Local History News Number 115 Spring 2015

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1. Disappearing landscapes Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby has been searching

I recently gave a talk about a disappearing landscape – the heathlands of the Hampshire, Berkshire and Surrey borders, an area of stunted heath growing on thick sands and gravels interspersed with bogs trapped by layers of impermeable iron pan, and one condemned in the strongest possible terms by agricultural writers in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The disappearance of perhaps 85 per cent of a haunted and lonely landscape (once covering perhaps 100,000 acres) only 25 miles from central London was the result of a variety of interlinked man-made changes. Engulfing urbanisation, especially after the railway network threaded the area, chewed at the edges and then penetrated the heart of the heathlands. Military activity, beginning in 1812 and developing with a vengeance after the foundation of Aldershot Camp in 1854, gobbled up great swathes to be used for training and for ranks of barrack blocks, as well as more elite intrusions such as Sandhurst.

Land-hungry institutions such as prisons, asylums, public schools and cemeteries ate up more. And, as sheep-grazing on the open heaths ended, scrub and now full woodland cover submerged most of the remainder. The poor soils proved perfect for rhododendrons and exotic conifers, and places such as Ascot and Sunningdale, once notorious for their poverty, became the home of the super-rich, beginning with the nabobs of the East India Company in the later eighteenth century. Their grand houses set in extensive ambitiously-planted grounds formed part of a new and highly distinctive landscape of luxury. Today tower blocks and retail parks, motorways and dual carriageways ring the remaining heaths, contrasting with the nearby private roads and sprawling golf courses of the moneyed classes.

Our landscape is anything but static, yet there is a strange enduring belief that the British landscape is timeless. Goodness knows why, for the experience of these heathlands is anything but unique. Across Britain there are numerous examples of landscapes transformed almost beyond recognition. The heaths of Dorset have largely succumbed to the onward march of the Bournemouth-Poole conurbation, similarly drowning beneath tides of bricks and mortar and dismembered by dual carriageways.  The creeping growth of Greater Brighton laps up the slopes of the South Downs, and the fields which ring almost all major towns and cities are in peril.

Man-made landscapes may disappear, too. The valleys of South Wales are now in their third incarnation. Idyllically beautiful as late as the 1840s, then transformed into a black and grey world of coal tips, pitheads, railway lines, metalworking and smoke, they are now clean again. The monochrome landscape shown in photographs half a century ago has vanished. This is not a landscape of wealth, of course, but one of significant social and economic deprivation, marked by the struggle to bring employment to replace the erstwhile coal industry. And what does remain of that industry has become industrial archaeology and is now defined as ‘heritage’.

The making of landscape history continues apace, every day. It is sixty years since W.G. Hoskins published his seminal and celebrated work, The Making of the English Landscape, at which point landscape history came into its own. Much of that book now seems as historic as the landscape itself, but its impact is still being felt. There is a fascination with the landscapes of our own time, not just with those of the medieval period or the eighteenth century. The twentieth century is now history and its landscape changes, so appalling to Hoskins, are likewise. Whether we see them as negative or positive depends on personal perspectives, but they are part of the historical record.

2. Children and the First World War Show more → Show less ↓

Rosie Kennedy writes the next in our series on local history and World War One

The First World War touched almost every aspect of children’s lives. It dominated much of their teaching and school experience, it was the focus of their extra-curricular activities and they enjoyed it as a source of entertainment in literature and play. Perhaps more significantly, it dominated their life at home through the absence, both temporary and permanent, of fathers and brothers and through the way in which it preoccupied those adults left behind. But this was not a homogenous experience, shared by all children in the same way. Instead, experiences were shaped by children’s personal connections to fighting men, by the varied efforts of adults to involve them in the Home Front war effort and by their own attempts to imaginatively engage with the conflict through reading and play.  Because of this extraordinary variety in the way the war entered children’s lives, a focus on local history offers an excellent opportunity to understand the particular contexts of children’s wartime lives.

Two of the ways children came into contact with the war have received attention in this series. Tim Lomas explored the use of school records for understanding how the war entered the curriculum and the effect it had on the day-to-day life of schools. And Rachel Duffet highlighted how correspondence between soldiers and those at home yields valuable insights into wartime experience. This is as true for letters between fathers and their children as it is to those sent to wives, girlfriends and parents. How else then might we access children’s experience? In researching my book The Children’s War: Britain 1914-1918 (Palgrave, 2014) I began by trying to find as many accounts of wartime childhoods as I could. Autobiographies and memoirs, both published and unpublished, offer a fascinating glimpse into how the war has been remembered by those who grew up during it. Although there are limitations to this material, and we must always consider the process of remembering and the selection of material which necessarily confines these genres, memories are still one of the most valuable sources we have for first hand accounts of war.[ii]

While published autobiographies tend to be the literary accounts of the lives of well-known figures, local studies collections and the Working Class Autobiographical Archive at Brunel University hold collections of memoirs of ‘ordinary’ people.  Particularly important here is the opportunity to uncover previously marginalised accounts of childhood. What more can we learn of working class childhoods? Or girls’ experience? Or the lives of children from different national or religious backgrounds? These collections offer the chance to build up a picture of local wartime childhoods. How were children’s wartime activities organised locally? What relationship did children have to men stationed nearby, or to those recovering in local hospitals? How have people remembered their experience of childhood in a particular urban/rural/regional setting?

One way children were involved in the First World War was through participation in uniformed youth groups like the Boys’ Brigade, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. There has been much debate amongst historians about the role these youth groups played in preparing young men for war, with opinion divided over the charge of militarism.[iii] For girls, debate has centred on the extent to which participation in the Girl Guides offered the opportunity to break out from the traditional confines of home and ‘feminine’ activity.[iv] Whichever judgement you favour, what is interesting is the way local activity sometimes went far beyond what was conceived by the national organisers of these youth movements.  Despite instructions prohibiting boy scouts from bearing arms, for example, there were instances where scouts did just this, because they believed it was justified. Again, local history is well placed to investigate how children involved in these movements experienced the war at local level and to highlight differences with national policy. Histories of local troops, both published and unpublished, are the best source material for this type of investigation.

A further opportunity for the study of children’s wartime lives comes from the attempt to try to understand children’s imaginative connection to the war through reading, games and play. By researching how the First World War became a source of entertainment for children, though its depiction in adventure fiction and its reproduction in miniature in the form of dolls, toys, models, costumes and board games, we can ask questions about the way the war was represented to children and about how they came to understand it. Historians of children’s literature, including Kelly Boyd, Sally Mitchell and James Walvin have pointed to the ways in which identification with heroes and heroines of children’s fiction may have shaped emerging identities of the children who read them.[v]

Similarly, I have argued that the particular forms and types of toys children played with offer insights into how they came to understand the war.[vi] Children’s material culture, whether still physically accessible, as in the case of books and toys which have survived in museums or private collections, can be supplemented with evidence of their existence in newspaper and trade press advertisements and in the commentary they regularly provoked in the media.  When these sources are combined with autobiographical accounts of play, as with Evelyn Waugh’s account of building a camp to repel German invaders or memories of children who re-enacted famous battles in the school playground, we can understand how children made connections with the adult war through the imaginative leaps that play allows.[vii]  

Dr Rosie Kennedy lectures in modern British history at Goldsmiths, University of London.


Duffet, Rachel, ‘Hoping you are in the Pink as it leaves me’: “Soldiers’ letters and the First World War,” Local History News 106, BALH, 2013; Lomas, Tim, “Schools in the First World War,” Local History News 108, BALH, 2013.

[ii] For discussion of the strengths and limitations of autobiography see for example Burnett, J., ed. Destiny Obscure: Autobiographies of Childhood, Education and Family from the 1820s to the 1920s, London: Allen Lane, 1982.

[iii] See for example, Springhall, John, Youth, Empire and Society: British Youth Movements, 1883-1940, London: Croom Helm, 1977; Rosenthal, Michael, The Character Factory: Baden Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement, London: Collins, 1986; Dedman, Martin, "Baden-Powell, Militarism, and the 'Invisible Contributors' to the Boy Scout Scheme, 1904-1920", Twentieth Century British History vol. 4, no. 3 (1993), pp 201-23.

