Local History News - Number 108 - Summer 2013

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1. Denmark  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby has been travelling again

In early May I attended a local history conference at Haraldskær in Denmark, at the invitation of a truly splendid organisation called the Kjems Fondens [Foundation], a local history charity founded by Herlof Kjems Hansen (1912-2007). He was born into a poor family, the youngest and (as he put it, 'least') of nine children. His father died when Kjems Hansen was six, and his widowed mother, a piano teacher, raised her large family in Viborg. He became a teacher, never married, and had a life var præget af sparsom-melighed og nøjsomhed(the Danish sounds great and so does the English, for it means 'characterised by thrift and frugality'). The resulting sizeable fortune was given away in his lifetime as well as after his death: the foundation which bears his name was founded in 1989, when he gave 1.25 million krone (about £250,000) to the project for a local history organisation covering the counties of Viborg, Vejle and Aarhus in Jutland. With investments and a further legacy on the death of the founder the fund now has over 3 million krone at its disposal, and has given out very large sums towards research, exhibitions, publications, promotion and development of local history and related subjects in Denmark. Green with envy, one can only dream ...

The conference was concerned mainly with assessing the current state of local history in Denmark, but comparative papers were given by speakers from Norway and Germany, and by me. This is preparatory to the publication of a book in 2014, which will also include papers from Sweden. The delegates included museum curators, archaeologists, retired and working archivists (including the Danish National Archivist), architectural and social historians, all of whom had a strong personal commitment to local history and to the aims of the foundation. It immediately struck me that in Britain we tend, consciously or unconsciously, to compartmentalise. Thus, the archive profession has little direct contact with historians (local or otherwise) unless individuals choose to make those links for personal interest. In Denmark it is simply presumed, and generally understood as an obvious necessity, that the different disciplines and professions work closely together - and in many instances are obliged by law to do so - and that all will as a matter of course work collaboratively with local groups, societies, parish and town councils and interested individuals to further the cause of local history, conservation and heritage.

Time and again I was struck by the fact that this was taken as a given - there was no need to labour the point, or to proclaim collaboration as a discovery, because everybody did it and always had done. Some of the delegates looked back to the emergence of this pattern in the Scandinavian countries and I think it's probably fair to say that it is inextricably linked with the setting down of the principles of social democracy in Norway, Sweden and Denmark between the wars. The inherent belief that all should have access to educational resources, the high quality of secondary education, and the powerful sense in all three countries that over-centralisation was undesirable both created a framework within which local history could flourish, and also empowered communities and individuals in a way which was much more problematic, or well nigh impossible, in Britain.

Denmark, like Norway and Sweden, has numerous local history and heritage societies, and of course that is very familiar to us too. But in those countries such societies are integrated with the work of the local and national governments in a way which is rare on this side of the North Sea. It is easy to idealise such a circumstance, and of course there are many problems and challenges (for instance, the changing political complexion of Scandinavia, where social democracy is no longer supreme, and inevitably the vicissitudes of funding as economic problems become apparent - though not in oil-rich and notably enlightened Norway). But I came away with the feeling that, as Horatio didn't put it, 'something is healthy in the state of Denmark'.

As a footnote, the conference was held in a beautiful sixteenth century herrgard or manor house amid meadowland by a peaceful river. The building had been superbly extended, as only the Danes know how, to become a fine hotel, with pale woodwork, minimalist furniture, beautiful fabrics and delicious food, served on white china and exquisite glassware ... not quite like some of the conference accommodation I've been in over the years!

2. Schools In The First World War  Show more → Show less ↓

Tim Lomas writes th enext in our series on local history and World War One.

School life does not spring to mind as the most obvious theme when investigating World War I but it can give a different and interesting perspective on life at a local level during these turbulent years and the immediate aftermath. The Second World War has tended to prove a more fruitful ground for students of the Home Front but World War I is not without its fair share of publications. However, within the topic of the Home Front, the experiences of school seem to have received limited attention despite the fact that most headteachers continued to record day-to-day events especially through that rich source of educational history - the school log book. Other educational records such as managers' minute books, admission registers, letters, oral history and even children's work can cast an interesting angle on how the War impinged on daily life.

Such sources are relatively easy to access through local archives, and often through published histories of individual schools. The website also contains a wide range of extracts from school records, especially log books. Some such as Wolverhampton, Abberley in Worcestershire, Barham in Kent and Bottesford in Leicestershire contain discrete sections on World War 1.

A range of interesting questions can be asked which broaden our perspectives on the War and its impact - for example,

How far did the War impact on the daily lives of children? For example, were lessons altered? Were schools badly affected by local casualties, especially former pupils, and brothers, sisters, fathers and uncles of existing pupils? After all, it was estimated some 300,000 children lost their fathers. Was attendance affected? Is there any evidence that standards were affected?

Were there big differences between schools in different areas, eg. military, rural, urban, coastal places, and between different types of schools such as council, church and secondary schools?

How far was teaching life disrupted? Were schools badly affected by teachers being called up?

Was there any breakdown in discipline and worsening behaviour during the War years?

Were resources particularly stretched at this time?

How aware were those in schools of the reality of events?

How were schools able to contribute to the War effort?

Does the immediate post War period suggest that things had changed forever?

Education was not completely put on hold during the years of the War. For example, in England the government's Consultative Committee produced its Scholarship for Higher Education in 1916, the Secondary Schools Examination Council was established in 1917 and the Lewis Report recommended a school leaving age of 14 with no exceptions. The Fisher Act of 1918 was passed a couple of months before the Armistice and this extended educational provision, an increased role for the Board of Education, a school leaving age of 14 with provision beyond that, and greater concern for the health and physical well-being of children. A good summary of educational legislation can be found in Derek Gillard's Education in England: a brief history,available to download atwww.educationengland.org.uk/history.

Log books reveal a variable picture. What is perhaps surprising is the low key way in which the start of the War was noted in many school records. A number of log books omit this completely - perhaps an indication of the expectation that it would be over quickly with minimal disruption. Others are quick to take action following the outbreak of the War. For example, the entry for 19 August 1914 for Abberley noted that 'in accordance with the Circular from the Director, shirts and socks are being made for soldiers by the girls in needlework'. Likewise at Bottesford in Leicestershire, the headteacher recorded on November 20 that 'the scholars have formed a branch of the Guild of Young Patriots. They subscribe towards the purchase of wool and the girls make body-belts, mittens and socks. They are practising for an entertainment in aid of the funds'.

Log books indicate that a majority of schools were involved in the war effort in some way. For instance, Sleaford Catholic School organised concerts for the war effort and the school billeted Belgian refugees, something of a local problem. Father William Lieber, the school manager, came into conflict with the school staff on a range of issues at the time including the misuse of the school premises for dances, excrement from his dog, his dog knocking over the head, and the freedom he allowed Belgium refugees during World War I to do as they liked.

Where many schools came into their own is in the range of charitable support given to the War effort - no easy thing in a wartime economy and in poor rural communities. At Mablethorpe, charities supported the blind, orphans and the Jack Cornwell charity. At Bottesford, charities supported in 1916 alone included Jack's Orange Day (fresh fruit for sailors), eggs for the wounded, Comforts for the Lincolnshire Yeomanry, Leicester Military Hospital, the Distressed People of Belgium, the Overseas Club Fund for Prisoners of War, Leicestershire Children's Hospital, Prisoners of War (Leicestershire) and the Lord Lieutenant's Fund for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors. At Abberley on 25 October 1917 the school received a visit from an inspector to see if the school could not 'fall into line with other schools and start a War Savings Association'. The same school had earlier raised money for the "Fund for Wounded Horses".

Osgodby in Lincolnshire, a school renowned for its experimental work, provided produce for the war effort. In June 1916, for example, it 'sent 58 cabbages for the use of naval men'. In July 222 cabbages, and the following April it sent 80 eggs. At Sausthorpe, the log book records for 4 February 1915 that 'Mrs Swan asked children to knit woolly garments for soldiers in the Lincolnshire Regiment; the girls and boys have given up playtimes and as many lessons as possible to knit' .

The War impinged on Hemingby School, Lincolnshire, on 2 October 1916 when 'half the children were absent, no doubt suffering from the effects of the early morning Zeppelin raid over certain fields in the parish'. Markby School nearby was closed temporarily in March 1915 as the building was needed for billeting soldiers. War was occasionally used as an excuse. For example, at Fleet Wood Lane the log entry for 16 April 1915 recorded that 'quite a number of children have been away potato picking - there seems to be a feeling in the village that owing to the War and the scarcity of labour, no notice or very little will be taken of children kept from school to work in the fields'. However, there was no question that school pupils were absent more than usual for the duration of the War. At Abberley it was noted on 20 September 1915 that 'summer holiday is extended to September 27th on account of the Harvest. Labour being scarce many boys are employed'.

