Now is the summer of our great content
Made so glorious by our splendid footie
And no more clouds do lour upon our house
For ‘tis in Leicester, not in York, where I am buried.
Now are my bones crowned with magnificent stone
And my bruised arms lie ‘neath cathedral monuments;
While, God’s odds, 5000 to 1 fast chang’d to merry meetings,
Our dreadful matches to delightful measures;
Grim visag’d Ranieri hath smooth’d his wrinkled front,
And then, ‘stead of fearing other teams,
Which might fright the souls of meek and fearful adversaries
Valiant Vardy capered nimbly ‘cross the pitch
To th’ecstatic pleasing of the crowd
In Leicester in mid-May I was leading a history study visit over the weekend immediately before the triumphal parade when an estimated 250,000 people came to see Leicester City celebrate their hour of victory – it was a city bedecked in blue and white, with the weather beautiful and the sun shining on the righteous. The Saturday previously, during the last home game, a small plane had flown over the King Power stadium trailing a brilliant banner: HAD A HUNCH WE’D WIN – RICHARD III.
We had come to see Richard III – almost literally, of course, since not only is he or his logo omnipresent but the excellent Visitor Centre devoted to the king and his rediscovery includes every image you could ever want to see. It wasn’t my first visit, but my reaction was the same as before – full marks for the imagination which lies behind it, and particularly the way the grave itself is presented and the scientific and historiographical aspects of the story are explained. Of course there are the unavoidable ‘actors doing historical drama’ elements - they always leave me cold, but then they aren’t aimed at the likes of me. The Visitor Centre takes its history seriously, and is impeccably designed and organised.
In that it is a match for the superb skill with which Leicester Cathedral has reorganised its really quite modest space to accommodate the tomb of the king. The dignity and simplicity of the sanctuary, and the dramatic, massive but elegant tomb, could not be bettered. It would have been so easy to overdo it all, to sentimentalise and trivialise and to make it fussy and cluttered – and especially to have loads of explanatory boards and signs - but instead it’s a moving and minimalist space, a tribute to restraint and gracious decorum.
Outside in the old city, riven in twain not by a sword but by a truly vile inner ring road started in 1962, plenty of signs of renaissance and rejuvenation, and a historical richness which astonished the people in my group. All amateur enthusiasts for local and landscape history, they have travelled the world but of the almost 40 in the group only two had ever been to Leicester. Indeed, several admitted that they had come not expecting to find anything of interest beyond taking a perfunctory glance at the Ricardian stuff. Nothing had prepared them for possibly the finest medieval guildhall in England, some of the best Roman mosaics and wall-paintings, perhaps the largest standing Roman building in this country (don’t all email me, I know there are other candidates!), a medieval lane with gateways which would grace York or Chester, a beautiful riverside park dominated by the huge Norman castle motte ... and all within easy walking distance and right next to the city centre.
I love taking my students (they are usually in their 60s, 70s or 80s) to places which they have ignored or avoided, and about which they know next to nothing. Leading guided walks round celebrity historic attractions is fine and fun, but the sheer joy of unexpected discovery makes the Leicesters of this world special. What good fortune - to have found the king under the car park, and now the Kings of King Power Stadium add another touch of sensation and glamour. It’s surely the envy of other second-class citizens among our urban hierarchy. I’m trying to work out which king might be buried in Preston, and whether Preston North End can do similar magic. Not putting any money on it, though!
Edwardian Postcards project.
The early British postcard is a fascinating multimodal communications technology. In the heyday of the postcard during the Edwardian age (1901-1910), it offered an opportunity for the exchange of everyday messages with pictures at very low cost. This opportunity was not to be available again until the contemporary digital revolution. Up to six deliveries a day were being made in major cities and 6 billion cards were sent in the period. This Lancaster University project has collected 3,000 cards from the period to examine the creative responses of the population to this new technology, and a searchable resource of 1,000 cards, together with their transcriptions, is now available. Historical records have been added wherever something useful is available, especially from the 1901 and 1911 censuses. The project can be accessed here: http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fass/projects/EVIIpc/
Dr Amanda Pullan, Research Associate on the project, is also looking for donations of Edwardian postcards (or scans of postcards). If you would like to offer something to the project please contact Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Crispin Paine writes:
In my attic I have fifteen or twenty box files full of guidebooks to places, historic buildings and so on, in the UK. Mostly they date from the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, though some are earlier and a few later. They are (mostly) sorted by county.
To save them from the skip in years to come, I should like to offer them to a good home.
Anyone interest please contact Crispin by email firstname.lastname@example.org
The causes, course and consequences of the War are a popular topic in secondary school history classrooms across England. Many students also encounter the War through the study of war poetry in English lessons. The National Curriculum for History does not prescribe content, and over half of England’s secondary schools are academies and thus exempt from it. However, children in the first two or three years of secondary school may address enquiries such as ‘Why did two bullets lead to millions of deaths?’ or ‘How did the First World War transform peoples’ lives?’ Alternatively, those students who opt to study History for GCSE may study the War, or aspects of it, as part of topics such as ‘Conflict and tension, 1894-1918’ or ‘War and British Society c.790 to c.2010’. At ‘A level’ the War features as part of topics such as ‘Britain 1900-1951’, or ‘Germany 1871-1991’.
GCSE and ‘A level’ course content is dictated by exam specifications, and few schools find time to deviate from set content, although visits to the Western Front are common. Secondary teachers have much more flexibility in the earlier years, known as Key Stage 3. Textbooks often have a British and Western Front focus. Too many do not enable students to understand why this was a World War, or its far-reaching implications. Nor do they encourage an understanding of the debate that swirls around this seminal topic. There is also a problem of teacher knowledge. I look back to the early years of my career. The First World War was ‘not my period’ at university and I was almost as clueless as my students about where Sarajevo was on a map.
A positive aspect of the centennial commemorations has been the explosion of high-quality material and resources available for teachers to use, for their own knowledge and to teach the topic well. Worthy of mention is the British Library, which has provided online at www.bl.uk/world-war-one multi-perspective material that takes us far beyond a narrow British and Western Front angle. Also EUROCLIO, the European network of history educators, who have content and learning resources for teachers and students from across the continent at www.historiana.eu. Schools can also connect with local history societies, and several York schools have used a local war memorial as part of historical enquiries about the conflict and its continuing significance.
At The Mount School in York we have taken our studies of the War beyond the classroom. In 2014 our Creative Arts Festival took the War as its theme. The history department’s contribution was to publish a ‘Fortnightly Focus’ on aspects of the War in the preceding months, to collate memories of the friends and families of The Mount community, and to focus on the York Minster memorial to Women of the Empire. As an all-girls school with an international aspect this seemed the perfect choice. Girls researched women from each of the areas of women’s war work that are represented on the memorial panels, with the support of the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’. They also researched the story of how the memorial to the Women of the British Empire came to be in York Minster. You can see this work at www.mounthistoryroom.com/mount-history/ and we exhibited in the York Castle Museum community room at Easter 2016.
We were thrilled to be part of a panel presentation with Cyril Pearce and Ingrid Sharp at the Anglo-American conference in London in the summer of 2014. A group of girls aged 15 presented what they had learnt about how the War - specifically the experience of people who objected to the war - is taught in schools across Europe. Schools involved in an international project called ‘Europe Lost and Found in War and Peace’ revealed that peace movements do not feature in most school curricula. Austria was an exception, and their work focused on learning about the peace activists before 1914, including Bertha von Suttner. It was interesting for our students to learn how the War is part of a foundation narrative for some European countries, such as Turkey, and part of lessons to avoid future war, for example in Germany. It was clear that in several European countries students are specifically taught to reflect upon how a military culture contributed to catastrophe in 1914 and what we may learn about the dangers of a culture which celebrates armed forces today.
York is fortunate to have a strong network of history teachers across the city’s schools. Centenary Battlefields tours have been set up with government funding to send representatives from every school to the Western Front during the centenary period. The model used is controversial, and we decided in 2015 that local schools should go together on the same tour to strengthen partnership working. On our return York Minster kindly hosted a commemorative event to enable students to reflect together on the visit. The legacy from this visit has involved students from York schools working together on an exhibition entitled: ‘1916: it’s more than the Somme’, again in the community room of York Castle Museum. Students have researched source material from the time, including local newspapers and focused on the individual lives of people from a variety of countries caught up in the events of that tumultuous year.
At The Mount we have a particular strong partnership with Millthorpe, our neighbouring school. 2016 sees our third joint Western Front tour and in 2016 we are also working with the Clements Hall Local History Group to commemorate the Zeppelin raid on York in May 1916. Millthorpe School’s buildings were a large private house at the time. The house took a direct hit and there is a memorial in the entrance to the school commemorating casualties. Meanwhile, in The Mount archives we have drawings and writings by girls who witnessed the night’s events. It is a great opportunity to bring students together with people from the local community to understand the past in more depth.