[iv] See for example, Proctor, Tammy M., "On My Honour: Guides and Scouts in Interwar Britain", Transactions of the American Philosophical Society 92, no. 2, 2002.

[v] Boyd, Kelly, Manliness and the Boys' Story Paper in Britain: A Cultural History, 1855-1940, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003; Mitchell, Sally, The New Girl – Girls Culture in England 1880-1915, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995; Walvin, James, A Child's World - a Social History of English Childhood 1800-1914, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982.

[vi] Kennedy, Rosie, The Children’s War : 1914-1918, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2014.

[vii] Waugh, Evelyn, A Little Learning: the First Volume of an Autobiography, London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1964; Smith, Rev. J. Leonard, A Tansley Boyhood, Loughborough: Teamprint, 1996.

3. BALH Awards 2015 Show more → Show less ↓

Profile of Ron Dale

Stanstead Abbotts Local History Society is one of the younger groups amongst BALH’s membership. The current chair, Ian White CBE, was largely responsible for taking the initiative to set up what has become, in just a few years, a highly successful society in a small village, with 110 paid up members and an average of 50 at the monthly meetings.

Another of its founder members was Ron Dale. Originally from Keighley in Yorkshire, Ron and his late wife retired to Stanstead Abbotts in Hertfordshire nearly twenty years ago. After a varied career Ron settled down to another wide range of activities, including gardening, researching and writing. He has been a published author since the age of 18, and examples of his interests are revealed in two titles:  Digging for Treasure and The Price Guide to Black & White Potlids.

Publishing a history of the village was one of the objectives the new society set itself in 2012, and Ron Dale offered to take on that project. His knowledge of the area and his skill at organising the material and getting it down on paper are ‘of the highest order’. While there was a team of society members who collaborated over illustrations, editing and production, the book remains essentially a personal achievement for Ron. A History of Stanstead Abbotts, Rye House and St Margaret’s has sold well, and has been favourably reviewed not only as ‘readable, informative and interesting’, but also as ‘a good model for any historian aiming to write a village history, with sources, appendixes, footnotes and index ...’

Despite advancing age and deteriorating health, Ron Dale has continued to contribute articles to the society’s website that demonstrate his meticulous research and his enthusiasm for the subject. He is currently involved in a joint-authored (with Sue Garside of Hoddesdon Historical Society) study of the 15th century Rye House in Stanstead Abbotts. Ron’s achievements, and the success of the society, have put local history on the map for the residents of this village and the surrounding area, and will benefit generations to come.

with thanks to Ian White, Glenis Collins, Julia Davies, Bob Hunt,  and Brain Johnson

4. Volunteers: the new stakeholders Show more → Show less ↓

Richard Hoyle reports from the VCH

Having never been invited onto the Today programme to do ‘Thought for the Day’, addressing the nation through the columns of Local History News is the best I have been able to achieve so far. And a very considerable best it is too.

Somehow, it seems to be assumed that I am going to write about volunteers. I’m not sure whether I proposed this, or was given the assignment: no matter, it is a subject on which I am delighted to write as I have learnt a great deal about volunteering in the past few months as well as meeting many volunteers, all of them charming, delightful and highly motivated people.

VCH has become a largely volunteer-driven (and -led) movement. As I have been travelling round the counties, most of the people I have met have been volunteers of one sort or another – whether volunteer committee members, volunteer fundraisers or in Gloucestershire the volunteer researchers in the ‘Gloucestershire academy’. Counties use volunteers in very different ways: some to research and write text, some to undertake research which will be written up by others, some to fundraise to employ salaried historians to write up the text. All are part of the ‘VCH Movement’, which is what I am coming to call the project I head: it is a movement of people who want to see a job done, and done well, and who bring a whole range of skills to achieving it, from organising fundraising through to researching and contributing text.

To those who haven’t yet been drawn in, I ought to say that VCH needs a diversity of skills. One of the most important in the counties (as in voluntary societies everywhere) is a good capable Treasurer, able to handle the money, invest it wisely, but also willing to badger and persuade those with money, be they individuals or trusts, that a donation to VCH will be well spent in advancing the larger project. But other skills are needed too: I am sure there is enormous satisfaction to be had from organising events for VCH, whether sponsored walks or garden parties. I do think that VCH should be fun, and not only the fun of the archives.

This last came through very strongly at an excellent day on volunteering organised by Michael Turner in Shrewsbury on 28 February to which he invited me to speak on VCH. The meeting heard several accounts from volunteers for the Shropshire Archives and Museums who had had the opportunity to make important discoveries – or in one case, important connections which elucidated the materials in hand (watercolours of fungi if I recall correctly). What also came across was the growing dependence on volunteers in much of the archives and heritage sector. I might muse on how far things have changed in twenty years – a lot of the archivists of my acquaintance then, now retired or very senior – would never have considered allowing volunteers to list archives, or even let them see unlisted archives. But in changed circumstances, it seems that the only way that things are going to get done is by using volunteers.

VCH Central Office is not immune to this, and we will be looking for volunteers to advance some of our pet projects; so, if you would like to volunteer as a volunteer volunteer organiser for us, we’d be delighted to hear from you. (I enjoyed writing that.)

Someone at Shrewsbury said that volunteers are seen by local authorities as the answer to every problem. I am not without mixed feelings about this. There are marvellous opportunities to be had for volunteers as the barriers between the professional and employed and the volunteer but unsalaried break down: but I don’t see that the answer to the systematic impoverishment of the heritage sector, like the library sector, is the development of small cadres of volunteer coordinators who manage volunteers who fill in for what have previously been salaried posts. The answer is finally going to be that volunteers, as the new stakeholders in record offices, museums and even VCH, argue for proper funding and the provision of adequate levels of professional staffing which they can supplement rather than replace. It may be that the most important type of volunteer in the future is going to be the volunteer agitator and lobbyist and that these are skills we are all going to have to learn.

Richard Hoyle is Professor of Local and Regional History, and Director and General Editor, Victoria County History, Institute of Historical Research, University of London

5. Heritage makes us happier Show more → Show less ↓

new research from the Heritage Lottery Fund

New research published by the Heritage Lottery Fund reveals the UK’s heritage helps make us happier about where we live, and puts heritage firmly at the heart of shaping and improving quality of life across the UK.

In their latest and biggest research study, they commissioned research company BritainThinks to carry out research in 12 locations across the UK. They undertook both surveys and workshops, to find out what people now think about heritage and the local projects HLF has supported. In all we heard from over 4,000 people

Key findings

93% see heritage as important to ‘the country’
81% see heritage as important to ‘me personally’
80% say local heritage makes their area a better place to live
64% think local heritage has got better while they have lived in the area
76% of Lottery players rate the HLF-funded projects in their area as good or excellent value for money

People see heritage: delivering benefits that relate directly to their quality of life; bringing economic benefits like tourism and creating good jobs; making places more visually attractive; providing family leisure opportunities; helping people to understand where they come from, instilling local pride and encouraging social cohesion.


6. Discovering Jersey Show more → Show less ↓

local history on one of the Channel Islands by Bronwyn Matthews

Jersey may be thought of as a financial centre or pleasant holiday destination best known for its beaches. For the history enthusiast or researcher however, Jersey offers many opportunities to explore the island’s long and colourful history and indeed, prehistory.

Jersey has been a self-governing Crown Dependency since 1204. To the French tourist, Jersey is 'so British', yet it is Jersey's proximity to France (14 miles from the Normandy coast) which lies at the heart of its culture.  A glance through the telephone book reveals many names of Norman origin, some of which have been used on the island for 900 years. In more recent times Huguenots,  Royalists, Republican exiles and Breton farm workers have all left their mark. Possession of Jersey has not been contested by France since the very the brief Battle of Jersey in 1781. Deep cultural links with France are evident in the laws, place-names, monuments, artefacts, architecture and most of all language.  French was the official language up to 1949; the Norman French dialect Jèrriais is still spoken by a small proportion of the population, understood by about 15% and continues to evolve  as a living language.

When close to 100,000 people live on an island of 45.5 square miles ,a sense of historical perspective is useful. For residents, curiosity about the past often arises in the context of house and property ownership, or a desire to understand the parish-based system of local governance. New archaeological finds can influence planning applications. Visitors are faced with an astonishingly wide choice of sites and venues, spanning 6000 years of human settlement.

