Local History News Number 117 Autumn 2015

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1. Keeping societies going Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

In her book Zen and the art of local history, which I considered in a review article in the April 2015 issue of The Local Historian, Carol Kammen provides a most interesting analysis (written in 2004) of local history societies in the United States. It is clear that much of their experience has been paralleled in the British Isles. The great growth period was the 1970s and 1980s though in the US, as in Britain, a substantial number of societies are much older. Carol observes, however, that lately the momentum has slackened. In her county in New York State there were two societies in 1976 and seven in 2004, but ‘one of those seven ... seems to have run out of steam’.

She identifies some of the underlying factors, which are familiar to many of us. In the 1980s ‘there was great interest in preserving and celebrating the town’s history [but] the organizing people – who were not young then – are now twenty-some years older’. They haven’t the energy, she suggests, to keep the society going and they have ‘not been replaced or supplemented by younger folks’. Even with money in the treasury and a full programme, ‘few of the members turn out for them (especially if a meeting is at night)’. She itemises other factors which many of us know from our own experience: the cost of buildings and room hire; the question of insurance (though in Britain BALH offers an outstandingly good insurance package tailor-made for societies); a lack of community interest and identity; and the multitude of electronic distractions and diversions which make a hard seat in a draughty hall on a wet November night seem unappealing.

With her usual ability to turn a pithy phrase, Carol notes that ‘many of these organizations are finding that beginning a society is more fun than running one’, and that in the case of campaigning societies ‘there is energy and enthusiasm for saving something but ... money is harder to come by for ongoing maintenance’. She draws a parallel with the decline in the number of churches and chapels, a phenomenon typical of America as of Britain: ‘we have a number of weak institutions, and too little money to support them all’, implying that amalgamation and rationalisation of societies might be a gathering trend.

We’ve seen this in action in the British Association for Local History itself: in the past decade we have amalgamated with the Association of Local History Tutors and the Conference on Regional and Local History because neither of the latter organisations foresaw a long-term future. Consolidation has taken place, and has brought some exceptionally able and well-qualified people into BALH, enriching and reinforcing our own role. But Carol also warns about the dangers – especially the risk which is posed to collections of artefacts, printed works and documents – and, if an organisation owns property, the knotty legal issues which can be raised by the ‘death of an organization’.

It’s easy to generalise. My own city, Preston, has a local history society which twenty years ago was comatose but which now regularly has audiences of over 200, runs a stimulating and lively website, has a campaigning role and an enviably good links with local media. In contrast, the more overtly historic city of Lancaster, twenty miles up the road, doesn’t even have a society – it went into liquidation about twenty years ago. So much, in the end, depends on people -  their enthusiasm, imagination and innovative thinking, organisational flair and talent for promotion and publicity. As Carol Kammen concludes, ‘we all need to be protective about the health of our local institutions’. 

2. Not Least in the Crusade: Medical Caregiving in First World War Britain Show more → Show less ↓

Jessica Meyer

The military medical history of the First World War is a surprisingly under-researched field.  While cultural representations, such as the BBC drama The Crimson Field (2014) and James Kent’s adaptation of Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (2014), indicate continuing public fascination with stories of British medical caregivers in wartime,[1] accessible studies of the subject remain rare. 

Among academic studies, the work of Leo van Bergen and Mark Harrison are the most important texts. These survey medical services transnationally, and the British case, respectively.[2]  A larger number of studies explore the treatment of specific wounds and the development of medical disciplines, ranging from psychological injury to heart disease, orthopaedics to plastic surgery.[3] Many of these argue that the war transformed medical care, with the pressures of war leading to innovation and technological development.  However, as Roger Cooter and Steve Sturdy have argued, ‘medical modernization during wartime took place, not according to some overarching and timeless logic, but rather through a multiplicity of local and contingent negotiations over power relations between doctors, military and civil authorities, and other interested medical actors and organizations.’[4] Wartime developments in medical care can thus be viewed through the prism of local and regional histories.

Social and cultural histories of wartime medicine form another important area of academic study.  These range from Joanna Bourke’s exploration of medical inspection in forming masculine identities in wartime, through Jeffrey Reznick’s study of the wartime hospital as a ‘site of healing’, to Ana Carden-Coyne’s work on cultures of disability and pain.[5]  These works focus on medical care from the perspective of the patient as well as the practitioner.

Interest in the medical history of the war has also resulted in a range of more accessible texts such as Emily Mayhew’s Wounded (2014) with its strong narrative of the process of medical evacuation and caregiving.  While providing a good overall sense of this process, as well as excellent summaries of further reading, combining individual stories for the sake of narrative drive is frustrating for those seeking specific primary sources. More useful, and indeed more comprehensive in the range of medical care discussed, is Susan Cohen’s beautifully illustrated Medical Services in the First World War (2014).

Another useful category focuses on the roles of specific groups of medical service personnel.  Ian Whitehead’s Doctors in the Great War (1999 provides a superb overview of the conflicts between civil and military medical practice that the war engendered.  And literature on nurses is extensive, with two comprehensive volumes by Christine Hallett, Containing Trauma (2009) and Veiled Warriors (2014). An increasing range of published primary sources is also available in edited diaries and letters of stretcher bearers and medical officers, such as Stretcher Bearer! (2013), the diaries of Charles H. Horton, edited for publication by Dale le Vack.

There are also excellent online resources, such as Scarlet Finders (http://www.scarletfinders.co.uk/), a blog on military nursing relating to both world wars.  The site includes useful advice on researching individual nurses, with links to resources available through both The National Archives and British Red Cross Society.  The latter includes not only the published volume of the British Red Cross Register of Overseas Volunteers 1914-18, but also Personnel Records online: (http://www.redcross.org.uk/About-us/Who-we-are/History-and-origin/First-World-War).  Other web resources include The Long, Long Trail (http://www.1914-1918.net), detailing establishments, attachments and locations of units which formed the medical evacuation chain, from Field Ambulance to Home Hospital. The Wellcome Library has digitized its RAMC Muniments collection (http://wellcomelibrary.org/collections/browse/collections/digramc), while a new and developing site from the National Railway Museum (http://www.nrm.org.uk/RailwayStories/worldwarone.aspx) provides information relating to the construction and functioning of hospital trains.

For local historians, the military and auxiliary hospitals located in Britain are likely to be the subject of greatest interest.  Developed in a range of institutional and domestic settings, these hospitals drew on local and regional resources, as well as profoundly affecting local communities.  For example, many home hospitals, such as the 3rd London General, Wandsworth and the 2nd Northern General, Leeds, reserved beds and wards for ANZAC troops, while the hospital at Brighton Pavilion was eventually given over entirely to the treatment of wounded Indian servicemen.

Records of the range of hospitals which developed in Britain, including established military and Territorial Force General hospitals, British Red Cross-administered VAD hospitals (Class A auxiliary hospitals) and convalescent hospitals (Class B auxiliary hospitals), demonstrate the complex interactions between the military, the medical profession and wartime voluntarism within specific locales.  Hospitals often published journals, available for sale to the public, to raise funds. These journals not only provide details of hospital life, but also stories of specific individuals and their local connections.  The ‘Southern’ Cross, the journal of the 1st Southern General, Birmingham, for instance, contains contributions from personnel attached to associated auxiliary hospitals, allowing for exploration of the networks of care and association which developed within the city during the war.  The publicity value of medical care meant that stories of local interactions with hospitals were a common source of news for the local press, as well as providing subjects for civic commemoration of the war, as in the chapter of the 1921 publication Leeds and the Great War.

The histories of war hospitals have inspired notable local research projects, such as the National Trust’s ‘Dunham Massey is the Stamford Military Hospital’ exhibition, Headingley LitFest’s Stories from the War Hospital (2014), and the Healing Home exhibition at Temple Newsome, Leeds. Given the number of wartime hospitals,[6] and the individuals who served and were treated in them, often in medically and socially innovative ways, a range of stories of local medical histories of the war remain to be told. In doing so, local and regional historians will add to the work of medical and cultural historians to develop a fuller understanding of this complex and fascinating aspect of the history of the war.

Jessica Meyer is University Academic Fellow in Legacies of War at the University of Leeds. Her research focuses on the medical history of the First World War and the ways in which care-giving shaped and was shaped by gender during and after the war.

[1] A similar fascination can be seen in other Anglophone countries, as in the popular Australian drama Anzac Girls (ABC, 2014).

[2] Leo van Bergen, Before My Helpless Sight: Suffering, Dying and Military Medicine on the Western Front, 1914-1918 (Ashgate, 2009); Mark Harrison, The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War (OUP, 2010).

[3] See, for example, Peter Leese, Shell Shock: Traumatic Neurosis and the British Soldiers of the First World War (Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Joel D. Howell, ‘”Soldier’s heart”: the redefinition of heart disease and speciality formation in early twentieth-century Great Britain’, Medical History, 29:S5, 1985: 34-52; Roger Cooter, Surgery and Society in Peace and War: Orthopaedics and the Organization of Modern Medicine, 1880-1948 (Macmillan, 1993), 105-137; Suzannah Biernoff, ‘The rhetoric of disfigurement in First World War Britain’, Social History of Medicine, 24(3), 2011: 666-685.

[4] Roger Cooter and Steve Sturdy, ‘Of War, Medicine and Modernity: Introduction’ in Roger Cooter, Mark Harrison and Steve Sturdy, eds., War, Medicine and Modernity (Sutton Publishing, Ltd, 1998), 10.

[5] Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Men’s Bodies, Britain and the Great War (Reaktion Books, 1996); Jeffrey S. Reznick, Healing the Nation: Soldiers and the Culture of Caregiving in Britain during the Great War (Manchester University Press, 2004); Ana Carden-Coyne, The Politics of Wounds: Military Patients and Medical Power in the First World War (OUP, 2014).

[6] The Long, Long Trail lists over 225 for London Command alone: http://www.1914-1918.net/hospitals_uk.htm, last accessed 20th April, 2015.

