Local History News - Number 78 - Winter 2006

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1. Ancient History  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby is disturbed to find that he is history


The boy is now almost eleven years old and halfway through his last year at primary school. History is of course part of the curriculum though, as has been frequently pointed out of late, it comes in a very strange and very bitty series of bite-sized portions, disconnected and with no framework or structure (or is that merely my cynicism?). A few years ago, when his sister was in the last year of the juniors, she did a version of oral history about the Second World War, interviewing grandma to learn something of her experiences when she was evacuated from Manchester to Blackpool in 1939-1940. There was some amusement on the part of the oldest generation that this constituted history at all, but it was sixty years ago so I think we could allow it - just! Imagine my surprise, therefore, when the boy came home and announced that in history they were going to be doing 'the sixties'. Now what could that be? Maybe the succession crisis of the first decade of Elizabeth I's reign? Or Restoration politics and the toleration question? Or the prelude to American independence? Or even, in Lancashire, the American Civil War and the Cotton Famine of 1861-1865. But no, silly me. The sixties was of course Carnaby Street, the Beatles, liberation, free love, the first supermarkets and so on. And this time I was the victim of oral history. It was indeed stimulating to recall those seemingly very distant times - the first television set (six-inch screen in gigantic cabinet, purchased just before Princess Margaret's wedding - the neighbours came round to watch); our first car (a Ford Popular with red leather seats); the winter of 1963 (snow over the tops of my wellingtons, and being snowed up for a week when we were visiting friends in Somerset). I started to enjoy myself. Yes, I had lived through some very interesting times, though I didn't get onto the more disturbing recollections of my mother weeping during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of JFK. So far, so good. But the next week, it turned out, they were doing 'the seventies'. This started to become a little disconcerting, for his parents actually met halfway through that decade and that surely couldn't be construed as 'history'. Could it? He interviewed his mother this time. The theme of the investigation was 'entertainment';. What did we do in that far-off decade? Well, there were no videos (an expression of horror crossed his face); no mobile phones (sheer incomprehension); no DVDs (ditto); colour TV only appeared a couple of years earlier; we listened to such delights as the Bay City Rollers and the Osmonds (well, she may have done but I certainly didn't) and thought ourselves very sophisticated. He went away satisfied though aware of the extreme antiquity of his parents. But - and this is true, dear readers - the following week was themed on 'the eighties'. No, it cannot be. That is simply NOT history. We still have cardboard boxes in the loft which aren't yet unpacked from when we moved house at the end of that decade. There are rooms in our house last decorated in 1989. That isn't history - it's a home improvement problem occasioned by having a feckless local historian as man of the house, one who always puts off the decorating because he has articles for Local History News to finish. But a little thought creeps into my mind. When did you see your first mobile phone? When did you acquire a CD player? When did you buy your first computer? What software did you use? Did you know what software was? They will thank us in 2056 if we capture those recollections now!

2. 2005 Award Winners  Show more → Show less ↓

Patricia Winzar is profiled by Jane Howells


Patricia Winzar appeared on television recently, fronting her village's bid on behalf of the medieval Archbishop's Palace in Charing, Kent, in the BBC Restoration series. They won the south-east area heat. The experience was not without its amusing moments, as Mrs Winzar recalled in an article for Kent Archaeological Magazine. What she imagined would be 'a few words on the history of Charing' turned into a minutely choreographed four-hour filming session with camera and sound crews, props, extras, and uncooperative sunlight! Many years of hard work, dedication and enthusiasm contributed to Patricia being put in this position. She is a founder member of Charing Local History Society and has been chairman for the past 20 years. After completing the Diploma in Local History at the University of Kent, she taught a local research group. Investigating documents and then using archaeology led to the discovery of a local manor and a small Roman villa, both sites declared 'not known' by the then experts. Patricia has published articles on local history topics in Archaeologia Cantiana. In her 'spare time' she has compiled over 30 database files of Charing residents from the 13th to 18th centuries. Patricia Winzar is also very well known for her work at the county level in Kent. In 1974 she was asked to take over - temporarily - as Hon Sec of the county local history committee (now Kent History Federation). She then became the acting chairman when the current holder had the misfortune to fall out of a tree in his garden - such is the way chance plays a part in our lives. There were two projects Mrs Winzar thought would particularly benefit member societies. The first to be tackled was the revival of a county magazine. Journal of Kent Local History was launched in the autumn of 1975 with Patricia as editor (ie secretary, compiler, stapler etc) which job she held until 1992. The publication continues as Journal of Kent History.Her second achievement was the 'transformation' of the annual day conference, at the time arranged centrally by the county committee. Member societies were asked to be local organisers; they were on the ground and would know the most interesting topics and places to see. So now one town or village each year welcomes members to their patch for a whole day of lectures and local visits. These events prove so enormously popular there is sometimes difficulty finding large enough venues. Since 2003 Patricia Winzar has been President of the Kent History Federation, following in the footsteps of Dr Lansberry and Dr Thirsk. She says she took this role 'apprehensively' but Kent local historians agree that it is appropriate acknowledgement of her contribution to their field of study. A 2005 BALH award for personal achievement is further recognition of the many activities in which 'she has been heroically successful in furthering the cause of local history in Kent'. The author would like to thank Patricia Winzar and Patricia Knowlden for their help in preparing this profile.