For local residents and visitors alike, a useful first port of call for historical information is the Jersey Library (www.gov.je.library), open 6 days a week with a reference service. As Jersey’s library of legal deposit, it includes an extensive local studies collection of books, current and historical periodicals and newspapers, maps, plans, census records and other States of Jersey publications.

A local studies collection of similar size is to be found in the Lord Coutanche Library at the Société Jersiaise. Formed in 1873, the Société Jersiaise (www.societe-jersiaise.org) is a learned society with 2000 subscribing members. Its original mission was to encourage the study of the island’s history and archaeology, and in this capacity it founded the Jersey Museum. Over the years the Société's interests have extended into the natural and environmental sciences.  A number of special interest groups or ‘sections’ within the Société Jersiaise enable members to participate in local research and field work across a range of subject areas including ornithology and marine biology. The Lord Coutanche Library supports the Société with collections of books, periodicals and newspapers, maps, prints, ephemera, and an archival collection of documents and personal papers.

Since its inception the Société Jersiaise has assumed the role of the records society of Jersey. It has published many key documents such as the Extente des Iles de Jersey, Guernsey, Aurigny et Sark 1274, the Actes des Etats 1524-1800, the Journal of Jean Chevalier, 1643-1651, and Jersey place names : a corpus of Jersey toponymy (1986).  The Société’s  flagship publication is the annual Bulletin, whose articles report on research on Jersey and its environs. Roughly half the articles are by local members, the remainder by other researchers. The Bulletin has recently been digitised and is expected to become publically searchable and available online by June 2015. The Société Jersiaise also has a bookshop with a wide selection of local books. It is located next to the Museum at 7 Pier Rd.

The Photographic Archive at the Société Jersiaise contains some 80,000 images of Jersey and Channel Islands history dating from the mid- 1840s to the present day. It includes the work some well-known photographers such as Charles Hugo and William Collie, as well as the work of local and immigrant photographers. Over 35,000 image records are currently now available for searching through the OPAC at http://www.societe-jersiaise.org/photographic-archive/.

The hub of history in Jersey is the independent trust Jersey Heritage (http://www.jerseyheritage.org ).  Jersey Heritage is responsible for the Jersey Archive, Jersey Museum and several historic sites. Jersey Archive was established in 1993 and is the island’s official repository holding over 300,000 documents, States of Jersey records, business records and private papers. Jersey Heritage's online catalogue enables searchers to identify items across the range of its collections and order copies of some documents. Heritage, published annually, is the in-house magazine of Jersey Heritage and contains articles written by specialist staff.

At the Jersey Museum exhibitions change regularly to reflect the span of Jersey’s prehistory through to the recent past. As part of the popular Treasure: Uncovering the Hoard exhibition featuring the large Celtic coin hoard discovered in a field in 2010, visitors have been able to watch conservators at work on the gradual extraction of the individual coins and jewellery items in the hoard.  The Ice Age Island exhibition opens in October 2015. No island can be understood without a comprehensive look at its relationship with the sea.  Jersey’s Maritime Museum is located at the harbour and covers ship building and trading, fishing, privateering and smuggling, legends and lifeboats, shipwrecks and sea-wall defences.

Two of Jersey's best known landmarks are castles. Mont Orgueil Castle is at Gorey on the eastern end of the island, facing the coast of France. It is first mentioned in records in 1212, during the reign of King John, but parts of it are thought to be older. Elizabeth Castle is on an islet in St Aubin's Bay and is approached by the causeway or by boat. It was begun in 1551 and is built on the site of a former abbey. Sir Walter Raleigh was here as Governor of Jersey 1600-1603 and Charles II spent 1649-50 here in exile. An exhibition room is devoted to the Jersey Militia. For those with an interest in social history and rural life, there is Hamptonne Country Life Museum, a 15th century farm complex.  In the summer season, living history interpreters at all three of these sites engage visitors in a variety of demonstrations and dialogue.

For medievalists, Jersey has a number of churches of architectural interest. These include the twelve parish churches and further chapels:  one,  the Fishermen’s Chapel at St Brelade, has significant wall paintings which were hidden during the Reformation. A second medieval chapel sits atop Jersey’s most important monument, La Hougue Bie. To say that Jersey is rich in archaeological remains is something of an understatement:  it has over a hundred known sites, many of which were first excavated by the Société Jersiaise. La Hougue Bie however is one of the great Neolithic passage graves of Western Europe. Guided tours are available and a small museum explains its significance.

The German Occupation of the Channel Islands (1940-1945) is the historical period which attracts the greatest attention. A substantial number of books have been published on it; there is a large amount of material available in the Jersey Library, Jersey Archive, the Museum and the Société Jersiaise. The privately-operated Jersey War Tunnels has an extensive collection of weapons, equipment and artefacts all displayed in the network of tunnels which the Germans constructed in the centre of the island. It includes multimedia presentations. Another view of the Occupation is presented in the Occupation Tapestry Gallery housed at the Maritime Museum. The twelve huge tapestries, one from each parish, tell the story of the Occupation through the eyes of the local people and represent 30,000 hours of work.  Liberation Day, celebrated on 9 May involves a re-enactment of the arrival of British troops and is followed by an all-day street party.

The coastline of Jersey was already dotted with Jersey round towers and Martello towers from the 18th century . In their efforts to create Hitler’s ‘impregnable fortress’,  the German command poured vast amounts of concrete into defensive constructions, sometimes modifying the existing towers. The Channel Islands Occupation Society is actively involved in the preservation and interpretation of the German fortifications, which now serve to protect the coasts from the sea.

Many visitors combine holidays with a little family history research. The Channel Islands Family History Society (CIFHS) has created indexes to the parish-based civil records (1842 -1911) and of earlier church records. The indexes are available in both the libraries mentioned. Staff and volunteers are on hand at the Jersey Archive to advise people on family history research; the Superintendent Registrar’s office provides copies of Jersey birth, marriage or death certificates for a fee. For those genealogists who cannot visit the islands, paid-for research is available from the CIFHS, the Jersey Archive and the Société Jersiaise.

During the winter and spring, the Société Jersiaise holds free public lunchtime lectures with speakers addressing a wide range of topics of local historical or environmental interest.  Jersey Heritage has a programme of activities including public talks, and also runs holiday activities for children. In the summer, the annual Festival of British Archaeology, organized in Jersey by the Société Jersiaise attracts large numbers of people keen to learn more about the sites.

There are opportunities for local people to learn and share more about the islands’ heritage by doing voluntary work.  After the appropriate training they may become Blue Badge guides or site guides; they can help in a visitor centre or on outdoor projects.  As there is no university in the Channel Islands, it can be a challenge to attract students who are able get involved with local history. Both Jersey Heritage and the Société Jersiaise have however had some success in setting up internships and holiday projects for Jersey students enrolled in British universities.

In past centuries Jerseymen and women have left the islands to seek opportunities and fortune, to convert and inspire in many parts of the world.   As a result, enquiries come back to our institutions from all over the world, as people seek to discover Jersey.

Bronwyn Matthews is Librarian at the Societe Jersiaise

7. Europeana 1914-1918 Show more → Show less ↓

Will you share your local story from the Great War online?

Europeana 1914-1918 is a website where you can search for family and local history about the First World War from across Europe. It is based on the work of the University of Oxford and in particular the Oxford Community Collection model which encourages groups to engage with their audience online and face-to-face - for example to upload and share online the results of local history or community projects. Here's a particularly striking story about the possibilities of sharing your local history online, showing in a small way the opportunities and benefits of unlocking the family vaults:

George Cavan served in the Glasgow Highlanders. At the end of March 1918 George was away at a training camp in Scotland when he received orders to go to France. The train he was on went through his home (Carluke in Scotland) but would not stop there. He hastily scribbled this note to his family "Dear wife and bairns, Off to France - love to you all, Daddy." On the other side he wrote the name and address of his wife, Jean. George stuffed the note into a matchbox and threw it out onto the platform as the train whistled through Carluke station. Someone picked up the matchbox and delivered it to his wife. George was killed in action just two weeks later at the Battle of Hazelbrouck near Ypres in Belgium. All that was sent back to his wife was a small tin box, containing a purse, his identification tags and an old medallion. This story was uploaded to our website, by George's granddaughter in Australia. Soon afterwards we wrote a blog about the matchbox and received a comment from George's family in Scotland who were unaware of the matchbox story! Through this the family branches were able to join together their elements of their ancestors' stories. This formed the basis for a chapter of a book, published by the British Library, called "Hidden stories of the First World War" by Jackie Storer. A local historian has also contacted the website because they wanted to find more about George Cavan - who was identified in a photograph of the local bowling club in 1914.

