LOOKING IN THE BOOKSHOPRS
A recent holiday in Yorkshire provided an opportunity to see what local history books were on offer in bookshops, tourist outlets and village stores. I usually come home from holidays with three or four new local history books and a good many pamphlets, leaflets and other more ephemeral items – and of course I’m also professionally interested (but none of my own efforts is relevant to the area in question, so there was no need for me to rearrange the displays and surreptitiously put my books in front, or on top of the works of others or, whenever a likely purchaser appeared, to speak loudly about the excellence of that wonderful book by Alan Crosby). The dale where we stayed not only has a superb landscape, but is also rich in social and economic history. They all are, of course, but somehow this one – maybe because it is a special favourite of mine – seems to be exceptionally well endowed in that respect, so I anticipated several mouthwatering purchases. But the first, very surprising, observation was that in neither of the tourist information and visitor centres which we visited were there any local history books at all. This is surely shocking, given the quantity of material which has been published on the Dales in the past fifty years. There were, it is true, a few volumes of the ‘Ten Quaint Walks From Olde Teashoppes’ type, some of which included a few trivial historical notes, but these were of little value or appeal. The tourist offices also had quantities of the publications which are of the ‘A Hundred Full Colour Pictures Of The Dales With Captions That Don’t Tell You Anything At all’ variety, usually with a ‘Special Bargain Price’, which to you and me means ‘Remaindered’, sticker on the front. There were, too, the inevitable and unavoidable piles of Alan Titchmarsh’s Heartwarming Yorkshire Tales and Geoffrey Boycott’s Fifty Favourite Yorkshire Cricketing Highlights (or titles resembling those!). But no local history, no guidebooks introducing people to the wealth of landscape history, architectural history and fascinating social, cultural and economic history which moulded the exquisite countryside and small towns of the area. So, off we went to the local market town. Not much joy there either, I’m afraid. A very good newsagent’s shop, with any greetings card you cared to think of (‘Happy Birthday, Dear Grandma’s Partner aged 75’, ‘To a Very Special Stepson-in-Law’) and a very wide selection of Ordnance Survey maps, but few guidebooks and even fewer local histories. The independent bookshop was delightful, and its charming proprietress was encouraging, but its local history range was pretty limited – county histories of Yorkshire, volumes on Yorkshire dialect and Yorkshire cooking, Yorkshire humour (I denounce those who might suggest that such a concept is a contradiction in terms), and Yorkshire scenery … but not much on the locality - no satisfactory volume on the history and townscape of the famous market town itself, no book on its castle, no accessible or even inaccessible work on the dale at whose entrance it stands. On we go, to a celebrated and impressive castle in an adjacent valley, oozing exciting history from every nook and cranny. The English Heritage shop was warm (the day was cold and foggy), and had – as well as a fine selection of weapons which attracted nine-year old Jim - a wonderful volume which I bought, a Pitkin Guide entitled The Royal Line of Succession which tells me that if only 26 carefully-selected persons were to die, we would be the lucky subjects of King Cassius I (a grandson of the Duke of Kent) … but where was the local history, the story of the little town which the castle dominates? Nowhere to be seen. Now, it could of course be that nobody in that part of the North Riding (which is what I still consider it to be) has ever written any local history, but that is hard to believe and, besides, I had seen posters advertising talks at history societies so I knew there were living local historians around. Furthermore, I knew that several people had published works on aspects of local history in the area, including its important and thoroughly-researched lead-mining industry. But where were the books? Eventually, late one afternoon as the autumn sun sank golden behind the slopes above Wensleydale, I went off to the village shop and post office, fifty yards across the green, to buy some milk … and there, before me, was what I had sought. A splendid display of real, substantial, PROPER local history books. There was a well-researched paperback booklet on the history of the village, including its late eighteenth century heyday as a mining centre, written by a local lady, properly put together and a bargain at £3.50. There was a very nicely-produced, authoritative and practical guide to the lead-mining industry and its surviving remains, readable and user-friendly even though written by an expert. There were several serious books about the natural history, ecology and environment of the Dales. And there was even a marvellous and beautiful full-colour Historical Atlas of North Yorkshire, which I had not seen before and had never even heard about, and which was astonishingly good value at only £20 for a massive 296-page paperback. Fortunately I had my credit card with me and, as well as buying the pint of milk, I managed without any trouble at all to spend £38. So thank you very much to the post office and village store at Reeth, and may your enlightened policy of selling local history bring you profit … but what of all those other shops, those outlets which should surely sell decent local history? What of the tourist offices which rely solely on ephemeral rubbish and mass-produced media-linked gimmick publishing. How can we, the local historians, persuade them to stock our publications and sell the good stuff to the public?
