Local History News - Number 79 - Spring 2006

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1. A Load Of Old Rubbish  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby is disappointed that records to not survive


In the past I have lamented the loss of the archival material which, had it survived, would have formed the basis of my research. Usually I blame malicious and vindictive people a century and a half ago, those whose knavish tricks were deliberately intended to frustrate my work in the early twenty-first century. The particular instance which prompted the earlier irritation was the loss of some colliery records from Horwich near Bolton. A few weeks ago, though I did not discover those precious items, I did find a contemporary account (also from the Bolton area) which helps to explain the widespread disappearance of vital material. It was published in that worthy organ, the Farnworth Journal (for the few incognoscenti among you, Farnworth is a smallish cotton town roughly halfway between Bolton and Salford—though cotton is now gone). On 22 September 1894 the local newspaper printed an article concerning the conversion of Thomas Bonsor Crompton's papermills on the River Croal (then a murky tributary of the ink-black Irwell) to a bleachworks. The production of paper had ended in 1882, during a trade depression, and the large complex of mill buildings, lodges (reservoirs, for those from outside Lancashire) and water channels, together with the private colliery which supplied the works, had then lain empty and decaying. In 1894, though, the site was revived, for a different purpose, by Messrs. J.B Champion & Co., bleachers of Radcliffe and Bury. The newspaper reporter went on a tour of the works prior to its reopening, and was intrigued to find one of the partners, Mr. John Ragdale, in the old counting house, or works office, 'among the books and papers of the old firm. It might have been, as he said, Rip Van Winkle over again. Through all these twelve years the books had been left just as they were, books which tell the tale of work and activity and enterprise year in and year out from 1829 to 1882'. That was indeed a sensitive and perceptive reporter, to appreciate the inherent interest of those records. Mr Ragdale took the reporter upstairs, where 'were rows of tin boxes, each with the year of our Our Lord which it represented painted on it. Some of the books were in the racks just as they were left on the last day the clerk handled them, and seemingly awaiting his return'. But that was not to be, for, as our clearly distressed reporter recounted, not that clerk but Mr Ragdale had come to the office, a 'total stranger' whose 'present tendencies are unmistakably to the destructive'. As in some Victorian melodrama Ragdale, the vile and beastly villain, had ravaged not a maiden but the archival heritage of the Bolton district, for he had already ensured that seven cartloads of 'business records' (the term used by the reporter was exactly that employed by archivists today) had been consigned to the furnaces of the works' steam engine. The account describes what must have been a splendid map showing the district in minute detail, recording the entire networks of drains, channels, watercourses and reservoirs, and another, 'which cannot be less than a score of yards long', showing the huge complex of works buildings and colliery workings, above and below ground. Neither of those wonderful-sounding maps apparently survives. Perhaps they provided fuel for a couple of minutes of steam engine time. Reading this tragic tale on a day when I was trying to research the landscape history of this part of the Croal valley, I hoped, fervently, that John Ragdale is now in torment, perhaps being eternally singed in the nether regions (his, I hope, as well as those where Satan resides) on a bonfire made of the records which he thus consigned to the flames.

2. 2005 Award Winners  Show more → Show less ↓

Margery Tranter profiled by Jane Howells


LEADING BY EXAMPLE Margery Tranter trained as a geographer, and later began her formal involvement in local history as a mature student on the then newly established taught MA in the Department of English Local History at Leicester University. However she traces her developing interest in landscape, communities, localities and the people who live in them to a series of accidental events throughout her life. In early childhood Margery lived close to the City of London on the edge of Hackney Marshes, and her parents engendered an interest in both rural and built environments by encouraging her to ask questions about her surroundings. Accompanying her father (a bookseller with an intimate knowledge of the Square Mile) to the publishers, then based in Paternoster Row and Amen Alley near St Pauls, not only meant that she read widely but also was introduced to the lesser-known streets and byways of the City. As a student in the Geography Department at Bedford College, University of London, Margery was evacuated to Cambridge. She then added to her experience of diverse landscapes and communities with school teaching, first in a mining area in Derbyshire and then a small village and market town in Essex. Back in Derbyshire with her husband, the parish priest, the discovery of the riches of the parish chest coincided with the opportunity to take a sabbatical year from teaching and study at Leicester. The staff there – Professors Alan Everitt, Charles Phythian-Adams, Dr Peter Eden, Mr Michael Laithwaite and Mr Richard McKinley – provided, as she puts it, 'inspiration and scholarship'. Margery's own talents were recognised by her appointment to a part-time honorary research post in the Department which she held until 1993. Some of her time there involved cataloguing and bibliographical work in the Department's extensive collections. Resulting publications included joint work with Professors Everitt and Phythian-Adams on the two departmental volumes English Local History at Leicester published in 1978 and 1999; plus bibliographies in festschrifts for Joan Thirsk and Richard McKinley. Margery's own research has been in two main fields. Her interest in the relationship between nonconformity and the Anglican Church in Derbyshire, and the communities in which each flourished was shared with her husband, and she continued the work after his death. Her significant and authoritative works in this area include two volumes for the Derbyshire Record Society – an edition of the 1851 Religious Census Returns for Derbyshire, and an edition (co-edited with Professor John Beckett and Mrs Wendy Bateman) of the 18th century Bishops' Visitations for Derbyshire. There are also numerous articles in journals such as The Derbyshire Archaeological Journal and The Local Historian*.The early origins of boundaries, especially in north-west Leicestershire and south Derbyshire, has been the focus of much of Margery's topographical work. Scholarship of the highest standard characterises everything she does, and this area is no exception – a fact recognised by a personal grant from the Leverhulme Trust which made the initial research possible. Articles have appeared inAnglo-Saxon Landscapes of the East Midlands edited by Jill Bourne, Name, Time, Place: Essays in memory of Richard McKinley edited by D Hooke and D Postles, Medieval Settlement Research Group Report 1989, and in a forthcoming festschrift. At the same time as pursuing her own research, Mrs Tranter has been an inspiration for the local history group in her own community of Weston on Trent, a small village south of Derby. She has stimulated villagers from many walks of life to take an interest in their local environment and its origins. Local people have researched and published a series of thematic booklets using varied sources dating from before the Norman Conquest, under Margery's expert editorial guidance. One of Margery's referees commented that 'she is the type of person whose involvement in local history is an outstanding illustration of how to lead by example. Both newcomers to local history and experienced researchers have learned much over the years from her quiet, informed and thorough approach'. It is in recognition of this special contribution that Margery Tranter was presented with a 2005 BALH award for personal achievement. *The Local Historian Vol 18 No 4.