Once a year both schools work together with Phillip-Melanchthon Gymnasium near Berlin. In the autumn term of 2014 our project work was based in York and we took the theme of ‘Voices of the Great War’. Students researched together to create scripts for a variety of ‘voices’, including silenced, fighting, peaceful and forgotten voices. We then staged ‘pop-up’ theatre to surprised people in the centre of York in several locations, including outside the Friends Meeting House, York Minster, and in front of the North Eastern Railway Company Memorial. It was moving to hear Bismarck admonish the Kaiser in the Eye of York, to hear Arnold Rowntree discuss his war work with his wife, and to hear Mary Carter, munitions worker, fall silent as her life was cut short by an explosion.
These are some ways that teachers and students engage with the vast topic of the First World War. It is a subject that students find very engaging. For teachers it has great potential to educate young people in the discipline of history and to enthuse them with love for the subject.
Helen Snelson is head of history at The Mount School, York.
For a list of First World War themed research guides see
In addition to being President of BALH Professor David Hey was for twelve years Patron of the Doncaster Heritage Group, so it was very fitting that when he died the Group should have instituted an annual lecture in his memory. The inaugural memorial lecture, which was given on 3 May 2016 by Professor Robert Shoemaker of Sheffield University on ‘London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the making of a Modern City, 1690-1800', opened this year’s Doncaster Heritage Festival. Drawing upon the digitisation of the eighteenth century portion of the Old Bailey Proceedings together with a selection of lower court records, coroners accounts, parish registers and poor relief archives (now available on line www.oldbaileyonline.org) Professor Shoemaker demonstrated how criminals and the poor influenced developments in both the legal system and the treatment of the poor in eighteenth century England. It was in this period, for example, that offenders began employing lawyers to defend them in court for the very first time, while the riotous conduct of condemned criminals housed in prison hulks after the declaration of independence by the American colonies forced the state to find an alternative location for transportation in Australia and eventually to devise a novel form of penitentiaries. For their part some of the destitute proved adept at extracting a minimum maintenance from their places of settlement and parish work houses, intended primarily to provide work for the poor, out of very necessity were transformed into refuges for the sick, the infirm and young children. The findings of the Old Bailey Project have very recently appeared in a scholarly volume - T. Hitchcock and R. Shoemaker, London Lives: Poverty, Crime and the Making of a Modern City 1690-1800 (Cambridge University Press, 2015).
As well as walks around Doncaster and its vicinity and First World War talks and workshops Doncaster’s fortnight long Heritage Festival included lectures on Doncaster in the Domesday Book, the battle of Agincourt, the local Pilgrim Father, William Bradford, the early days of the Borough Police, and a palaeography class at Doncaster Record Office.
Prue Stokes was born in Sheffield, and read Modern History at Somerville College, Oxford, in the late 1940s. Her husband worked for the Foreign Office and much of their life was spent in embassies around the world, and in London. They have two sons and a daughter. During this itinerant time Prue worked as journalist, kindergarten teacher, and teacher of English to adults; after taking a Social Science Diploma she was employed by Kent Social Services. Prue and Michael had already decided to settle in Kent, and had a house built in Biddenden, where Prue still lives.
After Michael’s retirement in 1981 the historical research began in earnest. Prue did some investigation at the India Office Library in support of her husband’s particular interest in the British in India. Before his death in 2011 they worked together on a number of local history projects. A major enterprise was the copying and transcribing of the Biddenden Tithe map of 1838. This was before the days of digital photography and involved the physical tracing of the 12 feet square document. Prue then went on to research all the landowners, and to link the tithe material with other archive sources such as family papers and letters.
More recently Prue has transcribed and researched an account book kept by Biddenden church wardens for the years 1645-1780 concerning the management, income and expenditure of a charitable bequest known as Chulkhurst or Bread and Cheeselands charity. This dispensed aid to the poor, and donated bread, cheese, and later tea every Easter since before 1600, and continues to do so. She has also worked on the history of John Mayne School, Biddenden , which is now looking for an author.
Prue Stokes describes herself as ‘essentially an untrained historian and archivist’ but that belies the courses she has taken, the precision with which she works, the high standards she sets in her own work and that of others in collaboration, and the respect in which she is held.
Prue has been an active member of Biddenden Local History Society since the 1970s, serving as secretary, chairman and president over the years. She has given lectures, organised exhibitions and been instrumental in the society’s publications. She is closely involved with the cataloguing of the society’s archives into an electronic database. The significance of this is best expressed in her own words: ‘Interest in and a love of the hunt for evidence of the way human society has evolved is the basis on which I continue to research our village history’. Sharing this enthusiasm and encouraging others to become actively involved has been another significant part of her contribution to local history.
With thanks to Prue Stokes, Colin Rice, Maureen Rice, Tony Churton, Derrick Martin and Edith Dormandy.
Maybe Mr and Mrs Brown of Kirkharle, part of the estate of Sir William Loraine in Northumberland were wise to give their son the Christian name of Lancelot. It has a certain ring to it which William does not .Even though Lancelot is probably better known by his nickname of Capability he is well known whereas William Brown his very near contemporary born in Throckley a few miles to the south is pretty well forgotten. Throckley in 1717 was still a village but on the edge of an area west of Newcastle upon Tyne which would undergo rapid industrialisation during the 18th century largely due to the activities of William Brown. Les Turnbull of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers, a well known local historian in his recently published The World of William Brown has argued very persuasively for Brown's recognition as one of the founding fathers of mining engineering and points out that as the North Eastern coal royalties were owned by the landed elite he was at times working for the same masters as Lancelot and probably providing them with much of the wealth that they expended on their gardens.
William Brown was the north eastern equivalent of James Watt in his adoption and adaptation of the steam pump which made deep mining possible and issued in an era of precision engineering and the use of steam power in its numerous guises. As the manager of collieries he also had to deal with the waggonways that brought the coal to the staithes for shipment, the precursors of the railways. He died six months after George Stephenson was born having laid the industrial foundations on which the latter's fame was based so why have his achievements been so much overlooked?
Could the surname have anything to do with it? His son and heir married a Miss Dixon from quite a wealthy family although William Brown himself had been comfortably off by the time of his death. Under the terms of an inheritance his grandson adopted the surname of Dixon and became a substantial land and coal owner in Benton parish but nobody remembers him either.
The book’s title -Les Turnbull The World of William Brown, Railways -Steam Engines-Coalmines
pub.2016 by North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in conjunction with the Newcastle upon Tyne Centre of the Stephenson Locomotive Society price £15
Members of BALH will need no reminding of the powerful impact of the steam railway on the British landscape. Railways added their own steam, smoke and grime to the industrial towns of the workshop of the world; in the countryside the locomotive’s whistle assumed the role once held by the church bell, of measuring time and of dictating the rhythms of the rural community.
What may be less familiar is the role played by earlier, less technologically complex railway systems, for which there is evidence from the mid-16th century. There is an excellent introduction to them in Andy Guy and Jim Rees’ Shire Album, Early Railways 1569-1830 (2011), which sets out how when the Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened, there had been railways in Britain for a very long time. The earliest were found in copper mines, but it is in the context of the coal industry that they developed most extensively, in Nottinghamshire from 1604, Shropshire by 1605, and the north-east of England around 1608. Ralph Allen’s wooden railway of 1731 from Combe Down to the Avon was the earliest to serve the stone industry, and by the late eighteenth century railways were also to be found as internal systems in foundries, ironworks and farms, as well as carrying their products overland to navigable water. Their reduced rolling resistance made them cost-effective at a time when road travel was laborious and subject to the effects of weather, and canals were costly.
The adoption of iron components instead of wood for rails and rolling stock and of mechanical traction meant that by the 1820s the elements were in place for a transport system that could serve the entire country. The front-cover illustration, a ‘puff’ for a projected Liverpool to Birmingham railway of 1825, shows how they were evolving – the locomotive would be more suitable for a slow-moving colliery railway, but it is nevertheless pulling wagons carrying, so the caption tells us, corn, hay, soldiers, cannon, baggage, cattle and earthen-ware. In the 1830s and 1840s the network of main-lines took shape, to which secondary railways and branch lines were added a generation later. Their predecessor systems are often dismissed as unimportant and primitive, local and short-term in their significance, or at best an interesting prelude to the history of the railway proper.
Renewed research into these early systems has made it clear just how misguided this view is, how important they were to the early phases of the industrial revolution, how technically innovative they were, and how profoundly they affected the British landscape. With this in mind, Historic England has recently commissioned us, David Gwyn and Neil Cossons, to summarise current research, to consider what is already protected in England and explore gaps within it, and to set out a strategy for future protection, both at national and local levels.
