Local History News - Number 105 - Autumn 2012

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1. Honorary Guild Burgess  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby is honoured in his home town

The first week in September was celebrated in my city of Preston in grand style, for it was Guild Week. The Preston Guild celebrations are held once every twenty years, a pattern established in 1542 and continued, interrupted only by the Second World War (no Guild in 1942), ever since. Preston’s Guild Merchant was established by the borough charter granted by Henry II in 1179 and was, like any other such organisation, a closed shop whereby only guild members could conduct a trade in the town. But at an early date the Guild began to hold infrequent and spectacular celebrations, at the heart of which was the week-long sitting of the Guild Court. That alone had the power to admit new members (the Guild burgesses) and renew the membership of existing ones. These celebrations became known as ‘a Guild’. We know of one in 1327 and others in 1397, 1415, 1459, 1500 and 1542—and thereafter at 20 year intervals. The Guild of 2012 was thus only the 29th known in almost 700 years.

The Guild always begins on the first Monday after the Feast of the Decollation of St John the Baptist (29 August), so this year the Guild Court opened on 3 September and closed on 8 September. The Guild lost all its effective authority in the mid-eighteenth century, and its legal powers were abolished by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, but it continues to flourish as a key element in Preston’s civic identity, a source of great pride and prestige, and the Guild celebrations every twenty years are tremendous occasions. This year, when the Guild was miraculously blessed by good weather, an estimated 900,000 people came to participate in or watch the processions (four of them, each lasting over two hours). The Prestonian diaspora came in their thousands from other parts of Britain and also in large numbers from Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Europe, for every Guild is an occasion for a gathering of the clans.

There are civic processions in which all the borough regalia dating from the seventeenth century onwards is paraded through the streets, accompanied by a cavalcade of councillors in ceremonial gowns, members of the Preston Select Vestry (one of only two such bodies to survive in Britain) in striking sea-green robes, judges, bishops, representatives of the military and a host of other dignitaries. There were concerts, church services, firework displays, fairs and stalls (just as there have been for eight centuries).

At the opening Guild Court there are fanfares, the Clerk of the Guild recites sections of the charters back to those of Henry II, John and Henry III, lengthy Latin orations are made, and the clerk reads out the names of all those renewing their membership or being admitted by hereditary right for the first time. Historically, at the closing Guild Court there has also been the admittance, gratis, of certain burgesses for services rendered to the Corporation—past mayors, leading aldermen, and borough officials. This year, though, it was decided to admit in addition twenty citizens of Preston (nominated by their fellow-citizens) who had made a major contribution to the life of the city. There were 51 nominations and to my delight I was among the people chosen.

Back in 1991 I published the definitive history of the Guild and I also compiled the official record of the 1992 Guild. My nomination was partly for this contribution to the Guild itself, and partly for my wider work of researching, writing about, lecturing on and promoting the local history of Preston and Lancashire, in the almost thirty years that I’ve lived here. So on 8 September I, together with business leaders, tireless workers for charity, valiant campaigners for racial harmony and co-existence, environmentalists and passionate advocates of the arts and culture, went up to the platform of the Guildhall and was given a certificate by the Guild Mayor, together with a badge, to be worn on all civic occasions, declaring me to be a Guild Burgess.

It perhaps sounds sentimental, but for me this is a matter of great pride—to be recognised in this way by the city in which I live, and for my work as a local historian, is such an honour. What is more, my honorary guild burgess-ship is hereditary (this has been the defining characteristic of the Preston Guild Merchant since the 12thcentury), so my children will also be Guild Burgesses. It was a very memorable time—fascinating to be a participant in these historic events, and a wonderful experience to look back on.      

2. Young Historian Awards  Show more → Show less ↓

2012 award winners

Judging for the Historical Association Young Historian Awards for Local History took place at Tutbury Castle in August.

The winners were:

Post-16 Students: Alexander Walmsley of Bolton School [Boys’ Division] for an essay on the Lakeland village of Buttermere. [This has already been published in Local History Magazine 139]

GCSE Students: A group award to Andrew Marvell Business and Enterprise College in Hull for work presented by a group of students on the history of Hull itself.

Key Stage 3 students: George Blackwell of Bolton School [Boys Division'>more... for an essay on the Eyam Plague Village. [This has already been published in Local History Magazine 139]

These were the winners amongst a high quality field of entries. One regret on the part of the judges was that they only had three £100-00 prizes to allocate but a few additional book prizes [donated by Osprey Books of Oxford]  were distributed to other very strong entries. The other regret of the judges was that, once again, there were no entries from primary schools.

Young Historian Awards in all four categories – Post-16, GCSE, Key Stage 3 and Primary – will be offered again in 2013. Entries should be sent to the Young Historian Project, 36 Heritage Court, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS14 9ST; and enquiries can be made to the Director of the Young Historian Project, Dr Trevor James, on 01543-301097.

3. Profile Of Dr Bearman  Show more → Show less ↓

BALH personal achievement awards 2012

In one of those unplanned but welcome coincidences, Warwickshire featured prominently in the awards of 2012, demonstrating again the well-known strength of local history in that county. The personal achievement recipients profiled in this issue have another connection that has only just come to light, but which reinforces the characteristics we expect from our award winners.


Dr Robert Bearman is at first sight the consummate professional in our field, so shouldn’t qualify for an award at all. From 1970 he was the archivist at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, retiring in 2007 as Head of Archives and Local Studies. In this role, amongst much else, he instigated major cataloguing projects and improved reader access and services, to the benefit of many users. Close involvement with the collections in his care, led to his becoming an internationally acknowledged expert on Stratford and Shakespeare, especially Shakespearean historical biography. It was partly in recognition of his work in these areas that he was awarded an MBE in 2008.  But, as we shall see, in his own time and since retirement he has taken his knowledge and skills out into other areas of activity.


As a schoolboy cycling round West Sussex in the 1950s, Bob Bearman delighted in the churches he visited and the guide books he collected, (an activity to which he confesses  to be still addicted). Studying historical source material was not part of his school curriculum, so it was not until he chose the French Revolution as a special subject for his history degree at Hertford College, Oxford, that he had what he calls ‘something of a Eureka moment …[when'>more... the fascination of original documents first took proper hold’. His own scholarship and major publications include 12th century Devon charters, and of course many aspects of the history of Stratford-upon-Avon in Shakespeare’s time,


Two voluntary roles brought Dr Bearman’s attributes to the grateful attention of local historians of Warwickshire. For over forty years he has been involved with the Warwickshire Local History Society, primarily as editor ofWarwickshire History. The high standards set by this publication are widely recognised. Its contents, as expressed by one of the referees, ‘give both recognition and permanence to research work, and informs and inspires our readers’., As Dr Bearman says, there are ‘local history sources, many still largely untapped, which can prove a happy hunting ground for non-professionals, providing them with an opportunity to add to the corpus of knowledge through research into highly specialised local subjects which nevertheless have an important bearing on larger issues’; and it is the resulting publication in such series as Warwickshire History that provides ‘a launch pad for people of all backgrounds and of all ages to make a real contribution to historical studies’.


Dr Bearman has also been general editor of the publications of the Dugdale Society for just over ten years. This society exists to publish Warwickshire texts, which with scholarly but accessible editing and introductions, brings what can be difficult sources to a wider readership and allows their use by more and more people. The society’s latest volume is Bob’s own edition of the  Minutes and Accounts of the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation 1599-1609. Apparently dry, factual, titles of record society volumes such as this disguise the delights within,  providing fresh insight into the efforts of the authorities to manage the town at a time of population increase and rising levels of poverty, vagrancy and crime.


This award was given to a quiet and unassuming man ‘who has probably contributed more to Warwickshire local history in recent years than any other single person’. Away from the public gaze, Bob Bearman has quietly and effectively encouraged and supported other Warwickshire local historians, including the subjects of the profile that follows.

4. Profile Of Peter & Gill Ashley-smith  Show more → Show less ↓

BALH personal achievement awards 2012

In 2012 for the second time in the history of BALH giving recognition for personal achievement by local historians there was a joint award made. On this occasion it was to Peter and Gill Ashley-Smith. The citation on their nomination form and the comments of their referees left no doubt that the shared award was entirely appropriate. Their colleagues had been so efficient at secrecy that no rumours had escaped about the nomination, and unfortunately the Ashley-Smiths were in the south of France at the time of Local History Day in Manchester. We were, however, delighted that their daughter Clare Rednall came to receive the certificate on their behalf.


Neither Gill nor Peter is a historian by training. Gill graduated as a chemist many years ago from Sheffield University, and Peter gained an MA in English from St Andrews. In 1971 they moved from London to the south Warwickshire village of Kineton when Peter took up an appointment with Warwickshire County Council. There they discovered and developed their interest in local history, being among the founding members of the Kineton & District Local History Group in 1987.