3. The National Archives Promotes Local History  Show more → Show less ↓

Natalie Ceeley introduces herself and extands a welcome to TNA


As a newcomer to The National Archives, it's worth starting with a few words of introduction. I've not got the career history usually associated with a senior role in Archives; after graduation from Cambridge, I began my career as a manager in the National Health Service and then moved on to work for a leading consultancy advising top industrial companies on strategy. My passion for information began when I was appointed the British Library's Director of Operations and Services in 2001. Last October I took up my new post as Chief Executive of The National Archives. What excites me in this role are the possibilities that new technologies offer to make information available quickly and easily to huge numbers of people. During my four years at the BL, I played a major part in making its services more accessible to researchers of all kinds. When I started at Kew, I recognised that I was joining an organisation already determined to make as much historical information as possible available online and, six months on, I believe that our commitment to this goal is now even stronger than it was. Having the word 'National' in our title sometimes gives people the misleading impression that we do not have material of interest to local historians – but nothing could be further from the truth. The National Archives holds the historical records created by UK government departments and the central law courts of England. However, over the centuries many of these departments have intervened extensively in local affairs, with the result that TNA now holds a wealth of documentation that complements the holdings of a county record office or other local archive service. For example, for the researcher interested in crime in a given locality, assize court records are an indispensable source; exchequer rolls and books are essential in any assessment of the impact of taxation policies; and Chancery court records will help illuminate many equity disputes. The range of subjects for study in domestic history has expanded enormously in recent years, to include gender, agriculture, industry, labour/politics, education, public health, poverty, policing, transport, wages – and we have important sources for all of them at The National Archives. We are very aware that for many of our users finding the material of interest to them among over 170 kilometres of original records can be a time-consuming business. Our large collection of research guides, including local history topics and sources such as agricultural statistics, tithes, enclosure, railways, Victorian poor law, and manorial records, is regularly updated and available on our website and in paper form. In addition, we have just launched a new facility on our home page that enables users to search across many of our databases from a single search box on the home page of our website (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk). This means that for the first time local historians are now able to access within seconds a comprehensive list of sources relevant to their topic in TNA's electronic catalogue, the Access to Archives virtual catalogue for England and the National Register of Archives. This will not only give them an overview of where most of the material relating to their subject is to be found, but also detailed information about what records they will wish to view for themselves or to have copied. In tandem with this initiative, we continue to provide a wide range of guidance and support to local archive services throughout England and Wales holding public records (for example, quarter sessions, hospital and colliery records) of strong local interest. We have worked in close partnership with local archivists in developing the Access to Archives online catalogue and we are now starting to build a truly national archives information network – from which local historians and other researchers can only benefit. In summary, the National Archives is a fantastic resource for local historians – and we'd welcome all of you to come and use us!

4. News From The Vch  Show more → Show less ↓

John Beckett reports on the latest developments


Professor John Beckett, who became Director of the VCH on 5 September 2005, spoke at the open forum of the BALH held at the Institute of Historical Research on 4 March 2006. Here are some of the edited highlights from his talk. The VCH is in a period of transition having recently been awarded a grant of £3.4m from the HLF for a project entitled 'England's Past for Everyone'. A staff of seven in the London Office is overseeing the project, which is based in ten separate places (mostly counties) around the country, and is designed to produce fifteen paperback books written to VCH standards but in a popular mode aimed at the local history reading public, a new and greatly improved interactive website, and an education package designed for pupils studying Key Stages 1-2. The EPE project is not going to supplant the big red books for which the VCH is best known. They will continue to appear, but just as important have been developments in online searching of the Web for the VCH. A project run by the IHR with funding from the Andrew Mellon foundation has led to the creation of British History On Line (BHOL), which is a website that carries the text of more than one hundred VCH volumes (among many other resources). So if you live in Lincolnshire and have an interest in a parish in Somerset which is written up in a volume now on BHOL, you can search for it on Google and then read up the history of the parish. The major impact of this development is to bring the VCH to a much larger audience, to people who might never lift a red book off a library shelf, and who may live a long way from a library with a good set of red books. The implications of delivery via the web for the VCH are enormous. It is no longer going to be necessary for all the parish studies of a proposed red book to be written before they can be published because plans are well under way to publish them on a dedicated website. And, if there are volunteers living in a county where the VCH is not currently active, and who want to write a VCH-type history of their parish, their study can be electronically published even if a red book is decades away. A locally produced paperback might also be possible. These alterations in the way the VCH works will gradually help to change it from being a series of local studies published in big red (expensive) hardbacks into a much wider range of outputs which will be quality controlled to the VCH's long established reputation for sound scholarly studies. We no longer talk of finishing the VCH, but of a VCH which represents a brand – perhaps, for older readers with long memories, the little lion on eggs in the days of the Egg Marketing Board! The VCH will be holding a funding seminar on 8 July at the IHR for anyone interested in looking at ways of raising money in the future to support VCH work, both in existing and new areas. Its Annual Conference will be held on Saturday 23 September 2006 in London, when new initiatives in the VCH will be on display, and Professor Beckett will give the Marc Fitch lecture on the VCH and modern local and family history. For more details see www.englandpast.net/news.

