On a brilliantly-sunny morning at the end of June I drove down from Hay-on-Wye, through the glorious landscapes of the Black Mountains, to visit Tretower near Crickhowell. If, as may well be the case, you are unfamiliar with its many delights, Tretower is quite simply one of the finest medieval houses in Britain, set in some of our most beautiful countryside, though it is relatively little known. It has the ruins of an early medieval stone castle, within which is a massive and over-large round 'keep', built as a stronghold and safe residence for the Picard family. But its chief glory is the outstandingly well-preserved later fifteenth century house built by a subsequent owner, Roger Vaughan, at a time when both sides of the Welsh border were apparently more peaceful and settled, and comfort rather than defence was the main consideration (though Roger was beheaded at Chepstow in 1471, after the Battle of Tewkesbury, so peace was definitely not guaranteed). The house has a lovely great hall, a charming solar, exterior open galleried walkways, and much else of great interest. That's the history lesson: do visit if you haven't been there, but beware of what follows, for a cold chill may strike you …. Arriving at the car park I noticed a collection of very large bright red vans and caravans, together with a marquee or two. It was Friday, so I instantly assumed that preparations were in hand for some sort of weekend festival (but, let us hope, not one described as a 'fayre', a word which makes my toes curl, especially when applied to food rather than festivals). I digress. As I drove up to a parking space a moist-browed and diametrically-challenged gentleman flagged me down and asked if I 'was one of the crew', to which I replied that I was coming to visit (the house and adjacent ruined castle being in the excellent hands of that worthy organisation, CADW). That, it appeared, was 'no problem', but could I please park on the grass by the wall? I did so, got out of the car, and noticed that the front of the house was not as it should be. Swathes of black cloth draped across rude wooden frames were obscuring the fine gatehouse entrance, and coils and serpents of electric cable snaked through the dust. 'Now, my good man', I said, 'What is going on here, forsooth'. In truth, he was of such a size that phraseology of that sort might have been ill-advised, so in reality I merely enquired, timidly and respectfully, as to the meaning of these distinctly unmedieval features. 'It's the BBC', he replied, 'They're filming'. 'And what, pray, are they filming', I responded (or words with that import). 'Young Dracula', was his unexpected reply. So in I went, and was given a leaflet which explained that this was a fourteen-part comedy (with a topical message) for children. It appears that Dracula loaded himself (in coffin, of course) and his two children, Vladimir and Ingrid, onto a ferry and crossed to Wales to claim asylum on the grounds that he was being persecuted in his own country. I confess to being ignorant of the fact that Dracula had children, though since he had many a bride, albeit briefly, I suppose that isn't surprising … or am I confusing him with Bluebeard here? Tretower had been converted into Dracula's castle, and a great delight it was too. I loved the two very large black fabric bats which were hanging in the vaulted passage of the gatehouse, together with a strange collection of 'sculpture' (monsters, dead leaves and other hardware, all liberally sprayed with instant cobweb mixture). Then there were the Hammer Horror props in every room: velvet-covered chairs; a splendidly-improbable Dracula's throne with canopy and hangings; massive goblets encrusted with more cobwebs; the odd skull lying around; giant knobbly candlesticks; festoons of tapestry; huge candles (with, of course, luscious drippings of wax); quill pens and pseudo-documents; mini-skeletons dangling in odd corners; acres of cobweb-bedecked draperies; innumerable bottles and other chemical paraphernalia of the sort which always featured prominently in those 1950s mad-scientist-in-spooky-castle films … but, sadly, no Dracula or Ingrid or Vladimir to be seen, no film crew, no director with green eyeshade, no make-up girls or spine-chilling-special-effects lads. Just a lot of swifts flitting in and out of the open-shuttered windows with terrifying speed and accuracy, and a tourist or two, and a lot of camera equipment, and dusty sunshine. And, sadly, no need for extras to appear in the crowd scenes … now that would have been a career opportunity!