For this reason, we would be delighted to hear from members of BALH who are aware of early railway sites that deserve protection, or which might merit archaeological investigation, or from any local conservation or research groups that might like to make themselves known. Our brief is restricted to England, though we would like to persuade Historic Scotland and Cadw to undertake similar studies in the future, and our absolute cut-off date is 1840, for railways built in the immediate aftermath of the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester but which retained some earlier forms of technology, such as horse-haulage or the use of inclined planes. Please contact us at email@example.com by the end of August 2016
London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) is the repository for the City and pan-London, managed by the City of London. The service holds the largest single collection of business archives held by a local authority in England and Wales representing businesses mainly based in the ‘Square Mile’ of the City of London and in the wider Greater London region. Many of the company archives have global significance, reflecting the development of the City of London as a national and international commercial and financial centre. The records include management and financial series showing the changing fortunes of companies; a vast array of production records with technological innovations illustrated through specifications, plans and photographs; and rich advertising and employment records. The business archives range from records of individual craftsmen and tradesmen from the fifteenth century to those of very large companies with national and global interests from the eighteenth century. They include partnership and limited companies active both locally in London and internationally, and trade associations involved with the regulation, promotion, and representation of business activities.
Richard Wiltshire was one of the presenters at Local History Day 2016 to our morning session on Business Archives. Thanks to Richard for sharing with readers his example of Drivers Jonas, illustrating the strengths and fascination of such material.
The archives of Drivers Jonas and Company, chartered surveyors, estate management agents, valuers and auctioneers, and later property consultants, have recently been catalogued (2016). The records of this firm founded in 1725 provide key primary sources on the selling of major estates and country houses across the country and managing property portfolios.
A family partnership
The partnership was founded in 1725 by brothers Samuel Driver (1692-1741) and Charles Driver (1699-), bakers, nurserymen and landowners. From 1741 until 1816 the firm was based on Kent Street Road (later Kent Road), Southwark. From the late 18th century the firm branched out into auctioneering and estate management for landed estates. After moving to Blackfriars for ten years, the partners moved in 1826 to Westminster where the firm has remained, later opening regional offices.
Long-standing clients included the Trustees of the Corporation of Trinity House; the Earl and Countess of Ilchester (Holland Park Estate, Kensington); Greenwich Hospital Department of the Admiralty; Grosvenor Settled Estates Trustees (Belgravia and Mayfair); Speer Trustees; Viscount Bertie of Thame, Surrey; Colonel Abel Smith; Sir Ronald Gunter (Earls Court and West Hampstead); Reverend George Pollen’s Trustees (including Old Burlington Street and Savile Row, Westminster); and James Kent’s Estates (including Hoxton and the City Road area).
The firm’s name reflected changes in the family partnership including A P Driver, E and G N Driver, Samuel and Robert C Driver, R C Driver and Company (1863), Driver and Company (1866), Drivers and Company (1870s-1890s), before becoming Drivers Jonas and Company in 1907.
The two names of Driver and Jonas were brought together through the marriage of Maria Robson Driver to Henry Jonas (c1844-1928), son of agriculturalist Samuel Jonas of Chrishall Grange, Chrishall, Cambridgeshire. Henry had grown tired of the almost exclusively agricultural aspect of the work he found in East Anglia and by letter of introduction from his father made contact with Maria’s father Robert Collier Driver and joined the firm in London as a surveyor. In 1874 he met his future wife and was made a partner in the firm in 1878.
The partners had key influence in the City of London and surveyor profession. Abraham Purhouse Driver and Harold Driver Jonas became Masters of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers, Edward and George Neale Driver were original members of the Land Surveyors’ Club, and other members of the family were involved in related associations.
From 1935 the firm partnered G J Brown and Son, surveyors and estate managers of 34 Great George Street, Westminster (1907); 11 Little College Street, Westminster (1923). G J Brown and Son was closed and clients transferred to Drivers Jonas in 1953.
In the later 20th century the firm became leading property consultants specialising as managing agents of commercial property advising landlords and tenants of offices, shops and industrial space on service charges, rents and other costs. In 2007 the company’s core values and brand were ‘to add value for our clients by giving high quality property advice’ as the ‘leading commercial property consultancy’. The company remained as an independent partnership until the firm was acquired by Deloitte LLP in January 2010, and renamed Drivers Jonas Deloitte. Drivers Jonas was dropped from the name in 2013.
The major highlight of the collection is a series of 2,768 mainly bound printed auction particulars for properties across the United Kingdom (and beyond) auctioned by the firm between 1803 and 1935 (series reference code LMA/4673/D/01).
The particulars relate to properties in London and the home counties, and elsewhere in England, Wales and Scotland. Overseas examples including a sugar plantation in Tobago (see LMA/4673/D/01/013/046) and copper and silver mines in Chile (see LMA/4673/D/01/021/002). Plans and some lists of tenants and occupiers are included for major sales in the City of London and the West End, country houses and larger estates, and there are also some inventories. From the mid-nineteenth century major particulars are illustrated. The auctioning of tree bark, farming crops and other commodities, as well as stock and insurance policies are also documented in the sales. The volumes were listed by Drivers Jonas Deloitte and the descriptions are now added at item level on the LMA online catalogue.
Also held are corporate records including partnership and related agreements and partners’ correspondence, ‘Business Index’ books (1862-1972) recording clients and work done (series reference code: LMA/4673/D/04), property estate job files and plans. Records of individual estates across London and counties in England include the Corporation of Trinity House and Holland Park Estate (the records of both organisations are held separately at LMA), some manorial records for estates in Surrey (series reference code: LMA/4673/D/09) and records inherited by the firm from G J Brown and Son (series reference code: LMA/4673/D/11).
Further records include marketing material with annual reports used for marketing and property guidance publications (197—2011) (series reference code: LMA/4673/E), and family papers of the Driver and Jonas families including the records of Samuel and Henry Jonas of Chrishall Grange, Cambridgeshire relating to management of the farm and visits with notebooks documenting 19th century East Anglian farming techniques (series reference codes: LMA/4673/G/06-07). Also included is Hugh Barty-King’s research for the publication ‘Scratch a Surveyor’ (1975) produced on the 250th anniversary of the firm including photographs of partners and premises, and recordings of staff (series reference code: LMA/4673/H/03).
For further information on the history of the firm see ‘Scratch a Surveyor’ by Hugh Barty-King (1975) which includes the family tree, illustrations and list of partners (reference code: LMA/4673/H/03/001).
LMA would like to thank the trustees of The 1725 Heritage Trust for donating the archives of Drivers Jonas and Company and staff of Deloitte LLP for their assistance with the deposit.
Richard Wiltshire is Senior Archivist - Business Archives, at London Metropolitan Archives
‘Five Guineas Reward’: Robbery of fruit from Mr Driver’s garden in Kent Road, Southwark, 1819
LMA/4673/D/01/033/079 Danbury Palace and Park, Danbury, Essex, 1892
LMA/4673/D/01/020/011 Vaudeville Theatre, Strand, 1871]
For personal achievement
For a society newsletter
For research and publication
Dorian Gerhold and Neil Robson
‘Can you just get me started, please?’ That’s a plea we’ve heard a number of times in connection with our work on the Wandsworth Historian, the journal of the society we enthusiastically support. As a result of these requests we recently drew up a set of tips for would-be contributors to give them a ‘road map’ for producing high-quality articles for publication. Here is what we had to say.
Define the aim of your project in just a phrase or two. Make your target a set of, say, three searching questions that you must aim to answer, and keep those questions in front of you right through to the very end.
Strike a balance between your general reading (i.e. your secondary sources) and your more detailed ‘original’ research (your primary sources). Sometimes it is best to read the secondary sources first so that you do not duplicate research which has already been done; sometimes it is best to examine the primary sources first so that you approach them with a more open mind. Don’t assume that the secondary sources are right; you may well find that you will be correcting what earlier writers had to say.
Accuracy is essential in your note-taking. Meticulously check any phrases or sentences within an original document that you might later want to quote. Always record the document reference, as you must be able to cite your sources in detail at a later stage. And keep a note of where you’ve drawn a blank, so that you don’t waste precious time exploring something twice.
Double-check any apparently new facts against at least one other source, whenever possible. This can be a challenge, but it is essential if what you’ve discovered is surprising or inconsistent with previous writing.
Set your subject in context so that your readers understand the importance of your findings. What was happening elsewhere at the same period? Was the situation you’re exploring unusual in some way, or much the same as in similar places? What led up to it, and what happened afterwards?
It often helps to do a rough first draft at an early stage to clarify your thoughts and identify points needing further work. But resist the temptation to write up your ‘final version’ until you’ve actually completed your study and are reasonably happy with your conclusions.
Be on the lookout for powerful illustrations to accompany your article. Ask for high-resolution copies, i.e. never less than 300 dpi. Be alert to copyright implications. Better to discuss this with the library or archive beforehand rather than receive an infringement-notice later. But hold off from seeking formal permission and paying any reproduction fees until your editor has agreed that the illustrations can be included.
