-1911.www.berkshirerecordoffice.org.uk

Rev Francis Kilvert was vicar of Bredwardine in the Welsh Marches, and St Andrew’s church there is holding a weekend at the end of May to celebrate his life. He and his wife are buried in the churchyard. As well as a talk, walk, tea and service, there will be an exhibition of archive material throughout the weekend. www.bredwardine-brobury.org. Diocese of Hereford NEWSpaper Spring 2012.

The archive catalogues forming an extensive bibliography covering the history of St Albans Cathedral have recently been published online by St Albans and Hertfordshire  Architectural and Archaeological Society. Covering both its role as a parish church, and, from 1877 as the seat of the newly formed diocese, the collection includes correspondence, financial and administrative records, architects' drawings and specifications, photographs, 35mm slides, maps, pictures and engravings, and items such as charters, cartularies, copies of some monastic records, research papers and theses.

www.stalbanshistory.org and click on "Publications."

The Surrey Quarter Sessions database records Surrey people brought before the justices of the peace of the county for a variety of misdemeanours, minor offences and other more serious crimes which were non-capital (ie did not carry the death penalty). It also records the names of victims of the crimes, the witnesses and the magistrates before whom charges were brought.The Hearings Transcripts combine information from the ‘Gaol Calendars’ and ‘Process Books’. They also indicate if ‘Examinations’ (witness statements) survive and can be seen at Surrey History Centre. The Surrey Quarter Sessions 1780-1820 CD is produced by the Surrey History Trust and can be purchased from the Surrey Heritage online shop or from Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND. Price £10 plus £2.80 postage and handling or £4.00 for overseas. Please make cheques payable to ‘Surrey County Council’. This project has been entirely carried out by volunteers who have worked on very complicated records in their own homes. Surrey History Trust and Surrey Heritage are very grateful to all of them for their hard work and dedication.  The CD is published in memory of John Holland, a volunteer who helped devise the project, and wrote the data capture programme.  www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistorycentre

19. News From Museums  Show more → Show less ↓


Apologies that we had mis-information in our last issue (p 23) and thanks to the reader who point this out. TheWedgwood Museum is open and welcoming visitors, though the future of the collections is still at risk.

The newly refurbished Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter has now been reopen for a few months and is proving very popular in the city. One of Exeter’s most distinctive buildings, the splendid Victorian Gothic structure has been brought into the 21st century, revealing original architectural features and extended to provide a suite of modern flexible exhibition galleries that can attract prestigious events to the south west. From prehistory to today, the displays give a coherent picture of Devon and Exeter through the ages.  Devon History News. www.rammuseum.org.uk

The Black Country Living Museum possesses the only full-sized working replica of a Newcomen engine, and has run a successful appeal to raise funds for its restoration in time to mark 300 years since Thomas Newcomen invented the world’s first successful steam engine that could pump water from mines. The celebration will take place on the weekend of Saturday 24/25 July 2012.  As well as engines in steam, and many other activities, Adam Hart-Davies will deliver a Newcomen Society Lecture. www.bclm.co.uk/events7/htm

Wiltshire Heritage Museum at Devizes has been awarded £370,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to support plans to develop a new gallery for their outstanding Bronze Age archaeological collections. This forms part of an integrated approach to the interpretation of Stonehenge which is being developed with English Heritage at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre and new galleries being planned at the Salisbury & South Wiltshire Museum. www.wiltshireheritage.org.uk

The Museum of Lancashire in Preston held a day in March when local people brought in WW1 memorabilia - pictures, letters and memories – for digitising in preparation for the centenary of 1914.  The event was one of the first of a series across 10 countries in Europe to create a unique pan-European account of WW1 that is available to everyone.  Europeana 1914-1918 is a partnership of libraries, museums, academic and cultural institutions, which in the UK includes the British Library, Oxford University, JISC and Lancashire County Council.www.europeana1914-1918.eu

Teignmouth Museum in Devon received a £4,000 grant from AIM (Association of Independent Museums) Conservation Scheme to renovate one of England’s last remaining bathing machines. Rescued from the beach in 2000, it has been in storage while funds have been raised for restoration. It now takes centre stage in the Teign Heritage Centre, the new home of Teignmouth & Shaldon Museum and has been rebuilt to be sturdy enough to allow visitors to climb inside and  try on Victorian bathing costumes against a background of seaside sounds.  www.teignheritage.org.uk www.aim-museums.co.uk

A new exhibition of 19th century images of London atWandsworth Museum will run from 8 March until 12 August.  All areas of the borough are covered, and the pictures come from the Museum of London as well as Wandsworth Museum, and the borough’s Heritage Service collections. This is a rare chance to see images of some historic buildings, many now demolished.

www.wandsworethmuseum.co.uk www.wandsworthistory.org.uk

Beaminster Museum in West Dorset, opened in 1998, is a very successful small independent museum that is run by extraordinarily enthusiastic and committed volunteers. As well as an annual major summer exhibition – this year is ‘Our Sporting Lives’ - they feature one of their local villages every two years, which allows a very special link to that particular community. For 2012 and 2013 it is Thorncombe. www.beaminstermusuem.org

The British Postal Museum & Archive have obtained funding towards a major conservation project. Mail Rail is the Post Office underground railway, and BPMA have three train units in store, one each of the types of train built in 1927, the 1930s, and 1980, that need conservation work to preserve them and tell their story. There was a special Mail Rail open Day in April, and an appeal has been launched to raise the money needed for the full work to be completed. www.postalheritage.org.uk

In a time of drought for many around the country, an appropriate place to visit might be Sutton Poyntz Water Supply Museum, run by Wessex Water in Dorset. (The web address is so long that you are recommended to put the name into your search engine.)

20. News From Libraries  Show more → Show less ↓

The British Library is curating a special collection of websites about the Diamond Jubilee for the UK Web Archive. The UK Web Archive has been collecting examples of UK websites since 2004, over 10,000 have already been archived and are available to the public on their website. To nominate a website for inclusionwww.thediamondjubilee.org/nominate-website-be-preserved-forever-british-library

The futures of the Women’s Library and the TUC collections, at London Metropolitan University, are both in jeopardy as the University needs space and additional funding to support these globally important materials. At best new sponsorship will be found; alternatively access will be severely restricted, or at worst the material will cease to be accessible to historians, and may be dispersed. The TUC Library is on loan to LMU, so could be returned to the TUC.  Angela V John traces the history of The Women’s Library and the risks to its future on http://www.historyworkshop.org.uk/to-make-that-future-now-the-womens-library-the-tuc-library/