Local History News Number 128 Summer 2018


1. Not just any spade Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

Patterson’s Spade Mill is one of the lesser-known properties of the National Trust, tucked away down a narrow lane at Templepatrick, on the north side of the A6, the main road from Belfast to Antrim. For a moment you think that it’s in the depths of untouched countryside, until you realise that the M2 motorway carrying the heavy traffic heading for Ballymena and Derry runs immediately to the north, mostly screened by trees but with the noise of cars and lorries inescapable. Yet this is an idyllic spot in other ways, with green fields, hawthorn hedges, a whitewashed house and a clear stream. If only the roadbuilders of the 1960s had been a little more sensitive to Ulster’s heritage—but in the 1960s this was not heritage, for in those days, and indeed for two more decades, it was a working industrial site.

Now it is protected and cherished as the last example of a rural craft industry once found in every Irish county. Patterson’s mill made tens of thousands of spades over almost a century—the family took over the mill in 1917—and carried on this complex craft until the late 1980s. It was previously a beetling mill (another specialist trade, whereby linen cloth was smoothed to give a semi-shiny surface finish) and before that a paper mill, and before that a cornmill ... all of them using water power from the little Ballymartin Water which flows through the site en route to Lough Neagh.

The mill still operates, so unlike some National Trust properties it does not have that slightly impersonal air of neatness and cleanliness. It is filled with arcane and esoteric pieces of equipment, piles of raw materials, old leather and webbing belts which transmitted the power from the waterwheel (replaced by a state-of-the-art turbine just over a century ago). It smells of oil and hot metal, wood and dust. There’s a gas-fired furnace in which the slabs of raw metal are heated almost to white heat before being flattened by a 200 year old water-powered trip hammer, and then shaped and annealed, shaped again and finished.

You can watch as the men who work there make a spade—see the skill of their craft, their pride in their work and love of the place. They make everything—from the blades of the spade to its handle and cross-pieces, and there are examples of their work at different stages in production scattered through the mill.

And while we might call a spade a spade, they don’t, because, astonishingly, there are over 170 different types of spade in Ireland alone, each with its own shape, size, name and purpose. This is not just any spade—it is a County Fermanagh turf spade (very long, very narrow at only 5 inches wide, and with a sharp angle in the blade), perfected over time for cutting peat from the bog and turning and stacking the turves. Or it might be a Hilltown spade or an Annalong spade, or a spade for making drains on the waterlogged moorland high in the Mountains of Mourne.

I took a group there in May, on my second visit. Some of the group were sceptical, expecting something dull or of interest only to nerdy anoraks (‘spade mill’ is not a term which instantly captures the imagination) but I knew I needn’t fear them being disappointed. On the contrary, they were riveted—an appropriate term—by the tour,  fascinated by the basic but highly effective and very economical technology, the generations of rural life which lies behind the craft, and the excitement of seeing the transformation of a rough block of metal into the finished product.

Can it carry on? One of the men is retiring, the other is advancing in years, and the ‘apprentice lad’ is in his early 50s. We must fervently hope that a younger man can soon be found to carry on this remarkable trade, and keep this wonderful place alive.

2. Impact: First World War Legacies Show more → Show less ↓

Hannah Rogers

York Army Museum (YAM) is currently working on a generously funded Heritage Lottery project, Impact: First World War Legacies. This explores the impact of the First World War on local soldiers. We have studied experiences of men returning from war, and researched memorials to those that fell. Local schools and history groups around York, Bradford, Leeds, Harrogate, Hull and Beverley helped uncover stories of individuals listed on these memorials.

The exercise has established dialogue between the museum and local communities. Groups have highlighted how much expertise exists in their communities, and that this needs to be acknowledged, utilised and promoted. The project has allowed us to share museum resources previously unknown to some groups. The result has been a greater understanding of the local area and sources to further develop knowledge of the First World War fallen and veterans.

Research was based on source material. Museum staff, students and volunteers provided a description of the memorial, its location and a list of names and other information found upon it. After compiling this list, stories were linked to the names using Soldiers Died in the Great War. Records from Soldiers Died are available on paid-for sites, such as Ancestry, and can be found in printed format at regimental museums, copyright libraries and some local libraries. Using this resource, we searched by soldier’s name and then used information on the records such as birthplace, enlistment location, regiment, battalion and service number. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Find War Dead page of our soldier was then checked to verify information in Soldiers Died in the Great War, locate the grave and family details. From these sources other information can be inferred; for example, a soldier’s final battle.

We can then trace  an individual’s military history using resources available through the National Archives and Ancestry. Most useful are the Medal Roll Index Cards and Entries, which should exist for all soldiers who served overseas during the First World War. Information provided by the Medal Index Cards is freely available on the National Archives website, but to see copies of the originals there is a charge, or may be accessed via Ancestry membership. These records provide details of an individual’s active service and often give dates of overseas postings. Other military records may be found through Ancestry and National Archives, including individual service records though many were destroyed during the London Blitz.

Once online research avenues have been explored, we have unlocked further details through regimental records held at YAM. Regimental museums are a treasure trove of information about the First World War and hold records and resources that enhance understanding of individual and collective experience. One of the most valuable collections at YAM are battalion war diaries. Battalions during the war were required to keep a diary written by the adjutant at the end of each day on active service. One in our possession, belonging to the 16th (Bradford Pals) Battalion, West Yorkshire Regiment, offers incredible insight into the first day of the Battle of the Somme. No officer served the full day in action with the Bradford Pals on 1st July 1916, owing to injury. Between 1st and 4th July, ten members of the battalion, from Private to Lieutenant Colonel, provided their views of what happened, offering  contemporary witness to one of the most infamous days of the war. 2nd Lt C F Laxton wrote:

‘My duty as INTELLIGENCE OFFICER is not yet finished; I must try to let you know what went on up to the time of my being hit.  At 5 minutes to Zero, Major Guyon, Ransome and myself left our headquarters for the front line, followed closely by our retinue.  We had only been by SAP A about two minutes when Major Guyon was struck through the helmet, by a bullet.  Ransome and I were alongside at the time, and bandaged him up, though unconscious, and apparently dying, the wound being in the temple.’ 

YAM also holds large collections of personal documents. For example, those relating to Joseph William Wilks who features on the St Clement's Church war memorial, York. From these records we discovered Wilks’ school and employment history, as well as the names of his daughters. We also found a medical certificate stating he was only fit for sedentary home service. Despite this, Joseph William Wilks was killed in action in May 1917.

We have also found information working with local communities. Many accounts are passed down in communities. These can be difficult to uncover from official records. It has been useful discussing research and presentation with groups and individuals. There are many approaches, each with its merits and sharing these encourages best practice.

This project has helped York Army Museum discover repositories of local knowledge with varied stories of local men who fought 1914-1918. St Bede’s Grammar School War memorial, Bradford has former students recorded who fell in places as diverse as France, Turkey, UK, South Africa and Iraq.

Being able to engage with First World War soldiers on a personal level has brought their stories to life. We are delighted to share this work in our exhibition Impact: First World War Legacies, hosted at York Army Museum until 18th November 2018. The war memorial research project continues until the end of the exhibition. If interested in finding out more please contact Hannah Rogers, Collections Manager:

e: Pwoasstcurator@btconnect.com  tel: 01904 461031.

Further Reading:

Fowler, Simon, Tracing Your Army Ancestors: A  Guide for Family Historians (Pen and Sword Books, 2013).

Grayson, Richard S. 

'Service and Sources: Compiling Local Narratives of WW1 Military History'  Local History News 110, winter 2013/14 




Tiller, Kate, Remembrance and Community: War Memorials and Local History (British Association for Local History, 2013).



3. First World War centennial activity: taking stock Show more → Show less ↓

Dick Hunter

BALH has used the centennial to promote research, and to engage new audiences, aided by other organisations, notably university engagement centres (see LHN 113-118  at http://www.balh.org.uk/publications/local-history-news). Heritage Lottery funding has supported many projects.

This note summarises BALH activity to date, and points to the future. Planning began in 2011, and the following year the first of  a seres of 26 themed articles appeared in Local History News. These examine key topics and questions, and consider sources and methods. Each is written by an expert in the field, and aimed at both general reader and those interested in research. Subjects range widely: from community responses to the outbreak of war, to schools, to military service records, to war resisters, to soldiers' letters and farming in wartime. New articles are being added to the series, while The Local Historian continues to publish longer articles, and book reviews.