3. Enhancing Archive Accessibility  Show more → Show less ↓

Monica Halpinfrom the National Archives explains Archives 4 All and aUK, two new developments making archives more accessible.


aUK: connecting archives A dream for most researchers would be a way of searching across all UK archives in one place; connecting the databases and websites and resources of all UK archives from the comfort of one computer keyboard search. While this may remain a dream for some time to come, national archival bodies are working together to investigate the same ideas, and the Archives UK consortium (aUK) represents one strand of investigation and activity. The consortium members are working cooperatively to consider new means of connecting archives. Computers have greatly changed access to Archival holdings in recent years. Many record offices now have computerised systems which you can access in the searchroom; some have catalogues available over the internet whilst others have contributed their catalogues to one of the networks such as AIM25, the Archives Hub or Access to Archives (A2A). How can we search across all these systems? The range of catalogues and systems currently available is very varied, and a possible solution is the development of 'middleware' that connects the databases to online access systems. aUK has set up a Technical Working Group to look at underlying standards for interoperability and data exchange that will draw material together online. Not all material is accessible via computer. There is still a lot of information locked in manuscript or type-written lists on shelves, requiring a visit to the archive itself, or to The National Archives to see the National Register of Archives' copy of the list. The National Advisory Services recently undertook a survey to determine the amount of collections in England whose lists await retroconversion. This should help aUK achieve its goal of improving the online provision of archives through technical infrastructure. The aUK Steering Committee includes representatives from The National Archives; National Archives of Scotland; National Library of Wales; Public Record Office Northern Ireland; Museums, Libraries and Archives Council; Museums, Archives and Libraries Wales (CyMAL) and the National Council on Archives. All these bodies have given their support to investigating the future of connecting archives. The aUK Programme Board has representatives from specialist repositories, county record offices, higher education, local record offices, and related consortia bodies. In this way aUK hopes to receive input from across the sector and benefit from a diverse range of experiences. The Board meets quarterly to develop aims, consider strategic issues, support and oversee aUK projects. More information is available on the aUK website: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/partnerprojects/auk/ For further details please contact: Monica Halpin, Secretary to the aUK Programme Boardmonica.halpin@nationalarchives.gov.uk Archives 4 All An Archival catalogue a million pages long. Access to Archives (A2A - www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/a2a) uploaded its millionth page of archival description recently and is still going strong. Hosted by The National Archives, the A2A database acts as a union catalogue of material from all across England. A2A reached the end of Phase 3 in August 2005, marking the completion of large consortia projects from Yorkshire, the South West and the North West, as well as a range of smaller projects. Nearly 400 archival repositories have contributed data to A2A, making it the website to search for a good cross-section of archival information. The website also gives access to a list of all the contributing archives and their material in the database. The site links to the ARCHON Directory, making it even easier for researchers to locate the records which interest them. The A2A team are still busy, as Phase 4 began in September under the name ofArchives 4 All. This phase is directed at developing new audiences by broadening the scope of participation, thereby making archives more appealing and accessible through partnership projects with more inclusive activities. Archives 4 All aims to bring new and more diverse material into a fully searchable online catalogue. This will enable a greater variety of people to learn about the many strands of heritage in England. We aim to broaden our audience by encouraging Archivists to work with people who are not currently using archives. It is intended that projects will welcome volunteers into a range of activities, offering them the opportunity to share their knowledge and expertise and perhaps acquire new skills. Some previous A2A projects supported participants in the development of skills including keyboarding, palaeography and use of online resources. New projects are involving volunteers in such activities as oral history gathering, digitisation of photographs, adding local history data to maps and indexing records. All projects will involve an element of learning or education. As well as the focus on skills for adults, several projects have chosen to work with local schools in developing education packs which will encourage enthusiasm at an early age. The aim of Archives 4 All is to help develop closer links between Archives and their local communities, to promote interest among wider groups. It is hoped that involving people in celebrating their heritage through access to local history will develop an awareness of what archives hold for the benefit of all communities. Archives 4 All will develop the A2A website, featuring more collections from archives and community groups around England. The site already gives access to millions of catalogue entries and links to images. Archives 4 All is an aUK (Archives UK consortium) initiative. For further details please contact: Monica Halpin, Regional Liaison Coordinator, Access to Archives monica.halpin@nationalarchives.gov.uk

4. Local History Exhibitions In Harpenden  Show more → Show less ↓

L J F Casey on the perennial problem of premises for local history societies


Harpenden & District Local History Society was inaugurated in 1973. Early meetings were held in St George's School, with committee meetings and several study groups taking place in members' homes. There was a need for a central place for research, so after negotiation with St Albans District Council, two rooms were leased in the annexe of Harpenden Hall where the Harpenden Local History Centre was opened in 1979. The Society had access for research purposes to archive material and artefacts which had been given to the Harpenden Urban District Council for 'a future Harpenden Museum' and were stored in Harpenden Hall. Some Open Days were arranged so for the first time in years the public could see this material. People began to bring in and donate other items to the society and our collection grew steadily. A sub-committee set up a programme of open days on the first Saturday of each month, with a new exhibition theme each time. Subjects have included different districts of Harpenden, tools of different trades, changing pattern of local shops, local archaeology, and much more. In 1995 the council vacated Harpenden Hall and sold it for offices. The local history society won a new lease for the annexe and maintained their programme of monthly exhibitions until 2001 when they were required to vacate the premises. In place of the annexe, the owners Interface offered the use of a neighbouring wooden building (not really a portakabin) as a temporary home for the collection. Archives, artefacts and display furniture were moved and the exhibitions continued. The blow fell again in 2003 when Interface required that building for their own use. St Albans Museum Service helped by taking most of the collection into store at Kyngston House in St Albans. Display furniture, too big to go there, has been stored in a stable. Some of the archives and artefacts, and the photograph collection have been kept in members' houses. Harpenden Town Council then offered the use of Park Hall on the first Saturday of each month from 12 noon to 17.00 after the Councillors' surgeries in the mornings. Gratefully accepting this opportunity, we have kept the exhibitions going using the material retained in Harpenden. Then a new problem arose. The Museum Service, St Albans Architectural & Archaeological Society, and our Society all have to quit Kyngston House by January 2006 when it is required for re-development. Storage may be available in Luton, while Harpenden Local History Centre searches for new premises. Stop Press discussions continue to find alternative accommodation; meanwhile a local history room has opened in Harpenden Library. L J F Casey is hon curator of H & D LHS