George's story began by being locked in the family memory, not available to anyone else - actually not available to ALL the family. Uploading material online has opened the story up to the world. Would you share online the fruits of your local history research into the First World War? Register for a user account on the website (www.europeana1914-1918.eu/) and start to add your research or just a sample -to show the rest of the world what you are doing.

Alun Edwards

8. Voices of War & Peace: the Great War and its legacy Show more → Show less ↓

The Midlands Engagement Centre

Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its legacy is one of five First World War Engagement centres funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund. Based in the Library of Birmingham and led by the University of Birmingham, Voices is a joint initiative across the Midlands with Birmingham City University, Newman University, the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Worcester, and further afield with the University of Glasgow, Manchester Metropolitan University and Cardiff University. The Engagement Centre will support a wide range of community engagement activities, connecting academic and public histories of the First World War as part of the commemoration of the War’s centenary.

Voices is led by Professor Ian Grosvenor from the School of Education at the University of Birmingham and co-ordinated by Dr Nicola Gauld. Co-Investigators from the eight  partner institutions will work in collaboration with community groups researching the First World War: Professor Maggie Andrews, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Worcester; Dr Spencer Jones, Research Fellow in War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton; Dr Siân Roberts, Collection Curator at the Library of Birmingham and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham; Dr Joanne Sayner, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Theory and German Studies at the University of Birmingham; Dr Michael Snape, Reader in Religion, War and Society at the University of Birmingham;  Dr Chris Upton, Reader in Public History at Newman University Birmingham; Professor Melanie Tebbutt, Reader in History at Manchester Metropolitan University; Dr Charlotte Methuen, Lecturer in Church History at the University of Glasgow; and Dr Jenny Kidd, lecturer in the School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies at Cardiff University. There is also a research network attached to the Centre, which consists of around 100 academics and practitioners drawn from a variety of disciplines and with direct links to a range of research centres. Collectively they bring both relevant knowledge and experience to enable the Centre to effectively support community research.  In addition there are over 50 cultural partners including Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Sampad, the Cheltenham Festivals, the People’s History Museum, the BBC and YMCA England.

As well as exploring the impact of the Great War on communities in Birmingham and the Midlands, Voices will focus on themes of national importance. These include Gender and the Home Front, led by Maggie Andrews and Melanie Tebbutt, Belief and the Great War, led by Michael Snape and Charlotte Methuen, and Commemoration, led by Joanne Sayner and Jenny Kidd. Among the other issues the Centre will explore are questions around the legacy of the War – not only what happened between 1914 and 1918 but also the impact that the War continued to have during subsequent years, for example, by 1916 training programmes for soldiers with disabilities were being held in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter and by 1930 child guidance clinics had been set up – almost certainly the result of the emotional turmoil caused to youngsters during the War.

The Centre was launched at the Library of Birmingham in March 2014. The event brought together over 200 delegates who represented a wide variety of community, cultural and academic organisations from across the Midlands and further afield. The programme featured readings of archive material by local schoolchildren, speeches from local councillors, poetry performances from a local community group who received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their project ‘Remembrance Poets’, and a debate with members of the Centre on why we are commemorating the First World War. The event also saw the unveiling of the Centre’s website, www.voicesofwarandpeace.org, which includes a wide range of articles, resource material and event listings and is the main point of contact for community groups interested in working with the Centre.

Website: www.voicesofwarandpeace.org

Email: voices@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Twitter: @Voices_WW1

9. Taking local history into the community Show more → Show less ↓

Janet Few on an active group in Devon

Your association has been run along the same lines for many years. Each month, a group of people, predominantly of retirement age, gather to listen to a visiting speaker. In between these meetings, one or two ‘leading lights’ may do some research into the history of your locality. No one outside your membership is really aware of your activities. Does this sound like your local history society? If so, you may be happy with the status quo but why not consider ways of reaching out into your community and beyond, to take history and heritage to a wider public.

Buckland Brewer History Group was set up in September 2013, so has the great advantage of not being hampered by tradition; we do not have to run the gauntlet of, ‘We have always done it this way’, or ‘We have never done that before’. We operate in a rural north Devon parish and are very proud of the fact that we are already the largest society in our village.

Part of our ethos is to involve not only our own members but also the wider community, in our activities. To begin with, we actively encourage members from outside our own area, primarily former residents and those who have ancestral links to the parish. To do this, we have to have something to offer these far-flung members, who have an interest in and love of, the history and heritage of Buckland Brewer. We publish a quarterly newsletter, which is issued electronically to almost all of our members, the remainder paying extra to receive a paper copy. We provide help and advice to those researching Buckland Brewer families and have just begun to make video presentations available, for those who live too far away to attend meetings. These cover research hints and information about the history of the parish. We have created a growing, informative website and thereby have attracted members from all parts of the UK, as well as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

We do not expect non-members to come to us and want to do things our way. Instead, we take history out to the residents of our parish, meeting them where they are and capitalising on their existing interests. Our first partnership was with a visiting theatre group, providing them with details of the history of our parish, so that they could create relevant community drama. Next, we responded to a request from the parochial church council and surveyed, photographed and transcribed the gravestones in the parish’s three graveyards, making this data available online.

Our most successful community (note: community not society) project to date is our ongoing work on the world war one servicemen of the parish. Having already researched those who lost their lives, we replicated this in our local primary school, working with children aged 7-11. If you plan to work in schools, you need to have volunteers who are used to working with young people and those volunteers need to be prepared to undergo safeguarding checks, which may be required by the school. There is also scope for working, in a similar way, with scout and guide groups or those preparing for the Duke of Edinburgh’s award.

Two of the fallen servicemen were allocated to each small group of children. As we knew some men had more research potential than others, we ensured that the ‘easy’ ones were evenly distributed. We also arranged the groups so that some children discovered that they were living in the house that had previously been inhabited by their serviceman and others were researching distant relatives. We began by visiting the war memorial, examining the roll of honour in the church and looking for gravestones. This trip also involved planting poppies on the village green. Then the children worked their way through the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, parish registers, electoral rolls and the school admissions’ registers, searching for their men. They also used subscription websites for census returns, entries in Soldier Died in the Great War and service records. Books and the internet provided information about the campaigns in which their men were involved. They produced scrapbooks and displays as well as writing poems. In addition, we acted as advisors and joined in, when the school held a 1914 day. Children and staff dressed in the costume of the time and the school day ran along appropriate lines.

We have now opened this project up to the community. Members and non-members have volunteered to research one or more of those who served in the first world war and survived. Non-members have seen this as a chance to study someone who lived in their house, for example. By examining one of our men, they are learning the necessary techniques to enable them to investigate their own relations, who may have lived elsewhere and that opportunity has drawn them in. Future plans include collaborating with the local craft group to produce a wall hanging commemorating the servicemen.

We have also taken part in Oxford University’s Hill Forts’ Atlas survey. The measuring of our own local hill fort attracted volunteers with backgrounds in geography, who were not members of our group. Our next project involves using LIDAR data to identify potential man-made features in our landscape. This too is an opportunity that will be extended to non-members, many of whom have expressed an interest in working on the section that includes their own property.

In 1965, our local Women’s Institute celebrated their fortieth anniversary by producing a scrapbook that provided a snapshot of the village and life in general, at that time. We approached today’s WI members with the suggestion that they might replicate this project, fifty years on. There were two dozen sections to be covered, such as buildings, people, food, institutions and working life. At first, we thought that there would be a large number of topics left for history group members to tackle. Not so; because this project had a resonance for them, today’s WI agreed to work on almost all the suggested areas for themselves, whilst we remain in the background to encourage, motivate and advise.