In 2013 BALH published Remembrance and Community: War Memorials and Local History: a guide to researching local memorials and their significance, by Kate Tiller. This introduced a range of approaches to researching the subject, with detailed case studies. We organised a conference in 2014 – Strangers, Differences and Localities – with the University of London Institute of Commonwealth Studies to explore the relationship of locality to national and international events in  the FWW. Speakers included Dr Catriona Pennell (Exeter), Professor David Killingray (London) and Dr Mandy Banton (London). Abstracts can be read online at http://www.balh.org.uk/education/local-history-and-the-first-world-war/reports-and-news

BALH was a partner in The Great War at Home conference at the Insitute of Historical Research (IHR), also in 2014. Local historians contributed papers; and Kate Tiller discussed the importance of the local history dimension when exploring the FWW in the IHR magazine Past & Future, Spring/Summer 2014:


BALH website has been used to publicise articles and conference papers, along with useful links, and a rolling list of publications of FWW local studies:


Members have shared research on local activity, some via LHN eg Elinor Kelly on war resistors in Herefordshire. Others via website; eg Clements Hall, York:


Voices of the Home Fronts: Reflections and Legacies of the First World War is the theme of a conference at The National Archives on 19 & 20 October. Topics may include demobilisation and homecomings; veteran politics, charities and clubs; and the impact of the war on families.

The Local Historian and Local History News aim to publish reflective articles next year on the First World War centennial and its legacies. Contributions from readers continue to be welcome!

Dick Hunter is BALH FWW centennial activity co-ordinator

4. Commemoration, Conflict and Conscience Show more → Show less ↓

COMMEMORATION, CONFLICT and CONSCIENCE is a year-long project, which culminates in a national festival in Bristol, 27-28 April 2019. The project looks at ‘hidden’ or lesser known stories of the First World War, legacy, peace-building & alienation from commemoration. We are: uniting existing community groups and researchers, focusing on their work to date & generating new research; showcasing existing artistic work and performances and fostering new creative projects.

The festival will bring together community groups, local historians, academics, campaigners and activists, artists and performers in a free, open access weekend event timed to coincide with the centenary of the release of many absolutist conscientious objectors from prison in April 1919. The MShed in Bristol (part of Bristol Museums) will be the festival hub, with talks, film showings, exhibitions and performances – but linked events will take place in other parts of the city, both over the course of the weekend and both leading up to and following it.

There will also be regional workshops taking place across the UK for people to meet, share ideas and projects, and generate new projects for future research.

In June, artists, writers and film makers met with community researchers and academics from the University of Leeds to talk about projects they had already worked on and ideas for the future. The themes the projects looked at were vast; from POWs to internment camps, Conscientious Objectors to socialist revolutionaries. Further workshops will be held in the Autumn in Cardiff and Belfast. The team are now accepting applications for funding. Please see this website:  https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/seed-corn-funding-applications/ or contact Corinne Painter C.J.Painter@leeds.ac.uk for more information.

5. Local History Day 2018 Show more → Show less ↓

BALH received a warm welcome in York for Local History Day this year, where we met for the ‘not-London’ venue in our three-year cycle. Over 100 members and friends joined us at the Friends’ Meeting House in Friargate, coming from all directions, with a particularly strong representation from the region itself.

The first speaker was Alison Kay, archivist at the National Railway Museum in York. Alison introduced the rich resources for local history in their collection, and illustrated how material as diverse as maps, plans, correspondence, diaries, accident records, oral history recordings and family collections found their way to the archive.  The library, archive and research centre at the NRM is called ‘Search Engine’! https://www.railwaymuseum.org.uk/research-and-archive

After the AGM (see p 20, and 36 for new Board of Trustees); lunch with an opportunity to talk to the people and groups who had brought displays for us to see; and the presentation of Awards certificates (see p 21), Professor John Beckett gave the 2018 annual lecture. ‘The English Parish Church: Past, Present and Future’ covered exactly that. Professor Beckett guided us around the country with a tour of extraordinarily varied parish churches from the earliest survivals to very modern structures. He explained how the Nottinghamshire Church History Project recorded information about the county’s churches in digital format and thus provided a template that could be used elsewhere. The lecture can be read in full in The Local Historian in October 2018.

6. Yorkshire Industrial Heritage Online Show more → Show less ↓

Robert Vickers

Yorkshire Industrial Heritage Online (YIHO) is an online searchable database of present and past – Bronze Age / Iron Age onwards – industrial sites located within the boundaries of the former North, West and East Ridings of Yorkshire. It has been created by a team of members of the Industrial History Section (IHS) of the Yorkshire Archaeological and Historical Society (YAHS) in partnership with the Cleveland Industrial Archaeology Society, the Halifax Antiquarian Society, Iron Age Nidderdale, the Northallerton & District Local History Society, Ripon Community Archaeology Project, amongst others.

The aims of YIHO are to provide a location for preserving unique information and research by individuals, perhaps as unpublished research notes, photographs and audio and video recordings, which otherwise would very likely be lost and certainly never available digitally. It also aims to promote the dissemination of information about Yorkshire’s industrial heritage to both the researcher and the general public. 

The web-based software, created by my colleague Dr John Suter, with practical input from the project team, operates on PCs, laptops and tablets. It will be developed for use on smartphones. The software will be upgraded as new useful features are identified. Already, a number of upgrades have been scheduled for implementation during the next 12 months.

Currently there are around 3,677 records and 1,973 images. Data entry continues at a rate of about 1,000 records and 500 images a year. Currently there are about 16 active contributors and we are keen to encourage others to participate.

YIHO went live in February 2018. Members of the public can view maps, significant details of site records, and images, and forward comments and additional information to YIHO moderators for consideration. As a result, valuable data will be added to records. Members of the collaboration team have full password-controlled access to add site records, images and other digital media. YIHO is accessible via the YAHS website:

https://www.yas.org.uk, web search engines, and the link:


Click on the photograph and green highlighted text for more information. YIHO is fully searchable from a number of approaches e.g. industrial type, location, etc. by entering terms  in the search box. We hope you like what you see. 

The creation of this online resource available both to the general public and the researcher will bring a greater understanding and awareness of industrial sites. The use of digital mapping vividly illustrates the distribution of particular industries across Yorkshire, often in areas where there is no obvious evidence of past industry as sites are demolished and redeveloped for housing, retail parks and the like.

Members’ photographs taken say 40 years ago may illustrate sites that have subsequently been demolished, or refurbished. The addition of modern images will illustrate the changes. Other collections held by members currently being investigated include records of mills in Pudsey compiled over many years, a significant collection of historic images of the Calderdale area, historic industrial remains, including from the Iron Age, being researched in Nidderdale.

The concept of a “virtual museum” has recently emerged to allow museums to show images of machines, buildings that cannot be physically displayed in the museum but important to illustrate wider history of an area and a museum’s artefacts. Calderdale Industrial Museum are considering using YIHO to display to the public images of industrial sites in Calderdale.

The software which has been developed for YIHO has the potential to be adapted for other areas of the UK and the team, having already been approached, hope it will inspire other groups to use this proven digital technology to increase the public awareness and significance of the UK’s rich industrial heritage.

If your local history society is interested, or you would like to know more about YIHO please contact Robert Vickers at: industrialhistorychair@yas.org.uk

7. Gloucestershire Archives becomes the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub! Show more → Show less ↓

Ally McConnell

The long-held dream to develop detailed plans with community partners to transform the building and service from Gloucestershire Archives into the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub began on 10th September 2014. This was the red letter day for Gloucestershire Archives, when staff heard that their stage 1 bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund had been successful.   

This would involve an extension to and redesign of the existing archive building including three new strongrooms, a new training room adjacent to the building, and various community aspects: the appointment of a Community Heritage Development Officer and Community Cataloguing Archivist, the recruitment of 200 new volunteers, the transformation of the outside space into a community garden, and the welcoming of project partners such as Gloucestershire Constabulary and the Gloucestershire Family History Society into devoted rooms in the new space.

The building we are currently in has been occupied by Gloucestershire Archives (previously Gloucestershire Record Office) since 1978. It was once a primary school, opened as Kingsholm Council School in 1926, and the appeal of it is that this is what it still looks like.

The staff offices are old classrooms, and the exterior is a pleasant red brick building. Some of the strongrooms are converted from the school building but most of them are inside an old garage, called Moons, which was joined to the main building by a long link corridor when the garage was converted in 1995. The layout of the rooms forming the main searchroom area, the space in the strongrooms and the changing attitudes towards use and appeal of archives for communities and outreach meant that it needed updating. So began the transformation.

A lot of effort was put in to submitting a series of funding bids and working alongside potential stakeholders. The archive service was not closed during the building work so the staff and researchers decamped to some (now demolished) 1940s HORSA huts, our old Frith Centre, affectionately called “Searchroom Lite”, which had previously been home to the Gloucestershire Family History Society and a training room.

We slightly reduced our opening hours, changed our production method from an hourly production run to pre-orders only, and also had to reduce the car parking spaces almost completely. However, it was important that the service stayed open, so despite having to trundle trolleys of documents along a rattly ramp and across to the temporary searchroom, and needing to restrict the number of researchers in the building at a time (10 was really the limit), the searchroom team managed to keep our service going.

