Local History News Number 126 Winter 2018


1. DI Crosby on the case Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

Historical research is often compared with detective work – we look for clues, trying to piece together a story and find reasonable explanations and interpretations of what happened and why. The evidence is almost guaranteed to be imperfect and incomplete, but we can make feasible reconstructions and present a plausible scenario. It’s important that, as in a detective story, we consider ‘how’ and ‘why’ as well as ‘what’. That at least is the theory, though of course such analogies can be taken too far.

I’m currently investigating a case of poaching in the reign of George IV, one which I came across – as is so often the case – while researching something completely unconnected. A passing reference to the case has triggered the ‘detective trail’, perhaps not an unreasonable comparison since it was of course a crime. Some of the potential evidence is lost – for example, there are no relevant quarter sessions records, but in compensation for this there’s a wealth of documentation at The National Archives. This is because during an armed confrontation between the poachers and the keepers one of the latter was shot. He died a day later and therefore the accused were initially arraigned on a charge of murder, which was due to be heard at the county assizes in Lancaster.

The records which survive include all the depositions taken at the coroner’s inquest in the days following the death. These are the raw material from which Detective Inspector Crosby is trying to reconstruct the events of the night in question. They include separate testimonies by each of the twelve keepers and their assistants, and four sets of ‘informations’ from the keepers, taken at Preston later on the day of the alleged murder. As was normally the case, the papers relate only to the prosecution: the accused had no opportunity before the trial to present their defence – indeed, precious little chance during the trial itself.

The outcome was perhaps unexpected. The charge of murder was dropped after scrutiny by the grand jury, so the trial at the assizes related only to the lesser charge of poaching (‘offences against the Game Laws’). As a result, two of the six accused were sentenced to transportation, and the other four to prison terms with hard labour. Careful examination of the depositions, which clearly were read by the jury, reveals careful cross-examination about the events of that January night, and also highlights significant discrepancies in the testimony of the twelve men, as to the number of shots fired, the precise sequence of events, the exact location of the key individuals, and the reliability of the recollections.

Some of those who were examined admitted that they could not honestly swear to anything at all, such was the confusion. Reading these statements almost 200 years later is a gripping experience. The chaos, noise and violence of the night are imagined in my mind and, knowing the area well as I do, it’s possible to visualise the events almost as a re-enactment. We know what each of the twelve men was wearing – the colours and styles of their coats – and some of the dialogue between them, their exclamations and angry shouts, is apparently recounted.


But even more gripping is the realisation of the possibilities – almost certainly the probabilities – of false memory, collusion, prejudice and presumptions of guilt. Take the dialogue – the keeper who was shot apparently exclaimed “Oh dear me”! I suspect his actual words might have been considerably more powerful, and in broadest dialect. Or the eyewitness accounts which contradict – one saying that the poachers all wore dark clothing, another than one had a white flannel shirt (in mid-January at one in the morning). Like a modern detective, I look for inconsistencies, weigh up balances, and try to reassemble a jigsaw with many missing pieces. And then I’ll begin to write it up.

2. WWI Conscription, Conscience and Courage in Herefordshire Show more → Show less ↓

Elinor Kelly

Across Britain local researchers are stitching together accounts of war resisters who became Conscientious Objectors (COs) when conscription was introduced in 1916. Drawing on the resources of the Pearce Register[1] and the Peace Pledge Union[2] searching through the online archives of Hansard[3], The Friend Quaker Magazine[4] and local newspapers[5], one fragment after another emerges. And, then once in a while, there is a fortunate discovery – self-published books lying unnoticed in libraries reveal additional detail about the Downs Quaker School and Hereford Gaol. Sometimes the fragments form a coherent if incomplete whole. But for the most part, the narrative has to remain indicative rather than conclusive. So many records have been lost and destroyed that remaining gaps will never be filled.

Herefordshire is a county with a small, predominantly rural population – 114,269 at the time of the 1911 Census[6]; 65% of the population lived in the countryside. Half of the men in the age groups who would be eligible for conscription were farmers and agricultural labourers – 3367 were farmers and graziers, 10,559 were farm workers.  Most farm workers lived close to destitution, so the call to join the local Regiment had appeal with the promise of food, a regular wage separation allowance for dependants and even a widow’s pension. Nonetheless two years of hideous warfare had all but exhausted the supply of volunteers for military service, so conscription was introduced and the men of Herefordshire had to decide whether to enlist or resist.

Men not already enlisted were called up and Military Service Tribunals (MSTs) were required to weigh applications for exemption from military service. By March 4th, the first MST hearings were reported in the press. Their task was daunting, not only did they have to work at speed in order to cope with demand (750,000 applications across Britain within the first 6 months), they also had to pass judgement on highly sensitive issues such as domestic circumstances, the capacity of farms to cope, and essential trades to continue. They knew that every exemption would be resented. They faced a barrage of criticism that they were biased towards the military, and allowing indispensable men to be taken from farms. At the same time the pressure from military representatives was unrelenting.

In the midst of all this weight, the MSTs also faced an even more complex demand – to consider the cases of men who were applying for exemption from military service on the grounds of conscientious objection. The COs were treated with disbelief, disdain and even contempt. Of the 57 cases heard in Herefordshire MSTs only six were granted Absolute Exemption (three by Weobley MST, two by Hereford City, one by Ross Rural). For the most part the COs were allowed only Exemption from Combat Service and there is no record of the men being directed into Work of National Importance.

Exemption from Combat Service left the men open to conscription into the Non Combatant Corps of the Army. This was unacceptable to many as it involved working under military authority, so they appealed to the County Appeal Tribunal, which in turn refused their claims to Absolute Exemption. Their resistance now developed into a pattern that was being repeated across Britain. The CO would not respond to the order to enlist in the Non Combatant Corps, would be arrested by the police, held in custody until the next hearing of the Police Court, then fined and handed over to the military authorities. Once held by the military, any refusal to obey orders – to wear military clothing, to drill, to carry arms – was treated as a matter of indiscipline for which there were severe sanctions. Their cases would be heard by a Court Martial, and they would be sentenced to hard labour in a civil prison, or sometimes to military detention.

Within Hereford, the brutality of military regime was revealed in the former County Gaol, which was taken over by the War Office for use as a military detention barracks, under the command of Captain Robert Hamilton. His diaries were a fortunate discovery for historians as there is no other record of this era in the prison’s history. Hamilton made clear his loathing for the 15 COs who were detained in Hereford[7]. Such was the scale of brutality of his regime that questions were asked in the House of Commons and Bruce Chatwin[8] drew on knowledge of the Gaol regime to describe the mistreatment of Benjamin Jones, one of the twins at the centre of his novel. Other Herefordshire COs, especially the Absolutists who refused all forms of military orders, experienced some of the worst of military punishments, most notably in the case of Rendel Wyatt, a teacher in the Downs Quaker School.

The only COs who could be sure to escape the risk of enforced military discipline were the men, usually but not exclusively Quakers, accepted into the Friends Ambulance Unit[9], and Christadelphians with certificates of exemption[10]. Becoming a CO was not an easy option. COs who were forcibly enlisted not only endured the dread of official brutality, but also the contempt of the soldiers who were guarding them. The triumphalism of the first months of war had been overtaken by horror at the hideous carnage of the trenches. The worse the battlefield conditions, the less room there was for toleration of conscience. In a rural county such as Herefordshire, there was no hiding place for men who refused entry to military service. It took a special kind of courage to hold to pacifist principles against the tide of misery and suffering that was enveloping their neighbours.

As the war continued, Quakers proved increasingly adept in supporting COs. Since the time of Elizabeth Fry they had organised prison visiting so they sought to support the men held in Hereford Gaol. Hamilton resisted such efforts, until he received direct orders to allow them entry. Moreover as the FAU grew beyond the capacity of the Ambulance and Hospital services, they developed a General Service Section that arranged work in agriculture and teaching – particularly significant when many farmers and schools refused to accept COs. They also provided for men away from home and family what seem to have been ‘safe addresses’ – for instance the Downs School in Colwall[11]. The Quaker networks were especially significant in Herefordshire where few COs were affiliated to national support networks such as the No Conscription Fellowship.

The search for fragments continues in the hope that more can be learned about the men who became COs, especially what happened to them when they were finally released in 1919.


[1] https://search.livesofthefirstworldwar.org/search/world-records/conscientious-objectors-register-1914-1918


[2] http://www.ppu.org.uk/coproject/index.html


[3] http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1910s


[4] https://thefriend.org/archive/view/the-friend


[5] https://www.herefordshirehistory.org.uk/archive/herefordshire-newspapers


[6] http://www.histpop.org/ohpr/servlet/Browse?path=Browse/Census%20(by%20date)/1911&active=yes&treestate=contract&titlepos=0


[7] Andrew Hamilton and Alan Reed (2009) Meet at Dawn, Unarmed, Dene House Publishing


[8] Bruce Chatwin (1982) On the Black Hill, Jonathan Cape


[9] http://www.quakersintheworld.org/quakers-in-action/252


[10] John Botten (2002) The Captive Conscience. Christadelphian Magazine and Publishing Association


[11] E J Brown (no date) The First Five. The Story of a School (shelved in Woodbrooke Library)


Dr Elinor Kelly is studying the history of Herefordshire's conscientious objectors from the start of conscription in 1916 to its end in 1963. 

3. The Yorkshire Historic Dictionary Show more → Show less ↓

Alexandra Medcalf

In November 2017, the Borthwick Institute for Archives at the University of York launched a new project to create a historic dictionary for Yorkshire. The project is funded by the Marc Fitch Foundation in memory of Professor David Hey (President of BALH from 2008 to 2016) and will run as a partnership between the Borthwick, Dr George Redmonds (a long-time collaborator and friend to David) and the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society Record Series.

The project reflects David and George’s long-standing interest in the local history of Yorkshire. They have both published on the history of surnames, in Yorkshire and nationally, several times; most recently together in the 2011 book Surnames, DNA, and Family History with Turi King. The study of language develops naturally from their existing work. If our surnames can be seen as a proxy for our family’s past, so language can embody our region’s history and provide a new opportunity for local history study. And, as surnames migrated with people, so language travelled too. There are no absolute boundaries to the project: words appear in the dictionary from as far afield as Wellington (NZ) and Kansas (USA), and any local historian should find something of interest and relevance.

At the core of the project is Dr Redmond’s card catalogue, which contains thousands of local and dialect terms from Yorkshire documents. This collection will be used as the basis for a published dictionary (through the Record Series of the YAHS) and a dynamic online version. The definitions come from a wide-range of sources and provide new vocabulary for (among others) by-names and place-names; agricultural and animal terms; landscape descriptions; and specialist crafts and industries. There will be new words, such as clatch, ding, fulture, sternald, stonery and wandhagger, but also new meanings for existing words like attachment, breed, hedgerow, and landing. Beyond definitions for words, the dictionary will enable further research into the history, development and use of regional language in Yorkshire.

The online dictionary will be freely available to all. The entries will be searchable not just for meaning, but also by place, date, subject, and source. Some entries will be illustrated with digital images of the source material from archival repositories across Yorkshire. Others will have attached audio recordings, to capture dialect pronunciation in context. Place names will be associated to regional maps and there will be links to third party sites, including the Oxford English Dictionary.

The project can only benefit from wide-ranging involvement from interested parties. We hope that the dictionary will be extended with the findings of researchers, professional and amateur, engaged in all aspects of local and family history. It will be possible to upload newly discovered Yorkshire terms, or add to existing entries with new citations or remembrances of dialect use. In the long-term we intend the online dictionary to be a hub for interested scholars, to stimulate further research in our local history.