In 1993 Gill Ashley-Smith became the second chairman of the group, and under her leadership the society expanded, gaining members and reputation (and a constitution). Towards the end of her term of office the group undertook an ambitious exhibition that brought Gill and Peter and the flourishing society to wider attention, not least oofthe supportive archive staff at the Warwickshire Record Office and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.  Two successful books were produced as a result.


Gill developed her initially simple exhibit about the building of the village war memorial into a wider research project on the effects of the First World War, published in 1998 as Kineton in the Great War.  Meanwhile Peter, realising that the rich and long history of Kineton had never been properly documented, set about collating all the information that had emerged from that seminal exhibition, and undertaking the necessary research to fill the gaps. Calling on the organisational flair of other members of the group, notably the treasurer Peter Holdsworth, and the photograph collection of the founder, David Beaumont, the society published a very readable and attractive book Kineton, the village and its history in 1999.  So overwhelming was the response that the society found itself financially secure, and in receipt of a reputation for best practice amongst local groups in the county. 


Again jointly, Gill and Peter have recently spent much time on Kineton’s project to record the memorials in the churchyard. The attraction of programmes such as ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ has inspired people to look for the graves of their ancestors. St Peter’s Kineton had no plan of the memorials so in an overgrown churchyard the task was well-nigh impossible. Led by Gill, with many members of both the local history group and the wider community, the churchyard has been mapped, photographed, and all the 700+ inscriptions recorded. The results are available to all on the group’s website www.kinetonheritage.co.uk, and in fully illustrated booklets in the village and at the record offices. Cross referenced on the website, Peter has transcribed the whole of the Burial Register from 1739 to the present day, so even those with no marked graves are more easily traceable. The project as a whole won the Gold award in the History and Heritage section of Warwickshire Rural Community Council competition in 2010.


Peter Ashley-Smith remains secretary to K&DLHG, and continues to write regularly for the parish magazine, an excellent way of communicating the history of the village to the community. Gill is currently membership secretary of the Warwickshire Local History Society, on whose committee she has served for nearly twenty years.  As well as organising further exhibitions, they have been involved with two conferences in conjunction with Leicester University and the Battlefields Trust. They are notably generous with their knowledge; queries about the history of the village are always answered fully and promptly. They regularly give presentations and lead walks. Peter and Gill are inspirational members of a local history community in Kineton that certainly ‘fights above its weight’, demonstrating what can be achieved in a small but dynamic group.

5. The Agricultural Community At War  Show more → Show less ↓

Bonnie White continues the series on the First World War for local historians

Traditionally, the history of Britain’s farming community in the First World War has been understood against the backdrop of war finance.  While early studies focused on the Board of Agriculture’s efforts to manage domestic food production in the early days of the war, later studies credited the Lloyd George government with finally putting British agriculture on a wartime footing through the formation of the Food Production Department in 1917.

These studies failed, however, to consider the part played by farming communities in the success of British agriculture in managing and enhancing the domestic food supply. While Caroline Dakers and Pamela Horn have broadened the historical perspective by examining British agriculture within the larger context of the countryside at war, both are national studies offering broad generalizations about county responses to the war and farmers’ patriotism. Peter Dewey’s ground-breaking work provides not only a statistical analysis of farming trends from the 1850s to 1925, but also confirms the position of farmers nationally, arguing that their hard work and willingness to improvise was vital to the success of Britain’s land campaign. Unfortunately, Dewey’s work provides only a partial accounting of the troubles that agriculturalists faced, and fails to capture the nuances of local experiences. The impact of the war on farmers and individual communities has been examined by Stuart Dalley in his work on Cornwall, and in my own study of First World War Devon, but these studies are more narrowly focused on the impact of enlistment, conscription, and the depletion of the male labour force on farming communities. Both studies complement work by Benjamin Ziemann and Simon Constantine on the German experience, but more local studies are needed to evaluate how individual farmers and farming communities responded to changing wartime needs in Britain.  

Lack of attention to local experience reflects problems with source material. How can we uncover what farmers thought about the war and its impact on their livelihoods, families, and communities? Records kept by farmers’ unions, nationally and regionally, provide a useful starting point, but offer only a partial solution. Farmers’ unions tended to serve large landowners, rarely smallholders, so accessing experiences and opinions of the latter group is more difficult. Government circulars have the potential to fill in some of the gaps, but here again problems arise. Thousands of circulars were sent to farmers from the Boards of Agiculture and Trade requesting information about  farmers’ needs, but only a fraction of farmers responded. While it seems that circulars would be of limited value to historians, lack of responses from farmers moves research in a new direction and raises questions about the relationship between farmers and central government.

Why did so few respond to the circulars when the government was reaching out to the farmers in an attempt to assess their needs? County council records provide some answers. Farmers, especially smallholders, worked through the county councils to voice their grievances. Labour and price protection topped the list, but the government had already made it clear that they would not offer price guarantees and few steps were taken to protect skilled labourers from enlisting in the military until 1915. County council records combined with the lord lieutenancy papers, personal papers/journals, household accounts, and letters to the editor contain vital information about individual experiences and would be useful to researchers interested in understanding British agricultural experiences from the ‘bottom up’. 

Other potential avenues for assessing rural communities at war are Military Service Tribunals, and the Women’s Land Army and associated groups. The contentious relationship between farmers and tribunals is revealed in local newspapers and helps researchers understand working relations between labourers and landowners, and also familial relationships. Most farms in Britain were small with a small labour force that often did not extend beyond the farmer’s family. Tribunal records are incomplete and vary widely in their quality from county to county but offer insight into the perspective of rural workers and the stratification of rural society.

Likewise, Women’s Land Army records are an incomplete but valuable source for understanding the nature of British farming in the early twentieth century. Why were farmers so reluctant to employ women on their farms? What role did women play in farm/rural life in the first decades of the century? How did women view their new employment opportunities? What obstacles did women’s agricultural societies and the Land Army itself face? Answering these questions requires a greater understanding of not only the Women’s Land Army as a wartime organization, and its interactions with farmers and government, but also regional variations in farming practices and county life after 1900.  The distinctions between ‘rural’ and ‘urban’ need to be reconsidered to allow for greater degrees of variation, and ‘farmers’ as a category needs to be re-examined in light of changes to land tenure in the latter years of the nineteenth century.

There is much work to do on responses of agricultural communities to the First World War. Researchers must not only consider the national picture, but use it to guide research questions that reveal the experiences and challenges of day-to-day life on the land. At the local level the changing nature of the war is especially apparent. The war necessitated changes to farming practices, its implications reverberating through the nation. Consider not only the needs of the nation and the statistical analyses of imports, exports, and cargo losses, but the interests of rural communities that were jeopardized by the nature of the war itself.  Researchers might also ask how questions about labour substitution fit into the structure of rural life and how the ‘negative’ attitudes of farmers toward women workers might be explained by the realities of farming methods in the early twentieth century.  Rural communities varied in their needs, expectations, and responses to the war, and so new studies must try to capture the nuances of those experiences to improve our understanding of Britain’s agricultural communities in the First World War.


Benjamin Hibbard, Effects of the Great War Upon Agriculture in the United States and Great Britain (New York: Oxford University Press, 1919)

Thomas Hudson Middleton, Food Production in War(Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1923)

Caroline Dakers, The Countryside at War, 1914-1918(London: Constable and Company Limited, 1987)

Pamela Horn, Rural Life in England In the First World War(New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1984)

P.E. Dewey, British Agriculture in the First World War(London: Routledge, 1989)

P.E. Dewey, War and Progress: Britain, 1914-1945(London: Longman: 1997)

Stuart Dalley, ‘The Response in Cornwall to the Outbreak of the First World War’, Cornish Studies (2003), vol. 11, pp. 85-109

Bonnie White, ‘Volunteerism and Early Recruitment Efforts in Devonshire, August 1914 – December 1915’, Historical Journal (2009) vol. 52, pp. 641-666

Benjamin Ziemann, War Experiences in Rural Germany: 1914-1923 (Oxford: Berg, 2006)

Simon Constantine, Social Relations in the Estate Villages of Mecklenburg  c.1880-1924 (Ashgate: Burlington, 2007)

Ivor Slocombe, ‘Recruitment into the Armed Forces during the First World War. The work of Military Tribunals in Wiltshire 1915-1918’, The Local Historian (2000) vol 20. no 2, pp. 105-123


Dr Bonnie White lectures in history at St Francis Xavier University, Nova Scotia. She is author of ‘Sowing the Seeds of Patriotism? The Women’s Land Army in Devon, 1916-1918’ in The Local Historian, vol. 41 no. 1, February 2011.