A PASSION FOR A PLACE AND A CAUSE
A BALH 2004 Award for Personal Achievement was given to Marian Roberts, who now lives at Wymondham in Norfolk but was born, bred and lived for eighty years in Preston. I nominated Marian because of her outstanding achievement in promoting and researching local history in Preston, using it to raise money for a cancer hospice, and tirelessly carrying the message that 'local history is fascinating' in her talks to organisations of all sorts.
I first met her almost twenty years ago, not long after I came to live in the town, and immediately realised that she was somebody special. She left school at 14 and worked as a clerk in industry and with Lancashire County Council. In 1980 her beloved husband died of cancer and 'to counter the unbearable depression' Marian joined a class on palaeography at the Lancashire Record Office (she had never been interested in history before, and now it seemed no more than something to fill the time). The consequences were unexpected. During the next twenty years Marian emerged as a leading figure in the local history world in this part of Lancashire, her main project (and passion) being the history of Winckley Square, a fine piece of Regency town planning close to the centre of Preston. She assiduously researched its origins, development and architectural history, and the stories of the families (lawyers and attorneys, merchants and political figures) who lived there.
Her researches took her all over England, she became a frequent visitor to the British Library, a familiar face in the Lancashire Record Office and a semi-permanent resident at the Harris Museum in Preston, where she worked on the boxes of archive material and artefacts deposited there by Winckley Square residents in the past. Marian wrote a history of the square and its people in 1988 - it is still in print (and has sold several thousand copies). She also became an immensely popular speaker and lecturer to local societies of all sorts, talking about Winckley Square and her passion for local history and the way it brings the past of a town to life. She was a pillar of the Friends of the Harris Museum and the Preston Historical Society; an enthusiastic supporter of the Lancashire Record Office (through her good offices an important solicitors' collection was deposited there in 2002) and of Alston Hall (the nearby adult education college, whose history she also published); and a vigorous campaigner for conservation and other issues in the city. And every penny of the royalties from her book, and every fee received for her talks, over more than 20 years, was given to St Catherine's Hospice, Preston's hospice for terminally ill cancer patients. That to Marian has been her real reward - she has raised many thousands of pounds for this cause from her local history work - but I put her name forward because I felt she deserved recognition from the local history community.
Marian is a much-loved Preston personality, but three years ago had to move to Norfolk to care for her older sister. She was devastated to leave her home town and on her departure the Harris Museum held a grand reception for her, to mark her work for Preston itself and because we all love her very much. Most people expected that this would be the end of her local history work... but no! She's joined the Wymondham Heritage Society, is investigating the origins of Orchard Way (where she lives) and its estate history as glebeland, enjoys visiting the Norfolk Record Office, and has no intention of forgetting the local history which has become her passion. And all from someone who until the age of 60 had never given a thought to the subject!
AN HONORARY CURATOR WHO INSPIRES OTHERS
Ashwell Village Museum - 'the oldest village museum in Britain' - was founded in the late 1920s by two schoolboys. It has been expanded, developed and brought into the modern world by Peter Greener who has served as its honorary curator for over twenty years. The museum is managed by a Board of Trustees supported by an organisation of Friends, but it is run entirely by volunteers. Peter is responsible for curatorial decisions and all the routine administration. This includes security, heating and lighting as well as acquisitions and general enquiries. He liaises with the local museums service, and has prepared and implemented the policies necessary for registration of the museum. Peter's unassuming leadership has encouraged many others to become involved, and he has built up an enthusiastic team who help with displays, cataloguing, and computerising the records.
Since the opening of a second new extension in 2000, Peter's reorganisation has resulted in twice-weekly working sessions, more people involved, and a real sense of achievement for everyone concerned. He is described by a colleague as 'a quiet, kind and considerate man, not without a sense of humour', qualities which are clearly appreciated by those who work with him. The local community are kept in touch with an occasional newsletter, and Peter has also been responsible for an impressive new museum guidebook. He has initiated temporary exhibitions to attract both villagers and visitors to the area. These types of activities are vital to the success, and indeed to the survival, of the museum which is financed by admission charges, an annual village event, and by a small grant from the local authority. Peter readily acknowledges his debt to the museum's first curator, Albert Sheldrick, whose vision inspired the collecting of everyday objects and pictorial and archival material from the locality, and led to the opening of the museum in the Tudor market shop (see back cover illustration) where it is still to be found.