Staff were affected as well as the needs of the military took hold. At Barham in Kent, for example, the log book records how on 4 November 1914 'Mr H Baylis returned to duties this morning having failed to pass the Army Medical'but it was stated on 13 March 1917 that 'Mr Baylis having been called for Military Services, the school is without an Assistant Master'. The needs of the war effort also led to entries such as that for Abberley which noted that 'children aged 4 to be admitted until after the War'. The saddest impact related to loss which affected schools very directly. For example, the headteacher of Swinderby for 10 April 1916 commented 'we have received news this morning of the death of our son, Private J Easton who was killed on 4 April while in the trenches somewhere in France'.

There is evidence of patriotism in many schools although it never seemed excessive. Nevertheless, the entry for Bottesford noting 'this afternoon the scholars held a little Empire Day celebration - national and patriotic songs were sung and the flag saluted', was not untypical. The end of the War often led to some celebration, as at Sausthorpe when on 11 November 1918: 'the mail carriage brought us the news that fighting had ceased at 11.00 and that there was peace. Lessons not taken in the afternoon, children and teachers being too excited. Children sang patriotic songs and marched around the playground'.

However, the impact did not stop there. Whilst the politicians were perhaps more keen on continuity rather than change, the War did change education. A particularly good analysis of this is Geoffrey Edgar Sherrington's doctoral thesis (Open Access Dissertation and Paper 842 athttp://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/opendissertations/842) which indicates that the War drew attention to the need for greater scientific and technical instruction as well as highlighted pre-war deficiencies and forced some inevitable change of attitude.

Impact was felt at local level in other ways. The flu epidemic took its toll; for instance, attendance at Barham on 18 November 1918 was stated to be 'very, very low' and a scholar and one of the school managers was amongst the victims. There were often teacher shortages and sometimes those returning had been affected by the War. For example, Nora Smith recording her time at Stickford School in Lincolnshire recalled how ' Mr Bell had been gassed in the War and often would not be himself. The only time I was caned was when he had one of his days. He would then fall asleep and we would not be well behaved. The headmaster would appear. Mr Bell would then wake up and all would be well'.

These examples provide just some instances of how the War impinged upon a wide section of the population - its children and their families - and it is often possible through the continuity of records to see the unfolding picture, often at a very personal level. If there is a central message that seems to emerge it is the dedication and commitment of a large number of teachers, managers and officials in trying to keep educational provision as normal as possible through these troubled years.

Tim Lomas is Chair of the BALH and until recently principal inspector with the CfBT Education Service.

3. Women And Wartime Charitable Work  Show more → Show less ↓

Simon Fowler adds to the topic


Women during the First World War did much more than just make munitions - important though this was to the war effort. Nearly 100,000 joined the armed services, for example, relieving men so that they could be sent to the front.

But their greatest involvement was in voluntary activities. Perhaps two million women ran charities, sold flags, knitted bandages or collected for local prisoners of war. Many of whom were middle aged and middle class who chose this way to show their support for ultimate Allied victory.

Academics have traditionally been dismissive of their effort. Arthur Marwick, for example, wrote that this was 'private charity of a type more suited to the world of Blandings Castle than to the waging of a modern war.'

Yet, contemporaries across the political spectrum were certain that these women had played a large part in Britain's victory. Sir Edward Ward, the War Office's Director General of Voluntary Organisations, who co-ordinated much of their work, wrote in his final report that:

When the official history of the Great War is written there will be no more illuminating page than that which records the noble self-sacrifice of the great band of workers at home whose privilege it has been take their share and play their part in ministering to the needs of their army, and in having fulfilled their task loyally, faithfully and in full measure.

At least 16,000 new charities were formed specifically to help the war effort. Most were very small - sending comforts to colleagues in the forces from a particular factory or parish. This effort seems to have been strongest in the industrial areas of Yorkshire and South Wales, perhaps reflecting close-knit communities.

Often they began to meet a perceived need that was not being met by the authorities . Mrs Stephenson, the wife of a retired colonel in the Essex Regiment endeavoured to look after the forty-five men of the Regiment made prisoners of war in the retreat from Mons in September 1914: 'As their addresses became known personal friends and relations sent parcels to them, and by the end of the year, with the help of a few friends, I was sending parcels to those men I happened to hear of.'

And in Kentish Town, Mrs Matthews, the wife of chemist, collected 30s a week from neighbours for food parcels for prisoners of war.

National charities also had local branches. Of particular interest is Queen Mary's Needlework Guild, which supplied bandages and other goods to hospitals. By the end of the war there were nearly three thousand local branches and 400,000 volunteers engaged in this aspect of the war effort. Incredibly, they made 88 million items of clothing, including 1.7m mufflers and 1.5m pairs of mittens. A member Mrs C.S. Peel recollected that:

We knitted socks (some of them of unusual shape), waistcoats, helmets, comforters, mitts, body belts. We knitted at theatres, in trains and trams, in parks and parlours, in the intervals of eating in restaurants, of serving in canteens…. It was said that such a stock of knitted goods flooded into the trenches that men cleaned their rifles and wiped their cups and plates with their surplus socks and comforters.

The greatest of the charitable institutions established during the war was the Star and Garter Home to care for paralysed and disabled ex-servicemen. It was set up as a result of an appeal made by Queen Mary. Indeed she and her husband - King George V - formally dedicated the Home as the Women's Memorial of the War in July 1924.

Money was raised for it by the British Women's Hospital Committee whose members had largely been members of the pre-war Actresses' Franchise League. Their appeals stressed the feminine nature of the work. Advertisements contained the phrase: 'You as a British woman are given the opportunity of helping to found this useful and lasting tribute to our brave men now hopelessly disabled.'

It is difficult to calculate the contribution made women in voluntary organisations to the war effort. There is no doubt that charities sent millions of cigarettes and hundreds of thousands of knitted mufflers to 'Tommy' at the front and Jack in the Prisoner of War camps.

But perhaps most important of all, charitable effort gave women, who otherwise could support the war, a chance to demonstrate their patriotism and offer practical support for the war effort.

In Burton-upon-Trent Lillie Thomas, the wife of a local merchant, was moved by the plight of the wives of local men taken prisoner from whom either nothing had been heard or had received letters about the poor treatment their men had received. Having established that these men received no support from other sources in February 1915 she 'resolved to make the care of these and subsequent prisoners my 'little bit' of war work' and sent each of them a food parcel. During the war she and her committee eventually sent out nearly 26,000 parcels to Burton men.

We know very little about these charities or these women who spent so much time, effort and money. Their work has almost been forgotten. This is a pity because they offer a unique insight into the First World War as seen from the 'Home Front' as well as the strong links which remained between the men at the front and their communities back in 'Blighty'.

Simon Fowler is a professional historian and writer. He studied voluntarism during the First World War for a PhD thesis.

4. Leeds Legacy Of War Project  Show more → Show less ↓

Kate Vigurs

The Legacies of War Centenary project is run by colleagues at the University of Leeds who have research interests in different aspects of the First World War. Members of the Legacies of War project participate in, and help coordinate, a series of events and activities that will take place across Leeds in 2014-18 in theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries and at the University. These events will commemorate and explore different histories of the First World War, and will examine its multiple historical, cultural and social legacies. The result will be an exciting and varied programme that responds to widespread public interest in this crucial period of our history.

The research and activities are structured around five strands: Yorkshire and the Great War, Culture and the Arts, Science and Technology, War and Medicine, and War and Resistance. Many centenary research projects and activities will use the Liddle collection, housed at the University.

Legacies of War projects have been funded by the Wellcome Trust, Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as by the University of Leeds. In 2012 we were awarded funding under the AHRC/HLF 'Research for Community Heritage' scheme. 21 universities and museums were funded under this scheme and the aim was to support community-led heritage research projects focused on the Centenary of the First World War (in the hope some would submit successful HLF bids to the 'All Our Stories' scheme).

Phase two funding was awarded early in 2013 for our connected communities projects. There are two projects currently running under of this scheme. FirstlyDiscovering First World War Heritage led by Professor Alison Fell with Dr Kate Vigurs as project manager and post-doctoral researcher alongside Dr Jessica Meyer. This project aims to support and enhance six Heritage Lottery Funded 'All Our Stories' projects, which have the First World War as a sole or partial focus. These include The Wartime Hospital at Beckett's Park led by Headingley Litfest, which will increase interest in local history and inspire new literary and dramatic works. Lawnswood's Great War Stories will result in cemetery tours, and performances based on research findings. Liverpool Museums are developing a museum exhibition calledBlack Families and the First World War, and descendants of black First World War veterans will be encouraged to research their own personal histories.

Snowgoose Writers Community project is called Unheard Voices: The Civilian Experience of the First World War in Yorkshire and will use research findings to produce new literary and dramatic works. Thorner Community Archivewill investigate the village Memorial Hall, and encourage residents to trace their families' own personal war stories. Lastly, Talking Treasure at Craven Museum and Gallery aims to help local residents gain a new understanding of their heritage and history. We have led training sessions in the Liddle collection, research sessions in the National Archives, and military history and genealogy training.

