'THIS IS DEDICATED TO THE ONE I LOVE'
I've been thinking about the dedications of books, an idea sparked by reading again Mark Bailey's admirableThe English Manor c.1200-c.1500, and seeing inside the front cover 'For my children, Katie and Harry, without whom this book would have been completed five years ago' [his italics, not mine'>more.... Ah yes, thought I, how well I understand that sentiment. But then I began to consider of my own books and the dedications that I have given them. I have a tendency towards a lengthy and over-indulgent variety, usually involving members of my extended family (my late grandfather-in-law, for instance). Indeed, some members of my family might well feel offended that they've not yet been selected for the dubious honour. I dedicated one book to my wife, in 1988, but she's not reached the top of the list again; one child has a full dedication and the two children jointly share another. I've only three times dedicated a book to someone outside the family—once to a much-admired former schoolmaster; once to an old friend; and once, when I published an edition of an autobiography, to the memory of the writer (though he'd been dead for 160 years, so it may not have been of material concern to him whether I did so or not). So far, I trust, I've avoided the 'hostage to fortune' dedication. An erstwhile friend is now a Famous Historian. Long ago he dedicated his first book to his wife, the true love of his life, without whom it could not have been written etc. His second book was dedicated to his second wife … hmmm. Fortunately he stopped becoming a serial dedicator and marital stability seems to have reigned subsequently. I looked along the bookshelves. Most dedications are innocuous. Sometimes simply a name is given: 'To Louisa, who knows why'; 'For Ermintrude Postlethwaite, with affection' (I made that one up, but you know the sort of thing). Others are deliberately enigmatic. 'To W'; 'For A.'. If the book's dull, you can at least speculate about the identity of W or A. But of course, as in so much else, we today are mere pygmies when it comes to this art form. The true giants are a vanished race, whose Herculean dedications occupied whole pages. Thus, James McKay, in 1888, stated that 'THIS VOLUME on PENDLE HILL IN HISTORY AND LITERATURE Is Dedicated to the REV. ARTHUR TOWNLEY PARKER, M.A., Rector and Rural Dean of Burnley, and Honorary Canon of Manchester Cathedral, in grateful remembrance of the kindly interest which, after the manner of the typical English clergyman, he has quietly and unobtrusively shown in the author from the time he was a pupil in St. Peter's National School, Burnley'. Just down the road two years later, Smith's history of the parish of Ribchester was published with the sentiment that 'To The Rev. Francis John Dickson M.A., Rector of Ribchester and Vicar of Stydd, This History of the Parish which he adorns, is Inscribed in Grateful Acknowledgement of Many Kindnesses, and in Admiration of his Christian and Scholarly Virtues, by his Sincere Friends, The Authors'. Such enthusiastic prose contrasts with the moving simplicity of her late Majesty'sLeaves from the Journal of Our Life in the Highlands (1868): 'To the dear memory of him who made the life of the writer bright and happy, these simple records are lovingly and gratefully inscribed'—she rightly knew that to give his name was superfluous. But nothing can beat the lavishly sycophantic dedications, masterpieces of fawning adulation and thickly-plastered ingratiation, which antiquarians of rather less than superior birth used to decorate and introduce the books they hoped would come to the notice of noble patrons and wealthy sponsors. Last year an article in The Local Historian was illustrated by the dedication page of John Taylor's 1818 volume on Preston, a classic of the genre, with its fanciful use of fonts. Aimed at Samuel Horrocks, the town's super-wealthy leading citizen and MP, the dedication is to his late brother, founder of the family fortunes: 'To the Memory of the late John Horrocks, Esquire, one of the Representatives in Parliament for the BOROUGH OF PRESTON; to whose ENTERPRISING SPIRIT, FOSTERING INFLUENCE, and ACTIVE ZEAL, PRESTON owes, in eminent degree, ITS PRESENT PROSPERITY; And whose Extensive Benevolence ENTITLES HIM TO THE GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE of his Fellow Townsmen; This Brief Description of the Borough and Town of Preston IS INSCRIBED, AS A MEMORIAL OF Departed Worth'. Today our sponsor might well be the Heritage Lottery Fund, but where is the equivalent to this florid praise? Why does the HLF not command such affection, adulation and fulsome flattery? It cannot be, surely, that we live in a more cynical age!
THE EARLIEST VILLAGE MUSEUM?
The claim by Ashwell Villlage Museum quoted in the profile of Peter Greener published in the last issue of Local History News has, of course, been challenged. Arthur Percival, Hon Director of the Faversham Society, has written: The circumstances which led to the foundation of the Maison Dieu museum in the village of Ospringe in Kent were not dissimilar to those which prompted the creation of the Ashwell museum. Early in the 1920s a Roman burial site was found nearby and and many finds unearthed. As earlier finds had been lost to the locality people there were determined this should not happen again, and looked for a building to display the material. In 1922 the Rural District Council had condemned a house in the village street as unfit for habitation. Its ground floor and undercroft went back to the 13th century and the first floor to the 16th. It once formed a small part of the Maison Dieu, or Hospital of St Mary which was dissolved in 1515 by Bishop John Fisher of Rochester to help provide a foundation endowment for St John's College, Cambridge. There was no listing then to protect the building but the community decided to avert demolition, and to convert part of it to house the Roman collection. The Museum was formally opened on 17 June 1925. Today the building and its contents remain the property of an ad hoc charitable trust. It is in the guardianship of English Heritage and managed on a voluntary basis by the Faversham Society (which also has its own museum at the Fleur de Lis Heritage Centre).