Brought up in Welwyn Garden City, Peter Greener first moved to Ashwell to work on a farm. He is now the village milkman, and runs that business as well as maintaining his substantial commitment to the museum. Peter has a degree in Fine Art, and his skills in that area are obvious from the quality of the museum displays and its publications. He still paints and draws, and in addition - as he puts it - 'can be seen in various stately homes dressed in clothes of different periods playing the lute and dancing with like minded souls'. A self-effacing and modest man, Peter does everything 'without fuss'. His achievements in Ashwell are remarkable, and it is for this contribution to village life that he was presented with a BALH award for services to local history in 2004.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT
I must stress that this is in no way a legal interpretation of the Act. In many areas we must await test cases before any definite rulings may be applied. Local councils have general policies and procedures are in place but some issues are still troubling archivists and librarians on specific guidance for their staff. What is an FOI enquiry?Any written, e-mailed, faxed enquiry to an archive office is an FOI enquiry initially. We have to ensure all enquiries are entered and the date of receipt and reply recorded. Using an electronic system even better as more info can be saved if any further correspondence (such as checking with the creating body such as a hospital or court, which now extends the 20 day turn-around time to 30 days) needs to be noted. Is it very different? The good news is that the majority of our enquiries are exempt under Section 21. Replies to family and local historians will not change. The Information Commissioner has agreed that if we have a reasonably detailed catalogue (especially if it is online) and that our searchrooms are reasonably accessible (in terms of opening hours) we can claim the information is available under this exemption. see DCA website guidance/ exemption guidance/section 21 annex A public records and archives . Unlisted archives are exempt under Section 22 as it is intended that they will be listed and catalogues made available. No time period has been suggested by which this should happen but we should prioritise and make public our cataloguing programme. What records are covered? We await the final decision on whether private archives held by us are included in the act. If they are this might cause pitfalls if we release information which could disadvantage the owner. The Act does not allow us to ask why the information is required although we are allowed to ask for more details to enable us to answer the question effectively. In so doing we will probably gain further knowledge but the enquirer may deliberately withhold his purpose. The November issue of Record Keeping gives interim guidance which was to use exemption Sec 41 (information provided in confidence). Fees regime --what does it mean? If exempt under s21 , the enquiry has been dealt with in compliance with FOI (in theory we have said that we do not need to answer the question in detail because the information is already reasonably accessible—although of course our letters won’t sound so unfriendly). If the public then want us to research further on their behalf (because they do not wish to visit for example) we can offer our normal research services (with our own fees) in the usual way. When might we charge? If I receive a letter asking why the decision was taken to build Surrey History Centre in Woking and not in Little Bookham that information is not exempt under s21 as it is not publicly available: I have to consider whether to charge for this. According to Lord Falconer’s statement I could only charge the FOI fees if it took me longer than 2 ½ days work to compile the answer. (Roughly estimated at £30 an hour to make his suggested £450 limit). It is unlikely therefore that archive offices will need to charge the FOI fees even for internal information. Equally if for example we obtain agreement from the creating body to release information from mental hospital records about a dead person (so not DPA, and not content- exempt from FOI after consultation) but access to the originals is restricted because of other people’s details (so not “available”) and the info is likely to be spread across a number of volumes, files, photos etc this could be charged for under the fees regimes if the search and creation of answer took more than 2 ½ days. I feel that this is an unlikely time span and so our present system (we search and we bear cost) would normally apply. What do we say to our public?The formal application of the Acts (both FOI and DPA, and the EIR s) could in theory lead to a reply full of very unfriendly sounding legal explanations as to which part of the question about Great grandmother Ada was being answered (or not) under which rules! Our solution is to answer the letter to the same legal effect by adding to all replies a statement that enquiries are answered in compliance with the FOI Act, the DPA and EIRs and give a link or URL to our authority’s policy page. The act will make us think hard about each type of record we use but the reply will not be significantly different from normal in most cases. Can we still say the word Closed? The guidance says: Under FOI, the term “closed” to describe records which were closed under the Public Records Act will no longer be technically accurate. FOI is about information, not records, so we have to think in terms of exempt information or open information. However, for practical purposes in an archive service, terminology is often needed to refer to records as entities and to distinguish between records which are fully open and those which contain exempt information. “Open records” refers to records which contain no exempt information at all. They can be accessed by the public with no problems. Records containing exempt information cannot be made generally open even if some of the information in them is not exempt. If you wish to avoid using the term “closed”, alternatives could be “not fully open”, “not yet open”, “records containing exempt information”, or “partly accessible records”. What will change is the need for staff to check sensitive items individually to identify the content and