The second project is Leeds in the Great War led by Professor Alison Fell and project- managed by Anna Wiseman. One of the key ways communities engage with the heritage of the First World War is through uncovering local stories to understand the war as an international conflict. This project aims to reveal how the war touched the everyday life, communal politics, social relations, culture and values of citizens who inhabited their street, town or region in 1914-18. And the traces, memories, monuments, documents and culture the war left behind, along with ways in which the mass displacement of populations during the war brought contact with those of different social groups, nationalities and ethnicities.

Outputs will include short films or radio broadcasts on several aspects of Leeds life in WW1, including the Tetley brewery, Barnbow munitions factory, Belgian refugees, and Leeds wartime hospitals.

Legacies of war has two websiteshttp://arts.leeds.ac.uk/legaciesofwar andwww.legaciesofwar.co.uk, as well as accounts on twitter @legaciesofww1 and facebook legaciesofwar .


5. BALH Awards 2013  Show more → Show less ↓

Profile of Hugh Beavin

Hugh Beavin has recently retired from two key roles in the historical life of Hinckley, in Leicestershire. Both the local history group and the museum have had to find a new chairman.

Hugh was born in Bromley Kent, a 'Kentish Man'. His father was a scientist and a keen amateur historian. In 1953 the family moved to Farnborough, Hampshire, as Mr Beavin senior had been appointed to a post at the Royal Aircraft Establishment. Hugh attended Farnborough Grammar School where his new history teacher, Mr Eversfield, was a young Cambridge historian whose style of teaching with an emphasis on local history provided a stimulus for many boys. It was the influence of father and schoolmaster which began a lifelong interest in local history. Aged sixteen, Hugh Beavin joined Farnborough Local History Group and at the next AGM became the treasurer. Activities with the group expanded his local knowledge and also brought him into contact with many other local historians.

After graduating from Sheffield University, Hugh Beavin spent time at universities in Canada, and married fellow Sheffield graduate Jill. They returned to England, and Hugh began teaching in Portsmouth where he found an emphasis on local history at Southern Grammar School for Boys. The Beavins became active members of Fareham Local History Group, and Hugh wrote a number of articles for Fareham Past & Present.

Another move in 1973 took them to Leicestershire. As well as school teaching, working in a Community College gave the opportunity to offer an adult course on 'Techniques in Local History'. From this grew the new Hinckley Local History Group of which Hugh became chairman. In 1977 they began publishing The Hinckley Historian with him as editor. He had also become head of the history department and gradually introduced local history into the curriculum. A number of the students became keen members of Group and several submitted articles to the Hinckley Historian and saw their work in print for the first time. The Book of Hinckley by Hugh Beavin was published in 1983. Jill later became secretary of Hinckley Local History Group.

Hugh Beavin's continuing interest in encouraging young people into local history took another turn when he was involved in a publication for the Young Historian Scheme of the Historical Association. 'The History and Development of the Hosiery Industry in Leicestershire', a framework knitting archive unit, was sent to all secondary schools in the county in 1991. At that point, just over 400 years after Lee's invention of the stocking frame in 1589, hosiery was still a major Leicestershire industry. Sadly today it is of much less significance!

In 1991 a group of enthusiasts was formed with the objective of establishing a museum in Hinckley. Hugh Beavin was the chairman for two years, a role he resumed a little later on retirement from full time teaching. Hinckley & District Museum opened to the public for the first time in 1996, housed in seventeenth century framework knitters' cottages in the town. He was involved in many exhibitions there, and in 2000 publishedThe Centenary History of Hinckley Cottage Hospital.

The Hinckley Local History Group has now merged with the museum so the local history legacy remains in safe hands and, as Hugh Beavin has written, 'a well perceived past remains a preface to future progress'.

With thanks to Hugh Beavin, Greg Drozdz, Phillip Lindley and Ann Crabtree

6. Staffordshire Hoard  Show more → Show less ↓



Margaret O'Sullivan

When 3,500 pieces of Anglo-Saxon treasure were found in a field in Staffordshire in 2009 by a metal detectorist, it was anticipated that more might still lie underground. This prediction came true in November 2012 when a field archaeology team from the West Midlands uncovered eighty-one additional pieces in the same location. These were valued at £57,395. Almost as soon as this was announced, the long-established London family jewellery business of Wartski generously donated the total amount to purchase these items and reunite them with the remainder of the Staffordshire Hoard. The firm, established in 1865, are jewellers specialising in antique goldsmiths' work and jewellery.

Geoffrey Munn, on behalf of the Wartski board said: "Both the Chairman of Wartski, Nicholas Snowman, and I are thrilled to have a chance of securing the future of what can only be described as Staffordshire's Tutankhamun. The hoard is a uniquely important part of England's heritage, striking at the heart of our national DNA, and consequently its preservation was imperative."

The news of Wartski's donation comes soon after Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery - which leads on the conservation of the Anglo-Saxon artefacts - announced the award of a £700,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help build a permanent gallery for the Staffordshire Hoard.

Birmingham City Council and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, joint owners of the Hoard, continue to work in partnership with Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council to ensure the story of the Staffordshire Hoard is told across the West Midlands region as part of the Staffordshire Hoard Mercian Trail.

For more information, see:www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk

7. Behind The Scenes At Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records  Show more → Show less ↓

Rav Teji and Zoran Klasnic

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service celebrates one hundred years of caring for local records this year. Have you ever wondered what happens behind the scenes when you visit a record office? Rav Teji, searchroom assistant, and Zoran Klasnic, stackroom assistant, tell all.

Rav Teji: I usually arrive into the office at least 15 minutes before we are due to open at 9am. Before we can let the searchers in I make sure everything is ready for when the doors open, including turning on all the equipment such as the photocopiers, computers and microfilm/fiche readers.

My typical day begins with checking my emails for new enquiries that have come in over night; they could be from anywhere in the world from Australia to the U.S.A and can be very varied, covering every subject from asbestos to witchcraft. I try to make a start on these as soon as I can before the hordes of searchers come bounding into the searchroom. We pride ourselves on our efficiency and aim to turn enquiries around within two days.

It can be very hectic in the searchroom as I try to juggle my ever increasing mailbox of enquiry work with trying to help the searchers find the information they’re after. One of my main responsibilities is the invigilation of the searchroom. It is of the utmost importance to ensure that no documents come to harm whilst in use. The searchers certainly keep me on my toes as a lot of bad handling can happen unwittingly - a document lent on, a book opened too far - so where possible I help set the document up so that it is handled as little as possible, making use of book rests, snake weights to hold papers open, and melinex to cover maps.

Once a searcher identifies what they’d like to look at an order ticket is filled out and sent up to the stackroom. Zoran, our stackroom assistant, continues the story.

Well, I have a target of five minutes to produce the required documents. The document location wall chart needs to be checked first, then I need to find the right stack, shelf, map tube or drawer. Speed and accuracy is essential, but care of the deposited material in terms of handling and packaging is also paramount. We’ve around two miles of shelving end-to-end including material dating back nine hundred years - from criminal cases at Quarter Sessions, to letters from the gentry, wills, even a typed letter from Ian Fleming on the topic of Dr No. Charles Darwin is another illustrious letter writer to be found in our stacks.

The spectre of Dr. Fowler, founding father of England’s first record office looms large – one cannot escape his influence as many local documents are here as a result of his efforts. All Bedfordshire’s history is present, from enclosure documents to Second World War ARP minutes, school attendance records and immigrant brick workers’ reminiscences. During relatively quieter periods any new collections sent up need to be carefully checked against our online database records to ensure accuracy. Material subsequently shelved must be labelled clearly and the stack end marked accordingly. My job may be low tech rather than high, but the need to balance the long-term preservation of the material with the immediate wants of physical and cyber space users is the ultimate aim.

Once located, the documents are sent down in the small lift accompanied by the press of a buzzer. It can be hectic, sometimes less so, but you’re always conscious of the cultural and historical importance of the job you’re undertaking.

8. History For Art's Sake  Show more → Show less ↓

Steven Hobbs

Wiltshire Council's Arts Service is now based at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre under the same management as its Archives and Local Studies Service. As a result an interesting collaborative project has been set up. Storybox aims to stimulate and encourage creative responses to archives by artists and writers. They are presented with examples of documents which illustrate past lives but also the types of materials and styles of record keeping, with the aim to inspire and encourage authenticity. Advice on sources is also offered, to encourage individual research. The selection of material includes probate documents, letters, diaries, court and Poor Law records, as well as medieval manuscripts used as covers and a crudely drawn map on parchment.

A few days before the first session we received some material from the Adult Services department which seemed to fit the bill so well: a tin deed box containing the personal effects of inmates who died in local public assistance institutions or the lunatic asylum at Devizes in the 1930's and which had been unclaimed presumably because no relatives were forthcoming. They comprised items of personal jewelry, watches, penknives etc and papers, letters and bank or savings books. Those of Annie Taylor from Warminster included papers of her father John, who was born in the nearby parish of Corsley in 1820 and served as a Royal Marine in the Crimean war and abroad over many years. He tried, without success, to obtain a pension. Among his evidence he stated that his father John, had been pressed into the army while ploughing, and served in the 66th regiment in the Peninsular War. Thus Annie's story encompassed over 100 years of family and social history. This was not to everyone's taste and one writer expressed the view that it was a sentimental distraction; but this is all about creative personal responses, which can be wide ranging.