INDEFATIGABLE OF YORK
Hugh Murray was presented with a BALH Award for personal achievement in 2004 for his services to local history in York. There he is known as a lecturer, author, and office holder in a number of local organisations. Some of our award winners were fortunate to be taught by inspiring history teachers, but Hugh Murray had the opposite experience. Turned off the subject by unimaginative history lessons at school, he rediscovered it while working in Norwich in the 1960s. The catalyst was a book of photographs which drew his attention forcibly to the evidence of buildings above the modern shop fronts. When he moved back to York in 1970, Hugh was thus prepared to look at it with new eyes, and the result was, eventually, total immersion in York history. After retiring from his job as a signal engineer with British Rail in 1988, Hugh Murray was able to devote his time to local history. He has been an indefatigable researcher into the history of York and its environs for many years. The results can be seen in his impressive list of publications, some twenty to date, plus many articles in York Historian,Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, Aspects of Heraldry and other journals. His most recent book is A Golfing Oddysey: the Centenary History of York Railway Institute Golf Club(2004). In his retirement this has extended to promoting local history at every opportunity. Over 1500 lectures, a local history course that has run for 15 years, and a popular guided walks programme have inspired others to follow in his footsteps. As an expert on the pioneer York conservationist, Dr Evelyn, Hugh Murray has delivered many lectures and published several books using 35mm images from his collection of Dr Evelyn's lantern slides. Hugh Murray has been a leading member of the Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society (Chairman 1991 – 2002 and editor of Yorkshire Historian 1984-2000); he is on the Council of Friends of York Minster and the York Civic Trust, and is active in the Yorkshire Heraldry Society. A particular interest is the listed York Cemetery, opened in 1837, which was rescued from ruin by an organisation of Friends. A Trustee, Treasurer and Administrator of York Cemetery for many years, Hugh has created a database of all the burials there, which has proved an invaluable research tool for other historians as well as a convenience for relatives. His knowledge and enthusiasm have entranced numerous readers and listeners, and it is this commitment to sharing his excitement for local history that makes Hugh Murray a worthy award-winner.
Local historians and naturalists can find common ground whatever sceptics say. This is shown in a new book published by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. Loynton Moss : a natural and social history of a Staffordshire Nature Reserveis profusely illustrated in full colour and tells the story of an Ice Age kettle hole transformed into a rich and distinctive wetland haven for wildlife. Mike Deegan, the Trust's Reserves Manager, and members of Norbury Local History Group cooperated in the research and writing, and called in Paul Anderton, as an experienced author and local historian, to supervise the project and design the book. Loynton Moss, in the parish of Norbury, bordering on Shropshire, extends over 135 acres and is a deep body of peat accumulated over eight thousand years as the water-filled kettle hole gradually filled up with decaying vegetation. The stages of this process are described by naturalists as natural succession. Called Blakemere, the pool, over 100 acres in the fifteenth century, survived until the 1950s. By then, many other meres and mosses left by melting ice in the northern areas of Staffordshire and Shropshire had disappeared. The wealth of insect and bird life in this distinctive wetland corner of Norbury merited registration in 1968 as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). However, at the sale of the whole area in 1969 the Trust was outbid, but bought 34 acres containing the last vestiges of the mere by private arrangement shortly after. The major part of the Moss, however, was subsequently almost completely destroyed to make it suitable for agriculture. For thirty years the Trust worked hard to preserve the reedbeds and fen land but could not buy the surrounding peatland until 2000. Since that time the Trust has implemented new management plans to recover much more of the wetland habitat and attract back the butterflies, hares and buzzards, for example, driven away by arable farming. The whole site belonged to a large estate in Norbury parish and over centuries its waters played a valuable part in the local farming economy. Members of the Norbury Local History Group (Pam Collard, Tony Browne, Sarah O'Boyle and Richard Blacknell), researching the history of the village, and particularly the Loynton estate, revealed the story of the owners of Loynton Moss, the Burne family and their predecessors, going back 1649. This historical successionof stages in the human exploitation of natural resources included the building of a canal (now known as the Shropshire Union) around the eastern edge of the Moss, which deprived it of a large percentage of its water supplies. That Blakemere survived at all was because the Burne family of Loynton Hall kept the wetland area as their pleasure ground for shooting and fishing. Natural and social histories clearly intertwined, and the book brings out the complexity of both natural succession as a process changing the character of a mere by stages into fen and bog, and the succession of social and economic change which, in this case, accelerated the speed at which transformation took place. Members of the group met regularly for some eighteen months to report, discuss written and re-written contributions and select the large number of illustrations. Historians and naturalists found it easy to sympathise with each other's approach to a narrative which concentrates especially on the last five hundred years of the story when human records are not too difficult to find. A social historian can see that the project was made easier because the family records of successive estate owners concentrated a good deal of evidence in one place. Interaction with naturalists interpreting this information was hugely rewarding. Loynton Moss published by Staffordshire Wildlife Trust December 2004 50 pages over 70 illustrations and maps in full colour ISBN 09549385-0-X obtainable from local bookshops and the Trust at the Wolseley Centre, Wolseley Bridge, Stafford. ST17OWT Price : £5.99