where it might fall. The biggest issue is ensuring we are consistent in informing the public—so we need to be sure about the different categories of records which we are used to calling closed and whether a particular group fall under other rules than FOI eg magistrates court records. NHS records do, so each request must be looked at individually, assessed as to whether DPA (a data subject request, and/or another person who is or may be alive) or FOI applies. If FOI, an exemption such as 38 may need to be applied to protect the enquirer and allow us to contact the creating body or successor for a decision. Further guidance about deceased persons is awaited at time of writing. Don’t worry—just communicate! In the end the objective of the act is to be open and helpful to the public—as archivists have been positively changing their image over the last decade or two this is really carry on as usual! It is unlikely that it will be an local archive office that leads to the first naming and shaming of a public body and we will not have to cope with recognising orchestrated campaigns (section 12 ) and relatively few vexatious enquirers (no more than usual!). Maggie Vaughan-Lewis is County Archivist for Surrey
REFUGEE CAMP MASINDI
Reading the memoirs of Barbara Porajska, a refugee from the Polish city of Lwow (now the Ukrainian city of Lviv)*, sent me off on a Sunday afternoon expedition. I had known that, after the Russian invasion of eastern Poland in 1939, many displaced Poles had eventually found refuge, from the horrors of Siberia and war-torn Europe, in parts of Africa including what are now Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Barbara’s memoir reminded me that some 3,635 of these refugees found a home between 1943 and 1948 in six small villages, hacked out of three square kilometres of forest in Uganda, in a place called ‘Refugee Camp Masindi’. I realised that the remains of this camp were only an hour’s drive from where I live, so on a sunny, muggy afternoon we climbed into our Nissan pickup and went looking for a part of Second World War history in the middle of equatorial Africa. The particular feature of the camp which we were looking for was the brick church which the refugees had constructed in 1943. The road did not seem to have improved in the sixty-odd years since Barbara Porajska had travelled along it. As we bumped down the very narrow track, inching the truck between innumerable rain-filled potholes, I felt a very real sense of connection with those long-gone refugees. Eventually, near Nyabeya Village and opposite the entrance to the Ugandan Forestry Commission Training School, we found what we were looking for. We parked the truck on the verge, next to the muddy footpath, and set off for the church, whose cross-tipped tin roof beckoned over the towering elephant grass. Yet another connection with Barbara occurred when we encountered a fierce column of red ants which, despite our protective clothes and footwear, still managed to get inside and bite our feet and lower legs ferociously. Having experienced it firsthand, I could really relate to Barbara’s report that there was ‘no shortage of ants here. Red ants and black ants, tiny, medium and big. Their bites are very painful and itchy’! We followed the footpath through the rustling elephant grass until we unexpectedly emerged behind the grey and cream painted church. We made our way to the imposing front which bore the legend: 1943 – 1945 Euntes Docete Omnes Gentes Polonia Semper FidelisSeveral cement plaques, inset around the front door, recorded, in Polish, Latin and English, that ‘This church has been built in honour of the Blessed Mary ever Virgin, crowned Queen of Poland by the Poles in exile on the way to their liberated homeland’. We went down the sweep of steps from the front door, the better to appreciate the grandeur which the main entrance presented from that prospect, reflecting that the optimistic hopes expressed on the plaques were not destined to be realised for another forty years after 1945. The church is still very much in use by the local Ugandan Catholic community. We were not able to get inside, but contented ourselves with thoroughly inspecting the outside and then wandering over to the small wooded graveyard, situated on the left of the church. It was a wonderfully peaceful place, with the mournfully soothing call of emerald-spotted wood doves echoing up from the forested valley below. There were 43 concrete gravestones and crosses (41 Polish spanning 1943-1948, and two Ugandan from a later date, nestling under the giant pine trees. A towering, yet very austere cross, set in a now-lichened concrete plinth, gave a central focus to the graveyard. No doubt in Barbara’s time the pines would have been mere saplings and the cross would have appeared even more imposing. The information on the gravestones shows that the refugees who died ranged in age from 21 to their middle 70s. The relatively young age of some of those buried is a testimony to the harshness of the journey to Masindi across war-torn Europe and North Africa, before finally facing the difficult tropical living conditions. Malaria, jiggers (small black fleas which live in the soil and then lay eggs in human flesh, feet being a favourite place), amoebic dysentery, and tropical leg ulcers were all rife. Barbara gives a graphic account of suffering from tropical leg ulcers which responded to no medical treatment until the nurse placed large slices of raw tomato over them, when they slowly started to go away. She and her family were lucky though, for none of them ended up in the tiny graveyard beside the homely Polish church. As the sun lost some of its fierceness and the deep pine-shadows lengthened, we left this link with the past behind: it is a strange link, between what is now the Ukraine and was then Poland, to a part of equatorial Africa that is now an independent country and was then part of a British Empire that seemed so permanent. The local history is certainly confusing! * Barbara Porajska, From the Steppes to the Savannah (Port Erin, Isle of Man, Ham Publishing Company Ltd, 1988)
HERBERT HOPE LOCKWOOD 1917 - 2004