6. East India Company At Home 1757-1857  Show more → Show less ↓

a collaborative research project introduced by Kate Smith

Established in 1600, the East India Company (EIC) was a commercial organisation with a monopoly on British trade conducted east of the Cape of Good Hope. Backed by a large army, the Company extended its power and influence beyond coastal trading posts into the Indian mainland during the Georgian period.  The British Crown finally supplanted its governance after the Indian Mutiny of 1857-58, when the EIC was dissolved. The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 is a three-year research collaboration, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, which studies the familial and domestic lives of EIC employees and their families. The project explores how the Company shaped Britain’s domestic spaces.  More particularly, it examines how EIC officials and their families changed the British country house, through the renovations they made, the objects they brought, the networks they belonged to and the people (including British and Indian servants) they employed when they returned to Britain.

The project is based in the Department of History at University College London and continues until August 2014.  Professor Margot Finn leads the core project team of two Research Fellows and a PhD student. Senior Research Fellow Helen Clifford is a curator and material culture specialist who has published extensively on consumer culture and production. Research Fellow Kate Smith, originally a British historian, has become increasingly involved in material culture studies in recent years.  PhD student Ellen Filor focuses on concepts of home in the Scottish Borders. Together the team is producing case studies, publications and events that explore the EIC’s material impact on elite British homes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

A key component of the project is the involvement of local and family historians interested in the East India Company and the Georgian and Victorian interior, who can contribute to our research and activities online and/or in-person.  Local, family and academic historians (as well as archivists, curators and librarians) can join through our website (see below for details).  Project associates receive our monthly newsletter, can contribute their own research to the project and also have a first view of our online research publications—some written by members of the core team, and others by our project associates.   

We publish case studies of particular houses, families and objects on our website. Our first case study (of Swallowfield Park, Berkshire) went online in March 2012. The case study tracks the processes by which the family of Sir Henry Russell refurbished Swallowfield Park and explores how, when and where his sons Henry and Charles Russell of the EIC learned how to furnish a country house and set up home. Our case studies are made available online once they are written, making it possible for project associates and others to engage with the research as it happens. Several project associates have agreed to write case studies on houses, people and objects of which they have a particular knowledge or interest.  This continually broadens the scope of the project. Georgina Green, a local historian from Essex recently completed a case study on Valentines Mansion, Ilford (see image below), which went online in July. Her study examines the ways in which profits from EIC commerce came to be reinvested in Britain, refurbishing homes and gardens and reshaping the neighbourhoods in which they were located. Other project associates are writing case studies on topics, which range from Indian banians to Chinese-style staircases in Welsh homes. Working collaboratively with local and family historians, curators, heritage sector professionals and students takes the project into areas beyond the expertise of the team and beyond the walls of the university.

We prioritise getting out of the university and meeting with different individuals, groups and organisations. This September, we gave a talk to a large audience at the North Yorkshire County Record Office in Northallerton to introduce The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 to interested local and family historians. The event included an overview of the project and the EIC and brought in local themes by discussing the Aske Hall and Dundas family case study, which Helen is currently completing, and Asian objects from local collections at Kiplin Hall. At the end of the talk, the audience completed labels describing their response to particular documents used in the Aske Hall case study. These labels were included in a small exhibition, which the Record Office is now showing about Aske Hall and the Dundas papers in its collection.

In September we also held our second study day (our first took place at the British Library in March) at the University of Edinburgh’s History of Art Department. We invited a group of academics, curators, archivists, students and local historians based in Scotland to discuss the challenges of using memorials and inscriptions as sources. Coming from different backgrounds and offering diverse expertise, the group had a fruitful discussion about what the wider project is and what it could be. Input from such a wide-ranging group was exceptionally useful. We are currently organising a third study day that will take place in Cardiff in April 2013.

We have also built relationships with individuals and groups in heritage sector organisations such as the National Trust and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales. In addition, the team is collaborating with people who are involved in the running of individual historic houses. For instance, we are working with the teams at Osterley Park and House (in West London) and at Belmont House in Faversham, Kent.

In our research we have benefitted from the generosity and enthusiasm of these individuals and of the country house volunteers who do so much to explain interiors and their objects to the visiting public.  We hope that our research on how objects (such as Chinese wallpaper, Indian ivory furniture and Asian porcelain) were commissioned, transported and gifted by East India Company employees will add another layer to how we understand the construction and function of British domestic interiors.

If you are interested in becoming involved with project and receiving our newsletters, join online today (there is no charge!) by visiting the project websitewww.ucl.ac.uk/eicah.  You can also follow the project on Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/EICatHome.

7. Tudor Southampton Project  Show more → Show less ↓

Discovering sixteenth century people

Cheryl Butler

In October 2011 a group of local heritage organisations under the banner of 'The Tudor Revels' were successful in a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a project called 'From Records to Revels'. The aim was to use the archives for sixteenth century Southampton to inform a programme to raise the profile of Southampton's Tudor history. There are several strands to the project including a huge array of events and workshops, but the most challenging aspect was the ambition to record every named person who lived in the town between 1485 and1603, in a fully searchable format. HLF funding provided the finance to create the database infrastructure but it was up to the volunteers to gather the data and input it onto the system.

A number of editorial decisions were taken over spelling, sorting criteria, how to record women and children etc. The database is able to sort by name [and take into account varieties of spelling and changes of name through marriage'>more..., by year, by craft, by origin and nationality. Each record has sub-sets on financial data, short biographies, a timeline, and references. There is additional material such as a glossary and articles about aspects of Southampton's Tudor history. Supported by academic historians who are donating their time and knowledge, around a dozen volunteers are being introduced to sixteenth century records. Some major documents have already been transcribed for the Southampton Records Series, others are only available in original form. As well as documents such as wills, of which several hundred survive, and parish registers, for which there is only one for the period, researchers are looking at muster books, stewards records, the Linen Hall Book and Cloth Hall Book, all being transcribed for the first time. For those still learning about palaeography there are many printed sources to trawl, such as the Court Leet Book and Books of Remembrance.

The database is already live and is being updated on a daily basis. Some 5000 records are already entered. As yet some are fleeting; all we know of one Dalabare is that he was a felon who broke out of St Michael’s prison in 1533-4 and fled leaving behind his worldly goods valued at 7s 8d. For others such as Richard Biston we can trace his rise up the ranks of public office to the mayoralty. He had three sons Richard, Bartholomew and William, and disinherited the two eldest for riotous living spending their time and his money drinking and gaming. He had a long running dispute with Queen's College Oxford over leases and according to them 'inflicting a great wrong on the college'. He got into serious trouble for speeches 'touching the Queens Majestie'. He colluded with his father-in-law John Crooke, to swindle the heirs of the Dolphin Inn out of their property, but then sued Crooke for £100 which saw the once prominent merchant thrown into prison a broken man. Biston also owned a tennis court.      

As well as supporting other major studies including the Tate Gallery's research into regional painting and painters, the database is proving useful for students of family history. The HLF funding completes in September 2013 and the database has already surpassed its target for the number of records held; the enthusiasm of the volunteers should see the project continuing until all known source material has been looked at. A further phase is also being discussed with the University of Southampton about the addition of an inter-active map linked to leases so all the people can be plotted against where they lived.

To search the database yourself visitwww.tudorrevels.co.uk, click on records and to find out more or to join the research team emailinfo@tudorrevels.co.uk

Dr Cheryl Butler is a member of the Tudor Revels working group and heads up 'The People Project'; she has edited three volumes for the Southampton Records Series onThe Mayors Book of Fines.

8. Next Volume For VCH Staffordshire  Show more → Show less ↓

Nigel Tringham on work in progress

In Staffordshire there has been a close partnership between the county council and Keele University since the mid 1990s, with the county editor also teaching at Keele. This has worked very well, especially as in recent years both Government and research funding councils have stressed such links. Indeed, Keele has now had two council-funded Collaborative Doctoral Awards (to support PhDs), one with Lichfield cathedral and the other with the Archive Service. The latter (just started) will partly draw on the extensive Sutherland Collection, itself used in the forthcoming (2013) Victoria County History volume (XI) for the history of Trentham with the duke of Sutherland’s grand 19th-century Barry-designed mansion (demolished just before 1914) and gardens (now partly restored as a popular tourist attraction, with the compulsory Garden Centre).

Fortunately, a locally-based garden historian Sue Gregory has for many years  been trawling through the vast Sutherland archive and was persuaded to write an article on the historic gardens for the county’ archaeological and historical transactions (which the VCH editor conveniently also edits), and that could be drawn on for the VCH account. Equally fortunate was the willingness of another locally-based expert on great houses and their staff, Pam Sambrook, to write up her notes on the Trentham Hall household, with an emphasis on its impact on the local economy. Both sections greatly enhance the Trentham article and could not have been written solely by the county editor, given the time restraints on completing the volume. But, of course, not all areas of the county happen to have such experts at hand … or ones who can deliver on time!