GENEROUS WITH HIS ENTHUSIASM
Rex Sawyer is chairman of Tisbury Local History Society and the author of numerous books on south Wiltshire and Salisbury Plain. A retired headmaster, Rex is a magistrate, and involved in many aspects of life in his adopted community. His interest in local history dates back nearly a half-century when, as a student teacher at Borough Road College, Isleworth, Middlesex, he had to complete a project of local interest in his history course. His choice fell on the Osterley estate, built in the 16th century by Sir Thomas Gresham, improved by Robert Adam for the Jersey family in the 18th century, and now owned by the National Trust. The Victoria & Albert Museum took an interest in his thesis, though the proposed publication did not come to fruition. While he was in west London Rex became a founder member of not one but two local history societies, at Southall and Hounslow. Tisbury Local History Society began 26 years ago. When Rex moved to the village in 1990 he joined the group, became secretary and then also programme secretary. He has been chairman and programme secretary since 2002. He helped to inaugurate Tisbury's innovative Archive Room, a museum/library containing artefacts and books on the area, available to all, and now fully computerised. Tisbury Jubilee Book 1902-2002and The Tisbook celebrating the 60 years since the end of World War Two in Tisbury are amongst Rex's recent publications, edited for the society. Outside his local area, Rex is best known as the current authority on Imber, the 'ghost village' on Salisbury Plain used for military training since its population was obliged to leave in 1943. His knowledge and sympathetic approach to the place revealed in his book Little Imber on the Down published in 2003 led to national TV and radio appearances. Rex lectures extensively about changes in rural life in south Wiltshire. More than that, his experience and enthusiasm have led to a widespread reputation as the source of information and inspiration to local groups. He has attended exploratory meetings where someone has hoped to establish a local history society, presented inaugural talks, given advice on grants, and supported people undertaking particular projects. Many of these have evolved to become permanent features of their communities. One secretary has written 'Help and encouragement are what Rex gave us here in Bemerton as a fledging local history society by sharing his understanding of how local history groups work, just when we were starting out. We will always be grateful for his unselfish giving of time and energy to spread the word of the value and enjoyment to be found in the very local history on our doorstep'. It is for this commitment to sharing his interests and skills with others that Rex Sawyer was awarded a BALH award for personal achievement in 2006.
DORSET COAST DIGITAL ARCHIVE
Visit the glorious Dorset Coast-without leaving your armchair! Imagine being able to get a close-up view of life in Dorset, past and present - all at the touch of a button. The Dorset Coast Digital Archive web-site, directed at a life-long learning audience, provides access to a wealth of historical and geographical resources covering a vast diversity of subject matter: shipwrecks, historical maps, the coastline and its management, 19th century news, music, people, buildings and much, much more. The £1/2 million project, completed in 2004, was funded by the National Lottery's Big Lottery Fund and spearheaded by Bournemouth University and major partners Bournemouth Borough Council, Dorset County Council and the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society. Over 20,000 items relating to the human and natural history of the region have been digitised (scanned, photographed and image processed) for the archive. This virtual collection includes historical maps, charts, newspapers, aerial and other photographs and artefacts - from paintings to piers. The images are so diverse that they have proved invaluable in providing the foundation for many illustrated talks and much learning material. Type in Occupations in the Image Search and take a look at the photographs of a time long gone: they are irresistible. The archive holds an informative series of fourteen learning packages arranged under the themes of Physical Changes to the Coast, Settlements and Society and Managing the Coast. http://www.dcda.org.uk/learningpackages.html Since the end of the funded period, the Steering Group has turned its attention to re-purposing the learning material for National Curriculum use. To date the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Culture Media and Sport have funded a 'Going to the Seaside' extended learning package. It was inspired by the delightful image above and designed for use by Key Stages 1 and 2 learners. http://www.dcda.org.uk/4-2exemplar/3detailed.html A second schools learning package, called 'The New Smugglers', is in development. Aimed at Key Stages 3 and 4, Citizenship and Diversity, it is set against the historical background of smuggling and explores issues arising out of current smuggling practices. Map layering techniques, provided by a Geographic Information System (GIS) open up a fascinating opportunity to witness the changing face of Dorset. Two centuries of development along the Dorset coast and its immediate hinterland can be traced through estate maps (1769-1773), tithe maps (1837-1860), ordnance survey maps first edition (1888), 1940 aerial photographs, 1970 aerial photographs and modern maps. Maps selected from these periods can be compared on the same screen and offer intriguing perspectives on development over the years. http://www.dcda.org.uk/mapping_home.htm Approximately 100 coastal tithe maps and apportionments are available on the site and, excitingly, have resulted in queries from the public as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and America. Arising from the work with tithe maps, Dorset History Centre and Bournemouth University consulted with all nine Local Record Offices in the South West and submitted a successful Project Planning Grant proposal to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to interpret and digitise all South West tithe maps. The Dorset Coast Digital Archive resources are available via the internet on www.dcda.org.uk and give 24-hour access to students, teachers, surveyors, environmentalists and all those interested in local and family history. “This information, and related artefacts, were previously only accessible through personal visits to a number of different centres around the County," says David Ball, University Librarian at Bournemouth. “Our project ensures that this rich mosaic of material reflecting the cultural heritage, natural environment and local histories of Dorset is available to everyone, anywhere, at any time. “We expect this resource to grow and develop as technology advances and as more materials are made available to add to the collection," Ball concludes.