From research to draft text
Don’t carry on researching for ever, or you’ll never get to write up what you have unearthed. Work out when you have consulted the most important sources and gathered enough information to make a convincing and interesting case and then get on with producing your draft text.
Sort through your research notes and devise a numbering system (whether by page or by individual point) so that you can quickly find a particular fact you want to mention. Use those numbers when making a plan for your writing. Without a plan, paragraph by paragraph, the writing will be less focused and take you much longer.
In order to write in a way that is fresh and accessible:
• keep your sentences short, and their structure relatively simple. Chop a longer sentence into two, if need be. Use short words wherever possible;
• avoid clichés and colloquial expressions. They diminish your authority, as do sentences that are vague or ambiguous;
• be consistent. All dates, for instance, or expressions of ‘old money’, must appear in exactly the same form.
Confine all subordinate material such as tables to an appendix. Otherwise, they break the flow of your text, and you’ll lose your readers. If you must include a table within the body of your article, keep it short and highly informative.
Ruthlessly check your first draft for accuracy and clarity. Have you provided everything your readers need to understand the significance of your findings? Is your argument crystal-clear to them? Make sure you haven’t repeated yourself.
Those original questions of yours: have you stated them in your introduction – at least in the form of a couple of statements – and then gone on to answer them to the best of your ability? Have you drawn some interesting and thought-provoking conclusions, rather than merely written up a report of everything you discovered? Have you constructed a well-rounded ending that mirrors your opening paragraph?
Look at the format used in the periodical you are aiming at, and follow it as far as possible. Again, consistency is essential. Use an abbreviation after the first appearance of any long name, e.g. TNA for The National Archives; MG for the Manchester Guardian. Your endnotes must be sufficiently detailed for your reader to be able to go to any of your sources without difficulty, i.e. they must, for example, point clearly to a specific TNA file number, or the page number of a particular issue of a newspaper.
The final stage
When you’ve finished your ‘final’ draft, sleep on it, and then read it again – aloud, if possible, as if you are giving a radio talk. Are there still any clumsy or unclear sentences? Have you missed any remaining typos? If you have the chance, ask a friend to read it though and give you their feedback.
Then submit your text to your editor, and wait for the email in reply to it. Don’t be downhearted by a long list of editor’s queries; these are designed to help make your article even better. The important thing is that at last you’re going to see the result of all that hard work in print.
DORIAN GERHOLD and NEIL ROBSON are members of the Wandsworth Historical Society. They both write and lecture extensively on the history of south-west London.
Anyone interested in historical sources will be familiar with the famous Granite vaults of the Mormon church, where billions of family history records have been stored for safety in the mountains of Utah since the 1960s. Starting with books collected by the Genealogical Society of Utah, the advance of technology has led to the FamilySearch website where millions of records are available digitally or as searchable databases thanks to thousands of volunteers who have participated in the indexing programme.
What is perhaps less well known is the extensive archive of general church history held by the Mormon church. Until recently this has been concentrated in Salt Lake City, where a new Church History library opened in 2009 to allow freer access to members of the church and the general public.
Now there is a new initiative to showcase the history of local areas of the Mormon church, with congregations worldwide being encouraged to seek out and document the history of the church in their area. This is working at several levels in the UK.
1. A Records Preservation Centre has been established in Solihull as an archive for UK records and artefacts
2. Stakes (the Mormon equivalent of a diocese) are beginning to offer regular church history events. For example, in Merthyr Tydfil for the last 5 years, there have been annual occasions designed to share information and generate interest in history for families, so that history becomes something that we are living and creating now, not just a thing of the past. From workshops on using technology to keep a journal to presentations on newspaper references to the Mormon church in 19th century Swansea, these are designed to attract a variety of ages and interests.
3. Local congregations are being encouraged to document their history more fully and systematically.
Other parts of the initiative include:
This initiative is developing across the whole of the UK, with each Stake being asked to identify a Church History Specialist who will take the lead locally. In the near future this will include a request for each congregation to document the history of the church in its own area, from the arrival of the first missionaries in the 1800s to the present time. These histories will of course focus on spiritual and religious experiences, rather than simply being a record of social events. Nevertheless they will naturally include the general local historical context, and will draw on a wide range of sources to create as rich a history as possible.
For further details of this initiative and of local events and activities, you can contact Jill Morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org) who volunteers as a local specialist.
150th Anniversary 2016 Digitisation Project
Since its foundation in 1866, CWAAS has been concerned to secure and promote access to the records of the historic counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire North of the Sands. Safety of documents has long been a concern, but the relative importance of access has been a matter of debate. For example, a mandate of 1603 required the muniment chest of Hawkeshead Church to be kept under lock and key to ensure ‘the better keeping of and preservation of parish registers’.
for the safe keeping of the said book, the churchwardens at the charge of the parish, shall provide one sure coffer with three locks and keys, whereof the one to remain with the minister, and the other two with the churchwardens severally, so that neither the minister without the two churchwardens, nor the churchwardens without the minister, shall at any time take the book out of the said coffer
The figure below shows the ‘said coffer with three locks’ obtained in obedience to this mandate. It was said to be constructed from a solid log of oak, 6 feet 8 inches in length and about 16 inches at the thickest part. No doubt the idea of using such an enormous mass of wood for such a small receptacle, was to prevent its being stolen. (TCWAAS, First series, 1899, vol15 facing p280)
Conserving and promoting access to historic documents concerned the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society (CWAAS) from its inception. In preparing for its 150th Anniversary in 2016, the Society decided to address the problems of safety and accessibility for its own publications, notably its Transactions which spanned the 150 years of its existence. To preserve the original volumes, many quite rare and fragile, while making the contents more widely available, CWAAS set up a working party to investigate the desirability and practicality of digitising every volume. The aim was to produce both a long term, stable, high quality archive in electronic form and a downloadable, searchable version available on line both to members and to the general public.
The project took almost 3 years to complete and issues of safety and accessibility continued to arise – the physical integrity of the paper volumes, the difficulty of scanning/photographing fragile and complex maps, charts and pedigrees, the quality control of the images but at the same time the limitations of the process of OCR (Optical Character Recognition), questions of copyright, and of members’ privileges. Much progress depended on the skills of the company chosen to carry out the digitisation (UK Archiving) and the diligence of the CWAAS webmaster, John Steel.
The project was costly in terms of manpower and financial resources but the objectives have been met. Members of the society now have full access to all volumes of Transactions and non-members have full access to all but the last 10 years. Volumes can be searched both via the CWAAS website www.cumbriapast.com or via www.archaeologicaldatasercive.ac.uk and CWAAS has produced a step by step guide to help those unfamiliar with online searching. This guidance can also be downloaded from the Cumbria Past website. Links to relevant articles in Transactons are now available via the Cumbria County History Trust and the one third of CWAAS members who live outside Cumbria have a direct route to the entire Transactions resource.
The hope is that CWAAS has used modern digital technology to secure the safety and accessablity of its Transactions, its most precious historic resource, for the benefit of members, scholars and the wider public.
In the late 1940s and 50s many societies and organisations in the Rickmansworth area expanded their activities and grew in size as people returning from the Second World War settled back into civilian life. However, with no central organisation to coordinate these activities, there were often clashes of dates, or several meetings one week then nothing the following week. On 11 February 1953 the Rickmansworth Rotary Club wrote to all local organisations suggesting a meeting to discuss the formation of a Rickmansworth Society. The first Rickmansworth Week took place that same year from Saturday 25 June. Every year since then ‘Ricky Week’, as it is affectionately known, has been held. Activities include special meetings of local societies, musical recitals, a fete in the grounds of The Bury and the Rickmansworth (Canal and Environmental) Festival.
A year later, in 1954, the Rickmansworth Historical Society (RHS) was founded. Although not only concerned with the history of the ancient parish – which includes the ‘hamlets’ of Batchworth, Chorleywood, Croxley Green, Heronsgate, Maple Cross, Mill End and West Hyde, as well as the town of Rickmansworth – inevitably interest was concentrated within its boundary. The editorial in its first Newsletter, published in December 1954, set out the Society’s aims as ‘the encouragement and assistance of research into local history and the provision of material of interest to historians of all kinds’. In the view of the editor, ‘These aims are quite compatible, and indeed must be taken together if a sane view of history is to result. The local scene can show in high relief the detail which on the page of the history text-book is insignificant, while a knowledge of history as a whole places the parochial view in its true perspective’. Plans for a research group never came to fruition, and, perhaps predictably, research was carried out by a handful of members, while the rest were happy to attend talks about their findings.