The City of Joondalup is situated 24 kilometres (14.91 miles) north of Perth, Western Australia. The Joondalup Centre Library houses the City's local studies library and oral history collection, renowned as one of the largest collections of local material in the state. Oral history officer for the City of Joondalup, Judith Jacobs, and a team of volunteers have recently completed a unique project based upon the collection, entitled Stories from the Suburbs. This research traces the history of suburbs within the City of Joondalup that were, until now, relatively unknown. During the early years of the oral history program, priority was given to collecting stories relating to older, 'pioneer' suburbs and white settlement. Little emphasis had been placed upon recording the history of the rapidly growing, western and coastal suburbs of the region. While considered the 'younger' suburbs, some areas recorded development dating back to the mid 1800s. Jacobs set out to fill these gaps in the City's timeline. She also hoped to increase the profile and awareness of local and oral history within the City through the publication and promotion of her findings. The histories of twenty two suburbs were to be compiled. After considering various approaches, Jacobs decided upon publishing the histories in booklet format, completing approximately seven per year over a three year period. This small design was to appeal to both adults and children, who may wish to leaf through the volumes. Each booklet would feature all historical aspects of the suburb including environmental history, a biography of prominent individuals and extracts of oral history interviews. This format would be more easily digestible than long transcripts. It was hoped that the short paragraphs may appeal to a wider audience, and inspire further independent reading. In 2002, Jacobs applied for, and received, a $400 grant from the Oral History Association of Australia. This money was put aside for printing costs for the first eight booklets. After the initial success of these, all costs were covered by the City of Joondalup. Advertisements were placed in The West Australian Newspaper and local community newspapers, calling for early residents and those with knowledge of the history of a suburb to participate in the program. Interviewees often suggested the names of other potential interview candidates. In addition, invaluable resources such as previously unseen photographs, ephemera, newspaper articles and house plans were sourced through interviewees. Acquired photographs were accessioned in the local studies library, and many copies were made and sold following the publication of booklets. A total of eight to ten volunteers staffed the project; all interviewing, transcribing and some background research was conducted by volunteers. Jacobs provided set questions and guidelines to ensure an even coverage of the history of each suburb. The final, uniform structure of the booklets consisted of a cover page featuring photographs of significant landmarks and people, then a timeline of important events, a study of the environment (including soils, flora and fauna), an outline of historical land use (including native aboriginal land use), a history of the suburb based upon oral history excerpts, a brief history of the lives of prominent local people, street and park names and their histories, and a bibliography of further reading. The publication of the booklets was celebrated by an official launch and catered function at the end of each year. Interviewees, volunteers, dignitaries and the press attended the three events. Approximately thirty people were registered at each launch. Review articles and photographs of the project featured in the local community newspapers, The Wanneroo Times and The Joondalup Community. Jacobs further promoted the project through the creation of a public display for each suburb. Images, extracts of oral histories and text from the booklets were incorporated into the displays. These traveled to shopping complexes, schools and community halls. Regional shopping centres requested the return of the displays numerous times due to popular demand. Jacobs continues to promote both the local and oral history of the City of Joondalup. Working with volunteers and students of a multi-media class at the Joondalup TAFE, she has recently compiled a CD-Rom of the history of buildings within the Joondalup central business district. This production celebrates 2004, Australia's Year of the Built Environment. In this project, a map of the City of Joondalup can be searched for a built structure, and when selected, the history of the building can be traced until the present day. Similarly, an interactive Stories from the Suburbs CD-Rom is also due for release in 2005.
THE HISTORY CIRCLE
The Pinner Local History Society was formed in 1972 at an inaugural meeting attended by a hundred enthusiastic members. It prospered and for twleve years held monthly meetings, arranged outings, took part in local events and became an established part of Pinner and Hatch End life. In 1984 'Members' Meetings' were introduced to provide a platform for members to share an interest with other members in a less formal environment. These were held in the lounge in the Village Hall, the capacity of which was a maximum of 30 people. This situation was suitable for those who were unwilling to speak to the large audience at monthly meetings, or who wished to pass items round such as maps, pictures, and objects, and in the informal surroundings to generate questions and answers. A very small charge was made to cover the hire of the room and refreshments were provided in the form of tea, coffee and bsicuits. Not a bad evening for 50p! It was decided to have three meetings a year, generally in January, March and November to tie in with other PLHS arrangements. These meetings have been run over the years by four members (I am the fifth) and the variety and scope of the subjects is legion. Many have been based on local history - houses, streets, trees, hospitals; several have been the results of specialist research and reminscences of old Pinner inhabitants. Yet others have reflected the particular interests of members - butterflies and moths, scouting, geology, jazz to name but a few. We have had talks on their working lives by an outside broadcast cameraman, a barrister, an airport security man, and a theatre tutor has given us several interpretations of Shakespearean plays. We have heard the history of Tin, the Gas Industry, the Local Postal Services, and we have heard of travels to many far-distant lands. One member is an accomplished photogapher and has illustrated his talks wonderfully. This gives some idea of the variety of subjects covered. On looking through the archives, one entry struck me as being typical: 'When I was Young'. Reminiscences of their youth by four well-known members of PLHS should bring back memories of the not too distant past. Please bring you own memories along and join in. The meetings are always written up by one of the audience and printed in the PLHS Newsletter so the words of wisdom are retained for posterity. Inevitably since 1984 things have changed a little. For example, the name has been changed to mini-meetings, or more formally The History Circle. Interspersed with the talks given by members we have recently had some speakers from outside the society. Popular among these have been a fascinating insight into bees and bee-keeping; a most erudite lecture on Pharaoanic Egypt; Criminal and Legal London in the Past (a glimpse into the seamy side of life) and an evening of superb slides of birds of the Scilly Isles. We have recently changed our venue to a new room which can take up to forty people. Our latest meeting attracted 37 members to hear a talk by an employee of the prestigious local Whitefrieards Glassworks (now defunct). It was heartening to have so many, albeit a challenge to serve them all with tea and coffee! This was in the half-hour remaining after we had bombarded the speaker with questions, and perused the lovely pieces of glassware which he and others had brought along. As the enterprise is still going strong, we can look back at the perspicacity and foresight of that 1984 Committee, and hope these mini-meetings will continue as long as the main Pinner Local History Society.