Reactions to the project have been positive and we feel that this new development is of potential value in widening the reach of archives. I found it stimulating and intriguing to see the responses of artists to the format of the material, as opposed to its content; I was particularly fascinated to see one artist who concentrated on the blemished surface of the parchment map which became to her a landscape itself of which she made a series of detailed small sketches.

While it seems clear that archives will remain primarily an primary historical resource it is important to encourage the instinctive emotional, as opposed to the analytical, response that they are capable of provoking.

In my last piece (LHN 106) I wrote about parchment deeds and mused about the potential DNA database for sheep provided by skins over 800 years. A month or so later I learned that such thoughts were not at all fanciful, as a team of conservators had developed a non-invasive and non-destructive method for sampling parchment collagen to recover from it evidence that is otherwise concealed from us. Using mass-spectrometric analysis of the covers of some medieval volumes the animal origin (down to the specific species of deer in one case) had been identified and state of deterioration of parchment. Chris Webb, of the Borthwick Institute, York, has invited Archive Services offer material for a nationwide survey on a wider range of material. What had been little more than whimsical speculation on my part, in fact had a scientific basis!

9. Signatures From The Past  Show more → Show less ↓

Jan Shephard browsing church visitors' books

Lying forlorn in a chest in the belfry, were 3 church visitors' books. but the two volumes which attracted my interest most, covered 1912 to 1916. The Norman Priory Church of St Mary stands within the Roman walls of Portchester Castle. The church and ruined castle was a pleasant place to visit in the early twentieth century, either by train to the crenulated roofed station, or by bicycle, or by ferry from the Hard at Portsmouth. A tea room nearby in Castle Street and a market garden selling nosegays were the other attractions.

And came they did in surprising numbers, signing the book with address, sometimes with rank and some giving their reason for visiting. On August 3 rd 1914, a grandson of a guard stationed in the castle during the French war, signed his name. While in 1916, W.A.Hill of the Australian Army wrote: 'grandson of the late Mary Pharoah born in the Parish and christened in this church' but gave his address as Toronto! Others came as a group: the 36 members of the Southampton Library Society in July 1913 or a school party in 1916 with '33 scholars from St Jude's School, Southsea' or as a group of friends and married couples. But war was approaching and from the visitors' books, signs of the conflict were evident. The first sign of military 'occupation' are the 5 members of the Royal Field Artillery from the Drill Hall in Cosham in January 1915. Most took the act of signature seriously, mainly with pencil although there was evidence of the mauve lead and pen too, but some took it as a joke and gave their address as 'give a dog a bone' and 'in sunset land'. Six signatures were recorded on August 4th, the day war was declared. Thereafter the armed forces are mentioned frequently; especially the Royal Army Medical Corps, first mentioned from Queen Alexander Hospital in June 1915; other hospitals in the area included Haslar and Netley (now demolished but once a huge hospital beside the Solent). The position of the battalions can also be gauged from this record: members of the Tyne Electrical RE based in Gosport with their search light came for a visit, presumably on their day off. The books give glimpses of the military preparations in the area. The Army Service Corps Mechanical transport members, along with the 2/9 (Cyclist) Bn Hampshire Regt, came to St Mary's. Other regiments based in the area were the 13thBn London Regt (Kensington), the 14th Bn Royal Worcestershire Regt, the 3rd Royal Berkshire and Hampshire RE. Occasionally where these regiments were based are mentioned, the local RE in Fort Southwick or Fort Elson and the New Barracks in Gosport and the RM College in Greenwich.

Nurses came too for on June 25th 1916, H. Fricker from Auckland arrived; she was one of the few from the New Zealand Army Nursing Service in the UK at the time. The Queen Alexander Imperial Military Nursing Reserve Service was also represented in 1915 by 2 nurses. The addresses or homeland filed gave evidence of the growing world conflict. They came from Geneva, Germany, France, Wales, Jersey, USA and even Cairo and Madras but a large contingent came from the colonies: Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. But Francis Willis, on June 5th 1916, gave his address very poignantly as 'somewhere in France' while another as 'Gravelines'.

The Senior Service was well represented especially as Portsmouth was the home of the British navy. The ships mentioned included: HMS Gloucester, HMS Argonaut, HMS Excellent, HMS Redoubtable, HMS Vernon, HMS Victory, HMS Paragon and the HMS Dockyard, Portsmouth. Others gave their rank: Trumpeter, Sub Lieutenant, Able Seaman, Sapper, Sergeant, Second Lieutenant and Corporal. A single piece of paper hidden at the back of the first book was headed Roll of Honour with just one name: Lieutenant Commander E.P. Gabbett 'whose name is amongst the list of missing, after the sinking of HMS Cressy' No more names were added to this list but the effects of war touched Portchester very soon after declaration.

What use could be made of these pages of names and dates? The battle ships mentioned could be followed into engagements. The regiment's war time history could be traced so too with the soldiers' names. But one name intrigued me, Lulu Goldup, she actually visited twice and signed both times! She came with some Canadian soldiers from Alberta and following it up, it was found she had lived in Gosport and these fellows were her cousins. She marries one of her cousins but not one of those she had taken to St Mary's. Her husband, Frank was taken prisoner and was eventually exchanged because of TB but ultimately lived to a ripe old age in the States while Lulu, having married and gone to Canada, returned home to Gosport with her little daughter.

Such books could provide a lead to other interesting family stories, for example what did Alengeorge Jennings, who gave his address as the Royal Mews Buckingham Palace, do during the war. Lord C Maddicks is intriguing too; and who was M.P.J. Smith BP Scout?

Visitors' Books can provide another source for research; so long as they survived the vicar's turnout!

10. Bidford On Avon  Show more → Show less ↓

a mini book review


Bidford & District History Society 2013
ISBN 978 0 9575790 0 2 £7.50

Village histories benefit greatly if there is a landmark on which to base the structure of what otherwise might appear to be a somewhat motley collection of bits and pieces.

Bidford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire between Stratford-on-Avon and Evesham, was transformed in the 1970s by the construction of a relief road, and this volume explores the lives of the community before that happened. Based largely on a substantial oral history project that trawled the memories of old Bidfordians, the history society's team have succeeded in putting together a detailed and evocative picture. The illustrations include a wonderful selection of cartoons, as well as advertisements, scenic postcards and personal photographs recording special events. JH

12. BALH Awards 2013  Show more → Show less ↓

for personal achievement

● Hugh Beavin, Leicestershire: retiring this year as chairman of Hinckley Local History Group and as chairman of Hinckley & District Museum, after many years actively promoting local history in the area

● Derek Denman, Cumbria: the driving force behind the Lorton & Derwentfells Local History Society becoming one of the leading groups in Cumbria; he has developed a significant personal reputation as an independent scholar

● Michael Hall, West Midlands: as chairman of the Francis Brett Young Society, inspiring audiences of all ages to appreciate that author and the local history contained in his novels; other local history work on the history of Primitive Methodism and the history of nail-making

● Peter Keene, Oxfordshire: the long-serving publications officer of Longworth & District History Society who has researched and written on the district's history himself and also encouraged others to share their work in print

● Graham Nutt, Derbyshire: representing The Magic Attic, a flourishing local resource base run to professional standards by a team of volunteers, that aims to inspire research and enthusiasm for the history of their community

for a society newsletter

● Friern Barnet & District Local History Society

for research and publication

● [winner] Ian Hancock, 'The Irish gent and his strumpet: the story of Hercules Burleigh' ( Hexham Historian: journal of the Hexham Local History Society no.12, August 2012, pp.35-54)

●John Hutchings, 'Land, labour and parish wellbeing in rural North Bedfordshire: what can be learned from the 1901 census' ( Journal of the Colmworth & Neighbours History Society no.1, November 2011, pp.15-280

●Maureen K. Noddings, 'The growth and development of hospital nursing care in the two Hull workhouses c.1845-1930' ( The East Yorkshire Historian: the journal of the East Yorkshire Local History Society vol.13, 2012, pp.11-35)

●Ian Ryder, 'Social investigations in early Victorian Rutland: part 1 The state of education' ( Rutland Record: journal of the Rutland Local History and Record Societyno.31, 2011, pp.16-27)

●Mary South, 'Homophobia in eighteenth-century Southampton' ( Hampshire Studies: proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society vol.66, 2011, pp.187-200)

●[short article winner] Natalie Burton, 'The establishment and organisation of civil defence operations in Berkshire '(Berkshire Old and New: journal of the Berkshire Local History Association no.29, 2012, pp.32-44)

●Bryan Beggs, 'The Charity Trustees of Andover' ( Look Back at Andover: journal of the Andover History and Archaeology Society vol.3 no.3, September 2012, pp.98-111)

●David Ritchie, 'A very Edinburgh riot: the John Cormack phenomenon' (Scottish Local History no.83, Summer 2012, pp.22-28)

●Alan Thomson, 'Cartage in Jacobean Hertfordshire: the king's prerogative or an unfair tax' (Herts Past and Present3 rd ser. no.19 Spring 2012, pp.16-22)

●Keith Walker, 'Where was Sailor's Island: an exploration of Lydney's historic shoreline' ( New Regard: the journal of the Forest of Dean Local History Societyno.26, 2012, pp.6-15)

13. Local History Day 2013  Show more → Show less ↓

Paul Anderton's annual overview

London puts on its best weather for Local History Day. This year was no exception. Our organising team continue to arrange a programme full of interest, unobtrusively managed with skill, and successfully serving the purposes of our organisation. The stress is on 'our' because it is the membership which ultimately determines the effectiveness of a collective body in achieving objectives. Do we do enough as individuals to make success certain? Are we too satisfied that it's sufficient to pay the subscription and file the journals, but find the effort to participate in face to face activities just a touch unnecessary? 