5. Wide Perspectives  Show more → Show less ↓

An introduction to the Roads and Road Transport History Association, by Christopher Hogan


On the face of it, transport history and local history may not appear to have much in common. However, the economic and social history of the British Isles is inextricably linked with its transport history. Until recently, the development of Britain's road transport has been relatively neglected by historians. The attention it did receive was concentrated on turnpikes and road building rather than on the growing volume of traffic that was carried on the roads. There has been a scarcity of historical evidence in comparison with canals and railways. The excitement of steam has attracted enthusiasts and given rise to societies and periodicals that have fostered research and a flood of publications. Road transport, in contrast, attracts few devotees and is all too often associated with traffic jams, pollution and accidents. The Roads and Road Transport History Association was set up in 1992 as a clearing house for historical research, which would bring together enthusiast, museum and academic bodies. The Association embraces very wide fields and seeks to provide introductions, and channels for the dissemination of information among its members. It aims to be inclusive, rather than exclusive, welcoming a wide range of discourse. Our individual Members show great diversity: packhorses, carters, tar spraying, street furniture, economics, social trends, the effect of gender on transport, biographies of personalities in road transport, avenue of research, regulation by governments or local authorities, specific manufacturers and bodybuilders, transport in particular geographical areas, Continental freight haulage into and from the UK, cycling, destination blinds, sources of transport history, the preservation of artefacts, long-distance coaches in the USA, hackney carriages, dustcarts, mails and telephone transport, photographic material, the exploration of archives, construction site plant, planning and land use, the need to promote transport and logistics as a career, an unbounded and varied interest in transport, and even quite simple nostalgia. This breadth of interests contributes to valuable cross-fertilisation. It stimulates knowledge of influences and sources of information from quite unfamiliar fields that may be unexpectedly pertinent to one's own narrower researches. The Association publishes a Newsletter four times a year, distributed to all members. It normally has two meetings a year, at Coventry with talks from members, or representatives of Corporate Members. Each year it organises, at varying locations, a Conference, open to anyone to attend. In 1999, the subject was “Getting into Research"; in 2000 “Lessons of the Inter-War Years"; in 2001 “The Preservation and Disposal of Personal Collections"; 2002 “Learning from History"; 2003 “A Medley of Thoughts", in 2004 “Legislation and Road Transport in the 20th Century" and “Transport Anniversaries" in 2005. The papers from recent Conferences have each been published in booklet form. A major 446-page book, the Companion to British Road Haulage History was published by the Science Museum in 2003. Work is in progress on a parallel volume on British Road Passenger Transport History. We believe that there is greater scope for members of the British Association for Local History and of our own Association to exchange information and we would be pleased to hear from anybody with photographs and other documents that have a road transport element to them. Vehicles can be a very good proxy for dating individual photographs as they were required to carry registration plates from 1904 and there is a surprising amount of records still in existence detailing early vehicle registrations as in the example below. Our individual members and societies between them cover the entire spectrum of road transport from the humble bicycle through to the largest bus or lorry, and we should be able to put an enquirer on road transport in touch with a suitable specialist in that field. You can contact the Association by post at 124 Shenstone Avenue, Norton, Stourbridge, West Midlands, DY8 3EJ, by e-mail at roadsandrtha@aol.com or through our website www.rrtha.org.uk.

6. The Swindon Village Society  Show more → Show less ↓

The success of a society's publishing project, by Barry Simon


The Swindon Village Society was founded about 20 years ago to act as a small civic society for Swindon Village, an old village that is now really a suburb of Cheltenham. It was soon realised that the best way of protecting old buildings was to know their history, so a local history sub-group was formed. There was debate as to whether it would be best to write a comprehensive local history book or something rather less challenging. The decision was made to take the latter route and about a year later Volume 1 of The Swindon Village Collection was published. It consisted of about two thirds memories of our older villagers and one third true history articles. The book had a vivid glossy cover and consisted of about 60 pages ring bound. It sold about 200 copies at £5 each. The format has been continued such that we now have seven volumes, with number eight on the way. Several early contributors have since died, but we do have their memories preserved, hopefully, for all time. Copies have of course been lodged with the local record office, complete with sets of indexed name slips, with the Gloucester Collection, and with the British Library. The most recent edition had over 100 pages and sold for £8. Again sales were in the region of 200, but overall we have probably sold a total of about 1,800 copies of all volumes. We recently found a complete set for sale on eBay for a little more than the cover price, which is surprising because we always have all volumes for sale at their original cost! Local people buy the books partly for the local history and partly to find out just what Mable was up to in the War. There is great disappointment if an edition does not come out just before each Christmas. Articles from the collection have been used to stop demolition of a 350 year old unlisted mill house, and to support the listing of other properties. The work has also supported creation of a Village History talk which has done the rounds of neighbouring local history societies. All-in-all this format has proved very successful. We might have sold a unified 'village history' for £10 a copy, but this method has allowed us to include much more recent material, sell to a much wider audience, and gain about £50 a set so far. Perhaps if we get to Volume 12 we will run out of history, the villagers will run out of money, and Hazel and Eileen (who do all the hard work) will run out of hair. However, we can recommend this method of producing a local history. Barry Simon is Chairman of the Swindon Village Society