This was the state of the service from January 2017, when Phase 1 began, to the end of March 2018, when we were finally able to move back into the new public space, demolish the huts and prepare for the new training room to be built.

One of the three strongrooms inside the main school building was emptied as part of the building work and has now become two project rooms, one with a projector and screen that can be used for meetings, volunteer work and workshops and hired out to other groups. These two rooms are separated by bi-fold doors which can allow them to both be used as one large room at the same time.

Phase 1 also involved demolishing some huts the other side of the building to create space for the three new strongrooms and a new car parking area. During this we discovered some heritage pillars, which are going to be a feature in our new community garden, and a rather disgruntled hedgehog who was quickly whisked away to a colleague’s garden and, from there, a local hedgehog rescue centre.

During the building work we have also discovered lots of items from before the school was built, including these jars and pots found when demolishing the Frith Centre (the start of Phase 2).

The three new strongrooms are in the process of being built and they should be ready next summer – they need a whole year to dry out before any documents can be put in there.

The move back into the new building was completed in time for our intended reopening on 28th March, and while there were still some things to be finished, we were relieved to finally be in the new building and able to show it off to our patient customers as well as the local community. We really are thrilled with how the new space is working for us. Despite sometimes hearing the sounds of diggers or running into electricians in the corridors, the archive service and the Family History Society are all very happy with their new home.

The Gloucestershire Family History Society occupy a large airy room with a bespoke reception desk where they can help researchers with their family history; this is accessible through the main foyer of the Heritage Hub. The Constabulary volunteers will also have their own office space, which is not yet complete. There will be a community heritage advice hub where some staff will be based, as well, and once the strongrooms are ready to put documents in there will be a link between those strongrooms and the main research room.

So what does the next year hold?

The new paint smell is starting to fade, but we are very excited to see the progress of Phase 2, which involves the demolition of the huts that were so helpful as a temporary searchroom and the building of the new training room. The new room and the old building will be linked by a brand new entrance which will allow the two buildings to be separate, keeping the archive building secure if the training room is hired out. This should be completed at the end of August, just in time for the high profile annual Gloucester History Festival, and the Heritage Hub will be an important venue for the festival. There will be an open day on Sunday 2nd September when we will welcome the general public to the new Heritage Hub. 

Plans for the interior of the building are still developing, with a landscape photography competition currently underway to find three photographs of Gloucestershire that we can showcase on three of the walls in the Heritage Hub. We have also commissioned five artists, funded by Arts Council England, to produce original artwork for the new public spaces. One is Natasha Houseago, a Cheltenham based sculptor, who will be carving a large oak tree into a sculpture starting in the autumn. Visitors will be able to watch her carve and talk to her about her progress and her way of working.

We have also been working with Julia O’Connell, a textile artist, Lynda Knott and Angela Williams, mosaic artists, and Imogen Harvey-Lewis, an illustrator, who will be producing new pieces of work inspired by Gloucestershire, its people, heritage and geography.

Outside, we are working on plans for a community garden which we intend to crowdfund for in the autumn, working with students from the Cotswold Gardening School to design it, and media students from Gloucestershire College to produce a promotional video. We hope to have volunteers involved in the gardening and house two beehives which will help to promote Gloucester as a bee friendly city and also help with local initiatives to make the area have more green and wildlife-friendly spaces.

If you’re interested in seeing what we’ve achieved, please do try and come along to our Open Day on 2nd September between 10am and 4pm. Whether you’ve seen the building before or not, the transformation really has been spectacular and I for one am so pleased that at the end of the day, it still looks like a school but inside provides a modern, multi-functional, diverse space that has brought many different groups together and will hopefully continue to establish itself as a welcoming, community-focused Hub, a heritage building that is central to the local area.

8. Strawberry Fields Forever Show more → Show less ↓

Mary South

Back in the dim and distant days of 2003, I was asked to research and develop a long distance footpath, based on the strawberry-growing industry in Hampshire. Remembering the many stalls selling strawberries, alongside the roads between Southampton and Portsmouth, during the 1950s and 60s I accepted the challenge.

Before a route could be explored, there needed to be some research carried out on the main location(s); were there any identifiable sites still visible? Strawberry growing can scarcely be described as ‘heavy industry’ - ‘ephemeral’ might be a better adjective. There were, however, vestiges of its hay-day in the number of Pick-Your-Own farms scattered throughout the area; adaptations at some local railway station yards and even the occasional commemorative plaque. Local newspapers provided photographs of the ‘strawberry special’ trains, or the strawberry pickers during the season, together with statistics. These were staggering. I was not looking at hundreds of baskets of fruit being produced, nor even thousands, but millions - in 1923 there were 3,605,321, while two years later more than one million baskets passed through Swanwick railway station alone.

The present day strawberry plant originates from our wild woodland variety (Fragaria vesea) listed as the only type in cultivation in 1557. From the eighteenth century successive plant breeders, produced the forgiving and adaptable plant, we have today, capable of growing in a variety of conditions. Evidence of its ubiquity extended from Shirley, in Southampton, along the A27 corridor to Tichfield and Fareham, but mainly concentrated along the River Hamble and its railway line between Botley and Bishop’s Waltham. As I later discovered, this became known as the ‘Strawberry Line’.

Armed with the information I had gleaned and an idea of the potentially most varied and interesting route, the next step (literally) was on the ground research. The aim was to use the existing network of footpaths in the county, but the question was - did they still exist or had they become inaccessible for any reason? At the same time landowners needed to be contacted to inform them that section(s) of footpath across their land would be publicised as part of the route. Only one farmer had any qualms, possibly because the stiles on his land were in need of repair - the next time I walked that section, the stiles were safe.

So now I had a route, with some suitable landmarks linked to points of interest, and a story to tell; I could recognise an ex-strawberry field with some confidence, and I had gained a great respect for the unknown thousands of pickers who had worked in those fields.

There were just two more jobs to be done; first provide a map of the route and the ‘copy’(text) to go with it. This would provide the necessary information for a leaflet that the public could use to guide themselves around the 14 mile route. Shorter alternatives and links were incorporated as well. The final stage was to go out with a companion, footpath way markers, hammer and nails, to mark the route of the strawberry fields forever.

9. Reading Abbey Revealed Show more → Show less ↓

Peter Durrant

Until recently, Reading Abbey suffered from a very poor recognition factor.  Had you stopped someone in that cathedral of retail, the Reading Oracle, and asked them about the Abbey, you would have been met with blank stares, despite the fact the ruins stood only a few hundred yards away. Outside Reading, only a few scholars and abbey enthusiasts had heard of it. Yet Reading Abbey was a royal foundation, had been visited by almost every monarch from Henry I to Henry VIII, and was one of the richest abbeys in the kingdom. Indeed, it has been described as ‘one of the most important religious institutions in northern Europe’. The abbey church rivalled the great cathedrals of the land in size, and even today the monastic ruins, though fragmentary, are impressive.

Happily, however, Reading Abbey is emerging from obscurity.  The ruins, closed for several years because of the danger of falling flints, have now been reopened following major conservation work funded jointly by Reading Borough Council, which owns the site, and the Heritage Lottery Fund. The conservation work has been accompanied by a programme of interpretation and outreach, which has included ‘Abbey on Wheels’ visits to local schools. New interpretation boards have been installed not just on the site itself but at strategic locations around the town, and a much-improved exhibition has been opened in Reading Museum, which includes several of the stunning carved capitals from the cloister. (The discovery of the capitals in Borough Marsh, near the confluence of the Rivers Thames and Loddon, is a story in itself). New signage from Reading town centre, station and The Oracle, to the Abbey, is being provided.

The Friends of Reading Abbey, which campaigns to promote awareness and understanding of the Abbey, has tripled its membership in the past five years, and now has a programme of regular lectures, a revamped website and an excellent Newsletter. The Borough Council has committed resources and energy to enoupraging interest in the Abbey, and is actively promoting the area of the former Abbey precinct (now home to several prestigious office developments, as well as the ruins themselves, and the famous Reading Gaol) as the ‘Abbey Quarter’, recognising the potential of heritage to attract investment. Even Reading Buses now carry notices about the Abbey Ruins and their reopening.

All this has been accompanied by conferences and publications. In 2016 the Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies at Reading University organised a seminar looking at the Abbey within a broad European context, and later this year the UK Cluniac Forum (a member of the Fédération Européenne des Sites Clunisiens) holds its annual conference in Reading. Ron Baxter’s splendid book The Royal Abbey of Reading was published by Boydell in 2016.  And two new books appear this year.  In June Berkshire Record Society published Reading Abbey Records: a new miscellany, edited by Professor Brian Kemp, and in September, local publishers Two Rivers Press will issue Reading Abbey and the Abbey Quarter, by Peter Durrant and John Painter. 