5. Documenting Public Art  Show more → Show less ↓

Helen Rafferty reports on a recording project in Joondalup, Western Australia


In March 2005, Senior Library Officer of the Joondalup Local Studies Library, Darrell Taylor, acquired a copy ofThe Local Historian Journal. The edition featured a story by A.D. Harvey on early nineteenth century bollards in London. She had often reflected upon the decorative street furniture and bollards of the City of Joondalup, and decided to undertake a study into the previously undocumented history of the City's public arts forms. This article outlines the progress of the project and offers a brief history of the City's public arts, drawn from Taylor's research to date. Recording public art Taylor began her study by attempting to photograph all of the public artworks and sculpture in the Joondalup area. This was a challenge as they are distributed throughout the City and designed to meld with the natural environment. After several long walks with a camera, around 150 photographs of different pieces have been collected. Much public art is of a transient nature; unfortunately, some artworks have succumbed to the elements and are brittle or faded. This issue highlights the importance of immediate recording. Research into the history and development of the City's arts program is currently being undertaken, primarily through archival records. A brief history of public art in the City of JoondalupPlanning for the City of Joondalup began in the 1950s. Located 24 kilometres (14.91 miles) north of Perth, Joondalup was part of the northern corridor development plan. It was hoped a new city would ease the burden of the swelling population of Perth. Between 1977 and the early 1990s, a series of plans outlined the direction the design of the City would take. The development of Joondalup was unique; from the beginning it had been earmarked as a 'City in Harmony' or 'City in a Landscape'. Roads and buildings were to be integrated into the natural environment using the talents of landscape architects and a permanent workforce of landscape gardeners. Parks and gardens punctuate blocks of unit housing and businesses. Council offices, a police academy, university and technical college are all a short walk to Neil Hawkins Park, Central Park and the shores of Lake Joondalup. An 'Art in Public Spaces Program' was introduced to the area in February 1990. A group of artists were charged with the responsibility of designing public arts for the City Centre. The term 'public art' was to encompass all elements of public decoration, including furniture, pavements, lighting, bus stops and street sculpture. A number of project aims were identified, including the development of a unique cultural identity for Joondalup, the creation of accessible art forms and involvement of the local community in beautifying the City. Several major art projects were completed in the early 1990s: *Central Park Between the university and shopping centre lies Central Park. The park was opened in November 1993 and includes a man-made lake, waterfalls and pathways winding through gardens of native Australian plants. Central Park features bronze sculptures depicting fauna from the Joondalup area. Created by David Woodland and Bryce Kershaw, the bronzes include a tortoise and giant cicada inspired by the nearby Joondalup wetlands. *Lakeside Joondalup Shopping Centre The shopping centre is similarly decorated with references to nearby Lake Joondalup. Each mall features decorative tiles, wire animals and a water sculpture. 'Frog Hall', a wood and bronze sculptural piece, has also become a wishing well for children and visitors. *Bibbulmun Yorga, Neil Hawkins Park Ron Corbett has sculpted a life size bronze of an Aboriginal woman and her dog (Dwerda) which stands in Neil Hawkins Park, overlooking Lake Joondalup. Prior to the European settlement of Western Australia, the South West region was inhabited by the Bibbulmun Aborigines, a clan of the larger Nyoongah aboriginal group. The Bibbulmun were a nomadic people, often walking as far north as Joondalup to find food. 'Joondalup' is a Nyoongah aboriginal word meaning 'the glistening'; referring to the waters of the Lake. Corbett's Yorga (woman) reconnects the City with its distant history - the aboriginal people inhabited the region for around fifty thousand years before white settlement. *Kerbside Medallions One of Joondalup's best known public art forms is the Kerbside Medallions project. Devised by Geoff and Jane Yorke, the program involved the work of hundreds of local residents who each provided a hand made medallion. More than five hundred ceramic tiles were placed into the roadside kerbs of the Joondalup City Centre. Primary school children were also involved with sculpting the pieces. *Street furniture and bollards The park benches, garden castings and bollards of the City were produced by artist Peter Daily. Daily's benches are made of recycled jarrah wood and concrete, and decorated with four different motifs representing aspects of everyday urban living. The artist has also created bronze cast surrounds for street trees and gardens. These bear the patterns of a city in a natural landscape; footprints and the fallen leaves of local flora. The City of Joondalup's bollards are the most eye catching of the public arts. The intention of City architects was that the only high rise buildings in Joondalup would be these low rise bollards. The miniature sky-scrapers hark back to the sci-fi buildings in Fritz Lang's 1927 film 'Metropolis'.The future of this research The ultimate aim of Taylor's research is to create a record of public arts and to compile an information booklet which outlines the history of these works. This will include details of each artwork, physical location, artist biography and a brief history. Oral history interviews have been arranged with the artists responsible for the pieces to enable greater insight into the creation of Joondalup's public art. It is proposed that the project will also culminate in an informative traveling display and an educational CD-Rom within the next twelve to eighteen months.