ARE WILLS IMPORTANT?
Lyn* wrote this on the JISCMAIL local history list in response to a query, the gist of which was 'I have the will of a yeoman made in 1589 …and am struggling to see the historical importance of this document'. Her reply contains many valuable points that will be of interest to readers, especially to anyone tackling the same sort of issue. The central question is what makes a document historically important? Partly that depends on who is reading it, and sometimes on how many of the same type you read. Of course wills were not written by everyone, and what is behind bequests we cannot know. But they provide personal information about large numbers of people and their families. For most individuals the surviving records are official ones, whether it's a tax return or a parish register entry. Wills (even when written by a scribe) came from the individual. Wills can also give demographic historians valuable data. If you are attempting any sort of reconstitution of a population you need as many different sources as you can find about links between local people. Wills give you solid reliable information about relationships between individuals, particularly if they were written shortly before someone's death. This can be particularly important if you have a parish register which only gives the father of the children being baptised. You might have two or three John Browns having children baptised over the same few years – which children belong to which John? If one or two of them left wills that survive, it helps enormously. Wills are vital for family historians, but also for historians of the family, of religion and of other specialisms. They can help answer many questions. What percentage of wives were executors? Does that tell you anything about relations between the partners in marriages? How many testators left money to the poor? Did that vary between parishes? How did that change at the Reformation? Do the religious preambles to most early modern wills tell you anything about the beliefs of the testator, or the scribe, or neither? How many wills were written by the individual testator, how many were signed, how many people made their mark? Does that tell you anything about literacy or not? Wills are vital for historians of domestic life, and those looking at variations in living standards across different parts of the country. Compare yeoman farmers in the 1660s in Northumberland with those in Essex. What can wills (and inventories where they exist) tell you? Do the same proportion of wills mention ready money? What do they say about the ownership of pewter spoons? Of beds? What does that suggest about affluence? What do mentions of livestock say about land use in the area? Sometimes useful local information is available in wills. This can include field names, inns, new built houses, or enclosures newly made. If abuttals of land feature, you can get information about the landowner next door. Indicators of social change abound. You cannot read lots of wills and then say 'every Shropshire yeoman in 1570 owned window curtains' but you can say 'jewellery is mentioned in x% of wills of men calling themselves gentlemen in the 1610s and x+y% in the 1690s'. If no wills mention tea making equipment in 1690 and 20% do in 1750, it tells you something about the beginnings of a new social custom. Wills are a rich source in many different ways. *Lyn Boothman received a BALH award for personal achievement in 2003 (see LHN No 70 p4)
THE 'ACCEPTANCE IN LIEU' SCHEME
On 20 July 2006 Mark Wood, Chairman of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council welcomed guests to a reception in the Portico Rooms at Somerset House to celebrate the achievements of the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. In the year ending on 31 March 2005, 28 items valued at approximately £13 million were accepted under the scheme and are now available for the public to enjoy. These cover the length and breadth of the UK, from Brodie Castle in Scotland to St Ives in the south-west, and include paintings, costume, pottery, furniture, weaponry and several archive collections. The Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme enables taxpayers to transfer works of art and important heritage objects into public ownership while paying inheritance tax. These items must be 'pre-eminent', in other words, of particular historical, artistic, scientific or local significance, either individually or collectively, or associated with a building in public ownership which will be expected to have public access for at least 100 days each year. Offers are independently assessed by a panel of expert advisers and their recommendations must be approved by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. The primary benefit for a host/acquiring museum, gallery or library is that it receives an important object at no monetary cost. Objects which may already have been on long-term loan can be acquired. In addition, objects of local interest can be retained, provided that they meet the criteria of the scheme. Moreover, 'acceptance in lieu' enables the integrity of a collection of archives, for example, to be preserved. If sold at auction, such collections are often broken up into lots and dispersed amongst a number of purchasers. This is seriously disadvantageous for researchers. However, it is a long process. Negotiations can take several years and involve many meetings. There may be a discrepancy between what the owner thinks something is worth and the value placed on it by an assessment under the scheme. Despite all of this, 'acceptance in lieu' has proved most effective in safeguarding for the public items and collections of exceptional importance. In relation to local archive services, it has meant that local material remains in the geographical area from which it originated and where it can be consulted in context. This 'added value' is one of the most important and lasting benefits of the scheme. Some archive collections recently accepted under the scheme The Cranfield and Sackville Archive – Centre for Kentish Studies The Finch-Hatton Archive – Northamptonshire Record Office The Harpur-Crewe Archive – Derbyshire Record Office