More than one hundred turned up to virtually fill the hall at a new venue for us, the Charity Centre, most conveniently situated for those arriving at Euston station. It provided pleasantly furnished accommodation and a stress free atmosphere. Our first treat was an exploration of a contemporary concern in a remote historical setting. Dr Jonathan Mackman, a Research Fellow at York University involved in the England's Immigrants 1330-1550 project, reported on the methodology and sources employed in the initial stages of this massive inquiry. It is said to be difficult to keep track of all who arrive on our shores today when our computing technology is well refined, but attempting this task for the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries almost defies the imagination. Of course, it's the very existence of computers which allows the task to be attempted, and the first step is the database. Dr Mackman described the process of transcribing and collating the manuscript and printed sources, principally taxation records and the letters of denization issued to foreigners wishing to settle and trade in England. In theory, the bureaucratic structures and procedures requiring immigrants to pay annual levies, the Alien Subsidies and a succession of Poll Taxes, was fully established. The paperwork generated was astonishingly detailed in some instances. For example, the Westminster Roll, in the 1540s, contains about 2,500 names of people in the south and western areas of England, with wide ranging information on aspects of their lives. Lists of tax payers are even more rewarding to researchers, a series held at Kew running from 1440 to 1487 being especially helpful. Much interest lies in those exempted from time to time - the Welsh and monks, but not the Irish, who appear to have been special targets for the tax authorities. Huge problems of enforcement and in collection of cash by the Treasury render the task of scholars extremely difficult. Clearly, local officials could be lax and even fraudulent in imposing the rules and reporting their accounts. Nevertheless, previous estimates of the numbers of immigrants settled or trading for short periods in England can now be revised upwards five-fold at least. The variety of places of origin, apart from the Scots, Irish and Welsh, is disguised somewhat by the inexact terminology of the day - Dutchmen can clearly include Germans, Scandinavians are not very specifically differentiated, but it's the number of Icelanders which present a major puzzle. Among other points which Dr Mackman emphasised was the failure of poll taxes and levies on foreigners to be a fruitful revenue source. Some counties made laughable returns of collection totals. It is also doubtful as to how far efforts made to tax were as much a means of control and watch over the activities of foreigner as they were designed to fill royal coffers. One might well ask the question why successive royal administrations, including those of Henry VII and his son, ever bothered to tax immigrants. Their attempts to do so enable historians now to place current issues into a wider perspective, and provide a whole new reservoir of names for family and local historians to conjure with. 

As Dr Tim Lomas, our welcoming chairman, said the AGM is a bit of a thorn between two roses, but the despatch of business by Professor David Hey takes the sting away. All passed through according to plan. The same can be said of the Awards Ceremonies, except that this is the heart of the whole organisation. The names and achievements of the fifteen individuals and one local society recognised for long service, publications and contributions to knowledge are recorded elsewhere. The mere recital of activities promoted, books produced, societies organised and the assiduousness of devotion to the cause of historical studies which accompanied each award is impressive and entirely appropriate to the occasion. Dr Evelyn Lord, who retires from selecting the society newsletter of the year, noted previous holders of this accolade, and Dr Alan Crosby announced a new move to encourage more investigations into medieval worlds and early modern periods. A prize of £150 is to be offered for successful articles appropriate for publication in The Local Historian. 

In the last session of the day Professor Malcolm Chase plunged into the serious business of defending the notion that it was 'the local state' which saved Britain from revolution in 1820. This was a conclusion he opposed to Shelley's analysis of monarchical rule in his poem 'England in 1819'. For an audience of local historians this was manna from heaven. National government was in turmoil in many respects, and this was more than the affair of Queen Caroline as a rejected royal consort, a conspiracy in Cato Street and a debt-laden government looking to reduce spending. Contemporaries frequently bewailed the increasing gulf in society between the major strata and growing problems of poverty. Revolutions on the continent provided potential inspiration to home grown radicals, and street crime was thought to have increased three fold in fifteen years. That which held society together was a religious bond, the pragmatism of social deference and reforms in parish government. Not that it was piety and religious observance as such which mattered, rather it was the form of church organisation, the widespread use of clergymen as magistrates and the social conformism of the Methodist movement which glued society into a unit. Lord Lieutenants and JPs formed the backbone of local government in contrast to Ireland, for instance, where the landowners were the enemy of the populace. Above all, perhaps it was at parish level that the most powerful social adhesive was found. Here Professor Chase swept aside the ancient chartered boroughs as insignificant; Improvement Commissions and Select Vestries, Turnpike Trusts and even Courts Leet were responsible for the administration of the rapidly enlarging urban and industrialised aggregations of Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and their ilk. They were the new political arenas, and they drew the middling classes into local government to fill the void left by a retreating aristocracy. For Professor Chase much turned on the success of reforms to parish government, notably the Sturges Bourne Acts. Again he drew contrasts with Ireland. His argument was supported by rich swathes of evidence from London and Leeds, his dismissal of the state as an effective suppressive force and his appeal to paternalism as an effective social bond. By implication he challenged local historians throughout the land to prove him right, or qualify his claims. He could scarcely have done better given the purpose of the day. 

Two qualifying thoughts occur following a most enjoyable and informative day. One which may be the result of a rather late tour of the room for societies and publishers was that their displays were disappointing in range and quantity. At least one local history fair comes to mind which is far more representative of the wealth of material flowing from societies. It's easier to see a gap than find a way of filling it. On the other hand, if the Association were to venture again to a more central venue such as Birmingham or Leeds, and establish a pattern of alternating the location of annual Local History Days between London and other major cities, parts might be refreshed which a fixed venue cannot reach. 

14. News From  Show more → Show less ↓



The National Archives : At a recent meeting of the TNA User Advisory Group there was a presentation on the 'Finding Archives' Project. The ultimate aim is to provide a single platform for users to access databases such as Archon, A2A, the National Register of Archives and the Manorial Documents Register. The project is at a very early stage. At present it appears to comprise layout changes to Archon, the directory of archives services with locations, contact details, etc. These were welcomed by UAG members. However, there was considerable potential concern about other elements of the proposals. Further information is awaited.

Two different religious archives have recently benefited from grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF):

Downside Abbey in Somerset is to receive £856,000 to open up its monastic library and archive collections through essential repairs to its 1970s library building, the creation of an electronic catalogue, and development of a digital strategy. Downside is the senior Benedictine monastic community in England. Originally founded at Douai in Northern France, the monastery's library and archives comprise about 450,000 volumes. Highlights include: Cardinal John Henry Newman's personal copy of the Bible, together with some of the earliest Bibles printed in English; an illuminated 14th-century Book of Hours and other medieval manuscripts; rare theological texts, and donated collections including works on sundials, birds, archaeology and local history, together with the archives of the English Benedictine Congregation dating back to the 17th century.

Once conservation work on the building is complete, exhibitions, guided tours and regular public access are planned to the books and archives of the community.

The second grant is to London-based Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide which will receive up to £1,000,000 from the HLF's Catalyst Endowments programme, conditional upon it raising a matching sum from private sources itself. The Holocaust Centre in Nottinghamshire was also awarded £500,000 under the same scheme, which aims to assist recipients to set up an endowment to support their long-term financial resilience.

Mendham Collection: Considerable controversy has resulted from the sale at Sotheby's of some medieval manuscripts, incunabula and early printed bibles from the Mendham collection on deposit at Canterbury Cathedral Library since 1984. The collection of about 5000 items was amassed by the clergyman and polemicist the Revd Joseph Mendham (1769-1856). After his death they were inherited by his nephew, the Revd John Mendham, whose widow subsequently placed the books at the disposal of Charles Hastings Collette, solicitor in Lincoln's Inn Fields, by whom a selection was made and presented to the Law Society of England. Separately, manuscripts concerned with the Council of Trent were presented to the Bodleian. With the change in the regulatory regime for solicitors, the Law Society has seen a substantial drop in membership and thus in its income. After the failure of negotiations for a private treaty sale of the Mendham Collection, the Law Society decided to auction about 300 of the more important items via Sotheby's. The first tranche was sold in early June 2013 and another group is expected to be auctioned later this year.