Reading Abbey Records: a new miscellany (available from Berkshire Record Society, c/o Berkshire Record Office, 9 Coley Avenue, Reading RG1 6AF, price £12.50 plus £2.50 UK p&p) contains the text (Latin original and parallel English translation) of four previously unpublished Reading Abbey manuscripts, including the third set of annals chronicling events in the Abbey’s history between 1199 and 1281, and a fascinating and colourful account of miracles attributed to the Abbey’s principal relic, the hand of St James.

Reading Abbey and the Abbey Quarter (available from the publishers at http://tworiverspress.com/wp/reading-abbey/, price £9.99 plus £2.50 UK p&p) is an illustrated history and guide to the Abbey from its foundation to the present day, describing both the standing remains and the lost buildings, and showing how, after the dissolution, the site became first a royal palace, then a battleground during the civil war, then a picturesque ruin, next a desirable residential area, then a civic space (home to the Forbury Gardens, the Town Hall and the former Shire Hall, and of course the Gaol), and finally a centre for commercial office buildings and open public space. The ruins now form an essential part of this mixed landscape, a key part of Reading’s past and present – and, we hope, its future.

10. A Rough Guide to Impact and Historical Research Show more → Show less ↓

Jessica Lutkin

In recent years new terminology has found its way into many historical research projects, be they projects led by Universities funded by Research Councils UK, or community-based projects funded by Heritage Lottery Funding or other publicly available finances. All require accountability from the project leads. The term ‘impact’ has become a cover-all term for many things that we as historians have always participated in, but it has inadvertently made familiar activities seem unfamiliar, distant and at times a little contrived. This should not be the case, and the ‘impact agenda’ is a largely positive thing that has brought about some exciting new research, research-related activities and many benefits to communities.

Questions have been raised about the part that local history societies, family history societies and learned societies can play in impact, especially when involved with university-based research projects. When thinking about ‘pathways to impact’ (statements of activities that will be undertaken with and for the benefit of individuals and groups beyond academia), many projects’ principal investigators rely on societies to help provide a pathway, but this can often be challenging to both parties. Neither is at fault; it is rather a matter of neither party fully appreciating the motives of the other, and how either party will benefit from an impact partnership in the short, medium or long term. From my point of view of as a former Research Assistant and Impact Officer on one such project, there is a genuine desire to work with societies in order to enrich the research project and the knowledge and experience of the collaborating society. But it does not always work out this way, and conversations need to take place concerning how we can take things forward in a positive manner that will benefit all historical researchers in their desire to achieve good quality research and impact.

So what does impact mean to whom, and how, as societies, organisations and committees, do we approach it? Impact is a blanket term that covers other terms that are familiar to many researchers:

  • Public engagement
  • Knowledge transfer
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Outreach
  • Dissemination

This is not a definitive list, but it does show how great a broad range the umbrella term of impact can have. However, as an umbrella term it does have a specific meaning. True impact is the change that is brought about by research and its associated activities. It is not merely about imparting information from one group to another, but what both groups do because of the information.

Impact means different things to different organisations, which can often be challenging at the inception of a new historical research project that aims to have impact. For the Research Councils that fund historical research (typically the Arts and Humanities Research Council or the Economic and Social Research Council) by universities and independent research organisations[1] it means ‘the demonstrable effect that excellent research makes to society and the economy’. In more detail, Research England defines impact as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life beyond academia’. Research England is responsible for the Research Excellence Framework (REF) which has greatly increased the importance of research impact by university researchers; in 2014 historical studies saw a total of 867 impact case studies submitted for peer review (http://impact.ref.ac.uk/CaseStudies/Results.aspx?Type=S&Tag=948).

The demands of funders and governing bodies have meant that researchers are investing a lot of time and energy into achieving good quality impact. This has led to many researchers seeking partnerships with organisations they believe are aligned to their work and with whom they can achieve impact. The BALH has been one such impact partner with research projects, such as England’s Immigrants 1330-1550 (www.englandsimmigrants.com), and it is fair to say that working out how these kinds of partnerships can benefit both parties is still a work in progress. Taking a wider view of successful impact partnerships across the arts and humanities sector, it appears that the most successful partnerships are those where there is unfamiliarity, rather than close alignment. In some cases, it can appear that researchers are trying to reinvent the wheel. Local history societies and learned societies are perfectly capable of carrying out their own research, and often the introduction of an external researcher or researchers seems unnecessary.

However, some fantastic projects that have had a huge impact include Heritage Llangwm (http://www.heritagellangwm.org.uk/index.html), Agincourt 600 (http://www.agincourt600.com/) and the Tudor Revels (http://www.tudorrevels.co.uk/). All have impressive extensive historical research at their core, and all have gone to great lengths to engage with as many people as possible. Their impact has been on the local communities, changing lives and aspirations of individuals and groups, or further afield by making difficult and often misrepresented pasts better understood by the public at large. One of the key points for their successful impact is that five core elements of impact have been considered to benefit everyone.

Achieving impact is a circular process: needs are identified, research is carried out (which can sometimes identify further needs), research is adopted, benefits are felt, research and benefits are shared, which can lead to the identification of further needs and research routes. Impact is the adoption of research and the benefits of the research, but this cannot be achieved successfully without the other elements.

Researchers are always seeking new partnerships with aligned organisations in order to achieve impact. They are seeking mutual benefit. Often the most challenging aspect of research impact is clearly identifying the needs of a group, society, organisation or community. There is a great opportunity for the BALH and its members to consider what can be achieved in collaboration with researchers in order to achieve impact. Projects do not need to be led by university researchers or IRO researchers; if needs are identified by a group they can lead on the project with the support of external researchers who may in turn be able to bring some funding to a project. Impact is providing a clear avenue for research and skills to be shared; local historians have in-depth knowledge that is incredibly valuable for other researchers, who in turn can share contextual knowledge. In collaboration, researchers of all types can share their researcher with others to bring about a huge benefit to all concerned.

[1] Independent research organisations (IROs) are institutions that do research and are eligible for research funding that used to be the reserve of universities. For more information and a list of IROs see https://ahrc.ukri.org/funding/research/iro/


Jessica Lutkin is Research Impact Officer for Heritage and Creativity, University of Reading



11. David Hey Memorial Meeting Show more → Show less ↓

Margaret O’Sullivan

An excellent conference to celebrate the life and work of David Hey (1938-2016) took place in his native Yorkshire three weeks before what would have been his eightieth birthday. Ten presentations from academic and local historians demonstrated not only the breadth and depth of David’s interests but, more importantly, the high regard and great affection he inspired over decades in students, colleagues, researchers and friends. Organised by the British Agricultural History Society (BAHS) with speakers including members of the British Record Society (BRS) and the Yorkshire Archaeological and History Society (YAS) and in the splendid setting of the Victorian Channing Hall, part of Upper (Unitarian) Chapel in the centre of Sheffield, this  well organised and informative day was enjoyed by over a hundred delegates. The morning began with a personal tribute from Professor John Beckett of the University of Nottingham in which he summarised David Hey’s early career in the University of Leicester under the aegis of WG Hoskins before he moved to the University of Sheffield  for the remainder of his academic life, culminating in appointment to a chair in history in 1992. The formative influences of an upbringing in Penistone in the vicinity of the South Yorkshire Pennines and of the Peak District on David’s activities and writings was a consistent thread in the next three sessions. George Redmonds explored their joint investigations into personal names and settlement in these areas; Professor Ian Rotherham , an ecologist at Sheffield Hallam University, recalled David’s early encouragement for his ongoing research into ‘Lost Domesday landscapes in the British uplands’; and Professor Melvyn Jones gave a wide-ranging presentation on ‘Deer parks in and around south Yorkshire: the documentary and landscape evidence’, noting that the boundary of one former deer park was only about twenty yards from the site of the meeting.