6. Starting A Local History Society  Show more → Show less ↓

Bill Measure tells how it happened in Leyton and Leytonstone


I moved into Leyton in 1976. About fifteen years later my wife and I moved to a house two streets away and this took us into Leytonstone. For all this time I was a member of numerous local history societies for surrounding areas and was acutely aware that we did not have one for Leyton and Leytonstone. Why was this? Did we have no history or was nobody interested in it? We certainly have plenty of history (and pre-history); surely somebody would start a local history society? Then, in 2004, I found myself Chairholder of the Historical Association Local History Committee. It had now become quite incongruous that I was living in a place with no local history society and so I decided that if nobody else was going to do, busy as I was, I would start one. It was necessary to have an ally who had the gift of a meeting hall, possibly the head of a local school or a sympathetic councillor or council officer who could make a meeting place available at one of the council's premises. In the event I found an ally in the Reverend Raymond Draper, Vicar of St. John's Church, Leytonstone. I knew that he had a keen interest in local history and in developing a sense of community spirit. I typed a letter of introduction, giving a potted biography of myself and why I wanted to start a local history society and went to see the Reverend Draper when the church was open during London Open House weekend. Raymond was immediately enthusiastic about the idea. The two of us met during October and November. I was impressed by this man from the start. Here was someone who was kind, gracious, a good judge of character, generous with his time, genuinely keen to bind the local community together, practical, with and with an extensive knowledge of history. Raymond's view was that for the idea to succeed it was important for us to do a lot of hard work before a public meeting and suggested calling one in early February. This proved to be sound advice. Raymond also suggested that at the public meeting, as well as electing a steering committee, we should form sub-groups so that people could work on various topics of local history whilst the steering committee were working on the time consuming but necessary tasks of drafting a constitution, working out a programme and so on – again a brilliant piece of advice. Local societies were asked to publicise the idea and forms were circulated at various local events, asking anyone interested in starting a local history society to leave their contact details. We printed posters advertising an inaugural public meeting at St. John's and got the posters displayed in local shops and libraries. Before the meeting we were thinking that if we had thirty people it would be enough to give us a chance to form a society, if we had fifty that would be good. My wife, Maureen, Raymond and myself arrived at St. John's early and I was in a state of some trepidation. A lot of work and commitment had gone into this and if it flopped the chance for a local history society would be gone for a long time. People started trickling into the church. Whipps Cross Hospital radio station came along to interview me and we went into the vestry. When we emerged I was astounded. There were droves of people. The attendance sheet showed that 109 people had attended and over 80 signed up to be part of the 13 working groups that emerged from the meeting. The working groups, some of which were suggested from the floor of the meeting covered Buildings, Family History, Health and Welfare, Housing and the History of My House, Industrial Archaeology (including transport), Local Personalities, Oral History, Pre-History, Roman and Saxon, Wanstead Flats, War, 1066-1840, Religion and Faith. (To my surprise the Women's History that I suggested did not find any takers.) I was elected Chair, Maureen was elected Secretary and 16 people joined the steering committee, many of them very experienced in history, archaeology and running local societies. The only disappointment was that although Raymond and I were very committed to membership and activities of the society reflecting the diversity of the local area there were very few members of ethnic minorities at the meeting, despite our best endeavours to attract them. The Steering Committee met regularly. We agreed a draft constitution to be presented to the first AGM, produced a programme and set up a bank account. The latter task, in many ways, presented most problems. It was difficult to find a bank that would (a) set up an account for an unincorporated organisation and (b) not demand potentially ruinous bank charges for just about every transaction. Thanks to the persistence of our Treasurer, Dr. Neil Houghton, we eventually found that the Halifax could offer us an account on acceptable terms. The Leyton & Leytonstone Historical Society (L&LHS) had a public launch with a local history fair on 30th April (the eve of Local History Month). Again, this was Raymond's idea and it could not have taken place if he had not offered the church as a venue and enlisted help from members of St. John's who acted as stewards and did sterling work producing refreshments. The local history fair was supported by stalls and displays from about a dozen local history societies, photographs and memorabilia from our own Industrial Archaeology Working Group, baptismal and marriage records from St. John's were open for inspection. Pride of place in the forecourt of the church was a Leyton fire engine, dating from 1864, kindly loaned by the Pump House Museum in Walthamstow. The fair was opened by the President of the Historical Association, Professor Barry Coward, the Mayor of Waltham Forest replied on behalf of the borough, the local press were there and gave excellent coverage, over 200 people attended during the two hours that the fair was open – L&LHS had arrived! During the next couple of months membership grew steadily, a challenge to which Membership Secretary, David Boote, rose to meet in his typically efficient and methodical way. Less than three months after the public launch membership had risen to over 100. We held our first AGM at Leyton Sixth Form College, by kind permission of the Principal, Sue Lakeman, who is also the L&LHS Minutes Secretary. Sue is very keen to involve the College with work of L&LHS and we are very keen that they should be involved. The College very much reflects the diversity of the area and so if we can involve the students they may draw in their parents and get them involved in that way. At a time when history is not receiving a high enough priority in the national curriculum it is ironic that there is an unprecedented interest in local history. The lessons for anyone who is thinking of starting a local history society are • get an ally who has a meeting hall • do as much groundwork as possible in getting people interested before organizing a public meeting • start working groups so that people are involved in the time between the initial public meeting and the time when a society emerges from a committee – inevitably some will prove more active that others but from some of the groups will emerge enthusiasm, some interesting research and some able people • try to do a splash launch for the society, something that will attract a lot of publicity. A local history fair will attract a lot of other local history societies and will go a long way towards reassuring them that the new local history society sees other societies as partners not rivals • try to encourage an active committee, if just one or two people are doing everything it leave the society in a vulnerable position come the day when those one or two people no longer can or want to carry all the responsibility • once launched try to develop the society so that it reflects the community as a whole, rather than the white, middle-aged, middle-class profile that typifies many local history societies. We are keen on developing links with local schools because they are educating the local historians of the future and with local ethnic groups, who also form part of our local history.