Its Annual Report for the year ending 30 April 1957 recorded that the RHS had participated in Rickmansworth Week for the first time (in 1956), by providing texts of three historic plays and a display of historic prints in the Public Library. Nowadays, the pageant element of the Ricky Week Parade, which takes place on the opening Saturday, is a series of ‘walking floats’ by local schools and organisations, led by the Town Crier in full traditional dress. But the RHS still has a role to play: every year the ‘Rickmansworth Week Lecture’ is given on the second Thursday of May and is advertised in the Ricky Week programme. Whereas some talks at the monthly RHS meetings are on aspects of history outside the immediate area, the Ricky Week lecture concentrates on the locality. It is an opportunity for the Society to showcase local history to local people. This year the lecture, given by Sally Jeffery, a well-respected garden historian, was on ‘The seventeenth century houses and gardens of Moor Park’.
On 14 May 2016 the annual Lionel Munby Lecture was given to the Hertfordshire Association for Local History at Frogmore Wharf, Hemel Hempstead. It was entitled ‘Puritan killjoys? Contextualising anti-alehouse protestors in 1588’; the protestors were a group of 27 Rickmansworth parishioners. That lecture should have been given in Rickmansworth but somewhat ironically no suitable venue was available that day due to the demands of Ricky Week; it will, however, be given as next year’s Ricky Week Lecture.
Sources: Rickmansworth Society website; Rickmansworth Historical Society, special issue of The Rickmansworth Historian, no. 50 (2004).
‘A surprisingly useful source’ is the subtitle of an article in Journal 38 from Bromyard & District Local History Society about church terriers. It begins with a quotation from 1571 ‘the bishop shall see to it that a fair inventory (which they also call a terrier) of all the fields, meadows, gardens, and orchards, which belong to any rectory or vicarage shall be compile by means of inspection carried out by honest men and be kept in his archive as a permanent record thereof’. The author explains the information he gained and how he used it for his local study, a valuable introduction to others thinking of trying this. www.bromyardhistorysociety.org.uk. Terriers are popular subjects for record society publications, a quick websearch found Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Staffordshire, Wiltshire and more.
Under the Prison Consolidating Act of 1823 the keeping of a journal by a prison governor was made compulsory. The first two volumes of the journals for Hertford Gaol, which survive from 1834 to 1878, are being transcribed for the Hertfordshire Record Society and provide a fascinating picture of life in the prison for staff and inmates. The governor described John Scales a ‘a hardened and mischievous lad’ who had pulled nails from his cell window, breaking it in the process. For this, in April 1836, his punishment was to spend three days in a solitary cell on bread and water. www.hrsociety.org.uk
The latest volume from Sussex Record Society is ‘Littlehampton School Logbook 1871 – 1911’. Headmaster Thomas Slatford kept a meticulous record of daily events, depicting pupils, parents, teachers, managers and inspectors. He waged an unceasing battle to overcome the inadequacy of his buildings, but his dedication and his belief in the importance of education shine through every difficulty. www.sussexrecordsociety.org
York based Clements Hall Local History Group has embarked on a Heritage Lottery Fund project focused on the impact and legacy of the First World War on its neighbourhood. Local research will inform a series of talks, walks and exhibitions. Themes include the impact and responses to aerial attack, the role of local churches in influencing attitudes to war, the impact of the war on a local school, women’s work experience in the railway industry, responses to food shortages and the role of uniformed youth. Recently discovered eye-witness accounts, school log books and family artefacts were used to illuminate a public meeting on York’s first Zeppelin attack 100 years ago. York Citizens’ Committee records were useful in exploring how the city organized its response. The talk was accompanied by displays of work by school pupils, plus material from school archives. Earlier, pupils from Millthorpe and The Mount schools participated in a commemorative walk that followed the route of the Zeppelin. The History Group also joined forces with local schools to carry out a live tweeting exercise to mark the centenary (@zeppelinWW1live). Clements Hall would be pleased to hear from those working on related themes, see clementshallhistorygroup.wordpress.com/our-first-world-war-themes.
Saturday 8 October is the date of this year’s Black Country History Day, at the Centre for West Midlands History, University of Birmingham. Speakers will be examining the proposed new development on 1940s-60s at the Black Country Living Museum; Black Country Industry and Art at the 1851 Great Exhibition; Alcohol and Society in the 19th century Black Country; and the work of Edwin Butler Bayliss, painter of industrial landscapes of the Black Country. Further details will be found at www.blackcountrysociety.co.uk/events and www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/cwmh/events
Cheltenham Local History Afternoon takes place on 13 August at St Andrew’s church and hall. The subject this year is ‘Women of Cheltenham’. There will be talks, walks, displays, and refreshments. Cheltenham Local History Society www.cheltlocalhistory.org.uk
Radley History Club: St James the Great, Radley: The Story of a Village Church is a multi-author history of the village church, with all chapters researched and written by members of the Committee. The book will be launched with an accompanying exhibition in the church, at St James the Great, Church Rd, Radley, Abingdon, Oxon, OX14 3QF. Saturday 1st October, 10.30 am – 5 pm and Sunday 2nd October 1.30 pm - 4.30 pm. Refreshments. For more details www.radleyhistoryclub.org
Modern allotments in Shanklin on the Isle of Wight, are located on an area which has been traced back to land held by Saeward or Asgot in 1066. Owners and placenames have been followed from the Domesday survey through a Commonplace book, estate maps and other sources in the early modern period, to more recent OS maps. Scotscombe allotment holders are trying to find out more about its more recent history, and would like to hear from anyone with information or memories. Shanklin & District History Society www.shanklinhistory.webplus.net
The site of Surrey Docks Farm was the subject of a recent talk at Southwark & Lambeth Archaeological Society which also demonstrated the exploration of landuse back through the centuries. Not so far this time, as Wells and Stanton’s Shipyard first appears on an estate map of 1743. This was followed by a timber yard before, in the late 19th century, the Metropolitan Asylums Board moved in to set up a transfer station at Rotherhithe to take patients with infectious diseases on river ambulances to a floating isolation hospital. The site was used by the London Auxiliary Fire Service from 1939 to 1953. Timber, lorry and container depots followed, and the area was largely derelict when the farm arrived in 1986. Email sec RichardJBuchanan@aol.com
Welcome to new society member Mossborough History Group, now in Sheffield, though until boundary changes in 1967 in Derbyshire. They celebrated their first birthday last February. There is an impressive Facebook group of over 900 from all around the world, and a growing meeting group for those who like to communicate face to face. Monthly meetings have speakers, and there is a diary of other events both for the members and to fundraise. It’s a public Facebook group that can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1573604082897967/
Friends of Clarendon Palace are marking the 850th anniversary of the Assize of Clarendon with a conference on 17 September taking place at Salisbury Museum. Prior to 1166 guilt or innocence was tested by various ordeals. During the Assize held at Clarendon Palace, Henry II laid the foundation of our present judicial system, and paved the way for Magna Carta. As well as eminent speakers including professors David Carpenter, Anthony Musson and Nicholas Vincent, the programme will include the chance to see some of the material from contemporary Old Sarum held in store at the Museum. Email email@example.com
An article in the Thoroton Society Newsletter Summer 2016 examines local evidence relating to 1816 - described as ‘the year without a summer’. Lack of sunlight that year was caused by a massive volcanic eruption in 1815 of Mount Tambora in Indonesia. Meteorological data (from a neighbouring area) did not reveal exceptional rainfall, but wheat prices leapt, and qualitative sources such as dairies give detailed descriptions: (September 1816) ‘the weather has been for a week past worse than ever, in addition to wet every day we have had frosty nights. Tuesday morning it was so severe that it has nearly killed all the French beans and potatoe tops and I fear the Hops have suffered very much. On the whole I think we have the most impropitious season ever remembered...’ www.thorotonsociety.org.uk
The Welsh Battlefields Society has amongst its plans to visit all known battlefield sites in Wales. For example, on 14 August they start in Caernarfon to explore events that took place in 1075, 1255 and 1785. They are interested in the way battle site appear as field or house names, and feature in local oral traditions. www.welshbattlefields.org.uk
Scottish Local History Forum annual conference and AGM will take place on Friday 7 Oct at the A K Bell Library, Perth. The topic is Scotland’s defensive buildings through time, entitled ‘Safe as Houses’ – from pre-history to the Cold War. www.slhf.org./events/slhf-2016-conference-and-agm
Suffolk County Council’s Record Office has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the project “The Hold: A Suffolk Archives Service for the 21st Century”. The project, a partnership with University Campus Suffolk and located on their campus beside Ipswich’s historic waterfront, will create a new, flagship heritage facility to protect and promote the county’s archives, provide state of the art learning facilities, and engage more people in the history of Suffolk through an ambitious programme of community activity. It should open its doors in time for the 900th anniversary of the Record Office’s oldest document in 2019. www.suffolk.gov.uk/culture-heritage-and-leisure/suffolk-record-office/the-future-of-suffolk-record-office/
New Forest Remembers project will create a legacy for the New Forest through a searchable interactive archive of the Forest’s role in the First and Second World wars. Articles, photos, documents, film and audio recordings can be found on the website New Forest Remembers at www.newforestheritage.org It is still growing and anyone with relevant information or artefacts can contribute. There is already a fascinating variety of material including airfields in the Forest; photographs of a seaside picnic enjoyed by convalescent New Zealand soldiers in 1917; American airmen visiting the Forest in 1943; First World War soldiers from the war memorial in the parish of Redlynch; wartime memories from the Seymour family, and much more.