In the afternoon, Dr Gill Cookson, President of the YAS, spoke on the Hallamshire metal trades and early machine making, focusing on the intricate family connections amongst such enterprises in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. David Hey’s pioneering early study of Richard Gough’s history of Myddle in Shropshire was revisited by Professor Henry French of the University of Exeter, while Professor John Chartres from Leeds examined David’s remarkable contribution as a transport historian and his thorough and detailed research into ancient trackways, packhorse roads and guide stoops. The transport theme continued in an energetic presentation by Professor Peter Edwards on the use of a Chesterfield carrier by William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire (1552-1626), to move people, goods, foodstuffs and money between Hardwick and London in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. David Hey used Hearth Tax returns extensively in his research and  it was especially apposite to hear Dr Andrew Wareham, of the Hearth Tax Project at the University of Roehampton, discuss their significance for the wealth of Yorkshire. In the later seventeenth century the West Riding seemed  considerably more prosperous than the other two Yorkshire Ridings. Of the two North Riding villages of Ampleforth and Oswaldkirk, the latter was far more wealthy than the former, perhaps because of  the presence of a resident gentry family in Oswaldkirk. Since the coming of the Benedictines to Ampleforth at the time of the French Revolution and the foundation of the abbey and school, Professor Claire Cross noted that the opposite has been the case. This very full day continued with a presentation by Professor Richard Hoyle  on the relationship between the earls of Shrewsbury and the  unincorporated  status of Sheffield in the early modern period , asking why Leeds should have succeeded in obtaining its charter of incorporation in 1626 when Sheffield had to wait until 1832. He suggested that this may partly have been because the Talbot family, Earls of Shrewsbury, were ready to promote the Sheffield cutlers, who received their charter in 1624, and did not threaten their standing, but were unwilling to forgo their control over the town.

 A very pleasing aspect of this commemoration was the presence of David’s family:  his widow Pat, his son Jonny and his daughter Emma. The afternoon ended with a touching contribution from Emma, speaking on behalf of her mother and brother. All there had heard all the papers and had very evidently appreciated the day.

Everyone who attended this conference must have come away with a very strong sense of David Hey’s legacy. BALH members may recall his 1997 Phillimore lecture on ‘The Local History of Family Names’ and, more recently, his Presidency of the Association (from 2008 until his death), characterised notably by his efficient management of AGM business and his enthusiastic greeting of award winners at Local History Day as though each were a life-long friend. Not all aspects of his life and work could be covered in this commemoration.  Time did not allow, for example, mention of his effective advocacy for archive services, for the Victoria County History in Derbyshire and, most of all, for local history societies. David Hey travelled regularly and willingly throughout the north Midlands, the Peak District and Yorkshire to lecture often to very small groups, always without charging a fee or expenses. This practical support and encouragement are perhaps lesser-known features of the career of David Hey – a unique historian and an outstandingly generous and inspirational man.


(with thanks to Claire Cross)

12. New BALH Chair Show more → Show less ↓

David Killingray

Election to chair the BALH Trustees is an honour which brings challenges and offers a seat for promoting ideas.  A dysfunctional secondary education eventually enabled me to study at the LSE (where I gained a wife and a degree in economics) and helped launch me into a career as a school teacher (in Britain and Tanzania), teacher trainer, and eventually, via a PhD at SOAS in African history, to be a university teacher.  At primary school I was introduced to local history, and for the last ten years of my time at Goldsmiths London I taught with others an MA course on the south-east of England.  In active retirement I continue to research and write on Africa, the Caribbean, the black diaspora, and local history.  These seemingly disparate areas of academic interests helpfully inform each other.  I was born in Kent and have lived in the County for the past 45 years.  I walk the landscape and speak the language and in the past few years I have written several books and articles on the County’s history.  This has included studies on church and Christian mission history which I try to write shaped by my Christian convictions and deep concern for the veracity and integrity of the historian.

13. BALH Awards 2018 Show more → Show less ↓


Carol Wilson, North Yorkshire: a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local historian who has encouraged others to become involved in understanding and researching the landscape that shapes their lives, recently through the Hidden Valleys Community Project

John Higginson, Lancashire: a founder member of Fylde Country Life Preservation Society, and of its museum which has become an important community resource both for individuals and other organisations who use the collections


Cleveland and Teeside Local History Society



The David Hey Memorial Article Award 2018

Andrew Emeny, ‘When Bill Sykes junior came to visit: the rise of juvenile crime in Southend during the Great War’, Essex Journal vol.52 no.1 (Spring 2017) 15-24 [winner, long articles]


Julie Chamberlain, ‘Women’s contributions to public life in early modern Coventry’, Warwickshire History vol.16 no.5 (Summer 2016) 193-209
Kevin Davey, ‘The Hadstock arrests of 1661: Quaker radicals encircle Saffron Walden during the Protectorate’, Saffron Walden Historical Journal no.33 (Spring 2017) 10-17
Megan Webber, ‘”Next of Kin to a prison”: prison reform and the Refuge for the Destitute’, Hackney History vol.19 (2016) 1-10


Jacqueline Cooper, ‘Murder at Clavering 1862: new documents’, Saffron Walden Historical Journal no.32 (Autumn 2016) 27-30 [winner, short articles]
Patrick Heggarty-Morrish, ‘Music in Alexandra Palace Internment Camp’, Hornsey Historical Society Bulletin no.58 (2017) 6-9
Martyn Richardson, ‘”Oh, just think of Huddersfield, that’s Christmas enough”: the Sex Pistols at Ivanhoe’s, 25 December 1977’, Huddersfield Local History Society Journal no.28 (2017/2018) 61-66
Brigitte Mitchell, ‘Windsor and the Contagious Diseases Act’, Berkshire Old and New no.33 (2016) 9-13

14. News from Societies Show more → Show less ↓

As I write this in the midst of an uncomfortable heatwave, it is a curious reflection on the nature of the weather in our part of the world that numerous society newsletters mention the winter snow. In some cases they postponed meetings and are now announcing the rescheduled dates, while others are commending their members for having met the challenge of adverse conditions and arrived on time at the hall. Thank goodness for our seasons; in general no extreme lasts too long, a change will come soon.

Events come thick and fast as soon as the summer break is over. In Lincolnshire ‘Archaeology Live!’ organised by the Archaeology Team from Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology takes place on 6 October at Lincoln Christ’s Hospital School. Their Industrial Archaeology team have organised a day conference on ‘Maritime Boston’, in Boston Guildhall on 17 November.  The society will be celebrating its 175th anniversary next year, we look forward to sharing more details in due course. www.slha.org.uk

The Scottish local History Forum Conference and AGM will take place on 25 October in the A K Bell Lbray, Perth. The theme is ‘After the War is Over – the legacy of WW1’. http://www.slhf.org./events/slhf-2018-annual-confernece-and-agm. Other valuable elements on their website include the Scottish Local History Directory  http://www.slhf.org./scottis-local-histpry-directoryand a map of Scotland for viewing the spread of local history sources across the country. http://www.slhf.org./slh-directory-map

London Colney Local History Society will be holding their society Exhibition  during the weekend of 6/7 October, on the theme of local trades and industries.  www.londoncolneyhistory.co.uk

Friends of Warwickshire County Record Office Local History Forum is on 29 September, at the Record Office. There will be talks about Warwick Castle in the archives, and the ‘Warwickshire at War’ project which has been engaging a  team of volunteers to list the WW1 collections. http://heritage.warwickshire.gov.uk/warwickshire-county-record-office/county-record-office-friends-of-warwickshire-county-record-office/

Saturday 6 October is the date for Cumbria Local History Federations’ Annual Convention and AGM. The subject is The Victoria County History of Cumbria: studies in local history.  Four speakers who are involved with the project VCH Cumbria will be giving a taste of the very latest research.  www.clhf.org.uk

The Ecclesiological Society will hold its annual conference on 6 October in London. ‘Arts & Crafts Churches’. Further details at . http://ecclsoc.org/events/ecclesiological-society-annual-conference-2018/

This year’s conference in honour of Peter Northeast  organised by the Suffolk Local History Council is ‘From Coast to Countryside: latest research into Suffolk’s history’.  This will take place on 13 October at Elmswell. The programme can be found at https://slhc.org.uk/jon_p/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/PNC-2018.pdf

Wiltshire Local History Forum will be holding its autumn conference on 25 November at Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. The topic is The Legacy of First World War Commemoration, which will discuss how we ensure that the many pieces of research carried out by local history groups for WW1 projects are preserved and made accessible for the future. https://wiltshirelocalhistory.org

History of Nursing Society volunteers worked with the Royal College of Nursing on a HLF supported project to digitise the scrapbooks left by nine nurses and one VAD describing their experiences in the First World War. Each book is filled with original illustrations, photos and stories of nurses and soldiers during wartime. ‘Service Scrapbooks: Nursing and Storytelling in the First World War’ can be found at  www.rcn.org.uk/servicescrapbooks.