PUNISHING THE DEAD
How were the bodies of suicides treated before the nineteenth century? On 1 March 1576 Agnes Littlewood gave birth to a baby boy. Two weeks later, she left her home in the middle of the night and managed to drown herself in a well which was barely 18 inches deep in water. From our modern perspective, we would assume that Agnes was suffering from post-natal depression and would see the death as a tragedy. However, the vicar of her parish, Almondbury in the West Riding of Yorkshire, saw it very differently. He recorded that her act had been done 'by the instigation off the devell' and concluded (in Latin): 'God preserve us from the curse of the supernatural and from such a desperate death'. Agnes was buried on 16 March 1576. Whether her burial was normal is unclear – but why would it not be? The vicar's hushed prayer gives us a clue about the very different mental world of the sixteenth century. Suicide in the past was not only a sin, but also a crime. Until 1823 it was possible for coroners to order a profane burial for those who died by their own hand and were judged sane at the time. Thus in his Description of England (1577) William Harrison wrote: 'Such that kill themselves are buried in the field with a stake driven through their bodies'. The property of those who wittingly killed themselves was also forfeit right up to 1870. Suicide was only decriminalised in 1961. I am working on a book about suicide in Scotland and the north of England, 1500-1850. One of the things I want to know is how suicides were actually treated. Were all culpable suicides punished after they were dead by desecrating their bodies and fining their families? Finding out is not easy. Suicide is by its nature a very private matter and that creates real problems for the historian trying to make generalisations about social life long ago. This is an area where only local historians can help: people working on their own communities with a close knowledge of parish registers and other sources that bring us so excitingly close to the lived experience of the people of the past. Have you come across examples of how the bodies (and the families) of people who died by their own hand were treated prior to 1823? That could be in a parish register, a set of accounts, family papers or in a court that dealt with their affairs after death. Please get in touch with me if you have. Professor R A Houston Modern History University of St Andrews St Andrews KY16 9AL firstname.lastname@example.org
THE FUTURE OF THE VCH
More than fifty people from all over the country attended a one-day seminar at the Institute of Historical Research on 8 July 2006 to look at future prospects for VCH work in counties where it is not currently active. The VCH is being transformed by the HLF-funded project 'England's Past for Everyone', and the day was an opportunity to consider the implications of some of the changes currently in motion for active VCH counties, for counties restarted under EPE, and for counties either long dormant, or long completed. Professor John Beckett, Director of the VCH, explained how the VCH expects to evolve in the foreseeable future, and Catherine Cavanagh, project manager for England's Past for Everyone, told delegates what the project is and how it is expected to develop. It was clear that the main obstacle to VCH work is financial, and much of the day was spent looking at how active counties are currently funded. Kate Tiller of the VCH Oxfordshire Trust, and Maureen Meikle of the VCH Durham Trust, explained how fund raising has taken place in their counties in recent years. Nick Kingsley of TNA, chair of the VCH National Committee, painted for delegates a vision of how the mythical county of Barset, originally completed (also mythically!) in 1912, might be restarted and active by 2012. Delegates also had a chance to share experiences of funding local history, during a session which included contributions by the IHR's Director of Development Dr Felicity Jones, and Jason Finch, formerly a funding officer with Horsham council in Sussex. It was clear that there is a will to see VCH at work in counties where it does not have a presence, and that it may well be possible to find flexible means of funding it in the future. For good measure delegates heard of some of the practical issues in VCH work from Dr Nigel Tringham, county editor for Staffordshire, on his research into Needwood Forest due to be published in a big red book, Staffordshire X, in 2007. Where next? Delegates were asked to take the message of the day back to their counties and to see if there was a willingness to resume or restart VCH work. Professor Beckett offered to visit counties to discuss further any plans they might have or might be able to make for resuming, restarting, or even continuing work on the VCH across the country. The VCH is, as delegates agreed, a great national institution, which underpins the history of England at a local level, and which fully deserved their support.