Many distinguished ecclesiastical historians have expressed concern at the dispersal of this collection and the University of Kent co-ordinated a strong public campaign and petition against the sale. Efforts to intervene with the Law Society by expert groups, including the Religious Archives Group, were unsuccessful. Queries about the Law Society's title to the material were referred to the Attorney General whose opinion was that the collection was not subject to a trust or any conditions. The requirement attached to a British Library grant for cataloguing the collection that it should not subsequently be dispersed proved no deterrent to the sale.

One consequence of this sale may well be an increased reluctance by archive and library services to accept material on deposit without explicit constraints on its subsequent withdrawal.

Thanks to Margaret O'Sullivan for the above items

Salopian Recorder is the newsletter of the Friends of Shropshire Archives. The main feature in the summer 2013 issue is a report of the project (funded by HLF and others, including the Friends) to catalogue the bailiffs' accounts for Shrewsbury from the 13th to the 17thcentury, in order to make them more accessible. The sumptuous feasts were very splendid: in August 1608 one included '5 shippe' '18 joynts of mutton' and '4 dussen of chickhenns', washed down with '5 gl of sacke', '12 gl of clarritt' and much more.www.shropshirearchives.org.uk

Lichfield Consistory Court Wills Index 1650-1700 is now available online via the National Wills Index. Between 1541 and 1836 the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry covered the entire counties of Stafordshire and Derbyshire, north Shropshire and north Warwickshire. The bishop had jurisdiction over probate in this area which was exercised through the Lichfield Consistory Court. This new index compliments the Lichfield Wills and Administrations 1516-1652 which already form part of the National Wills Index.

Surrey Parish Records 1538-1987 : over 2 million Surrey Church of England baptism, marriage and burial records are now available online on the Ancetsery.co.uk website. Visitors to Surrey History Centre can search for free, and members of Surrey libraries can access the material at any library in the county (as can library member sin many other counties). shs@surreycc.gov.uk

Picture Cheshire and Cheshire Image Bank have merged to form new Cheshire Image Bank, bringing together around 22,000 images from collections across the county. Photographs, prints, maps, and other historic images can be searched. There is a 'Can You Help?' feature where viewers can add information to the descriptions, and help solve the problem of 'mystery images'. www.cheshireimagebank.org.uk

15. News From  Show more → Show less ↓


Museum of English Rural Life is developing a new project 'Our Country Lives' which will transform the main galleries and the whole experience visitors have when they go to the museum, Progress can be followed on the newly-launched MERL blog for the project. They are also involved with 'Reading Connections' in association with Reading Museum, and there is another blog for following that. There is a link from the MERL website to their Flickr photostream which demonstrates the impact of making images available in that way. Their latest exhibition from the archives features the work of countryside photographer John Tarlton who worked from the 1950s to 1970s recording many aspects of country life. www.reading.ac.uk/merl/ www.blha.org.uk

The National Maritime Museum at Falmouth in Cornwall has been open for 10 years. They have welcomed 1.4 m visitors, baked 67,000 scones, and used 300,000 volunteer hours. Visitors have travelled over 35 m miles to reach the museum. An innovation this year has been the chance for people to take part on a series of traditional skills courses run by the Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis. www.nmmc.co.uk, www.aim-museums.co.uk www.boatbuildingacademy.com

Chertsey Museum has launched a new smart phone app that brings the past and present together on the streets of Chertsey. The app, available as a free download, enables users to access the Museum's collection of historic photographs of the town's shops and street scenes. Using GPS and an interactive map, users get a window on the past from the exact position where they are standing. The project has been funded by an HLF 'All Our Stories' grant. www.chertseymuseum.org

Not really a museum, but the weekend of 14 and 15 September will see the first Festival of Churches based in the Diocese of Hereford, with neighbours Diocese of Worcester and the Salop Archdeaconry of Lichfield Diocese. Working with the Shropshire & Herefordshire Churches Tourism Group and the local Historic Churches Trusts, over 200 parishes are expected to open their church doors, and there will be special exhibitions in many. Bus tours are being organised to take people to some of the more remote churches. Details can be found on the website www.festivalofchurches.co.uk

Trowbridge Museum is running a Festival of Textile and Weaving from 17 August to 16 November. The cloth industry had a huge impact on the town and it features prominently in the Museum's galleries. The Festival will display the work of contemporary textile artists and there are free craft activities for all. www.trowbridgemuseum.co.uk

16. News From  Show more → Show less ↓


Cinema memories: a new project at University College, London , has been launched looking at people's memories of going to the cinema in 1960s Britain, They are interested in how people remember cinema-going, the films they saw and the decade more generally. The questionnaire can be completed online; downloaded, printed and returned by post; or they can send out paper copies and freepost return envelopes. BALH members are very welcome to take part.http://www.ucl.ac.uk/cinemamemories (click on 'contribute your memories'), emailcinemamemories@ucl.ac.uk, phone 02076797960 or write to Dr Matthew Jones, Cultural Memories &British Cinema-going of the 1960s, Department of History, UCL, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT

A collaborative research project, Suburban Birmingham: spaces and places 1880-1960' from the University of Birmingham and the Arts & Humanities Research Council has a number of outcomes, not least the development of the new Birmingham History Galleries at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. There is a short film availablehttp://youtu.be/iwypSAk22gY

9 September is the closing date for this year's applications for University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education part-time courses in Archaeology, Historic Environment and Local History. Further details can be found at www.ice.cam,ac.uk/awards or emailenquiries@ice.cam.ac.uk

The Open University History Society is organising a weekend history seminar 'Church & State', 21-23 February 2014, at the Cotswold Conference Centre. Further information available from Sheila.smith@num.com

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has received a grant of £82,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to employ a Learning Officer for three years to work with Bedfordshire schools. They will work in all types of schools, primary and secondary, and will be in Luton 2013-14, Bedford Borough 2014-15, and Central Bedfordshire 2015-16. The archives service wealth of resources will be exploited for teaching subjects such as geography, RE and science as well as history.archive@bedford.gov.uk

Charlton Kings Local History Society's Research Bulletin 59 Spring 2013 contains a short article referring to a visit that took place in 2001. In that year their now Chairman had been invited to speak to a class of 8 year olds at Holy Apostles School in Battledown Approach. He subsequently received a package of delightful individual thank-you letters that reveal the excitement that the children felt about their local history - the development of place names, earlier uses of their site, bats in the Tower, with plenty of pictures and small personal stories.www.charltonkings.org.uk

Martin School, East Finchley , is celebrating its centenary in 2013. With the support of the HLF All Our Stories programme they are exploring the history of the school and its place in the community. Amongst these activities, there has been an 'archaeological dig'. Hendon and District Archaeological Society conducted an informal resistivity survey in the school playing field, and a timetable of events was drawn up for the school's History Week. They would show Year 3 pupils (and other interested children and adults) what is involved in a dig - from looking at maps, identifying local find spots, laying out a formal grid for surveying to digging a test pit and washing and interpreting their finds. They children enjoyed themselves, the test-pits more or less corresponded with the resistivity results, and a surprise deep-buried wall feature was found that will merit further investgation.www.hadas.org.uk

17. Launch of the New VCH Volume for Staffordshire Show more → Show less ↓

The annual Marc Fitch lecture for the Victorian County History was given this year at Keele University by Dr Tristram Hunt MP to accompany the launch of a new volume in the county history series for Staffordshire. Volume XI : Audley, Keele, and Trentham covers a substantial area of North Staffordshire on the western fringes of Newcastle-under Lyme and the Potteries (Volume VIII). It was neatly summarised by Dr Hunt as containing twin, but contrasting, historical themes centred around the Industrial Revolution. On the one hand, this created a new proletariat of urban industrial workers, and on the other revived the fortunes of a flagging aristocracy. He entitled his lecture 'Aristocracy and Industry: the Sutherlands in Staffordshire' to encapsulate his argument. 

By way of opening his subject, Dr Hunt noted the recent BBC Lab UK's Great British Class Survey designed to redefine class structure using seven sections, with the aristocracy at one end and a precariat at the other. Under previous typologies the Potteries was identified asthe urban area most distinctly proletarian, marked by heavy industrial plant, workforces largely manual in kind, with low wages a prevalent feature for two hundred years or so. Fifty years ago E. P. Thompson set out to give voice to the individuals who made up this lowly social strata in his ground breaking work 'The Making of the English Working Class'. "I am seeking," he wrote, " to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the 'obsolete' hand-loom weaver, the 'utopian' artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity ". Hunt might well have said the journeymen potters who read Tom Paine'sRights of Man in the 1790s - but he didn't. What he did do was to quote Engels quoting surveys in the 1840s revealing the horrific nature of working and living conditions in Stoke-upon-Trent. This set a pattern for subsequent descriptions of the Potteries district, elaborated by reference to its predilection for Methodist nonconformity, which confirmed its overwhelming working class nature. True, a middle class also developed, best characterised by J. S. Mill, with its power exemplified in the passing of the Great Reform Act 1832. Hunt avoided naming local examples. The language of 'classes' by the 1840s was well established with the best-selling books of Samuel Smiles extolling the virtues considered to be the ultimate origin of British economic and social success. 

