Local History News Number 131 Spring 2019


1. Intimate evidence Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

The subjects chosen by local historians for their research and writing demonstrate the extraordinary diversity and richness of the local experience. Thanks to James Scannell, our Irish correspondent, I have a good collection of the excellent little volumes (usually 64 pages) which are published by the Four Courts Press in Dublin as part of the ever-growing Maynooth Studies in Local History. Four Courts Press is itself a wonderful institution – the sort of publisher whose catalogue is a very dangerous thing because it offers temptations which are scarcely resistible – and the Maynooth Studies are a triumph, not only because of their remarkable and eclectic variety but also their high quality (both academically and in terms of production) and realistic and sensible pricing. There’s no British equivalent, more’s the pity.

One which caught my eye recently is Maria Luddy’s Matters of deceit: breach of promise to marry cases in nineteenth-  and twentieth-century Limerick. As the author notes, such cases ‘provided lawyers with lucrative incomes and newspapers with titillating stories for their reading audience’. The cases were much more numerous than might be expected, and almost all were brought by women, many of whom won substantial damages. The frequency of such actions was reflected in 1873 by a barrister who jokingly remarked that Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick, was ‘notorious for breach of promise cases’. The town’s population then was slightly less than 1000, which implies that it was inhabited mainly by disappointed maidens and their faithless swains.

There is, however, a very serious side to the subject. The prosecution of the cases required the presentation of detailed and very personal evidence about the pre-marital behaviour of couples, people who were in an everyday sense respectable and from the higher reaches of the social scale in rural and small town Ireland. The poor did not indulge in such actions, because they lacked the money and probably the inclination to do so. But jilted women from respectable families saw this as the only way to save face, retain or restore their social position and maybe to gain some financial compensation.

But in doing so, they had to reveal intimate details about the nature of their meetings with the man, the rites and rituals of courtship, their physical relationship, and the promises and vows which had been made.  Those promises were not simply a declaration of faith and intent to marry, but might well involve sizeable monetary inducements (perhaps even fees). There was a lot at stake, and legal action on the failure of the project was an understandable response, particularly if the woman’s prospects were now blighted – if, for example, she had regarded the intended marriage as her last chance.

It’s a fascinating study because of the light it casts on social and cultural mores and conventions, and on the structure of rural society in mid-Victorian South-West Ireland. It also reveals much about the role of the Church, and about questions such as illegitimacy and domestic arrangements. Especially significant, from the point of view of research methods, is that much of the evidence has been drawn from newspaper reports of the trials, opening up a rich resource which could readily be exploited by other researchers.

I don’t remember seeing anything published on this topic this side of the Irish Sea, but it would be a very interesting line of enquiry to pursue. It also demonstrates one of the many ways in which family history and local history have a large common ground – again, it’s a topic which seems neglected by family historians, and they too might explore the subject in their own families.

In England traditional breach of promise cases remained possible at law until 1970, but since then only actions regarding disputed goods or assets has been permitted. In the Irish Republic the position was reformed by the Family Law Act 1981, which similarly limited action to disputes involving goods. I wonder, though: was Abbeyfeale by then at peace with itself?

2. The Rothamsted Electronic Document Archive: 175 years of agricultural science Show more → Show less ↓

Richard Ostler

In 1842 John Bennet Lawes, owner of the Rothamsted Estate, Hertfordshire, patented a process for creating superphosphate, the first commercial artificial fertiliser. The following year he founded Rothamsted Experimental Station, known today as Rothamsted Research, and appointed Joseph Henry Gilbert, a chemist, as his scientific collaborator. That autumn they planted the first wheat crop of the Broadbalk fertiliser experiment, now in its 176th year.

From the beginning Lawes and Gilbert kept meticulous records, noting treatment applications, dates and yields and, since 1853, meteorological observations. During the 19th Century further long-term agricultural experiments were established and From 1862 experiment reports have been published annually.

The Agroinformatics group at Rothamsted is responsible for managing data and information for the long-term experiments and has published over 200 scanned historical documents to e-RAdoc, the Rothamsted Document Archive (http://www.era.rothamsted.ac.uk/eradoc/collections.php).

The archive provides a unique timeline, documenting Rothamsted's scientific heritage and the innovations seen in agriculture, science and technology over the last century including, mechanisation and artificial pesticides, the development of modern statistics and experiment design by R.A Fisher and the first civilian application of the electronic computer.

Insights into Rothamsted's social heritage are also to be found. Staff records, many of whom would have been employed from the local community, are recorded from 1909 to 1987 and the 1947 report noted that year's staff included a gang of German prisoners of war who were responsible for hand weeding Broadbalk[1].

During the 1920's and 30's Rothamsted staff coordinated programs of replicated experiments across over 160 commercial farms. For example, in 1924 the Royal Agricultural Society awarded a grant for experiments on green manuring[2], a topic of renewed interest to farmers today[3]. Results for each farm were published in the Annual Reports. These networks provide an interesting early example of citizen science. H.V. Garner, one of the network coordinators, noted the advantages of using volunteers and the importance of close co-operation between experimenter and farmer as being essential for success. Nor were networks limited to commercial farms, Garner enlisted 23 schools for coordinated small plot experiments to study the effects of poultry manures on market garden crops.

Today the Rothamsted Agroinformatics group is using modern data science methods to promote the scientific potential of the archive. The archive also has many other applications in local history and the social sciences, which we are keen to see utilized by the wider community.

1. Field Experiments on the Rothamsted Farm, The Plot Committee (1948) Rothamsted Report for 1947 - pp 74 – 81 https://doi.org/10.23637/ERADOC-1-89           

2. Field Experiments at Outside Centres, 1922-38, (1939) Rothamsted Report for 1938 - pp 51 – 58 https://doi.org/10.23637/ERADOC-1-86

3. https://www.fwi.co.uk/arable/land-preparation/cover-crops/pick-right-cover-crop-mix-autumn

4. Practical Details of Experimentation on Ordinary Commercial Farms, H. V. Garner (1932) XIII. The Technique of Field Experiments - pp 49 – 53

Contact richard.ostler@rothamsted.ac.uk

3. News from The Victoria County History of Essex Show more → Show less ↓

Chris Thornton

VCH Essex has operated continuously since 1951 when the project was relaunched in the county. It intends to cover the whole of the historic county, including the five London Boroughs in Metropolitan Essex as well as the more recently created unitary authorities of Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock. The volumes are now published in collaboration with the VCH Essex Trust (Reg. Char. No. 1038801) which manages the project locally and raises funds to finance freelance VCH editors to research and write the volumes. The Trust also maintains an office and reference library for the researchers in accommodation provided by Essex County Council at the Essex Record Office.

Forthcoming VCH Essex Publications

VCH Essex has a number of completed projects which will be published in the next few years. Volume XII, dealing with the pre-resort history of parishes along the Tendring Hundred coastline in north-east Essex will be published in two parts. Part 1, planned for later in 2019, covers the small town and port of St Osyth and five other parishes (Great and Little Clacton, Great and Little Holland and Frinton). St Osyth was dominated by its medieval abbey and later aristocratic mansion (known as St Osyth Priory), and also has a rich heritage of vernacular architecture explored in this volume. The great house and estate remained important until the mid-19th, being owned successively by the Lords Darcy of Chiche, the Savage family (earls Rivers), and the Nassau de Zuylestein family (earls of Rochford) and their descendants. More generally, the volume includes a major exploration of man’s interaction with the changing coastline, both its extension through the processes of marshland inning and draining and the constant struggle to maintain sea defence in the face erosion and catastrophic flood events. It also analyses how the economy of the coastal communities, from agriculture through fishing to smuggling, was moulded by proximity to the sea.

Part 2 of Volume XII, already in draft, covers the adjacent area known as the ‘Soken’ comprising the parishes of Kirby-le-Soken, Thorpe-le-Soken and Walton-le-Soken. This unit derived from a single early medieval estate that had passed to St Paul’s cathedral before the Conquest, and took its medieval name form the fact it formed a ‘soke’ in which the cathedral’s dean and chapter (and their post-medieval lay successors as owners) held extensive legal and ecclesiastical privileges.

For Volume XIII, the VCH Essex has now started work on a history of Harwich and Dovercourt. Harwich, a planned town, was first recorded in the 12th century and received a royal charter in 1318. It became a significant maritime trading community with its fisherman operating off Iceland and Norway and its merchants trading as far away as the Baltic and Spain. The port played an important role in the defence of the English coast providing a strategic base for English navies, and was also heavily garrisoned and defended from attack by walls, redoubts and other fortifications. From the mid-17th century it was an official packet port (with ships carrying Continental mail and passengers) and its continued overseas transport connections, and arrival of the railway in 1854, made it Eastern England’s ‘Gateway to the Continent’. The neighbouring parish of Dovercourt, of which Harwich had originally been part, remained largely rural until the 19th century when a new planned seaside resort was established at Lower Dovercourt. In the 20th century Harwich witnessed the surrender of the German U-Boat fleet at the end of the Great War, and was the first port of call for 200 Jewish and non-aryan children brought to England in December 1939 in the rescue effort known as the Kindertransporte.

Paperback Shorts

As well as the large VCH ‘Red Books’ a new form of publication, so-called ‘Shorts’, have been designed to be well-illustrated paperback studies of a single place or particular themes. The first Essex Short was a study of Newport in north-west Essex written by a group of highly qualified local historians and published in 2015. Currently in the press is a second ‘Short’ researched and written by Dr Andrew Senter titled Harwich, Dovercourt and Parkeston in the Nineteenth Century. Publication is due this spring and the book will be available from the VCH Essex office (details below). The content of the Short will later be amended to form one chapter of the VCH Essex Volume XIII.