For further information, please contact Alexandra Medcalf, Project Archivist, at alexandra.medcalf@york.ac.uk or follow our Twitter account @YorksDictionary.

4. Searching for Theatrical Ancestors  Show more → Show less ↓

Katharine Cockin


The Searching for Theatrical Ancestors (STAR) website is a new freely available online resource bringing together 34,000 records. It was listed by BBC Who Do You Think You Are magazine as one of the top 50 website to watch in 2017.

Launched at an event at the British Library, London (29 July 2016), the STAR website has been demonstrated to the public at the BBC Who Do You Think You Are? event at the NEC Birmingham (April 2017), the York Family History Fair (24 June 2017) and featured in Family Tree magazine (Oct 2017).

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, led by Professor Katharine Cockin and supported by project partners, the British Library, the National Trust and the Federation of Family History Societies.

The STAR project has enhanced the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database (funded 2006-08), an online guide to one of the most significant UK theatre archives owned by the National Trust.

Ellen Terry (1847-1928) was one of the most famous performers of her day and particularly associated with her Shakespearian performances with Henry Irving and his Lyceum Theatre Company. Irving was assisted in business matters by Bram Stoker, the author known for his novel, Dracula (1897).

Over 20,000 documents are described in the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig database.This is a rich resource for research in many historical and cultural disciplines: theatre, art, women’s suffrage and LGBQT history. The photographs, letters, press cuttings and play programmes provide insights into nineteenth-century theatrical tours, travel and tourism as well as interwar amateur theatre, local civic pageants and Women’s Institute activities.

Ellen Terry was married three times (to G. F. Watts, Charles Kelly and James Carew). She lived for nearly seven years with Edward Godwin, architect and designer, with whom she had two children: Edith Craig (1869-1947) and Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1960). Both children became centrally involved in theatre but Edward Gordon Craig’s designs and theories about the art of the theatre have achieved a place in theatre history. Edith Craig’s prolific work as a director is still being rediscovered. New research findings on Craig’s involvement in women’s suffrage movement and as a major figure in interwar lesbian history with her female partners, the author Christopher St John and the artist Clare (Tony) Atwood are to be found in Katharine Cockin’s new biography, Edith Craig and the Theatres of Art (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2017).

These developments to the online resource have aimed to meet the needs of an existing and growing public community of users in the field of family history research as well as further benefiting academic communities.

Theatrical play programmes are designed to provide information for a specific event. Although some are bought as souvenirs, they will often be discarded. This kind of document usually falls into the category of ‘ephemera’. However, for the family history researcher, these documents provide a rich source of data. Theatrical ancestors’ names can be traced in cast lists but even ancestors who ran local businesses may be found in some play programmes which included adverts. In some cases there are so many adverts that it is hard to locate the cast list. 

An attractive new interface invites users of the AHRC Ellen Terry and Edith Craig Database www.ellenterryarchive.hull.ac.uk  to join the Shakespeare Train and take an online journey to trace the theatrical tours by Ellen Terry and the Lyceum Theatre in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Additional searchable data have been added to this online resource from digitized theatre programmes and links to relevant existing online external data sources (over 15,000 further records).

Katharine Cockin is Professor of English Literature, Department of Literature, Film and Theatre Studies, University of Essex 

5. Bob Read ‘Our genial historian’ Show more → Show less ↓

The title of this profile comes from the nomination form submitted for an award for Bob Read.  He is described as a local history enthusiast who is ‘energetic, committed, purposeful, community spirited, and dedicated to keeping all facets of local history in the public eye’.

Robert Read was born in Nottinghamshire. By profession an engineer, he was employed for over 30 years by Ley’s Malleable Castings Co Ltd of Derby. The firm was founded in 1873, and ceased trading in 1987, after which Bob worked both in the UK and overseas as a self-employed Project/Consultant Engineer, until he retired in 2000. His first retirement project was to research and write the history of his former employers, who at one time were the largest foundry in Europe, supplying castings to the automotive industry. This was published in 2005. The following year Bob’s second book appeared, a biography of south Derbyshire businessman John Thompson. More publications have followed, on different aspects of Aston on Trent’s history.

Meanwhile he became a founding member of the Aston on Trent Local History Group. This proactive group set out to identify a programme of research into the history of the village, which can be traced back to Neolithic times. An early priority was to engage with the community to record memories and experiences of life in the village. It soon became clear that the material accumulated would need a proper home. Bob identified a possible venue in a decrepit vestry in the churchyard; he used his experience to face the challenge of helping to raise the necessary finance, and then chaired a committee comprising members of the Parochial Church Council and the Local History Group that brought this plan to fruition. The result is All Saints’ Heritage Centre which is the hub of the History Group, and is also used by other village groups, and is available for hire. Every Monday the centre is open to the public for local history research. That reflects their philosophy of involving as many local people as want to join in, and Bob is always ready with advice and support.

Aston’s World War 1 exhibition was a huge success, largely due to Bob’s input, both his own research and his skill at working with other groups, in this case the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

Another firmly established and very successful link is with the local primary school. Bob’s combination of knowledge, enthusiasm and humour delights the children as he encourages them to understand the history of their local environment.

Bob has personally ensured that new local housing developments allocate street names that reflect the heritage of the place, using old field names, local landmarks or noted family names. He has created tours of the village that are enjoyed by many, both local and visitors. Keeping local history constantly at the forefront of the community in this way is one of Bob’s many strengths. He has raised the profile of their local heritage, making it accessible for young and old in his historic home village.




With thanks to Bob Read, John Holloway, Haydn Wheeler and Carole Bagnall.

6. David Sankey A ‘cornerstone of the community’ Show more → Show less ↓

Following the death of Stan Firth, the President of the Pentagon Local History Society,  David Sankey led the team from Elston in Nottinghamshire that created the Elston Heritage Project and organised and celebrated Elston Heritage Year in 2010, which included setting up a website, creating a heritage  trail, an archive of documents and photographs, exhibitions, recordings, publishing a book, several DVDs, and much more.

Dave wrote the successful project’s lottery application which was reportedly one of the best applications the Heritage Lottery Fund had seen.

As well as his organising abilities, David’s thoroughness, thoughtfulness and quiet enthusiasm encouraged and supported the work of the rest of the team. In addition he made his own personal contribution to the project, and continues to maintain the project resources, make presentations about the project, and respond to queries from outside the village, both personally and via the internet.

The excellent website fully explains the achievements of the project, and names the project team whose contributions were essential to its success.  www.elstonheritage.org.uk  www.pentagonhistory.org.uk

7. Personal Achievement Award ‘commended’ Show more → Show less ↓

As readers can imagine, the number of nominations received for Personal Achievement  Awards varies widely from year to year.  Sometimes, though not always, everyone nominated deserves such recognition, which would be too great a demand on the Association’s resources, let alone time on Local History Day giving them the public airing they merit.  Our policy is to make a maximum of six awards per year.

For the first time in 2017 the Trustees decided to add a ‘Commended’ category in order to increase the number of people whose achievements can be shared with members, and we are very pleased to tell you here about the work of David Sankey, the first recipient of such notice. 

8. Methodist Records and the Local Historian Show more → Show less ↓

Geoff Dickinson, Methodist Heritage Committee member

Methodist Records are full of gems that can help both local and family historians, but they can be extremely frustrating for those seeking to access them.

The Methodist Church grew out of a movement begun by John Wesley, an ordained Anglican clergyman, in the 18th Century. By the end of the 18th Century the infant church had separated from the Church of England. During the 19th Century there were a number of break-away movements from the main body of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, eg the Methodist New Connexion (1797), Independent Methodists (c1806), the Primitive Methodists (c1811), the Bible Christians (c1815), Wesleyan Reformers (c1849), and so on. Gradually, most (but not all) of these groups moved back together again, and eventually joined together in 1932 to form the Methodist Church we have today (see the diagram below).

The Methodist Church has always been organized on the basis of an annual national Conference, which decides policy and stations ministers, and has a number of key committees. The country is then divided into Districts, which have two formal meetings, called Synods, each year. Districts are divided into local Circuits, which traditionally had a formal Quarterly Meeting. Within Circuits there are a number of individual churches.

Records relating to the Methodist Church at Connexional (i.e. national) level are held by the John Rylands Library, at the University of Manchester. These include minutes of Conferences, monthly magazines and weekly newspapers published by each strand of the church. Some of these are available on-line. However, records of overseas missionary work are held by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), at the University of London. There is also a useful collection of material at the Wesley Historical Society Library in the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, at Oxford Brookes University.


Probably of most interest to local historians are the records relating to Circuits and churches. According to Methodist Church policy, these should all be deposited in county archives/local records offices. There is a facility on the Methodist Heritage website that enables you to identify which county archives should hold the records for each Circuit. Where Circuits cross county boundaries, the records are likely to be held in the county where the principal church of the Circuit is/was to be found. It becomes frustrating when the records you are seeking do not appear to have been deposited.


But what gems might you find? I have found that the minutes of Trustees’ meetings are very helpful if you are looking at the history of a particular chapel. I researched a chapel in a West Yorkshire mining community and found that the named Trustees had themselves dug the foundations. The contractors used to build the chapel were identified, along with all the associated costs. Appointments to the role of chapel-keeper (caretaker) and organist were documented, along with associated remuneration. The occasions of redecoration, installation of water and electricity are recorded. Significant events, such as openings, and re-openings, anniversaries and bazaars are also to be found, along with the names of invited speakers.


The minutes of Quarterly Meetings are also interesting, providing information about ministers, finances, prominent local Methodists sent to represent the Circuit at District Meetings, etc.


The monthly magazines and newspapers of the various strands of Methodism in the 19th century are also rich sources for the local historian, as they often covered events such as chapel openings, celebration of Methodists’ achievements in their locality, eg becoming an Alderman or Guardian of the Poor. Unfortunately, there is no single comprehensive index for these publications, although the catalogue of the Methodist Archive and Research Centre at the John Rylands Library is a good place to start. Google searches of those available on-line can also be surprisingly helpful.


In the last five years, through Methodist Heritage, a series of community archive websites have been developed; namely My Methodist History, My Wesleyan Methodist Ancestors, My Primitive Methodist Ancestors and My Bible Christian Ancestors. These sites invite contributions about memories of chapels, family members, Methodist history, etc. The range of information available is increasing day by day, and while it cannot be claimed to be comprehensive, there are useful snippets for the local historian. An example would be transcriptions of articles about the development of Primitive Methodism in a town or Circuit. These sites are all searchable, and a search on one site also reveals any information on one of the other sites.


Want to find out more? A good staring point is the http://www.methodistheritage.org.uk/index.htm website. Happy hunting!

9. CELEBRATING CIVIC LIFE Show more → Show less ↓

David Griffiths

Huddersfield was incorporated as a Municipal Borough in 1868, so 2018 would have seen it celebrating its 150th anniversary.  Although it was swallowed up by the larger Kirklees Metropolitan Council in 1974, local identity is still much more centred on the town than the multi-town entity, and Huddersfield Local History Society decided the occasion should not go unnoticed.