ARE REGIMENTAL COLOURS RECORDS?
Wilbury House, the Malet family, the Regimental Colours of the 8th The King's Regiment, and some thoughts on conservation. In June 2003 the Wiltshire Record Society held its annual meeting at Wilbury House, Newton Tony. After the meeting and lecture we were shown round by the present occupant, Miranda Countess of Iveagh, and her commentary included reference to long time owners - the Malet family. This prompted the recollection that from 1981 to 1985 I had recorded* the military memorials in Salisbury Cathedral. Listed as number 29 was the following: 'Brass plate (mounted high in the W wall of the SE transept above the wooden screen dividing transept from choir aisle) to Lieutenant Colonel Charles St Lo Malet, 8th The Kings Regiment (1801-89) and the Colours of The Regiment. The inscription is difficult to read from the ground and is as follows: These old colours of the 8th The Kings Regiment were deposited in the Cathedral in 1844 by Lieutenant Colonel Charles St Lo Malet, Commanding Officer, and were repaired in 1890 by the officer then in command. Lieutenant Colonel C St Lo Malet died 20 September 1889 in his 88th year. This tablet was erected to his memory by his surviving son Major Alexander C W Malet. It seems odd that the colours of a northern regiment, deployed throughout Lancashire in 1844 and 1845 after returning from Ireland, should have been laid up in October 1844 in Salisbury. However Lieutenant Colonel St Lo Malet was the son of Sir Charles Warre Malet of Wilbury House, Wiltshire and no doubt retired to Wiltshire (apparently with the colours) when relinquishing command. The 1st Battalion of the successor The King's Liverpool Regiment was stationed in the south of England from 1889 covering the period when Lieutenant Colonel Dawson (the then Commanding Officer) had the repairs carried out. The colours were mounted above the brass plate and are clearly shown in a photograph published in the 1980 Golden Jubilee edition of The Spire, the annual report of the Friends of Salisbury Cathedral. They were later moved into the roof space of the nave, and then mounted in the room above the NW porch.' Recollecting the Malet name on this memorial I revisited it in July 2003, and was surprised to discover that the brass tablet was quite accurately transcribed, but there were two errors, found with the help of a verger and a guide. In the first sentence I had written 'the Cathedral' instead of 'this Cathedral' - not very important, but the second could be. At the end of the inscription my reference to a Major Malet should have the initials G W. My brief commentary on the memorial makes interesting reading twenty or so years on. In 1844 infantry regiments had no connection with any part of the country, and my reference to The King's Regiment as 'a northern regiment' was anachronistic. I am obliged to the present Regimental Secretary, Colonel (Retd) M G C AmlÃ´t, for pointing out that the title The King's Liverpool Regiment followed the 1881 reforms of the Army. He also suggests that my mild surprise at a commanding officer taking the colours to be laid up near to his own home is misguided and indeed the question is rather 'why not?' Until the abolition of the purchase of commissions as part of the reforms later in the century each regiment was 'not simply a unit in an army but a colonel's private property'.** If he wanted to take the colours, why not indeed. The Regimental Secretary also sent me extracts from Cannon's Historical Records of The King's Liverpool Regiment which I take to be a fuller citation of the source I originally found in the War Office Library and used as a basis for my commentary. A more careful reading, however, reveals that Colonel C St Lo Malet deposited the colours in Salisbury in October 1844 but did not retire until December 1845. Finally what of the colours themselves? In the photograph mentioned and reproduced above, the regimental colours are incidental to the main subject of the picture, but nonetheless are quite clear. It shows them in very delapidated condition in their nets. I recall seeing them in that condition over the North Porch, probably in 1981. Tim Tatton Brown, the Cathedral Archaeologist, tells me he can remember them later in the eighties before the major restoration work reached the porch roof. I went to look for them again. The fifty steps had grown steeper and the spiral narrower. It was worth the climb however, to verify that the colours are no longer there. The Cathedral staff can find no trace of them. The moral is I suppose that it is always worth revisiting one's research (and discovering the errors and omissions) but perhaps not to leave it for twenty years. I am intrigued to know how worn out colours generally are regarded and treated. And how would an archivist or curator approach them and their conservation? It has been normal practice simply to hang them exposed to any passing dirt, but interesting now to see that the last colours of the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment (Berkshire and Wiltshire) laid up on amalgamation in 1987 in the Chapel of St Michael the Archangel in the south aisle are in glass cases. Significantly the colours of the other half of the amalgamation are similarly housed in the Regimental Museum - that of the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment in Salisbury Cathedral Close. By contrast the five stands by the north door relating to the earlier Wiltshire Regiment hang open to the atmosphere. Two of the sets are the final colours of the old Wiltshire Regiment and the Berkshire Regiment laid up in 1959 when the two regiments were amalgamated. They are in a sorry state. In another 40 years without conservation they will probably resemble a third set in the stand. These, first carried by the 62nd of Foot (a forerunner of the Wiltshire Regiment) in 1806, then in the American War of 1814-15, and later recorded as having been lost in and recovered from the River Ganges, are now reduced to a few threadbare tatters. They are very similar in fact to those of the 8th of Foot, the 'Malet' colours as I saw them in 1981 and of which no trace seems to remain. If pieces of Regimental Silver were to have survived so long they would be regarded as treasures and treated with the greatest care. And thus to the question in my title. Are a set of colours 'records'? Would an archivist welcome them and protect them? The embroidered battle honours and other information is readily available in published form. But is the fabric itself historically valuable as in the case of a paper record where the original, however much copied, is carefully conserved? For these colours in Salisbury Cathedral I am told there are three parties involved - the church authorities, the Regimental Headquarters, and the Regimental Museum. Are there, I wonder, those who feel inclined to take a lead in putting the older colours into the safety of the museum before serious deterioration sets in? Or should they, like old soldiers, simply fade away? References *Military Memorials in Salisbury Cathedral. The printed list was first compiled in 1981 and revised in 1985. Copies were distributed locally and may be in Local Studies Libraries; there have been a few additions to the list since 1985. **Corelli Barnett Britain and her Army. Penguin 1970 p 308