‘Essex on the Edge’ Conference, Essex Record Office, 18 May 2019

This forthcoming one day conference has been designed to showcase current research and help raise funding for the VCH in Essex. It is jointly organised by the Victoria County History of Essex, the Friends of Historic Essex, and the Essex Record Office. It will include entirely new research undertaken for the next volume of the Victoria County History (volume XII) on Harwich. Using rich archival documentation, two of our speakers will tell us about life and migration in this thriving port town in the Medieval and Tudor periods. Two further talks will assess aspects of the impact on the county of two significant military and religious changes, the beginning of the Hundred Years’ War in the early 14th century and the Dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century.

For fuller details (and booking through EventBrite), see:



How You Can Help?

The VCH Essex Trust has just launched a new appeal to help fund Volume XIII, with the initial intention of raising £60,000 in total which will secure the project’s future. During 2019 the Trust will be making applications to grant-making trusts and businesses, but support from individuals and smaller societies is also very important - not only for the cumulative effect of any donations received but also because it helps VCH demonstrate wider support.

If you would like to help advance the completion of the VCH for Essex please consider joining the VCH Essex Trust. Membership is open to all individuals, to corporate bodies or other associations, that make an annual donation to the Trust (of whatever amount). The AGM of the Trust is held in different locations across the historic county often in a building of historic interest and usually followed by a lecture from a specially invited expert on some aspect of Essex history. All members also receive the Trust’s newsletter (Essex Past) with updates on the VCH Essex project, national VCH developments, news of events and talks, articles based on VCH research and on Essex history in general. If you are interested in joining please contact me in the first instance (details shown below), so that I can send you the membership form.

Dr Chris Thornton, County Editor, VCH Essex

Essex Record Office, Wharf Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 6YT


4. Earnest and Able Women: the Devon Suffrage Activists Research Project Show more → Show less ↓

Dr Julia Neville, Devon History Society

In November 1897 a local Devon newspaper welcomed the fact that the Devon Liberal Federation had rejected proposals for giving women the Parliamentary vote (Western Morning News, 20 November 1897). It warned, however, that there was ‘a powerful body, composed of earnest and able women … carrying on an active agitation in favour of women’s suffrage …all the more potent because the work is being done through private influence as well as by public meetings’.

First findings from the Devon History Society (DHS) Devon Suffrage Activists research project suggest that the editor was quite right in his perception, and that it was to be as true in the 1910s as it had been in the 1890s. The Devon women were indeed ‘earnest and able’, not just in their dedication to the cause of woman suffrage, but in what they did to carry out their belief that the vote was needed not only as a matter of justice but in order to change what they thought was wrong with the world. They did pursue their aim of enfranchisement through public education and by demonstrating their fitness to vote by accepting public office. However, they also used their position and their social networks for informal persuasion. Tennis and golf clubs, the Farthing Breakfast or Sale of Work stall, the art class and the literary society, Temperance and RSPCA meetings; these were all places where women met men (voters) and other women, and where they talked.

The Devon Suffrage Activists project, now nearing its end, began with the idea to hold a DHS conference, How the Vote was Won in Devon, to celebrate 100 years since the passing of the Representation of the People Act, 1918. Members, and interested parties from other history groups, were invited to join a group to research the backgrounds of the Devon women active in the suffrage movement between 1866 and 1918. The intention was to focus on Devon residents, not on the organisers despatched by the central offices of suffrage societies on whom so much attention had already been focused.

Fifteen people signed up to investigate women identified initially through Elizabeth Crawford’s The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland; a Regional Survey (2006). This has been our principal guide, though we have added a substantial number of names from different sources. We have now identified more than 120 women the county who met our definition that to qualify as a Devon Suffrage Activist a woman should have held office in a branch, spoken at campaigning meetings, written letters or signed petitions, joined a protest, broken the law to further the cause, or lobbied MPs and candidates personally. In other words they must have been publicly visible in their support for the cause.

The next idea was to create a Google map which would show the distribution of the activists across the (very large) county  of Devon and put it up on the DHS website. Figure 1 shows the map, accessible at https://www.devonhistorysociety.org.uk/research/suffrage-activists-in-devon-1866-1918/ . This map and the linked mini-biographies of each woman listed were launched on 6 February 2018, the actual anniversary of royal assent to the Representation of the People Act. The launch, illustrated by details of four of the women researched, received positive local and national publicity. Exeter’s Express and Echo was particularly interested as we were able to tell them that one of the activists had been the first woman columnist on their paper.

How The Vote was won in Devon took place at the University of Plymouth in April. With a winning combination of the map, national and local speakers, a women’s choir, twenty-four poster presentations, an original Suffrage Society banner and a rolling slideshow naming all the women (and some of the men) involved, the event generated positive feedback and some new members for the society.

Meanwhile the on-line map and mini-biographies had attracted the attention of other individuals and groups. One relationship forged in this way was a link with Historic England (HE). Liz Clare, Local Engagement Advisor, got in touch to explore whether there was a way in which DHS could contribute to the HE 2018 project HerStories. With facilitation from Liz, the research group reconvened and decided to develop fuller biographies for the activists we had found, and then to link the entries on the DHS website where appropriate to  buildings on the HE listings. We identified sites (homes, sites of activity or other buildings such as churchyards) related to about one third of our activists. We created links (through the HE Enriching the List facility) from the entries for the buildings to the DHS website biographies. When these were complete our initiative was launched by HE on 14 December 2018, the day the first women cast their votes in a Parliamentary election. The webpage https://historicengland.org.uk/whats-new/in-your-area/south-west/nine-places-that-tell-the-story-of-suffrage-activism-in-devon/ shows how this works. We have followed up the idea of enriching existing maps and listings now by a new partnership with the South West Heritage Trust linking the women’s biographies as a collection on the on-line mapping website, Know Your Place Devon, http://maps.bristol.gov.uk/kyp/?edition=devon .

During the project we also worked with other local heritage organisations to share information and to contribute to their work. These include the Heritage Centres/Museums in Sidmouth, Teignmouth and Totnes, the Ivybridge Heritage and Archives Group, the East Devon History Workshop, the National Trust’s Killerton House, and Fawcett Devon. Talks have been given to local societies and groups in Exeter, Petrockstowe, Plymouth, Sidmouth and Teignmouth. We were also invited to participate in the Devon County Council Vote 100 event on 14 December.

A project like this would have been difficult to achieve even ten years ago. It has exploited the availability of genealogical material through family history websites and of local newspapers through the British Newspaper Archive. While these sites offer some challenges in use they do provide a useful method of undertaking an overview of local research topics. At the other end the publication of the material on a website with open access has drawn our work to the attention of people whom we might not otherwise have contacted, and it also enables the research group to review the material as a whole. This will be particularly important in the final phase of the project.

The project is now moving on beyond the creation of individual life stories. I’m writing in mid-February, and that work is now complete, although the beauty of the on-line format is that it can be updated when new material is identified. But we want to reflect on our findings and write something that is more than a collection of anecdotes or a time-line of activity. We need to use these stories to understand what made the movement in Devon distinctive. How does it differ from the popular picture of the suffrage movement left by the centenary celebrations, one almost entirely of protest in public places, militant action and fortitude under duress? This will be the next challenge.

5. A cataloguing challenge Show more → Show less ↓

Ally McConnell

Tackling a large, local but multinational company’s archives: my experiences halfway through a cataloguing project

In April 2018, I started the mammoth task of trying to identify, understand, list, package and sort the extensive archive of a huge Gloucestershire company, the Dowty Group. Started in 1931 in a mews loft in Cheltenham by a young inventor called George Dowty, by the 1990s it had become multinational and had gone from focusing on aircraft engineering to information technology and communications, mining equipment, fuel systems, marine engineering, hydraulics for railways and countless others. It acquired many companies over its lifetime and employed thousands of people at any one time across the globe.

However, it was always a local company – especially in the memories of the people who used to work there. The headquarters were always in Cheltenham and many people moved to Gloucestershire to work for Dowty as apprentices or elsewhere within the company. There are fond memories from past employees of the grand Arle Court, the manor house that Sir George Dowty purchased to create his vast office spaces and factories, as well as other factories across the country such as in Atworth in Wiltshire, Coventry, Tewkesbury, the Isle of Man, Worcester and many others.

The Dowty project is first and foremost a project to catalogue the archives – about 1500 boxes’ worth – during a two year period. That is my day job, and that’s what’s taking most of my time. But there is so much more to this project. We have a community heritage website that is being added to by former employees and families of those people: www.dowtyheritage.org.uk . At the same time that was set up, but technically independently of the project, a Facebook group was set up by someone who is now a volunteer, entitled “Dowty Group of Companies”, with the intention of bringing lots of these people together through social media. We are also undertaking oral history interviews, which are co-ordinated by another volunteer. Other volunteers are working on catalogue enhancement, identifying and listing masses of photographs and negatives or fleshing out minute books and other key documents. By the time this is published, I will have spoken at the Gloucestershire Local History Association, showing members examples from the archive and speaking on the history of the company and the impact it had on the local area.

The Dowty project is running on the momentum of lots of former employees who still have a lot of love for the company and the industry as a whole. The aim of the project is to bring them and their families together, virtually through the internationally available website and Facebook page, and also by allowing them access to an archive that has not been previously available due to lack of funding for the scale of such a cataloguing project.

I think also that the archive does not just appeal to former employees and their families. The catalogued archive will provide photographs, plans and deeds of factories or other buildings that may still be there but in another form (such as Arle Court which is now a wedding venue). Researchers of local history will be able to find out when particular buildings or roads were built or altered due to records available in the Dowty archive, and see photographs of places that have now been demolished. The archive is also revealing just how much of an impact – physically and socially – a company such as this had on an area, both when it was expanding and then when it was later disbanded. The Dowty Group was sold in 1992 and although some of the company still exists, it has been broken up, renamed and hived off, and this project is allowing us to piece some of the parts back together through archive documents, photographs, ephemera owned by former employees and their families, and people’s personal memories of working for such a company.