3. ODNB update Show more → Show less ↓

The September 2015 update to the Oxford  Dictionary of National Biography online adds biographies of 112 men and women who shaped British history from the 13th to the early 21st century. The update includes a special focus on individuals active during the First World War - especially those engaged in events  during 1915. New biographies include John Leopold Brodie (1873-1945), creator of the 'Brodie helmet', worn by millions of British soldiers and first issued in autumn 1915; Godfrey Chetwynd (1863-1936), who designed and ran the war's largest shell filling factory; and the physicians Louisa Garrett Anderson (1873-1943) and Flora Murray (1869-1923) who in 1915 established what remains Britain's only military hospital staffed by women.

September's update also concludes the research project on the abbots, abbesses, priors and prioresses who made up the medieval religious. This three-year project has added nearly 60 first-time biographies of religious leaders, many of whom oversaw the dissolution of their institutions at the Reformation. To mark the project's completion, September's update includes a feature essay by Professor Claire Cross of York University (and BALH Trustee and Vice-President) in which she profiles the men and women who led England's religious houses.

This update also continues to extend the Oxford DNB's coverage of black and Asian Britons. New biographies include Ayuba Diallo (1701-1773), Muslim cleric and slave, and Sarah Bonetta (c.1843-1880), ward of Queen Victoria. Others now added include the religious exemplar Joan Drake (1585-1625), scientific writer Judith Squire (1686-1743), and Josef Dallos (1905-1979), developer of the contact lens.

And amongst the other new additions is a contribution from Margaret O’Sullivan on the suffragette artist Georgina Brackenbury.


4. A vigorous champion Show more → Show less ↓

Jane Howells

The adjective in this title was used several times by referees for Richard Brockington’s award for personal achievement in local history.  As ‘the driving force’ in initiating the revival of the Victoria County History of Cumbria (Cumberland, Westmorland and those parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire which had been detached in 1974), he organised, encouraged, advised and chivied in equal measure.

Educated at Winchester College and Cambridge University, Richard qualified as a solicitor and spent his professional life in private practice and local government.  His growing interest in history was developed further on retirement to Renwick, Cumbria.  There he discovered he had arrived in a place that had been owned by an Oxford College since 1341, and spent the next few years researching it in the archives of Queen’s College.  Richard had already followed the OU course ‘Family & Community History’, and subsequently completed the Diploma in Local & Regional history at Lancaster University.  ‘Riders of Renwick’ was published in The Local Historian, Vol 39 No 3.

In 2006 he became Chair of the Cumbria Local History Federation; ‘thrust into the position’ by his own account, under difficult circumstances not unknown in many organisations when long-standing and inspiring officers depart.   Following initial steps taken by Angus Winchester at Lancaster University to re-start work on the VCH in 2008, Richard Brockington became Chair of a Steering Group representing the university, CLHF, Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, Cumbria County Council, the National Trust, and other bodies concerned with local heritage.  While Angus Winchester laid the foundations, and continues to contribute his knowledge and support, Richard’s professional skills, enthusiasm and commitment drove the project forward, both in drafting the constitution and in fund-raising, to the formal establishment of the Cumbria County History Trust.   He stepped down as Chair of the Trust in 2010, held the key role of Secretary until 2014, and continues as a Trustee. 

Not only was Richard’s organisational skill vital to the new VCH Cumbria.  His abilities as a local historian are demonstrated by his being amongst the first of the CCHT volunteers to write a full VCH Township History (of Renwick) to exacting VCH standards of course.  He is now working on two adjacent parishes, Kirkoswald and Staffield.  A popular local speaker, Richard has talked about his experience of writing a VCH history, encouraging other volunteers to join the project – there are 344 townships in Cumbria giving plenty of opportunities for people to become involved.

We were delighted to see Richard and his wife Eileen at Local History Day in June. His award recognises the vital importance of VCH to local historians throughout the country, and emphasises the importance of local volunteers to its success, a point often re-iterated in these pages.

With thanks to Richard Brockington, Angus Winchester, Bill Shannon and Tiffany Hunt


Richard Brockington with Professor David Hey, President of BALH, Local History Day June 2015.

VCH Cumbria Volunteers meeting, 2013. Angus Winchester at the head of the table, Richard Brockington facing the camera in the middle of the row. On his left is Sir James Cropper, sometime Lord Lieutenant of Cumbria and a patron of the CCHT as well as being a volunteer, and on his right is Emmeline Garnett who has completed several draft VCH township articles in the Kirkby Lonsdale area.

5. A day out  Show more → Show less ↓

Richard Hoyle

This is a bit of a shaggy dog story, but bear with me, there is a serious point towards the end.

I have recently started on a new project. It doesn’t matter what it is. Indeed it may be too soon to say what it is, as after a few months I may decide that it amounts to nothing very much and take the file round to one of the filing cabinets in the garage, where it will surprise my literary executor in the full course of time. But I have noticed a few things in passing, and think I might be onto something interesting. And amongst my reading I had a hint that there was something particularly interesting in the record office of a northern town.

I wrote and asked for a quote, and had a silly price back for copies. So, as I had some hares to chase in that particular archive, I thought I would go myself, wield my camera, have a poke around to see what else there was, try and nail down some other things which I half recalled being there. And so it was the 7.48 train north, a journey lasting an entire morning and then an arrival at the record office just before lunchtime.

I knew this record office well in the late 1970s and early ’80s. But the staff I knew were long gone. Indeed the record office had been in two different sets of premises since I was a regular visitor and when I found it, it turned out to be in a rather shabby room round the side of the old library building with the local studies library in the next door room. I didn’t think that the past thirty years had been particularly kind. No lottery money had been seen here.

The lady on the counter (well, sat at the desk in the corner) was expecting me and the usual formalities over, gave me a single document. I feared a long day of one document at a time ... but then she went for lunch. Her successor either didn’t care or took a shine to me (I’d like to think it was the latter) and gave me a manila folder with the first eight or ten items in it. I photographed away, rather pleased that I had gone in person as material was better than I hoped, and some of it had not seemed interesting enough to have had copies made. And then I swopped the first folder for the second folder, still rather pleased at the quality of what I was finding. Until I got to the last item in the folder.

It was an offprint from a journal. In five pages it described in detail all the things I had seen and just photographed.

Now the author was the vicar of the parish in the 1930s. The offprint gave no clue as to when or where his paper was published, but the reverend author acknowledged that it had been written from papers then in his parish safe, the very ones I had been looking at. A search of the local studies library showed that his article wasn’t in the local historical journal and a Google search on my phone failed to find it. Perhaps it is in something yet to find its second life in digitisation (the Clergyman’s bedside book perhaps?).

Well, I admit that my heart sank. But it wasn’t that bad. Other than the fact that the reverend author had consigned his piece to the depths where it could not be found, it did occur to me that I had seen rather more material relating to this episode than he. After all, the reverend was limited to his church safe whereas I’d seen materials from other archives. And a lucky find in the local studies library gave me depth to this, not only by identifying some of the people concerned but by showing that this wasn’t the first time in which there had been a similar dispute. And the other couple of hours in the record office were not wasted either.

The difference between the reverend author (who died quite recently I discover, and was noted in an obituary as the last archdeacon to wear gaiters) and I (gaiters apart), is that I have a perspective on what this episode means, on the significance of the material. I can use it as part of a general thesis about society in the eighteenth century whereas for him I suspect that it was no more than an odd episode in the history of his parish. But the lesson I take from this is that there isn’t actually very much which is really new, which is genuinely unexplored. Instead, what we bring to archives isn’t novelty but understanding.

Now I like to think as much as the next person that the records I look at are untouched by human hands in modern times, unscanned by human eyes for centuries, tied up with string unknotted since a clerk tied them up on a dull Friday afternoon and consigned them to the store room a century or more ago. But there isn’t very much of that left. I’ve recently been alerted to some new discoveries in the National Archives but then find that VCH saw them in the 1950s which shows, as in the case that I have described here, that documents can be discovered any number of times. If you want documents which are unread by historians, then unless you have access to a country house archive in its pre-archival state (and such places still exist), you should try the twentieth century, for which masses of material as yet unread survive. But that’s a beef for another column. For the most part, what we use is not unknown. What we bring to sources which bear the fingerprints of others is a new perspective, a new body of knowledge, a new sense of meaning. And ideally we write it up where others can find it and build on our endeavours.

Anyhow, I had time enough whilst changing trains on the way back to acquire a couple of cans of beer, and to be honest, I thought the day probably justified them too.

6. Museum and Archives Trusts Show more → Show less ↓

William Evans

Of recent years several local authorities have hived off their heritage functions into separate trusts. This transferring of services such as museums and archives can be seen as part of a large-scale change that has involved many other local authority functions and has been going on a long time. The detailed local histories of this change will vary from place to place, but some broad trends are obvious and well known, even if few local historians have given them the attention their social importance warrants. Although in the 1930s some councils put theatres and other entertainment activities out to tender, and before 1970 many county boroughs relied on local voluntary organisations and specialist charities to deliver what later became social services, large-scale outsourcing started in the 1980s with the government’s attack on local authority direct labour organisations. In most areas waste collection and highway, building and grounds maintenance were privatised. Buses and airports followed. So did housing, with councils forced to transfer to housing associations what stock they had left after tenants had exercised rights to buy. Some councils put their leisure centres into trusts, the usual model being a contract under which the council agrees to pay sums provided the contractor meets specified levels of service. Some councils have contracted with service companies like Capita for paying housing benefit and collecting council tax. At least one county has contracted virtually its whole highway function to a firm of consulting engineers. Cotswold District Council has put the award-winning Corinium Museum at Cirencester into a trust. Bristol City Council toyed with the idea of putting its museums, art galleries and archives into a trust, but later decided to keep Bristol Record Office in-house. Somerset has put all its heritage functions into a trust, and Devon has joined in.

Many decisions of this sort, and their reversal, are made for reasons of ideology or party political dogma, so time spent on searching for rational examination of the issues could perhaps be better deployed examining dog licence statistics or rainfall records. Sometimes the decision has been made, not in the interests of the service to the public, but to satisfy government targets or to avoid sanctions to do with public finance, employee headcounts, and the proportions the public sector bears to the wider economy. But if our elected representatives are open to reason, should local history people welcome such transfers or be wary?