NEWS FROM SOCIETIES, LIBRARIES, MUSEUMS, ARCHIVES, EDUCATION
The biennial Jodi Mattes Accessibility Awards for website accessibility in museums, libraries and archives were announced in April. The Excellence Award for 2005 was given to www.webwords.org of the Library and Information Services, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead. www.pewsey-heritage-centre.org.uk received the Award for Excellence with Local Budgets 2005, described by the judges as 'an outstanding example of what can be achieved through sheer commitments by small museums'. Other commended websites were www.milestones-museum.com – the first local authority site, Hampshire County Council, (and one of very few museums) to provide video clips with British Sign Language; www.revealweb.org.uk a voluntary sector initiative providing a library catalogue with access to over 100,000 materials; and www.imagine.org.uk from Tyne and Wear Museums. www.egovmonitor.comHolborn Library is the location of a very special exhibition organised by Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre. Called 'Notable Asians in Camden', it explores the interconnected lives of a number of people of Asian descent who came to Camden to live, study and work over the last 200 years. Each of them went on to make a tremendous impact on the lives of others both in Britain and also in India and Pakistan in the fields of arts, politics, medicine and law. The exhibition was researched by local historian Mimi Romillly. Mimi started by exploring her own family history but became fascinated by connections and similarities between her father, Ali Mohammed Abbas, and other notable Asian figures she encountered along the way. This exhibition tells the stories of their lives. The Bodleian Library in Oxford holds, in the Carte Mss collection, 111 volumes of correspondence of James Butler, 1st Duke of Ormond. As Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1662 to 1668, and again from 1677 to 1685 he wielded immense power over the everyday lives of Irish men and women. His correspondence provides a treasure trove of information about almost every aspect of life in Restoration England and Ireland. The numerous petitions from Irish citizens are a rich source for local and family history as well as for the social and economic condition of Ireland. A joint project by the Bodleian Library and the History of Parliament Trust with support from the South Eastern Museums Library and Archive Council, and the Access to Archives Programme, by means of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, is transforming the paper calendar which has been the only finding aid to the manuscripts into an electronic one. By the summer of 2005 32 volumes covering the period 1660 to 1687 will be fully searchable online via A2A at www.a2a.org.uk
NEWS FROM EIRE
Writer's House Receives Special Status Houses No 1 to 6, New Dock Street, in Galway City which consists of a terrace of Victorian buildings overlooking the commercial docks terrace, have been designated a special architectural protection status. These are the only remaining 19th century buildings on the street. An added incentive to protect these buildings lay in the fact that No 1 was the birthplace of author Padraic O'Conaire whose statue stands in Eyre Square of the City. Jim Higgins, Heritage Officer for Galway City, said that the buildings were of historical value citing that the original brick walls, architraves, doorways, floors, fireplaces and shutters, were still in place. He went on to point out that 'Padraig's Place' pub had been renovated and its original features retained and that there was no reason that the other buildings in the group could not be allowed to develop and thrive. The Wonderful Barn Kildare County council has received a planning application for the construction of over 470 houses in the vicinity of one of Ireland's most unusual historical landmarks, The Wonderful Barn, in Leixlip, Co. Kildare. The developer in question plans to build 476 houses on lands at Barnhall in the grounds of this structure, a stone grain store dating from 1743 and Barnhall House which dates from the 17th century. The Wonderful Barn is a folly built by Lady Laura Catherine Connolly as a famine relief project and was based on the design of an Indian rice store. The 7 storey structure is used as a grain store and is a visible landmark from the nearby M4 motorway and is one of 2 of these types of structures in Ireland according to the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. In 2002, Kildare County Council, under a local action plan, decided that part of the site would be dedicated as a parkland and that the rest would be used for low to medium density housing. Under a landscaping plan for the site, provision has been made for a bank of trees to screen the new housing from the historical buildings, Plans for restoring the walled garden had also been drawn up. Transfer of the Barn complex which includes Barnhall House, the Wonderful Barn, two dovecotes, walled garden and the remaining parkland is being negotiated by Kildare County Council. The planning permission sought is for 122 four-bedroom houses, 12 three-bedroom houses, 136 two-bedroom houses, a crÃ¨che and 2 shops. All proposed residential units are 2 storeys in height. The Kildare County Council's action plan for the area has been described by former president of the Irish Georgian Society, the Hon. Desmond Guinness, as disastrous and who believes that the lands surrounding the barn should be kept