Already, village organisations are coming to us, rather than us having to go to them. We have provided added attractions by mounting displays at events such as the local craft market and summer fete. We have given a presentation to the parish council and will be sponsoring classes in the annual village show. We are truly an integral part of our community, to the mutual benefit of both the history group and village inhabitants. We also involve ourselves in the activities of regional organisations, such as the county family history society and belong to several umbrella organisations, of which BALH is one. This gives us the opportunity to share expertise and ideas, as well as being a way of promoting our society.

How long since your organisation gained a new member under the age of thirty? Or, indeed, gained a new member at all? To attract a new generation of people to the world of history and heritage we have to abandon complacency and rethink the traditional local history society model. Do you reach out and network using modern technology? It is amazing how many history groups have no web presence and do not take advantage of the opportunities to spread the word that are provided by social media. This is not to say that we need to abandon some of our more conventional activities but these can be extended and built upon to attract a very different clientele. By making history personal, those who might not express any interest in history per se, find themselves engaged in the heritage of their locality. Go and do likewise, you have nothing to lose.

For more information about Buckland Brewer History Group and the projects mentioned above see https://bucklandbrewerhistorygroup.wordpress.com.

10. Legacies of British slave-ownership Show more → Show less ↓

Keith McClelland on a new database

When slavery in the British empire was abolished in 1833 the British government paid out £20 million in compensation to slave owners for the loss of their ‘property’, that is, the men and women who had been enslaved. One of the off-shoots of emancipation was a unique census of the owners. Each one was listed in a Parliamentary Paper published in 1837-1838 and each claim for compensation was documented with material which is now held in the National Archives at Kew.

A project undertaken at University College London on the Legacies of British Slave-ownership has provided the first systematic analysis of the impact of compensation and slave-ownership on the formation of Victorian Britain. Who were those compensated? How much did they receive? Where did they live? What networks of activity – economic and social, cultural and political – were they engaged in?  Drawing on the records of the Commissioners of Slave Compensation, appointed to distribute the £20 million, and other records, the project has constructed a database and website of slave-owners and other beneficiaries of compensation. This is available at http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs. In particular, we focussed on beneficiaries who were living in Britain at the time of Emancipation or came to Britain thereafter. These ‘absentees’ amounted to about 3,000-3,500 of the total number of about 46,000 claimants. However, were disproportionately represented, receiving about 40% of the money.

The project has traced the absentees through six research strands embracing different types of legacy as well as establishing basic biographical data about someone. Commercial continuities analyses the evolution of individual merchant firms and banks receiving slave compensation, as well as the apparent use of the compensation money in funding other investments.   Cultural legacies examines the role of British slave-owners as connoisseurs and collectors, and as founders or participants in new cultural and social institutions.   Historical lineages explores the role of slave-owners and their descendants as writers and historians constructing memories of the slave-trade and slavery.   Political Legacies traces the affiliations and associational networks of slave-owners and their immediate descendants in national and local politics, and explores how former slave-owners left their imprint on contention over free trade and the wider reconstitution of the nation in mid-century.   Imperial legacies traces the role of slave-owners in the wider circuits of Empire, as investors, administrators and settlers beyond the slave-colonies. Physical legacies catalogues and assesses the built environment associated with slave-owners, including residential and commercial buildings, public monuments and public spaces. The biographical data often includes address information, which might be of particular interest to local historians: it is possible to search by town or city but also by region or, at the other end, by street where we have the information.

The work the project is doing has already been, and continues to be, enriched by contributions of information and material from many independent scholars and researchers, including local and family historians, as well as from academic colleagues. Indeed, the project is very much a public and collaborative venture, drawing on the skills and knowledge of many diverse people. All our data is available to the public and we actively encourage people to contribute to and correct the work we have done. If there is someone a reader knows about please do send us material which might be incorporated into the database.

The work is currently being extended to look at estate ownership in the British Caribbean between the 1760s and 1833. This data will be made public in the spring of 2016.

For more details of the project please visit www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs; or you can contact us directly through lbs@ucl.ac.uk.

11. Saved for the Nation Show more → Show less ↓

Archives under the hammer

Readers of Local History News may recall publicity about dispersal of volumes and manuscripts from the Mendham Collection on deposit in Canterbury Cathedral. Ownership had passed to the Law Society which decided to sell some items at auction. One was a printed treatise on clerical marriage, extensively annotated by John Ponet, Bishop of Winchester c 1514-56. In addition, the volume contained a sizeable(140 page) manuscript in Ponet’s hand comprising drafts and working notes for his reply to this treatise, written by Stephen Gardiner and Thomas Martin,  published in 1554 and titled ‘A Traictise declaryng and plainly proving that the pretensed marriage of Priestes ….is no mariage’. Rebound in the 19th century, this volume was sold to a foreign buyer at £116,500. The application to export it abroad was reviewed by the Committee responsible for considering cases concerning works of art and objects of cultural interest who, following expert advice, concluded it was of outstanding significance for the study of the history of the English Reformation and the adversarial culture of publication in 16th century Europe. In the mid 1550s the doctrine of clerical celibacy was a contentious issue. One of the authors, Stephen Gardiner, had been ejected as Bishop of Winchester, replaced by Ponet, and then re-instated. Ponet’s own notes showed signs of revision over time and many passages were significantly changed later or not published at all. This rare evidence of the authorial process enhanced the scholarly significance of the treatise. The export licence was deferred for three months, and, thanks to the generosity of an individual donor, during this time the British Library was able to match the purchase price and so add this edition to its collections.

Another recent case before the same Committee related to a manuscript Middle English-Latin dictionary, by an unknown compiler but probably produced in Yorkshire in 1483. Formerly in the Monson collection, this dictionary had sold at auction for £92,500 and was intended for export to the USA. Its local origin was important; with more than 8,000 entries on 191 pages, it had great potential for study, not only of contemporary lexicography but in relation to the history of education. The manuscript is one of only two 15th century dictionaries in which English words precede Latin ones. It could well have been produced to assist the growing number of students in newly founded grammar schools in tasks of Latin composition. The copy under review was one of two known to survive; the other is an incomplete and inferior version, with many scribal mistakes. Having heard objections to its export, the Committee deferred the grant of a licence for this manuscript, with the result that the British Library was able to buy it, again with financial assistance from a private person.

Export licence controls in the UK are primarily a legacy of the post-World War II Attlee government, supplemented by later UK and EU legislation. In 1950 the then Chancellor of the Exchequer set up a committee headed by the 1st Viscount Waverley to advise on a government policy for controlling export of ‘works of art, books, manuscripts, armour and antiques’.The Committee’s recommendations were accepted by the Conservative Chancellor, RA Butler, in 1952 and it is the ‘Waverley criteria’ which are still applied today.

These two recent instances show how specific manuscript items can be saved for the nation and so remain part of the heritage of the country in which they were produced.  But it is not easy.  Criteria for deferment of an export licence are very strictly defined.  Twenty-two licences were deferred in 2013/14, but the purchase price was met for only eight items, with a total value of £13.85 million.  Fundraising at short notice is never easy and specialist manuscripts lack the visual appeal and publicity value of Old Master paintings, for example. This means that the intervention of the Reviewing Committee is critical when archival ‘national treasures’ are at risk of being lost. These cases had successful outcomes, but they were exceptional. There may not always be a generous individual philanthropist to come to the rescue.

 So how can local historians help?  While recognising that virtually all such items will end up in national institutions, it may be useful to know what the process is. Finding out what has been sold at auction is the first step. The National Archives’ Sales Monitoring Service alerts interested parties in advance of such sales. If an archive service is unsuccessful at auction, sometimes post-event purchases are possible. If not, and the buyer wants to take an important cultural object overseas permanently, procedures for an export control licence come into play. Should organisations such as the British Library or the Bodleian object, then the issue is referred to the Reviewing Committee who seek independent advice from specialists. Once an export licence has been deferred, press releases are issued and media coverage is usually extensive.

At this point, one of the most effective strategies is to join a coalition of supporters in appeals to secure items about to be exported . It’s not just about money: major grant-givers such as the Heritage Lottery Fund look at evidence of public interest, enthusiasm and commitment.  The more people who express concern, the greater the likelihood that funding bodies will take notice and the stronger the chances of a British institution being able to match the purchase price.