If you want any more information on the project, or want to get involved, please email ally.mcconnell@gloucestershire.gov.uk.

6. Society archives Show more → Show less ↓

John Beckett

Has your society got its own archive, or perhaps its own museum or photographic collection? If so, how do you pay for it, and how do you look after it?

Many local history societies, in a fit of enthusiasm, perhaps at the time of their setting up, have collected material and co-ordinated exhibitions. But, and here is the rub, what happens when the first generation of enthusiasts retire, or the money runs out? What next?

I am a member of the Beeston and District Local History Society, and this question is only too relevant to the committee. Years ago someone had the bright idea of starting a museum. Lots of donations came in, as well as pictures, newspapers and even the occasional original document.

But today the Society is facing a crisis. The collection is kept in the attic of a building belonging to the local council, and the annual rent of £3,000 is rapidly draining the society of its already meagre resources. If nothing is done, in two years’ time the society will have to close and, more to the point, someone will be faced with the awkward problem of getting rid of the collection, presumably into a skip.

This is a really awkward position for the Society to find itself in, where the enthusiasm of the membership outruns the resources at the treasurer’s command. The society’s committee has talked to the local archive service, and also to other potential organisations which might help them out, but no luck.

The collection has taken many years to build up, and simply to bin it seems such a terrible waste.

Have any other societies had similar experiences and, if so, can they offer advice to the BDLHS on what they might do? For a local history society to have collected material and now to have to throw it away seems like a tragic waste of resource. But something has to be done!

If you have experience of a similar nature, and any advice you can offer to the Beeston society, please contact its chairman, Jill Oakland, on 07866-950658 or at Jill_Oakland@hotmail.com .

7. Parliamentary petitions 1641-1642 and the Somerset Record Society  Show more → Show less ↓

Adrian J Webb

The Somerset Parliamentary petitions of 1641 and 1642 offer an insight at a local and national level into one of those tumultuous periods in British history. At this time of Brexit, as a historian it is inevitable that comparisons are drawn with similar events in the past. Is the rift over episcopacy in the early 1640s one of them? The Somerset Record Society are planning to publish a volume of Parliamentary petitions from the turbulent years of 1641 and 1642. 

The volume in preparation is a hybrid mixture of both printed and manuscript petitions relating to Church and State. The plan is to reproduce (in facsimile) four contemporary printed petitions from 1642, two of which are single sheets and the other two are in the form of tracts. The main part of the volume is an edited transcript of a manuscript petition in the Parliamentary Archives from Somerset dated 1641. This document contains some 14,000 names. It is thought to be a fair representation of those who held leanings for King Charles the First and the established Church. It lacks the names of a good number of Puritan supporters.

The 1641 petition was first published in 1968 in limited numbers. It is made up of over 200 returns that were thought of in 1968 to represent 221 parishes. Unfortunately the petition does not give the names of the parishes. Recent research using online resources that were unimaginable half a century ago reveals a very different story. This is the main reason for bringing out a new edition of this important source. 

Part of the problem faced by the editors is arranging all the petitions in the correct chronological order. One of the manuscript petitions from 1642 is not easy to precisely place in its correct chronological sequence. The manuscript in question is addressed to parliament but it does not appear in the journals of either house. It is likely that this petition was drafted but never circulated, possibly due to the failure of previous petitions and the outbreak of hostilities in Somerset in August 1642. The Somerset Record Society are looking for a specialist who might be able to help with identifying the approximate day and month this petition was compiled, or circulated, sometime after July 1642. 

The petition in question is addressed: 'To the Right Honourable the Lords and Commons assembled in Parliament. The humble Petition of the Gentry Ministers Freeholders and other Inhabitants of the County of Somerset'. The initial preamble states: 'Sheweth. That we doe most humbly & heartyly acknowledge the exceeding great mercy of god to this Nation in preserving you from so many dangerous and wicked plotts & practises Rendring you all hearty thanks for your great cares & unwearyed paines taken to preserve his Majesties person & kingdoms ...'. The original is held at the Somerset Heritage Centre, reference DD/HI/466. Any information is very welcome. Please send to draj.webb@btinternet.com.

The Somerset Record Society was established in 1886 and is still going strong. It exists to make record sources for the study of Somerset history available in printed form. The Society has been preserving, promoting and making accessible the written heritage of the county of Somerset since 1886. These volumes have been heavily used and widely cited by scholars, and sets are maintained in major libraries all over the world. The Society remains the only entirely dedicated organisation to publish the written heritage of the ancient county. Somerset’s archival history contains a wealth of unique material which the Society has been making more widely accessible for over a century. 

A healthy series of volumes are in preparation. Their latest volume is a Handlist of Somerset probate inventories and administrators' accounts, 1482-1924. Details of how to join and a list of volumes left in stock can be found at http://www.sdnq.org.uk/?page_id=216. 

8. The Best Idea: Victorian Birmingham's Shakespeare Memorial Library Show more → Show less ↓

Stephen Roberts

Stand back and gaze at the Library of Birmingham, which opened in September 2013, and you will see that this magnificent building pays tribute to ‘something wonderful’, to use the phrase of the local antiquarian and poet J.A. Langford.  The metal rings that adorn the façade remind us that once Birmingham manufactured almost any metal object that was needed for daily living – jewellery, pen nibs, spectacles, hair pins, buttons, bellows, nails, screws, hinges, sewing machines, brass bedsteads and so many other things.  The golden rotunda on the roof is a declaration of Victorian Brum’s devotion to Shakespeare.  Underneath the square in front of the Library lie the foundations of R.W. Winfield’s vast brass manufactory.  Inside the rotunda is the Shakespearean Memorial Room, housing a world-famous collection, including a First Folio – that is one of the first collected editions of Shakespeare’s plays – that is valued at millions of pounds.

That this collection exists at all is down principally to one man.  It wasn’t the town’s charismatic and colourfully-attired preacher George Dawson who presented or collected this material, but he certainly inspired its creation and established the democratic idea that underpinned it.  Conceived as the very best way to mark the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in April 1864, the plan was to create in Birmingham the greatest collection of works by and about Shakespeare in the world and to make all of this accessible to anyone. This exercise in egalitarian cultural participation was Birmingham’s famous ‘civic gospel’ in practice. In his enterprise Dawson recruited the support not only of close friends such as the hardware manufacturer and bibliophile Sam Timmins and the ‘civic gospel’ architect J.H. Chamberlain but also men on the other side in politics, including the newspaper editor Sebastian Evans, the solicitor George Jabet and the now-forgotten novelist J.H. Shorthouse.   When a considerable part of the collection was destroyed by fire in January 1879, Dawson was dead but his idea was not.   By the time a new Shakespeare Memorial Room, decorated with flowers, foliage and birds carved in wood, opened in 1882, 4000 volumes had been collected. Today there are 40,000 books – along with thousands of posters, photographs and other items.

Professor Ewan Fernie of the University of Birmingham has embarked on an ambitious project to remember and re-invigorate this great example of Victorian civic self-improvement.   Fernie is recognised as a leading Shakespearean scholar, but an utterance of Dawson’s resonates with him as much any famous line by Shakespeare.  ‘The time has come to give everything to everybody’, Dawson declared.  Fernie has called his project ‘Everything to Everybody’ and unequivocally identifies Dawson as ‘a lost prophet.’   With the full backing of the city council and with the Birmingham-born actor Adrian Lester as patron, Fernie aims to secure a grant of around £750,000 from the National Heritage Lottery Fund in support of a project whose total value is £1m to ensure that the communities of Birmingham revive the vision of their Victorian forebears.  The award, at the end of 2018, of an NHLF development grant of £32,700, is a very encouraging beginning.

Shakespeare’s Victorian editor Charles Knight described Dawson’s project as ‘the best idea’.  And so, too, is this.

You can find out more at http://everythingtoeverybody.bham.ac.uk

9. A History Taster Day Show more → Show less ↓

Phoebe Merrick

A row of coloured posters, several tables displaying maps, a bookstall, and several computers formed the basis of a History Taster Day. In the past the Romsey Local Historical Society has staged exhibitions showing the results of our work. This exhibition was different. We presented building blocks of local history to show what we do and what we use to get our results.

Our Anglo-Saxon project is in its latter stages and our committee decided that we needed some new projects to invite people to come and join in with. We are floating ideas of studying the history of the local amateur dramatic society, or looking at estate management in the early 20th century (stimulated by a delightful autobiography). One of our members would like to see us establish a pre-history research group, and the most ambitious, and least supported idea, is to collect up and analyse local place names.

Our members came to see what we were doing, and the public came in too. The number of visitors was lower than those at some of our earlier exhibitions, but the people who did come, tended to stay until their paid-for parking time expired. We had many long discussions with our visitors about historical matters that interested them and have hopes that one or two will join in with us as active local historians in the future.

10. John Anthony Jowitt (1947-2018) Show more → Show less ↓

Paul Jennings and George Sheeran

A Personal Tribute

It is with regret that we report the death of Tony Jowitt, who will be remembered by many as an important historian of the north of England and as a champion of university adult education.