The new volume of the Victoria County History of Staffordshire, according to Hunt, does much to counter this rather baleful picture. In the parish of Trentham lay the estates of the Leveson Gower family, so easily identified as Dukes of Sutherland because that's what the family head became in 1833. His son's rebuilt house, designed by Sir Charles Barry in the mid-1830s, was, in effect, such a palace as to impress a visiting Shah of Persia with the opinion that his fellow guest, the Prince of Wales, should cut off the Duke's head when the Prince became king to establish the latter's supremacy! The Marquis of Stafford, and first Duke of Sutherland, was a Leviathan in terms of wealth. His ability to display riches beyond dreams at Trentham alone - Stafford House in London (now Lancaster House), Lilleshall and Cliveden were not mentioned by Hunt - demonstrated the capacity of the aristocracy to hoover up the profits of industrial enterprises which they did not necessarily directly own, and certainly did not manage. This aristocratic minority, by virtue of landowning alone, reaped the benefits of an Industrial revolution well beyond the riches to be acquired from Britain's world-wide empire. The Leveson Gower family gathered in canal, coal and iron mine, pottery and railway profits to outdo all competitors and the remains of their principal seat at Trentham are a vivid reminder of how much of North Staffordshire history has been determined by their activities. This new VCH volume restores a balance to views of the Potteries, according to Hunt, by bringing out the flourishing nature of the English aristocracy in the nineteenth century especially. He welcomed particularly the section on the domestic history of Trentham Hall - that element of the aristocratic estate which Julian Fellowes has mined so prolifically - which he attributed (somewhat doubtfully, in fact) to the precedent set by the National Trust at Erdigg. Hunt needs to know more about Shugborough. He did pick up the French cook's name of 'Pierre Crepie', as registered in the 1851 Census for London, being given as 'Peter Cripin' at Trentham, but he attributed greater generosity to the Dukes over public access to their gardens than was actually the case. However, he sufficiently signposted the personal histories of the Dukes themselves, especially the third one, to show the reasons why the Italianate showcase of Trentham Hall and estate fell into disuse and decay by 1911. That it ultimately has become fully accessible to the public is another story Hunt but briefly sketched out. 

Elegantly constructed and clearly articulated, Hunt's theme had much attraction. He stuck to his title and while interweaving historical authorities as diverse as Engels, David Cannadine, J.S. Mill, E.P Thompson, Eric Richards and Samuel Smiles, he paid eloquent, and thoroughly deserved, tribute to Nigel Tringham (the author of the VCH volume) and two of the contributors to special sections of the book, Dr Pamela Sambrook and Sue Gregory. It has to be said, however, that this volume of the VCH is not about the Potteries directly, or about the landed estates of the Leveson Gower family outside Trentham. The vast area of Audley parish with the adjoining smaller parishes of Betley, Keele, and Madeley is the subject of the largest section of Nigel Tringham's work, and here the Leveson Gower family had no landed interests. Some distinctive country houses were dotted these parishes as evidence of lesser landlords - the Sneyds of Keele, the Heathcotes of Apedale, the Fletchers and Tollets of Betley, and the Crewes of Madeley. The principle story, following Hunt's line of argument, is, therefore, of how a substantial number of families had a diversity of roles in the vast social and economic series of changes labelled for convenience the Industrial Revolution. There is also a great deal in this new VCH book about all the parishes in the seven centuries before industrialisation took off. Much of the area was underlaid by coal seams, intermingled with iron and clay, yet for the most part before 1700 supported an entirely agricultural economy. Cheese making was probably more significant than metal bashing and ceramic manufacture. The whole point about VCH explorations of the past is to bring out the back story of every hamlet and village, every parish and township - all those communities which evolved, changed and generally expanded and in which we live today. It is these local congregations of people that give us an identity and for whom the VCH is written. One cannot deny the immense success that the aristocracy and landed gentry had - and may still have - in reaping, accidentally, the benefits of the vast increase in land values which the work of the proletariat created. Indeed, this theme deserves to be hammered home as often as possible to allow the obvious lessons to be learned from its telling. To the extent that he told this story, Dr Tristram Hunt is to be applauded. 

The occasion for this lecture was graced by the presence of Ian Dudson, CBE, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire, representing the Queen, to whom this Historical Series was rededicated on the occasion of her jubilee. He presented copies of Volume XI to the Chair of Staffordshire County Council, Councillor Ian Lawson, and to Professor Ann Hughes, representing Keele University, to mark the essential financial support their institutions offer to the Victoria County History project, without which it could not continue in the county. Elizabeth Williamson of the Institute of Historical Research spoke of the importance of this project in the wider field of historical investigations and thanked not only those providing the necessary cash, but also the editor and author , Dr Nigel Tringham, who has now moved on to the next volume based upon Tamworth. Of all counties Staffordshire is in the lead in this national enterprise, and for this a great deal is owed to Dr Tringham. 

Paul Anderton

18. Reviews Editor Needed  Show more → Show less ↓

Dr Evelyn Lord is standing down as Reviews Editor at the end of the year. On page 30 you will find the job specification for the role. Alan Crosby would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in following in Evelyn's footsteps.

19. BALH Guided Visits  Show more → Show less ↓

The British Postal Museum and Archive

There we were in the subterranean archive store of a building at Mount Pleasant where the archives take up 2.5 miles of shelving and date back to 1635 when the archivist Helen Dafter told us that the Fleet river and the post office's own railway both ran nearby, the former causing some dampness in the basement. The railway used to run from Mount Pleasant to Whitechapel and connected eight sorting offices across London but no postal trains run nowadays.

BALH had arranged a trip to the British Postal Museum and Archive, although most of what is available to view is archive rather than museum. Helen gave us a talk on the history of Royal Mail complete with examples of files of material and our whole trip covered so much ground that the question of postage stamps was barely mentioned.

The archive has lists of post offices and their scope, it has details of routes taken by mail coaches, it has material about staff, and about the distribution of mail. Helen told us that in 1935, for political reasons, it was decided not to send mail directly to Italy, but boycotting a country can have ramifications because that country may disrupt mail distribution to other countries. The Suez War necessitated rerouting of mails beyond Egypt.

The collection includes files and information about the distribution of mail to special groups, such as the military or Prisoners of War. There are legal issues about delivery of mail to people who have been classified as insane - should they receive their mail or should it go to their trustees?

There have been political issues recently. The Scots object to the Royal cypher EIIR on letter boxes and it has been omitted in Scotland and only the crown emblem used on mail vans and letter boxes north of the border. If a van has to be borrowed from England, there will usually be a complaint about its logo. At one stage the IRA decided to run their own mail service, which is quite illegal. Common sense prevailed and this was ignored by the authorities, and the project petered out fairly soon without making political martyrs of anyone.

The British Postal Archive is open to visitors from Mondays to Fridays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. with late night opening on Thursdays and some Saturday opening. Visitors are welcome without the need to book. The catalogue can be consulted atwww.postalheritage.org.uk putting in names of people, places or topics. This visit was yet another example of the BALH making local historians aware of the wealth of material out there for us to investigate.

Phoebe Merrick

20. Bats in the Archives  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby kept his cool

I was working at Powys Archives in Llandrindod Wells in early April. I've always rather liked the town, with its faded air of Edwardian gentility, as befits a spa that has seen much better days, and the streets of slightly aggressive late Victorian guesthouses and shops which always appear rather more imposing than the scale of the little town merits. It has the usual skirt of industrial units, over-engineered new roads, and suburbia, and of course a Tesco, and all that contributes to the feel of it being a veritable metropolis of mid-Wales. In sharp contrast, down the road to the east is a favourite place of mine, the evocative site of the abandoned medieval town of Cefnllys, a steep sided rocky ridge in the great loop of the Afon Irthon. The craggy summit of the ridge once accommodated two castles (stylish, eh?) with burgage plots and gateways on the lower slopes, but it is now inhabited only by rather windswept sheep. There's but one standing structure in what was once a parliamentary borough - the little and very endearing medieval church of St Michael, isolated in the middle of a field at the foot of the hill, accessible only by footpath.

I'd not previously been to the archives so I looked forward to my first visit and was not disappointed - a diminutive record office as befits a diminutive county town, albeit the office houses the archives from the three erstwhile counties of Breconshire, Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire. The staff could not have been more friendly and helpful (if I ever compile a Good Record Office Guide, a longstanding idea of mine, this one will get good marks) and - because it's a small building - documents came only seconds after they were ordered. I found the information that I was seeking, the sun shone brightly outside, the birds twittered ... all's right with the world.

Just before closing time, though, the peace was shattered. One of the staff rushed into the searchroom exclaiming 'There's a bat, there's a bat'. This, you'll agree, is not the usual way of telling searchers to put away their laptops and return their documents. There was only one other searcher there, apart from me, and we and the searchroom assistant looked up in no little surprise. And sure enough, in from the corridor outside fluttered a bat, swooping and dipping and diving around the room, from catalogue shelf to microfilm reader, from window to pillar. I am not a bat expert, so I couldn't identify the species, but it was dark brown with a wingspan of I guess 20cm (answers on a postcard please). The bat finally proved that it was a genealogist, by coming to rest on a microfilm reader. I think it wanted to look at a bat-ism register.