Arguments in favour of trusts include: (1) Saving money: trusts do not have to bear the on-costs that local authorities’ central services such as human resources, finance, legal, property and the processes of democratic decision-making impose on services that face the public. (2) Focus: one-purpose trusts do not have to compete for resources with other functions like education and social services which understandably get higher social priority than do services like museums and archives. (3) Drive: especially in their early years before they develop institutional stiffness in the joints, one-purpose trusts tend to be more enthusiastic and energetic than their routine-habituated local authority counterparts. (4) Entrepreneurial skills: vision, ideas and how to market them seem to come easier to trusts than to local authorities hell-bent on not spending money, and where innovation induces Bateman cartoon reactions. (5) Freedom to improve: as the former polytechnics and colleges of further education showed, independent bodies, when liberated from the shackles of local authority politicking, procedures and other constraints can deliver enormously improved public services. (6) Donations: it is said that many potential donors would more readily make large gifts to a trust than to a local authority.

Arguments against trusts include: (1) Cessation of local democratic control and accountability: once the contract is signed, the elected representatives have only those powers the contract gives them. (2) Recourse: if the trust fails to perform, the council may have difficulty rescinding the contract and retrieving the service and its assets back in-house. (3) Finance: The interest rates at which a trust will be able to borrow money will not be as low as those available to a local authority. Because the contract between the council and the trust is one for the delivery of a service, the trust, if its services turnover is above the VAT threshold, currently £82,000 a year, must charge the council 20% VAT on the contract sum. That sum will also be inflated because the trust will need to make a surplus which it can use to build up reserves or to reinvest in service continuation and improvements or against a rainy day. (4) Security: as many a charity knows, depending on a contract with a local authority as a sole or main source of funding can be precarious. Enthusiasm of volunteers and donors can fluctuate.

It is these concerns about finance and security that are the most worrying. Now that the Heritage Lottery Fund has taken over many of the functions of the Public Works Loan Board, capital funding has become uncertain. Instead of a public body having to prove need, capability and viability to the PWLB, a trust will have to compete against all other supplicants for HLF money, and satisfy HLF nation-wide criteria, priorities and tick-boxes which will be influenced by the political fads of the day and which cannot conceivably take account of all the nuances of local need. If the trust depends on income from its contract with a local authority, it is just as vulnerable to cuts in local authority expenditure as the service would have been had it remained in-house. When the time for renewal of the contract comes round, the trust will still have to compete with the other local authority services for cash, with the added disadvantage of having to lobby and negotiate as an outsider instead of from within. 

That said, most of the trusts that have taken over local history-related services from local authorities seem to be surviving, and in some cases appear to be successful. Local history people will wish them well. They will also be apprehensive.

7. Everyday Lives in War: First World War Engagement Centre  Show more → Show less ↓

Dr Sarah Lloyd Director: Everyday Lives in War https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/

Everyday Lives in War is one of the five Centres funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council to link academic and community research into the First World War. As our name suggests, we are curious about the impact of war on everyday life between 1914 and 1918 and its longer-term effects and its legacies. Working alongside local history groups on newspaper reports of the Military Service Tribunals, for instance, has revealed in fascinating detail how businesses re-structured themselves and attempted to weather the effects of conscription, even developing cooperative strategies with pre-war rivals. The Centre is currently producing digital postcards to capture some of the surprises from these collaborative projects. Did you know that one of the tasks set boy scouts was to whitewash kerbstones?

Members of the Centre team work at the universities of Hertfordshire, Essex, Northampton, Lincoln, Exeter and Central Lancashire. Their expertise covers the following topics:

  • First World War food and farming
  • theatre and entertainment
  • conscientious objection and military tribunals
  • supernatural beliefs
  • childhood
  • family relationships
  • cartoons, trench publications and popular culture.

The Centre is keen to develop new collaborative partnerships with community researchers, wherever they are located, and has a specific brief to support groups with Heritage Lottery funding. We welcome enquiries by email firstworldwar@herts.ac.uk and our activities include workshops on specific themes and First World War Roadshows, at which members of the public can discuss the historical value of artefacts and memorabilia.  Recently Prof Mike Roper from the University of Essex worked with Age Exchange to collect family stories about the impact of the conflict on post-war generations.

Members of BALH may be particularly interested in a conference we are organising on behalf of the 5 Engagement Centres at the National Archives, 8-10 September 2016.

Dissenting Voices and the Everyday in the First World War
This three-day conference will examine the Home Front during the First World War. It will look at those who were left behind, and explore life and society in the immediate aftermath of the war.

The conference will bring together academics, independent researchers, community groups and museum curators, among others, to generate dynamic discussion and networking opportunities. The event provides an opportunity for delegates to showcase recent research, foster new collaborations across the country and between different groups of researchers.

We welcome contributions from researchers working on the topics listed below.

Life on the Home Front(s)

We are looking for contributions with an international as well as a British angle.

Dissent: As well as conscientious objection and political agitation, we also want the conference to explore the subtleties of dissent socially, religiously, and culturally.

Aftermath: We want to explore such issues as cultural memory, as well as immediate matters such as post-war riots, gender relations, food, and housing.

The Unfamiliar: We are interested in exploring the less well-known aspects of dissent and everyday life, including the value of little-used sources and the interpretation of unusual artefacts associated with the First World War.

We encourage proposals that speak to one of these themes from the perspective of any geographical location.


We invite proposals for presentations that take the form of group discussions, workshops, 20-minute talks, performances, or posters. Guidelines and a workshop on creating an effective poster will be offered in advance for those considering this format.


We accept applications from individuals (whom we will then match to others working on similar topics), and from groups who wish to propose their own panel and involve relevant academics. We invite academics to present with independent and community group researchers. No affiliation to an academic institution is required to submit an application.

Please send a brief description of no more than 300 words outlining the topic you wish to share and your preferred format of presentation (i.e. round-table, talk, workshop, performance or poster).

Closing Date: 20 November 2015

Proposals should be emailed to: firstworldwar@herts.ac.uk

8. Pevsner and Local History : A Changed Relationship Show more → Show less ↓

Kate Tiller

The latest, 2015 version of the Suffolk ‘Pevsner’ has recently arrived on my bookshelves. Placing it alongside the first edition (1961) and the second (1975), it is clear not just how valuable this staple reference has been for local historians but also how much it and local history have developed since the series began. Pevsner’s Buildings of England is a rare phenomenon, a projected national series of county volumes that was actually completed. Begun in 1951, with volumes for Cornwall, Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, and finishing with Staffordshire, published in 1974, its 46 volumes offer a place by place description of what the architectural historian and series begetter and editor, Nikolaus Pevsner, saw as the significant buildings of each locality.

Pevsner’s purpose was tenacious, his style inimitable and his words spare. To complete coverage firm limits were set. As he wrote in the foreword of the Suffolk first edition, ‘Users must here be warned what not to expect in the following pages’. Time available, the extent and quality of the information already known for local buildings, what types and periods of building he judged important, and a clear dash of personal preference, determined matters. Armed with notes compiled by research assistants over the preceding year to 18 months, he set out to visit each county. In August 1957, driven by his wife, Pevsner embarked on a tour of Suffolk of impressive intensity. The coverage was typical of first edition Buildings of England volumes; all churches (except those after c.1830, of which a selection on grounds of architectural interest was made); all castles, manor houses, country houses and town houses ‘which I consider worthy of inclusion’. There were some selected farmhouses, most church fittings, but not all post-Reformation brasses or monuments. Of later architectural periods, he concludes that the Victorian age ‘has not changed Suffolk much’ whilst ‘for the C20 in Suffolk one can be almost silent’. The result was a book of 516 pages with an emphasis on earlier periods and buildings of higher social status and architectural formality.

In 1974 Pevsner visited the last building in the initial sequence, the Old Rectory at Sheen, Staffordshire. In the subsequent county volume he added some reflections on completion of the series, noting how he and his assistants now knew much more (perhaps too much?) in preparing a county. He singles out ‘lists of jazzy cinemas of the twenties, lists of vernacular cottages arranged by plan types, lists of early industrial premises’. A generation of younger architectural historians had entered the field and were writing at (questionable?) length. Buildings listing and the Victorian Society pressed the claims of more and different buildings to be noticed. Architectural taste had altered, the appearance of recent and current buildings had changed, and gaps and errors in the first editions had been notified. Revised second editions were already in preparation and, at the point of the remarkable achievement of completing the initial series, Pevsner wrote, ‘Don’t be deceived, gentle reader, the first editions are only ballons d’essai; it is the second editions which count’.

For Suffolk, a second edition, at 555 pages just 39 longer than the first, followed in 1975. It was very much a revision of the 1961 account, not revisiting the county as whole but noting in two pages changes in the intervening years, with some buildings lost and some discovered, and including major recent developments, among them the Greater London Council’s Expanding Towns projects which had added several thousand new houses and numerous factories to market towns in West Suffolk. It is with the third edition of 2015 that we can see how the Pevsner series is now taking on a whole other scale, reflecting as well as contributing to the growing scope of local history.

Now in two volumes, East Suffolk (677 pages) and West Suffolk (635 pages), James Bettley’s revision emphatically ceases to be a pocket guide. Although it adds to, rather than removes, Pevsner’s original voice and includes some pithy adjectives and judgements which I like to think he would have approved of, this is a step change in coverage and approach. The county was revisited, over a six year period. Losses, additions and reuses of buildings are included. Local research is taken into account, as are fresh understandings made possible by newly accessible techniques notably, in a county of much timber-framing, dendrochronology.