7. Kasubi Tombs: The Kabaka Heritage  Show more → Show less ↓

Ruth Turner reports from Uganda


Buganda is one of the four traditional kingdoms of Uganda restored in 1993. On a hot, dusty day in early February we explored the World Heritage Site of Kasubi Tombs, an architectural and cultural treasure which is a physical reminder (in a largely oral culture) of a proud Bugandan heritage. It is at Nabulagula Kasubi, on the outskirts of Greater Kampala near the shores of Lake Victoria. Kasubi Tombs started life as the third (and last) palace of the Kabaka [or King'>more... Muteesa I, who finished it in 1882, two years before his death. It is now the final resting place of four of the Kabakas of Buganda, and their direct descendants, and home to the Princess Guardian of the Tombs and her Ladies of Court. Kasubi Tombs gives visitors a good insight into Bugandan palace architecture. It is a collection of traditional thatched pole-and-mud buildings enclosed behind a six-foot woven-reed fence. There is the Bujabukula (Guards House); Muzibu (Main House); Ekigango (Funeral House); Ndoga-obukaba (Drum House); the Tomb House of the Princess Guardian; and several dwelling-houses. The fence also encircles the Azaala-mpanga (Burial Ground), in which the bodies of princes and princesses, direct descendants of the four Kabakas (themselves buried in the Main House), are laid to rest. The fence is pierced by two entrances, originally guarded by the Abambowa (Royal Guards), without whose permission nobody could pass into or out. The smaller entrance (now the entry and exit to the Tombs themselves, and still manned by two Royal Guards who double as guides) was used by the Kabaka, his family and very favoured guests. The larger entrance was used by the Abakopi (peasants), Abaddu (slaves) and others. It is known as the Kilyango-kibi (bad door), because it is also used to give passage to dead royals on their way to lying-in-state in the Funeral House. From the outside, with the tall, woven-reed fence screening the interior of the palace from prying eyes, the smaller entrance offers an imposing introduction to Kasubi Tombs. Sitting astride the shadowy depths of the entry-passageway is the Guards' House, its vertical poles and inverted-basket roof of reeds and grass making it a miniature architectural replica of the Main House. The Guards' House provides a covered, protected entrance to the palace for the royal family and their guests and also houses the royal guards. We passed from its gloom into a huge courtyard, around which the palace buildings are scattered. Dominating all is the Main House, a gigantic structure, its outstanding craftsmanship and sheer scale making it very special. The entrance to the cool, shaded interior is marked by neat rows of visitors' shoes lining the path. The interior is unexpectedly austere, with a concrete floor covered with reed and cloth matting, but an eye-catching screen made of spears and shields; the soaring, fragrant-smelling roof; and the deep russets, umbers and ochres of bark-cloth draped walls testify to the prestige and position of the Kabakas. The inner roof, supported by towering poles, consists of 55 concentric circles, each made up of woven palm leaves banded tightly together for strength. The three circles closest to the centre denote the Royal Family and each of the others represents one of the clans which make up the Buganda kingdom. Each clan manufactured and donated a circle to Muteesa I for the roof of the Main House, proof that his strategy of binding all Bugandan clans to him by taking a wife from each clan was still working, even at the end of his reign. The shields and spears which make up the unusual screen are associated with the four Kabakas buried behind it, each of whom is represented by a portrait placed on or near the screen. The lives of these four kings reflect the Victorian and twentieth century history of Uganda. Muteesa I (1856 –1884), the builder of the palace, was the first Bugandan king to encounter Caucasians. His successor, Daniel Mwanga II (1884-1897) is remembered for ordering the execution of the Ugandan Martyrs, twenty converts to Christianity. He died in exile on the Seychelles in 1903, but in 1910 his body joined that of his father at the Tombs. Daudi Chwa II (1897 –1939) was, at one year old, the youngest Kabaka ever to ascend the throne. He signed the Buganda Agreement with the colonial administration, whereby the kingdom lost most of its sovereignty. Finally, Sir Edward Frederick Muteesa II (1939–1966) was independent Uganda's first president, ousted in a 1966 coup by Milton Obote. Obote himself was overthrown by Idi Amin, who in 1971 had the body of the exiled Kabaka returned from England and buried with his ancestors. We emerged into the bright sunshine awed by the grandeur and history of the Main House. Our guard-guide indicated the Funeral House, which also performed a dual function. It was the place where contentious issues within the royal family were discussed and resolved, and also where the bodies of deceased royals were received, allowing family members to perform any last rites of observance before the body was buried at Kasubi Tombs. As I was with him, my husband did not go into the Drum House (no female is permitted to enter) but our guard-guide explained that it was greatly revered because, as well as drums for entertainment, it housed all the sacred, ceremonial and totemic drums. There was Bantadde, whose sound indicated that the Kabaka had arrived at his palace; Ggwanga Mujje, at whose sound people gathered to perform specific communal duties; 52 totem drums, one for each clan and each with its own unique sound; drums that told people which function a court official was performing; and still others which announced the death of Bugandan nobles. Sometimes at the New Moon, the guide told us, the drums sounded by themselves, and when this happened the Bugandan people rejoiced because their ancestors were calling them. Our last stop was the Tomb House of Lady Damalie Nkinzi, the Princess Guardian. Each Kabaka had a female helper, the Lubuga/Naalinya, chosen from among his sisters and forbidden to marry. She had a vital role because in her absence the Kabaka could not perform any of the functions associated with his kingship. When Muteesa I died all the attention and respect which had been his passed to the Lubuga/ Naalinya, who then became the Princess Guardian. From then on she was responsible for overseeing the ceremonial functions of the Ladies of Court and the duties of the Royal Guards. It was she who presided over and arbitrated in the Royal Family disputes and it was to her that the new Kabaka and his advisors looked when matters of custom and culture needed to be decided. On her death she was not buried with the Kabaka in the Main House, but was accorded her own Tomb House. The new Kabaka, meanwhile, was assigned a new Lubuga/Naalinya. As we approached the exit we saw a group of men, women and children around a cooking-fire, over which were suspended some cast iron pots, near a huddle of living-houses in the corner of the courtyard. The houses were well away from the Main, Funeral, Drum and Tomb houses and were still very much in use, occupied by the current Ladies of Court and their families. Without their presence, and that of the incumbent Princess Guardian of the Tomb, signifying that the customary rituals were still being performed, the spirits of the Kabakas would depart from Kasubi Tombs. With the delicious aromas from the cooking pots mingled with the charcoal smoke from the cooking fire lingering in our nostrils we went back through the Guards' House, sure that Buganda's social and historical heritage was alive and well in twenty-first century Uganda.