7. News From Eire  Show more → Show less ↓

James Scannell has sent some more news from across the Irish Sea


Maritime tragedy commemorated On Tuesday 8 November Arranmore islanders quietly commemorated the 70th anniversary of the worst sea disaster off the County Donegal coast. A wreath was cast in to the sea from the Arranmore lifeboat.. Only two islanders now living on Arranmore who were alive at the time of the tragedy: 99 year old Eddie Gallagher and 82 year old Phil Boyle shared memories of that day with neighbours and fishermen. Just one person Paddy Gallagher, survived, but six of his family drowned. Demolition of Dublin's fish market On Monday 7 November the demolition of Dublin's Victorian fish market began, to make way for a £270 million redevelopment of the markets area in the north west inner city. Dublin City Council is committed to preserving the fruit and vegetable market, restoring many of the external Victorian features, and redeveloping it internally to increase its capacity for retail food sales. Traders who used the fish market have been relocated to a site in the Finglas industrial estate, a move necessary to comply with health and safety regulations. Dublin City University Receives Douglas Gageby Papers In November the family of the late Douglas Gageby, former editor of the Irish Times, donated a collection of his books and papers to Dublin City University. The collection includes a selection from his personal library of books about Irish journalism, in addition to editorials written by him over many years and covering a very wide variety of topics. Finger-press purchased An ink press used to take the finger prints of those executed after the 1916 Easter Rising was purchased by Damien Cassidy, chairman of Kilmainham Gaol Museum trustees, at a December auction in Ludlow, Shropshire, with the support of an unnamed financier. The machine is housed in a wooden box inscribed with the names of the fourteen leaders of the 1916 Rising who were executed after being tried by court-martial. In the centre of the box is a 70mm British shell bearing an engraved harp which also had a dedication to all those killed during the RisingHigh crosses found in County Meath village At least eight high crosses and two grave slabs dating from the tenth century were found last summer in a small cemetery just off Main Street, Nobber, County Meath, during a clean up of the former graveyard. The remarkable finds were made by a local community group. The site was known as the old Nobber graveyard and probably dates back 1500 years. Many of the crosses are of the type classed as 'low high crosses' and are only just over two feet in height.

8. Guided Visits  Show more → Show less ↓

The delights of visits past and future


Why didn't you join us? Dorothy Lockwood A As usual the latest outing to London, organised by the indefatigable Patricia Knowlden, was rewarding. The group met outside St Bartholomew's Hospital, founded in 1123 by a monk called Rahere, and granted by Henry VIII to the City of London in 1546. Bart's, as it is always known, has been caring for the sick and injured on its present site in Smithfield for almost nine centuries. An introductory talk was given in the Church of St Bartholomew the Less. We then heard a graphic account of Hogarth's famous wall paintings, and duly admired the Great Hall. The excellent Museum made us realise how lucky we are to live in this modern century. The afternoon session took place at St John's Gate, headquarters of the Most Venerable Order of St John. Built, in 1504, it was the entrance to the English centre of the crusading Knights Hospitallers. The Gate was later a coffee house run by Richard Hogarth (father of the painter William) and also a public house, The Old Jerusalem Tavern. In the 18th century it became the home and printing works of The Gentlemen's Magazine and in 1874 the British Order of St John obtaining the building, The Chapter Hall is an inspiring sight; the panelled room was designed in 1902 by John Oldrid Scott and contains the shields of arms of all the Priors of England up to the present day. The current Prior is H R H The Duke of Gloucester. Because of its pioneering First Aid service and Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem, Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter to the Order. To this day, the Queen personally approves admission which is in recognition of exceptional voluntary service to the community, usually through work for St John Ambulance. Our final visit was to the Grand Priory Church to the north of the Gate, ablaze with colour from a multitude of banners, and to the Crypt which is one of London's few remaining Norman buildings. The day has left many moving memories. Come to the Bodleian Library in Oxford in the Spring The Bodleian Library, one of the most important libraries in the world, is the principal library of the University of Oxford. Henry V's brother, Humphry Duke of Gloucester, founded the original library by the gift of 440 books. By 1598 both the building and the books had become dilapidated and Sir Thomas Bodley, a diplomat, began to refurbish the library, reformed it and added his own collection, in addition to 'stirring up other men's benevolence' to contribute money and gifts of books and manuscripts. The result is a wonderfully rich heritage which scholars have enjoyed for generation – and still do. And any person 'of good standing' who is engaged in serious study and in genuine need of the Library's facilities may apply for readership. The new 'Bodelian' was formally opened in 1602 * and rapidly gained recognition throughout the academic world. In 1610 Sir Thomas arranged with the Stationers' Company for a copy of every book that was published and registered with them to be sent free to his library. This arrangement survives to this day so that the Bodleian is one of the six copyright libraries of Great Britain. There are now 4.8 million volumes, 850,000 on the open shelves. Among the manuscripts are such treasures as the Codex Laudianus, a 7th century version of the Acts of the Apostles allegedly used by the Venerable bede, and the manuscript of the 12th century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Before the King's Library at the British Museum (now the British Library) was established the Bodleian was the only safe repository except for the Ashmolean Museum, for manuscript collections. Thus it holds many antiquarians' notes, including the papers of several early county historians such as 17th century Dodswell from Yorkshire, and William Stukeley's archaeological maps and drawings. There is local history material of some sort or other for most counties, including family and estate papers, which the British Library does not accept. This older material is housed in the Reading Room of Duke Humphry's Library – where you feel the centuries gather round you in the ambience of polished woodwork and the scent of old books. But the buildings have spread. Radcliffe Camera was added in 1737 (designed by James Gibbs) and the New Bodleian now stands nearby in Broad Street. In total resources the Bodleian is only exceeded by the British Library, and has become both a national and international centre for research and reference, admitting some 9,000 new readers very year, most of whom come from outside the University. Because of its long history complex catalogues have evolved which vary for printed material, manuscripts, and the newer electronic systems so explanatory seminars are held regularly for new readers. Arrangements have been made for an introductory visit by BALH on Thursday 18 May, so those members who would like to share an unforgettable experience are invited to stake their claim in the usual manner. The fritillaries on Christ Church Meadows should be open at the time. * Sir Thomas Bodley featured on the front cover ofLocal History News No 63 to mark the quatercentenary of the Library.