The importance of small societies and organisations keeping their own archives, or at least a written record of their activities, is illustrated  by an article in the Project Purley Journal,’ The Wednesday Club’ began in the 1960s as a popular social meeting for residents of the Riverside Estate in Purley. It developed into a more formal arrangement that was affiliated to the Old Age Pensioner’s Social Clubs. When transport for members from Pangbourne was withdrawn numbers dwindled, but they were offered a meeting place at Purley Sports and Social Club on alternative Wednesday afternoons. A secretary and treasurer were elected and new people were attracted to join. They arranged various events, including a ‘History for the Millenium Survey’. Eventually the Wednesday Club closed in 2014, but with the memories of those still around  its history has been written down. www.project-purley.eu

Solihull Local History Circle has awarded the 2018 Jenners Cup to Laurence Ince. The cup is awarded annually to the member who has made the greatest contribution to local history, whether by original research or by its promotion. Laurence has done extensive research into industrial history, and as secretary to the Local History Circle has arranged meetings and speakers, manages the website and edits the Circle’s newsletter. https://sites.google.com/site/solihulllocalhistorycircle

Blue plaques can be fascinating. Wartime broadcasting by the BBC  is marked by one illustrated in an article by Stuart Antrobus that explores the  role of Bedford as the venue for many radio premiere of classical music. In June 1944 the Corn Exchange, Bedford, took over from the Royal Albert hall as the venue for the jubilee programme of Sir Henry Wood’s summer season of Promenade Concerts.  Bedford Architectural, Archaeological & Local History Society. www.baalhs.org.uk

Leckhampton Local History Society celebrated its 25th anniversary earlier this year by performing a playlet taken from historical parish magazine. Characters told of events that happened in the 19th and 20th centuries including the building of the Parish Hall and prisoners of war residing at Leckhampton Court. www.llhs.org.uk

Avon Local History & Archaeology  has a Facebook team, which has been joined by a second year history student at the University of the West of England   with the aim of providing material that will be attractive to young people, and to promote the Association and its interests in a new way. There are already four blogs that have been very well received. www.alha.org.uk

Railway sleepers these days are of course made of concrete, but over the years there must have been millions of wooden ones all of which needed protection from rotting. Edmonton Hundred Historical Society’s Newsletter in May contains an article, taken from the Great Eastern Railway Magazine in 1914, about the Ponders End Creosoting Works. The works were opened in1904, and in the decade since ‘about 968,000sleepers have been creosoted in all, as well as 602,000 cubic feet of larrge timber and other scantlings’. www.edmontonhundred.org.uk

Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is organising ‘The Old House Show’ at Royal Naval College, Greenwich on 7 – 8 September: ‘the show for homeowners, crafts people and those working with old and ancient properties. There will be demonstrations of traditional crafts, presentations, general interest talks, exhibitors, expert advice and hands-on activities’. www.spab.org.uk/whats-on/events/old-house-show

15. News from archives Show more → Show less ↓

On the website of The National Archives there is a valuable section setting out clearly the correct way to cite records and catalogues held by TNA. This is helpful to demonstrate the evidence on which your research is based, and to allow others to follow it up.


Archives Revealed is a partnership programme between The National Archives and The Pilgrim Trust, it is the only funding stream in the UK dedicated to cataloguing and unlocking archives.  The cataloguing grants stream reopens for applications in October 2018; the scoping grants stream makes decisions on a quarterly basis. Nine cataloguing grants were announced in June, going for specific projects at Berwick Records Office of Northumberland Archives, British Motor Heritage Industry Trust, Media Archive for Central England, University of St Andrews,  Staffordshire Record Office,  Derbyshire Record Office, Aerospace Bristol, Explore York Libraries and Archives, and Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books.

Further details, including assistance for making an application can be found at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/archives-sector/finding-funding/archives-revealed/

The London Metropolitan Archives runs a very full programme of free events. Just a sample for August 2018 includes ’Discovering the Foundling Hospital’ (7th), ‘Document handling at LMA’ (8th),  ‘Use LMA: Getting Started’ (14th and 22nd), ‘A Visit in Conservation’ (16th) and ‘London and Beer’ (22nd).  Their current special exhibition that runs until 31 October is ‘Picturing Forgotten London which uncovers the capital’s lost buildings and the people who set out to record them. https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/things-to-do/london-metropolitan-archives/news-events/Pages/default.aspx

Films produced by ‘LuneTube’ will be added to the collections of the North West Film Archive at Manchester Metropolitan University, where they will be held for the benefit of future generations. LuneTube are a group of film-makers and history enthusiasts, based in Lancaster. They devote their spare time to producing short films about the heritage of North Lancashire. Their work is released online and has attracted over 50,000 viewers since launching in September 2017. See Local History News  126 p 15  http://lunetube.co.uk    https://www.nwfa.mmu.ac.uk/

The War Widows’ Association has donated its archive of historically significant material  ̶̵  including letters, meeting minutes and copies of the WWA newsletter - to  Staffordshire University.

Among the donated items are the minutes for the first ever WWA meeting and the War Widows’ Stories project which documents oral accounts from women who lost their partners in service. The archive is a welcome addition to the Thompson Library’s Special Collections, which also houses the Iris Strange Collection  ̶̵  an archive of rare material connected to the fight to secure pensions for British war widows. This features over 300 letters from World War One widows, organisation journals, press cuttings, newsletters, photographs and personal mementoes.

The Library plans to create an exhibition of items from both collections which will go on view in the Autumn to coincide with this year’s Remembrance Festival.

Press release  April 2018


Three more free local history workshops will be held by Wirral Archives: 6 September ‘The History of a Street, Stanton Rd, Bebington from the 1840s to the 1950s’; 1 November ‘Wirral and the First World War: 1918’, and 6 December ‘Early Neston Collieries’.  For further information please email archives@wirral.gov.uk or phone 0151 606 2929

Prison History of a database on nearly 850 penal institutions in 19th century England, including local prisons and lock ups. For each, there is information about its operational dates, jurisdiction, location, populations statistics, primary and secondary sources that mention it, and  relevant archival documents. Rosaline Crone, OU, says that the database should be a useful resource for local historians, and that they will become involved to contribute to its resources. www.prisonhistory.org (thanks to Avon Local History and Archaeology www.alha.orh.uk)

Rebellious Sounds in an oral history archives of women’s activism in the South West. . This Heritage Lottery Funded project from Dreadnought South West seeks to explore the ways in which women in the region have continued to contribute to activism, in all its forms, over the last 100 years.  A Listening Booth, built like a voting booth, is touring the region to share these oral histories, and gather new ones along the way. Dreadnoughtsouthwest.org.uk

16. News from libraries Show more → Show less ↓

Keyworth Local History Society has an arrangement with its local library for a presence in the library four times a year. This enables the society to meet more of the local community and to share their knowledge and answer questions. Earlier in 2018 they shared the occasion with The Field Detectives who exhibited their Roman finds from Owls Nest, Keyworth.  As the report says: ‘the library was buzzing’ ... ‘ all expressed surprise at what the Field Detectives had found and the success of our Society’ ...‘the library staff were highly delighted with the number of visitors’. So a worthwhile event for all. www.keyworthhistory.org.uk

Crowdsourcing platform for Wales: during 2017 the National Library of Wales embarked on an exciting new project to develop a purpose built online platform to offer access to the national collections via remote volunteering opportunities. The platform displays digitised images and supplies predetermined fields for inputting data. When the volunteers have transcribed the record the result will be searchable by name, address, date etc, providing a rich source of information.  Current they are working on the Cardiganshire Great War Tribunals Appeals, unique in Wales and one of only four surviving in the UK. https://crowd.library.wales/en/s/war-tribunal-records/page/about

The Central Library on College Green in Bristol will have a special exhibition during July and August commemorating Votes for Women 100. Banners of words and pictures telling the history of the campaigns for women’s suffrage in Bristol have been produced by Bristol Libraries with the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network. They will be displayed alongside original books, pamphlets and postcards from the Bristol Reference Library collections.  It is intended that the banners will be on show elsewhere in the area during the later months of 2018 and will continue to provide a valuable resource in the future. 




The National Library of Scotland has announced significant changes to their opening hours, resulting in the loss of some 6 hours on weekdays against an additional 4 hours on Saturdays. For full details see https://www.nls.uk/opening-hours-changes

17. News from museums Show more → Show less ↓

In this issue the World War 1 and local history contribution comes from York Army Museum. Read Hannah Rogers’ article on page 5 about how the museum is working with local communities to explore the impact of WW1.

Bridport Museum has a special exhibition running until 22 December call Home Front, Home. It looks at how the World’s first ‘total war’ affected women in Bridport, through the stories of 7 individuals. It explores the challenges they faced and looks at how they had to adapt to maintain a resilient home front.

The exhibition has been researched by a group of Bridport Museum’s volunteers, led by Professor Karen Hunt, Professor Emerita of Modern History at Keele University.