Last November Bert Lockwood’s numerous friends gathered, with his family, in the beautiful medieval parish church at Barking which he so cherished. They came to bid farewell and to express their gratitude to one whose friendship they valued and whose scholarship they admired. Among Essex historians Bert Lockwood will be remembered for his important contributions to county history, all of which reflected his industry, intellectual vigour and integrity. These, and the personal attributes of a natural dignity and tenacious loyalty to his causes, were the hallmarks of his character. We are grateful to him for all that especially, but there was much else in a life of service and achievement. From Ilford County High School he went on to become a graduate of King’s College at London University, an academic experience that defined much of his life. As for many of his generation, World War II intervened and he served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and the Army Educational Corps. Subsequently, he taught for several years in Halifax, Yorkshire, but a return to Ilford in 1952 was perhaps inevitable and certainly propitious for that part of Essex. Alongside his career as a lecturer in History and Social Studies at the Tottenham College of Technology, he became a regular participant in local athletics. In this he flourished not only as a good athlete but took a serious interest in coaching His commitment to Essex history was manifest in his roles at county and local level, as well as in a wide range of excellent publications. In Bert Lockwood’s case he could be relied upon to research previously untrodden paths and to promote his subjects with originality and sagacious insights into obscure areas of knowledge. He was also insistent on high standards, verifiable material, immaculate prose and quality production. Essentially a local historian – that breed whose work led no less than Marc Bloch to opine that ‘all history is local history’ – the major focus of Bert Lockwood’s work was on Barking, Ilford and other matters relating to that part of Essex. As such, his approach was to study in depth, discrete and sometimes esoteric aspects of local history, rather than that of the broad and more general presentation. He excelled particularly in the evaluation of personalities in the context of their roles and localities. Thus he has introduced his readers to such as Jeremy Bentham, the Revd Bennet Allen and the engaging Mr Frogley of Barking whom he portrayed in a fruitful co-authorship with Tony Clifford, publishing a delightful and informative trilogy. Other studies were devoted to Barking Abbey, Valentines, and a definitive study of the Barking tithes yet to be published. Bert Lockwood was also a contributor to the Barking section of Essex Volume 5 of the Victoria County History. In Essex history organisations Bert Lockwood held several senior appointments with distinction. These included serving as Chairman and President of the Essex Archaeological and Historical Congress, and as a committee member of the Friends of Historic Essex. He was a member of Council of the British Association for Local History, and locally, he was Chairman and President of both the Ilford and District Historical Society and the Barking and District Historical Society. Devoted as he was to Barking’s parish church of St. Margaret’s he became church archivist there and delighted in guiding parties of visitors around the church and also the Ilford Hospital Chapel of which he was an ardent supporter. In 1996 his considerable services to local history were recognised by his admission as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries which gave him and his friends much pleasure. In pursuing his duties and interests in Essex local history, Bert Lockwood was ably and devotedly supported by Dorothy, his wife, who has herself made invaluable contributions to the organisations for which they worked. Indeed, it is difficult to think of either of them other than as an impressively competent and loyal partnership who have together promoted the interests of county history. So we may reflect on the work of one who was among the major players in Essex history, both in the stature of his academic work and in the merits of his representational roles. This is the field which, over a lifetime of devoted work, he so generously enriched.
PIECING TOGETHER SOME OF THE PAST
The Budbury area of Bradford on Avon, Wilts, has probably been settled since the eighth century BC. Late Bronze Age ramparts were followed by an Iron Age hill fort settlement, and Roman phases of occupation. By the fourth century a unique pair of Roman villas had been built, portions of which have been excavated during the summers of 2002 to 2004. Finds have included a well-preserved mosaic of the Cirencester School; a fifth century baptistry; and a site where counterfeit coins were minted. The villa site is now partly covered by the Downsview estate and the buildings and playing fields of St Laurence School. In 1976, when the estate was being built, part of the bath-house area was excavated by a team led by Roy Canham, the County Archaeologist. Considerable amounts of painted plaster were recovered which have since been stored in boxes at the Wiltshire County Council store in Devizes. Some pieces were recorded by Alison Borthwick, but no excavation report has yet been published. The Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust has supported the excavations during the past three years. In 2003 the then chairman of the Trust, Margaret Dobson, felt that it would be a good idea to attempt to sort some of the bath house plaster, with a view to displaying it locally. With the assistance of Martin Valatin, whose plotting of parch marks had encouraged the 2002 excavations, a plunge bath area was selected [see area A2 on picture'>more... where a great many plaster fragments had been found. The plaster was in poor condition, probably having been exposed to the weather before being hacked off when the stone was robbed. There were many fragments about the size of a 50p piece with a hole in the middle, a result of the hacking off. Much plaster must have been completely lost. The actual project got under way in October 2004. The first requirement was for a large secure hall that could be used exclusively for a period of at least three weeks. In this the project was fortunate in that it could use Priory Barn, a property owned by the Trust and available for letting. Here tables were set up with large