He was born in 1947 in Spenborough, West Yorkshire.  Educated at Bradford Grammar School, he then completed a degree in History and Politics at the University of Bradford in 1970. In 1981 he was awarded the degree of M.Phil at Leeds University for a thesis on the political career of Sir Charles Wood, first Viscount Halifax. His doctorate was gained in 1994 for his work on the local and regional history of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

He made an important contribution in particular to labour and textile history and to the history of both Bradford and the wider West Riding. But his interests went much further, including across the Atlantic, with research on the textile town of Lawrence, Massachusetts.  These subject areas and university adult education were the focus of his career. He published in journals ranging from History Workshop to Northern History and also trade journals such as The Wool Record. In the Bradford Antiquary he published in 1990, 'Textiles and Society in Bradford and Lawrence, USA, 1880-1920'.  He wrote, edited and contributed to other studies and collections, such as Nineteenth Century Bradford Elections with R. K. S. Taylor in 1979 and also with Taylor in 1980: Bradford 1890-1914: The Cradle of the Independent Labour Party. In addition there was Victorian Bradford: Essays in Honour of Jack Reynolds, which he edited with D. G. Wright in 1981; and Model Industrial Communities in Mid-Nineteenth Century Yorkshire, in 1986.  In those thriving years for local history and adult education he was also involved in the Bradford History Workshop and the Bradford Heritage Recording Unit, an important oral history project.

He served as Warden of the Adult Education Centre at Mornington Villas, Bradford, then part of the University of Leeds.  Later he became Director of Continuing Education at the University of Bradford at their centre in Claremont. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he was responsible for extra-mural courses of study and one-off events such as Saturday schools, all of which covered an extensive range and variety.  He also successfully introduced part-time degrees at the Centre for Continuing Education, from which many adult students benefited.  In all this, his own teaching was much admired and appreciated.

In 1999 Tony left the University of Bradford to become the principal of Northern College, near Barnsley, a leading adult education and widening participation institution, where he was able to provide leadership in the increasingly difficult years for adult education between 1999 and his retirement in 2007.  This was in addition to taking up the role of Professor of Continuing Education at Sheffield Hallam University.

Tony died on 9th April, 2018, leaving his wife Margaret, five children and six grandchildren.

11. Teaching the First World War: The legacy of four years of commemorations Show more → Show less ↓

Ruth Butler

In October 2012 the Government launched its 1914-18 centenary programme, preparing the way for the country to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. We are now on the other side of those four years of commemorations and have the opportunity to more fully reflect on their legacy.

Since 2012 I have been researching, writing and teaching about the First World War in my role as a heritage education officer, first at The Salisbury Museum and now at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. I saw the commemorations as an opportunity to challenge preconceptions and myths associated with the Great War. I wanted to encourage people of all ages to look beyond the mud, blood and war poetry narrative, for them to engage with the period and its people, and come away with a sense of how we live with the legacy of the First World War.

My desire to challenge the familiar narrative came from a long-held unease about how the war was presented and viewed. I did not study the Great War in school until I reached sixth form in the early 80s. My interest grew out of family connections and I struggled to reconcile the pride I felt in my relatives’ military service, two were killed in action, and the message of futility and waste that seemed to dominate any discussion of the war.

Today the First World War is firmly embedded in the secondary curriculum and youngsters can be taught it at all three stages – KS3, GCSE and A level. Teaching of the war has moved on but the shared public narrative is still infected with the “lions led by donkeys” view espoused by Alan Clark in his 1961 book The Donkeys, despite later admitting that the quote was fabricated.

Today, most people’s view of the war is still mediated through a shared narrative. In Britain it is the 1914 Christmas truce and football matches, the Battle of the Somme, trenches, poets and poppies. In France the national identity is shaped by the horrific losses at Verdun. In Australia and New Zealand it is Gallipoli. And Germany? School children do study imperialism and war but as a nation there are no First World War commemorations.

In 2014 I worked with Ken Smith, a teacher colleague who I knew to be particularly expert on both world wars, to curate The Salisbury Museum exhibition Salisbury and The Great War – fighting on the Home Front. We designed both exhibition and schools programme to challenge people’s attitudes and ways of thinking. We created an exhibition accessible to all ages and developed and delivered classroom sessions to primary schools around Salisbury. We also held a professional development day for primary school teachers which was a great success. The teachers were all history coordinators, although not necessarily historians, and they found the session boosted their subject knowledge and confidence in being able to deliver FWW-related lessons across the curriculum.

The outreach sessions for primary schools were also a big hit with head teachers and classroom teachers welcoming the opportunity for experts to come in to school to deliver interactive sessions to pupils.

While the exhibition focused on stories from south Wiltshire and some fairly traditional themes – joining up; the role of women; the impact of war on families – we challenged traditional viewpoints. We wanted to dispel myths, such as the plucky Tommy spending all his time in the trenches (he didn’t), or that volunteers signed up blindly and without thinking (they didn’t). We questioned who was rewarded for their war work with the vote. And we looked at soldiers’ training, at technological advances and the arrival of Empire troops on Salisbury Plain.

Not every aspect of the project was so successful. As a secondary trained teacher I knew that getting senior schools to engage would be difficult, but I hoped that because the First World War is so firmly fixed in the curriculum we would have a good take-up. We were pleased that two secondary schools did bring their students to see the exhibition – and it was the first time they had engaged with the museum – but generally the response was disappointing.

In 2015 I moved to the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. My role is to help schools and community groups engage with our archives. Our collections date from the 12th century but few secondary schools take full advantage of our archives, despite the fact that we have collections that could support such topics as Tudors, crime and punishment, First and Second World War, medicine through time, and the Cold War.

The History Centre has extensive Great War collections, which were identified in the run-up to 2014, while across Wiltshire there were a huge number of community research and commemorative projects. Many of these, including our own Wiltshire at War, have revealed new stories and challenged people’s perceptions. Despite four years of new research and promoting our First World War collections few secondary schools have taken the opportunity to engage with us.

Primary schools on the other hand often make the History Centre their first port of call for classroom resources. Although primary history stops at 1066, schools must also look at a period post 1066 and carry out a local history study. This requirement allowed primary schools to engage with the centenary and do some great local history.

Primary heads and teachers recognise that outside specialists can provide huge added value to classroom learning. Our Great War collections have allowed children to explore first-hand accounts of soldiers’ lives. On the home front, school log books gave insights into what children were doing a hundred years ago to support the war effort. Photographs allowed pupils to see what their communities used to look like.

With the younger primary pupils it was about getting them to think about the past, how it might be different from today, and how we find out about the past using photos, letters, objects, etc. With the 10 and 11 year olds we could explore more complex issues, such as the conflicting realities of the war, described so aptly by war poet, writer and teacher Edmund Blunden as “…the horror and the humour; the waste and honour; the boredom and intensity…”.

Almost all the children I worked with were familiar with the poppy and what it symbolised. Some older pupils also knew about the war poets – usually Wilfred Owen and John McCrea. This proved a useful starting point from which to move beyond the mud, blood and war poetry version of the First World War. I wanted students – and teachers – to appreciate how very different society was in 1914 and how it was changed by four years of war. I felt it was important to understand that of the six million men who served in the British armed forces, around five million – almost 85 per cent – came home; that India contributed more than a million troops; that this was a truly global conflict. A revelation for pupils and teachers was just how involved children were in the war effort – collecting blackberries for jam, eggs for the wounded, and acorns to be used in the munitions factories.

Feedback from teachers and pupils has been great and leaves me hopeful that these sessions have made a lasting impression. Teachers have said they could not have delivered the same level of knowledge as a specialist while the children appreciated the hands-on nature of the learning experience. One child noted that because I had brought in (facsimile) photos and documents he could trust what he was being told; that it wasn’t faked. Another pupil concluded: “It is a really special way of learning.”

I am also hopeful that the Wiltshire at War project has left their mark. This heritage lottery funded project began in 2014 and ends this year (2019). Working with the county’s smaller museums to collect home front stories we created five panel exhibitions: A Call to Arms; Wiltshire Does Its Bit; A Child’s War; Keep the Home Fires Burning; Peace and Aftermath. New and forgotten histories were uncovered and rediscovered and thousands of people have seen the exhibitions. The content will continue to be available to the public and schools, most probably as on-line learning resources.

Over the four years of the commemorations there have been two main areas of success – working with primary schools and creating lasting partnerships with other arts and heritage organisations. While many primary schools have engaged creatively with the commemorations, my experience with secondary schools is very different. Although a handful have borrowed Wiltshire at War exhibitions it is disappointing that the majority are still not looking to their local archive to provide resources which would add value to their students’ learning. I do not blame teachers entirely as they are under immense pressures but I do think that with a little bit of imagination they would see how valuable a resource the archives are.

On the whole I come away from these commemorations feeling positive about how Wiltshire and Swindon’s primary schools and communities have engaged with the centenary. But I wonder whether nationally we have done enough to challenge those myths and misconceptions that shape our collective understanding and remembrance of the First World War.

12. Name and Place: A new local history database app Show more → Show less ↓

Name and Place is a dynamic database and mapping application designed for Local History projects. Co-founders Paul Carter (Technical Lead) and Pam Smith (Content Lead) originally created and developed an application robust enough to cope with the manipulation of diverse historical data in varying formats and size to produce outcomes for a One-Place Study. This has since been expanded into a digital and archival database managing layers of census and parish registers, and historical documents together with the capture of visual documents such as maps and old postcards with capacity to record oral history and reminiscences. 

The application provides each study together with a photo gallery. The fields and filters enable multi-faceted views of the data which can be searched by name, gender, occupation or any other relevant attribute of a location. Easily searchable by the user, Name and Place produces graphs and reports which display the raw data to its full potential thus establishing migration, population and occupational trends and more for a whole community.

Further information can be found at https://www.nameandplace.co.uk, with more updates coming over the course of the year.  Paul and Pam are raising awareness of Name and Place at Family Tree Live, Alexandra Palace, London this April.

13. Local Population Studies Society Conference Show more → Show less ↓

Mike Kipling

The Local Population Studies Society held a conference in Oxford in November 2018 on the theme of historical sources and their use in local population studies .