Open Up: Museums for Everyone is a project with a new website and a series of useful free resources designed to help museums of all sizes increase the diversity of their visitors. There is a practical guide, and case studies from participating museums. Funding has come from Arts Council England, MALD, Museums Galleries Scotland and National Museums Northern Ireland. www.opensupmuseums.com

This is the shortlist for the Family Friendly Museum Award 2018:

The Erewash Museum, Derbyshire, Leeds City Museum, West Yorkshire, Museum of the Order of St John, London, National Maritime Museum, London, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth and Kinross, The Postal Museum, London, The Red House, Suffolk, Torquay Museum, Devon, The Whitworth, Greater Manchester, Wrexham County Borough Museum, Wrexham, and Yr Ysgwrn, Gwynedd

Over the summer ‘family judges’ will visit to assess their friendliness against the Kids in Museums Mini Manifesto. The winner will be announced in the Autumn.  https://kidsinmuseums.org.uk/awards/

The West Midlands Police Museum was formerly at the Police Station, Sparkhill, Birmingham.  It has received a round one development grant from HLF to work on plans to move to The Lock Up, Steelhouse Lane in central Birmingham. This Victorian building has now been reserved from sale of redundant property of the West Midlands Police, with the approval of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Office. The Force’s collections include what is thought to be the oldest police custody photograph in the world, a wealth of records relations to the service of police officers through the years, and are and obsolete items of uniform and equipment. The Lock Up currently hosts open days and other events. Full details, as well as progress on the new museum, can be found at www.wmpeelers.com

Amongst the tourist brochures found in York (when we were there for Local History Day) I particularly enjoyed the confidence expressed by two: the NMR is ‘World’s Greatest Railway Museum’ and York Castle Museum ‘The Best Day Out in History’.

18. News from education Show more → Show less ↓

Ron Greenall  1937-2018: Many BALH members will have come across Ron Greenall in his capacity as adult education tutor in history for the University of Leicester, and benefited from his knowledge, skills and enthusiasm. We were very sorry to hear of his death in May, and extend our condolences to his family.  Readers may like to follow this link to a tribute written by Robert Colls. https://www2.le.ac.uk/staff/announcements/obituary-ron-greenall

Local history in and for schools is an important focus for BALH. See page 32 for Geoff Timmins new book published by the Association. As a curiosity, see the quotation from a 1907 school text book filling a space on page 10. A number of society newsletters report the activities they are carrying out with local schools, or pay tribute to individuals who have developed long term and innovative ways of encouraging young people to be involved with local history.  

For example The Black Country Society journal Spring 2018 published an obituary for Joan White of Wollaston. A woman of many skills and very wide interests, Joan was head teacher of Yew Tree Hill First School in Netherton from which post she retired in 1989. ‘Local history played a prominent part in the curriculum and the children were taken by Joan and the staff to visit the many sites near the school. www.blackcountrysociety.com

Another example comes from Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre who report than one of their volunteers was asked by his grandson’s school to talk to Year 6 about his time during World War 2.  He went well-equipped with books, maps and leaflets, and fielded a wide variety of interesting questions from the children. Not only did he appear in the school’s weekly newsletter, but also now has an entry on Facebook based on his talks. www.EpsomandEwellhistryExplorer.org.uk

On page28 Trefor Jones writes about studying for the Cambridge certificate in local history. Here is a recent press release from Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education: ‘

our new part-time Undergraduate Certificate in Local History course starting this autumn (closing date 3 September) has just been launched. ‘Evaluating the Past through British Local History’ begins with an introduction to local history, in order to provide you with some of the key skills and concepts used by local historians, and continues with units on communities in early modern England and religion during the First World War. Eleven Sunday day schools and two Sunday field trips from October 2018 to June 2019. We also have a new part-time Undergraduate Advanced Diploma in Research Theory and Practice which supports specialist research in history and landscape history. Three-day workshops each term from September 2018 to May 2019. Further details from enquiries@ice.cam.ac.uk

Canterbury Christ Church University has a programme of day schools and short courses open to all. Amongst the topics for the coming academic year are many relevant to our interests. For example:  Family History Research and Surgery (29 September), Authors: self-publishing your books( 6 October), Writing the Past (10 November), Discover the Normans (10 November), Jack Cade’s rebellion in Kent and London (17 November), and Cabinets of Curiosity (8 December), and Discover the Elizabethans, 10 sessions from 27 September. Full details will be found on the website www.canterbury.ac.uk

Centre for Printing History and Culture at the University of Birmingham is hosting a conference 13 -14 September Women in print: production, distribution and consumption

Central to the campaign for female suffrage was printed material: pamphlets, posters, plays, fiction, poetry, flyers, banners and newspapers were all utilised in support of the cause.  This use of printing technology is indicative of the wider engagement of women with print culture throughout world history. This interdisciplinary conference seeks to recover the lives, work and impact of women who have been active in all aspects of printing and print culture, and to assess those contributions that may have been neglected or undervalued.

More information, programme and booking details are available at http://www.cphc.org.uk/events/2017/8/17/women-in-print-production-distribution-and-consumption

19. The Business of the Suffolk Parish: 1558-1625 Show more → Show less ↓

David Dymond

(with a foreword by Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch)

The Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History has recently published David Dymond’s ‘last book’.  The Business of the Suffolk Parish: 1558-1625 is a fairly brief yet penetrating study of various ways in which parishes initiated and coped with changes in religious worship and parish organisation imposed during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Mary, and worked out in the reigns of Elizabeth and James.  The discussion is based mostly on details found in churchwardens’ accounts, although in some locations such records were named ‘town books’ because they also included accounts of various other local officers.  The text is lavishly illustrated not only with modern photographs of surviving medieval and early modern furnishings and fittings in Suffolk parish churches, but also with reproductions of pages of early modern manuscripts and printed artefacts.

David is well-known to members of BALH as a former editor of The Local Historian (1976-1982) and as a former chairman of BALH (1995-2001).  Perhaps even more significantly he is the author of Researching and Writing History: A Guide for Local Historians, an indispensable handbook for anyone undertaking local history research of any kind.  This book is so significant that it has been reissued several times.  The latest edition (2016) has in, Appendix 7, some examples of well-written history by named historians; although I have to say that I rather like Appendix 8 of the 1988 edition, which has some brief examples of badly written history (by writers whom David very kindly forbore to identify).

The Business of the Suffolk Parish: 1558-1625 will be fully reviewed in The Local Historian in the near future.  It is priced at £10.00 (plus £3.50 p&p). To purchase a copy, please send a cheque for £13.50 together with your name and address to: Jo Sear, 11 Anstey Hall Barns, Maris Lane, Trumpington, Cambridge, CB2 9LG. Or, make a payment for £13.50 by PayPal using the ‘Donate’ button on the website of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History http://www.suffolkinstitute.org.uk and email Jo Sear at josear@mac.com or Nick Amor at drnickamor@icloud.com with details of your name and address.

Heather Falvey

20. Sir Charles Igglesden’s ‘ Sauntering through Kent’ Show more → Show less ↓

Biography and Final Saunters

Malcolm Horton

Produced by the author and Bygone Kent magazine. Published by Oakweald 2018 ISBN 9780 952648062  £17.99

Newspapers are an invaluable source for local historians that have been used in so many ways. Increasingly they are being digitised and made available online, albeit for a subscription. For some it is still necessary to consult the original newsprint large scale publications.  Others have been reprinted in various forms, often by local history societies for their own areas.

Between 1899 and 1944, Charles Igglesden, editor of the Kentish Express, wrote for his newspaper a series of portraits of villages entitled ‘A Saunter through Kent with Pen and Pencil’. Almost all, 232 of 241, were republished promptly in 34 hardback volumes that appeared between 1900 and 1946.

In this new book, Malcom Horton has researched and written a biography of Igglesden, and reprinted the ‘lost’ nine villages which had appeared as articles but never included in a subsequent collection. The ‘Saunters’ articles provide a valuable series of descriptions of these villages of Kent in the early decades of the 20th century. While come commentators have dismissed them as lightweight, Igglesden had a serious knowledge of church architecture, a feeling for the life of communities he was writing about, and a deep interest in the traditions and customs of the area. He had a natural ‘story-teller’ style which makes them a pleasure to read.

Charles Igglesden (1861-939) came from a Dover bakery family, but fate stepped in to divert him away from following in the business. His grandparents died young, and his father and brother were cared for by friends of the family. Charles’ father Henry was apprenticed to a printer, and set up the county’s first penny newspaper The Ashford & Alfred News, which became the Kentish Express.  Charles received an eclectic education because Ashford Grammar School was closed between 1871 and 1871, just at the time he would have attended. Gifted in music, literature and sport, he had home tutors before going to the Conservatoire de Paris, and then became a cub reporter on his father’s newspaper. A passionate and able sportsman, he played cricket, tennis and rugby, and also represented Kent at chess.

Charles became editor of the Kentish Express in 1885. All four of his sons followed him there, and it continued in family ownership until 1962.  Charles was knighted for services to journalism in 1928. He was a well-known figure in the public life of Kent.

His innovations at the newspaper included not only his ‘Saunters’, but also features written by experts on sport, agriculture, and women’s interests.