Vernacular building is one of the great additions to the ‘new Pevsner’, that local architecture in local materials, by and for local people so significant to local history. When it comes to the more formal designs of local architects, coverage is also much extended, crediting those whom Bettley describes as ‘collectively responsible for a major body of work that has tended to be overlooked by national studies’. With changed perceptions of which local buildings are significant the twentieth century is fully embraced. Pevsner-like, Bettley concludes, that its impact has been felt less in  Suffolk than in many counties, ‘the main change being that the cottages are lived in not by farmworkers but by professionals, and are in better condition (as are the parish churches) than ever before’. Nevertheless he details significant new builds and re-uses, from individual and large-scale housing developments to schools, religious, public and commercial buildings. These include ‘the ARC shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds (2007-9) on the site of the town’s cattle market, with new streets of traditional scale, using traditional materials but in a contemporary way, leading to a public square with  civic auditorium and the emphatically non-traditional, curved, aluminium-clad Debenhams store’.

Not only does the Suffolk Pevsner now take in a much wider range of individual buildings, using local and other studies to identify and interpret them, but the volumes have extended introductions, overviews that encourage particular buildings and places to be understood in comparative context. The entries for towns and some villages are also prefaced, by brief outlines of their chief characteristics, sometimes complemented by scaled maps of the settlement and its main buildings. So the architecture is succinctly related to times of prosperity and decline, and to influences from ownership to commerce, transport or administration, a linkage to gladden the local historian’s heart. It is a measure of Nikolaus Pevsner’s achievement that this great project is reaching a third edition and expanding to Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Recent developments make it bigger and more expensive, but more than ever an essential and rewarding reference for local historians, for whom buildings of all kinds are key evidence.

9. The Milford Street Bridge Project – a community heritage and arts project going from strength to strength! Show more → Show less ↓

Clare Christopher

If you live in Salisbury you can’t have failed to see the two enormous murals painted on the side walls of the Milford Street Bridge.  The bridge carries four lanes of traffic over the centre of the city, and was bare for nearly forty years until the Milford Street Bridge Project got to work on it!

Our journey began in 2008 when local artist Fred Fieber came up with the idea for the first mural. Fred joined forces with Clare Christopher of St Edmunds Community Association, and the Milford Street Bridge Project was born. Fred's idea was to represent some of the buildings which had been pulled down in order for the bridge and ring road to be built. We wanted his design to fully engage the community, so with the help of an oral historian and a team of volunteers we interviewed local people about their memories of "before the bridge". We also gathered research and old photographs from the area.

Using all of these wonderful resources to inspire the design, Fred got his mural painted and it was officially celebrated in 2011 with a variety of community events. We also created a CD of clips from our wonderful interviews, which was given away free of charge (we still have copies if anyone wants one!)

In 2012 we were delighted to be commissioned by Salisbury City Council to paint another mural on the other wall of the bridge, to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We were particularly pleased as we had had so many requests to do something to the blank wall! We undertook the same process on a smaller scale, and recorded oral histories based on memories of how Salisbury people celebrated Royal events. With lots more pictures gathered, Fred was again able to create a true community artwork.

The third phase of the project is now completed. After our hard work we were left with two archives of material, including over forty oral history interviews, 100 photos and lots of research. Although we gave copies to our local museum and the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, we really wanted the archives to be "out there" and easy to access. Having worked with schools throughout the project, we also knew that the archives contained lots of brilliant resources for children to learn about local history. We also wanted to create a digital version of the guided walks that we have done throughout the project.

The answer was to create a website where we could showcase some of the archive, provide dedicated resources for local schools, and host a “Memory Walk” A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund among others has made this possible. This third phase has been such a success that we were delighted to have been named “Community Archive and Heritage Group of the Year 2015” by the Community Archives and Heritage Group.

Clare Christopher is project co-ordinator, MSBP


10. Under the hammer : Sales of manuscripts and archives Show more → Show less ↓

Margaret O’Sullivan

It’s a truism that everything has a value and it certainly seems that everything is collected. You only have to glance at online sales platforms such as eBay to see that somebody out there thinks there will be a buyer for the most ephemeral and apparently worthless of objects. Manuscripts and archives are neither ephemeral nor worthless, but they are no exception. How can archive services know what is up for sale and, even more pertinently, what can they do about it? Can local historians and other archive users help?

Though there are still philanthropists who are generous donors and benefactors to archive services, more acquisitions  – whether large or small- are now likely to be the result of purchases than was the case a generation ago. This is not a wholly negative development. At least it means that the owner has not thrown everything into a skip, used it as firelighters, sent it for re-cycling, or given it to children to scribble on. Such have been the fates in the past of many official as well as private papers. Moreover, if material is thought to be saleable, it’s likely to be kept more securely and handled more carefully to avoid the risk that poor condition will deter potential buyers.

Finding out what is coming on to the market is the first priority. ‘Sale’ can  refer to the an auction of hundreds or thousands of documents from a family, estate or business, either by a major national auctioneer or by a provincial auction house; it can be a ‘private treaty’ sale between a single vendor and a single purchaser; it can be a few items from the known collection of a private enthusiast; it can be a miscellaneous assortment of papers from a house or factory clearance;  it can be a document or volume offered by an antiquarian bookseller; it can be manuscript material  from somebody downsizing who prefers eBay  or a similar internet site as a pseudonymous way of selling.  

So many starting points mean that the work of the Sales Monitoring Team, part of the Archive Sector Development section at The National Archives, is invaluable to local archives and their users. Members of this small dedicated team monitor sale catalogues and notifications, whether in hard copy or electronic form, including online platforms, and cover auction houses, large and small, national and local. Last year they checked no less than 425 catalogues from almost 140 auctioneers and dealers. Checking means identifying items of potential interest to archive institutions or services and then notifying each repository directly of what is coming up for sale. This is not as easy as it may sound; often lots on internet sites are only advertised for a week before the auction ends. So it is impressive that in the financial year 2014 -15 the team sent out 602 notifications.

Local historians know that price is no indication of archival importance. Documents with very modest asking prices may be highly significant in terms of their evidential value. They may fill gaps in series already in a record office’s collections; they may be strays from official series which have found their way into private hands; they may not look very interesting in themselves but may shed light on aspects of local, regional or national history which are under documented or not recorded at all. Context is everything. But valuers look at things differently. They have to consider factors such as the prices similar documents have fetched at previous auctions; which institutions are actively seeking to build up their collections and on what subjects; what type of material is fashionable or desirable because of its provenance or associations. In large collections the valuer will be expected to identify the plums in the pudding – not only rare or exceptional items, but also more commonplace material that is unpublished and therefore of greater potential research interest. Visual appeal should not be forgotten. Decorative maps are likely to attract buyers with wider interests than the purely historical. A single leaf from an illuminated manuscript may be judged ideal for framing and display.

So is it practicable for cash-strapped archive services to contemplate buying documents? The answer is yes.  TNA staff report that most purchases last year were for small amounts – between £100 and £500. Even more expensive acquisitions rarely exceeded £5000. So local fundraising can make a real difference as to whether archival material is secured for the area to which it relates. It’s not just big institutions and services who buy. Forty-nine different repositories were successful in following up sales notifications in 2014-15. County archives and university special collections predominate but other purchasers included  island repositories in Guernsey and the Isle of Man and city or borough archives such as those in Bath, Liverpool, Bristol , Dudley, Doncaster and the London borough of Sutton. What did they buy? It’s amazingly diverse –  the minute book of a society for providing education for young chimney sweeps; letters to a Norfolk medical man in 1817 while he was physician to the King of Prussia; a ship’s log book detailing a return journey between Bristol and West Africa in 1855; a map determining part of the border between Berkshire and Oxfordshire; a naval surgeon-commander’s memoir of his experiences on board ship between 1914 and 1916; images of Art Deco architecture in Poole from the 1920s; correspondence concerning arrangements for the poet Dylan Thomas’s funeral in 1953; minutes of the Cammell Laird Singers, 1959-72; and Enid Blyton’s manuscript instructions for Noddy’s ‘Happy Families’ card game with Noddy’s accompanying note to his ‘Dear Boys and Girls’.

Of course, some bids at auction will fail. The reserve price may have been too high or the office may be outbid on the day. This isn’t necessarily the end of the line. Sometimes it’s possible to negotiate a post-sale purchase via the auctioneer.  One recent example is that of Conan Doyle letters about the Edalji case ( the subject of a book by Julian Barnes and a subsequent film) bought by Portsmouth Library and Archives after the series did not reach its reserve at auction. But it’s essential that, if at all possible, the repository does try in the first place to acquire material it judges of value to its collections.  Record Office users and members of groups such as Friends of archive services can help by supporting such purchases, either financially or through publicity about their archival significance. Even when money is very tight, placing a bid shows that the organisation is proactive and looking to develop. Most importantly, it validates the work of the Sales Monitoring Team, a service which no record office could hope to replicate and from which, as local historians, we all benefit.

11. Social media and local history Show more → Show less ↓

Ed Harris

The Borough of Twickenham Local History Society recently discussed ways and means of promoting a wider interest in its activities. Many ideas were put forward including annual prizes for research and writing; interaction with local schools, or the funding of a publication. The discussion ended with a familiar sense of déjà vu in so far as the reach of the society appears just as confined to a particular grouping as it has done throughout its 50 year existence, except that now age has become a significant factor. While membership is buoyant and our monthly meetings are well attended, volunteering, as we have known it, is under threat. Older people, it appears, are now just as reluctant to get actively involved as are the young.

While there does exist a genuine passion for local history, the challenge is to engage more immediately with wider groups of people than tradition dictates through posters, flyers or the odd mention in the local press. This challenge moved our discussion on to the example of one local history devotee boasting over 1200 followers, many contributing and discussing, for example, a newly discovered postcard, information about local houses or businesses, or help with family history in a vigorous and genuine debate amongst people who would not normally consider joining a local history society, let alone contributing to its knowledge base. 

The vehicle responsible for attracting this enviable affiliation is, of course, Facebook. Just three out of the eight committee members and the one guest at our discussion voiced some knowledge on the subject, with only one with any real degree of understanding – and that was the guest. As for Twitter, we all failed to see the point of it.  It was a similar situation with forums, blogs, microblogs, social networking, bookmarking and curation, and all of the other different types of social media. It was immediately apparent that we, as a Local History Society looking to spread the word, to recruit new members and to remain a viable organisation, are very much at a crossroads.