9. What's In A Name?  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby dips into place names of the world


I have been dipping into a review copy of The Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Place Names by John Everett-Heath, which is part of OUP's attempt to become more user-friendly and to tap a wider popular market. The firm used to publish £75 600-page hardback monographs on subjects such as 'innovation in the use of lead glazes in the ritual ceramics of Japan 1411-1419' (well, that sort of thing), but it realises that not everybody is agog to discover these revelations, so this volume is a handy 596-page cheap-quality paperback in microscopic print and sells for just £10.99 (though of course the books on esoteric subjects are still published too). The author is a former military diplomat (Belgrade) and a civil servant for 13 years (specialising in south-east Europe and the Caucasus, which is intriguing … my dad was a civil servant and he'd love to have done that rather than checking tax returns!). There are over 8000 place-names selected from around the world, with a six-page introduction which outlines the rationale for selection and discusses some of the themes, etymologies and complications in place-name analysis. In a book such as this there will inevitably be errors: Londres in Argentina, founded in 1554, cannot have been named because Philip II married Mary Tudor in London in that year, because they were married in Winchester, and I didn't follow the reasoning (p.257) that Kenitra in Morroco [sic'>more... means 'Little Fort' as a diminutive of the Arabic (al-) kantara, meaning 'bridge'. There is a useful though very limited glossary, and a pointless list of famous people after whom places have been named. A typical entry is 'Elizabeth I (1533-1603) Queen of England (1558-1603). Never married, her byname was the Virgin Queen', which hardly constitutes a major advance in human knowledge. Grigory Konstantinovich Ordzhonikidze (a long-forgotten early Soviet figure) gets the same space as George V (whose place-name influence was, to say the least, minimal, except of course for Bognor, to which he was famously far from grateful despite the flattering Regis), and I felt that the author's career focus has led him to a geographical imbalance in selection. Many of the entries in the dictionary proper which relate to the Balkans, Caucasus and Russia, include a good deal of superfluous information, almost as a gazetteer, and the space could have been better used by increasing the number of place-names. Presumably because the book is intended for English speakers the place-names are often listed in their English form (Cracow, Moscow, Florence) with the correct spelling or form (Kraków, Moskva, Firenze) rather irritatingly being described as the 'local' spelling, as though it were merely a quaint vernacularism. Those rules are not consistently applied: the familiar (in an obscure way) Luang Prabang, in Laos, is listed under Louangphrabang, while Caernarfon is thus, but Ceredigion is merely given as the former [sic'>more... spelling of Cardigan. Why is Peking correctly listed under Beijing, but Canton not under Guangdong? Older spellings are described as, or implied to be, 'former names', as though they had some sort of official status (thus, Bristol is described as 'formerly Brycgstow and Bristou', which is technically correct in that those spellings occur in documents but is in reality a pedantry). Nonetheless, it is a harmless pleasure to browse through the oddities and eccentricities of nomenclature, and to look up the familiar names of places in other countries and see what they mean. What quirks there are! Le Mars, Iowa, is apparently 'named after the initials of the first ladies who were with the founder [unnamed'>more... when he first visited the spot', while the name of Capri may apparently be derived from the Etruscan for 'land of tombs', the Latin for 'goat', the Greek for 'wild boar', or none of these—which doesn't get us very far. Neither does Murwillumbah in New South Wales which may mean either 'Good Campsite' or 'Place of Many Possums', but that is beautiful in its appeal to Edna Everage fans. Some entries are almost poetic in their alliteration (here is one in its entirety: Langeland, DENMARK An island meaning 'Long Land' from lang 'long' and land 'land'). And only the United States could have a town called Santa Claus (Indiana), so named because it was near an existing place called Christmas!