‘All Change!’ is the title of the National Archives’ website area on Britain’s railways. Follow a timeline of key dates, download ‘Changing tracks’- ‘a visualisation of the key administrative bodies during railway history’, search over 3,000 railway related records from across the country, and listen to relevant podcasts. www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/railways/
‘Use it or lose it’ is the message from Lancashire Archives, which applies equally throughout the country. Funding cuts inevitably result in reduced services, (in this case from 42.5 to 30 hours each week) but users are urged to make the most of the times when their local record office is open. Lancashire has experienced a drop in archives visits from 12,887 to 5504 between 2005 and 2015. In response to consultations, people still want to have access in an evening and at weekends. This is being provided once a month – but might change again if numbers to do not justify it. Check in advance whenever you are planning a visit, and support your local record office. www.lancashire.gov.uk/libraries-and-archives/archives-and-record-office.aspx
Shropshire History Day will take place on 15 October at Shire Hall, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury. Organised by Friends of Shropshire Archives this is an opportunity to meet local enthusiasts and experts and to share knowledge and experience. https://friendsofshorpshirearchives.org./events/
‘Weaving Narratives’ is Bedfordshire Archives’ community textile project, which explores the history of Bedfordshire’s towns. Their blog reports on the development of the project and the discoveries being made. www.weavingnarrativesblog.wordpress.com
An Outreach project at the National Archives (supported by Friends of the National Archives) took the theme of ‘Care and Comfort in the First World War’. Four million non-European, non-white people served, and many could not return home for the duration of the conflict. They kept in touch in different ways, just as Indian troops arrived in France from the end of September 1914 and were greeted with flowers and gifts .The Indian Comforts Fund was established to supply home comforts. The project aimed to explore some of the stories behind the official records as a way of engaging new and diverse audiences. For example creative making workshops were held for participants to reflect on the experiences of people exchanging letters and gifts in wartime. www.friendsofthe nationalarchives.org.uk
Ewell Library is the home of Epsom & Ewell Local & Family History Centre. It is staffed by volunteers and open morning or afternoon on most days (except Monday), plus a monthly Tuesday evening, and a monthly Saturday. They publish a Newsletter that contains a very varied range of articles, and there is a website www.EpsomandEwellHistoryExplorer.org.uk with a huge amount of information about the area.
Birkenhead Reference Library is the main reference library for the Wirral, with smaller collections in Bebington Central Library and Wallasey Central Library. As well as a wide range of local and family history resources there is the material featured in their First World War research guide which can be downloaded here:
https://www.wirral.gov.uk/sites/default/files/all/Libraries%20and%20archives/Wirral%20Remembers.pdf email firstname.lastname@example.org
Rye Museum Association will host our 6th Rye Medieval Conference on October 22. Michael Hicks, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Winchester, has brought together a group of distinguished academic speakers to present the latest research on ‘Conspicuous Consumption and Display in Late Medieval England’. Topics include feasting, jewelry, country houses and castles and splendid burial places. The Rye Conference will be all day on Saturday 22nd October 2016 at the Milligan Theatre, Rye College. Cost is £40 to include refreshments and lunch. Application forms can be downloaded from our web site: www.ryemuseum.co.uk or write to email@example.com
Bridport Museum Trust (comprising Bridport Museum and Bridport Local History Centre) have an online photo collection that has attracted more than half a million views from around the world since first appearing on Flickr in 2005. Interest in the history of this west Dorset town is far flung, and they are exploiting social media with huge success. Facebook, Twitter and blogs are well-established. Their nationally important collection relating to the rope and net industries has a Pinterest Board. They have a crowdfunding campaign to raise £20,000 to complete a three-year programme of development for the Museum. #lovebridportmuseum www.bridportmuseum.co.uk
Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery will close in September for major redevelopment. This will use their current building and the neighbouring Central Library building (the Library has recently moved to a new venue in the city centre), the refurbished St Luke’s Church plus a modern main entrance in Tavistock Place looking onto a pedestrianised outdoor space. The collections will be stored but an exciting schedule of offsite exhibitions, events, partnerships and community projects will continue. Once completed, the collections of the Museum and Art Gallery will be joined by the city’s Reference and Local Studies Library, Plymouth and West Devon Record Office, South West Film and Television Archive, the South West Image Bank, and the Devonport Naval Heritage Centre. Reopening will be part of the 400th anniversary commemorations of the departure of the Pilgrim Fathers in 2020. Plymouth is the lead UK city for the major transatlantic ‘Mayflower 400’ programme. www.plymouth.gov.uk/loveourpast
The Brunel Museum in London (on the south bank of the Thames at Rotherhithe) celebrates three generations of extraordinary engineers. Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel is the oldest tunnel in the London Underground (and Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s first project). IK Brunel's last project, launched on the Isle of Dogs, is the Great Eastern: first bulk carrier, ancestor of the super tanker, trans-Atlantic cable layer and the ship that changed everything. Tower Bridge, designed by Horace Jones, was built by son and grandson Henry Marc Brunel, with his business partner John Wolfe Barry. The Trustees and Museum Director lead a team of volunteers who staff the Museum and help run a busy programme of community and education events. A dramatic new gallery space has recently opened with the transformation of the Grand Entrance Shaft to the Thames Tunnel using a free-standing cantilevered staircase to give public access to this very special space. www.brunel-museum.org.uk
This year’s National Railway Museum Archives Conference (with the Friends of the National Railway Museum) will be held on 10 September 2016 at NMR York. The theme is Railways and Warfare which promises to be very popular, with a varied programme including ambulance trains on the Somme, women railway works, and the Baghdad railway. www.nrm.org.uk/planavisit/events/archives-conference
London’s Cinema Museum is devoted to keeping alive the spirit of cinema from the days before the multiplex. Set in a historic site in Kennington, Close to the Elephant & Castle, the museum houses a unique collection of artefacts, memorabilia and equipment that preserves the history of cinema from the 1890s. www.cinemamuseum.org.uk
An exhibition at the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology in Cambridge until 29 January 2017 is called ‘Hide & Seek: Looking for Children in the Past’. The curator Jody Joy writes in British Archaeology May/June 2016 about the importance of understanding what children’s lives were like in the past, and about the challenges of finding the evidence to do so, from prehistoric times to the 19th century. http://maa.cam.ac.uk/hide-and-seek-looking-for-children-in-the-past/
The 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings: A major conference featuring high profile subject experts will be held by the Royal Armouries at the Tower of London to mark this anniversary on 14 - 16 October 1066. www.royalarmouries.org/events/calendar/2016-10-14. A central hub of information on other commemorative activities has been launched by English Heritage www.english-heritage.org.uk/1066
Podcasts of some of this year’s papers at the Locality and Region seminars at the Institute of Historical Research, including those of Alan Crosby and Kate Tiller, are now available on http://www.history.ac.uk/podcasts/locality-region
The CHORD (Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution) conference on: 'Retailing and Distribution before 1600' will take place at the University of Wolverhampton on 15 September 2016. The programme, together with abstracts, registration details and further information, can be found at:
In 2018 the NHS will be 70 years old. Little work has been done on the cultural history of the NHS which plays such a major role in all our lives. A major research project at the University of Warwick funded by the Wellcome Trust will tackle this omission. One part of the project is the development of a website that collects personal stories and memories of the National Health Service. Go to www.peopleshistorynhs.org to find out about news and events, explore the Virtual Museum, and consult the people’s Encyclopaedia, as well as how to get involved.
Manchester Museum has launched an inflatable version of itself to tour schools. This helps curators meet the rising demand for access from schools, after 30,000 children visited last year. The museum is delivered to a school in a van and can be inflated in 30 minutes. There are cabinets full of artefacts, exploratory and performance area and a HD projection room for lessons. www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/manchester-museum-launches-uks-first-inflatable-museum
Chester University’s archives are held at the Cheshire Record Office, and while individual staff and students have always made use of the Record Office’s collections, new links are being forged to alert routinely new students to the potential of the resources there. Chester University’s History and Education Departments, and Glyndwr University’s Department of History and Humanities take part in introductory sessions and workshops. Cheshire Archives & Local Studies newsletter Spring 2016 http://archives.cheshire.gov.uk
It could be just a day out in the Great Wen but BALH’s Local History Day should be more than this. It was the final session which, for me, provoked most response. The lecture was entitled ‘Lancelot Brown and the Capability Men; the landscape revolution of 18th century England’. A refined version, not a verbatim transcript, of Tom Williamson’s lecture will be published in due course in The Local Historian. Given that it will appear in print, why deliver the lecture? At this point the differences between the oral presentation and the article are not known, but one can say what message came over in the spoken version. This listener was conditioned by, among other things, considerable ignorance about Lancelot Brown’s career, some disinclination to giving a high value score to landscape studies, and an inability to see the details of pictures projected in a well-lit room. There was no unwillingness to learn in the context of many years examining social and economic change in eighteenth century Britain. It’s a much overused term, but one expects to hear that this was the century with revolutions.