free of housing development in order to protect its setting. Success for Bolton Hall Action Group The Bolton Hall Action Group which is fighting to prevent the proposed development of Bolton Hall in the Rathfarnham area was pleased to learn that a recent planning application for the construction of 91 residential units was turned by South Dublin County Council. Bolton Hall is a 19th century gentleman s residence and has rich industrial cultural heritage. The nature of the nature of the development directly threatens the Mill House, which has a rare drying loft, the Walled Garden, Ice House, Servants Quarters, a folly in the shape of a temple, a Coach House, Stone Walls and an Arched Gateway. There is evidence that Bolton Hall is on the site or incorporates an earlier house or structure extant in 1760. In addition, Bolton Hall in on an elevated site which is man made - a circular or sub circular feature is denoted on Rocque s Map of 1760. This would predate 1700 and come within the Monument s Act. The site commands a vista over the locality and is protected by the ravine of the Owendoher Rover and various streams so it is conceivable that the site could be a defensive ring of a prehistoric fort or later moat. At the present time the Bolton Hall Action Group is fighting hard to ensure that no development takes place on this site and further information is available from Angela O Donoghue, 17 Glendoher Close, Tel : 01-4945 177 , email email@example.com or Joe Walsh, 12 Glendoher Avenue, Tel 087 911 8119 An Taisce Criticises NRA The National Roads Authority (NRA) has been criticised by An Taisce for deciding to route part of the Dublin - Galway M6 motorway through Aughrim, Co.Galway where more than 9,000 died in the 1691 battle there. This battle site is of Irish and European importance as it is the site of the largest battles fought in Ireland and was decisive failure for the Jacobite forces and paved the way for the victory of King William III. An Taisce has claimed that the route of the motorway would impinge on the territory where the cavalry stood over 300 years ago, a location which decided the outcome of the battle. The NRA has dismissed the claims made by an Taisce stating that they don t accept their claims in relation to Aughrim that it is particularly destructive stating that a lot of care is taken into the planning of roads and that An Taisce had numerous opportunities down the past number of years to express their concerns. Minister to Issue Preservation Order Dick Roche T.D., Minister for the Environment, has indicated that he will issue a preservation order in a 1200 year old Viking site in Co. Waterford which will ultimately require the rerouting of the Waterford bypass. It is also the Minister s indention to issue an order require an excavation of the sire by the National Museum of Ireland. The site at Woodstown is believed to be one of the most important Viking sites uncovered in Ireland in recent years and is believed to date back to the 5th century when it was controlled by Irish chieftans. Archaeologists has dated the Viking aspects of this site back to the 9th century. So far less than 10% of the site has been excavated but so far over 600 structures have been identified and more than 5000 artefacts collected in the form of Arabic coins, silver ingots, beads and parts of weapons including swords. Also discovered were 250 lead weights revealing that this location was a trading post of some significance.Reading Irish History : For those interested in 20th century Irish history and want some brief books which contain all the essential information, the series to refer to is the Compact Irish History series of books published by the Mercier Press in Cork who are one of Ireland s leading publishers and were responsible for the publication some months of that unique and invaluable reference book Byrne s Dictionary of Irish Local History which has proved to be extremely popular with Irish local historians, members of local history societies and the general public. The Compact Irish Series of titles follows a simple format of providing all the essential information on an individual or event in 80 pages complete with a chronology of event and a select bibliography to assist the reader to pursue further reading. Each title in the series in written by a well know historian who provides all the required information in a clear concise manner. Some of the titles are concise biographies on key people in Irish history such as Charles Stewart Parnell who nearly obtained Home Rule for Ireland in the 1880 s and was leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party from 1880 - 1890 until a scandal in his private life was made public and was used with a vote of no-confidence in him as party leader to oust him from office; Wolfe Tone who was involved with United Irishmen and arrested while serving in the French Army prior to the 1798 and who died in disputed circumstances prior to his execution in Dublin; Robert Emmet who planned a rising in Dublin with great care and in great secrecy in 1803 which failed through bad luck and was executed in pubic shortly afterwards; or Daniel O Connell often referred as The Liberator and was responsible for the enactment of the 1829 legislation which resulted in Catholic Emancipation. Titles looking at events include one on The 1916 Rising, The War of Independence in which the military campaign took place between 1919 and 1921 and was fought as a guerrilla war in the form of raids and skirmishes against Crown forces there were no large set piece battles as happened in the American War of Independence. Another title looks at The Irish Civil War which raged within the Irish Free State, as the modern day Republic was then called, from 1922 to 1923 between those who accepted the terms of the 1921 Anglo Irish Peace Treaty which ended the War of Independence and granted independence to 26-counties of Ireland and those opposed to it. Again it was a war marked by guerrilla warfare with no set piece battles as happened in the English Civil War or the American Civil War. There are many other titles in this excellent series of publications which cover such diverse things as Irish Folklore and Fable, The Celts, Irish Legends and the full range of titles in this series of publications are available from the Mercier Press Ltd, Douglas Village, Cork, Eire, or log on to www.mercierpress.ie to view their full range of titles.