Like it or not, social media has become an integral part of life. As social websites and applications (Apps) proliferate, we have the choice of adopting simple social components, such as a comment field, or we opt for the whole ‘toolkit’ to promote and sell ourselves to a worldwide audience. The Borough of Twickenham Local History Society, as a ‘brand’ would then be able to communicate with current members and to foster new. Historical data might be gathered using something called social media analytics whilst social media marketing could take advantage of networking to help increase our exposure and broaden our reach. The goal would be to create content compelling enough that users will share it among their own social networks.  The question is – how are these ambitions to be achieved? 

It is with this dilemma in mind that we turn to the readers of Local History News in the hope that perhaps other societies have taken the plunge or are even now exploring this brave new world and can offer us a lead. We are not a business, nor do we want to be. But we have to recognise the fact that we need to appear relevant to those who embrace their local history but don’t see how they can, or indeed should, become involved in it. In this, we are currently pondering how we might embrace more fully the former Borough of Twickenham’s motto: Looking Backward, Looking Forward.      

Ed Harris is Chair of the Borough of Twickenham Local History Society

Readers: we would be very pleased to hear from other societies who are working along these lines. And BALH will not be far behind you. See page 35 for our new web manager who has ideas and experience for making the most of such opportunities to promote local history.

12. Cherry Willingham Heritage Society working with our village schools Show more → Show less ↓

Michael Mason

Cherry Willingham, recorded in the Domesday Book, lies 2 miles north-east of Lincoln. Since WW2 it has expanded rapidly to a population of around 4,000. Finds in the village/surrounding area include those from the Iron Age, Roman, Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods. It is set in the Witham Valley, with its key monastic sites, and near the historic City of Lincoln. Domesday records a Manor House – not the present building - and there has been a church for centuries although today’s is a rare example from AD1753.

Medieval Fish Ponds and Village Children

One medieval feature was a series of six/seven fishponds. In 2011/12 the last one was rescued from the developer and restored with Lottery money. Part of this funding deal was to engage village youngsters in the project. So, Primary and pre-school children planted hedges/trees and designed sculptures, Guides planted spring bulbs, and Cadets trimmed the undergrowth.

Additionally a three day project was run by village volunteers with Year 9 pupils from Cherry Willingham Community School including researching and designing the display boards. This included the following projects:

  • To research and provide suitable habitats to encourage wildlife in the pond and surrounding area
  • To research the nature of the ponds and the history of the village and surrounding landscape and artefacts discovered in the area.
  • To research the history and heritage of the village and devise means of recording the results for later presentation

Community School History Club

In January 2014, building on this earlier project, a lunch-time history club was established jointly between the Community School and the Society. It aims to stimulate students’ interest in history, engage them in the research work of the Society and reinforce links between School and community. Two members of the Society run this with the School’s Head of History. It has had six to eight very committed members – all boys.

Local residents have given talks about the work of the Society, the centenary of WW1 linked to research related to village war memorial names, life in Cherry Willingham during WW2 with especial reference to the nearby Fiskerton bomber airfield, significant archaeological finds locally, the history of General Practice, growing up in the 1940s, and much more.

We have looked at artefacts from Cherry Willingham and York and learned how these are processed and used to date archaeological sites. We visited the Collection (local museum) where staff helped them to understand more about archaeology by ‘digging in sand trays’ and through the reconstruction of Anglo-Saxon burial processes. They also took us to see Posterngate - Lincoln’s Roman ‘secret’ wall/gate which is hidden under modern buildings.

We have had demonstrations of metal detecting and ‘had a go’ ourselves. The students have spent time on the internet researching topics that interest them. They produced displays of their work which we used at a Society open event - which they attended and had a wonderful time dressing up!

Flame of Forgiveness Project

In 2014 we were approached by staff at Willow Court, a local care home, about possible engagement in their Flame of Forgiveness Project – aimed at encouraging residents to share their memories of WW2 and marking the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1. In October Club members visited Willow Court and met with c20 staff and residents who shared their personal memories of WW2 and responded to pre-prepared questions from the members. This was recorded electronically and added to the Society’s oral archives project.

The Club members wrote poems in response to what they had heard from residents. These, along with information about the Society, the School and the Club were placed in a time capsule. Other items in the capsule included a daily paper, some older and some newer coins and items written by residents. On 7 November we returned to share in the burial of the time capsule and plant a Remembrance rose. A plaque has since been erected to mark this spot. “Who knows how many years will pass before someone digs it up?”

Our members enjoyed being part of the project. A 94 year-old resident, who had served throughout WW2, stressed to us all the importance of remembering the sad events of the past so that we build a better world for the future!

Community School’s 50th Anniversary

October 2015 marks the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the School and it will be celebrated with the support of the History Club and the Heritage Society. People who attended the School both in that first year - and in the years since – have shared their memories with Club members. We have collected photographs and press-cuttings of the School’s history.

One member of the Society has undertaken extensive research about changes in education over these years and where village children have been educated before and since the start of the School. Members of the Club were present at the Community Gala on 4 July 2015 to seek further information from residents. The picture above shows Headteacher, Mrs Elaine Stiles, chatting to some of them about what they have discovered.

All this will be used to create a mural on the rear wall of the main hall showing a timeline based on members’ research. The Society will also create a permanent record.

Community School History Club

In 2015 we started a history club at Cherry Willingham Primary School with an enthusiastic group of children from Years 5 & 6 who were very interested in what had previously occupied the land on which their own houses had been built. For various reasons this only lasted a few weeks but we will be working with the School in the new school year to see how we might pursue this further.


These Clubs have been enabled through the willingness of the Schools to work in partnership with the Society and the commitment of Society volunteers. Above all we have been fortunate to have students with a real interest. We are waiting to see how 2015/16 works out once the Community School’s anniversary is concluded.

More information about some of the above can be found on the Society’s web-site http://community.lincolnshire.gov.uk/cherrywillinghamheritage

13. AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2015: celebrating, consolidating and expanding community research across the Swansea Valley Show more → Show less ↓

Margaret Escott

This one-day event at Swansea Museum Collection Centre, Landore, was sponsored by Swansea University and the Arts and Humanities Research Council to celebrate, showcase and take forward recent achievements in the living history project, originally designed to conserve, reveal and regenerate this area - a 12.5 acre site, occupied, until its closure in 1980, by the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks. A dozen heritage buildings in various states of preservation have been identified there, in addition to the remains of bridges, canals, rail and roadways, linking them to other industrial sites in the Swansea Valley. Copper was manufactured in Swansea (Copperopolis) from 1717 and the industry’s history has recently been reinvestigated by a team of historians at the university led by Professor Huw Bowen: ‘History, heritage and regeneration: the local and global worlds of Welsh copper’.

Collaboration between the University, the City and County of Swansea and the Welsh government has fostered community engagement, input and participation, so affording opportunities for research communities, heritage skills industries, digital resource producers, mapmakers, planners, teachers and local history societies to design projects together. The wider objective is to further our understanding of the impact of change and new technologies on communities through heritage orientated history projects celebrating the industrial past, the people and families who were part of it and the challenges they faced. Research, digitization, heritage trails, the creative arts and other innovations serve to bring these to life and promote community participation and values.

Themes for the day and innovative community research featured in introductory presentations by Professor Bowen, Kate Spiller – the Connected Communities Project Coordinator, PhD students and Llansamlet Historical Society, who have collated and shared a digital and oral history archive. Project officer Stuart Griffin reported on the Hafod-Morfa Copperworks development and digital/Living History Laboratory.

Other aspects of the project and its future were covered in an interactive quiz and nine workshop sessions, where the onus was on introducing topics and themes briefly, maximizing delegate participation and seeking new research directions via brainstorming and discussions that brought together students, librarians, archivists, museum staff, local historians, artists and performers. The commitment, enthusiasm, expertise and local knowledge displayed were outstanding and, as intended, research connected successfully with communities and communities with research. Greater utilization of oral and personal histories, medical records, memoirs, diaries, censuses, photographs, interactive maps and family trees was suggested. Industrial injuries, physical and mental health, industrial relations and work-life balance were among the future research avenues proposed. Feedback was by newsletter. A short film documenting the festival is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9zq9Ub3xq0&feature=youtu.be For updates and additional information see the following useful websites: www.hafodmorfacopperworks.com; Cu@Swansea.ac.uk; www.swanseavalleyhistory.com

14. Societies news Show more → Show less ↓

Recognition of achievement in local history comes in various ways, one of which is the BALH series of awards. Around the country there are other schemes, and three are noted below.  These all relate to celebrating the written results of people’s research. Encouragement to local historians to share the fruits of their labour with others, after spending hours in the record office or online is important.  Publishing an article or a book is, of course, only one way of doing this.

Warwickshire Local History Society offered an essay prize as part of the celebration of its 50th anniversary (see LHN 116 p 17).  The main award went to Angela Nichols for ‘A convenient habitation fit for Christians to dwell in’, examining the provision of parish housing for the rural poor in   17th century Warwickshire. So high was the overall standard of the seven entries that a second prize was given to Maureen Harris for ‘The Caption of Oliver’s Army and the Wixford Catholics … 1640-1674’ which adds considerably to knowledge of religious conflict at the time. www.warwickshirehistory.org.uk

The Berkshire History Prize is funded jointly by the Berkshire Local History Association and the Berkshire Record Office. It is awarded for an exceptional undergraduate dissertation on Berkshire history at the University of Reading. The winner this year was Ellen Barrow for her work ‘Exploding the male myth of female biology in 19th century England’, which includes case studies from Broadmoor Asylum. Reasons attributed for the crimes commited by women admitted to the asylum included ‘puerperal mania’, ‘over-lactation’ and (of course) ‘hysteria’ www.blha.org.uk  PIC

The number and quality of entries for the Yorkshire Society's competition for essays on the County's history vary inevitably from year to year. After a strong entry in 2014 the judges were unable this year to make an award in the category for longer essays, the Beresford Prize (£300). For shorter essays with a 5,000 word limit the following awards were made: The Bramley award (£150) to Dr Dennis O'Keefe (Halifax) for his essay: 'Not Playing the Game? The Continuation of Cricket in Halifax and the Calder Valley during the Great War'; and an additional special prize of £100 was awarded to Dr Christine Verguson (Huddersfield) for an essay of exceptional merit: William Holt of Todmorden: broadcasting Yorkshire and Britain to the World.