Margaret O’Sullivan

12. England's immigrants 1330-1550 Show more → Show less ↓

concluding conference report

This important three-year AHRC-funded project, to map aliens resident in England between 1330 and 1550, concluded with a day conference at the King’s Manor in York, 14 February 2015. Attendees came from all over the country and local historians were well represented.

The great volume of data now accessible on the website www.englandsimmigrants.com has enhanced research opportunities at national, regional and local level. Two of the main sources, records of denizations and of alien subsidies, were analysed by Dr Alan Bryson and Dr Jonathan Mackman. Having outlined the problems of spasmodic coverage and erratic data in the alien subsidies, Dr Mackman explored the range and scope of information, particularly about place of origin. ’Scot’ and ‘Breton’ were examples of surnames easy to interpret, whereas ‘Ducheman’ might refer equally to someone from the Low Counties or from what today is Germany. While wives of resident aliens were exempt from taxation, widows were not, and so the subsidies, particularly that of 1440, may indicate birth overseas –in Ireland, for instance. It would be wrong to infer that resident aliens were concentrated in cities; entries showed they were widely dispersed, with many living in rural communities, perhaps as skilled craftsmen or tradesmen. A map of aliens in North Cumberland in 1440 illustrated this point.

Dr Jessica Lutkin demonstrated how to interrogate the database; this information is also provided in a Users’ Guide downloadable from the English website. Sorting of data, for example by occupations, is very straightforward. Particularly useful are the maps on the database, providing both historical and modern contexts. Subsequent sessions focussed on ‘national’ groups and considered evidence of immigrants from France, the Low Countries and Italy.    Unsurprisingly, of all the immigrants noted in the database with a place of origin, the majority are from what is modern France- up to 64% in the 1440 alien subsidy. An exceptional example of an agricultural worker was a Frenchman recorded as a ‘keeper of pigs’ in Northamptonshire; perhaps he was brought over as a servant from the local gentry family's landholding in France?  Other case studies looked at political, economic and environmental incentives for foreigners to come to England.  Characteristics other than national or regional origin were then analysed by speakers on subjects such as racial minorities and the evidence in the database of intermarriage between English people and immigrants.  Data from Rutland and Herefordshire in the 1440s showed interesting patterns. In Rutland, of the 26 aliens assessed in 1440, fifteen were married to English wives; in Herefordshire, of 57 aliens in the 1443 assessment, seven were married to English (or Welsh) wives. Of the forty French aliens recorded in Herefordshire, four had English wives, while of the seven Flemings, three were married to Englishwomen.

Dr Peter Fleming examined data for immigrants in Bristol. A very high number (249 out of 1364 entries) of alien residents were recorded as ‘Icelanders’. None were householders; few had second names; perhaps this might indicate relatively low status. The historical background was of especial interest: an Icelandic writer has referred to the fifteenth century as ‘Iceland’s English century’ because it saw greatly increased trade links between the two countries. Accusations were also levelled against the English of kidnapping Icelandic children to use them as bonded servants.  For another part of the country, Lincolnshire, Dr Alan Kissane, drew on court records between 1331 and 1429 to study the inter-relationships between aliens and local justice. Most aliens in this  county came  from the Low Countries, broadly defined, but there were small numbers of French, Scots and ‘Lombards’.Much violent crime was alien on alien: Brabanters were murdered by Flemings; Hollanders and Germans killed one another. Economic competition could well have been a factor in such cases. But immigrants could also rise in local society; an ‘Esterling’ became a bailiff in 1332, for example.  Immigrants in York and Yorkshire were surveyed by Professor Ormrod. York was home to 83 immigrants in 1440; the East Riding (excluding Hull) had 481, the North Riding 323 and the West Riding 136.  In York six were Scottish, four ‘Dutch’ and two French; 45 were householders, mostly skilled tradesmen including two goldsmiths, but 17 were servants. Similar origins were recorded for main groups in the East Riding and West Riding in the same year, but, interestingly, women feature more prominently ;  entries include a Frenchwoman who was a labourer in Carlton in Barkston Ash Wapentake and a Scottish widow who was a weaver in Cawood. A specific case study related to Henry Wyman, a Hanseatic merchant from Hamburg who was trading in cloth and wine from the 1370s onwards. He became a Freeman of York and obtained letters of denization in 1388.Between 1407 and 1410 he was Mayor of the city three times. Henry married the daughter of another mayor, John Barden; his daughter, Joan, married the eldest son of chief justice William Gascoigne. Thus the immigrant Henry became a member of the ‘Micklegate elite’ of urban and gentry families and, in addition, had a strong association with the cult of Archbishop Richard Scrope who died in 1405.

This was a stimulating and wide-ranging conference which showed how online resources can open up the research potential of archives previously very difficult to use by non-specialists. Case studies demonstrated the value to regional and local historians of medieval series in The National Archives.The website data will be a valuable starting point for enquiries relating to the diversity of the population of England in the later Middle Ages; to occupations; to the status of women, both as wives and as widows; to economic and social networks; to cultural contacts; as well as for many other topics. Thanks to this project, interpretations of ‘immigrant’ in late medieval England can now be based on detailed contemporary evidence.

Margaret O’Sullivan

13. Update on some Yorkshire libraries and archives 2015 Show more → Show less ↓

Claire Cross reports

York City Archives

A decade or two after the Second World War York city archives, which date back to soon after the Norman Conquest, were transferred from the Guildhall to an annex of the City Art Gallery. Those wanting to use the archives had to squeeze into a cramped and noisy reading room, the storage conditions for records did not to meet the required standards, and it was increasingly recognised that the archives could not stay in their present premises. Proposals were made at the turn of the century that the archives should be deposited in alternative purpose built record offices outside the city, but local opinion, voiced in particular by the Friends of York City Archives, was adamant that the archives should remain within the city walls, and ultimately this won the day. The city obtained a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to construct a state of the art record repository above a single storey wing of the city’s Central Library and transform the former reference library in the parallel wing into a Local History Centre. A substantial bay at one end of the new local history library, well endowed by natural light, has been enclosed by a glass screen to form the Archives Reading Room, while at the opposite end of the library a separated room has been converted into a Family History Room equipped with both microfilm readers and computers. All the building and refurbishment work was finished on schedule and the new Local History Centre was opened to the public at the beginning of January 2015. A concerted effort is being made to make the content and nature of the city’s archives better known and articles publicising the archives have appeared regularly in the local newspaper. At the moment the archives can be consulted on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday: all the modern printed books in the Local History Library are on open access and this part of the Local History Centre is open throughout the week and at weekends. In the hope that they might become eligible for charitable grants York City Council has very recently placed its library services into a charitable trust. The new trust is eager to recruit volunteers; it is too soon to know whether it will be able to maintain the present level of professional library and archive staff.

The Yorkshire Archaeological Society Archives and Library

It was reported in the last issue of Local History News that the Yorkshire Archaeological Society had concluded that for economic reasons it could no longer maintain its headquarters at Claremont and had reluctantly decided to sell the building and deposit its impressive library and extensive archival collections in the Brotherton Library of the University of Leeds. The YAS management committee had assumed that the Society’s archives would be transferred to the Leeds University Library in February 2015 and that they would then become available to readers in the University Library’s Special Collections Department some time after Easter 2015, and that the Society’s library would be transferred to the Leeds University Library in September 2015 in the expectation that the books would be accessible early in the 2015-2016 academic year. Very recently the secretary of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society has sent round details of major changes to this schedule.

YAS Archives

 Although most of the Society’s archives were in it good condition, it had emerged that some needed remedial conservation treatment, which Leeds University Library  required should be carried out before the archives could be deposited in  its strong rooms. The Society would be seeking grant aid to fund the conservation. The archives were now to be placed in a specialist conservation treatment centre and stored there until the conservation work had been completed. It was not now expected that the archives could be transferred to the University of Leeds Library Special Collections before the academic year 2015-2016 and that the earliest date that readers might be able to gain access to the archives was now the beginning of 2016.