All became clearer at the close when a comment was made to the effect that all social and cultural change is determined by economic circumstances. Lancelot Brown has come to personify a century long movement in changing the appearance of certain parts of the landscape; from country mansions surrounded by highly formal gardens set in a wilder envelope of hunting parks, to a similarly restricted landscape zone with enlarged, redesigned houses seemingly placed informally in carefully managed parks. These were arranged to provide the pleasures of scenery appreciation, carriage drives and social isolation. Williamson does not deny the change, but challenges the centrality of Brown as the instigator or the only significant contributor .
Williamson also seeks to claim deeper roots to the nature of the change from those conventionally ascribed to aesthetic sensibilities. Beyond the gated parks an industrial society was evolving which not only brought in new landed proprietors with different ideas, but also saw major technological advances in, for example, water management, road and vehicle design and forms of business organisation. The Enlightenment, reason and science are also to be seen as conditioning forces shaping attitudes to land management. Brown was quoted as saying that he was ‘a Place Maker’ and that ‘place making depended upon principle not upon fashion’. Although Williamson did not say it in so many words he described Brown’s form of business organisation as an incipient capitalist enterprise. He worked out of a London office, laid out the vision and the outline plan, hired specialised sub-contractors to do specified jobs, inspected progress at intervals and took the credit when all went well. A self-sufficient economy as well as a scenic setting was a key feature of the country mansion lifestyle the creation of which is too easily attributed to Brown alone.
No doubt others will have derived much from the profusion of estate plans quoted, the scatter of rivals named, the brief recital of a chronological account of Brown’s development of a ‘style’. In part, Tom Williamson recognised that style to be the feminisation of the country estate by contrast with the masculine environment of the medieval hunting park. Williamson vigorously and entertainingly did the historian’s job of disentangling the complexities inherent in explaining a past too glibly simplified for popular consumption. He avoided unpacking the concept of revolution and left the ambiguity of its use in the title to his lecture untouched.
Our biennial national conference in April reflected on recent growth and developments in grass-roots local history, and on ways to sustain progress for the future. The programme was based throughout on actual projects, current and recent, of which our host county of Suffolk produced a rich range of examples, from studies of 7th-century Rendlesham to present day Sikh residents of Ipswich. We saw different places, themes and periods, but all the projects typically involved the active participation of local, non-professional contributors, often working together and with various heritage, academic or other professionals, and seizing opportunities to draw on resources of funding and expertise to further their local interests.
The conference was based in University Campus Suffolk’s 21st-century building on Ipswich waterfront, where we were surrounded by strikingly contrasting evidence of Ipswich’s own history. Lofty mediaeval church towers stand beside warehouses, mills and maltings, with buildings of periods from the 15th to the 20th century, from brick and timber to concrete towers. The battered gatehouse of the 1520s is a fragmentary echo, amidst the passing traffic, of local son, Thomas Wolsey’s Cardinal College. Nearby are the restaurants, marina and Custom House of the harbour front. In the midst of this, UCS provided a welcoming and excellently equipped venue for BALH,with a full programme from Friday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime. We owe special thanks to Dr Harvey Osborne, of UCS’s History department, with whom it was a pleasure to work on behalf of BALH to organise this joint event; thanks also to the helpful staff, caterers and student ambassadors who were on hand to welcome those attending.
The conference opening on Friday evening centred on a keynote lecture by Professor Christopher Scull, advisor to Suffolk County Council on the recent archaeological and landscape investigation at the nationally and internationally important Saxon site at Rendlesham. This was a major royal centre from the 5th to the 8th centuries, associated with nearby Sutton Hoo, and now yielding knowledge of this key transitional period through investigation done in conjunction with local authorities, landowners and metal detectorists. The session was opened as a UCS public lecture, and together with BALH attendees over 100 were present to hear and discuss with Professor Scull.
Saturday took the theme ‘Suffolk’s Local History: past and present’ with the foyer and lecture theatre transformed by displays and stalls including BALH’s own (thanks to Margaret Escott and Sue Lavender), publishers such as Boydell and Brewer and University of Hertfordshire Press, Historic England, Community Archives and Heritage Group and an array of Suffolk colleagues (Local History Council (SLHC), Record Society, County Archaeological Service, Record Office). Over 80 delegates attended to hear Dr David Dymond open the day by reviewing local history in Suffolk, its achievements and prospects. Since David is not only the doyen of Suffolk local historians but a leading figure in local history in England whose invaluable Researching and Writing History. A guide for local historians is about to go into its fourth edition, it is no surprise that we were treated to a masterly survey. This included much wisdom about the woeful wrong-headedness of any historian working in isolation, as shown by past and current examples of the benefits of voluntary effort linked to group work. The SLHC’s parish recorder scheme continues, with volunteers contributing an annual record of current events and developments locally, as well as collecting and preserving evidence of earlier local history. This, together with other examples- of local publications, of HLF-funded projects, of volunteer work in record offices and libraries, of courses followed (some up to research degree level)- led David to conclude with a circular diagram illustrating 11 options through which the present-day local historian may choose to pursue his or her interest. The Dymond Roundabout is there to be stepped on and off, and also offers a progression of successive ‘rides’ for those wanting to develop further their skills and understanding of local history. This was altogether a positive start to a day which was to provide many concrete examples of current possibilities in local history.
Six following contributors demonstrated and discussed projects which enable local investigators to uncover and understand new perspectives on their history; Matthew Champion talked about ‘Medieval Graffiti: the lost voices of England’s churches’, widespread evidence until recently largely unrecognised and now being recorded by volunteers; Tony Bone revealed how a small local history society (of which he is chairman) funded and ran four community digs; Kate Chantry explained Suffolk Record Office’s recent additions to the national Manorial Documents Register, the role of volunteers and of the courses run by the SRO; Kate Tiller talked about oral history and 20th-century local projects, Suffolk’s seminal part in developing this field, and current projects combining the evidence of memory and war memorials; David Cain took the oral history theme on to the Second World War and the project, Eighth in the East, which is recovering and recording the impact of the United States Army Airforce in East Anglia, 1943-5. The afternoon ended with Lucy Walker on Selie Suffolk, an Ipswich-based project on local migration past and present, showing two of their films made with Sikhs and other local immigrant groups.
The question of how such very positive options- for topics to research, financial support, sources of expertise, and projects and courses to join- may become part of local history on a broad front was taken up on Sunday morning at an open forum, ‘Growing Local History-making the case and spreading the word.’ We cannot be complacent. As Alan Crosby identified, some of the support (from local authorities, continuing education, universities and others) taken for granted in earlier times of flourishing local historical activity had largely gone. Alternative channels can seek ‘outcomes’ expressed in language and form unfamiliar and uncongenial to established societies, whose stalwarts may find it difficult to respond to opportunities for lack of new blood and skills. In discussion there were some individual horror stories of how set in their ways and unwelcoming local history societies can appear to newcomers. We also heard an interesting preview from Jane Golding and Dan Miles (Historic England) of the findings of the recent project on Community-Generated Historic Environment Research, which collected information from BALH amongst others. This suggests that, whilst much local history research is undertaken, it is largely disassociated from others in the field and not fully appreciated. Local historians, individually or in groups, are less likely to deposit their findings, for example in Historic Environment Records (HERs). In this local history lies behind archaeology and built environment in disseminating its findings, a missed opportunity, and one which brings with it dangers of lack of recognition of local history’s value, of duplication and of gaps in local historians’ own information, important findings for BALH to consider.
It was a pleasure to organise this very rewarding conference, in conjunction with UCS, the Suffolk local history organisations, Jane Golding and Alan Crosby. Whilst we may look back to earlier ‘golden ages’ of local history, and acknowledge that some of the new directions now opening up may not be for all in the broad church that is local history, BALH’s 2016 conference showed in ample measure the positive ways to understand and enjoy our subject now available to us.
PARSONAGES Kate Tiller (Shire Publications 2016 ISBN 978 1 78442 137 3) £8.99 88 pages
Parsonages represent the public and the private, the secular and spiritual, which means that their study can offer rewarding insights into life within local communities. Kate Tiller’s latest book traces the development of parsonages from their medieval origins to the present day. Parsonages are unusual among domestic buildings in being so well-documented, and can also serve as fine examples of vernacular building styles. Yet this book is not just about their architectural significance; the people who inhabited in them are just as important, as is the context within which they lived and worked. For centuries parsonages served as a hub within the local community as well as having connections with a much wider world, reflecting the religious, social and economic changes taking place at a national level.