The rest of the next volume, the fourteenth in the series, covers parishes to the north-west of Trentham up to the county boundary with Cheshire and Shropshire (and so west of Newcastle-under-Lyme, which was treated in volume VIII in the early 1960s). The area overlies the western part of the North Staffordshire Coalfield, and so coal and ironstone mining, along with iron working, are a feature of the volume, with much new information being discovered about industrial activity before the 19th century (in particular, the career of a mid 18th-century coal mistress, Theodosia Bate, who continued a mining complex after her husband died having fallen into a pit). Although all the primary research had to be done by the county editor (including investigating a 60-box barely-catalogued collection), expert advice was sought from Peter King and VCH’s own Philip Riden. Finally, once more to stress the collaborative nature of many VCH volumes, Staffordshire is very fortunate in being able to draw on the enthusiastic involvement of the Tamworth-based vernacular and church buildings expert Bob Meeson, and as a result the volume includes measured plans of some of the more complicated medieval churches.

Appropriately for a volume completed during the year in which Keele celebrates 50 years as a university (although founded in 1949 as a university college as the UK’s firstcampus higher education institution), the area under review includes Keele parish with a section on the university grounds, concentrating on its buildings and landscape, as well as aspects of  social life. Indeed, in keeping with the recent trend in VCH volumes, the social history sections of parish articles are particularly full, highlighting the lives of men (mostly) who transformed themselves from yeomen into gentlemen, perhaps going through a stage as an entrepreneur in coal or iron. Of the latter, the most interesting is Richard Parrott of Audley who died in Stafford gaol (probably as a debtor) in 1734, but not before he completed (perhaps from notes collected over the years) a fascinating history of families in his home parish not dissimilar from Richard Gough’s History of Myddle.

So much to cram into a single volume, before moving on to another in order to keep up the momentum! But, of course, although perhaps the last word in some parts a VCH volume should also be the stimulus for further work by both national and local historians.

Nigel Tringham is VCH Staffordshire County Editor

9. Wedgwood Archives  Show more → Show less ↓

Margaret O'Sullivan on a rich collection at risk

The collections of the Wedgwood Museum at Barlaston in Staffordshire are recognised as of national and international significance. Efforts are currently under way to preserve them following a High Court decision that they form part of the assets of the company and so could be disposed of in order to meet pension liabilities. The documentary material in the collections is perhaps less well known than the firm’s ceramics and works of art, but is of great importance for historians. The pre-eminence of the archives is confirmed by their inclusion on UNESCO’s UK Memory of the World Register. There are four main series of archives in the Museum: Etruria, Liverpool, Mosley and Barlaston, said in all to amount to over 80,000 individual items.

The Etruria archives were donated in 1906 by Lady Katherine Euphemia Farrer, nee Wedgwood , and mostly comprise personal correspondence between Josiah Wedgwood I (1730-1795) and his partner Thomas Bentley (1762-1780); journals and memoranda relating to factory output; to the purchase of the estate which became the  Etruria factory (1767-1769); and to Wedgwood's interest in transport improvements, including the promotion of a Parliamentary Bill for a turnpike road from Burslem to join the London-Liverpool turnpike (1762-1765) and, most importantly, the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal , begun in 1766 and completed in 1777. This canal, ninety-three miles in length, linked two major rivers and passed through the Etruria estate, with a branch direct to the Works. Josiah I was an assiduous correspondent, with a network of contacts amongst leading Enlightenment figures such as Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802), and other members of the Lunar Society. He was also a prominent campaigner for the abolition of slavery, producing a much admired medallion inscribed ‘Am I Not a Man And a Brother?’, and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1783 for his invention of a pyrometer.

For much of its existence, Wedgwood has been a family firm, but, despite this continuity, the archives have sometimes had a chequered history.  In 1828, business was difficult and Josiah Wedgwood II decided to close the firm’s London showroom and to sell the stock of ware, old moulds and models. The sum raised was £16,000. When Josiah II died in 1843, many Wedgwood papers were sold to a well-known antiquary and collector in Liverpool, Joseph Mayer, who had North Staffordshire links, having been born in Newcastle under Lyme in 1803, the son of a local tanner. Mayer bequeathed these papers to Liverpool Museum. Josiah II’s eldest son Josiah III had retired from business in 1842 and so after 1843 the management of the factory passed to a younger son, Francis (Frank), who modernised working practices. He was a radical in politics who supported electoral reform and in 1849 entertained at his home in Barlaston the Hungarian leader Kossuth. After Francis Wedgwood’s death in 1888, the firm was managed by a new generation of partners, beginning with Godfrey Wedgwood (1833-1905).  Godfrey lived at Idlerocks near Stone in Staffordshire and his daughter, Mrs William E Mosley, inherited a discrete group of family papers, the third of those noted above.

In 1895, seven years after Francis Wedgwood’s death, the firm ceased to be a partnership and became a limited liability company called Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd. Increasing awareness of the historical importance of its products, plus the discovery in a store room of many previously unknown  early pieces,  led to the establishment of a museum at Etruria, opened in 1906. Items in its collections dating from 1750 to 1795 were catalogued in a guide by Frederick Rathbone published in 1909. Although primarily concerned with ceramics, the guide reproduces a photograph taken in 1859 of Francis Wedgwood surrounded by nine elderly gentlemen, all employees of the firm, with an average length of service of fifty-four and a half years. They included the kiln fireman, the sliphouse man, the glost-oven fireman, the glost-oven placer, the bisque-oven fireman, the gilder and liner, and the presser and mould maker, as well as the Works manager and the firm’s cashier. Paternalism and deference were much to the fore. The kiln fireman, William Stanway, is quoted as saying ‘I have worked fifty years and more with the Wedgwoods. I have known the great Josiah, his son and his grandson, Mr Francis and Mr Godfrey. They never spoke but scarcely to me. I have done my duty; I do not know if they were satisfied with me. I have never received a reproach in my life; but what I can say is this - that I have been satisfied all my life with them.’

The Museum’s fine art and ceramics collections were added to throughout the twentieth century. One famous donor was the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, a direct descendant of Josiah I, who gave a number of family portraits including works by Romney, Reynolds and Stubbs, formerly at Leith Hill Place near Dorking, the home in retirement of Josiah III. In 1950 the company bought a large private collection of early Wedgwood ware, including the best known copy of the Portland vase.

The fourth main strand within the archive collections relates to the company’s history following its re-location from Etruria to Barlaston. A new factory was begun in 1938, but, because of World War II, was not completed until 1950. Five ‘Last Day’s Vases’ were made at Etruria on 13 June 1950, 181 years after Josiah I had established his new premises there. These were replicas of the five ‘First Day’s Vases’ thrown by Josiah I on the same date in 1769. The Barlaston factory was designed by Keith Murray FRIBA (1892-1981), and the model village for employees was planned by Louis de Soissons FRIBA, architect of Welwyn Garden City.

Of prime interest to the ceramic historian are the Wedgwood company pattern books, dating from the 1760s to the late twentieth century, and associated papers.  In addition, there is a wide range of photographs in the collections, many of working processes and of company employees, plus over a thousand maps and plans, including eighteenth- and nineteenth-century estate maps.

In 1924 the Liverpool papers of Joseph Mayer were transferred to the Wedgwood Museum, following an agreement to exchange them for twenty-five pieces of early ware – an interesting example of collaborative working and rationalisation of collections between museums.

From the 1960s, Wedgwood acquired other local pottery companies and their archives were added to the core collections. Amongst many other long-established firms, these factories included Coalport, Mason's and Ashworth's, George Jones and Crown Staffordshire.

Archives elsewhere with early Wedgwood material include the Boulton and Watt papers in Birmingham Heritage and Arts Service’s collections . There are some Wedgwood papers in the Royal Society’s archives, and the John Rylands Library in Manchester has ten volumes of copy private and business letters of the Wedgwood family including letters from  Thomas Bentley ,Erasmus Darwin, James Watt (1736-1819) and James Watt junior (1769-1848), David Garrick (1717-1779), Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792), Sir Richard Arkwright (1732-1792), Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) and Anna Seward (1742-1809). The location of the originals is not known and many are thought to be lost. Some members of the Wedgwood family had no direct involvement with the firm. Amongst these was Josiah Clement Wedgwood, MP, later Lord Wedgwood of Barlaston (1872-1943), whose correspondence and other papers are at Keele University  and the London School of Economics, amongst other locations.

Nevertheless, the scale and scope of the four main series of manuscripts in the Wedgwood Museum   remain unparalleled. They offer great potential for further research, not least into nineteenth- and twentieth-century social and business history.