First, Patrick Wallis spoke on ‘Researching apprenticeship before 1800’.  Amongst his many findings, Patrick reported that between 1700 and 1800 there was a marked decrease in London’s total of premium paying apprentices and that rural apprenticeships rose significantly.  Charmian Mansell  followed, speaking about ‘Women and work in early modern England: incidental evidence from church court depositions’.  The vast majority of those testifying were male but the evidence of over 600 female servants had been identified and used to explore their daily lives.

Marion Hardy then told of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century churchwardens’ and quarter sessions’ records of Devon and what could be concluded on the roles of parish officials, on population turnover and on peoples’ lives from settlement examinations. Sue Jones next  described her use of ‘big data’ when analysing the parish registers and probate inventories of early modern Surrey. Amongst other things, she had been able to draw conclusions on the geographical boundaries from within which marriage partners were drawn.

After lunch, Vanessa Harding spoke of the rich pickings to be gleaned from historic maps, including estate maps some of which date from the late 16th century. Users should be wary of the dates on some printed maps of London, as reprints up to 60 years old were sold as new to unsuspecting visitors. Claire Connor then told of her findings from geological sources about the lives of over 300 of the 630 passengers on the 1852 voyage of the SS Great Britain from Liverpool to Melbourne. Most were middle-class men, who made careers as traders on the goldfields’ periphery. Around one third of those investigated eventually returned home.

Finally, Martin Gorsky spoke about 'Local data, national patterns: sources for the history of hospitals and sickness insurance in the 19th and 20th centuries'. These sources included the Voluntary Hospitals Database, study of which reveals an ‘inverse care law’ in that there were more hospitals in wealthier places, where the need was less, due to the presence of more wealthy supporters.

14. Hampshire Community Archive Forum Show more → Show less ↓

Phoebe Merrick

Recently local historians from across Hampshire came together for a morning of talks and networking. There were five talks being a mixture of mainstream and niche local history pursuits. Thus we were treated to a talk about Admiral Cornwallis of Milford who was a luminary at the beginning of the 19th century. The research had come about because the local history society was asked where Cornwallis’s grave is. This roused their interest and in no time they had become involved in a four-year project and the fund-raising necessary to enable them to put on several public events and a major exhibition this summer.

We had an update on Winchester’s ongoing search for King Alfred’s bones and learned of the preservation and cataloguing of significant local records in Christchurch. The inspiration for this came from an eccentric who had collected masses of ‘stuff’ of considerable interest to his locality, which could easily have been thrown away after he died but which they obtained from various places around the town, such as the library cellars and are now curating.

We were presented with research into the history of a dreary block of flats at Southsea, built in the 1960s, but which had been preceded by a United Reformed Church on the site, thereby demonstrating that architectural dreariness does not necessarily mean historical dreariness.

The fifth speaker was a member of Hampshire Constabulary History Society and he showed us what a wealth of photographic and other material is held in Police Stations and archives, and which with cuts in Police funding are at considerable risk.

The morning ended with two historians with wide experience of modest publishing sharing their experiences with the rest of us, which led to a discussion on the relative merits of ‘real’ publishing and the ‘on-line’ alternatives. The general consensus was that on-line is quick and headline grabbing, but we all doubted its permanence.

The gathering was held in Hampshire Record Office, the centre of local history in Hampshire, and had been organised by the Local History Section of the Hampshire Field Club. It was the third such event. Enough time was given so that we could talk to each other, meeting up with old friends and making new ones. If the event is repeated next year, it would be good to have name badges on everyone.

15. News from Societies Show more → Show less ↓

National Mills Weekend is 11-12 May.  Look out for special events near you. 

Meldreth Local History Group will be raising funds for an upgrade to their website with a special opening of Topcliffe Mill generously donated by its owners. www.meldrethhistory.org.uk

Edmonton Hundred Historical Society anticipated the national weekend celebrations with a talk in February about the Mills of Tottenham Hale. The earliest record of a mill dates from 1254, but the oldest known artefacts date from the 16th century.  Here is Tottenham Mills illustrated from The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Tottenham, by William Robinson 1840. info@edmontonhundred.org.uk

When Royal Leamington Spa's Lillington Local History Society was set up in 2009 many people thought it would never take off, but such is the interest in  local history that within a short time a good audience attended its monthly meetings and today it is one of the leading societies in the area. The Society includes a number of dedicated members  who administer events and make innovations.
To celebrate the first decade, it was agreed to stage a public exhibition in the Royal Priors Shopping Centre. Thanks to the efforts of many members, including transporting furniture and equipment and the use of eye-catching ‘pop-up’ banners, an effective display was created, which attracted nearly 500 shoppers on Saturday 19th January. This has spread the news about the Society and has informed the public of a safe place to donate any local photographs and memorabilia. www.lillingtonhistory.org

Congratulations to Keyworth & District Local History Society who have just published the 100th issue of their Newsletter. It contains the range of material relating to the society, its activities and the history of the area, and information about other relevant local organisations that we have come to expect.  There is a particularly attractive design feature of a band of ‘thumbnail’ views  dividing contributions. www.keyworthhistory.org.uk

The striking cover of Bulletin 60 of the Hornsey Historical Society shows an image of Alexandra Palace painted on a bone by a German man who was interned there in WW1. In the journal the wartime theme continues with articles on Hornsey after the war and the flu pandemic of 1918/19. Happier times are the subject of an article on the lakeside miniature railway at Alexandra Palace, and other local institutions feature in accounts of the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts and of a (for once) thriving shopping parade, all fully illustrated.  https://hornseyhistorical.org.uk/

Family & Community Historical Research Society will be holding their annual conference on 11 May in Coventry. The topic is Exploring Communities of Dissent, the focus of their current national research project. The main presentations are: ‘A Victorian Cultural revolution: English Nonconformists and the Rise of Sport’, Professor Hugh McLeod; Reflections on the Communities of Dissent Project so far’, Dr. Kate Tiller; ‘Religious Intolerance in Clive, Shropshire in 1881’, Alison Shepherd; ‘Free Church co-operation in Basingstoke, Hampshire’, Roger Ottewill; and ‘Consolidation and Decline: the Methodist experience in 19th century Madeley, Shropshire’; Dr Andrew Coles.  www.fachrs.com/Shop/shop_conference.html

Verulamium: the life and death of a Roman city is the title of

a one day conference at Marlborough Road Methodist Church, St Albans on 29 June 2019

Verulamium was the third largest city in Roman Britain.  It is also the largest city in Roman Britain which has not been extensively built over subsequently.  As such, it represents one of the premier archaeological sites in the United Kingdom. This conference will provide an overview of recent research on the town and its hinterland including the extensive geophysical survey of the town and recent excavations on the site of the Roman forum.  Papers will draw comparisons with research on other towns in the province, and re-examine aspects of the debate about the end of towns in the province.

Full details, including booking arrangements, are available via www.stalbanshistory.org. , the website of St Albans & Hertfordshire Architectural & Archaeological Society

A conference at the Museum of London is being organised by the Docklands History Group on 18 May on the subject of the Medieval Port of London. www.docklandshistorygroup.org.uk

It is always sad to report the closure of a long-established local history organisation. Wiltshire Local History Forum was formed in 1985, but at an Extraordinary General Meeting in February it was formally wound up. Over the years it has become increasingly difficult to find people willing to undertake the officers’ roles, and as the current chair is moving out of the county the remaining members of the committee decided the Forum had come to a natural end.  The primary aims of the Forum were always to promote local history in Wiltshire, particularly by providing opportunities for active local historians to share their knowledge and skills, and it is hoped that this will continue through the work of other bodies.  Can be contacted via www.wshc.eu

The Council for British Archaeology is celebrating its 75th anniversary.  It was established in 1944 as an independent champion for archaeology to combat the pressure on the historic environment from post-war development. There is a fascinating timeline in their Newsletter Feb-May 2019 demonstrating how much has been achieved, as well as comments on the continuing challenges faced.  This year’s Festival of Archaeology will take place around the country between 13 and 28 July.  Support the activities in your area! www.archaeologyfestival.org.uk

Hendon & District Archaeological Society (‘celebrating over 50 years of excavation and research throughout the borough of Barnet’) will be holding its AGM on 1 June.  Their ‘long trip’ this September will be based in Port Talbot. www.hadas.org.uk

The Scottish Local History Forum is arranging two Walk-and-Talk events this summer, on the Forth & Clyde Canal, and the Union Canal.  The SLHF Conference and AGM will be in Clydebank Town Hall on 31 October; the theme will reflect the centenary of the Forestry Commission.  A valuable resource on their website is the directory ‘helping people find their way round local history of Scotland’ www.slhf/scottish-local-history-directory

Readers will have noticed a number of events mentioned here recognising the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre.  The Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire also include one in their programme. On 16 October, Prof John Belchem will speak on ‘orator Hunt, radical mobilisation and the Peterloo massacre’.  www.hslc.org.uk

Ilkeston & District Local History Society has recently acquired part of the late Eddie King’s collection of photographs which add to the resources of the society and our knowledge of the area. This example shows Shipley in March 1990.


Dates for your diary from the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology include 18 May when they are organising a day conference ‘Beside the Seaside’. This will take place appropriately in Skegness. In the programme are talks on various aspects of the Lincolnshire coastline, such as tourism, sea defences, drowned villages, and the Lindsey County Council Sandhills Act of 1932.  On 15 June is a conference on The Civil War in Lincolnshire 1642-1660, organised jointly with The Cromwell Association, held at Christ’s Hospital School, Lincoln.  Six papers during the day will explore this important topic. Further information from info@slha.org.uk.