8. Archives Under Threat  Show more → Show less ↓

Warnings from Paul Anderton and Dorothy Hayter


SAVING SUTHERLAND – in Staffordshire! Paul Anderton It doesn't look much - £82,000 – when the target aimed at is £2,011,000. That's all that is now required to reach the objective and Save Sutherland for Staffordshire and the Nation. The major task of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service over the last two years has been to seek out, apply for and negotiate a very wide range of funding to try to buy the huge collection of papers deposited at Stafford over forty years ago by the Leveson Gower family, dukes of Sutherland, and to make it more accessible for people to use. A public appeal has also been run by the Friends of the Archive Service to encourage public donations. The last and most important push is now vital to complete the job. This is because the Heritage Lottery Fund recently confirmed its grant of £1.35 million towards the total costs, which, together with the £576,000 already secured by the Archive Service in partnership funding, leaves only £82,000 to find. Only £82,000! How many times are we told that it's always the last few steps which are the hardest when some great load has been dragged for miles? There is no question that the archive of the Sutherlands is worth buying to secure public access for it in this country. It's ironic that they were among the top half dozen wealthiest families in Victorian times with a million and a half acres and mansions at various times including Lilleshall in Shropshire, Stafford House (now Lancaster House) in London, Trentham in Staffordshire (the original family home bought at the dissolution of the monasteries), Cliveden, not to mention the houses and territories in Scotland taking in the whole of the county of Sutherland. Documents relating to the running of these vast estates and relationships with families contracted through marriage – Gowers of Yorkshire, Granvilles Earls of Bath, Egertons, and Gordons in Scotland – would be enough to guarantee the historical importance of the collection. The Leveson core of the family were Wolverhampton merchants who bought the abbey at Trentham in 1540 and played a major part in the government of the county of Staffordshire from then on. Members from time to time operated on the national political stage, particularly in Hanoverian times, and their estates proved wonderfully profitable as an industrial revolution overtook the British economy. The archive provides a veritable feast to local and national economic, social and political historians alike. It has more recently been seen as a treasure trove for family historians. All those property deeds of transfers, mortgages and leases, cottage rent books, estate wage books, household accounts listing suppliers of consumer goods, farm surveys and the vast assortment of copies of correspondence by the stewards and estate managers such as William Lewis and James Loch – all stores of names, the gold dust of family histories. Buying these papers will keep in this country information on the careers and status of an untold number of people who figure now on the family trees of assiduous genealogists. Who do you think you are? What would you think if you had to go to an American university library to find out – or worse still, discovered the essential papers had been scattered widely at some auction where the whole collection had been broken down into separate lots? Fortunately, that is not now likely to happen, but the last push, where every little helps is imperative. So far, the website lists twenty-two Staffordshire Women's Institutes and twenty-two Staffordshire local history societies as among contributors. This includes the contribution of the North Staffordshire Historians' Guild which raised over £4,600 by getting sponsors for 24 Hours – a local history marathon. Individual sums have not been announced, but five of the largest local authorities, a major local fund and five of the larger national grant awarding bodies have clearly pledged big contributions to the matching funding required to meet Heritage Lottery requirements. There have been commitments from the business sector and from charitable bodies. Genealogy societies, a canal society and mining museum are among many other organisations which have helped to bring the funding to its present figure. The Friends of the Archive Service (FoSSA) have received scores of responses to a public appeal asking for gift-aided donations. For forty years the Sutherland Collection has been cared for in the County Record Office at Stafford. The catalogue has recently been revised and made available on line. A substantial part of the fund will be dedicated to a programme of further improvement in public access to the papers, as well as to their conservation. The result will be saving for the nation a body of historical documents fundamental to researchers in a wide field of knowledge about the past. No one document has the emotional appeal of a Raphael painting or wildlife conservation site, but British history cannot be adequately investigated without easy access to piles of parchment and paper such as that held at present in Stafford. This project to Save Sutherland in Staffordshire should show that this is a fact much better recognised now than ever before. The Cartwright Papers The archives of the Cartwright family of south Northamptonshire consist of 85 boxes of part-listed material and 8,518 documents which have been individually listed, dating from c1250 – 1954. The papers have been deposited at the Northamptonshire Record Office for many years and are much consulted by local historians. In fact they are the primary source for those studying the south of the county, where the Cartwrights' holdings were very extensive. But they are still owned by a descendant of the Cartwrights, who no longer lives in the county, and wants to sell them. She would prefer them to remain in the Record Office if possible, so the sum of £300,000 will have to be found to match the independent valuation. An American institution has already offered the full amount, and the papers will go there at the end of this year unless the money can be raised to keep them in this country, and in this county, with which the Cartwright family was so intimately involved for nearly 400 years. The Cartwrights were landed squires who lived at the extreme south of Northamptonshire from 1615 to 1960. The archive includes all the records of the Cartwright estates at Aynho and many other villages for the whole of this period, but also much other documentation about political life, as the Cartwrights sat in Parliament as Knights of the Shire, in conjunction with the Knightleys of Fawsley in an almost unbroken line from the1690s to the late 19th cent. The papers include fascinating accounts of the often bitterly fought election campaigns of the later 1700s. In fact the family was so closely associated with the political map of Northamptonshire that the part of the county which borders on Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire was familiarly known as 'Mr Cartwright's Corner'. In the Civil War they were supporters of Parliament being closely related to Fairfax. They had to leave their house at Aynho and retreat to London, and the house was destroyed by Royalist troops fleeing to Oxford after their defeat at Naseby. The present house, rebuilt after the war was remodelled by Soane in 800. This too is documented in the archive. One of the striking features of the Cartwright papers is that they give such a lively and vivid picture of day to day life in a country house over a long period. But the Cartwrights had ambitions which reached beyond their home and estate, and a view of the world unusually wide for a landowner of the 17th and 18th centuries. Successive generations served as diplomats in the courts of Europe, sometimes bringing back sophisticated foreign brides to enliven the local scene. The papers include a large body of material relating to political issues in Europe from the 1830s to the First World War. The archive is the documentary source for the source of the study of the family and several places; and the raw stuff of all our history. Local historians are outraged that such material should be allowed to leave the country. Deborah Hayter, Banbury Historical Society