Incorporation in 1868 was late for a fast-growing industrial town – 20 years or so after most neighbouring towns – but Huddersfield went on to score a number of municipal ‘firsts’.  Council housing was built from 1880 under the Artisans’ Dwellings Act of 1875, 20 years before the Shoreditch estate often described as the first, and the country’s first publicly-operated tram service was initiated in 1883.  These and other developments underlay the theme of our annual study day in 2017 – ‘Making up for lost time: The pioneering years of Huddersfield Corporation’ – and the papers presented there will be gathered into a publication in 2018.   We will also be adding a municipal theme to the growing programme of walks and printed trails offered by the Discover Huddersfield partnership.

At our suggestion, several partners are now working together on ‘Huddersfield 150’ events.   These include Libraries, Museums and Town Halls from the Council, its Governance and Democratic Services department, and the West Yorkshire and University Archive services.  Emerging plans include an exhibition, re-enactments, work with schools and special openings of civic buildings.  These will be linked where possible to key ‘birthdays’ like the granting of the Borough Charter (7 July) and first Council meeting (7 September) – the latter conveniently coinciding with the first of 2018’s two Heritage Open Days weekends. 

Municipal history is about the development of public service and also about popular politics.  Most partners will also be working on the ‘Vote 100’ celebrations of women’s suffrage and wherever possible the two themes will be linked.  We are looking forward to a busy year.





10. Public Art in the Landscape Show more → Show less ↓

Julie Davis

When we think about local history, it is perhaps easiest to think about the use of the land; those who made use of it and the changes that use brought. The landscape is constantly changing, season to season; changes in industry, working practices, settlement use and advances in technology from cement to the combine harvester to the motor car.


But what about the impact that art has made on the landscape? Creativity goes hand in hand with inspiration of the landscape, and we often see the results of this creativity in art galleries, museums; in our own homes. The 2014-2019 Heritage Lottery Funded project Creative Wiltshire www.creativewiltshire.com is looking at the impact that creativity has made on our county, acquiring items made by creative people on behalf of the county’s participating museums, archive and local studies libraries. More recently the project has been considering public art; the extent, location and condition of works in Wiltshire and the role it plays to enhance the places where we live and work. Public artworks are vulnerable to change, whether it be through environmental damage or vandalism, or through redevelopment of an area in or around it. At present very little is known about the whereabouts and extent of public art in the county.



The project has been devised by Meril Morgan, Wiltshire Council’s Arts Lead who is based at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. Volunteers are working to gather data on public art in the community such as the location of the item, its condition, what is known of it and a photograph of it in situ. Data collected as part of the project will be made available in the Local Studies Library at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre with images deposited in the Historic Photograph and Print Collection. The images will be pinned to the Know Your Place site http://www.kypwest.org.uk to map their location geographically.



A number of workshops have been run for volunteers and discussions have centred on that quite often very personal idea of what exactly is public art? To some it is an eyesore, to others a show of creativity to inspire others, a display of craftsmanship, perhaps sometimes evoking a sense of community effort or setting a community’s celebration or commemoration in time.


The response to the Public Art Project has been very positive with great excitement at the prospect of getting out and about and discovering just what type of artwork is out there. We are already being amazed by the variety of items that are being discovered. We’ve also been receiving additional information on items from members of the public and also by artists themselves which we are passing on to volunteers to help with their recording of areas. We have received many lovely images including ‘Turtle Storm’ at Queens Park, Swindon; ceramic tiles at Castlefields, Calne and engraved glasswork in windows at St. Martin’s Church, Bremhill. Thanks go to the volunteers who are giving their time freely to help us achieve our aim.

The recent case of the bronze pigs statue in Calne which was removed by thieves and sold on (luckily quickly recovered) is a vivid reminder that our public art is vulnerable. It is also sometimes temporary, sometimes controversial, but without it we would not be a society which strives, which shares, which inspires, which provokes thought in spaces that are open to all. What a richer society we are because of it.


Art is part of who we are. It is an important addition to local history which gives us an insight into the mindset of communities past and present.


There’s still time to take part in the Public Art Project, visit

www. creativewiltshire.com/get-involved/ and I hope to hear from you soon!


Julie Davis is County Local Studies Librarian Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre


11. Strange spellings and scribal errors: difficulties encountered when transcribing wills  Show more → Show less ↓

Heather Falvey

The Richard III Society is currently undertaking its third group project to transcribe, translate (where necessary) and publish a collection of late-medieval wills.   I am co-ordinating work on the 662 documents entered in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) probate register known as Milles (TNA, PROB 11/8), named after first testator recorded therein.  In order to obtain as accurate a reading as possible each will is transcribed independently by two people and checked by a third, who produces the master copy. Inevitably some words defeat us: they are illegible, or unintelligible to us.  And by ‘illegible’ I don't mean that we just can't read the difficult handwriting but that sequences of letters appear not to make sense, or are smudged, or there is bad bleed-through. 

But the actual handwriting is not all that we have to contend with: there are also unusual spellings and unfamiliar words.  Of course we know that spelling was not standardised until much later and that the ‘same’ word might be spelled several ways in the same will, such as ’daughter’, ‘doughter’ and ‘doughtre’. Contrarily, some words might look similar but have completely different meanings, such as ‘bedys’ (beads) and ‘bedes’ (beds).  These differences were (probably) in the original wills.

Then there are ‘new’ words. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest reported examples of each word: many of these examples are from published late medieval wills.  Occasionally words (usually nouns) crop up in the Milles wills that are in the OED but the first noted occurrence is dated later — so the Milles example trumps that in the OED. For example, Robert Pykmere (TNA, PROB 11/8/162) bequeathed to his cousin and executor, Thomas Pykmere, ‘a standing maser with a bonde and a fote of silver and ov[er]gilt and with a bossoll of silver and ov[er]gilt in the bothom of the same maser with the name of J[es]hus enamelid and gravin in the same bossell’ (so this was a large drinking cup with a ‘bossoll/bossell’ in it).   The OED gives the following definition: ‘bossell, n. Etymology: diminutive of boss n.1; perhaps already in Old French. The ‘print’ or ornamental medallion fixed in the bottom of a ‘mazer’ or drinking bowl’.  It cites examples from PCC wills dated 1495, 1497 and 1498.  Pykemere's will is dated 7 February 1487/8, so the word actually occurred at least 7 years earlier than the OED's first mention.

But what about quirks or errors that might have crept in when the clerk copied those wills into the register?  I realise that I am treading on thin ice but I am convinced that sometimes the PCC clerk standardised words.  For example, each original will was written by a different scribe but in the register (so far) virtually every testator whose will is in English said ‘I bequeith to …’, not ‘I bequeath to …’, or even ‘I bequeth to…’.  Did every individual scribe write ‘bequeith’ in the original wills; or is it more likely that the clerk who compiled the register always spelled 'bequeath' with an ‘i’?  Also the clerk for the first part of the register uses a superscript mark similar to an ‘r’ that palaeographers would usually take to be the abbreviation for [ur] — but the ‘u’ is already there in many of the words where this mark occurs — so it is likely that he simply put a superscript ‘r’ rather than an abbreviation mark.  

And then there is the possibility of a scribal error. The will of William Pywale (TNA, PROB 11/8/169) is a simple example:  it begins ‘I Villyam Pywale Citezin and Barbo[ur] of London’.  The Christian name definitely begins with ‘V’ and his name was most probably ‘Willyam’ so it would be best to put 'Vylliam [sic]’ indicating that the scribe has written the name thus. Indeed, the marginal heading written by the clerk is ‘Testamentum Will[elm]i Pywale’.

Of course, one could cite ‘scribal error’ for every word that one cannot read but it also appears that sometimes the clerk in the PCC simply could not make out what the original scribe had written.  The handwriting in original wills varies from will to will, as does the condition of the pen nib and the state of the paper or parchment (few survive from the medieval period; in Hertfordshire they survive from 1545).  So how do you determine whether something is a scribal error rather than illegible to you?  Not easy, but sometimes it just is common sense (and local knowledge).  The monumental series published by the English Place-Name Society detailing variations of place-names found in a wide variety of original documents indicates that, like other words in the language, place-names changed and evolved over time.  Nevertheless, in wills sometimes they were just plain wrong.  For example, Stephen Burton (TNA, PROB 11/8/271) was a citizen and freemason of London and a parishioner of St Michael's Cornhill. He bequeathed new torches to burn at the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament in his own church and in three other parish churches: ‘saint Tolowse [St Olave’s]' in the old Jewry of London; the parish church of Edmondton (Edmonton), Middlesex; and the ‘parisshe Churche of our Lady of Rikwadisworth in the Counte of Hertford’.  There is, and was, no such place as Rikwadisworth (this is definitely what has been written) anywhere in England, never mind in Hertfordshire; but I live in Rickmansworth, Herts, where the parish church is dedicated to St Mary.  This place-name has had numerous variations over the centuries - in the medieval period often Rikmersworth, or Rykm’sworth - but never Rikwadisworth. The PCC clerk wrote what he saw in the original and carried on writing out Burton’s will in the register without faltering.  I have not been able to find any connection between Burton and Rickmansworth: there are no Rickmansworth testators surnamed ‘Burton’ in the fifteenth or sixteenth centuries, although the surname does occur in 13 late medieval St Albans wills (but never Stephen).  So we may never know why Burton left a bequest to that particular church (his legatees were mostly servants and former apprentices, so no clues from them) but we do know is that he wished to be remembered by the parishioners there when the host was elevated, or at least for as long as the torch lasted.

While I am not advocating ‘scribal error’ as a get-out clause for being unable to recognise unusual words (the OED is available to consult online via county library services), I am saying that sometimes clerks made errors or had their own personal quirks. 

12. Film and local history  Show more → Show less ↓

A group of North Lancashire film-makers and local historians have decided to highlight the hidden corners of the county’s history and the result is a series of fascinating short films.

They call themselves ‘LuneTube’ and they  love nothing better than discovering an overlooked secret, hidden in plain sight.

LuneTube launched in September 2017 with a film about Sir Richard Owen, the Victorian scientist from Lancaster, who coined the term ‘dinosaur’. Lancastrian film-maker Janine Bebbington directs and edits the films and used computer effects to produce a T-Rex stalking the very streets where Richard Owen grew up.

Enthusiastic local historian David Chandler has found rich sources in his home town of Morecambe.The LuneTube team has produced a film about the town’s lost cinemas (there were once 14, during the resort’s heyday) and discovered a memorial garden for cinema workers in a local cemetery.

The films also feature more rural settings, including a disused quarry in Silverdale and the idyllic village green in Priest Hutton, which is the location of an iconic K6 red telephone box.

For more information and to watch the films, visit www.lunetube.co.uk

13. Proposing a county societies network Show more → Show less ↓

Gill Cookson

We take our cultural institutions for granted, so it’s deeply unsettling to see the pressures – threats, even – that they currently face. Their difficulties mean that county societies, and other voluntary and charitable history and archaeology groups, have become important than ever.


But we too are in the eye of the storm. I can speak with most authority about the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society (YAHS) though it’s clear that our own tribulations are common to many other associations. In the very recent past, YAHS has been obliged to negotiate the deposit of its archival and library collections (now safely removed to the University of Leeds Brotherton library), say goodbye to its dedicated staff, and sell Claremont, the society’s much loved but no longer supportable headquarters of 50 years.


This has been seismic, though moderated by the continuing health and vitality of our sections and their activities – lectures, excursions, publications. YAHS membership has held up, social media has brought masses of interested people into our compass, and others have been attracted into active volunteering. With a move into much smaller premises, every aspect of our activity is being reappraised, though much of this would in any case have been necessary: modernizing publishing operations, digitizing back runs of serials, launching a new website, introducing new financial management systems, and above all, developing a focus on projects.