Merton Historical Society held a member’s meeting in January when several of their members gave short talks about their interests and research activities.  Amongst the contributions were  the area of ‘Shannon Corner’, the Society’s forthcoming publication A Priory Founded, a personal collection of items found on dog walks, which lead to Edward Thomas’s writing, particularly his evocative description of a cycle ride through Merton and Morden  in In Pursuit of Spring,  ‘pillar boxes and telephone kiosks’ – both of which perhaps have their days numbered with mobile phones and email. www.mertonhistoricalsociety.org.uk  (see also Museum Crush on page 27)

The Eccelesiological Society e-newsletter for Spring 2019 contains the useful news that Durham cathedral has announced that photography will now be allowed inside the cathedral. This leaves only St Pauls Cathedral and Westminster maintaining a photography ban.   The Society’s annual conference will be on 28 September, on the subject of ‘Chancel Screens since the Reformation’.  West Norwood Cemetery will receive funding from  HLF, Friends of West Norwood Cemetery and Lambeth Council for a revival project that will cost £6.7 m and take five years to complete. Readers planning their ‘staycation’ may like to consider ‘champing’, or camping overnight in historic churches organised by The Churches Conservation Trust. www.champing.co.uk  www.ecclsoc.org

Abbots Langley Local History Society Journal for Autumn/Winter 2018 has an article about agricultural rakes, splendidly titled ‘The Rake’s Progress’.   The author explains how her interest developed from family history, and how she discovered both the very long history of rakes – nearly as long as farming itself – and links to local crafts people in the area of Abbots Langley. Mary Hawkins described herself in her will as a rake-maker, and in the 1861 census she was ‘a handle maker employing 12 men’.  Making staves (the sections of a barrel), handles and rakes seem to have been closely related trades.  www.allhs.org.uk

16. News from Archives Show more → Show less ↓

Hampshire Archives recently welcomed two collections of material from Fleet & Crookham Local History Group.  They had been offered and accepted the material that would otherwise have gone in the recycling bin. One was from Fleet District Chamber of Trade and Commerce 1949-1998, and the other was from Crookham Wives 1976 – 2017 when that group had to close due to lack of a treasurer.  FCLHG realised that it was important to keep the collections together, so decided that they would scan the selection of items particularly relevant to them. HRO wrote ‘we are extremely grateful to you and your group for being our ‘eyes and ears’ in the Fleet area ...’. Surely this is something relevant to all local history societies, local knowledge can be the vital link in preserving records.  www.fclhg.org.uk

Port Sunlight Village Trust has received a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a new project, Drawn Together, which will create a digital archive of original drawings for Port Sunlight village. The documents, which include over 4000 original plans and detailed drawings, illustrate founder William Lever's vision for Port Sunlight and the development of the village. The project will bring together digital copies from the holdings of four collections: Unilever, Art Archives and Records Management (UARM), Wirral Archives, Bolton Library and Museums Service, and National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside (NML). A catalogue of the drawings will be created and a selection of drawings from each of the project partners will be digitised.

HLF have launched a new campaign to encourage people to share their stories of working life in the East Midlands. With the decline of traditional industries and an ageing population first-hand memories of once prolific trades are being lost. ‘Working Lives’ aims to rectify this and invites groups to apply for grants to take part.


North East Derbyshire Industrial Archaeology Society www.nedias.co.uk

Kendal Oral History Group was formed in 1987 to compile a detailed picture of life and work in the area through the recorded memories of local people. A small group of dedicated volunteers has worked very hard over the years, recording, transcribing and indexing. The archives contain more than 370 interviews, almost all of which are indexed by place and subject. They are safely deposited with the Cumbria Archive Service, and are widely used.  The group writes ‘we know there is more to be done. We also want to find ways of encouraging more individuals and groups to use the archives. But the progress we have made to date demonstrates that long-standing community projects such as ours can be very successful – but only as long as they are able to attract members with the necessary skills.  So anyone interested in joining and taking the project on to the next phase should please contact the group.



On 17 September 2019 Friends of Lancashire Archives will hold their AGM and hear a talk by Professor Robert Poole

‘Peterloo 1819-2019: reflections on the Peterloo massacre, the bicentenary programme, the public debates, and THAT film’

FLA members only –join now for £10 http://www.flarchives.co.uk/

Wirral Archives Services runs a comprehensive series of free local history workshops throughout the year on a wide variety of local topics.. Their current exhibition, which runs until the end of August,  illustrates the impact of the 1918-9 flu pandemic on the area, using the Birkenhead Medical Officer of Health report for that year, local newspapers, school log books, burial statistics from Flaybrick Cemetery etc. For further details see https://www.wirral.gov.uk/libraries-and-archives/wirral-archives-service

Surrey History Centre will run a family history day ‘How we used to Live’ on Saturday 18 May. Further details and other events in their busy programme can be found at /www.surreycc.gov.uk/culture-and-leisure/history-centre/events

News from Cheshire Archives: For almost 20 years many of our records have been stored deep in the salt mine at Winsford, and one of our intrepid Conservators has had the task of bringing them to the surface when required. To improve our service staff from the document storage company within the salt mine will now be responsible for collecting documents and delivering them to the Record Office. Customers can order as late as Friday to see the documents the following Tuesday and shouldn't have to wait more than one week.

To do this all our boxes needed barcoding so we can keep track of their movements and in the past two years we have:
- barcoded 9,000+ boxes
- wrapped and labelled 962 outsize volumes (including 447 Warrington bound newspapers)
- cleaned and boxed 670 maps and plans
We’re well over halfway to completing the barcoding and the next big job will be to package the rest of our newspaper collection... just a couple of thousand to do! http://www.cheshirearchives.org.uk/ 

17. News from Libraries Show more → Show less ↓

This summer’s major exhibition at The British Library is Writing: Making Your Mark, which runs from 26 April to 27 August. More than 100 objects spanning 5,000 years and seven continents reveal the story behind ‘one of humankind’s greatest achievements’. There is a programme of linked talks and discussions.


Luton Library hosts regular visits from Bedfordshire Archives & Records Service which include exhibitions, talks and question-and-answer sessions. Recent topics have been ‘Women: life and Work’, and ‘Buildings’. Coming up are ‘Law & Order’ (6 June), ‘Between the Wars’ (1 August), ‘World War II’ (3 October ) and ‘Leisure’ (5 December). http://bedsarchives.bedford.gov.uk/ArchivesAndRecordOffice.aspx  www.lutonculture.com/luton-libraries/

Staff from Lancashire Archives visit local libraries to talk about their collections and what they contain about that local area. The programme for the rest of this year is: 


Fri 17 May 2pm


Fri 14 Jun 10.30am


Wed 17 Jul 2pm

Lostock Hall

Wed 14 Aug 2pm


Thu 19 Sep 2pm


Tue 8 Oct 2pm


Mon 11 Nov 10.30am


Mon 2 Dec 2pm

There is no need to book, just turn up!  www.lancashire.gov.uk/archives

18. News from Museums Show more → Show less ↓

Did you know there is a Museum of Timekeeping? Located at the home of the British Horological Institute in Upton Hall, Upton, Newark Nottinghamshire, there is a fascinating and very special collection of clocks, watches and timepieces.  The museum is open to visitors from May to September (see website for days and times), and has a range of special events during the year, including on the Sundays when the clocks change in March and October. http://www.museumoftimekeeping.org.uk/

Kids in Museums has a new, easier to navigate, website, and this year is introducing three categories for small, medium and large museums, in its Family Friendly Museum Awards.  Takeover Day, when museums, galleries, archives and heritage sites invite young people to take over jobs normally done by adults, is one of their most popular programmes. This year there will be two, to help even more organisations take part; the dates are 28 June and 22 November. www.kidsinmuseums.org.uk

Royal Armouries conference: ‘The heart of the art of combat: exploring medieval manuscript I.33’ will take place from 10 – 12 May, with an associated ‘Sword and buckler training seminar’ on 11 and 12 May.  The document is, dated about 1310, is the world’s oldest known surviving fight book, and one of the most famous treasures in the collection.  www.royalarmouries.org

Museum Crush has a series of ‘visual histories’ in its regular Digest circulations. Recently we have had miners safety lamps  https://museumcrush.org/a-visual-history-of-the-miners-safety-lamp/ and telephone boxes.https://museumcrush.org/a-visual-history-of-the-british-telephone-box/.  Sign up for a regular feast of illustrated information from the world of museums and galleries.

19. Education News Show more → Show less ↓

The Historical Association has established an innovative project to engage young people in the UK’s democratic history, focusing on the suffrage movement.  ‘Women’s Suffrage: history and citizenship resources for schools’ can be found at www.suffragesources.org.uk The website contains a searchable database of over 3,000 individuals across England supported by case studies and guidance, plus activities and resources that can be used flexibly  to suit school provision and circumstances.

Wheels of Time is a ‘passport’ scheme to encourage the interest of children aged 5 to 11 in history in Kent. They receive acknowledgement for their visits to all participating heritage destinations in the county. Further details of the Roamin’ Rex Bronze, Silver and Gold awards can be found at https://wheelsoftime.uk/  where there is also a map of all the sites. Certificates are presented at the site where the child completes the required total number of visits. The scheme is a Kent Children’s University Quality Assured Activity. Three young people received their Bronze Badges at Sittingbourne Heritage Museum last Autumn, joining the many hundreds who have enjoyed taking part since the scheme began.  www.sittingbourne-museum.co.uk Roamin’ Rex belongs to Ashford Borough Museum Society www.ashfordmuseum.org.uk

Goldsmiths University of London are starting a new course in September: MA Black British History. This can be studied for one year full time or two years part time. Compulsory modules are ‘Research Skills’ and ‘Explorations and Debates in Black British History’ plus a 15,000 word dissertation. Optional modules are expected to cover 500 years of black British history and the people and ideas that shaped it, many of which would be open to local historical content. https://www.gold.ac.uk/pg/ma-black-british-history/

Forthcoming seminars at the Centre for West Midlands History, University of Birmingham, include Thursday 16 May: Museum artefacts and contemporary objects: Investigating craft skills of the 18th century enamel trade, John Grayson, Birmingham City University

South Staffordshire and Birmingham was the centre of English enamel production, producing items such as snuff boxes and candlesticks. Within literature, copper substrate – the metal skeleton crucial to the object’s existence - is overlooked. John Grayson summarises his practice-based PhD investigation into this aspect of the trade and discusses its value both then and now.