Fascinating sidelights abound. Amongst the most unusual and best documented is the pageant in Hanley Park  in 1930 to commemorate the bicentenary of  the birth of Josiah Wedgwood I. Seven hundred workers from Etruria, with many more people from  other  Potteries towns, performed a series of  historical re-enactments. The first was set in 58 AD when the Arch Druid urged local resistance to Roman occupation.  Ensuing scenes were: St Chad addressing British Christian converts; John of Gaunt receiving manorial dues and presenting the Wychnor Flitch; the dissolution of the Cistercian monastery at Abbey Hulton; ‘pioneer, peasant, potters at work and play, 1630 to 1730’; Josiah I (performed by Colonel Gilbert Wedgwood) dozing  and recalling his early life and career; then Josiah I cutting the first sod for the Trent and Mersey  Canal, followed by a scene on the Works bridge at Etruria featuring Erasmus Darwin, Joseph Priestley, Benjamin Franklin, Matthew Boulton , James Watt and John Flaxman, amongst others, who look on as a letter is brought from Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, announcing Wedgwood’s election as a Fellow.  Politics came to the fore in the next scene, a Chartist meeting at Hanley in 1842, followed by ‘an allegorical portrayal of the modern pottery industry’ and the final tableau depicted ‘Organised Labour’ with a procession displaying many local trade union banners. The Wedgwood designer Daisy Makeig-Jones led a group of paintresses dressed as Portland vases and the pageant concluded with mass singing of ‘O God our Help in Ages  Past’, followed in the evening by a military tattoo. It’s difficult to imagine the reactions of one member of the audience, George Bernard Shaw, but the pageant was extremely popular – and the weather was fine.

Margaret O’Sullivan

10. Yorkshire History Prize  Show more → Show less ↓

Results for 2012, and instructions for 2013

The winners in this year’s history essay competition are, for longer essays (10,000 word limit):

First Prize (Beresford Award) (£300):  Alan Brooke of Honley, near Holmfirth, for his essay on: ‘Bretheren in the Temple of Science’. Natural  History across the class divide, Huddersfield c1848-1865.

Second Prize (£150): David Vessey of Doncaster, for his essay on: Attercliffe, Sheffield: The Rise of Labourexamined in two by-elections, 1894-1909

and in the shorter essay category (5,000 word limit):

the Bramley Award (£150): Roy Yates of Leeds, for his essay on: Leeds Clergy School 1876-1925.

Yorkshire History Prize 2013

The competition for essays on the history of Yorkshire is held annually. The Beresford Award for longer essays of up to 10,000 words is worth £300, and the judges may make a second award of £150. For shorter essays, with a limit of 5,000 words, there is one prize, the Bramley Award, of £150.

Entries should be original and based on research, and should not have been published already nor offered for publication. Any subject drawn from the history of places and people in traditional Yorkshire is usually acceptable. Successful essays have often been adapted subsequently for publication in learned journals.

Persons thinking of entering should first inform the Secretary (see below) who will give guidance on the format in which essays should be submitted.

Those wanting to discuss academic matters, the wording of their title or the eligibility of their subject may, if they wish, consult Professor Edward Royle, Chairman of the Judges. (Tel. 01904 423009; email: er1@york.ac.uk)

The closing date is 1 May 2013 and essays should be sent to the following address by that date:

J M Bradford, Secretary for the Yorkshire History Prize, 14B Wood Lane, Leeds LS6 2AE (Tel: 0113 274 3804; Email:thebradfords@btinternet.com)

11. County Societies Symposium  Show more → Show less ↓

Event report from Ruth Paley

On 15 September a variety of organisations interested in local history, including BALH, came together for the second County Societies Symposium at London University’s Senate House.  The focus for the day was digital – the opportunities that developments in IT have produced for new ways of communicating, for providing new resources and for publishing our research. 

With limited space it is not possible to give a detailed appraisal of every speaker’s contributions, suffice it to say that the organisers had chosen excellent and thoughtful speakers and that every item on the programme was packed with valuable new information. We learned about important new resources for the study of local history, such as the improved accessibility of the manorial documents register following a programme of revision and computerization.  This particular writer was positively ashamed never to have explored History Spot, a site run by the Institute of Historical Research which is packed with goodies, including podcasts and free training courses.  One of the training courses covers the subject of internet resources for historians – a subject of much angst for local historians, since many valuable resources are only available via higher education institutions and by definition most practitioners of local history do not have institutional affiliations and are effectively locked out of resources (including those that as taxpayers, they have funded).  BALH has managed to do a deal to enable individual members to access the Bibliography of British and Irish History at minimal cost but there are a host of other internet resources that local historians could and should be able to use.  Universities are being pressurised into proving that their research has ‘impact’, so perhaps now is the time to start demanding greater access for the general public to the resources that they generate. 

The afternoon session on publishing research produced perhaps the most invigorating discussion of the day.  The cost of producing academic journals, and increasing demands that research should be published in a way accessible to all has created an increasing emphasis on digital publication.  The School of Advanced Studies (of which the IHR forms a part) has its own open access publication facility, which county societies might do well to explore.  But you don’t have to be a Luddite to believe that paper still has its uses – especially for the kind of publication that requires concerted attention and concentration.  Most us probably have desktops or laptops; many of us probably have Kindles or other e-readers, but do we really want to read a research paper or journal on a screen?

I enjoyed the day enormously – and it was clear that other participants found it equally useful.  I look forward to the next one.

12. Study Day At Lydd  Show more → Show less ↓

Event report from Sue Stratton

A Study Day at All Saints’ Church, Lydd, Kent

On a sunny Saturday in September a varied group met at All Saints’ Church, to study more closely the church commemorative brasses and monuments.  They came from many walks of life and distant corners of the country, including Paul Cockerham, a vet from Cornwall, and Vice-President of the Monumental Brass Society.  The carpet covering the central aisle was lifted to display the hidden brasses and some were mounted on a board. 

Joan Campbell of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust opened the study day with an informed talk about the history of the church and its furnishings.  She explained the reasons behind the architectural changes. The 13th Century building is large, at 60 metres, and is known as ‘the Cathedral of the Marsh’.  Its grandeur was not representative of the size of the local population, but of the community’s civic pride.

The theme of the day was civic dignitaries, first commemorated in brass plaques and later, in other ways, such as table tombs.  Gill Draper and Sheila Sweetinburgh from the University of Kent, proposed the following.  Brass plaques were laid with mouth scrolls emanating from the images of figures on them.  Mouth scrolls contained prayers for the dead to speed their journey through purgatory.  But, after 1543, prayer scrolls became unacceptable so were removed, leaving visible indentations filled.  Civic dignitaries then sought other means to commemorate themselves such as table tombs.  As dignitaries were elected in church they manipulated religious changes for their own practical use by placing table tombs in the same direction as communion tables and used them for election meetings.

Tombs became visual and tactile monuments that maintained the presence of the local families of importance such as the Stuppeney family, at civic elections, enabling it to survive in the social memory of the community long after the family line had died out. The first Godfreys, in accordance with their religious beliefs, wanted prayers on their brass monuments to help them through purgatory.  But, by 1623, the Godfreys’ monumental inscriptions had changed to focus on descendants, confirming their status and that they had married into good families.  Therefore, the emphasis on inscriptions had switched from prayers for the dead to epitaphs for the living.

Christian Liddy from the University of Durham argued that the inscriptions on brasses are not as important as the images of figures.  Civic officials were wealthy citizens, but may have been of dubious social origin. Their private and public image in the brasses was portrayed by articles of apparel, which conveyed the status and importance of their office.  They are depicted formally dressed in civic regalia with mayoral fur trim.  Brasses inform us of their identities, symbolise their pride and status, and mention the number of times officials served in office.  This reveals dignitaries’ anxieties about their position in office as it was not permanent but transient because it was invoked by others. The church’s central aisle became a civic and dynastic mausoleum where dignitaries were commemorated.  One specific point he mentioned is that we should all keep our eyes peeled for gloves on the figures in brasses!

Paul Cockerham spoke from a familial perspective about the brass of Robert Cokyram.  He gave a witty account of his name and ancestry.  Again the mouth scroll and, in this case, the foot inscription are missing from the brass leaving cement filled indentations.  Therefore his information came entirely from Robert’s Will, made at his death on 21st March 1508.  Bequests to the Brothers of All Hallows and his children revealed he was a wealthy yeoman farmer whose wife died leaving him with a young family.  The executors wanted a private and civic brass memorial, but his descendants disappeared leaving only the brass as a clue to his significance in local society. 

The finale for those who felt energetic at the end of the day was a hike up the spiral stairs of the 40 metre high bell tower to see the magnificent views over the Marsh. A pleasant and informative day was had by all.