9. Guided Visits  Show more → Show less ↓

The pleasures of visits past and future


Visit to Caird Library, National Maritime Museum, Thursday 26 January. Kate Jarvis of the Manuscripts Department described the various documents that she had laid out, some at special requests of members. They made a fascinating collection. We were shown a notebook of 1582 containing intelligence collected by one of Walsingham's spies at the Spanish Court, and a set of sketch maps of the American coastline compiled by a pirate in 1683/4 showing where there might be rich pickings. There were fine illustrations of ports and ships in a journal compiled by a Royal Navy surgeon, Dr Cree, during 1837 to 1861, and of scenery and birdlife in Kipling's copy of Scott and Shackleton's account of an Antarctic expedition. Less decorative but of great interest of family historian were crew lists. The difficulties of recruitment especially for the Royal Navy, which was very poorly paid compared to the Merchant Navy, were indicated by an advertisement for volunteers and an authentic looking protection against impressment – though many were forged. In 1783 King's Bench considered the case of the slave ship 'Zong' whose Captain had thrown 132 of his cargo into the seas. On display was evidence given at the trial which was not for murder but to settle an insurance claim. We saw letters from Admiral Troubridge to Lord Nelson and from Nelson to his wife; also ship's logbooks, reports by lieutenants made as part of their training, and ephemera saved by survivors from the Titanic. Kate presented these and other documents with knowledgeable enthusiasm and we had a most enjoyable morning. Details of how to use the Library and access the wealth of documents can be found on www.nmm.ac.uk A Summer Day in the Cemetery Kensal Green cemetery, the capital's first necropolis, was established by Act of Parliament in 1832. Today it is the oldest surviving in private hands, those of the General Cemetery Company. The Company's plan was 'to create a spacious park that would complement the many fine monuments' that they hoped would be built, a great improvement on the crowded churchyards of the centre of London which had become totally inadequate to cope with the increase in population in early 19th century England. Many contemporary writers, including Charles Dickens, 'condemned their appalling conditions with righteous indignation'. With the new idealism of the age, the new Cemetery was to be not only a pleasant last resting place for the departed but also a place of recreation for the living, 'morally uplifting and edifying to the general populace'. Sweeping lawns were set out, surrounded by groups of specimen trees and shrubs, which have now reached their full maturity and beauty, and incidentally shelter a great variety of wildlife. A Gothic design won the competition for plans for gateway, Anglican and Non-Conformist chapels, and Colonnaded Catacomb, but they were all eventually built in a more dignified Classical style, and completed in 1837. The Cemetery's 77 acres were opened for burials three years earlier, soon to be taken up by wealthy families who erected many grand monuments and mausolea, a number today with Grade II listing. There are three catacombs built to hold 4,000 coffins. Among famous people who rest in Kensal Green are J C Loudon the cemetery pioneer, two children of George III, three dukes, several writers including Trollope, and Brunels father and son. BALH has arranged for a visit by our members on Thursday 13 July. We shall be welcomed by Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery, and given a talk on the history of the Cemetery, their research and on-going work for its improvement and maintenance. After a picnic lunch (either in the shade of the trees or in view of Regent's Canal – otherwise in the new Visitor Centre) and time to explore the Bookshop, photographs etc, we shall be taken on a tour of the grounds to admire the architecture including the catacombs in their park-like setting, perhaps catching a glimpse of some of the wildlife. Booking form and further details can be found on the BALH website was usual or ring 02084625002. With thanks for information from Friends of Kensal Green Cemetery

10. An Exemplary Group Project  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby is impressed by their publication


The Historic Buildings of New Buckenham If you leave Norwich by the A140 and then take a right turn just after crossing the River Yare at Harford Bridge, you are on the New Buckenham road. A succession of interesting places lies on your route—Swardeston, home of Edith Cavell; Mulbarton with its broad green; the winding linearity of Tacolneston; and the signs that point to other little villages with long names, such as Fundenhall and Ashwellthorpe. Then the road, the old Norwich turnpike, turns a long right-hand bend and ahead there's a straight mile across a wide common, the tarmac pointing like an arrow at a miniature town in the distance. It's a sight that always makes me think of somewhere in south-west France, and the connection is far from coincidental, since the bastides, the rectilinear planted towns of Gascony and Aquitaine, are close cousins to the planned settlement of New Buckenham. Arriving at the end of the long straight the road turns sharp left and sharp right and emerges onto a large square green, tellingly called the Market Place. It then does another couple of right angles, heads out past a stone barn which is the remains of an early medieval chapel, with the great mounds and tumbled stonework of a Norman castle just behind, and then out into the country once more. This evocative landscape resemble no others in the British Isles. New Buckenham, a fascinating and remarkable place, was founded by William d'Albigni between 1146 and 1176, as a planned new town. Its territory was carved out of the existing parish structure, and it was intended primarily as a service centre adjacent to the large new castle, but it never flourished as a true urban centre. Nonetheless, New Buckenham remained prosperous, with a distinctly non-rural air, and between the late fifteenth and the mid-eighteenth centuries it acquired a wealth of fine vernacular architecture, much of which remains (either readily identifiable, or concealed beneath Victorian facades). That impressive architectural legacy has now been the subject of an exemplary collaborative project under the auspices of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Group, the fruits of their research and recording project being published in 2005 as The Historic Buildings of New Buckenham, a book which is a model of its kind. Members of NHBG have conducted an intensive and painstaking investigation of the built fabric of the town, bringing their findings together in a richly-illustrated volume skilfully edited by Adam Longcroft. The first 24 pages are devoted to a general discussion of the background and context—the landscape history of south Norfolk, the medieval and post-medieval architectural traditions of the district, the issues raised by research projects such as this, and the potential for dating and analysing buildings in the area. The next 42 pages analyse, in fluent detail, the history of New Buckenham with a special emphasis on its architectural and building development, considering such themes as materials, construction methods, plans, the function of buildings and the results of a Lottery-funded dendrochronological survey. Using the latter in conjunction with documentary and other sources, it has been possible to provide a reliable listing of the dates of most significant buildings in the town, from the mid-fifteenth century to the nineteenth. The final section, of over 130 pages, provides a gazetteer of all the historic buildings with detailed explanations, drawings, plans and photographs to explain their origins and structural development. It is an extraordinary piece of work, which brilliantly combines the physical evidence of fieldwork and surveying with the contextual and historical research of documents (such as wills, parish records and deeds). What has made me particularly appreciative of this book is that it is the product of a group investigation, in which professional input has been part but the contributions of a team which includes amateurs (in the best sense of the word) have played a major role. The New Buckenham project could, and should, be a model for similar bodies elsewhere. Of course, it is important to have professional guidance, but to me this embodies what local history is all about—people finding out about their community, producing work of outstanding quality, and making available and accessible so that others can derive knowledge, understanding, benefit and pleasure from the results. THE HISTORIC BUILDINGS OF NEW BUCKENHAM edited by Adam Longcroft (Journal of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Group vol.2, 2005 227pp ISSN 1741-5888) £18 inc. p&p from Jill Napier, 62 Norwich Road, Tacolneston, Norwich NR16 1BY