UPTON-BY-CHESTER LOCAL HISTORY GROUP
Upton-by-Chester lies just to the north of the Roman walled city of Chester. Once a rural village it is now part of city suburbia but retains a strong community identity. While areas closer to the city centre saw housing development from the mid-19th century, Upton attracted the wealthy businessmen from Liverpool and Manchester as well as Chester. Aided by the much improved transport systems, many country gentlemen's estates were established and their owners became the 'local barons' providing the resources for much of the community life. This included the funding of facilities such as churches, school and Village Hall as well as community celebration events. Green field development made a start before WW2 but only made real headway by the late 1950s. Even so the growth was gradual enough and with sufficient facilities, such as a village-centre Golf Club, that Upton has never lost its identity. Societies have flourished and all the community halls are heavily used. Although the local media had run occasional reminiscence articles over many decades, the full true history of the area had never been compiled and published. Much of the 'known' history of the area was based on folk-lore passed down through the generations of locals. The Local History Group was formed in September 2002 and soon reached a membership in excess of 100 with regular monthly meetings each attracting over 50 attendees. Clearly it met a need – just waiting for some strong commitment 'to make it happen'. The Group is a blend of locals and incomers with ages from those in their 30s upwards. Interestingly, many of the driving forces within the pioneering group were incomers fascinated to understand the roots of their adopted home and prepared to separate the myth from the truth. Early meetings were very interactive with discussion leaders encouraging everyone to reveal their memories and contacts. The first highlight was an exhibition (see photo) held in the Village Hall which was attended by well over 500 people and established many new contacts and historical sources. The initial source of information was the unpublished scrapbook created in 1951 by the Upton WI to commemorate the Festival of Britain. The Group has analysed and expanded this enormously working closely with Cheshire's Record Office and City Archives as well as hundreds of residents – past & present. Not surprisingly much mis-information has been challenged and well supported new theories put forward. The Group immediately established a website – www.historyofuptonbychester.org.uk which was used as a scrapbook to post up information and images. Past residents including many from abroad were able to comment and add to this growing mine of historical material. By summer 2004, underwriting for a quality book had been established and the task began to convert a scrapbook into a well structured book. The design intent was to make the book broad in its coverage offering interest in every branch of our local history. It was named Upton-by-Chester A People's History and has amounted to 300 pages with over 300 illustrations – most of which have never previously been published. The Foreword was written by Upton's most famous 'son' – Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. The Group was aware that a quality product still needs good marketing. A village community Festival Committee was formed and an Art & Music Festival arranged to coincide with the launch of the book. The Festival involved a parade with jugglers, bands, concerts, film evening, art displays, history treasure hunts – all supporting another even bigger Local History Exhibition and the book launch. The book – ISBN 0-9548854-0-6 - has been well received and is selling well at its £15 price tag. It can be obtained mail order at £18-50 via 8 Rushton Drive CHESTER CH2 1RE or at £15 from Upton's two local Post Offices. Other outlets will follow. Any proceeds after costs will allow the Group to further its research and heritage plans which include some interesting digs. None of the three authors are locals or professional historians although, spurred on by the Group, they have learnt fast. They would be happy to share with any other Groups the process and learning of this fascinating project of 'local history research and compilation'. Visit the website or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Alternately write to 80 Upton Park Chester CH2 1DQ tel 01244-390326.
The IEE Headquarters is an impressive building with a white marbled entrance hall, a superb lecture theatre panelled in Cuban mahogany and a fine balconied library. The IEE, founded in 1871, have leased the building since 1908. Anne Locker, archivist of the National Archive for Electrical Science and Technology, explained that this contains the archives of IEE and those of other societies since merged with the IEE. Also there are records of many electrical engineering firms and personal collections, including the early notebooks and correspondence of Michael Faraday, and the papers of Dame Caroline Haslett. She received an engineering training during the First World War and afterwards organised societies for women who wished to become professional engineers, demonstrators, or saleswomen. Pamphlets and rare books had been put on display including a treatise on surveying, beautifully printed in medieval German with hand coloured illustrations. Another exhibit was a sample of the first transatlantic cable laid in 1866 by the Great Eastern. Anne gave alarming accounts of early apparatus such as an electric tablecloth with points for lamps, and a light that was activated by placing it on a bed of mercury. In the afternoon Jenny Lynch of the House of Lords Record Office took us to the store where old acts are held. The earliest, dated 1497, dealt with taking apprentices in Norfolk. Apart from the Royal Assent Le Roy le veult, the neat script was in English and still very clear. Scrolls for private acts were small but those for some of the public acts resembled rolled up stair carpets. Modern acts are bound and stored flat but still printed on vellum as, in 1999, the House of Commons doubted 'whether archival paper will last for 500 years'. On a screen we saw records such as the Great Reform Act of 1832, and the death warrant of Charles I where some of the signatures looked timorously indistinct. Other papers had been laid out, including a plan of the port of Dundee and a report composed and signed by Samuel Pepys, The Protestation Returns of 1642 and the returns of Roman Catholics made in the 17th and 18th centuries are of particular interest to local historians. The website www.parliament.uk was demonstrated. It contains information about the history and current activities of Parliament and is updated each day. The Victoria Tower was built to hold the House of Lords records which had been kept in the Jewel Tower and thus survived the fire of 1834. When built it was considered to be the tallest square tower in the world and we climbed an iron spiral staricase to its summit. The views were well worth the effort.