The closing date for the 2016 competition is 1 May 2016. Any subject drawn from the history of places and people in traditional Yorkshire is usually acceptable. Persons thinking of entering should first inform the Secretary (see below) who will give guidance on the format in which essays should be submitted. Those wanting to discuss academic matters, the wording of their title or the eligibility of their subject may, if they wish, consult Professor Edward Royle, Chairman of the Judges. (Tel. 01904 423009; email: er1@york.ac.uk). J M Bradford, Secretary for the Yorkshire History Prize, 14B Wood Lane, Leeds LS6 2AE (Tel: 0113 274 3804; Email: thebradfords@btinternet.com) http://www.yorkshiresociety.org.uk/HistoryPrize.aspx

The St Albans & Hertfordshire Architectural & Archaeological Society has recently completed an extensive project to digitise the full set of the Society's Transactions and publications for the period from 1848 to 1961 and publish the digital copies on its website www.stalbanshistory.org

Hatfield Local history Society has published a cumulative index to parts 1 – 12 of ‘Hatfield & Its People’ which will ‘greatly aid accessibility to all the interesting information’ held therein. emailhatfieldhistory@ntlworld.com PIC

Two websites to share, from the Rickmansworth Historical Review: Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty http://www.chilternsaonb.org/ contains a vast amount of information about the area, and also a book Our Common Heritage which contains a collection of six essays on then social history of Chilterns commons. This is available free to download from the website.  The American Air Museum in Britain seeks to record the stories of the American service men and women who were stationed in Britain during the Second World War and of the British people they met. There is a guide on how to contribute information. www.americanairmuseum.com PIC

The Journal from Christchurch History Society contains an article that could help those wanting to explore medieval and early modern history. David Eels was one of the editors of ‘Catalogue of References to Christchurch in Transcriptions of Various State Papers from Richard I to George II (1189 – 1760)’. Using printed volumes of state papers in the University of Southampton’s Hartley Library. The Christchurch Antiquarians extended their project to record references to Christchurch Castle beyond the castle itself. This has proved a huge task, but resulted in a valuable volume, mentioning  topics as varied as land holding, crime, outlaws, life in the priory, forests and fisheries and much more. It is of course a catalogue, so readers have to go to the published documents to find the detailed contents. www.historychristchurch.org

The importance of memories for local history is emphasised in a recent issue of Eastbourne Local Historian. A project funded by Young Heritage Lottery is looking to capture and record the memories of people who remember Eastbourne between 1940 and the 1970s, focusing on the delights of the seafront. www.eastbournehistory.org.uk  On the website Eastbourne Remembered you can see videos of Eastbourne residents and their memories. www.eastbourneremembered.co.uk  PIC

Memories provided the material for a recent talk at Edmonton Hundred Historical Society, using the results of an appeal  by the Society to collect eye witness accounts and memories of those affected by the Dunholme Road Air Disaster. On 4 September 1938 a Hawker Audax biplane crashed, killing 13 people and injuring many more, creating what one newspaper described as ‘Edmonton’s Sunday of Terror’. www.edmontonhundred.org.uk

IPScene is a website established by an enthusiastic local historian, when housebound, that could easily be duplicated elsewhere. This is a community website covering postcode areas IP1 – IP17, there are already 3,000 entries in 70 categories, such as local history and genealogy, archaeology and history, museums and much more. Local groups can add their details, and their programmes to share with others. IPScene has received a Highly Commended in the High Sheriff’s Award Ceremony 2015. Suffolk Local History Council Newsletter www.slhc.org.uk

15. Archives News Show more → Show less ↓

Explore Your Archive (logo left, but much better in colour)  is a campaign designed for archives of all kinds throughout UK and Ireland from 14 - 22 November. 'The aim of the campaign is to increase public awareness of the essential role of archives in our society, to celebrate our network of collections and emphasise the skills and professionalism of the sector'.  There is a toolkit on the TNA website: www.nationalarchives.gov.uk  (search Explore Your Archive). Look out for special activities in an archive near you.

The National Archives, formerly an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice, has moved under the aegis of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), as has the Office of the Information Commissioner (ICO). News of senior staff appointments in the Archive Sector Development team is unlikely before the outcome is known of the Comprehensive Spending Review in late November.

The Business Archives Council (BAC) has awarded its 2015 cataloguing grant to The National Gallery for the cataloguing of the correspondence of international art dealers Thos. Agnew & Sons.  The firm, founded by Thomas Agnew (1794-1871) and Vittore Zanetti, an Italian print-seller and instrument, picture frame-maker and gilder, became Thos. Agnew & Sons in 1851.  It was one of the country’s leading print-sellers and publishers, and a major dealer in the international art market. In recognition of its exceptional importance for business history and the history of the art market, the archive (dating from 1817-1983) was acquired by the National Gallery in February 2014.  See Business Archives Council: www.businessarchivescouncil.org.uk

The British Library’s Flickr Commons project, contains over one million images from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries and covers ‘a startling mix of subjects’. There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and much more.  Microsoft digitized the books and then donated them to British Library for release into the public domain. See: https://www.flickr.com/photos/britishlibrary/

The work of Britain’s first female war photographer, Olive Edis (1876 – 1955), is to be brought together in an online archive with an £81,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant. The funding will create a digital record of images and journals of a woman who went to the Western Front at the end of the First World War and photographed women and their role in the conflict in Europe and on the Home Front. It will also bring together other images taken by Edis, famous for her portraits of everyone from royalty, prime ministers and high society, including a young Prince Philip and the poet and author Thomas Hardy, to fishermen in her native Norfolk. The project will also transform the world’s largest collection of her work in Cromer, Norfolk, allowing visitors to use smartphone and touch-screen technology to explore the collection at Cromer Museum and take photos using the techniques she utilised.  Norfolk Museums Service, whose website will host the archive, will also use the funding to raise awareness of her life and work, with a touring exhibition in Norfolk and workshops and talks to bring her story to life.


 Durham County Council  is exploring options for the relocation of the Council’s record office and archives to a sustainable stand-alone facility. Durham County Record Office, the official archives service for County Durham and Darlington, has been in the same location for over 50 years and facilities for public access are outdated. See: www.durhamrecordoffice.org.uk/

Papers relating to the House of Lords held at the National Library of Scotland, described as offering ‘unprecedented’ insights across 3,000 fragile historic volumes, will be made available to the public online. The Library’s collection of stories from the 19th century House of Lords is one of very few surviving archives of its kind. See: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-32740094

The archive of Britain’s top screenwriter, Andrew Davies, has been donated to De Montfort University, Leicester. Professor Deborah Cartmell, Director of the Centre for Adaptations, said: ‘Andrew Davies ...  is one of the few adaptors whom people seek out to work with specifically and the amount of work which he has done over the years is staggering.’ www.dmu.ac.uk/.../archive-of-britains-top-screenwriter,-andrew-davies,-..

National nuclear archive: A national archive for the nuclear power industry is being built at Wick in Caithness. It will house records from all of Britain’s civil nuclear sites. See: www.scotsman.com/.../dounreay-documents-set-for-nuclear-archive-1-3

An extensive family and estate archive, the McMahon Archival Collection, is newly available in Clare County Council Archives, Ireland. One of its largest collections of primary sources, containing over 1,100 files spanning  three centuries. The earliest document dates back to 1611, but most relate to 18th and 19th century administration and activities of the landed estates in County Clare. A descriptive list will be accessible through Clare County Council’s Archives website from  September.  http://clareherald.com/2015/08/gallery-historic-collection-goes-on-display-at-clare-museum-5675/

The archive of the Mikron Theatre Company has been deposited at the University of Huddersfield. For nearly 45 years this unique company has travelled the country in the canal narrowboat Tyseley,  in the summer, and by road during the autumn, performing traditional outdoor theatre in a diverse range of settings ‘reaching audiences other comings cannot’.  www.mikron.org.uk

16. Museums news Show more → Show less ↓

‘Pop it in the Post’ is the travelling family exhibition from the British  Postal Museum & Archive. From 3 October to 21 November it will be at Mansfield Museum, Leeming St, Mansfield, Notts NG18 1NG, and from 6 January to 26 March 2016 it can be seen at Havering Museum, 19-21 High Street, Romford Essex RM1 1JU. The exhibition includes original Victorian pillar boxes, replica Victorian letter carrier uniforms to try on, and activities and games for all the family.  www.postalheritage.org.uk

Sharing information is something members of local history societies are very good at, be it answering online queries from around the globe, participating in a ‘show and tell’ evening, or suggesting places to visit, all of which have been recorded in recent issues of society newsletters. For example, an article from Hendon & District Archaeological Society recommends the Forge Mill Needle Museum in Redditch, a chance encounter by one of its members. The museum explains how the area was once the world’s centre of needle production, the processes involved are displayed, together with examples of the varied products of the district which included whaling harpoons, gramophone needles, darts points, hypodermics, fishing hooks and well as sewing and knitting needles. www.forgemill.org.uk

Keyworth Local History Society recommend Ruddington Framework Knitters Museum, Chapel St, Ruddington, Notts as somewhere that throws light on an important industry for their area, and also provides opportunities for volunteering to anyone interested in local history and the textile industry. Email office@frameworkknittersmuseum.org.uk www.keyworth-history.org.uk

Recently re-opened after a £10m restoration and refurbishment, the Lion Salt Works Museum at Northwich is a unique remnant of the salt industry. The new ‘living museum’ gives fascinating insight into the story of salt and how it shaped the local people, economy and landscape.  http://lionsaltworks.westcheshiremuseums.co.uk/  www.aim-museums.co.uk

Get your local museum involved with  I Love Museums, a new campaign led by the National Museum Directors’ Council and supported by Association of Independent Museums. The website has a toolkit for museums, and social media links. Museum visitors are asked to share why they love museums, and why they are vital to society. www.ilovemuseums.com

17. Education news Show more → Show less ↓

Bedford & Luton Archives & Records Service has just completed a series of four visits from a group of Year 12 students. ‘Young Archivists’ was a team effort as members of staff devised effective ways to engage interested young people in the work of the service. They learned the ‘who’ ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the service, and had hands-on and discussion sessions with archivists, a conservator and a digitisation technician. They hope to offer this opportunity to more groups in the future.