11. Women On The Railways  Show more → Show less ↓

Book review by Jane Howells


Railwaywomen: exploitation, betrayal and triumph in the workplace Helena Wojtczak Hastings Press 2005 ISBN 1 904 109 047 The subtitle of this impressive piece of work sets out the themes which run through Helena Wojtczak's story of women working in Britain's railway industry. Women were exploited by the railway companies for their cheapness and supposed docility and, during the two world wars, for their patriotism. They were betrayed by their fellow workers – their 'brothers' in the rail unions who collected their subscriptions but failed to protect their interests – and by the managers who while claiming to treat men and women equally (after the abolition of women's grades in 1956) continued to ban women from promotion to positions that involved supervising male staff. For most of railway history women were employed in cleaning, catering, and clerical work, and as crossing keepers. 'Women residential gatekeepers had the lowest wages, the worst hours and the poorest status of any railway workers', but it was a much sought-after job, with responsibility for safety which was only acknowledged when anything went wrong. As the industry grew in size it also became increasingly complex, and the intricacies of the classification of work into male and female, wages and salaried grades proves something of a challenge to the author to explain to her lay reader. Within that framework, however, we are introduced to the individual women who were heroines and pioneers, and it is here that Helena Wotjtczak's strength lies. She has unearthed the lives of railwaywomen from a wide range of sources, and uncovered new information missed, ignored or perhaps even deliberately suppressed by earlier historians. This is truly a labour of love, and her sympathy with these women shines through. Such is the richness of the descriptive detail that there is little space for analysis. The cursory excursion into patriarchy as the explanation of 'the problems with men that were faced by women pioneers in traditionally male railway work' sits uncomfortably simply because it is so brief. It deserves greater depth of treatment, and there is an opportunity for someone to look again at the sources used for this book. A much greater disappointment is the absence of placenames in the index. There is an enormous amount of material in this book that would be of interest to local historians – whether the special character of railway towns, or the peculiarities of life in remote villages where the railway provided a lifeline to the outside world – but it is inaccessible. Of course, reading all 383 pages of the whole book is the way to discover these delights, and is to be highly recommended, but burying the local detail is another missed opportunity. How far have railwaywomen really triumphed? Yes, 'there is probably no job on the railway that is not done by at least one woman somewhere in Britain', and Eurostar could celebrate its first anniversary by running a train to Paris with no men amongst the 18 crew (though 15 of them were catering staff). Great progress has indeed been made, but there are still only small numbers of women in what were formerly 'male' jobs. And the rich oral testimony that the author has exploited so effectively reveals continuing hostility and patronising attitudes from male colleagues that both shocks and angers the reader. The very last line quotes a union official in 2005 saying of the book 'I doubt anyone will read it, anyway'. There is still some way to go.

12. Family Portrait Gallery  Show more → Show less ↓

Alan Crosby went to Windsor Castle


At half term we went to Windsor, to visit the castle. I had not been since my very distant schooldays and I was somewhat sceptical beforehand—would it all be Olde Merrie England and mindless flag-waving—but in the event I was completely won over by the experience. Apart from the splendours of St George's Chapel, and the marvellous restoration work in the apartments devastated by the 1992 fire (carved woodwork which feels like satin or silk), the aspect which most delighted me was the art. The exhibition of selected drawings from the royal collection was wonderful, not because there were so many to see but because there were so few, and those that were there could not be bettered. Why have dozens of average images when a handful of splendours will suffice—an exquisite Michelangelo of a woman's head, a couple of Leonardos, a Raphael, and two Holbeins. To be able to stare so closely at the perfectly-drawn three-quarter view of the head and shoulders of Mary Shelton, Lady Heveningham, first cousin of Anne Boleyn, and to have the unparalleled luxury of unlimited time to do so, with no pressure to move along as part of a shuffling crowd, was the greatest joy. How often in galleries do we see pictures from afar, so that we can't scrutinise the workmanship, the infinite patient detail or the masterly piecing together of colour? No less enjoyable was the family portrait gallery in the state apartments. For me, as I imagine for so many other people, this was the delightful experience of meeting old friends. There was the young Elizabeth Tudor, in her formal symmetrical pose of rich red and gold dress and reddish-gold hair, decorous and seemly, but with those wary, cautious, vigilant and preternaturally wise eyes. There was her younger brother Edward, arms akimbo in his almost-teenage years, with the legs not painted quite right somehow but that didn't matter because the eye is drawn to his pale face and sandy lashes and disturbingly rodent-like appearance. And there on the other side of the great fireplace was their older sister Mary, dark-browed, crabby-faced and sour, looking malevolently out at the world and definitely in need of a bit of propaganda portrayal. If Mary had employed artists to show her clear-eyed, fresh-faced, positive in outlook, with a touch of glamour, we might perhaps be more inclined to forgive a few hundred pyres. These are old friends because, of course, they are familiar from a hundred or a thousand history books. These are part of the collective inherited memory of our nation. How many times do they stare out at me from the colour plate pages and the coffee table volumes, the magazine articles, the postage stamps and the postcards? I know Elizabeth personally, just as I know Henrietta Maria and her delicate ringlets, and Charles I in the breathtaking and slightly spooky 'triptych' head by Van Dyke, and Darnley and his younger brother, all black velvet legs up to the armpits and the weak, vacillating, petulant chin that signifies, because we know his fate, the character that led to his body lying broken in the back garden at Kirk o' Fields. No camera yet invented can capture the personalities of the subject as these sixteenth century masters could do with brush and paint on canvas or wood. The astonishing Clouet portrait of Francois II, first husband of Mary Queen of Scots, depicts a pink-faced plump-cheeked boy with clear brown eyes, so brilliantly painted that you really do believe it is three-dimensional and if you look at it sideways you expect to see the curves of his face swelling out from the canvas. Without those artists, we would be deprived of a deeper understanding just as, perforce, we are for earlier centuries. How would we feel about King John if we really knew what he looked like? The Black Prince is all armour and image and heroic hollowness, not a man at all. Richard II is a lovely formal stylised painting from another triptych, but Holbein would have shown him to the world with the same undissembling honesty that lays bare the personalities of the court of Henry VIII. We can stare into their eyes and read their fear and arrogance, viciousness and gentility, charm and evil, learning and crudity. Windsor was worth every penny for the family portrait gallery alone.