How to capture the wingéd beast? Dr Crosby came to the rescue. I requested a box or bowl, and a small washing up bowl was brought from a nether region of the building. I then asked for a sheet of stiff card and lo! one was produced. I put the bowl over the bat, held the card in front of the bowl, shuffled the bowl over the card and, lifting all three items (bat, bowl and card) turned it over. The card slipped and instantly a tiny bat-face with bright eyes and pointy ears poked through the space. Undaunted, our hero (that is, I) gently slid the card back over and, accompanied by a procession of two archive staff and a searcher, headed for the outer door. There, in the courtyard, I lifted the card off, and away flew our new friend, straight towards the thicket of bushes and small trees close by. It had had enough of archival research and so, for that day at least, had we. When my Good Record Office Guide is published, look out for the little symbol which denotes 'Resident Bat'.

21. Trustee Profile  Show more → Show less ↓

Dr Winifred Stokes

I came to BALH via CORAL (the Conference of Regional and Local Historians) when the two organisations merged. CORAL was largely the brainchild of the late John D. Marshall and dedicated to offering a perspective on local history wider that the then frequently parochial one offered by some of the smaller societies. 'My' region was and is the North East of England and particularly County Durham where I was born and schooled. After over twenty years of living in East London and lecturing on a diversity of courses at North East London Polytechnic (now the University of East London) I have now spent almost an equal amount of time researching early nineteenth century North East business history and based on Tyneside.. I still see myself at BALH as I did on the committee of CORAL as a voice for the region stretching from the Tweed to the Tees. As chair of the County Durham History and Heritage Forum which is an umbrella organisation I have regular opportunities for networking with and lecturing to local history societies across the region, make regular contributions to the Journal of the Durham County Local History Society and Cleveland History and have published material on railway companies in the Conference papers of the Early Railways group. Currently I am preparing for publication the history of the iron and coking industries of the North East initiated by my late father who worked in these industries all his life. My own study of joint stock enterprise in the region is on hold although excerpts have appeared as conference papers and articles. Because of this background I have opted to sit on the BALH Publications committee to which I hope I can be a useful contributor.

22. Notes News Issues  Show more → Show less ↓

BALH Medieval and Early Modern Prize

The British Association for Local History hopes to encourage the publication of articles on medieval and early modern topics in its quarterly refereed journal, The Local Historian. It is therefore holding an annual competition with a prize of £150 for the best essay submitted for potential publication in the journal. Entries may be submitted by anybody but we especially hope to encourage contributions from postgraduates working on Master's or Doctoral theses.

Any topic from the period (approximately) 600 AD to 1600 will be considered, but it is important that the essay or article should be accessible to a wider readership of local historians. We welcome articles which are general in character while using local examples or case-studies, and articles on sources and their interpretation are also encouraged.

Entries should be a maximum of 7500 words, and should not have been published or offered for publication elsewhere. They may be submitted at any time but the judging by a panel of experts will take place each July. It is expected that the winning entry will be published in the October issue of The Local Historian.

For more information about the British Association for Local History and The Local Historian, please visit our website at balh.co.uk and for more details of the essay competition contact the editor, Dr Alan Crosby (agcrosby@waitrose.com)

Entries should be submitted as an email attachment (which is preferred) or hard copy to

Dr Alan Crosby, Editor (The Local Historian), 77 Wellington Street, Preston PR1 8TQ

Local History Day

Thanks to everyone who came to Local History Day in June. We had many favourable comments about the programme and about the new venue. Paul Anderton's annual report on the day can be found on page 20. Overleaf you will find the names of the newly elected Trustees who will serve on the Association's Council for 2013-14.

Reviews Editor

Dr Evelyn Lord is standing down as Reviews Editor at the end of the year. On page 30 you will find the job specification for the role. Alan Crosby would be pleased to hear from anyone interested in following in Evelyn's footsteps.


An initiative taken by the Publications Committee earlier this year is to offer a prize for articles submitted for possible publication in The Local Historian relating to the medieval or early modern period. This is in response to readers' suggestions to spread the chronological coverage more widely. While the majority of local historians probably do use 19th and 20th century material because of its accessibility, we know there are people working on earlier periods, and TLH would welcome contact with them. (Further details on p 17)

Living the Poor Life

If you have a copy of Living the Poor Life, don't forget to remove the additional supplement in this issue of Local History News and keep it with your book. You will need the instructions for using the new Discovery catalogue at The National Archives to search the Poor Law Union Correspondence MH12.

Open Forum

The next Open Forum will be on 12 October 2013, 1.30-2.30 pm at Senate House, University of London. The provisional programme is for Dr Nick Barratt to speak about 'Discovery', the new catalogue for finding records at The National Archives. Any member interested in joining us would be very welcome. There is no charge, but please contact us (so we know how many visitors to expect and you can be given directions) by email to mail@balh.co.uk or post to BALH PO Box 6549, Somersal Herbert, Ashbourne DE65WH

Sheffield Family History Fair 2014

Sheffield & District Family History Society will be holding their annual Fair on 31 May 2014 at Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, Hillsborough (10 am to 4 pm). We are planning to take a BALH stall there but need some helpers. Anyone who would be willing to volunteer - and the more people the less time each has to work! - please contact Gill Draper by emailing development.balh@btinternet.com

Mailing schedule

Don't forget that the next and subsequent mailings will be a month earlier than usual, Your renewal letter will be included with the quarterly publications in October.

BALH meetings

Over the next few issues we will be using part of NNI to explain to members how BALH operates, beginning with the regular business meetings. Twice a year (in October and March) there is Assembly Day of which Open Forum (see below) is part. Also on that day the four advisory committees meet to discuss issues of particular interest to them. In the afternoon there is a meeting of the Council of elected Trustees, which is the formal decision-making body for the Association. The Council receives reports and recommendations from the Management Committee, and from the advisory committees. The Management Committee meets for a whole day four times a year (in February, April, August and November) to discuss current issues, to monitor progress and to take decisions delegated to it by Council.

Contributions from members to LHN and to the e-newsletter are always welcome.

23. Events & Developments In Local History Education Show more → Show less ↓

Cinema memories: a new project at University College, London , has been launched looking at people's memories of going to the cinema in 1960s Britain, They are interested in how people remember cinema-going, the films they saw and the decade more generally. The questionnaire can be completed online; downloaded, printed and returned by post; or they can send out paper copies and freepost return envelopes. BALH members are very welcome to take part.http://www.ucl.ac.uk/cinemamemories(click on 'contribute your memories'), email cinemamemories@ucl.ac.uk, phone 02076797960 or write to Dr Matthew Jones, Cultural Memories &British Cinema-going of the 1960s, Department of History, UCL, Gower St, London WC1E 6BT

A collaborative research project, Suburban Birmingham: spaces and places 1880-1960' from the University of Birmingham and the Arts & Humanities Research Council has a number of outcomes, not least the development of the new Birmingham History Galleries at Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. There is a short film availablehttp://youtu.be/iwypSAk22gY

9 September is the closing date for this year's applications for University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education part-time courses in Archaeology, Historic Environment and Local History. Further details can be found at www.ice.cam,ac.uk/awards or email enquiries@ice.cam.ac.uk

The Open University History Society is organising a weekend history seminar 'Church & State', 21-23 February 2014, at the Cotswold Conference Centre. Further information available from Sheila.smith@num.com

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has received a grant of £82,400 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to employ a Learning Officer for three years to work with Bedfordshire schools. They will work in all types of schools, primary and secondary, and will be in Luton 2013-14, Bedford Borough 2014-15, and Central Bedfordshire 2015-16. The archives service wealth of resources will be exploited for teaching subjects such as geography, RE and science as well as history.archive@bedford.gov.uk

Charlton Kings Local History Society's Research Bulletin 59 Spring 2013 contains a short article referring to a visit that took place in 2001. In that year their now Chairman had been invited to speak to a class of 8 year olds at Holy Apostles School in Battledown Approach. He subsequently received a package of delightful individual thank-you letters that reveal the excitement that the children felt about their local history - the development of place names, earlier uses of their site, bats in the Tower, with plenty of pictures and small personal stories. www.charltonkings.org.uk

Martin School, East Finchley , is celebrating its centenary in 2013. With the support of the HLF All Our Stories programme they are exploring the history of the school and its place in the community. Amongst these activities, there has been an 'archaeological dig'. Hendon and District Archaeological Society conducted an informal resistivity survey in the school playing field, and a timetable of events was drawn up for the school's History Week. They would show Year 3 pupils (and other interested children and adults) what is involved in a dig - from looking at maps, identifying local find spots, laying out a formal grid for surveying to digging a test pit and washing and interpreting their finds. They children enjoyed themselves, the test-pits more or less corresponded with the resistivity results, and a surprise deep-buried wall feature was found that will merit further investgation.www.hadas.org.uk