There are many positives here, but every stage, every innovation, has been challenging. Change is being driven by people who are not (with one or two shining exceptions) publishers, IT or marketing specialists, accountants, lawyers, investment consultants… This has been the proverbial steep learning curve, if ever there was one. But we enter 2018 far healthier and better settled than we were when 2017 dawned.


And this is why, more than a year ago, I proposed to the County Societies’ Symposium that a network of county societies – sharing ideas, information, good practice, offering mutual support and encouragement, and perhaps lobbying on matters of common interest – would be a good idea. This could exist only in the virtual world: an online members-only group may prove to be simplest and most effective. Several people expressed interest, at the symposium and afterwards, in such a plan.


Alas this is still unfinished business, as the old saw ‘If you want something doing, ask a busy person’ isn’t true. But of course if we had a place to share experiences and pool information, maybe we can break the cycle of excessive busy-ness. Nor would it be a bad thing to reduce the anxiety which comes with responsibility, for society officers often have to deal with matters of vital interest to our organisations which are far outside our personal comfort zone.


If you represent a county society or similar, and think this idea could be beneficial, I’m inviting you to contact me at yas.president@gmail.com. But I can’t do this on my own – at most, I will coordinate initial moves. I’d guess that a discussion with BALH would be the next stage, if there is sufficient support. But please do send an indication of interest.


The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into effect on 25 May 2018.

If your society has an up to date Data Protection policy and effective record keeping procedures, the impact of GDPR is likely to be limited
If your society has no such policy and procedures in place, you will need to work toward compliance with GDPR. You need to identify what you must do in the short, medium and long term. There is no ‘one size fits all’ formula and your strategy needs to be proportionate to your obligations
Best practice guidance on GDPR is provided by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). Its website has much useful information including an action plan and checklists. See https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a piece of legislation which builds on the Data Protection Act, 1998 (DPA). It relates to personal data concerning identifiable, living individuals. The eight principles of the DPA remain the same (see https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/data-protection-principles/), but the GDPR gives individuals a greater level of control over how their data is managed and requires organisations which hold personal data to explain and justify how this is done. The shift is to greater transparency and accountability.

What is personal data?

Information such as: name, postal and email addresses, career or employment details, date of birth, and financial information such as bank details. It also includes any written comments or opinions about an individual and photographs from which an individual can be identified. Data held on new technology is included: location data on an iPhone, IP address, etc. There are obligations for data processors as well as data controllers and so GDPR applies to external mailing lists (such as MailChimp), cloud data storage providers and out-sourced data management services. Most local history societies are unlikely to hold what is classed as ‘sensitive personal data’ (information about an individual’s sexual orientation, their racial or ethnic origin, criminal record, political opinions, and religious beliefs, etc) and it is strongly recommended that care is taken that your society does not acquire or hold such data to which strict management and retention procedures apply.

What does accountability mean in this context?

Under GDPR an organisation needs to be able to demonstrate why it collects personal data and what it is used for. You need to be able record what data processing activities are undertaken and what measures you have in place to keep personal data secure and up to date. Processing refers to manual (hard copy) activities as well as to electronic record keeping. You must be able to show the individual whose data you hold has clearly given his or her consent. You also need to be aware that consent can be withdrawn at any time and so you also need to facilitate and document such decisions. Subjects have the ‘right to be forgotten’.

What does our society need to do to comply with GDPR?

This will depend on what personal information your society holds, how it collects it and how it keeps it. You may have a membership database or membership forms; a mailing list for a newsletter; Gift Aid statements; details of partners in projects or of people who have donated money or archives or artefacts to your society; you may have attendance lists from events or details of permissions from individuals who are copyright holders in images you have used or publications you have issued. You may have surveyed visitors or members, either in person or online. If you employ staff, you will have HR and payroll records. If you sell goods or services, you will have purchasers’ details.   All these are examples of sources of personal data; there will be many others.

So the first step is to find out what personal information you have and who holds it.

Having clarified these aspects, you then need to look at how and why. Security of personal data is paramount: you need to be clear who has access to it and for what purpose and that everyone involved takes precautions to avoid inadvertent disclosure or inappropriate data sharing. Risk management is essential. Under GDPR you need to be more specific about your justification for keeping personal data. ‘We always have’ or ‘just in case we might need it’ are not adequate reasons. ‘In order to provide you as a member with our regular publications‘ is the type of statement  you should  aim to provide.

What is meant by consent to using personal data?

One option under GDPR – and the one that is probably most relevant to local societies - is to justify your data collecting activities by ensuring you have explicit consent from the individual concerned.  So you need to ask him or her to say ‘yes, I agree’ , rather than assuming silence means consent. The means of contact – email, social media, telephone, etc. -  also need to be clearly stated. You should check your existing mailing and membership lists and take action accordingly. There are many templates available for consent forms which can be adapted to specific circumstances. See the ICO website (address above) or https://www.itgovernance.eu/blog/en/how-to-create-gdpr-compliant-consent-forms/ or   https://dma.org.uk/article/gdpr-in-practice-tick-box-consent-forms

Does our society need a privacy notice?

Yes. You need to state how you will safeguard the personal data you hold and this is the purpose of a privacy notice. It should be on your society website and on membership and other forms. See:https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/privacy-notices-transparency-and-control/privacy-notices-in-practice/

Our mailing lists probably go back several years. What do we do with them?

Check them by contacting the addressee, either by email or by post. If there is no reply within a reasonable period, delete the information. Under DPA and GDPR, you should not hold personal  information for longer than is necessary.

Where can we get further advice?

In addition to the Information Commissioner’s Office, many organisations provide advice and guidance on GDPR. For local societies, one useful source is the NCVO website. See: https://www.ncvo.org.uk/practical-support/information/data-protection

Because each society is different, BALH cannot provide specific advice, but if you have a general query, please email:admin@balh.org.uk and we will try to help with sources of information.

15. The happiest place for local history? Show more → Show less ↓

Gill Draper

Just as I departed on holiday to Malhamdale in the Craven District of North Yorkshire, the Office for National Statistics announced that Craven had come top in its annual survey of wellbeing in England. Some residents considered that Craven’s setting in a thousand square miles of moors and dales largely contributed to their own happiness, with one contrasting it pointedly with a southern county of ‘little farms and hedges and no trespassing signs’. As The Guardian reported, Simon Myers, a Craven district councillor and self-described ‘member for good news’, partly ascribes Craven’s happiness levels to ‘its resilient communities, citing the endless list of community groups and events’.[1]  One group which interested me was Malhamdale Local History Group, whose Chair and Secretary, Colin and Sue, I met to discuss some questions Colin had posed in response to a piece in Local History News 120 (summer 2016) as follows.

‘I am not trying to make a political statement, but I was interested in your article on page 35, entitled Brexit.  I live in a small rural community of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is predominantly agricultural (sheep, beef and dairy) with a popular visitor attraction (Malham Cove).  Indeed, monitoring the impact and collecting evidence would form a good project, but what should we monitor and what evidence should we collect?  In my mind monitoring implies measuring something over a period of time, but I am not sure what our own history group could do?  There could be a long term impact on farmers, as subsidies change, but I don’t feel that as a history group we can ask our local farmers about their own financial position. Please would you offer any guidance, advice or suggestions as to what we could do?’

I felt the idea was to consider economic and social change in a local community in the early 21st century (and indeed not just change induced by Brexit) as well as producing possible material for future historians. I suggested the possibilities of collecting data as follows, on a regular basis, perhaps annually.

Changes of land use from aerial pictures taken from one of the mapping websites
Asking farmers for the numbers of each breed at different times of the year, and their purpose e.g. finishing, breeding, milk, fleeces
Ask for comments on how they see the past, present and future
Collecting general comments on farm finances e.g. ‘the price of fleeces barely covers the cost of shearing’
Recording the numbers of holiday lets, properties, new conversions, etc
Noting property prices by capturing local information from published surveys, price websites, etc
Monitoring and recording farm or other property sales especially larger developments or sites, drawing on estate agents’ descriptions
Use catalogues from auction sales, particularly covering land, buildings and farm equipment.

Colin and Sue told me about the long, changing and fascinating history of a building in their hamlet, which had been an integral part of its local history.  It was built by Quaker farmers in the 17th century.  Later it became the home of a retired lady, before becoming a tailor’s workshop and then a post office which was run by three generations of one family until the late 20th century.  For several years, the post office included a telegraph office and telephone exchange.  After the morse code had been deciphered by the matriarch of the family, a younger member was sent to deliver the urgent message on foot or by bicycle. The building is now a private residence.

I was also able to draw on Sue and Colin’s knowledge of the local landscape, parishes and churches. The Malhamdale landscape is a stark contrast to that of the counties I know best in the south-east, whose ‘little farms and hedges’ I admit to loving as much as the wide open spaces of North Yorkshire.  Nevertheless, I was keen to get some more background on what I had seen when driving through the landscape

During my stay I was also able to visit The Folly, the Museum of North Craven Life, in the nearby market town of Settle, where Sue is one of the volunteer stewards who help to run it. This marvellous local museum (open Easter to end of October) is housed in a Grade I listed building and is running four consecutive centenary exhibitions, each based on one year of the First World War.

Sue explained that the exhibitions gave a very balanced view of WW1.  In 2016 information was included about two of her great uncles, who were soldiers killed in 1916, one of whom was decorated for gallantry.  They are remembered on a commemorative plaque in Kirkby Malham Parish Church.  The 2016 exhibition had also included details about two great uncles from the other side of her family, who were conscientious objectors.

I am happily planning my return to Malhamdale next year and to visit The Folly again.


Gill Draper, is BALH Events and Development Officer




[1] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2017/sep/29/its-gods-own-county-but-its-not-heaven-life-in-uks-happiest-district [accessed 8.10.17]

16. Mary Brown's story Show more → Show less ↓

Win Stokes

This is the story of one middle class north eastern woman in the turbulent period between the opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 and the relatively stable 1850s. She was  born Mary Wetherell in 1812 in Osmotherley North Yorkshire the daughter of the proprietor  of a linen bleaching mill. Her father's business was hit by the recession that followed the end of the Napoleonic wars but survived. In 1825 her father died and her brother took over the mill . In 1835 the firm finally went bankrupt and her brother moved to Tyneside to take a job as a clerk with the Newcastle and Carlisle railway company. Mary moved to Darlington to live with her maternal uncle John Botcherby.


The Botcherbys were a well regarded and prosperous family of timber merchants. After the death of their father the elder son took over the business while John the younger one after dabbling in various enterprises finally decided to try his hand as a coal fitter as the newly built railways in South Durham were providing access to  fresh seams of coal which could be sold on the London market. A fitter was the agent who organised the transport of coal from the colliery to shipping point and onto the ship. It could be a remunerative business but also involved considerable initial financial outlay and establishing contacts with agents in London. This is probably how he met Thomas Brown. Brown was the nephew of a London based shipowner (also called Thomas Brown) who in 1812 had acquired Jarrow colliery on Tyneside and the owner's house Jarrow Hall from the bankrupt local landowner. Thomas Brown jnr had been trained as a factor on the London coal exchange and made several trips to the North East in that capacity seeking deals with local colliery owners. But his London  employers Clark and Burgess began to suspect that he was doing business on his own account and he left under something of a cloud. His uncle Thomas Brown snr installed him and his brother in a sailmaking business on Tyneside but Thomas jnr continued to dabble in mining ventures and by 1835 was confronting bankruptcy. John Botcherby too was in financial difficulties.