The parson was always a key figure in English communal life. However, his remit expanded significantly over time, particularly after the Protestant Reformation. Levels of education rose as emphasis was laid on sermons, while the Tudors made the parish a unit of local government with responsibility for maintaining law and order, poor relief and highway maintenance. As a result, the parson’s role became multifunctional: he was educator, a spiritual guide, legal advisor, government representative, patron, landowner, and (with a right to marry) a husband and father. The emphasis was on his leading by example although, as one fascinating story of all-night drinking and gambling in the mid-eighteenth century demonstrates, the example being set was not always positive! Changes to life in the parsonage is explored through many different source types, including official and private records such as diaries, the Hearth Tax, glebe terriers and probate inventories, as well as the evidence of the buildings themselves.
Parsonages are substantial buildings and even in the medieval period could be akin to the manor house in scale. But from the late seventeenth century, parsonage architecture reflects increasingly genteel aspirations with emphasis on elegance and comfort. However, what also becomes clear is the difference in wealth that often existed between livings and the discrepancies between income and lifestyle. During the nineteenth-century, in order to combat pluralism, absenteeism and non-nonformity, the Anglican Church introduced various reforms and created 3,760 new parishes, many of them urban. This resulted in a wave of new parsonages, a lot designed by the leading architects of the day. Unfortunately, these large, ‘gentlemanly’ homes were often impractical for a small income and many were sold off in the twentieth century. In the final chapter, the author is able to reflect on her own experiences of being brought up in a Victorian vicarage.
Parsonages packs a lot in across six chronological chapters, yet remains highly accessible. Indeed, it is an excellent book for anyone new to the topic. There is a brief explanation of what might first appear to be bewildering terms and phases: the distinction between a rectory and vicarage, appropriated livings, Tithe Commutation etc. There are over 70 colour illustrations – almost one per page – all of which provide helpful exemplars. Moreover, this book can help those whose appetites have been whetted by offering practical advice for research. In addition to a concise yet thorough index, there are also recommendations for further reading and a checklist of original sources to consult. The latter reflects the author’s involvement with the Victoria County History, as many of the suggested sources are standard for the VCH too.
The Real Candleford Green: the story of a Lark Rise Village Martin Greenwood (Robert Boyd Publications, 260 Colwell Drive, Witney OX28 5LW 2016) £9.99 ISBN 978 1 908738 22 6
This is a beautifully produced book that builds on the author’s previous publications about the district made famous by Flora Thompson in her Lark Rise books, in which the village of Fringford became Candleford Green. The popularity of the BBC television adaptation has raised the profile of the area and, as Martin Greenwood says in his Foreword, ‘it has brought waves of new visitors’.
Not only do we have a history of Fringford and its neighbouring communities, but also discussion of two connected questions of the relationship between the books and Flora Thompson’s own experience, and between the televised version and the books.
The history is not a chronological narrative, but rather some topic-focused chapters (including The Farms, Church and Clergy, Schools and Education) and two based on particular material, one of which examines in detail the villagers named on the war memorial and those otherwise involved in the two world wars.
Chapter 8, The Price Family 1852-1953, demonstrates what can be done when a local historian has the good fortune to discover a unique source. The Prices were plumbers, painters and glaziers; some ledgers of their business were found in the rafters of Pringle Cottage and, together with contacts from current members of the family, these shed light on both their commercial activities and the community in which they lived. For example, analysis of John Price’s customers between 1869 and 1877 show the relative importance of local large houses (3)56% of receipts, gentry (4) and clergy (8) 15%, farmers (76) 16%, and others (41) 13%.
Flora Thompson’s writing is widely quoted as ‘autobiographical’ (in volumes such as Women in England 1760-1914 by Susie Steinbach and The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant by Pamela Horn). Martin Greenwood reproduces a previously unpublished letter from Flora, written in 1944, which explains ‘Lark Rise is as far as I could make it a faithful portrait of the little Oxfordshire hamlet where I spent my childhood. ... In Candleford and Candleford Green I wrote more freely ...there is something both of Banbury and Bicester and more of Buckingham in my portrait of Candleford’. For television the series was ‘based on the books’ rather than being a faithful reproduction. Its impact brought new readers to the books, new visitors to the villages, and at last a plaque in Fringford church commemorating Flora Thompson’s years in the village.
The Real Candleford Green is generously illustrated, including a central section in colour, and contains additional information (such as the landholders from the 1848 Tithe Awards) in four appendices, a bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and an index.
Observed by Alan Crosby
I was meandering round the fascinating seventeenth-century Chastleton House near Stow on the Wold, clutching my guidebook and experiencing the slight irritation I always feel in National Trust houses when the room guide/warden/custodian comes forward and says, in a bright voice, something on the lines of “Isn’t that a beautiful carpet” or “What do you think that was used for”. Most unworthy of me, I know, but if I want to know I’ll ask. In the little library, in a glass case, is the bible which was said to have been with Charles I on the scaffold (though the guidebook courageously concedes that at least five others are the subject of a similar claim). Regardless, it was certainly printed in 1629, and is indeed a fine specimen.
A lady of perhaps seventy summers looked at it and exclaimed to the room guide, “How ever long must it have taken them to type all that out”? The gentleman was silent for a moment, smiled and, probably thinking it was a joke, said “Well, if they’d had typewriters in those days ...”. But the lady was serious. “How did they make a book like that if they didn’t have a typewriter”? He became thoughtful and, with great presence of mind, said that it was actually printed, not typewritten, and that every single letter was a separate tiny piece of metal which was placed in a wooden frame. She was unable to comprehend the concept, let alone try to work out the time it must have taken.
So I thought that maybe I was being unfair to room guides. That revisionist view was confirmed later on when a somewhat younger lady, holding an information sheet, asked a different guide, this time in the parlour, “It says here that people used to live in this house. Is that really true”. More visible mental effort on the part of a custodian. Was she being serious? “Well, yes”, he said, “it was a private house until only 25 years ago”. “So you mean that people actually lived here. It wasn’t built as a museum. They had furniture and things”. “Yes, this furniture”. “That’s amazing”.
We hear much about dumbing-down and the turning of history into excessively simple and over-simplified concepts, stories and arguments. But those Chastleton conversations suggested that for quite a lot of people the things which we, as local historians, take so completely for granted that they never even cross our mind might actually be quite difficult – genuinely difficult - to grasp and comprehend. We have our armoury of knowledge but it isn’t shared equally. That houses really were houses, or that books were printed using hand-set type, are perhaps not such obvious truths and self-evident facts as we might think.
On the following evening the BBC London News ran a report about the current debate over the conservation and future use of the historic Royal Gunpowder Mills at Waltham Abbey in East London. The reporter declared that there the gunpowder used at the Battle of Waterloo had been manufactured. A short clip of film was shown, with muskets and other antique weaponry firing, soldiers in red coats shouting, horses neighing, and plenty of smoke and noises of gunfire. A very large caption at the bottom said that this was a RECONSTRUCTION. I laughed and expostulated (lovely word) ... how ridiculous, I said, of course it is ... but then I thought of the previous day’s questions which I’d overheard at Chastleton. Yes, there might well be people for whom the existence of an original colour film of Waterloo dating from 1815 would seem perfectly possible.
Local History Day
This year’s event was well-attended by an appreciative audience, including many members and friends whom we look forward to seeing regularly every June. Some of you will have read Paul Carter’s report in the recent BALH e-newsletter. Paul Anderton has contributed his annual thoughts, this time focusing on Tom Williamson’s lecture. The 2016-7 Council of Trustees elected at the AGM are listed overleaf. St Andrew Holborn was a stunning venue, the first time for some years we have been in such an historical setting. Father Frank, from the church’s team, gave a fascinating and concise presentation about some key parts of its history.
We are delighted that Professor Caroline Barron has agreed to accept the position of President of BALH to follow the late Professor David Hey. Prof Barron will write her own personal introduction to members for the next issue of Local History News.
Re-organisation has continued to make good progress as the Association works through a year under the new arrangements. Meanwhile the Management Committee has set up a Structures Working Party to review the internal pattern of advisory committees and individual roles within BALH. The group has begun work, and outcomes will be discussed and implemented in due course.
Paperwork for renewing your BALH membership subscription for 2017 will be in the next mailing with The Local Historian and Local History News sent to you at the end of October. You can also renew online via our website at www.balh.org.uk/membership
British Record Society
Congratulations to Dr Kate Tiller (chair of BALH Education Committee) who has been appointed to chair the British Record Society in succession to the late David Hey.
It is hardly yet ‘history’ but do take the opportunity to monitor the impact on your locality of UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and collect evidence to contribute to community/society archives. At the time of writing uncertainty is the overwhelming feeling; perhaps by the time you read this developments might be a little clearer.