Two books on the north Welsh slate industry have attracted my attention during the couple of months in which I've been acting as Reviews Editor for The Local Historian. They are from the same publisher, the enterprising firm of Gwasg Carreg Gwalch based at Llanwrst in the Conwy valley, but are very different in scope and style. One, Cwm Gwyrfai: the quarries of the North Wales Narrow Gauge and the Welsh Highland Railways, covers the themes that its title suggests. It is a detailed, comprehensive and thorough account of the numerous quarries, small and large, which were developed along the valley of the Afon Gwyrfai. This extends from Beddgelert northwards along the foot of Snowdon towards the strange semi-industrialised semi-rural landscape, with its strings of sprawling settlements which are not quite villages and something like ribbon development, that stretches from the Llanberis area in a great arc south-east of Caernarfon. The book connects the accounts of individual quarries by explaining the role that narrow gauge railways played in their development, and vice versa. The text demonstrates the authors' intimate knowledge of the locations described, and the reader is confident that they are experts in their subject. To some this will seem an esoteric topic, but slate-quarrying was fundamental to the social, economic, cultural and landscape development of much of Snowdonia and it is fitting that the industry should be recorded in this way. These are places where large tracts of land have been changed for ever by the blood and sweat and toil of thousands of individuals. The authors have trawled the documentary sources very extensively and thoroughly to produce definitive histories of many of the quarries and their associated railways and tramroads. As a child, on holiday near Porthmadog, I explored the quarries in Cwm Pennant, across the heights of Moel Hebog from Beddgelert, and marvelled at their caverns and precipices, waterfalls crashing into hidden depths, and deep silent pools. This book commemorates the human courage and endeavour, financial optimism and rewards (or losses), and engineering prowess and daring which produced those dramatic features of the landscape. Another book celebrates that very aspect of the Welsh slate industry – the stark beauty of its landscapes and monuments.Aspects of Welsh Slate does not sound an altogether promising title – a bit dry perhaps, a little too academic? But the cover intrigues and entices – a close-up photograph of a slab of beautiful purplish slate, superimposed on which are three dramatic paintings beckoning the reader to look within. Pip Knight-Jones, the author, is a lady in her 70s, who has – among other activities in a colourful career – worked on the production of Fireball XL5 and Sting Ray and been a professional marine zoologist and diver. She was always, however, a highly accomplished artist and illustrator and this book, one of the most unusual that I have seen in a long time, is her view of the remains of the slate industry. There are 34 excellent reproductions of her vivid paintings of quarries and jagged slate tips, highlighting the geometry of ruined huts and tramway alignments, the extraordinary colours of the purple slate, orange and yellow grasses, black window holes, blue waters of flooded workings, and the hauntingly evocative atmosphere of abandoned enterprise. The book is supported by authoritative historical captions, carefully-researched and always relevant; diagrams and plans; modern photographs; and a thoughtful and stimulating introductory essay by the artist which shows the extent and seriousness of her work – she didn't simply paint some old quarries, but has produced an admirable historical account interwoven with explanations of why certain sites and locations fascinated her. I was prepared to be somewhat sceptical of this publication but I ended up a total convert. CWM GWYRFAI The quarries of the North Wales Narrow Gauge and the Welsh Highland Railways by Gwynfor Pierce Jones and Alun John Richards (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2004 ISBN 0 86381 897 8) £9.95 ASPECTS OF WELSH SLATE by Pip Knight-Jones (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2004 ISBN 0 86381 882 X) £6.95
Just before Easter I was the guest speaker at the annual sitting of the manor court of Bideford. This signal honour was the consequence of a most generous and warmly appreciated invitation from the mayor of Bideford, who for 2004-2005 was none other than that most excellent man Peter Christie, recently retired as Reviews Editor of The Local Historian. Who could reject that tempting offer, especially as Bideford is such a delightful town, Devon is such a lovely county, and the prospect of participating in the proceedings of a manor court was quite irresistible? Not I! The Corporation of Bideford bought the manorial rights in the 1880s, and now the mayor for each year is,pro tem, the lord of the manor. Today the manor court meets each year and hears presentments made by people of the town, concerning problems of local government (litter, bus services, play areas and other amenities, and issues which affect the detail of everyday life). It was a glorious spring day, the marvellous medieval bridge across the Torridge looked splendid and the river shone, the interior of the extravagantly late Victorian town hall was wonderfully decorated with banks of fresh flowers, everything was spick and span, and the town band played a lively selection of tunes. For me, a very special day was enjoyed—not least (a real thrill, for I am a child at heart) I was allowed to pick up the maces and the heavy chains with their pendants and enamels, and feel the weight of all that gold, gilt and silver. Everyone was in their finery, with the mayors and mayoresses of neighbouring towns in their chains of office and the town councillors richly and resplendently robed. Naturally, the mayor outshone them in all in a vivid scarlet gown lined with brown fur and a black tricorn hat. He carried out the duties of his office with the dignity and solemnity which was only to be expected from a man who had been Reviews Editor of The Local Historian for fourteen years. The court in session was fascinating – the jury was sworn in, the formal business introduced, the presentments read out, and the jury retired to deliberate upon their recommendations. The guest speaker addressed the assembled dignitaries, representatives of local high schools, visitors and townspeople. His theme was the history of manor courts and the erstwhile powers of the lord of the manor. It was especially intriguing to note that affray, drinking and unseemly behaviour associated with it might well have been part of the medieval business of the court, and that one of the presentments in 2005 concerned the prevalence of affray, drinking and unseemly behaviour associated with it—we call it binge-drinking, but there doesn't seem much real difference in principle! The jury returned, having spent longer than expected on their discussion, and the verdicts were delivered—requests to the town council to deal with specific problems or raise them before higher authority (such as Torridge District Council and Devon County Council). The formal proceedings drew to a close, and we retired to an adjacent hotel, in true medieval fashion, for an excellent buffet lunch. It reminded me again of what was lost when local government ceased to be really local. Until 1974 Bideford was a proud and independent municipal borough, but now its town council has only the limited powers of a parish council. The walls of the council chamber and the public hall are lined with the portraits of generation after generation of mayors, the glass cases hold the physical symbols of borough and civic identity, and that sense of the miniature state, the tiny city republic (loyal servants of the Crown to a man and woman, of course) is very clear. The reality of all that has in some senses vanished, but (I climb on my soapbox again) as long as Bideford holds its manor courts, and the pride of and in the town is publicly displayed in this and other ways, hope is not gone that one day local independence might be restored.