YAS Library

The University of Leeds Library had only agreed to accept books from the YAS library which were not duplicates of those it already held. Checking had revealed that copies of around half the books in the YAS Library were already in the Leeds University Library. These would be purged and the remainder transferred to the Leeds University Library in September 2015, and in order to prepare for the transfer the YAS Library at Claremont would be closed to readers from 1 April 2015. It had been hoped that the volumes from the truncated YAS library would become accessible to YAS members quite soon after the September transfer. Because of ‘resourcing issues’ this, however, now seemed unlikely and at the moment the Management Committee had no date at which they might become available.

Plans for the sale of the YAS headquarters at Claremont are progressing. For the 2015-2016 season YAS lectures will be taking place at the Swarthmore Education Centre in Woodhouse Square, Leeds.

14. Guided visit to Lichfield Show more → Show less ↓

report on a successful event

Lichfield Museum Friday 28 March.

A group of over 20 people took this ‘conversational walk’ with Dr Trevor James. While nearly half had come via BALH others had seen the poster in local churches, or were members of the Historical Association, while there were two people that just noticed the event going on and joined in!

Dr James introduced the visitors to the building and to key elements of the collections at the museum, and reflected on their local and national significance. Participants considered that the event had been both informative and enjoyable.

BALH members will know that from time to time guided visits have had to be cancelled due to lack of support. This example has demonstrated that wider local promotion of such opportunities, particularly via relevant local organisations, has the potential to avoid such problems. In the slightly longer term we aim to develop regional bases from which to offer similar activities in future, with the help of hard working members around the country who are prepared to take on the arrangements. For example, there is a planned visit to the Erasmus Darwin Museum on 17 March 2016.

15. Historic KFC Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby on fast food

The headline caught my eye, as I was glancing through the local paper: ‘Mystery of reprieve for historic KFC’. We in Preston were proud that we had, among many other claims to fame in this ancient borough, the oldest purpose-built Woolworth’s store in the world. Situated in Fishergate, the main shopping street, it was built in 1911, and was only the second to be opened in Britain (after one in Church Street, Liverpool), following a visit by Frank and Fred Woolworth, founders of the celebrated chain. The building is still there, despite the sad demise of Woolworths a few years ago. It’s a rather attractive white structure with Art Deco detailing and is now used by Next and other retailers.

But what about the historic KFC? Could this be true? I read on. The Kentucky Fried Chicken in Preston was nothing less than the first to be opened anywhere in the world outside the United States and Canada. What a sensational honour – ahead of London, Liverpool and any other hip and swinging place, it was proud Preston which was targeted by Ray Allen, English agent of the famous chain of what were slightly euphemistically known as ‘restaurants’.  This was a whole nine years before the arrivistes known as McDonalds appeared in this country. How historic is that?

I did some on-line searching, and came across a website called - improbably but true - Kentucky Fried Bloggin’ (the work of ‘a group of dedicated enthusiasts who just can't get enough of that finger lickin' chicken. Praise the lord, Colonel Harland Sanders’ ... it is surreal in its oddness). This included a short, if not entirely reliable, account of the historic event. Preston was, from a transatlantic perspective, ‘a small town in North West England’ but ‘Allen was on home turf and due to his catering background throughout the 1950s he thought that the good people of Preston were ready for this taste’. There is scope for historical research: ‘The Colonel is ... rumoured to have visited Preston to oversee the overseas expansion of his empire in its nascent stages. Rumour though is all it seems to be for there is no substantiating evidence to be found, not even in Preston. Nor does the colonel mention ever having visited in his autobiography giving the country only a fleeting mention’.

Anyway, further internet investigation was required, and I discovered that the people of mid-Lancashire fifty years ago were not immediately impressed. My friend Paul Swarbrick co-authors the excellent ‘BlogPreston’ site, and a correspondent wrote that ‘My mum remembers the opening very well. Apparently the good folk of Preston were reticent towards the idea of fast food chicken, resulting in a scene involving the manager jogging up and down Fishergate with free samples urging people to give it a try’. Paul, echoing this recollection, remembered that ‘At the time of the opening, myself and a few pals, who only had a few weeks left before leaving school, had heard that the new Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet were going to be giving away free samples. We decided in our ‘wisdom’ that we would bunk-off school and explore the possibility of trying out their wares. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to find anyone with the free samples and ended up spending most of our pocket money on gorging ourselves on the delicious offerings of Colonel Saunders. It was money well spent though as I have been eating the stuff ever since that time; hence, I’m not a small lad any more but at least I can say that I was one of the first customers to eat at the first KFC outlet in the UK’.

History is fascinating - and here’s a serious point. The opening of a KFC in Preston fifty years ago – arguably, Britain’s first ever fast food joint - was the harbinger of a transformation which has altered our ‘high streets’ and our eating habits (or those of some of us) almost beyond recognition. A revolution in the social history of Britain took place half a century ago a mile from where I’m typing this. That is local history which is of tremendous importance. But that branch of KFC, in the very centre of the city, might soon be closing. This, in its way, will be at least as significant as the planned closure of Victorian churches or the threatened demolition of mid-nineteenth century houses. Where is the local history of fast food? And should Preston KFC be scheduled, urgently, as a historic monument?

16. Trustee profile Show more → Show less ↓

Bill Moss

I am a Lancastrian by birth, but was educated in Switzerland where all my lessons were in Swiss German.    I still have a love for Europe and its history.   I now live in a house in Wiltshire surrounded by tumuli and a few miles from Stonehenge.

I started work for the Royal Exchange Insurance at 18 and had a very good grounding in underwriting.  I was invited to set up the UK end of an East African firm of brokers but unfortunately this came to an end when the director in Uganda was thrown into one of General Amin’s prisons and the other directors sold out in consequence.   I subsequently set up an insurance brokerage which grew to cover most of the archaeological activities in the UK, getting to see many important discoveries, such as the Dover Bronze Age Boat, while they were still in the restoration stage.

I am now retired but seem to work just as hard as a Wiltshire Councillor, with special interests in strategic planning, planning and care for young people and the elderly.  The thorny problem of the A303 with its continual tailbacks at Stonehenge is a continuing headache. I am a trustee of Salisbury Museum and its continuing expansion gives me a great deal of pleasure.  I am arranging a visit for the BALH to the Magna Carta exhibition in 2015.   I am a keen sailor and am just about to become Vice Commodore of our local Yacht Club.

Planning in Salisbury is one my major interests, with its high level of historic and listed buildings and its fascinating history.  I feel I can put my hobby to good use, as I was once Chairman of Planning for Salisbury District Council and undertaking ongoing lobbying of the Unitary Council on matters relating to Salisbury and the surrounding area.   I have been fortunate in my political career to have been Chairman of both Salisbury DC and Wiltshire County Council   It was for these reasons that I was originally invited to join the Council of the BALH.

17. Notes News Issues Show more → Show less ↓

Local History Day 6 June 2015 Birmingham.

 There has been a good response for tickets to LHD this year, they are still available and we would be delighted to see you there. Amongst the displays will be a bookstall from The History Press and Phillimore where you will be able to find their latest local history publications. This will also provide an opportunity for anyone with an idea for a book to make contact with one of the major publishers in our field.

Claire Cross honoured

We are delighted to note that Claire Cross, one of BALH’s Vice-Presidents and former Chair has been made a 2014 Jubilee Fellow by the Historical Association. Quoting from their citation: Professor Claire Cross is well known to anyone who studies Tudor, religious or local history. She was Professor of History at York from 1986 until her retirement in 2002. She continues to be active in a number of organisations including the Britihs Association for Local History, and the Ecclesiastical history Society, and is a member of the HA’s Public History Committee. She has written and edited countless books, essay collections and articles.

Local history in the media

How many of us would echo the phrase ‘my first stop was XXX local history library …’? That appeared in the Guardian supplement last Saturday in an article from someone who was investigating the history of their house and its residents, beginning with a Victorian child’s boot discovered in the cellar. Credit was also given to their local archaeology and history society in Islington, and to the Victorian Society. Long may such local resources, with their expert staff and members, be available to support and extend the enthusiasm of people for local historical information. Guardian 28 March 2015 Family p 3


Jacquie Fillmore would be pleased to receive material for the next issue of the e-newsletter as soon as possible. Short notes, information about forthcoming events, longer contributions, and illustrations are welcome.  e-news@balh.org.uk

Open Forum

The next Open Forum will be on Saturday 10 October. Richard Hoyle will be speaking about the latest developments at the VCH (see also p 8 of this issue for the current situation)

BALH website

We know many member societies have a link to our website on theirs, which is a very useful way of many contacts around the world. Please could you update the link to www.balh.org.uk. Similarly please let us know if you change the domain name of your site so we can make a reciprocal change.