It was at this point that Brown and  Botcherby  became involved in an ingenious scheme  to set  up a joint stock coal company which would draw in London capital to develop new collieries to offset the domination of the trade by the big north eastern coal owners . The company was also linked to railway schemes which were part of the wave of speculative investment  that gripped the country in 1835-6 . It didn't work out quite as planned because the coalowning establishment in parliament blocked the railway bills and without railed transport the coal from the mines upon which the company promoters had based their calculations would not be able to get to port for shipment. But the coal company had already been launched and with the  share and loan capital it brought in both Brown and Botcherby solved their financial problems. Botcherby built himself a handsome villa and Brown married Mary Wetherell. They set up house at Tees Cottage in Darlington and in the three years that they lived there she bore him three sons.


 However the coal company was struggling and in 1837  in an act of doubtful legality the promoters took two functioning collieries from the initial group and set up a new company seeking shareholders among those who used the coal for coking purposes and thereby evading the control of the coal trade establishment who controlled the London household coal market.


What exactlyThomas Brown's role was in all this is unclear but when in 1841 questions began to be asked at company meetings and his  name was mentioned in the press as the author of the original scheme he seems to have deemed it prudent to seek the anonymity of London  for that is where Mary's fourth child was born and baptised in Paddington. Their next  move was to the Isle of Man then well known as a refuge from creditors.

Thomas Brown snr died in 1841 and the legacy included in his will is probably  what enabled Thomas to return to the mainland but not before Mary had produced a fifth son born in Douglas Isle of Man. They returned to the North East where the two coal companies were now being run by two groups of shareholders. Whether Thomas involved  himself with either of them at this stage is uncertain. The only clue as to the family's  whereabouts in the next two years is the baptismal record of their sixth son in 1844 at St Mary's Gateshead. A possible reason for their presence in Gateshead may have been the suicide there two years earlier of Mary's brother who had been working for the Newcastle and Carlisle railway.


 However they didn't stay in Gateshead long because in 1845 Brown became the manager of Whitworth one of the collieries abandoned by the original coal company and now reopened by a group of London businessmen . This meant that Mary's next child, the only girl , was born in the pleasant old manor house of Tudhoe Hall where another child appeared a year later. This boy Owen Campbell Brown seems to have been named after William Campbell Gillan a London lawyer and parliamentary agent with whom Brown had become associated through the Whitworth coal and coke  company. When that company collapsed probably as a result of the national banking crisis of 1847 Gillan and Brown went into partnership to develop a neglected coalfield on the northern tip of county Antrim in Northern Ireland. By June 1848 the Brown family was installed in Cushendum House, Ballycastle County Antrim where Mary gave birth to another son. The local newspaper described the celebration at the opening ceremony of the colliery in December that year with a dinner chaired by Gillan for local dignitaries and London visitors and the workers regaled with ale, roast beef and plum pudding. The intention had been to set up a colliery and an ironworks

What exactly happened to this company is unclear the only further  reference to what was possibly part of the venture is to ironstone mines which in 1856 were in the hands of Backhouse and sons bankers of Darlington But subsequently Ballycastle ironworks under totally different management functioned into the 20th century.


Thus far in the story I was aware of Thomas Brown's business activities in relation to the two original coal companies and various other generally unsuccessful enterprises. I knew about the Botcherbys and the other company promoters and a chance reference in the Mining Journal had set me on track for the Ballycastle episode. I knew that he had married Mary Wetherell but had no idea of the size of their family and totally lost track of him after Ballycastle.


Then out of the blue the then curator of the Bede museum housed in Jarrow Hall which also has mementos of the colliery owners and whom I had consulted about the Brown family, put me in touch with a Canadian researcher who thought she was a descendant of Thomas Brown. Having established that she had already suspected that her forebear was a dubious character we compared notes and that's where all the family details came in. The dates all tallied and I discovered that after Northern Ireland the last two children were born at Waltham Abbey in Essex and Gravesend in Kent and that two years later in 1855 the whole tribe had set sail for Canada. There Thomas Brown tried to establish himself as a mining consultant claiming to be awaiting finance from his successful British ventures which needless to say did not materialise. He died aged 60 in 1862 leaving Mary if not entirely penniless still struggling to find the money to educate the four of her children still of school age. Exactly how she did so my informant was not clear but she suspected that Mary herself had resorted to teaching younger children in the Quebec settlement of Actonvale where they lived to make ends meet. She seems to have turned them away from the dubious lifestyle of their father for three of the four became clergymen and the fourth a Doctor. Of the others who were presumably educated in the UK Emmeline the only girl died unmarried in her mid twenties as did the fourth son Julian born in the Isle of Man, Gerald the grandfather of my informant became a successful mining engineer, in Canada, the eldest son became an accountant in Montebello Quebec, the second had joined the navy before the family emigrated and was lost at sea . There is no information about  Francis the fifth son except that he died in Nova Scotia.  Mary outlived her husband by nearly 30 years and became a much respected member of the community to the extent that on her death in 1891 they put up a memorial to her in the local churchyard.


Although we can never know Mary's side of the story there can't be many women called Mary Brown about whom we have so much information. For that matter researching someone called Thomas Brown would have been an impossible task without the Jarrow connection and the business relationship with John Botcherby. Sometimes one gets lucky! Sadly Dorothy Brown Beckel has died  recently so there is no prospect of any further revelations.

17. Societies News Show more → Show less ↓

Recent newsletters suggest this is a season of new books (see also p 32), plenty of anniversaries (see also p 19), and many society AGMs.

Borough of Twickenham Local History Society has reached its 100th production, after 55 years of publishing. Images of Hampton in the 1920s and 1930s by John Sheaf has the sub title ‘the roads, and buildings, businesses and shops, the river and recreation’.  It contains 80 photographs, many of which have not been published before, but also building plans and maps. £7.50.  www.botlhs.co.uk

A new book from the Black Country Society is Iron, Coal and Roses, by Keith Robinson.  It documents the rise and fall of the Rose family in the 19th century, covering financial meltdown, banking collapses, economic depression, workers’ unrest, social deprivation, environmental concerns and salacious scandals.  www.blackcountrysociety.co.uk

The latest publication from Hatfield Local History Society is Changing Times.  This is based on a series of articles written by Brian Lawrence for the Hertfordshire Countryside magazine over 25 years from 1983 to 2007. A wide variety of topics is covered, in this well-illustrated book,  £6. ISBN 978 0 9928416 7 6. Email hatfieldhistory@ntlworld.com

The Welbeck Atlas, William Senior’s Maps of the Estates of William Cavendish, Earl of Newcastle 1629-1640 has been published as vol 47 in the Thoroton Records Series. There is a pocket inside the back cover containing a credit-card sized USB stick from which the full set of maps can be uploaded to a computer.  Members of the Thoroton Society who are not subscribers to the Records Series may purchase for £20, £30 for non-members. Contact rob.james1805@btinternet.com. www.thorotonsociety.org.uk

Family & Community Historical Research Society are holding their 20th anniversary conference on the weekend of 12 – 13 May, at the Fosse Park Premier Inn, Leicester. The topic is ’Family and Community History’. For further details contact the conference organiser triciajjames1@gmail.com or see their website www.fachrs.com

Devon History Society in conjunction with the University of Plymouth have organised on conference in Plymouth on Saturday 21 April entitled

 How the Vote was Won: Women's Suffrage, Devon, and the Representation of the People Act 1918. There will be three presentations in the morning session,


Paul Auchterlonie – Franchise reform 1832-1918 and its effect on Devon

 Professor June Hannam – Rethinking popular narratives of suffrage history, 1910-1918: a view from the regions

 Professor Angela Smith – What difference did the war make?

In the afternoon local historians will present their research into suffrage activist around Devon. Further details http://www.devonhistorysociety.org.uk


Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society is celebrating its 50th birthday in 2018 with various events and activities. One of these is a prize essay competition which is open to members and non-members alike, providing that they are not professional historians. The competition is for members of the public, amateurs and students. Entries of up to 5,000 words are invited on historical topics relating to Cleveland and Teesside and neighbouring districts and must involve the entrant’s own personal research. The closing date for entries is 1st December 2018. The winner will be awarded the J.T.Packett Prize (£250), made possible by a bequest from the late Mr.John Packett. There will also be a runner-up prize of £50. Further details of this competition and how to obtain an entry form can be found on the society’s website: ctlhs.co.uk


Keyworth & District Local History Society will hold its AGM on 2 March. In June they will mark the society’s 25th anniversary, and in July will take part in the 2018 Keyworth Show which has a medieval theme this year. It is 750 years since the first known Rector was appointed to the church. www.keyworthhistory.org.uk


Council for British Archaeology Wales will be holding its first archaeological conference from 13-15 April at Lampeter, Ceredigion. There will be presentations, activities, trips and social events suitable for professionals, amateurs or anyone interested in the archaeology of Wales. CBA Wales www.archaeologyUK.org


Framlingham & District Local History & Preservation Society held its first meeting in March 1957. www.framloinghamarchive.org.uk


Kent History Federation supply the following dates for your diary: 6 - 8 April 2018 Medieval Canterbury Weekend, at which speakers include David Starkey, Caroline Barron and Janina Ramirez; and 12 May 2018 provisional date for One Day Conference. http://kenthistoryfederation.org

Leominster Historical Society will be listening to Dr Rosemary Firman talking about how a medieval book was made and how scribes made their marks, on Wednesday 21st February. It will be followed up by a visit to the Cathedral Library on Monday 18th June at 2pm - numbers restricted to 15 only, to see the Medieval books housed in the archives. Booking essential for this. Ginn Downes on Wednesday 21st March will be showing how women still worried about appearance in the Second World War in a talk entitled 'Style in Adversity'. Dr Ruth Richardson on Wednesday 16th May will be showing us Herefordshire Past and Present from the Air. All talks will take place at Grange Court in Leominster at 7.30 pm, visitors welcome £3 to be paid at the door. Further details may be had from Will Pridie wpridie365@waitrose.com

Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society is pleased to announce that volumes 1-15 of the modern series of Wakefield Court Rolls are now available online free of charge on Internet Archive, alongside all pre-2011 volumes of the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal:

https://archive.org/details/yorkshirearchaeologicalandhistoricalsociety?sort=titleSorter. .



Authors of doctoral theses on the archaeology or history of Kent are invited to compete for a £3,000 prize to be awarded in 2019 by the Kent Archaeological Society.   The Hasted Prize, named in honour of celebrated historian Edward Hasted, author of The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, published in 1797, provides £1,000 to the author of the best thesis and £2,000 towards the cost of publishing it in book format. Professor David Killingray, of the KAS’s publications committee, said: ‘The prize aims to reward students working on the history and archaeology of the County, and to promote the publication of books that advance scholarly knowledge of the county’s past.  …  The judges are seeking original, eye-catching works that will shed new light on any aspect of the history of the ancient county of Kent, which includes areas of London that were once part of the county’.


Doctoral theses successfully examined by any academic institution between 1 June 2017 and 30 April 2019 may be submitted, no later than 31 May 2019.


For more details and submission guidelines visit


or contact Professor David Killingray, 72 Bradbourne Road, Sevenoaks, Kent TN13 3QA, tel. 01732 453008, email: dmkillingray@hotmail.com .