The Centre for West Midlands History, University of Birmingham, with the Black Country Society, will be holding Birmingham History Day on Saturday 21 November. New books, current history projects, and heritage activities in the city all feature on the programme. Full details on http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/cwmh/events/2015/history-day.aspx

The War Memorials Trust has been working with Historic England and Civic Voice to develop a new set of learning resources to encourage young people to become involved with War Memorials Online, and become more concerned with practical conservation issues. The new materials are aimed at upper primary school pupils, and include a checklist designed to help children collect information.  For further details see websites www.warmemorials.org, www.learnaboutwarmemorials.org, and www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk

The University of Huddersfield is starting to rename its key buildings to commemorate famous people with connections to the University and its locality. The £27.5m building under construction for the Law School and the School of Music, Humanisties and Media, scheduled for completion by the start of 2017, will be the Oastler Building in tribute to Richard Oastler (1789-1861). One of the principal buildings is already named after Prime Minister Harold Wilson. Other candidates for the future include Prime Minister Herbert Asquith (1852-1928) and global film star James Mason (1909-1984) son of a Huddersfield textile merchant. www.hud.ac.uk

University of Kent, Tonbridge Centre is the venue for two courses by Gill Draper early in 2016. ‘Exploring Historic Towns and Cities of England and Wales’ takes place on four Tuesday mornings, beginning on 12 January. Canterbury, Rochester, Bristol and Swansea will be explored, from the medieval period to c 1850. Secondly she is running a Study Day on Tuesday 22 March: ‘Bleak House? Rich and Poor in Victorian England’. Further details from www.kent.ac.uk/tonbridge

BALH is well-represented by presenters to the Locality and Region Seminar at the Institute of Historical Research during New Year. On 12 January Heather Falvey’s subject is ‘A disorderly alehouse at Mill End in Rickmansworth (Herts)’; on 23 February Kate Tiller will be speaking on ‘Contrasting communities: open and closed parishes revisited; and on 8 March Alan Crosby examines ‘A disappearing landscape: the heathlands of the Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire borders 1750-1914’. http://www.history.ac.uk/events/seminars/129

18. An update on local history in schools Show more → Show less ↓

Tim Lomas

Information is rather firmer now (October 2015) regarding the opportunities for local history in schools.  It is a fairly encouraging picture – perhaps the strongest local history has been for many years.

This is partly because it has an explicit place right across the 5-16 age range at least for those following the National Curriculum.  Schools are given a great deal of leeway as what is specified is often quite general, and even the exemplar material is fairly brief.  For instance:

Key Stage 1 (ages 5-7):   ‘significant historical events, people and places in their own locality’

Key Stage 2 (ages 7-11): a local history enquiry.  This is not specified although they suggest one linked to the rest of the Key Stage 2 content (mostly before the Normans), a longer study over time or aspects of history or a site after 1066 that is significant in the locality. 

Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14): again a specific local history enquiry or investigation which might include something linked to the rest of the Key Stage 3 content (mostly 1066 - present); a study showing how over time sites reflect aspects of national history or an aspect that consolidates or extends pupils’ chronological understanding before 1066. 

For the 14-16 age range it is expected that most who choose to study history will do a GCSE.  For the new GCSEs, a study of the historic environment is now a requirement irrespective of which GCSE is chosen.  There are various offerings with some specifying a site or theme.  In most cases the site has to be linked with the wider context of local people and cultures.  Thus students can study local sites and themes from different periods including Norman, Medieval, Elizabethan and Restoration periods or within themes such as crime, medicine and warfare.  The degree of choice for schools and colleges ranges from any site to specific themes such as Whitechapel 1870 to 1900 or London in World War 2. 

19. National Conference - Growing Local History. April 2016 Show more → Show less ↓

BRITISH ASSOCIATION FOR LOCAL HISTORY in association with UNIVERSITY CAMPUS SUFFOLK announces its national conference GROWING LOCAL HISTORY to be held at UCS, Waterfront Building, Ipswich Friday 8 April to Sunday 10 April 2016

BALH’s biennial conference will recognise the uniquely valuable work and fresh ideas that volunteers are bringing to the study and understanding of local history. Based throughout on actual projects, the conference will explore varied examples from the rich array of current and recent work in Suffolk- the topics, the activities, the findings and how they are achieved. Using these and other contributions it will consider more generally how grass-roots historians, working with a variety of partners and supporters, can contribute to taking local history forward at a time when familiar formats and resources are threatened.

Based in UCS’s new building by the riverside in the heart of Ipswich, the programme includes:

Professor Chris Scull, Saxon Rendlesham re-visited

David Dymond, Suffolk’s Local History: achievements and prospects

Matthew Champion, Medieval Graffiti: the lost voices of England’s churches

Tony Bone, Barber’s Point: how a small local history society funded and ran four community digs

Kate Chantry, Cracking the Code: projects on Suffolk medieval documents

Kate Tiller, Memories and memorials: 20th-century Suffolk histories and voices

Nick Patrick and David Cain, Eighth in the East: new histories, new historians

Gauri Desai and Lucy Walker, Selie Suffolk: making films about local migration past and present

Stalls, displays and showing of films

Open Forum: Growing local history, led by Dan Miles (Historic England), Alan Crosby (BALH) and Jane Golding  (BALH/Historic England)

Guided walking tour of the historic  waterfront and town

For booking options watch this space and www.balh.org.uk/events  later this year

20. Visit to the Birmingham Library Show more → Show less ↓

George Gascoyne

In early June a small number of BALH Members visited the Birmingham and Midland Institute in which is located the historic Birmingham Library, sometime referred to as the BMI’s Priestley Library on account of the re-organising in 1781 of this private library, begun two years earlier in the home of John Lee a button manufacturer, by Joseph Priestley, the pioneering chemist and discoverer of oxygen. The Library has an extensive holding of some 100,000 books including eighteenth century volumes from the earliest days together with a wide range of nineteenth and twentieth century purchases on history, literature, natural history science and travel.  It also holds  extensive volumes of fiction and some 6000 biographies.  The Library now holds the Robert Deeley collection of books donated at his death which cover many topics especially on history and landscape topography. The Library is normally open to members of the BMI but is available to serious students for research by arrangement with the Librarian.  Thanks are to Dr Trevor James for his guiding the party to the more specific and interesting parts of the Library.

A visit was also made to the room of the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry where the extensive research facilities for family historians tracing their ancestors in the counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire are housed.  Members were shown the wide range of parish registers, census records and Directories for these counties available for detailed research.  Particular attention was drawn to some of the special local records not easily available   elsewhere.  Thanks were given to Bernie McLean, the Chairman, for his enlightening talk on the holdings.

21. Visit to Houses of Parliament and Parliamentary Archives Show more → Show less ↓

George Gascoyne

Early in August a party of BALH members assembled in Westminster Hall, the only surviving part of the Palace of Westminster following the destructive fire of 1834, from where we were given an extensive and long guided tour of the Houses of Parliament. We commenced at the point where the Queen enters the Palace of Westminster, whereupon her Standard is raised on the Victoria Tower, and she enters the Queens Robing Room to prepare for the Opening of Parliament.  From here the tour went through several long corridors and assembly rooms with their outstanding paintings of key events in British History together with statues of all the Monarchs since William the Conqueror.  We then entered the House of Lords with its red upholstery (which you are not allowed to sit on!) to see the magnificent gilded Throne.  From here moving in the opposite direction we came to the Central Lobby where members of the public are allowed to ‘lobby’ their own Member of Parliament.  The Central Lobby is distinguished by the four great statues of Margaret Thatcher, Clement Attlee,  David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, and bears the scars of the bombing in World War Two which has been left deliberately around a door to the House of Commons. We entered into the House of Commons and our Guide pointed out the damage  to the entrance door caused by the Black Rod banging three times on the door after it has been closed to him to summon the Commons to attend upon the Monarch during the Opening of Parliament ceremony.  Again in the House of Commons we were not allowed to sit on the green upholstery while our Guide pointed out the Speakers Chair, the Government and Opposition benches, and then we moved into the Division Lobbies where the Members move to when voting on a Bill.  Walking through this beautiful Victorian building was fascinating as were the innumerable statues and busts of former politicians  -- a history lesson in itself!

In the afternoon we assembled in Black Rods Garden adjacent to the Victoria Tower and were taken up into the Parliamentary Archives at the top of the tower.  Here we were given a wide ranging talk by Magi Takayanagi, a Senior Archivist, on the work of the Archives which were established in 1946 for both Houses. Despite the fire of1834 the saved Commons records go back to 1547 and the Lords records back to 1497. The Archives hold all the Acts of Parliament, Journals of both Houses, Hansard Reports, and some politicians personal papers ie David Lloyd George.  We were taken higher up the tower into the air/humidity controlled and fire protected rooms where the older Acts are in parchment rolls and are stored in accordance with the Regnal Years.  The Acts today are printed on parchment and are tied with red ribbon.  A splendid display of artefacts and original documents were set out in the study room for our perusal including part of a tombstone used in evidence in a dispute over heredity.  For research scholars the Archives are open during the week by appointment.  Mari, our Guide, was given our warm thanks at the end of a remarkable and interesting visit.