Continuing developments on our new site include uploading pdfs of back issues of TLH (we have now reached 2004 – working backwards). Coming soon will be advice on starting a local history society, and new material for teachers.  Any suggestions for future improvements (such as material to go in the Members’ Only area) are welcome, though please do not expect instant action on everything!

Addition: LHN 114 p 32 the missing price of Come into the Factories reviewed here is £6.99

18. News from Archives Show more → Show less ↓

National School Records Project

Findmypast.co.uk has published the first records in its online resource for National School Admission Registers and Log-books 1870-1914. Twenty-six archives and schools in England and Wales have contributed over 2.5 million historical records from over 1500 schools. Two further publication phases are planned with material from about seventy-five additional contributors, chiefly archive services. The next phases are due to be available in spring and autumn 2015.

The school records covered are admission registers and log books.  Details usually  include: name of and type of school, name and address of pupil, date of admission, date of leaving, name of parent and/or guardian, date of birth, whether parents are living or dead, and parent’s occupation. Some might also have details of dental inspections, diphtheria immunisation, exemption from religious instruction, and about subjects a pupil paid money to take.

The first phase comprises records from sources in thirteen counties across England and Wales - Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Devon, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Lancashire, City of  Westminster  and some London boroughs,  Surrey, Wiltshire and Glamorganshire.

The records are accessible at: www.findmypast.co.uk/school-registers

Also recently made available online from Findmypast are patient records from Bethlem Royal Hospital, covering the period 1683 to 1932. Nearly a quarter of a million records, including photos, reveal details of the lives of those who were admitted to this infamous institution. Admissions registers, staff books, governors’ minutes and patients’ casebooks are included.  www.findmypast.co.uk/bethlem

Barclays Bank

Barclays Group Archives are proud to announce the launch of a new online resource, making thousands of items from the archives freely available online. Featuring branch photographs, advertising material, annual reports and a selection of other weird and wonderful items amassed by the Archives over the years, the website also includes information on Barclays’ history around the world, and should prove of interest to serious scholars and casual browsers.  Based in Manchester, the Barclays archive has been accessible to visitors by appointment only for the last 25 years.  This initiative brings elements of this significant collection to a worldwide audience for the first time. The Barclays Group Archive website can be seen at www.barclays.com/archives

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service’s Newsletter Winter 2015 includes ‘Conservation Corner’which explains and illustrates some of the many activities carried out by their conservation and preservation team. Illustrated here is a seal from the reign of George I in its ‘before’ and ‘after’ states. Note the repairs are deliberately visible rather than toned in to match the original wax. www.bedford.gov.uk/archive.

70 years since the end of the Second World War is another anniversary for 2015. History and Heritage from Cheshire West &Chester Council publish extracts from the Chester Chronicle of 12 May 1945 that capture the spirit of the city ‘ready to party after six years of worry, hardship and despair’.  chh@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

A feature article from the Salopian Recorder (the newsletter of the Friends of Shropshire Archives) focuses on the diary of Henry Pidgeon, author of the guidebook ‘Memorials of Shrewsbury’, a retail chemist in the High Street, and Borough Treasurer for 31 years. From the initial entry on 11 January 1823 ‘the small pox and measles are very prevalent in our town…’ the author explores the incidence, impact and distribution of disease, using a variety of sources as well as the diary. The results are clearly illustrated with coloured bar charts . www.shropshirearcives.org.uk

Surrey History Centre has made a successful    bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant to establish an ambitious project to commemorate the Great War. Over the course of the next four years, ‘Surrey in the Great War: A County Remembers’ will be at the heart of the county's commemoration of the First World War and the quest to understand how the war changed the face of Surrey and the lives of its residents.

The grant of £458,800 will finance the collection and publication online of community-based research exploring all aspects of the impact of the war on the county and the experiences of those who served on the home front and overseas. People of all ages and backgrounds across the county will be inspired to come together with the common aim of creating a global, interactive, accessible and enduring digital resource telling Surrey’s story during the war years.  As a result of their work, memories and memorabilia of the war, in danger of disappearing with the passage of time, will be captured for posterity.

The full project will run throughout the remaining years of the commemoration of the war, culminating in November 2018. It will then become part of the daily work at Surrey History Centre and be available for further research after the end of the Centenary.


Since last Autumn, all three branches of Suffolk Record Office are closed to the public on Wednesdays.  This is to allow the staff of work on digitisation of catalogues and original records. They have made great progress, and are working towards the launch of the new website later in the year which will give access to the online catalogue. Amongst the gems discovered are  tattoos on a prisoner recorded in a gaol book. Suffolk Local History Council Newsletter 90. www.slhc.org.uk

19. News from Museums Show more → Show less ↓

A selection of items from the Metropolitan Police will be going on show later this year at ‘The Crime Museum Uncovered’ at the Museum of London. Until now only serving police officers and visitors by appointment have been allowed to visit the ‘Black Museum’, which was set up in 1874 to train police officers, and is one of five met police museums.  This exhibition will, run for six months and the response will be reviewed before a decision is taken to make it more permanent. The Independent 19 March 2015

Building work has started in Rayleigh, Essex, as the result of a successful Heritage Lottery Fund bid for £89,800 to help finance the formation and set up costs of the Rayleigh Town  Museum. The first floor of 91 High Street, one of the oldest buildings in the town, is being converted to make a purpose built venue for collections which cover the history of the town from its very easrliest times to the present day.  The Museum will be open 4 days a week, year round, staffed by a group of 60 volunteers. It is planned to function as a heritage hub to attract visitors from the surrounding area to enjoy other heritage sites, shops and restaurants in the town. A recent acquisition to the museum are some stained glass windows from Rayleigh Stadium. www.rayleightownmuseum.co.uk

Grimbsy  Fishing Heritage Centre has been awarded  £3,000 from the Arts Council England-funded ‘Joining Up the Humber Museums’ partnership for new equipment and training for staff and volunteers, particularly aimed at its costume collection. http://www.nelincs.gov.uk/resident/museums-and-heritage/fishing-heritage-centre

More anniversaries:  200 years since the birth of Anthony Trollope who spent 34 years working for the Post Office, is marked in a Bicentenary Commemorative issue of the British Postal Museum & Archive Newsletter. Not only do we read about Trollope’s innovations to the postal service (including the introduction of (pillar boxes) but also about the way his working life influenced his writing.


Bilsthorpe Colliery (Nottinghamshire) closed in 1997, and since then a small group, the Bilsthorpe Heritage Society, has collected many artefacts telling the story of coal in their area. Last summer they formally opened Bilsthorpe Heritage Museum in the village hall, welcoming visitors from far and wide.  During the winter the museum has continued to be open for two days a week, and will shortly revert to longer summer hours. Many of the volunteer staff are ex-miners therefore very knowledgeable about the industry in that locality. From North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society Newsletter 57.

Two things to share from a recent visit your editor made to Manchester Museum. In the city as an ‘accompanying person’ at an academic conference I had planned a couple of days of art galleries, canal walks (weather permitting, which it did –just) and museums if time allowed. Across the road from the conference venue, I had a short time in the Manchester Museum. The’ Manchester Gallery’ demonstrates how imaginative displays using ‘mind-mapping’ techniques can reveal the links between the collections and the community, under such headings as ‘Journeys’ which explored how developments in transport influenced the industry of the place, via trade routes with the rest of the world bringing raw materials and people. In the centre of the room is the skeleton of Maharajah accompanied by a wonderful video of a visiting school party discussing the displays with two members of Gorton Local history Group. The Living Worlds room was heaving with enthusiastic young children. Using what might be considered very old fashioned dark wood display cases, and including ‘traditional’ natural history specimens from the hands of taxidermists that have been given a modern interpretation placed in the context of concepts such as ‘peace’, ’symbols’ and much more. A thread around the room comes from the glorious art installation of Romuald Hazoume ‘Dance of the Butterflies’. www.manchesterr.ac.uk/museum