In 2018 the London Colney Scout Group commemorates its centenary. A great celebration is planned. The London Colney Local History Society is helping collect recollections from anyone who was part of the movement in their locality. They have published some examples to prompt people’s memories. Email 100yrs.1stlcsg@gmail.com www.londoncolneyhistory.co.uk


Stroud Local History Society will be holding an evening on 15 March to see photographs taken by Rodney Shepheard, a design engineer and keen amateur photographer, who lived in Brimscombe in the 1940s. His collection of over 3,500 negatives was lent by his son to the Society in 2016, and a selection 250 of interest to local historians has been digitised and will be made available under a Creative Commons licence on the Society’s website after the launch in March. www.stroudlocalhistorysociety.org.uk

The Harpenden & District Local History Society AGM will be on 24 April, followed by ‘My 300 years of Harpenden ancestry: Part II’ by Peter Wilson.  www.harpenden-history.org.uk

Saturday 19 May is the date for a day conference organised by the Society for Lincolnshire History & Archaeology Local History Team. ‘Fighting Monks: the antics of the Knights Templar’ is the title. Full details of the programme and booking can be found at http://www.slha.org.uk/events/index.php

On 21 May Abbots Langley Local History Society will hold their AGM, followed by a talk on ‘Notable occupants of the grand houses of Abbots Langley’.  The society took part in ‘Applefest 2017’ for which they undertook a research project on old orchards and apple varieties in the area. This resulted in new information, and enabled them to make a colourful display which attracted a lot of interest. www.allhs.org.uk

Transportation as the punishment for sometimes what seem to us to be minor crimes was commonplace in the 19th century.  It is less common to see a ‘certificate of freedom’ and the information it contains.  Bridport History Society’s journal contains an article about the Hansfords of Stoke Abbott, some of whom travelled to Australia voluntarily. Not so John Hansford who was  sentenced to seven years of transportation for steaking a watch in 1836. The certificate issued in August 1843 reveals that he had been a butcher in Dorset.  editor william633@btinternet.com


War Memorials Trust’s latest helpsheet provides guidance on the basic principles of cleaning stone war memorials with water, designed for those doing simple maintenance rather than  large scale projects which should be carried out by a professional It also covers general guidance about best conservation practice and cleaning.  Available online, with their other helpsheets, at www.warmemorials.org.uk/helpsheets

Stonehouse History Group took as their main research topic for 2017 ‘gardens for food, fun and flowers’ which was the theme chosen by Gloucestershire Local History Association for their 2017 Local History Day. In the society’s Journal issue 7 contains six articles that are the result of this research, on the Horticultural Society and the Gardening Club, and on commercial nurseries and the vineyard.  There is more in the substantial issue of the journal, but it is interesting to see what a  group focus such as this can produce.  www.stonehousehistorygroup.org.uk

18. Archives News Show more → Show less ↓

Chester History & Heritage Centre, which has been based in St Michael’s Church in Bridge St, Chester, since 1976 is moving this winter to the Grosvenor Museum, where the full service and all their collections will be re-opening in the Spring. The staff will be posting to their Facebook page and answering emails while they are closed. chh@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk

The Suffolk Records Society recently celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its foundation, with its sixty volumes published in sixty years and a Suffolk Charters series of nineteen volumes. A reception was held at the University of Suffolk, Ipswich, with an address by Dr Harvey Osborne entitled 'One Suffolk, Many Histories'.

Other speakers included Mr Victor Gray, Chairman, Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch, President of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, and Mr Geoffrey Probert, High Sheriff of Suffolk.



Sheffield City Archives recently completed a project to catalogue some 60 boxes of over 740 files of Sheffield Magistrates Court licencing records. The result of a wealth of history concerning hundreds of pubs and on-licensed premises in the city, dating back to the late 19th century, including information about licensees and architectural plans.  . http://shefflibraries.blogspot.co.uk/2017/10/sheffields-rich-pub-heritage-revealed.html


A long-standing employee has been recognised for his dedication to the history of one of the country's oldest charities. Dr James Gibson has been Archivist to the Rochester Bridge Trust for 30 years, during which time he has catalogued the bridge archives, designed the organisation's first website, and mounted numerous exhibitions of the bridge records. He was also co-editor of, and a contributor to, the bridge history, Traffic and Politics, which is part of the Kent History Project. As well as supporting the Trust's own work, Dr Gibson has facilitated the research of many historians, supporting their access to the archives. This has included digitisation of estate maps and building plans, and the provision of centuries of documentation for the University of Kent's City and Region Project. Many of these documents can be searched on the Rochester Bridge Trust's own website. See www.rbt.org.uk/archives to find out more about the Rochester Bridge Trust's extensive collection of archives. 

James Elder , Archives Manager at BT plc was the first recipient of the Archives and Records Association’s ‘New Professional of the Year’ Award. Awarded for ‘outstanding contribution’ to the recordkeeping sector in the early years of their career, established members of the recordkeeping profession nominated six candidates in total. A special judging panel comprising members of the ARA Board and the committee of the ARA’s New Professionals Section then selected James as the winner. In second, third and runners-up places respectively were Lauren Clifton (West Sussex Record Office), Rachel Brown (Dudley Archives & Local Studies Centre), Luke Dady (Dorset History Centre), Karen Davies (Black Country Living Museum) and Rachael Jones (Glasgow School of Art). http://www.archives.org.uk/news/689-james-elder-wins-inaugural-ara-new-professional-of-the-year-award.html        


Surrey in the Great War project has been extended to finish at the end of 2019, rather than Spring of that year as originally planned.  This will enable them to complete the ambitious set or objectives,  to continue to develop their website, and to mark the centenary of the national Peace Day in July 2019. www.sureyinthegreatwar.org.uk

Hampshire Record Office is holding a special evening on 22 February ‘Moving through time’:


‘Join us for a special evening event as we go back in time and explore how we used to travel. Discover modes of transport from the horse and cart to the early automobile and from canals and railways to the pursuit of flight. Explore our archives on transport during this special event through an exhibition of documents and a filmshow’. Book before 8 February for £10 early bird deal. Includes drinks reception and nibbles. www3.hants.gov.uk/archives


The number of Community Archives webpages from Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service has now passed 6,000, covering 142 communities spread over 102 historic parishes. They would be happy to hear from anyone interested in contributing, either to cover a parish not yet represented, or to add to the pages of one already there. There are templates, and plenty of advice to help.  Contact martin.deacon@bedford.gov.uk http://bedsarchives.bedford.gov.uk/CommunityArchives/CommunityArchivesPages.aspx


Magna is the magazine of the Friends of The National Archives. They always publish a splendid double page spread of images, called ‘Treasures from the Archives’. The November 2017 issue has posters promoting National Savings products, readers might remember seeing them! Illustrated is one marking the 50th anniversary. www.friendsofthenationalarchives.org.uk

PIC caption NSC 5/479: 50 years of National Savings 1916-1966

19. Museums News Show more → Show less ↓

Beer: A History of Brewing and Drinking Britain’s first national drink will be the focus of an exciting new exhibition at Temple Newsam House, 24 March – 27 October 2018.

The exhibition looks at the significance of beer during the long eighteenth century and reveals aspects of life on Temple Newsam Estate through the eyes of the staff and aristocrats who lived, worked, brewed and drank here. New stories have been uncovered from the estate archives, including that of female brewer Elizabeth Pease, who provided ale for the estate for over 30 years during the 18th century. Beer was a key part of celebrations where the estate community came together, from military victories to weddings. When King George recovered from his illness in 1789 Lady Irwin laid on 1366 gallons of ale for her tenants. An exciting programme of events will be on offer throughout the estate, including tasting sessions. More information will follow in early 2018. see leeds.gov.uk/beerexhibition

An article in Edmonton Hundred Historical Society Newsletter describes a visit to the Panacea Museum at the beautiful Castleside house (and gardens) in Bedford. The word, meaning a cure for all ills, was used from the teachings of the Devonshire prophetess Joanna Southcott (1750-1814), who inspired an early 20th century Panacea Society, a religious community who believed that ‘opening Joanna Southcott’s box’ would rid the world of war, disease, distress .. www.edmontonhundred.org.uk  http://panaceamuseum.org/

Two contrasting museums near Bristol:

Aerospace Bristol opened last autumn, and is the home of the last Concorde ever to fly. The displays tell the story of more than a century of aviation history, and ‘the ordinary people achieving extraordinary things’ in the process. It is located on the historic Filton Airfield. A recent new arrival is one of the last remaining Bristol Type 170 Freighters which was brought back from New Zealand. aerospacebristol.org www.aim-museums.co.uk

The Frenchay Village Museum is run by the Frenchay Tuckkett Society and began in 1996 to care for a collection of Quaker artefacts donated to the village by descendents of the Tuckett family. A centre of non-conformism since the 17th century, Frenchay had influential residents who are known well beyond the village itself. A Tuckett founded Dunedin in New Zealand, another was a pioneering Alpine mountaineer; J S Fry began the chocolate business; F D Maurice of the Christian Socialist Movement, and colleges in London lived there, as did the Penn family. Developments in porcelain and in racing cars began. Visit their website for more details. www.frenchaymuseumarchives.co.uk 

20. Libraries News Show more → Show less ↓

The 2017 McCulla Award for Local Studies Librarian of the Year has been won by Jennie Cartwright, Development Officer for Lincs Inspire Ltd, based at Grimsby Library. She won the Award for the range of projects she has been involved with and her innovative ideas to improve access to the local studies collection. The prize is awarded by CILIP’s Local Studies Group in memory of Dorothy McCulla who was the Head of the Local Studies Dept at Birmingham Central Library, a post she held from 1969 until her untimely death in 1981. https://www.cilip.org.uk/ https://www.lincsinspire.com/enterprise/Home


The St Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society’s Library moved in 2016 into premises in a former industrial building on the northern edge of the city alongside the artefacts and library of the Museum of St Albans and the St Albans District Council Archaeological unit. The room provides space enough to accommodate the recent substantial expansion through donations of additional books, pamphlets and architectural papers, and it has already housed small meetings and seminars.

The Library is expanding also into the cyber-world, with the recently installed Soutron Solo library management software providing us with an On-Line Public Access Catalogue (OPAC). Reached through the Library page on Society’s website (www.stalbanshistory.org) this provides ready access for members and others interested to its catalogue of books and pamphlets, and to indexes of journal articles, maps, images, and other resources in due course.


Tuesday 13 March, 14.00.

The third Annual Scottish Local History Forum / National Library of Scotland Lecture takes place in the Library, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Prof. Niall A. Logan will talk on ’Duping the Luftwaffe: bomber decoys of World War II’. The talk is free but must be booked in advance via NLS website.  http://www.nls.uk/events


On Saturday 12 May 2018 the National Library of Wales will be holding a Family and Local History Fair. The programme offers a full day of talks, presentations and stands, with the opportunity to talk to experts. Free admission. https://www.llgc.org.uk/

21. Education News Show more → Show less ↓

History of Medicine and Health Development Seminars Spring and Summer 2018

will take place on Thursday evenings at 5:30pm (unless otherwise stated) at the University of Birmingham’s Medical School. All are welcome to attend. January 25, Room CM15, Dr Stuart Wildman (University of Birmingham), Nursing on the Home Front: Britain 1914-18. February 22, Room CM15, Dr Leonard Smith (University of Birmingham), Voices of Madness: Patient Experiences of Private Madhouses in England, 1650-1815. March 22, Room WF38, Dr Alistair Ritch (University of Birmingham), Pauper Agency: How Compliant Were Sick Workhouse Inmates? April 26, Room CM15, Dr Jack Saunders (University of Warwick), The Social and Cultural History of Work in the NHS


There will be a number of relevant day schools at Canterbury Christ Church University in the spring and summer, including one on ‘Pilgrims, Peasants and Path’s on Sunday 29 April 2018, and  ‘Castle Life in Kent and Sussex’ on 12 May 2018, both with tutor Gill Draper.