10. Military Or Domestic?  Show more → Show less ↓

Jane Howells reviews a new book on castles


Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism and Landscape, 1066 to 1500by Robert Liddiard Windgather Press 2005 ISBN 0 9545575 2 2 £19.99 Castles are, as Robert Liddiard states, 'one of the most potent symbols of our medieval past'. Castles feature strongly in the popular imagination – from King Arthur to Harry Potter – and are lucrative sites for the heritage industry. For any local community with a castle, it will inevitably form the dramatic focus of the thinking and writing of their local history. We all learnt at school how castles (with motte and bailey, and then a forbidding stone keep) were built by the Normans to subdue a resentful conquered populace after 1066. Changing military technology altered their design (do you remember drawing diagrams to show the vulnerability of corners and the benefits of circular keeps?) until the state took responsibility for national defence (another map in your history exercise book of Henry VIII's chain of artillery forts). Then noblemen could build elegant country houses instead of castles to live in. This view of castle history is the product – along with Christmas trees and the coronation – of the Victorian way of looking at British history. Influential scholars of the early 20th century, and later military historians, reinforced this classic orthodox 'castle story' which is, of course, more sophisticated that the simplified version given here. Castle studies in the academic world have been dramatically transformed over the last 15 years, and Liddiard takes the brave step of interpreting these scholarly developments for a wider audience. Debate over the military role of castles flared up in the 1990s over Bodiam in Sussex, with its deliberately nostalgic architecture set in a designed landscape. The clarity with which this and subsequent case studies are used to illustrate the arguments in a complicated discussion is a great strength of this book. Key elements in the revisionist approach consider the function of castles in the conquest; their military architectural features and their role in medieval warfare; and their internal and external features relative to the landscape and social structure of medieval England. It is argued, for example, that castle building during the conquest legitimised the succession of a new elite, and in the countryside were often related to power structures already in place. Castles were recognised as symbols of lordship, a way of showing off wealth and status rather than primarily demonstrating military power. A strong case is made for the weakness of castles as military structures, given the importance of fluid skirmishing tactics and negotiation in warfare at the time. Liddiard offers a case study of Hampshire (which could usefully be replicated elsewhere) to demonstrate this. The 30 castles in that county saw a total of 26 military encounters from 12th to the 17th century. These incidents took place at 12 castles, so the remaining 18 never saw action. In 22 of the 26 cases besiegers were successful, in only four did the castle hold out, and the resulting impression is 'one of castles caught up in wider events and ill-prepared to meet the challenge'. The apparent 'decline' of castles in the later medieval period is set against the changing nature of aristocratic society. From late 13th century castles experienced substantial redevelopment with particular emphasis on new suites of accommodation. Households increased in size as magnates and their entourages moved less, more privacy was demanded, and more specialised roles needed specialised division of space. Huge numbers of guests and their retainers required food and lodging. Contemporary comment also mentioned improved heating, lighting and sanitation! Alongside the arguments is the application of diverse sources – again something that reinforces the potential for further local studies. Landscape, buildings, archaeology, maps and documents are all used to good effect. A particular innovation is the use of medieval literature, material both contemporary with the castles themselves and providing a vital tool in their interpretation – the ideal that castle-builders strived to achieve. A very small grouse is that the vivid word pictures are not matched by the quality of some of the photographs. Of course it is not always possible to capture the medieval circumstances of a building and its landscape in modern times. Perhaps some images could benefit from the device of a superimposed plan to make clear the relationship between different elements? The original articles and monographs in which this debate is to be found were not intended for general consumption. But there is an intelligent, educated historically-minded public interested in re-interpretations such as this, and the great value of Robert Liddiard's book is indeed to make the material accessible. It is essential reading, not only for local historians with a castle on their doorstep, but also for anyone who takes the opportunity to visit castles on their travels. What other issues could be given similar treatment?

11. A Man I Never Knew  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby on an influential local historian


My first major piece of local history writing was a short, profusely-illustrated, very personal and somewhat impressionistic history of Manchester, birthplace of my mother and three grandparents. This gem was never published, because I wrote it when I was seven years old, but clearly my destiny was already determined. It drew heavily—some would say, to the point of plagiarism—upon a recent work, Manchester: a short history of its development, by W.H. Shercliff, then the young local history librarian at Manchester Central Library. I still have my copy of the book, purchased for me by my father at Sherratt and Hughes' bookshop of blessed memory, and I can now concede that Shercliff's work was in general superior to mine, though he had nothing to rival my highly-imaginative hand-crayoned pictures, which have a certain period charm of their own. Time passed, and in the early 1980s our best friends were living at Poynton, between Stockport and Macclesfield. This is a truly fascinating place, where two hundred years ago my 4-greats grandfather and his father were the village blacksmiths. It was a mainly agricultural community but, at the end of the eighteenth century, it changed into a coal-mining centre, as existing ancient but small-scale coal-workings were expanded and a series of collieries opened, incongruously situated amid the beautiful landscapes of east Cheshire and the edge of the Peak District. It remained a working mining village until the 1930s, when the last pits closed, but since the 1950s has undergone an astonishing transformation, reinvented as one of the most expensive of the outer Manchester residential towns. Luxury kitchen shops, elegant boutiques, and intimate little bistros line the roads along which the coal-wagons rattled less than a lifetime ago, and the terraces of miners' cottages are now ultra-desirable residences for young commuters. Having friends there, and walks to go on, gave me a good excuse to read and learn about the history of Poynton in more detail, so I turned to the definitive works. These were published by their author, one W.H. Shercliff, now chairman of the Poynton Local History Society (1975-1986), well-known local history tutor and project leader for the WEA and Manchester University Extra-Mural Department, and assiduous researcher and writer on matters Poyntonian (and other subjects relating to north-east Cheshire). His 1983 volume Poynton: a coal-mining village: social history, transport and industry 1700-1939, written jointly with D.A. Kitching and J.M. Ryan, exemplified good quality, accessible, well-researched (and best-selling) local history. It is packed with information, gives plenty of context, demonstrates really effective use of primary sources, and devotes a couple of sentences to my ancestors, the village blacksmiths. Thus it is admirable in every sense. I recently learned of the death of W.H. Shercliff (Bill, but always W.H. to me). He was 87 years old and his contribution to the local history of his corner of England was irreplaceable. Without him, and his companions, the history of Poynton would be very much the poorer. They interviewed retired miners, recording memories and knowledge; they photographed, drew and surveyed the vanishing remains of housing, collieries and mineral railways; they exploited the rich archive collections of local landowning families; and they promoted, encouraged, published, and publicised the cause of local history. I never knew Bill Shercliff, but I drew upon his work from the age of 7. I mark his passing and give thanks for his achievement.