13. Visit To Chippenham  Show more → Show less ↓

Guided visit report by Jan Shephard

Probably on the last day of our Indian summer, a small group of members and friends visited the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. This is a very modern building with spacious visitor areas and plenty of light creating a very calm ambience. This thoughtfully designed building is now the focal point for all Wiltshire heritage services housing the Archives, the Conservation Department, the Archaeological Service and the Wiltshire Buildings Record; everything one would require for research. The Archivist, Steve Hobbs, was our guide, and introduced us to the procedures and the shelving of catalogues and transcripts as aids to research. We were also taken behind the scenes into the vast store rooms, housing some seven miles of movable stacks of records going back some 800 years; the most interesting of which were the ‘coat hangers’ for some of the maps!  Upstairs we were able to look into the archaeological unit, as it was Saturday it was closed, but Wiltshire has a considerable prehistory and some grave pots were being conserved.  The conservation unit opened my eyes to the methods of conservation. I had not realised that conservation of plans for example, took place on an upright board; standing in front of the material to be repaired would avoid further damage to the fragile document by leaning over it. Steve had laid out some examples of their documents: a fourteenth century detail giving the names of those who had died in the Black Death and papers concerning emigration to Melbourne. In Steve’s last article in LHN, he mentions conscription in WW1 and the reasons for exemption; these tribunal documents were also on display.

After lunch, taken in the sunshine, we went into Chippenham itself. The town has an interesting story to tell: its association with Alfred the Great, was his winter palace there? And was the treaty with the Danes drawn up here so creating Danelaw? The legacy of a stopping place on the old Bath road is evident in the many coaching inns/ pubs once here or still remaining.  It has a lively museum in an eighteenth century Georgian house in the Market Place now with its Butter Cross found and replaced. The curator took us round the town. It is sited on the bend of the Avon at its crossing point but the river is hidden somewhat from the main street. The curved garden walls could have provided evidence for the Saxon beginnings of the town. The old Yelde Hall and prison remain as evidence of past timber framed buildings. We walked along the beautiful river, passed a monastic foundation site to the industrial part of the river to where the woollen mills for the making of cloth and later dairy products were to be found; Nestle and Matteson for example, had their factories on the river. Paul Connell had entitled the walk as an introduction to the most dangerous town in Britain.  A most intriguing title which revealed that the town had had the highest rate of cholera deaths in the country during the nineteenth century; that area is now a supermarket and a car park. As so often is the case, many of the old buildings were destroyed, the façade of the White House, for instance, can now be found in Bath, saved by the demolition company!  Our thanks are extended to both our guides for giving us such a stimulating day.          

14. Horticultural Visit To London  Show more → Show less ↓

Guided visit to RHS Library and Chelsea Physic Garden, report by Jane Howells

On a warm, sunny, autumn day it is difficult to improve on a delicious lunch eaten sitting outside amongst the plants of the Chelsea Physic Garden, especially if it comes between two fascinating parts of a BALH guided visit. In the morning the select group of members went to the Royal Horticultural Society Lindley Library in Westminster. We were privileged to have an expert guide in outreach librarian Elizabeth Koper, who had made a careful choice for us from their wonderful collections. ‘Lindley Library’ refers to everything held by the Society and material can be moved for readers, for example between central London and Wisley. There is open access to the library of modern gardening books and journals, Monday-Friday 10 – 5; RHS members have borrowing rights to the modern material. Access to the heritage collections of garden history, art, photographs and archives is by appointment, but users are made very welcome. The catalogue is online, brief queries can be answered by phone.  The range of topics is vast – the brochure list goes from allotments to wildlife gardening, via bee-keeping, flower arranging, pests and sheds. While much of the material is of course scientific, there is a great deal of interest to the local historian. Horticultural journals carried advertisements for local nurseries, and there are finding aids to help identify individuals. Original designs for grand estate gardens can assist analysis and restoration projects. The minutes of the Society itself are revealing. For example during the Second World War they discussed heating greenhouses (could fuel be spared?), and the publication of the first edition of The Vegetable Garden Displayed, for which they were given a special license for the necessary paper. Boards were made from the illustrations that were taken around the country for demonstrations in village halls to encourage people to ‘Dig for Victory’.

At the Chelsea Physic Garden, after lunch, we joined a regular tour with guide Peter Young.  There are beds dedicated to particular gardeners and their collections, to different classifications of plants, and a newly completed area of ‘useful’ plants with applications to building construction, fabrics, rope, toiletries and dyes, as well as medicines and food. Poisonous plants are clearly labelled!  It is so sheltered that their grapefruit tree, with no protection, produces fruit that is made into marmalade. The history of the garden itself is most interesting. Founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in 1673, in 1722 they were granted a lease in perpetuity by Hans Sloane who had purchased the Manor of Chelsea. They still pay £5 p a rent for the 3.8 acres to Sloane’s heirs, the Cadogan Estate, on condition that ‘it be for ever kept up and maintained as a physic garden’.

Thanks to Michael Farrar for organising the day.

15. Parish Studies Today  Show more → Show less ↓

News from the symposium on Parish Research

In Local History News 104 (p 27) we published a note from Anne Tarver about this major event last May, that brought together academics and independent researchers, both individuals and societies, to share their interest in exploring the history of the parish. Full reports, audio recordings and video clips of the event are now available. Go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/parishsympsoium  There's also information about the forthcoming 'My-parish' website.

16. Book Review: Offa  Show more → Show less ↓

Offa: the quality of Mercia, Richard Stone, RSE Publishing, 2012, 34p, ISBN 978-0-9536-5273-0. £4-50. Available post-free from Richard Stone at 33 Arden Road, Barton-under-Needwood DE13 8LE, cheques made payable to ‘Richard Stone’.

Offa was first and foremost king of Mercia [757-796'>more... but he also had an undoubted national and international status. In this short pamphlet Richard Stone presents what is known about Offa in a coherent way, reflecting on the reliability of the available sources, and he offers his interpretation of both the evidence and of Offa himself. This is a very useful introduction and summary.

Trevor James

17. Book Review: Norwell Dmv  Show more → Show less ↓

Willoughby by Norwell Deserted Village

ed Michael Jones, Norwell Parish History Group. 2012 20402406 £4 + pp

This is a meticulous, in-depth local study that will be of interest well beyond its geographical area just north of Newark, Notts.  Norwell village is a conservation area; the church is Grade I listed, and there are 16 buildings which are Grade II listed. As well as the church there is a pub, school, shop, village hall, a pinfold, and a now disused windmill.  It is the thriving mother village of the parish, with the small hamlet of Norwell Woodhouse, and the deserted village and manor house at Willoughby. This, the sixth ‘Norwell Heritage Booklet’, examines the DMV. Using archaeological and documentary evidence we learn how the site has been investigated over the years and what current thinking is on the ‘when’ and ‘why’ of its desertion. There’s a vast quantity of material in this slim volume.

18. Book Review: Abergavenny  Show more → Show less ↓

Discovering Abergavenny: Archaeology & History

Frank Olding. Abergavvenny Local History Society. 2011. 978 0 9563019 1 8 £11 + £4 pp

This generously illustrated and thoroughly researched book begins in around 12,000BC and takes the reader through the history of the town until the later 18thcentury, when in 1760 it was surveyed for the first time. Subsequent major changes arose from the impact of the Brecon & Abergavenny Canal, built in 1812, and that, as the author acknowledges, would need a separate book. So, we learn in great detail about the prehistoric, Roman and medieval periods of this community on the borders of Wales, and see clearly how this information was unearthed. There is an extensive bibliography to encourage further exploration.

19. Book Review: Tigers On Hawley Street  Show more → Show less ↓

Tigers on Hawley St

Clare & Ian Trowell, Five Pigeons Press, 2012, 978 0 9572513 0 4 £8.99

Part of a large, on-going, project researching the Sheffield Jungle, this book makes the excitement of the arrival of Frank Bostock’s menagerie in Edwardian Sheffield come to life for younger readers. This is an unusual presentation of local history but fits into the rich tradition of historical stories for children based in a particular locality and focusing on specific characters and events. The tram and bus depot where Archie’s Grandad used to work, is being demolished; as they walk around the area he tells his grandson about the extraordinary animals and the amazing rides that attracted thousands of visitors, against the background of the years leading up to the First World War.

20. Book Review: Thomas Wakely And Workhouses Show more → Show less ↓

‘Pray Sir, How Many Paupers Have You Boiled?’ Thomas Wakley, Workhouses and the Poor Law circa 1834-1847’, by Gordon H.H. Glasgow (EAH Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0-9560384-9-4) 144 pp., 15 b/w illustrations.