From our Salisbury correspondent The report (Local History News 77 page 12) from Friern Barnet and District Local History Society about investigating the history of their former New Southgate Gas Works prompted some thoughts about our own. The Salisbury Gas Light and Coke Company was for more than a century, from 1833 to 1958, a major industrial enterprise in a small city. We are fortunate in having a comprehensive history of the works with plans and photographs of the structures recorded before demolition in the early 1980s. The credit is due to the South Wiltshire Industrial Archaeology Society (SWIAS), whose members carried out much of the recording, and published a 26 page illustrated work in 1991 ( Salisbury Gasworks by John Watts, Historical Monograph 12, ISBN 0 906195 12 8). We nearly but not quite share the fate of the New Southgate works in its reincarnation as a superstore. Here in Salisbury the last and largest of three gas holders built in 1933 (and confusingly labelled No 1) survives as an automatically operated holding tank, and towers over a superstore, its tank rising and falling in response to local usage. The most striking difference between the two recording projects is, not surprisingly, the use of electronic access to archives. John Watts in 1991 could sue the knowledge of the then British Gas Southern (and their financial sponsorship), minute books in the county record office, his own memories and those of many of the former work force then still alive, and his fellow SWIAS members' recording efforts on a nearly complete but derelict site. Mr Barratt has had 'local records' and a single 'oral source' but also the more up to date help of the National Gas Archive, one of the increasing range of specialist archives now becoming more readily accessible. I hope that this resource leads to pictorial and filmed access to the former hot, noisy and dirty processes of local coal gas manufacturing, My own recollection is very clear from a morning out from the school 'chemi' lab to Kingston upon Thames gas works in about 1948. My sketchy recall of chemistry still includes precise knowledge of how coke is made. For those readers whose recall may be even more sketchy, coal is heated but not burnt in gas-tight ovens, or 'retorts', to produce gas. The residue is coke. The gas holder (whatever happened to the old term 'gasometer'?) is recorded by SWIAS as 'column guided, steel tank, 3-lift, 1,050,000 cu ft) and, with less precision, as having 'a greater volume than the cathedral'. For the latter aspect I am sceptical, never having seen a figure for Salisbury Cathedral measured in that way! However, it dominates the immediate area and can be seen from many viewpoints in and around the city; a splendid sight, an interesting and valuable industrial archaeological remnant and an important part of Salisbury's history and heritage.
LOCAL HISTORY DAY 2006
The new format of BALH's major annual event was a great success. Members and friends congregated in London on a warm, sunny day, forsaking their gardens, domestic chores, or country walks for the pleasures of local history. Professor Claire Cross (BALH Chairman) opened proceedings by introducing the three speakers for the 'open forum' session. Catherine Lorigan and Christine Newman spoke about the work of volunteers for Victoria County History projects in Cornwall and Durham respectively, and Alan Crosby added a record office perspective. A lively discussion followed, as many members of the audience had been involved working with or as volunteers in diverse contexts. At the Annual General Meeting, Professor Cross welcomed the new President of BALH, Dr David Hey, who took the chair. Dr Ruth Paley, a Trustee, has agreed to become the Association's Honorary Treasurer, and she presented the annual financial statement. The following were elected as members of Council: Professor Claire Cross (Chairman), Dr Paul Carter, Mrs Susan Clayton, Lt Col Michael Cowan, Dr David Dymond, Mr M Farrar, Dr Jo Mattingley, Dr Margaret O'Sullivan, Dr Ruth Paley, Professor Edward Royle, and Dr Nigel Tringham. After introductions to the award scheme by Lt Col Cowan and Dr Crosby, Mr Noel Osborne, Managing Director of Phillimore & Co Ltd, presented the certificates. The 2006 award winners are listed on page 26 of this issue of Local History News. 9see What's new page on this website). On page 27 Alan Crosby discusses the articles shortlisted for the award made 'to encourage research and publication'. James Fallon's article will be reprinted in the November issue of The Local Historian. Recipients of awards made 'to recognise other forms of personal achievement' will be profiled in Local History News during the year, beginning with Rex Sawyer on page ZZ of this issue. Professor Steve Hindle, Director of the Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, Department of History, University of Warwick, delivered the 2006 Phillimore Lecture: Technologies of identification under the Old Poor Law. While discussing the ways in which the early modern state maintained control of its population, Professor Hindle drew some fascinating parallels with the modern issues relating to identity cards and official databases. For those who attended the lecture, and were warned that Professor Hindle would depart rapidly if he received a phone call from the maternity ward, we are please to say that the baby arrived safely three days later. Saturday 2 June 2007 Local History Day next year will again include short talks and discussion, the AGM, presentation of awards, and the annual Phillimore Lecture. The lecturer will be Professor Caroline Barron, Royal Holloway, University of London who will speak about Searching for the 'small people' of medieval London.