Centre for the History of Retailing and Distribution at the University of Wolverhampton has issued a call for Papers for a workshop on 7 June 2018: ‘Textiles and Dress from Below: Ordinary and Everyday Textiles and Dress in Museums and Historic Houses’. Further details can be found at https://retailhistory.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/cfp-textiles-and-dress-from-below/ or email Prof Laura Ugolini l.ugolini@wlv.ac.uk


‘Maritime Kent through the Ages’ is the title of a conference to be held on 23 June 2018 by the Centre for Kent History and Heritage, Canterbury, in conjunction with the Royal Museums Greenwich and Kent Archaeological Society. This is preparatory to producing a collection of essays under the same theme, which seems wholly appropriate for a county surrounded on three sides by sea!


Prof Steven King from Leicester University and Dr Paul Carter from The National Archives have been awarded a grant of £820,000 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council to undertake a three year research project examining poverty across England and Wales. ‘In their own write; contesting the New Poor Law 1834 – 1900’ will use a sample of the thousands of letters written by paupers, so giving their own points of view.   https://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/press-releases/2017/december/joint-project-examining-poverty-throughout-england-and-wales-in-victorian-times-awarded-over-ps800-000



Glasgow University short courses for 2018 include various historical topics, such as the abolition of

slavery, Glasgow cemeteries and crematoria (including 5 walks), Introduction to researching your

house history.

https://www.gla.ac.uk/study/short/book/   Scottish Local History Forum e-newsletter Clish Clash alerts us to events and other news, and their website has a great deal of information. www.slhf.org

22. Guided Walks 1 June 2018 YORK Show more → Show less ↓

We are delighted to be able to offer a choice of two walking tours in the afternoon of Friday 1 June, the day before our major annual event Local History Day. You can indicate your interest on the booking form when you order your Local History Day tickets, or send separate details, or enquiries, by email to secretary@balh.org.uk. The map and directions supplied with your ticket should enable participants to find the start of both walks. Both walks start at 2.15 pm and should not take more than two hours.


These tours are free but small donations at each venue would be welcomed.


York Churches Tour


York is unique for the amount of medieval stained glass which still survives both in the Minster and in the city churches. Windows often contain a representation of the donor in the glass and this is the case in Holy Trinity, Goodramgate, in St Martin’s, Coney Street, and All Saints’, North Street. The donors of windows in these churches, John Walker, Robert Semer and Nicholas Blackburn, were respectively a relatively humble parish priest, a vicar choral in the Minster, and a very wealthy merchant, and on this visit it will be possible not only to study their windows but also to discover something of their lives in late medieval York.      


Meet at 2.15 pm in St Michael, Spurriergate. St Michael's is a redundant church which has been converted into a café, so members could have a coffee beforehand, or even lunch. The church is very central, in fact at the end of Coney Street, so members could follow the instructions and map for getting to the Meeting House where LHD will be held on 2 June, merely stopping when they get to the end of Coney St.

 Participants need to be aware there may be uneven pavements and some steps.


A walk through Nonconformist York.


Despite its Anglican image, York has always been a strong centre also for various styles of Nonconformity. Our Saturday meetings are being held at the Friends’ Meeting House in Friargate. Although the current meeting house dates only from 1884 and the ancillary rooms, on the site of the now-demolished large meeting house of 1817, date from only 1981, there have been Quaker meetings on this site since 1674.


Meet at 2.15 outside the Meeting House entrance, from where we shall walk through the streets of inner York past a number of historic sites, including the location of the Upper Room used by the followers of John Wesley between about 1753 and 1757 and then we shall see in Aldwark the outside of the first Methodist Preaching House in York, and one of the earliest in Yorkshire, opened in 1759 and converted to other uses in 1804. Round the corner in St Saviour’s Place is one of the earliest Methodist preachers’ residences in the country, built in about 1775. We shall then enter St Saviourgate, with the Presbyterian chapel built in 1692, shortly after the Toleration Act. It is now Unitarian, and I hope to be able to arrange for us to go in. Further down the same street is the Wesleyan Centenary Chapel (1840), now the Methodist Central Church, a grand edifice known as the ‘Cathedral of Methodism’ with an organ second only to that of York Minister; again I hope we shall be able to enter and see the internal fittings and monuments which help tell the story of Methodism in York and far beyond.

Distances in central York are short and there are no steps.


Participants must comply with all Health and Safety advice given at the venues on both tours.

23. Trustees' Report 2017 Show more → Show less ↓

The Association is an unincorporated charity governed by an elected Body of Trustees.  Its purpose is to encourage and assist the study of local history throughout Great Britain as an academic discipline and as a rewarding leisure pursuit for both individuals and groups.  Trustees are listed elsewhere in this report with Officers of the Association and members of the advisory committees.  During the year, Council was reconstituted as a Body of Trustees and the Management Committee opened up to all trustees.   The advisory committees met in London twice during the year and the trustee body/management on another four occasions. 

A great deal of activity centred on modernising and making more efficient BALH’s processes and systems.  Improvements were made in monitoring membership and subscriptions.   The committee structures were reorganised and currently consist of a Publishing and an Outreach Committee.  The latter has taken on many of the elements of the education, visits and conferences committees.    Various systems and policies were put in place related to issues as varied as diversity and equality, the code of conduct, the role of committee chairs, the BALH risk register, data protection, representation on other bodies, pricing, expenses and reserves.   Reporting systems have been streamlined, stock better monitored and improvements made in reducing unplanned costs and obtaining more competitive quotations for work done.  The Trustees have ensured that the BALH is compliant in areas such as data protection and VAT. Comparative quotes have been obtained for the society insurance scheme.   They have also investigated the benefits of BALH becoming a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) but have decided that this is not appropriate at the present time.  The constitution has been re-written largely to reflect the new structures. 

The year has also seen the continuation of the successful working relationship with KSAM on finance and membership matters.  Financial information provided has enabled a more rigorous analysis of the financial health of BALH.   Contracts to deliver services were issued in regard to “The Local Historian”, “Local History News”, editing reviews, website and events and development.  During the year, Jane Howells decided to give up her administrative role although we are delighted that she is continuing to edit “Local History News” and has kindly to administer the personal achievement awards for 2018 on a voluntary basis.   

The Trustee body has changed substantially.   Kate Tiller and David Griffiths who also served as chairs of Education and Events as well as on the Structures Working Group resigned during the year. The term of office of our vice chair, Jacquie Fillmore, came to an end but she remains active on the Publishing Group.  Ruth Paley’s term as treasurer also concluded and Margaret O’Sullivan has now taken on this role.  Virginia Bainbridge, Susan Moore, Jonathan Mackman and Isobel Watson have been elected as trustees bringing valuable new skills.   The new President, Caroline Barron, has also been very active and attended a number of meetings.

Membership remains largely stable at just over 2000.  Renewal rates are good and reasons for resignations monitored closely.  Old age or the closure of societies remains the main reason – sad occurrences but beyond the control of BALH itself.  Trustees monitor trends through a monthly tracker provided by KSAM.

The development plan for the year focused on the following priorities – increasing membership numbers and profiles; developing the website and social media;  improving links with local societies; examining our involvement in major local history events; increasing BALH’s advocacy role; improving administrative systems and developing collaborative events with other societies and organisations.  Examples of the latter include successful conferences with local societies in Cornwall and Devon and the County Societies Symposium.   

“The Local Historian”, the Association’s journal, appeared four times during the year as did “Local History News.”    Better control of publications and storage has meant more efficient management of our existing stock, storage and despatch.   Increased sales of publications have been a noticeable feature of the year.  A new edition of the internet sites directory has sold well.   Geoff Timmin’s book aimed at those teaching local history has also been completed.   BALH has also registered with a print on demand publisher which has enabled control of numbers and lower storage costs.    The Publishing Committee are also focusing on possible updating and printing several good sellers such as Tudor and Stuart Handwriting and the Tithes publications.

Local History Day was held at Resource for London on 3 June 2017 and attracted a good attendance.  This was followed by the Annual General Meeting of the Association.    The morning session focused on housing and local history and was led by Alan Crosby and Geoff Timmins.  The keynote lecture was delivered by Professor Chris Dyer.  The topic was “local societies on the move: migration and social mobility in the middle ages”.

Presentations to winners under the Awards Scheme, both for publications and for personal achievement in the field of local history, were made by the President, Professor Caroline Barron, as part of Local History Day.  Award winners were:

In recognition of personal achievement:

Ron Beard, Gloucestershire

Janet Brown, Northumberland

Robert Read, Derbyshire

Louis Stott, Perthshire

Alan Wyatt, Herefordshire

Commended: David Sankey, Nottinghamshire

For research and publication:

Cherry Lewis, “David Mushet and his contribution to the “map that changed the world” (winner, long articles and The David Hey Memorial Article Award)

Paul Quayle, “Common-land enclosure and disafforestation in the Isle of Man: what happened to the Commoners’ Allotment after 1866” (runner up, long articles)

Janet Few, “The impact of the Bible Christians in rural north-west Devon: a force for unity or division?”

Glyn Scott-Sutcliffe, “The Mayor’s “Bounty Baby” scheme of 1908 and infant welfare in Edwardian Halifax”

Jose Bosworth, Pat Hudson, Maureen Johnson and Denise Shillitoe, “Sir Robert Hodshon, a lunatic knight: The immediate and long term effects of mental breakdown on the family of a seventeenth-century gentleman”

David M Yorath, “Disorder and rebellion: Perkin Warbeck and South West England”.

Rosemary Wherrett, “They left a lasting impression: Some of Tewkesbury’s early photographers” (winner, short articles)

Catherine Alexander, “Northumberland ladies’ networks: local women’s conversations and practices as revealed by a 17th century cookbook” (runner-up short article)

Geoffrey Ball, “Brownian developments and field sports at Audley End”

Lee P Ruddin, “The sinking of the Lusitania: Merseyside 1915 – the response of letter writers to the anti-German riots”

Fabian Hiscock, “The Great Near Miss: The wheat famine of 1795-1796”

Robert Sephton, “The striking women”


A society newsletter:

Northamptonshire Industrial Archaeology Group


Overall the Trustees believe that the Association continues to run effectively and according to its constitution and the rules of its charitable status.  They are grateful to all those who support BALH whether on paid contracts, on committees or as volunteers without whom the Association clearly could not function. 

24. BALH Trustee profile - Jonathan Mackman Show more → Show less ↓

I completed my DPhil in medieval history at the University of York in 1999, my thesis focussing on the local gentry community of fifteenth-century Lincolnshire and their involvement in the Wars of the Roses. Since then, I have spent my entire career working in the world of historical and archival research, partly as an independent researcher, but mainly on various research and cataloguing projects, for universities across the country.