12. News From Societies, Libraries, Museums  Show more → Show less ↓



The first in a series of Stamford borough records has been published by the Stamford Survey Group, in association with Stamford Town Council, Stamford Civic Society and Stamford Museum. 'William Browne's Town: The Stamford Hall Book Vol 1 1465 – 1492' edited by Alan Rogers, is the town council's minute book, and covers the period when the town was run by William Browne 'a marchaunt of a very wonderfull richnenesse'. 15th century Stamford was a major urban centre whose wealth from wool financed many fine new buildings. At the heart of this prosperity were the Browne family. The medieval archives of Stamford have never before been made available in this way; and the Group plans to finance subsequent volumes with sales of the previous one. Copies may be obtained from the Stamford Survey Group c/o 2 King's Rd, Stamford PE9 1HD price £10 incl p & p. 'Town jewels' old and new: on 14 MayHertfordshire Archives will be holding an Open Day that will feature some of the most exciting documents for the county's oldest towns, and an exhibition will feature New Towns and Garden Cities. There will be tours, displays, talks and family activities. Visit the website for more details www.hertsdirect.org./hals, email hertsdirect@hertscc.gov.uk, or phone 01438 737333 The architectural drawings from Berkshire County Council's Architect's Department, 1947-1976, have recently been catalogued. They include site plans, plans, sections and elevations of various buildings in the ownership of the council, including schools, and colleges, police stations, and fire and ambulance stations. The earliest are for Hungerford Police Station, 1863, and the latest are from 1972 of youth facilities at Grove School, Wantage. Plans for extensions to secondary schools marks the raising of the school leaving age. A site plan of 1909 shows the location of the water supply at Harwell primary school – some distance from the school building. Welford and Wickham primary school did not get indoor toilets until 1966. Berkshire Echo: Newsletter of Berkshire Record Office issue 34.www.berkshirerecordoffice.org.ukKent Archives Service have set up a new loan facility of books for local history societies and family history societies. At present there is one box of 20 general books for each, available to any society in Kent. They are particularly suitable for societies that do not have their own library or for new societies whose members would enjoy some background reading. Enquiries number for Centre for Kentish Studies is 01622 69463. Work is beginning on a new project at the National Railway Museum in York. Known as 'Search Engine' (!) the aim is to provide access to the 180 tons of material – including 1.5 million photographic negatives, 9,000 railway posters, 350,000 railway tickets, 2,000 recordings of oral history and sound effects, and much more – at present stored in the establishment's vaults. By the autumn of 2007 this will all be available to the public.Daily Telegraph 28 December 2005 Oswestry Town Council and Friends of Shropshire Archives are holding an 'Oswestry Archives Workshop' on 1 April. After an introductory session on the borough and town archives, participants will have the opportunity to examine some of Oswestry's archival secrets. c/o 11 Lime Tree Way, Wellington, Telford TF1 3PJ. Northamptonshire Black History Project has launched a new website, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Home Office. The website offers access to a specially created database that records over 800 years of black history in the county. Information relates to historical records, oral history interviews and community archives recorded and collated by project staff over the past three years. The project was led by Northamptonshire Racial Equality Council, supported by 13 black community organisations, and with important partnership involvement from the county record office, libraries and information service, University of Northampton, and Northampton Museums and Art Gallery. As well as the website there is a touring exhibition of some of the findings. The excellent work of the project is being continued by a membership organisation Northamptonshire Black History Association. www.northants-black-history.org.uk The complete archive of Winterbourne Monkton school in Wiltshire was recently rescued from a skip in Cumbria by an alert neighbour, and returned to its home county. Presumably it had been removed by a member of staff on the closure of the school in 1972 and was thrown out during a house clearance. Amongst the records are logbooks 1875 – 1957 and an admission register 1902 – 1971. Past Matters if the newsletter of Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office www.wiltshire.gov.uk/archives Disaster management advises safe storage of vital documents away from an organisation's main premises. In 1938 W H Allen, Sons & Co Ltd of Bedford created a new fire-proof records store separate from their works. As part of Air Raid Precautions they subsequently undertook a major duplicating scheme for their records. This photograph shows the set up used for taking photographs of engineering drawings. Others in the series, currently being catalogued by Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, follow the processing and storage of the films. The centenary of the Great Revival in Welsh religion in the early 20th century has been marked by a major recording project, begun ten years ago, by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales with Capel: the Chapels Heritage Society. The aim was to photograph and record every nonconformist chapel in Wales. In some cases this was urgent as, with declining populations, many were being lost to dereliction or demolition each year. 6200 have been identified, and their details are being made available online. The fervour for chapel building in 1904-5 led to 198 being built over two years, but the revival came to an abrupt end after the charismatic young preacher Evan Roberts retired in his late twenties following a nervous breakdown. Chapel building fell to 27 in 1908, and settled at about 10 a year.www.rcahmw.gov.uk