The Poor Law and the workhouse are a fruitful and interesting area of research for local historians. This was clearly demonstrated at the 2012 Local History Day by Dr Carter’s presentation, and the discussion that followed this. Workhouse projects exist at a national and local level, and family historians, including those whose genealogies are traced for television, come across sad stories of their ancestors who ended up on poor relief or in the workhouse.

However, even as the New Poor Law came into operation there was opposition to it, and its philosophy of making life inside the workhouse less attractive than life outside in employment. The harsh regime of the union workhouses led to a series of scandals about the treatment of paupers who were ill-treated and starved by workhouse masters.

Thomas Wakley MP for Finsbury, and coroner for West Middlesex was a leading opponent of the New Poor Law and the Poor Law Commissioners, and this book shows him at work as a coroner exposing the way in which paupers were treated in the workhouse, through a series of inquests on pauper deaths. These included Thomas Austin who fell into a vat of boiling water in Hendon Workhouse, John Caitlin who starved to death in the same workhouse, and Samuel Daniels and Elizabeth Friry who starved to death in the Kensington Workhouse. The book also deals with Wakley’s part in the well-known Andover Workhouse scandal, and the inquiry into the starvation of inmates in the Haydock Lodge Asylum.

The book is based on legal and medical evidence, and the author is well qualified to investigate inquests as before retirement he was HM Coroner for the Metropolitan Boroughs of Sefton, Knowsley and St Helens in Lancashire, and has published extensively on Victorian coronial history.   

This publication, which includes a foreword by Dr Alan Crosby, sheds a new light on the working of the New Poor Law and the abuses it created, and the inquests which followed. It can be purchased from EAH Press, 7 Thornton Court, Thornton Road, Girton, Cambridge, CB3 0NS for £8.99 + £2.50 p&p, (Cheques to made payable to Evelyn Lord)

21. You Know My Methods, Watson  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby and the great detective

Reading historical novels presents me with challenges—just as when I’m watching period dramas on TV, I am constantly looking out for factual errors and historical anachronisms. At times the plotline is forgotten as I fulminate against some trivial transgression—and I have just encountered surely the most glaring historical impossibility of all. It was in one of Edward Marston’s ‘Railway Detective’ books, a series for which I have a low-brow weakness. Blood on the Line is set in 1857. Our heroes, Robert Colbeck (debonair and cultured Railway Detective) and his sidekick, the ugly but courageous and loyal constable Victor Leeming, are tracking down the family of Irene Adnam, a fiendish murderess who has already killed two policemen. They learn that she was born in Manchester, but do not know where in that city her family might live. The local police inspector is understandably perplexed but Colbeck, a brilliantly intuitive detective, comes up with the answer: ‘I’ve suggested to the inspector that he might begin with the 1851 census. It will doubtless contain a number of people in the city by that name. We simply have to eliminate them one by one’. Just two days later they had come up with a list of people called Adnam living in the city.

Isn’t that wonderful? Never mind that all the census returns were by that time languishing in storerooms at the Home Office in London, and completely disregarding the strictly enforced 100-year confidentiality rule (they weren’t actually available for another 94 years) one man had been able to check, in only a couple of days, all 303,000 names in the census and find a list of addresses for the surname Adnam. An amazing feat indeed ... or was it so unusual?

‘Sherlock Holmes had been bending for a long time over a laptop computer, and though I sought to calm him with soothing phrases his irritation was evident. “Watson, why is this damned broadband so very slow? I have been trying for quite a few minutes to achieve a connection, but all that I have observed thus far for my labours is that infuriating hourglass which is constantly revolving across the screen. Confound the thing”. “My dear Holmes”, I replied, “Switch off the laptop, wait a minute or so, and then start again. That’s what was suggested by the extremely young and heavily-acnéd fellow in the large-lapelled suit at the computer emporium, when I encountered the same problem myself only a week since.” Holmes pungently expressed further irritation, picked up his violin, and began to play. “At least this familiar friend will not let me down, Watson. It has no cables or connections”.

I ventured to make enquiry as to the purpose of his on-line exploration, knowing as I did that he was not enamoured of modern technology. “Ah Watson”, he replied, “I fear that I have been forced to embark upon a more competitive form of detection, requiring attention to websites and e-resources, as they are clumsily labelled by those lacking sympathy for the beauties of our language. It has come to my attention that a police sleuth, one Colbeck, recently made use of just such an infernal machine to assist in apprehending the evil Irene Adnam and her vicious accomplice. I must keep up to date, Watson, to be in advance of my rivals. But somehow, it is less straightforward than I imagined. Knowing the identity of 140 different types of tobacco ash is simplicity itself in comparison. How, my dear Watson, can I possibly access the census returns”? “Ah, Holmes”, I replied, “I am afraid that there is a vital step in this process which, perhaps because of mere oversight, you have neglected. It is first necessary to engage in a subscription arrangement with an on-line provider. Pray, for the sake of speed, do make use of my membership of Find My Past. Which surname is of particular interest to you”? “I wish to investigate a family called Baskerville, living on Dartmoor. And tell me, by the way, does the census include dogs”?

22. Notes News Issues  Show more → Show less ↓

Introducing the Chair and Vice chair

Following Helen Good’s resignation as Chair, the AGM elected Dr Tim Lomas as the new Chair in June.   Prior to Helen’s resignation, Dr Margaret O’Sullivan, as the Vice Chair, kindly took on the role and illustrated clearly the importance of having this position.   Jacquelene Fillmore has been elected to fulfil this role.

Tim Lomas comes from an educational background having worked in schools and universities and more recently as a senior education manager and inspector.  His passion has always been history and played a key part as a member of the History Working Group setting up the National Curriculum in English schools in ensuring a role for local history there.  His jobs have taken him from his home in Cornwall to Hampshire, Teesside, Staffordshire, Shropshire and in recent years to Lincolnshire where he had a brief not only for history education but school improvement in general.  He has acted as a consultant in many countries often offering training in history.  His other roles have involved senior examining at GCSE and A-level and writing.  His many textbooks often have a strong local history element.   His doctorate was entitled “Land and People in South East Durham in the Later Middle Ages” but his recent interests and roles have given him a much wider involvement especially in more recent history and he has a particular passion for the history of education and transport history.  He currently chairs the Education Committee of BALH.

Jacquelene Fillmore will already be well-known to readers of The Local Historian for her valuable and popular guides to websites which led to the Directory of Internet Sites.  Her enthusiasm for history is long-standing – having been interested for most of her life, she sees the fascination and correlation between past and present. Jacquie comes from a background similar to many members – starting as an armchair enthusiast, moving onto researching social history as a pastime, and then in 1997 taking the decision to go back to school and read a BA in British History followed by a Masters in Local and Regional History at Cambridge University.  Jacquie’s specialist interests are Food production in World War I and late 19th Century Poor Law and Vagrancy.

Both Tim and Jacquie are keen that the two roles are clear and that the Vice Chair involves more than a name and deputising.  Thus Jacquie has kindly agreed to act as Liaison Officer for Societies and Individuals.  There has been a strong feeling amongst the Trustees that our members should feel they have more involvement within BALH, recognising that it at grass roots level that wonderful local history research is carried out, not only for this generation, but also for generations to come.  

There are a number of other priorities we want to address in the foreseeable future.  Many are self-evident but are worth re-stating:

Maximising membership and safeguarding the financial health of BALH;
Clarifying the roles of the main committees – Conferences, Education, Events, Publications and Management to ensure that they are as responsive as possible to members interests;
Maintaining the high quality of its publications and the website;
Improving the marketing of its products and the benefits of membership;
Being responsive to the changing world of local history and ensuring that our views are heard with regard to proposed new legislation and other developments.
Improving the links between BALH, individuals, societies, schools, universities, national agencies and the wider world of local history;
Seeking new members of committees or volunteers who would be willing to share some of their expertise in supporting BALH in areas such as marketing and advertising.

Tim and Jacquie would be delighted to receive ideas on anything you think we should be providing, anything that we could do better and especially on how we can work better with you as individuals and societies.  They can be contacted directly at:



They would also be delighted to hear from anyone who feels they would like to share some of their expertise as a volunteer or potential member of one of the committee.