The drawings that accompanied Igglesden’s words were done by Xavier Willis (1872 – 1947) who was the Kentish Express’ s resident illustrator and a watercolourist of some note. As well as being a talented artist Willis was a convicted embezzler who had served 18 months hard labour for forging cheques. He married while in prison and also inherited £20,000 from his godfather.

For each of the nine villages in this volume, Malcolm Horton has added a ‘Revisited’ section, bringing the history of the place up to date, and providing some modern photographs. Sadly this is often a tale of reduced population, and loss of services such as the closure of the village shop and school. Historians and residents of Kent have here an informative, accessible and enjoyable book.

Jane Howells

21. BALH books for LHN July Show more → Show less ↓


Finding ways to make the most of local history resources can be a challenge for hard pressed teachers. Exploring Local History is a new 130-page guide by Professor Geoff Timmins showing how to stimulate the interest of young people and develop key skills such as numeracy and literacy. Intended for both primary and secondary school teachers, it focuses on how a wealth of readily available sources –documentary, visual, oral and physical -  can enrich understanding of local history. With its case studies, specialist historical expertise, and an emphasis on active, innovative learning opportunities, Exploring Local History is an accessible and wide ranging new resource for all types of schools Further information, including a summary of contents, is available on the BALH website: www.balh.org.uk.

£8 to BALH member (non-members:£10),  plus £2 p & p. Order online at www.balh.org. uk or by  email to:admin@balh.org.uk or by post to: BALH Head Office, Chester House, 68 Chestergate, Macclesfield SK11 6DY.


Pauper Prisons…Pauper Palaces is a new collection of nine essays about how poor people in the east and west midlands of England experienced life from 1834 to 1871 under the New Poor Law. Topics include:

•              Shovelling out Paupers: Emigration under the New Poor Law in Kidderminster

•              Ambrose Taylor of Newcastle under Lyme: A Victorian Tale of Immorality

•              Caron Wilkinson: Widow, Mother and Inmate of the Mansfield Workhouse

•              Who Cared? Death, Dirt and Disease in the Bromsgrove Poor Law Union

•              Managing Useless Work: the Southwell and Mansfield Hand-crank of the 1840s

Drawing on the wealth of original evidence in Poor Law Board and Union correspondence in The National Archives, local researchers participated under the aegis of BALH in a Heritage Lottery-funded project to examine how individuals and families were directly affected by the new legislation and their detailed investigations shed new light on how significant numbers of the Victorian poor were treated. Pauper Prisons …Pauper Palaces is not only an important contribution to the social history of the period but also lasting testimony to the achievements of this group of enthusiastic and committed local historians.


Paperback  (RRP: £10.99) £6.99; hardback (RRP:£12.99): £9.99; postage and packing:£2.00

You can order Pauper Prisons... Pauper Palaces online on the BALH website (www.balh.org.uk) or by email to admin@balh.org.uk or post to: BALH, Chester House, 68 Chestergate, Macclesfield, SK11 6DY. Cheques payable to BALH. For further information, please email:admin@balh.org.uk.


we have a special offer on two of BALH’s publications.

Remembrance and Community by Kate Tiller examines the history of war memorials and their relevance to the villages and towns where they were sited.  Illustrated with colour and black and white photographs, this 56 page guide suggests what to look for in studying local war memorials, identifies sources and ideas for researching their creation and ongoing roles in local life, and explains how to find out more about those whose names they commemorate. Was £6.95 (£5 to BALH members), now £2.50. Postage & packing :£2.00

Living the Poor Life is a practical guide to the Poor Law Board and Union correspondence, c. 1834 to 1871, held at The National Archives (MH 12). This 26 page illustrated booklet explains how to access these archives and their relevance to research on charities, public welfare, social history and genealogy, as well as the Poor Laws. Was £4.99, now £2. Postage & packing :£2.00

Special Offer: Buy one copy each of Remembrance and Community and Living the Poor Life  for £5.00 to include postage and packing. To order, please contact admin@balh.org.uk or telephone 01625 664524 or write to: BALH Head Office, 68 Chestergate, Macclesfield SK11 6DY. Cheques payable to BALH.

22. Which Alvise? Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

John Julius Cooper, 2nd Viscount Norwich, died on 1 June this year, aged 88. The son of Duff Cooper (a name which is now perhaps little remembered) and Lady Diana Cooper (slightly better remembered, but no longer a household name) he was born into a gilded world and never left it, but after an unremarkable career in the diplomatic service – a family business, since his father had been ambassador to France after the war – he made his considerable mark as a formidable writer on cultural history and, in particular, the glorious and magnificent history of Italy and its many and varied cities and states. Was he a historian? It’s a difficult term, since writing on historical subjects is not a guarantee of being ‘a historian’. Some of the obituaries for JJN referred to him as (inter alia) a ‘popular historian’, a phrase which to at least some academics means ’charlatan’ or ‘mountebank’. He hadn’t been through the history mill, or indeed any really serious mill. After being sent for safety to Canada during the war he had been educated (that’s probably not the right word) at Eton and then read French and Russian at New College Oxford. So he fitted into no particular category – a gifted and elegant writer; a passionate devotee of art, music, literature and culture; a natural-born broadcaster, panel show participant, wit and storyteller ... he didn’t have a career as such, because he hardly needed one.

But was he a local historian? Clearly he was not, in the sense that readers of this journal would understand it, yet his work on Italian cities, and especially his erudite explorations into the rise, splendour and sad decline of La Serenissima, the Venetian Republic, brought him into the realms of the history of localities and communities in a way which provided a local history dimension in all but name. Venice was an independent state but one which was small geographically and intimate socially. Its political, military, financial, cultural and social history were at once those of a nation and also of a modestly-sized city. By the mid-eighteenth century, as the decline and decay of Venice accelerated, the city was much smaller than London, Paris or Berlin. She had once been among the shining stars of urban Europe, but was now sinking into a fog of faded glory and stagnant canals. This really was local as well as international.

John Julius Norwich therefore relished the quirky local history of this extraordinary place, and he loved the eccentricity of its rulers and their world, just as we might study mayors and landowners and their coteries. Perhaps nothing better encapsulates the madness of Venice in the golden age than the genealogy of some of its doges. Reading the pages of the Victoria Histories of English counties we can become, quite reasonably I think, baffled and bemused by the labyrinthine family histories of manorial lords and aristocratic landowners, but—though we may not realise it—we are supremely fortunate. There might indeed be Johns, Williams and Thomases aplenty, generation after generation, in the pages of the English peerages and baronetages, but there is absolutely nothing so bewildering and incomprehensible as that which JJN wrote about with dry wit and great relish in his history of Venice:

‘Readers may derive a little Schadenfreude from the reflection that Doge Alvise Mocenigo II was the youngest of nine brothers, all of whom were given the Christian name Alvise. Until his elevation he was therefore known as Alvise IX. His nephew, Doge Alvise III, was the fourth of six sons of his elder brother Alvise IV, and - since these six sons were also Alvises to a man - had also previously been known as Alvise IV. We must be grateful that Venetian genealogists do not panic easily’

So, all you local historians who fret and fuss about disentangling the genealogies of Lord This or Sir That or the Duke of The Other, think yourselves lucky!  Pity your Venetian colleagues: “Was that the Alvise VII who became Alvise III or was it the Alvise III who became Alvise VIII”?  “Non va bene, non riesco a risolverlo! Tempo per un bicchiere di vino per schiarirmi le idee”


*“No good, can’t work it out! Time for a glass of wine to clear my head”

23. Notes News issues Show more → Show less ↓

Local History Day

Since the last issue of LHN we have enjoyed Local History Day in York, and the Association has held its AGM. On that occasion Tim Lomas stood down as chair and David Killingray was elected to replace him. BALH President Caroline Barron thanked the retiring Trustees, and welcomed three new members of the Board. Certificates were presented to the 2018 Awards recipients, and we heard two stimulating and enjoyable lectures. Further details can be found elsewhere in these pages; Professor Killingray introduces himself on page 20, and the new Trustees will be profiled in following issues.

Reviews Editor

Sarah Rose has departed after four years as Reviews Editor of The Local Historian, during which time the reviews section of TLH and on the website has grown, and included an increasingly varied selection of material. Publications in there many different forms are a good indication of the health of local history generally. The Association is pleased to welcome Stephen Roberts  as the new Reviews Editor. His contact details can be found on the inside front cover and page 2.

Exploring Local History

Parents and grandparents would be well advised to look at the new book from BALH ‘Exploring Local History’ written by Geoff Timmins (see page 32). While is it designed for teachers, there are many excellent suggestions that could be used for holiday activities, to encourage an early interest in local history. My grandchildren were delighted to discover that their names were the most popular for children 400 years ago.

Local History Day 2019.

The venue for next year’s event will be Conway Hall in London. The annual lecture will be given by Dr Rose Wallis, and her subject will be the magistrates and the local community. Further details to follow.