Thursday 13 June: Proclamation and Persuasion: Marketing the Birmingham cut-nail trade during the nineteenth century, Guy Sjögren, University of Birmingham

In 1830, there were two manufacturers of machine-cut nails in Birmingham; twenty years later, there were eighteen. By 1876, 300,000,000 cut nails were produced weekly.  Competition was intense and, as Guy Sjögren explains, survival often depended both on how widely manufacturers marketed their products and on the methods they used.


Publications from the University of Hertfordshire Press often appear in the Reviews pages of The Local Historian. Recent new volumes include Communities in Contrast: Doncaster and its rural hinterland c 1830 – 1879 by Sarah Holland, The Birmingham Parish Workhouse 1730 – 1840 by Chris Upton, and A Very Dangerous Locality. The Landscape of the Suffolk Sanderlings in the Second World War by Robert Liddiard and David Sims. Anne Rowe’s Medieval Parks of Hertfordshire was first published in 2009, it is now reissued to coincide with her new book Tudor and Early Stuart Parks of Hertfordshire.  www.ukpress.co.uk

Staffordshire History Day, takes place on Saturday 11 May, 10 – 5. It is presented by the Staffordshire Archive and Heritage Service, in collaboration with Keele University and the Centre for West Midlands History (University of Birmingham).

The programme will include updates from Staffordshire Archives and Heritage, County Archaeologist, Keele University and the VCH, and the Centre for West Midlands History, as well as reports on research activity from MA and PhD students. The event will take place at Entrust HQ, The Riverway Centre, Riverway, Stafford, ST16 3TH.Tickets are £25 each, including lunch and refreshments, by advance booking only. Please telephone Staffordshire Record Office on 01785-278379 to reserve your ticket. https://www.staffordshire.gov.uk/leisure/archives/events/home.aspx

20. Do We Know Everything Domesday Can Tell Us? Show more → Show less ↓

David Butcher

How was it even possible to carry out such an administrative exercise, in the year 1086, without all the various methods of collecting and storing information available to us today? Why was the Survey commissioned in the first place? Was it a means of knowing the taxable value of lands outside the Royal Estate or a comparison of the current economic state of the country compared with that of twenty years earlier? Did it serve a political purpose in recording the link of fealty between underling and lord in a time of unrest and suspect loyalties? Had it the capacity to provide information as to the ability of regions to support the quartering and provisioning of troops, if required? Or was it a comprehensive audit of the whole nation, embodying all of these intentions and perhaps others as well?

These are all questions we are entitled to ask regarding Domesday Book, before uttering a simple and unreserved “thank you” to all those people involved in its creation. The writer has been engaged in a project to assess the location and distribution of the churches of Norfolk and Suffolk recorded in the Great Survey and to relate these buildings to the holders of the land on which they stood in both 1066 and 1086. He has not been disappointed in what was revealed and what was drawn, by inference, regarding possible founding influences of the churches themselves. It is not possible to handle Domesday information (except on a very small scale) by simply reading the text and noting its content. Larger-scale analysis can only be arrived at by tabulating the data and studying what is revealed. The results are often both gratifying and exciting.

Anglo-Saxon survivors of the upheavals of 1066 manifest themselves from time to time, both as landholders and occupiers of positions of trust. Not many perhaps, but they are there to be found. Freewomen emerge from the pages (particularly prior to the defeat at Hastings) as figures of influence in their local areas, either mentioned by name in their own right or included in lists of freemen – not in denigration, but because they are regarded as equals. Priests are occasionally referred to by name, but without any reference to a church in the community where they live. Do remember, however, that in Christian teaching it is the people who constitute the Church – not the building in which they congregate. Worship can be (and sometimes was) an open-air affair.

Lost communities emerge from the pages, with only slight adjustment from the Latin of the text needed to produce the Anglo-Saxon names. There are nine such places in the furthest north-eastern corner of Suffolk where the writer lives and it has been possible to identify where they were located and what happened to them in the century following Domesday. Such reconstruction should be possible in other parts of East Anglia (or, indeed, of England itself) where the will or the interest exists, and the work is well worth carrying out. Use of OS maps of appropriate scale, scrutiny of suitable documentation where available (especially manorial material) and the study of surviving ancient land-forms can all be cross-referenced and integrated into a satisfying outcome.

Then there are the intriguing departures from the main emphasis of the project. Such as, why are there comparatively few dedications to St. Edmund in his former kingdom? And why should St. Margaret of Antioch be among the more numerous of the later, post-Biblical, Christian saints to be chosen as patron of certain East Anglian churches? Possible reasons are offered for both matters, as well as for a good deal else. And, as with much other historical documentation, using the material for reasons unintended (and certainly unforeseen) at the time it was produced can yield the most fascinating results!


A detailed account of East Anglia’s churches, their presence and location, and further information relating to them and other things, is to be found in David Butcher’s Norfolk and Suffolk Churches: the Domesday Record, produced by Poppyland Publishing, 2019 – ISBN 978 1 909796 61 4. £14.95

21. Cumbrian Lives a.k.a. The Dictionary of Cumbrian Biography Show more → Show less ↓

In September 2004, the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [O.D.N.B.] was published by Oxford University Press, containing 60,000 biographies. This massive project, largely generated in the 1990s, involved the re-writing of the lives included in the volumes of the original Dictionary of National Biography [1885 to 1900], and the inclusion of the lives of those written up in supplements [1912-1996]. The O.D.N.B. also included the lives of those who had been excluded or omitted from the earlier volumes, particularly those of prominent women and members of ethnic minority groups. There is a full sequence of the O.D.N.B. volumes in Carlisle Library and also online.

In anticipation of this publication and in collaboration with the editors of the O.D.N.B., in June 1999, almost twenty years ago, David Cross, a Cumbrian art historian, (www.davidcross.org.uk) called a meeting at Charlotte Mason College to establish a county wide project, initially entitled the Dictionary of Cumbrian Biography [D.C.B.]. The initial aim was to identify and research the names and biographies of significant Cumbrian figures who had not, at that date, been included in the O.D.N.B. survey. William Rollinson, Robert Woof, Michael Wheeler, Keith Hanley and others were unable to attend. Apart from David Cross, those attending the first meeting included Les Shore, the engineering historian [chair]; Angus Winchester, the historian; Rob David, the historian; Alan Hankinson, the journalist and obituarist; Richard Hall, the archivist; Jackie Fay, the librarian and Christine Parker, the original secretary of the project. Soon afterwards, the D.C.B. was re-named, more succinctly, Cumbrian Lives. Its ultimate goal was to be an online source of Cumbrian biographies. There followed some ten planning meetings at Kendal Archive Centre from 1999-2000 and the committee members set about listing suitable names and accumulating bibliographical details.

For 2018-19: an exhibition of Cumbrian portraits, both paintings and photographs, is being planned to be shown in Carlisle Library demonstrating the range of figures so far included in the ODNB and in Cumbrian Lives.

Much has been achieved already, but there is still a great deal to encompass. David Cross, whose publications include writing on Cumbrian artists, including George Romney, Sawrey Gilpin and Percy Kelly, in addition to his recent volume on Cumbrian public sculpture, is keen in his semi-retirement to assemble a new team to carry the project forward. The current plan for 2019, the 20th anniversary year, is to meet in Carlisle for several hours once a month. There will be scope for more frequent meetings, if the new members are keen.

If anyone would like to join the project, please let David know via: dcrossart@gmail.com.

This article appeared in the Cumbria Local History Federation Bulletin 79 Spring 2019 and is reproduced here with permission.

22. Baths and wash houses Show more → Show less ↓

There is a website to be found (often several) devoted to almost everything.

‘Baths and Wash Houses Historical Archive’ is the personal project of Carl Evans who has been collecting and sharing information about swimming baths, public baths, wash houses, laundries, Turkish baths, Russian baths, pools and lidos, and related facilities throughout the country.  Many of the buildings recorded have now disappeared, but did form an important part of the community where they were located. The site is also about the people involved – architects and engineers, politicians, sportsmen and women, and ordinary citizens whose lives were improved by access to clean water for washing or leisure.

Entries for specific places range from Ashbourne to York, technology includes underwater floodlighting, and wave machines, there are sections on wartime experiences, professional organisations, and individuals.  Photographs, plans and technical drawings provide illustrations. A growing bibliography of related publications is particularly valuable.

As the site is very much a work in progress, contributions are welcomed to make it more comprehensive. There are already some interesting comments from visitors to the site who have added to the details with their own knowledge.


23. Book review: Glimpses of Cranbrook Show more → Show less ↓

Mike Huxley

Cranbrook Museum and Local History Society 2018

Available from David Kelly, 56 Joyce Close, Cranbrook Kent TN17 3 LZ £5 + £2 p & p

Cranbrook, a town of fewer than 10,000 people located in the Weald of Kent, has a delightful museum and an active society. There is already a considerable list of publications to which this one has recently been added.  The foreword describes it as ‘a new and eclectic collection’ which sums it up exactly.  Photographs, newspaper cuttings, paintings, and a multitude of what I would describe as the ‘delights of ephemera’ describe and illustrate both important and more frivolous aspects of the town’s history.  Firefighting, policing, key elements of the local economy such as the Union Mill, and the broadcloth industry are there, together with the cinema, and the town band.