23. News From Archives  Show more → Show less ↓

Following a 7 year project at Flintshire Record Office, the entire collection of historical photographs of Flintshire towns and villages has been digitised, thanks to the great efforts of volunteers.  Since July 2012 the staff have been inputting a selection of images from each parish on to Flickr, and they intend to have a sample from each town or village by the end of the year. The images can be viewed on line at www.flickr.com, by searching for ‘Flintshire’ or Flintshire Record Office’, or via the record office’s web-pages www.flintshire./gov.uk/archives There are future plans to feature images of some of the documents in their collection, plus events at the Record Office, and themes and exhibitions of local historical interest. Email archives@flintshire.gov.uk

More sport! Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service News No 92 features ‘Bedfordshire’s Sporting Heritage and Heroes’, the subject of their summer displays and online exhibition.  There are famous cyclists including Arthur Gell (1874-1955), pictured here, and Victoria Pendleton, a ski-jumper ( Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards), racquet sports players, and many more. Sports were not always encouraged, as illustrated by manorial court rolls. In 1502 ten local men of Millbrook were fined 20d each for playing ‘bowls and tenecias [tennis'>more...’, not permitted on a Sunday. www.bedford.gov.uk/archive

Work will start this year on a statute in Sheffield as a memorial to the women who worked in the steel mills and factories during the two world wars. Over a hundred people turned up at an event to discuss with the sculptor their ideas on how the memorial should look, and many shared their memories and memorabilia of working lives in the city. Photographs scanned on that occasion will be added to Picture Sheffield, where there are already over 60,000 images. www.picturesheffield.com

‘Historic Gardens of Shropshire’ is the title of a course running on the four Monday afternoons in February.archives@shropshire.gov.uk

Friends of Shropshire Archives and the Friends of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust are hosting a day ‘to celebrate the life and studies of Ken Jones, a local historian of Ironbridge and its environs, collector of oral memories, railway enthusiast and volunteer’. This will take place on Saturday 20 April 2013, at The Glass Classroom, adjacent to Enginuity, Coalbrookdale, Telford TF8 7DQ.

Royal Holloway, University of London has made available to external researchers the Roy Waters Theatre Collection, acquired by the university in 2010 and now catalogued. With a particular emphasis on well known actors, actresses and dramatists, the collection illustrates their careers via autograph letters, programmes, playbills, photographs, news cuttings, prints and artefacts, ranging from the eighteenth to the twenty first century. Royal Holloway also holds Roy Waters’ personal papers, providing insight into the man behind the ephemera.  The material can be used to explore the relationship between theatre and the society in which it operates. www.rhul.ac.uk

In Norfolk local military historians Michael Eastaff, Graham Prior and Dick Rayner have formally handed over records of the Mason family, of Necton Hall, near Swaffham, to the Norfolk Record Office so that letters, military records and messages of condolence are available to the public. The trio purchased the collection at an Aylsham auction in October 2009 to ensure the collection stayed in the county where it belongedwww.archives.norfolk.gov.uk.

The updated Directory of UK Map Collections  is available online at http://www.cartography.org.uk/default.asp?contentID=705 ?. This is maintained by the Map Curators' Group  of the British Cartographic Society. If you know of maps which are at risk of dispersal, please let map curators know via lis-maps , the email discussion list for UK map librarians and archivists (https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/cgi-bin/webadmin?A0=lis-maps ).  They may be able to offer support and advice, or help you find new homes for the maps.

A new website dedicated to military history in Ireland from 1913 – 1921 has gone live, shedding much light on Ireland’s military past.The Bureau of Military History site was launched by Jimmy Deenihan TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, at Cathal Brugha Barracks in Dublin in August. See:www.military.ie/info-centre/military-archives

The Archives Hub (http://archiveshub.ac.uk/) now has a regional search athttp://archiveshub.ac.uk/regionalsearch/. This is to make it easier to search for archives held in specific parts of the country. As well as pre-defined regions, there is also a search area box that can be moved by manipulating the corners  so that researchers can customise the area. Further improvements are that results lists now include title and dates and  the Hub display has  a new utility bar, designed to increase functionality over time with various links, output options, social networking widgets and information about digital content

The Business Archives Council has announced the winner of the BAC cataloguing grant for business archives for 2012. Launched in April 2010, the grant is in support of the National Strategy for Business Archives. The Council will make the grant available annually during strategy implementation, 2010-2015. The judging panel on behalf of the Council has awarded the 2012 grant to Durham County Record Office for the cataloguing of archives of Consett Iron Company and its subsidiary companies. www.businessarchivescouncil.org.uk

A project run by volunteers at Wolverhampton Archives and Local Studies to catalogue and make available the records of a local chartered accountancy firm has won a national award. The ‘Taking Account of our Past’ project catalogued the archive of Smith, Son and Wilkie. The collection dating from between 1863 and 1989 covers over 60 businesses and nearly 30 families who employed the firm to oversee their finances. The Project website is at http://takingaccountproject.wordpress.com/

BALH members may be interested to review the draftArchive Service Accreditation standard and its supporting draft guidance which are now available online at the project homepage: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/accreditation.htm. The standard is supported by a document on eligibility; a document which explains the scalability that will apply to ensure expectations of accredited archives are proportional to their nature and scale; and initial draft guidance on interpreting the standard. A developing glossary and a note on the interaction between accreditation and Place of Deposit status are also provided. The draft standard will now be tested thoroughly at a pilot involving a range of archive services from across the UK. Further comments on the scheme are welcome. 

Plymouth City Council has been given until next year by the National Archives to find a new home for thePlymouth and West Devon record office because the existing building is unsuitable. Cost implications of a new site are problematic. Moves to create a ‘history centre’ at Royal William Yard including the record office appear to have been shelved. Last October the council said it was considering a ‘cultural hub’ to include the Museum and Art Gallery stores, South West film and television archives and the record office in the Factory Cooperage at the former Navy victualling yard. It set aside £2million for the project and said it would be putting the proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other funds. But a feasibility study in April showed that the project would cost up to £20million – £8.5million more than anticipated. Plymouth City Council is now appraising other possible sites The chair of the Friends of Devon’s Archives said the city council had created the problem by giving planning permission in 2001 for a tyre depot next to the records office, thus creating a fire hazard.www.foda.org.uk/main/news.htm www.plymouth.gov.uk/archives

24. News From Libraries  Show more → Show less ↓

The Women’s Library (see LHN 103 p 21) has a new home. It will join the library at the London School of Economcs,  becoming the ‘Women’s Library @ LSE’ in 2013.

North Lincolnshire Library and Information Service have purchased copies of the maps and field books from the 1910 Land Valuation as well as maps and documents for the 1941 – 43 Farm Survey for our local area from the National Archives. These documents are available in the Local Studies section of North Lincolnshire Central Library in Scunthorpe and our opening hours and full address can be found on our web page


 So, it is no longer necessary to travel to Kew to see this information for the North Lincolnshire area. A map of the authority’s area can be found at


 *see LHN 85 p 6 for Anna Towlson’s article about the 1910 Land Valuation sources.

According to Reading Local Studies Library, ‘librarians are generally not very keen on sport’. So during the summer they have provided a series of local history talks for those wishing to avoid the Olympics and other sporting events, which proved very popular.  Berkshire Local History Assn Newsletter. www.blha.org.uk

(No doubt someone will refute this assertion with evidence of very sporty librarians!)

The Bulletin of The John Rylands University Library, Manchester, is publishing the results of Dr Angela Conelly’s research into ‘how the Methodist Church built some of Britain’s most important and successful community buildings in the early 20th century, now mostly forgotten’.  99 Methodist Central Halls were constructed, large buildings designed not to look like a church.  They were important cultural centres in their communities. Of those that survive, many have been converted to other uses, though 19 are listed for protection.  A complete list of the location and status is each is available. U of Manchester Press Office  01661 275 0790

25. News From Museums  Show more → Show less ↓

Haslemere Educational Museum, Surrey, has won two major national awards. They have been voted the Nation’s Favourite Museum by the Museums + Heritage Awards, after winning the Telegraph Family Friendly Museum Award.  Haslemere Museum dates back to 1888 when Quaker surgeon Sir John Hutchinson accommodated his vast collection of artefacts relating to botany, geology and social history in a museum in a barn.  It has pioneered innovative ideas about education that pre-empted current practice; for example adult education since the beginning, a schools loan service from the 1960s, children’s holiday activities since the 1930s, and a successful teenage programme in more recent years.  www.haslemeremuseum.co.uk


At the end of the recent conference of AIM (Association of Independent Museums) participants voted for the most unusual idea for promotion and fundraising. The winner was Historic Dockyard, Chatham, for ‘Money for Old Rope’. Visitors received a piece of rope as a souvenir when they had taken part in hands-on activities in the ropery. Other suggestions were ‘Cake’ at Colne Valley Museum where baking scones and bread, and making toast provides an enticing atmosphere for visitors to enjoy. The Tank Museum had noticed that some visitors travelled long distances, and for them the entrance fee was a small proportion of the total cost of their visit. So they developed a premium ticket online costing between £70 and £100 which gave the customer extras like a meal, access to curators and exclusive access to parts of the collection. In the first year all 400 tickets sold, the project is now being refined further.  AIM magazine August 2012.

Have you come across any interesting suggestions?