shallow plastic trays, containing clean dry sand (both from a local garden centre), on which the fragments could be placed and sorted. Both tables and floor were protected with large plastic sheets. The project was advertised in Guardian Angel, the Trust’s newsletter, and the many volunteers organised into three daily sessions, supervised by Margaret Dobson, Claire Osgood and Gill Winfield. The volunteers were invited to an initial talk by Roy Canham, who explained the context of the plaster; Leslie Zienkiewicz of Cardiff University who suggested ways of handling and sorting the fragments; and Lynne Wootten, from the County Conservation Unit in Salisbury, who told the meeting how the results could be displayed. All three emphasised that it was unlikely that large coherent areas of painting would be found. The first task was to remove the plaster piece by piece from the boxes, examine each fragment and place it in a tray. There had been some sorting when the plaster was originally stored; some boxes were labelled with the colour of the plaster, one bearing the intriguing label ‘green floral’. By the end of the first week several separate areas of stripes had been pieced together and many fragments of leaf and flower decoration found. Angled edge pieces and two possible ‘swags’ within curved lines had also been identified. Very early on the value of gentle but thorough brushing of the fragments was discovered, unused make-up brushes being ideal for the task. Wetting the plaster was firmly discouraged as this could damage the surface. In the second week trays of supposedly plain pieces were re-examined and brushed again, many proving to have some sort of pattern on them. This was probably due to a combination of the plaster drying out slightly in the warmth of the room, and the volunteers getting their eye in for the patterns. Various references were supplied to assist volunteers with context and possible paintings. The most helpful was a postcard from Leicester showing three panels of wall plaster from the Roman villa at Norfolk Street, Leicester. It was found that four to six volunteers at any one session worked the best, and the various talents of the volunteers gradually came forward. Some people were excellent at brushing the pieces; others had an eye for actually matching them. Care had to be taken that enthusiastic volunteers did not remove pieces from previously sorted trays. Sorting the fragments was complicated by the previous application of PVA on some pieces, which had been applied at the time of excavation to stabilise the plaster and paint. The PVA substantially altered the colour of the paints; reds became brown or very shiny (rather like tiles polished with Mansion red Polish); green-blue lost its subtlety and white became cream. Matching was done not only by examining the face of the plaster, but also the mortar on the back of the piece. (A separate delight was finding small fossils in the mortar). The sorted trays were photographed at regular intervals, a digital camera being ideal, though finding appropriate lighting was difficult. The project was greatly assisted by Anthony Beeson, Art Historian from Bristol Central Library, who had restored the mosaic from the Newton St Looe villa. Anthony pointed out several themes, in particular a rectangular panel containing a circular feature. Other themes included an archway; sequences of stripes, probably borders; and an area of brown/cream stripes, which may be mock marble. On the advice of Leslie Zienkiewicz several portions are to be prepared for display, including the archway and a circular motif. Some trays of fragments will have the PVA removed at Salisbury, and ultimately it is hoped that all the treated fragments will be cleaned, and re-sorted. Ling points out that large amounts of plaster fragments have never been properly processed and that much more material is needed before any sort of history of wall painting in Roman Britain can be written. This project has clearly demonstrated that an enthusiastic group of volunteers, under proper guidance, can make a valuable contribution to this field. Our efforts may not have resulted in a complete panel, but they are part of our town’s history, and that of Roman Britain, and as such it is greatly to be commended. All the volunteers thoroughly enjoyed themselves, learnt a great deal about the subject, and are looking forward to sorting another area of plaster. The organisers of the project; Margaret Dobson, Claire Osgood and Gill Winfield, can be contacted at the Bradford on Avon Preservation Trust, Silver Street House, Silver Street, Bradford on Avon, BA15 1JY.
The property section of a recent local paper contained 60 pages of adverts of houses for sale. At an average of 20 snapshots per page, that amounts to 1200 images of des res per issue. Allowing for duplicates, errors, and pure imagination, that is still a more or less contemporaneous record of about 60,000 houses and flats per year. The postage-stamp mugshots in the newspaper are not always big enough to show details. Newsprint does not keep. Library microfiches of newspapers (if not microfilched) will not show colour. But the original prints or negatives or digital files would be a useful source to family, house, business, architectural, social and other local historians. Especially since, even without nuclear war and property developers, only a minority of houses built after 1939 in Britain are reckoned likely to outlast their predecessors. What happens to all those photos? Do estate agents painstakingly triple-check their accuracy and lovingly index and catalogue them before conscientiously depositing them with record offices? Do the silken hands of perfumed secretaries reverently wrap them in greaseproof to protect them from the nostalgic tears of sentimental sales negotiators? Are they given to schools to help Mrs Prosser’s mixed infants construct models of their neighbourhood so that they know where the hash cache is stashed? Or do they end up on that unnamed asteroid in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where all used ball point pens come eventually to rest? This article was originally published in Avon Local History Association and Area Archaeological Council Newsletter 96 and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. Does anyone know the answer?