Cranbrook was a surprising focus of artistic ability. The Cranbrook Colony was founded in the 1850s when a number of artists settled there – including Thomas Webster whose influence attracted others, and encouraged them to train at the Royal Academy School.  Many subsequently exhibited there.  More recently local artist Neil Ashton was commissioned by South East Arts to make a series of striking prints ‘Broadcloth’ to mark the Millennium.

Two double page spreads of ‘Cranbrook Clippings’ demonstrate how local newspapers have reported everyday life in the community. Job opportunities (Waggoner wanted, with Son as Mate ... must be good ploughman and understand working in hops; wife good hop trainer...), dangers on the road (While riding a motor-cycle ... Mr Edwin Tye collided with a pig. He has slight concussion and a sprained wrist, the cycle was damaged but the pig escaped injury), crimes and punishments, celebrations and other events, and advertisements for local businesses are all there.

The book concludes with a section ‘What’s in a name?’ where street names are explained and illustrated by portraits of the luminaries (sadly all men) they celebrate. These include William Tarbutt, basket maker and early local historian, and a medieval clothier family the Sheafes.

24. Women of the Durham Coalfield in the 19th century: Hannah’s story Show more → Show less ↓

Margaret Hedley

The History Press 2019 ISBN 978 0 7509 8988 6  £12.99

The coal industry of the north-east of England, as elsewhere, is well documented and the working conditions of the men underground and at the pitheads will be well-known to many readers.  Less widely understood is the crucial role that the women of those coalmining families played in maintaining the households, and indeed underpinning the local economy.

In this book Margaret Hedley has used the life of her great great grandmother to explain how vital the women were, as wives and mothers of successive generations of miners in the Durham coalfield. Their work was equally arduous, if not more so. More than one miner in the family could be working different shifts, which would require hot meals and hot baths at different times of the day, and night.  Shopping, cleaning, laundry, caring for children and old people had to be fitted within this strict timetable.

The daily pattern was hard enough; but the employment system of bonds and associated tied housing involved moving the whole family at regular intervals in search of better work. Again the burden fell largely on the women to pack up one cottage and recreate a new home elsewhere.

These lives are described with great empathy in this book. The author has used an effective interweaving of family and local history approaches to tell the story of Hannah and her contemporaries. Some readers may find the imagined conversations inappropriate, and indeed the book would make a good ‘docu-drama’, but others will welcome the personal touch they inject to the narrative.

Common experiences, such as taking the census, the impact of cholera, celebrating Sunday School outings, and so on, would apply to many working people of the 19th century and were no doubt part of Hannah’s family’s life even if there is no direct evidence of their personal participation.

I would have found a map useful, and a family tree to work out those with duplicate first names, and step-relations; and some specific references to the sources used, though there is a comprehensive bibliography but alas no index.

Hannah supplemented the family’s income by working as a seamstress and that may have allowed her to have studio photographs taken of herself and her daughters to send to her husband in Australia looking for work. One was taken in 1858 and another, illustrated on the cover above, in 1862. Hannah’s skill presumably contributed the ‘best frocks’ they were wearing.

This is a fascinating book which makes a valuable contribution to regional, industrial and women’s history.

25. A rector’s skills Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby

A wild March day at the church of St James at Kinnersley in Herefordshire, as Storm Gareth blew – though breaks in the clouds brought flashes of bright sunshine. Outside the church is a very distinctive tall semi-detached bell tower, with a steeply-pitched saddleback roof, almost like a pele tower. Inside was gloom, the electric light making little difference—and we noticed that the two chandeliers in the nave held candles.

One treasure of the church is a superb wall-monument in the chancel, erected in 1635 to commemorate Francis Smalman of Kinnersley Castle. The monument shows Francis and his second wife Susan, kneeling facing each other. Cherubs, blowing golden trumpets, hold back the drapes of an ermine-lined tent which forms a canopy over them, above is a fine heraldic shield, and below are the smaller figures of his children and stepchildren, including William, the eldest son, who paid for the monument.

It is a work of the highest quality, the costumes of all the figures lovingly rendered, but unfortunately the monument has to be supported by a set of bright blue braces, fixed to the wall on either side to prevent it from falling forwards and crashing to the floor. The lady who came to lock up the church told us that the braces had just been installed, pending an application for lottery funding to undertake major restoration work. However, whether a grant would be made was dependent upon ‘community benefit’, so the church (which has no water supply) is making plans to provide toilets and other amenities ... and the population of the parish is less than 300.

However, there are other delights, including the nave walls, which are completely covered with ‘arts and crafts’ painted stencil work, mostly in shades of red and green;  vividly-coloured arches and capitals; and the gorgeous chancel roof. These were all to the design of the great Victorian church architect George Frederick Bodley (1827-1907), who in 1872 married the daughter of the squire and is buried in Kinnersley churchyard.

But while Bodley was responsible for the designs, he did not do the actual work of decorating the church. The artist was the Reverend Frederick Andrews, rector of Kinnersley between 1873 and 1920. How long it took to decorate the entire nave with stencil work is unclear, but it must have been a painstaking and long drawn out process. Yet what else was there to occupy his time? In a parish with a tiny population, the days probably weighed heavily on Frederick. He was a youngish man (born 1844 at East Molesey in Surrey) and though he and his wife Ellen had two daughters and four sons they also (in 1881) had a cook, nursemaid and housemaid.

I imagine Ellen quietly encouraging her husband in his artistic pursuits. Just as Charlotte Collins (nee Lucas), in Pride and Prejudice, supported her ghastly husband’s gardening activities (‘and owned she encouraged it as much as possible’), did Ellen simply want Frederick out of the house: “My dear Frederick, you have such talent, why do you not spend the whole day in the church? Mrs Davis can prepare you a cold luncheon packed in a basket and that way you can be quite uninterrupted in your labours”.  Or have I totally misread the situation: “Frederick, I most definitely need to speak to you now about the behaviour of the boys” “Ah, I am so very sorry my dear, but I really do urgently have to finish the large stencil above the second arch on the south side. Maybe we can talk this evening ... although then of course there’s my sermon to prepare ...”

26. BALH Trustee profile: Jessica Lutkin Show more → Show less ↓

I have been passionate about history since a school trip in 1988 to Ightham Mote in Kent, when we ran around exploring the building site that it was at the time. Since then, local sites, local histories and their wider contexts have fascinated me. At heart I am a medievalist – mainly the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries – but as an alumna of what was King Alfred’s College in Winchester (now the University of Winchester) anything from Anglo-Saxon to early Tudor catches my eye.

My postgraduate studies were at Royal Holloway, where under the guidance of Caroline Barron my love of London history was unleashed. My family is rooted in the East End of London, and this connection continually draws me back to the history of London. It was therefore a great pleasure to work with Nick Barratt on his History of Greater London project, published in 2012. Both my Masters and my PhD were London based, looking at the rich history of the Livery Companies of the Joiners and the Goldsmiths, and I’ve since studied and published on others, including the Masons and the Cutlers.

I have enjoyed a wide variety of projects as a freelance researcher, many of which have been local history, including the rather complex Faversham Oyster Fishery Company, supporting Heritage Llangwm and many family histories, such as the Pierpoints. I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time researching and cataloguing at The National Archives, in particular being immersed in the incredible WARD 2 (Court of Wards and Liveries, Deeds and Evidences http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/C14197) which is an intricate record of places and people in medieval and early modern England – from Bridgwater, to Lacock, to (my personal favourite) Bunny!

While working on the England’s Immigrants project (www.englandsimmigrants) I was able to continue to indulge in London’s history, this time for its rich immigrant past (and present). I was also delighted to work with my fellow Trustee, Jonathan Mackman, as we divided up the counties of England between us. I claimed some of my favourite counties – Cornwall, Devon, Hampshire, and my local areas – Beds, Bucks and Berks.

I currently work at the University of Reading as Impact Development Manager, supporting Arts and Humanities researchers. This involves supporting many researchers who work with local partners, including Reading Museum and Reading Abbey Quarter, the Berkshire Record Office and local history societies. I spend a lot of my day getting excited about sharing research and knowledge with as many people as possible, be it someone else’s work or my own work and passion for local history. As a Trustee and Vice Chair of the BALH I shall bring my enthusiasm and hand waving about the association, its members and their interests, and I look forward to supporting my fellow trustees as the association develops over the coming years.

27. Notes News Issues Show more → Show less ↓

Local History Day 2019

As this issue of LHN goes to print there are still tickets available for Local History Day in London on 1 June.  We look forward to seeing many members at this event for what promises to be a most interesting programme.  The booking form is in the Supplement here, and on our website at www.balh.org.uk/events

Society members 1

The central insert in this issue if the updated Insurance Fact Sheet for society members. Please detach, read it carefully,  and keep this for reference.

Society members 2

At the top of this page is a note about a special offer for society members to book tickets for their members. Bring a group to Local History Day!

Recommended websites

A new edition of the BALH publication Internet Sites for Local Historians: a directory is in preparation. Please send me suggestions of additions to our listings, and also make recommendation of those you would like to share with other members on our ‘reviews ‘pages.  editor.lhn@balh.org.uk

Twin towns

Is your town or village twinned with another community in Europe – or indeed further afield? The scheme began very soon after 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War and the early links were between towns in countries that had not long before been at war.  The numbers and range of twinnings increased hugely during the 1950s.

The Mayor of Chartres recently paid a special visit to Chichester to mark 60 years since the two cities signed a twining arrangement, and a new document was signed to confirm the continuing association.

Can heritage help save the high street?

This is the headline in a recent article in the i newspaper.  Instead of replacing retail shops with hairdressers, gyms or cafes, Paisley has the first ‘high street museum store’. 300,000 items that can’t be displayed because of limited space in the town’s museum are now in the high-tech repository on the High Street.  Access has to be restricted to ‘The Secret Collection’ but more than 3,500 people have enjoyed its guided tours.  i 23 March 2019 Are there other innovative history-based schemes?