22. The BALH Publications Awards 2015 Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

Every year our Reviews Editor (now Dr Sarah Rose of Lancaster University) chooses a ‘longlist’ of articles from the numerous local and regional history journals which are received for listing in The Local Historian. They are selected for a variety of reasons, including innovative subject matter, the use of new sources, taking a fresh perspective on a familiar topic, and linking national or even international themes with the local experience are just some. Of course, we also look at the quality of the research itself, the skill shown in putting together a narrative or analysis, the technical mastery of referencing  and the use of historical terminology and concepts and – by no means least – the intrinsic interest and appeal of the paper to a wider (that is, non-local) readership.

The longlisted articles (eight or nine of them) are then read by a panel of judges or assessors and from hose we choose four winners. There are, however, two categories – long articles and short articles – to recognise the distinction between journals themselves. Some are substantial publications which can accommodate articles of 7-10,000 words, others are more modest and publish papers of 3-4,000 words. So, overall, sixteen or eighteen articles are chosen, and then eight selected for commendation with a certificate. The overall winner in each category is usually published in The Local Historian, as is the case in the current (October) issue.

The winning short article was James Thomas’s paper which took a theme well-known to international and national historians of the eighteenth century – the dramatic expansion of Britain’s emergent empire in South Asia, and specifically the activities of the East India Company. James shows how the Company, and its wider content, impinged upon and in many ways significantly affected Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. He suggests that comparable investigation of other coastal counties could produce interesting and relevant results. This sort of analysis does not only reveal the effects of major historical processes upon a local community, but readily demonstrates how local investigation and analysis can inform and enhance understanding of those wider issues.

In contrast, Margaret Bird, overall winner of the ‘long article’, looks at one of the universalities of human existence,  across the globe and century after century – drinking beer. Her meticulous analysis of the remarkable diaries of Mary Hardy and her nephew Henry Raven reveals a wealth of detail about the family brewing business, its organisation and its ramifications in terms of employees, tied houses, transport, and much more. Distilled from a tremendous 25-year project to publish and then comprehensively analyse the diaries, this article is a major contribution to local business history and must surely inspire other local historians to research brewing, beerhouses and their world.

This year, when the awards were being presented at Local History Day in Birmingham, I paid tribute to the work of editors. As I am an editor myself, this might be construed as special pleading, but I wanted to thank the editors of journals up and down the country for their endless hard work and patient attention to the task of getting the annual, quarterly or occasional publication out on time, finding authors, dealing with copy-editing, arranging printing and production ... without editors we would have nothing to judge each year!

23. Commercial ghosts Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

I was teaching in Oxford in July and, as I always do when I’m in the city, one evening I wandered through darkening streets, retracing steps trodden thousands of times in those distant days when I was a student in what Betjeman called ‘the city of screaming tyres’. In some ways the traffic is now not so bad – or at least, it’s very bad to be a driver but slightly easier to be a pedestrian, though long residence in Preston means that I have lost the sixth sense about bikes which all residents of Oxford quickly acquire. There were several near misses, some of them my fault.

The quieter parts of Oxford remain entrancing as dusk falls, with forests of pinnacles silhouetted, dark lanes turning inexplicable right angles, ancient rough stone enveloped in deepening shadows, and the tip-tap sound of footsteps on cobbles and flags. The evening was warm and humid, the air was heavy, and the velvety feel of an Oxford summer night was smoothly midnight blue. Then, around the corner of New College Lane, came a young man dressed in ludicrous Victorian costume, followed by a giggling gaggle of girls and transatlantic matrons. He was, unmistakably, leading A Ghost Tour. Hamming it up as high as the towers of All Souls he told, in tones lifted straight from music hall melodrama, of a mysterious figure which emerged through a wall at an unspecified time in the past, and then no less mysteriously vanished. In my day, the mysterious figures in New College Lane, appearing and vanishing, had been at the King’s Arms or the Turf Tavern – or more probably, those who saw the figures had visited those hostelries for far too long. But now all in Oxford is commerce, and ghost tours are presumably remunerative. I suspect that the money mysteriously vanishes like a will o’ the wisp before Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs arrive on the scene. 

Absence, and the passage of forty years, means that on each visit the tumultuous sea of tourists comes as something of a shock. Cornmarket, which was never a particularly pleasant street though it is one of the four which are the main frame of the city centre, is now barely passable because of the hordes of visitors. They congregate here because it’s wide and it’s where the shops are. It is profoundly un-historic (indeed, much of it is simply ugly) but is enlivened or battered by the noise of street musicians, religious revivalists, vendors of cheap trinkets and crowds of secular pilgrims. It’s far more authentically medieval, therefore, than the cherished back lanes and the quiet corners.

These secular pilgrims come from all corners of the globe. Cornmarket is a veritable Street of Babel as the high sounds of the Orient mingle and clash with the excitable chatter of the Mediterranean, the drawl of the mid-West, the guttural rhythms of Northern Europe and the liquid flows of France. Sometimes those with a good ear for accents and language can even hear, as though listening to a ghost of Oxford’s market town past, the distinctive sound of a real Oxfordshire person, with that intriguing mixture of Midlands, Wessex and Thames Valley which perhaps sounds best from the lips of the great Pam Ayres (who was in fact born in the Vale of the White Horse, which was then in Berkshire).

A quick demographic profile of the transient occupants of Cornmarket suggests that they are mostly aged 17-20; come from Italy, Spain, America or Japan; and are not remotely interested in medieval architecture, the development of one of the world’s greatest universities, the evolution and social structure of the collegiate system, or indeed anything except embracing, kissing, chewing, eating, smoking, drinking, shouting, squealing, photographing themselves or friends, and looking decorative. But come to think of it, with the exception of the photography that applies to a fair proportion of my fellow-students back in the 1970s.

24. Message from the chairman Show more → Show less ↓

Tim Lomas

After many years of dedicated service to BALH Annmarie Jones, our business manager and Terry Clarke, finance officer, have decided to move on.   Their departure will obviously leave an enormous gap but the Trustees are working hard to find replacements that should allow continuity of service and efficiency.  We will notify members through our mailings and website about any changes as soon as things are finalised but we expect there to be little or no noticeable differences to processes as far as BALH members are concerned.

BALH have gone through the process of seeking tenders for financial and membership services.   The deadline for bids was 6th October. 

A small task group have assessed the bids and a preferred partner identified.  The group’s recommendations have been approved by the Trustees on 10th October.  Arrangements are now in hand for a smooth transfer of these functions.

25. BALH Trustee Profile Show more → Show less ↓

David Griffiths

Having dabbled beforehand, my involvement in local history really took off after redundancy from local government in 2006.  My research and writing since then has focused on the development of the public realm and public institutions in 19th century Huddersfield, my adopted home town in West Yorkshire (I’m a Lancastrian originally, but identify as ‘South Pennine’ rather than white or red rose).  To date this has led to the publication of four booklets, while two Yorkshire History Prize essays (runner-up both times!) have been published in Northern History and the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. But my formal qualifications are in sociology and economics, with such historical training as I have coming from WEA and University extra-mural classes.

Finding time for research is in continual tension with ‘public history’ activities.  My biggest commitment is to Huddersfield Local History Society, of which I’m treasurer, and for which I’ve been particularly involved in developing a website and increasing publication sales.  I’m also treasurer of the Discover Huddersfield partnership, which brings together a range of public, private and voluntary bodies to promote the town, with a strong emphasis on heritage; core activities are printed town trails and a guided walks programme.  I’ve contributed to both, and also developed heritage information boards and brochures for other local groups.  Over the last two years I have taken a lead in refreshing Huddersfield’s offer for Heritage Open Days, which had become rather stale.

Other interests beyond history and heritage include walking, theatre and modern architecture (and world peace, obviously).  And I’ve recently become a grandfather.

I have been active in BALH for several years, as a member of the events committee, a contributor to all three regular publications, and a volunteer at occasional events (never happier than when behind a bookstall!).  I look forward to making a wider contribution as a member of Council.

26. Notes News Issues Show more → Show less ↓


In the Chairman’s note opposite you will see that our Business Manager Annmarie Jones is moving on to a new job. We will miss her extrovert enthusiasm and efficiency which, over the years she has been with us, has established the administrative side of the Association on a firm footing.  Members often don’t realise that everyone involved with the Association works part-time from home, and sometimes  - such as when the subscription renewals paperwork is being processed - I’m sure Annmarie’s family felt they were swamped by BALH. The expert accounting and IT skills of Terry Clarke as Finance Officer have created a smooth-running system to look after that important aspect of the organisation. They will both be hard to replace, but as Tim Lomas says, we hope the transition will not adversely impact on you as members.

Our new website manager is welcomed below.  You can now expect the BALH online and social media presence to go up several notches, now we have someone who understands what is happening behind the screen as well as on it! BALH’s initial presence on the World Wide Web (as it was put in LHN) was by courtesy of the history department at the University of Leicester.  Our own website address first appeared on the cover of the winter 1999 issue.  The current site is only the third re-design. Although we appreciate that there will always be members who prefer communication on paper, or by telephone, and there are certainly no plans to end hard copy  publications,  life in the 21st century is increasingly managed around  the web, email, texts, apps and so on.  The dangers of getting out of date were brought home to us very firmly when our old site fell victim to hacking; in Paul’s capable hands that will not be allowed to happen again.  

Web address

Please would all societies who have links the BALH website on their own sites, ensure that they have changed to our new address www.balh.org.uk

27. New Website Manager Show more → Show less ↓

At the start of September, we welcomed our new website manager Paul Carter. Paul, a member of BALH, is an experienced IT consultant and web developer, who has been running his own web design agency for fifteen years. Prior to that he worked in software development for several companies after attaining a BA (Hons) in Computing.

“I’m delighted to have been asked to take on this role and am looking forward to working with the BALH team. We have an excellent base with the new website and are already discussing some exciting new projects for the future. I’m always interested in any ideas or feedback on how we can improve the website, so do feel free to contact me.”

Away from IT, Paul is passionate about genealogy and is an associate of AGRA, the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives. He is studying towards a Higher Certificate in Genealogy and Palaeography with the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies in Canterbury. As a member of BALH, he naturally loves local history, especially one-place studies and his current research project, the village of Wickhambreaux in Kent.

If he’s not in front of his computer or in a library, he’ll most likely be found out walking on the beach near his home in Kent.