LOCAL HISTORIANS AND ANTIQUARIANS
Recent reviews of a new publication about Eighteenth Century Antiquarians* provoked the following throughts. How far does the modern local historian differ from an antiquarian? One dictionary definition of antiquarian is 'a student or collector of antiques or ancient works of art'. My understanding is that the antiquarians of the past were concerned primarily to record and collect. They included clergymen ans other educated men whose studies were based on buildings, relicts, and the genealogy of the landed gentry, gathering information and recording it as evidence of previous generations. The eighteenth century saw the publication of the earliest county histories for this area, by Hutchinson, and Nicholson and Burn. These were compiled from available information for the wider area, and are still invaluable references for local details prior to and during that period. A local historian's interest is based usually around a particular location or on some aspect affetcing several locations within a given area. However, the antiquarian seems to have a definite parochial focus, restricting the study to the historical details of a single place or building, Today's local historians may involve themselves in social, economic and landscape change, as well as recording and collecting any relevant historical information. The usefulness of these studies depends on the willingness on our part to leave a credible record, toegther with some observations reolating the locality to the reginal or national scene. It would be too bad if we all felt like the anonymours antiquarian quoted in the reviews 'I own I have a great many Materials for the History of this Town, but the putting them into a Method for the Public is too arduous a task for me to think on'. *Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighhteenth Century Britain. Rosemary Sweet. Hambeledon & CO, Lodon 2003. ISBN 1 85 285 309 3 £25 Jill Wishart is Chair of the Cumbria Local History Federation. This article was 'Chair's Comment' in Bulletin 36, Summer 2004 and is reproduced with permission.
Chawton, near Alton, is the quintessential English village with manor house, church and school. Facing the once busy thoroughfare in the village is the early Georgian house where Jane Austen spent her last years, 1809 to 1817. Although once the bailiff’s cottage, it was a substantial dwelling with five bedrooms, a stable and bakehouse. There Jane wrote, or revised, most of her novels. Sitting in the dining hall at a small table, she would be warned of anyone approaching by the creaking of the door. She and her widowed mother and sister Cassandra were offered the house by Jane’s second brother Edward. He had been brought up by family of the Rev Austen’s patron, and was named heir by Thomas Knight. On the latter’s death, Edward took the name Knight, and inherited a large estate which included Chawton House. He was then in a position to support his mother and spinster sisters. Jane was one of eight children of a country parson, two of her brothers followed successful careers in the navy, but only Edward was able to provide the comfortable living accommodation to enable Jane to write. Our visit will begin at the Jane Austen Memorial Trust Museum with a presentation on Georgian inheritance and landowning. There will then be time to look through the house and see its refurbished display of contents, some of which are original. Refreshments are available in the village opposite to the museum. In the afternoon we will visit Chawton House, an Elizabethan house on the near outskirts of the village with the church in the driveway. The house is leased from the Knight family and is now a centre for the study of early English women’s writing, in recognition of Jane Austen’s contemporaries and predecessors. An American foundation, the Leonard X Bosack and Bette M Kruger Foundation, established the UK charity, and in 1993 purchased the lease and began refurbishing the house. Their collection, which is still growing, contains some 9,000 printed books published between 1600 and 1830. It is particularly strong on fiction written by women from around 1740. As major eighteenth century libraries tended not to collect women writers, some of these books are very rare or even unique. And over 400 are anonymous, offering a challenge to those attempting to determine their authors. The Centre welcomes scholars and members of the public; there are seminars, conferences and cultural events; and it has formal links with the University of Southampton, and other institutions around the world. It also aims to restore and preserve the house and its grounds of 275 acres. We will be introduced to this fine collection and its surroundings. A booking form for the visit can be found on our website at www.balh.co.uk/events, or see the Supplement page 1 of this issue. For further information on the two places we will visit see www.janeaustenmuseum.org.uk and www.chawton.org.uk. Information on the village of Chawton may be found on www.genuki.org.uk or www.freepges.geneology.rootsweb.com/villages
'TO MEET EVERY REQUIREMENT OF THE PUBLIC\'
Hammonds of Hull by John Markham Highgate Publications (Beverley) Ltd 2004 ISBN 902 645 39 1 £9.95 Three or four times a year, from 1929 to the outbreak of war, Bob Wrightson was taken by his mother on a shopping expedition to Hull, outings which began with a 1.5 mile walk to Market Weighton station and then a train journey into the city. The high spot of the day was a leisurely lunch in Hammond's restaurant seranaded by a three-or-four piece orchestra. This book is full of evocative reminiscences from people for whom Hammonds (and the presence or absence of the apostrophe warrants a paragraph in the Preface) 'is more than a shop .. it is an institution'. Despite elaborate celebrations of a 150th annniversary in 1971, including a visit from Princess Margaret, the origins of the business are a little hazy. H W Hammond's first shop at North Bridge is noted in a directry of 1831. His enterprise grew; moved to Osborne St in the 1860s; and then expanded further under the new ownership of James Powell & Sons from 1889. They built a maginificent new shop in Paragon Square which was opened in 1916, only to be reduced to rubble in one night by German bombers on 7 May 1941. After much debate about the post-war reconstruction of Hull itself (the chapter heading is 'The Battle to Rebuild') the modern department store was