My research posts have mainly focussed on records at The National Archives in Kew, including such things as cataloguing the vast series of taxation returns in series E 179 and the medieval petitions in series SC 8, and examining the use of the central law courts by fifteenth-century Londoners. I have also contributed to the publication of records such as the Henry III Fine Rolls and the Gascon Rolls, and also researched the careers of fifteenth-century Yorkshire MPs for the History of Parliament. Most recently, however, I was the Research Fellow on the University of York’s ground-breaking ‘England’s Immigrants’ project, which examined the nature and extent of immigration into England between 1300 and 1550. This involved producing a huge on-line database and a website of resources, co-authoring a variety of publications, and even giving a presentation to BALH’s Local History Day in 2013!


As an independent researcher, I range extremely widely, and have worked on many interesting and satisfying cases, from all periods of history. These have included such things as transcribing early building accounts from Hampton Court Palace, and researching the histories of a medieval London town-house and a London leper hospital, but I even once spent a few weeks tracing the ownership of a Victorian tea set!


I have published various articles over the years, often relating to my various research posts, but I am particularly interested in the local history of Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands. As a new Trustee of BALH, I am especially keen to increase links between local and academic historians, sharing knowledge and experience across disciplines, increasing the accessibility and awareness of archives, and encouraging more people to take an interest in local history in all its forms.

25. Yorkshire Dales Life and Tradition: a Celebration Show more → Show less ↓

Marking the 50th anniversary in 2018 of Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby’s classic work, Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales, a new edition of the book is to be published, along with matching events and activities across the dales.


The Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society, in partnership with Dales Countryside Museum and supported by Friends of DCM and by the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is launching a programme of workshops, demonstrations, walks, talks and exhibition, all of them linking directly into themes explored by Hartley and Ingilby. These range from scything to sheep-dipping, cheese-making to cobbling, along with limestone quarrying, Dales family history, local architecture, and much more.


The anniversary edition of Life and Tradition in the Yorkshire Dales is published by YAHS with a modernised layout and a foreword by Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess. When it first appeared, the book was described as Hartley and Ingilby’s masterpiece. A new introduction explores just how pioneering was their approach: they walked the landscape, collected artefacts (an assemblage which formed the basis of the DCM collection), interviewed elderly people and documented dialect, and produced detailed record of practices in craft and agriculture. Hartley photographed, painted and drew scenes, architecture and working techniques. It was recognised at the time that Hartley and Ingilby were capturing evidence of disappearing knowledge and skills, but just how urgent and timely their investigations had been, could be fully understood only later. 


The celebration will launch around Easter and run through to late autumn. For details of events and information on how to book, or to buy a copy of the book, please check on the YAHS website: www.yahs.org.uk .


See the front cover illustration of this issue of Local History News

26. Jane Austen and Southampton Spa Show more → Show less ↓

Cheryl Butler

ISBN 978 0 9557488 3 7

Events took place around the country in 2017 to mark the bicentenary of Jane Austen’s death.  This beautiful book is one result of a project in Southampton that created a range of events including street theatre, guided walks, study days, embroidery, dance and music workshops, a literary festival, and a new Jane Austen Trail. It was funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, and involved an army of volunteers.

Georgian Southampton was enjoying a short lived time of prosperity as one of the premier bathing resorts in England, between its earlier role as a port from Roman times until the seventeenth century, and its renewed success as a commercial port following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The book examines Jane’s time in Southampton (1806-9) using evidence from her letters, and then takes themes from her novels to interweave reflections on those topics from a Southampton perspective.  For example Emma with ‘Town, Country, Society and the Clergy’; Mansfield Park with Slavery, Wealth and the Theatre; and Pride & Prejudice with Balls, the Militia and scandal.  A very diverse range of sources is used, and the generous illustrations include portraits, maps, documents, views, buildings, china and other artefacts.  There is a Timeline and bibliography in the book, and an accompanying Jane Austen Heritage Walking Trail.

The book is on sale at the Jane Austen Museum Chawton, and Tudor House Museum and October Books in Southampton, RRP £8 , and  can be obtained direct from the author for £7.50 including p&p: 121 Bernard Street, Southampton SO14 3EA. Cheques to Cheryl  Butler, can do BACs as well but not credit cards. Email hello@cherylbutler.co.uk



27. Local history en vacances Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

In September, during a holiday in the Dordogne, we visited St Emilion, its narrow streets and steep cobbled alleyways crowded with people from all over the world, chattering in a babel of languages. The sprawling car parks at the top of the town had no spaces, so we drove out along a road through the vineyards between high stone walls, until we found a patch of gravel by the roadside. Dodging the traffic we walked back, and did what most visitors to St Emilion do - stare into the windows of wine shops, buy a couple of bottles at the lower end of the price scale, sip a glass of something while watching everybody else go past (we chose a small café by the steepest alleyway and observed the unfitness of international tourists, puffing and wheezing past the shops selling macaroons), and in our case feel loathsomely superior because we've been there many times before and so can pretend that we have some greater claim to the charms of what is, when all the tourists have been photo-shopped out, a very attractive place.

What of the local history of St Emilion? Once, maybe twenty years ago, I led a history study tour there. I sat on the low wall of the covered market explaining to my adult students of riper years about the complicated political and economic circumstances of the medieval town - how it swung from English to French control and back again, how its dramatic castle was a key stronghold on the front line in the latter stages of the Hundred Years War, how its economic activity waxed and waned over the centuries, and how its architecture and plan reflected the very distinctive geological and physical structure of the plateau above and the deep valley in which the town grew.

But I realised that my students were not paying full and proper attention to my erudite but accessible disposition. They were looking past me, but I carried on regardless and finished my impromptu talk. From behind me came the sound of clapping. A beautiful young woman approached me and said in perfect but heavily accented English that it had been the best description of the history of her town that she had ever heard. Naturally I was charmed, quite enchanted, but I could not quite place her accent, not least because there was something vaguely familiar about it. Where had she learned her English, I enquired. The answer was short, direct and immediately explained the familiarity: ‘Manchester’, she replied.

This September the tables were turned. I was one of the group, not the leader, as we were guided round some of the remarkable sites of the medieval town - the lovely chapel of the Holy Trinity, the evocative subterranean hermitage of St Emilion himself, and the astonishing underground church (l'eglise troglodytique as it used to be known) carved into the limestone over the centuries. The guide, Marjolaine, was excellent (which, alas, is so often not the case) and she told us a great deal about the town's history, including the fact that in the sixteenth century the population was probably about 5000 and it was the largest town in the region after Bordeaux, but that now fewer than 250 people live there.

Its crowded streets empty at night, as the workers in wine shops, cafés, restaurants, little art galleries, information booths and souvenir stalls commute back to dustier and more mundane places down on the plain of the Dordogne, where shopping is in hypermarkets and housing is blocks of flats. They don't live in St Emilion - the holiday apartments, wine shops, little art galleries, craft workshops, macaroon shops, therapy centres and restaurants have pushed them out, and the town has become a husk. Its medieval and early modern dynamism, built on wine and stone and walnuts, was focused on the teeming density of the resident population. Now, it's a beautiful but spiritually empty place.

28. Minutes (abridged) of the Annual General Meeting Show more → Show less ↓

held at Resource for London, , 356 Holloway Road, London N7 6PA

on Saturday 3 June 2017

Dr Tim Lomas, Chair of BALH, introduced Professor Caroline Barron, President of BALH, and welcomed members to the meeting.  The Chair, Vice-Chair and 60 members were present.

1. Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 4 June 2016 were agreed

2. Report from the Chair. Dr Lomas reported that the past year had seen both rigorous debate and much activity within the Association.  It had been a busy year.   Membership had held up remarkably well.   Behind the scenes major policies and other documents such as the Development Plan are now in place, and systems dealing with membership and finance had been professionalised under the relationship with Kingston Smith Association Management. Dr Lomas thanked the two Trustees who had reached the end of their terms of office and noted with sadness the deaths of two long serving supporters of BALH, Michael Farrar and Norman Alvey. The Trustees were keen to encourage membership of committees especially Education and Outreach (formerly Events/Conferences).   All areas of experience and expertise were welcome.

3. Annual Report and Accounts for 2016. In answer to a question from the floor, it was explained that all administration costs of the Association now appeared under the heading of ‘Governance and Support Costs’ having in previous years been split between there and ‘Charitable Activities’, so there was a rise from 2015 to 2016 in ‘Administrative fees’ and a fall in ‘Business and administrative support’.   The Annual Report and Accounts for 2016 were noted.

4. Membership Subscriptions. The proposal to increase the annual subscription for society members to £75 from 1 January 2018 was accepted.

5. Officers and Trustees of the Association. The President thanked all trustees and members of committees for their valuable contributions during the year. The following elections of officers and trustees were agreed: Dr Tim Lomas (Chair), Dr Margaret O’Sullivan (Treasurer), Dr Virginia Bainbridge, Prof Claire Cross, Mr Dick Hunter, Dr Jonathan Mackman, Dr Jo Mattingly, Ms Susan Moore, Dr Winifred Stokes, Dr Nigel Tringham and Ms Isobel Watson.  The President welcomed the three new trustees, Dr Bainbridge, Dr Mackman and Ms Moore.

29. Notes News Issues Show more → Show less ↓

BALH leaflet

In this mailing you will find a copy of the revised BALH general leaflet. You are receiving the mailing because you are already a member, so we would be delighted if you could give the leaflet to someone you know who might be interested in joining, or perhaps you could display it in your local library or museum, or check that your local history society is also a member? Anyone who could use more copies to encourage potential new members please do get in touch. BALH depends on members’ subscriptions for its income. Your help would be much appreciated.


Local History Day

Also in this mailing, and in the centre spread of the supplement, is all the information for booking to join us at Local History Day on 2 June in York. We will look forward to seeing as many of you as possible at this our major event of the year. Also in this issue are details of the two walks offered for the Friday afternoon before LHD (see page 29). York is a very attractive venue with much of interest for a weekend (or longer) visit.


Local History Day 2017

We were very pleased to read a report written about last year’s Local History Day by one of the recipients of a Research & Publication Award, and published in his local society newsletter.  I am quoting two sentences here, because they sum up so well exactly what we feel about what we do:

‘..it [BALH] sets a standard for the study of any matters which affected the daily lives of ordinary people in the past (including the quiet recent past) and for understanding them in as wide a context as possible’... ‘ the huge breadth of topics that an interest in local history throws up; the enthusiasm that local people bring to understand it; and the quality of the work they do to record and report it’. Thank you for sharing your reactions to the event

Ministerial Department covering heritage etc

Did anyone notice a change of name? DCMS has become the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It works with 43 agencies and public bodies, including the National Archives, Arts Council England, the British Library, Historic England, the Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum. You can find a list of them here https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations#department-for-digital-culture-media-sport.

The new Minister at the head of the department is Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk). Tracey Crouch MP, Lord Ashton of Hyde and Michael Ellis MP are Parliamentary Under Secretaries of State, and Margot James MP in Minister of State. At the time of writing it is not known who will have specific responsibility for heritage and related topics.

Bedtime ..


I’ve been reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls with my granddaughter (aged 6). There are now two volumes from the team who have taken an innovative approach to encourage girls to find out about the diverse ‘extraordinary women’ from the past and present who have influenced our world. They get a page each of text, with a striking portrait drawn by one of some 60 female artists. Politicians, scientists, writers, sportspeople, explorers, pioneers in as many fields as you can imagine, from ancient history to the present day. We have our favourites, Kate Sheppard New Zealand suffragette, 17th century naturalist Maria Merian, and especially Mary Anning.  Lyme Regis Museum has recently opened its new Mary Anning Wing that includes an accessible interactive geology gallery telling the story of Lyme’s fantastic fossils and the woman who had to fight convention to gain recognition for her discoveries.