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



Documenting the Workshop of the World project by Black Country Archive Services (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton) has now been under way for one year. Significant inroads have been made into cataloguing backlogs, and there has been a programme of digitisation running alongside. More archive material is now available to users, and there are over 4,000 images scanned and catalogued. A number of rare photographs and fascinating documents have come to light.www.wolverhampton.gov.uk/archives Compilers of theBerkshire Record Office Newsletter The Berkshire Echocan be relied upon to have spotted some particularly pertinent gems amongst their collection. Here is a17th century traffic problem and its solution. 'Forasmuch as great damages and inconveniences have happened in this Towne by the often cominge and passage of divers Wagons, Timber carts and other carts by and over the waie from Castle Streete through the paved Streete called Minster Streete to Mr Thackhams and Mr Dewells doores and thenceforwards to the Markett place and Wherffe, By reason of the narrowness of the waie from Minster Streete to ye said Markett place, itt is therefore ordered and agreed, That for the future remidieing of ye said inconvenience, the said waie leading out of the said Castle Streete viz from John Frains' house to John Winches house shall bee chained uppe, there being sufficient waie left for horses and men to passe to and fro, (The said Chaine from time to time onely to be opened upon necessary occasions).' Reading Corporation (Borough) minutes of 23 May 1649 (R/AC 1/1/5; p41). www.berkshirerecordoffice.org.uk 0118 901 5132 At the beginning of this year the British Postal Museum and Archive made the first part of a significant catalogue of BPMA archive photographs available online. Although there are not yet any images online as it will take more time before the thumbnail pictures can be added, catalogue users can now search through over a thousand descriptions of images taken by the General Post Office's Photographic Unit in the 1930s. The complete photographic collection dates from the mid 1930s to the mid 1970s. Visitors to the Archive can see prints of the catalogued photographs in the Search Room. BPMA Freeling House, Phoenix Place, London WC1X 0DL 020 7239 2114 www.postalheritage.org.ukAHDS History at the UK Data Archive University of Essex has recently purchased a Cardmation CF3000 punched-card reader that transfers the data from card into simple text file. AHDS History are willing to undertake, for a small fee, reading cards containing data of interest to historians and social scientists. Email info@ahds.ac.uk Friends of Cumbria Archives have announced the first awards of their recently introduced research grants. Applicants have to demonstrate that archive material held in Cumbria Record Offices (Carlisle, Whitehaven, Barrow and Kendal) provides the foundation for their project. Te first recipients are Ruth Thurnhill (The Development of the Pleasure Gardens at Netherhall by Humphrey Senhouse), June H Whitehead (Adult occupants of Ulverston Workhouse), and John Atherton (The history of Lowick Agricultural Show, founded 1857). Contact FOCAS 42 Fairfield, Flookburgh LA11 7NB. www.focasonline.org.uk The Salopian Recorder from Friends of Shropshire Archivesexplains, under the heading 'Where did the Charity money go?' the system of 'briefs' or royal mandates for collections in churches towards some deserving object. The brief was addressed to the minister and churchwardens and read out from the pulpit, any donations being collected at the church door and the end of the service. Collection and distribution was often farmed out to professional 'undertakers'. Among the Wrockwardine Church papers there are 25 receipts for Briefs, the last dated 6 June 1727. The system was open to abuse, and often generated correspondence, some of which has also survived. 29 March 1677 Received then from the hands of Mr Edward Russell the Sum of Seven pounds and tenn shillings begin monies collected within the parish of Rockwardine towards the relief of the distressed people of Wem. P316/B/2/6/1. Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury SY1 2AQ www.shropshirearchives.co.uk An unusual exhibition was held in March in Chester. 'Inside these walls: A NACRO photographic exhibition took visitors behind the scenes of seven very different Chester buildings – all of which serve as day centres or hostels providing support and accommodation for homeless people. Chester History and Heritage in partnership with NACRO explored the interiors and the histories of the individual buildings.www.chester.gov.uk/heritage/history/home.html Newly available online from The National Archives are the service records of more than 7,000 women who served in the First World War in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps.www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/documentsonline/waac.aspTheir new exhibition at Kew, running from 14 June 2006 to 31 March 2007, is called Drink: Food or Drug? and looks at the history of alcohol 1690 to 1920. Tracing the history of beer and spirits, the exhibition examines how successive governments have regulated the industry through official measurement and attempts by Customs officers to stamp out smuggling. Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service have been operating new opening hours from the beginning of April 2006. On Monday there is service from 9 am to 7 pm with document production to 6.30 to cater for customers (sic) who cannot easily visit during standard 'office' hours; Tuesday Wednesday and Friday remain unchanged at 9 am to 5 pm. They will now be closed to visitors all day on Thursday. The time will be devoted to working with schools and other project work, and they will still respond promptly top enquiries by email, letter and telephone. The new arrangements will be being monitored over the first six months; comments from users are welcome. 01234 228833/4 email Nigel.lutt@bedscc.gov.uk