opened in May 1952 by 'famous stage and radio personality' Dick Bentley. Twenty years later ownership was acquired by House of Fraser, who had the temerity to change the name of the store to Binns. Eventually they had to admit that this had been a mistake, and 'Hammonds' was restored in 1989, costing £40,000 to change shop signs, stationery and delivery vans. Changes of ownership, personalities, management style, location, and merchandise are traced through this history. For the early years business records are clearly limited, but the later developments can be followed in detail. The Powels were pioneers in the world of retailingm presenting Hull with the modern concept of a 'super-store' and promoting shoppig as a social activitty in the early decades of the twnetieth century, long before the arrival of modern malls. It could also be a dangerous expereinece; as the crowd surged forward when the doors opened for the sale in 1921 a plate0glass window was cracked, and a lady suffered a broken rib. One of the first escalators in the north of England was installed in 1936, with a commissionaire posted at top and bottom to ensure safety. Long service was a characteristic of Hammonds staff; Miss Gertrude Colbourne completed 51 years wutg tge store, Jim Bootyman an almost unbelievable 64 years, and his three sons did an average of 32. Robert Johnson began a five-year apprenticeship in the drapery trade in 1916. At its conclusion he received a glowing testimonial: 'We have had no fault to find with him ...'. So impressed were his employers that he was told, if he went to Bourne & Hollingsworth for two years further training, he would be considered for a management position. His father wouldn't hear of it: 'If you can't learn it up jers, you'll not learn it at all' so Robert retired in 1967 after 50 years behind the counter. John Markham has made the most of these memories; they tell of a paternalistic attitude to staff, with an ethos of service to their customers that was expected as emphatically in the 1960s as a century earlier. Many aspects of this book set high standards. A aprticular strength is the way the history of the Hammonds has been related to the history of Hull, and indeed national and international developments. For example in the 1860s Henry Hammond 'realised Hull's centre of gravity was moving in a westerly direction' and he appreciated the importance of being accessible to customers arriving at the railway station. Sadly the absence of both an index and any references detracts from its value for anyone who might want to follow up the story of Hammonds and its locality. Otherwise it is a delightful read, telling the story of an era when both shoppers and employees were fiercely loyal to their local store which clearly had 'a unique place in the affections of so many people'.
SAVE OUR STREETS
Eight miles from where I live, a very attractive early eighteenth-century church used to stand all alone beside the erstwhile Liverpool to Preston turnpike road which is now the A59. The church was superseded in the late nineteenth century by a new building in the nearby village, which has since become a small town whose housing estates have spread across the fields towards the main road. The old church eventually closed but, as a small gem, it was rescued by the Redundant Churches Fund and restored for occasional worship and public enjoyment. Situated next to a road junction, it remained a notable landmark. Last year, however, the engineers of Lancashire County Council remodelled the junction in a project which took almost six months, an inordinate length of time but one not altogether surprising since (a few weeks ago when I was stationery in the queue at the traffic lights which are the centrepiece of the Grand Design) I was able to count no fewer than 24 separate poles carrying lights and signs, together with a multiplicity of bollards, railings, extra-wide roads, urban-style pavements, cycle lanes and a good few hundred yards of broad white lines and stripes. The elegant and simple church is now half-hidden behind a hideous forest of technology, its setting utterly destroyed. The junction is, I think, no less dangerous, because there are so many lights (including separate sets for cyclists – of whom I have yet to see a single one) that the motorists are thoroughly confused and bewildered. This piece of engineering ‘overkill’ is a classic instance of the costly, clumsy and aesthetically ruinous policies for traffic management which English Heritage highlights in its recent campaign and accompanying booklet entitled Save Our Streets. Look around your own town or village, and at any road junction count the multitudes of signposts, traffic light columns and lighting columns. Go along almost any street, observe the plethora of bins, boxes, signposts, lampposts and traffic lights, and try to imagine how much more agreeable it would be without these excesses. See what devastation has been wrought upon streetscapes and townscapes, and lament the dogmatic approach of the engineer’s expensive solutions to problems often not real but anticipated, not actual but theoretical. The English Heritage booklet on the subject is illustrated with excellent photographs which forcefully portray the desecration, though it is possibly a little tactless that six of the 21 identified photographs are of central Oxford – that is certainly a deplorable example of the crass mismanagement of urban streetscapes, but it does seem as though those chaps in Swindon have a rather limited horizon … why not a few more pictures of Morpeth or Mansfield, Carlisle or Canterbury? But the message is clear. We have allowed banal clutter to wreck our streets and, increasingly, our rural landscapes as well. Polemical diversion: when will ‘they’ ban the appalling mobile trailer advertising which in the past few years has mushroomed to spoil the view on almost any journey on almost any main road? As well as distracting the attention of the motorist, these advertisements are tacky, tatty, and ugly. If any MP is reading Local History News, I suggest that a proposal to ban such advertising would be ideal when you top the ballot for a private member’s bill. So, support the English Heritage campaign - lobby local councillors, MPs and the press, and highlight the despoiling of historic towns and humdrum suburbs alike. I applaud the campaign, the booklet and the message, and I urge all readers of Local History News to take note of it.