PUBLICATIONS AWARDS 2006
At the Local History Day on 4 June the BALH Publications Awards for 2006 were presented. Since this scheme was instituted in 1999 it has become firmly established as a major way of recognising the contribution made by local history societies, in publishing articles in journals, and of individual local historians whose work is often of a very high standard but which is otherwise only available locally. Each year the Reviews Editor of The Local Historianchooses a shortlist of articles which have special merit, and from this the award-winners are selected. The criteria include the use of new sources or reappraisal of familiar ones; successful use of particular techniques or methodologies in research; quality of writing; identification of challenging questions or themes; academic soundness combined with accessibility; and the appreciation of context and wider relevance. This year the clear winner was Dr James Fallon's 'Evacuation: the Tarbat Peninsula 1943-4', which appeared in an always-impressive publication, Scottish Local History[no.62 (Winter 2004) pp.38-47'>more.... The article used oral history to gain deeper understanding of a period and events which, by their very nature, were shrouded in obscurity. The wartime evacuation of the Tarbat peninsula in Ross and Cromarty was almost forgotten (except to those involved) and indeed hardly recognised parallel to the more familiar military annexation of land in, for example, Dorset and South Devon. The article grew out of a school project, but turned into a fully-fledged piece of historical research, and was notable for the synthesis of local, military and community history. In contrast, Anthony Squires ('The Medieval Park of Ridlington', Rutland Record: journal of the Rutland local History and Record Society no.23 (for 2003) pp.105-113) took a particular place and researched a challenging period, giving useful context and definitions and thus allowing the general reader to approach what might otherwise have been a somewhat daunting topic. He traced the history of this medieval deer park through cartographic and documentary sources and fieldwork, and his article is of as much interest and value to readers unfamiliar with the places involved as it is to those who have the specialist knowledge of the area. We particularly liked the way that a medieval subject was tackled in this way, since many local historians are perhaps understandably apprehensive about working on pre-1550 sources and themes. Lynda Burrows, in 'The Women's Land Army in East Anglia, 1939-1950' [Suffolk Review New Series no.43 (Autumn 2004) pp.2-32'>more... undertook a huge amount of research for her article, including interviews and documentary work, and produced a fluent and accessible account of a subject which is familiar in a general sense, but little-understood in detail. Her paper highlighted the culture shock which was involved for the women who went to work on the land during the Second World War, and also included sophisticated analysis of class issues and individual perceptions of the rationale for the exercise and the impact which it had on the women concerned. It was also noteworthy that Lynda's work took a regional perspective and so drew its evidence from a wider geographical area than is usually the case. Other local historians could be more adventurous in that way. The article by Terry Moore-Scott, 'Cheltenham's Theatre Royal (1782-1839): Cheltenham Art Galley and Museum's Playbill Collection' [Cheltenham Local History Society Journal no.20 (2004) pp.10-18'>more... is an introduction to a rich but almost unused historical resource, and by judicious quoting of selected extracts it helps to make clear the way in which historians might use this material. The excitement of a night at the theatre in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries comes across to the reader, so that the article is both interesting to read but also a valuable pointer to research potential. The panel of assessors has been very interested to note that the moment local history writing seems to be strongest in Gloucestershire. During the past three years, four shortlisted articles have been from that county. Finally, Kate Taylor became the first author to win a BALH Publications Award for the second time, with 'How the Assizes came to Leeds' [Wakefield Historical Society Journal vol.13 (2004) pp.32-44'>more...—three years ago she won the award for an article on theatre in Halifax in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Kate's winning article this year gave a very clear introduction to the assize system and highlighted the connections between national policies and politics on the one hand, and local aspirations and strategies on the other. In the context of the massive population growth in the West Riding, and the need for additional assize courts, it showed how rival towns competed for the honour until Leeds, in retrospect perhaps inevitably, came out on top. All the articles—and, indeed, the others shortlisted but not eventually selected for awards—were of an excellent standard and each of them could usefully provide an example or model which other potential writers might follow. James Fallon's paper on Tarbat and its wartime experience will be published in the November 2006 issue of The Local Historian. In an ideal world I would publish all of them, but unfortunately that is not possible. However, we are delighted to have been able to recognise the work of these authors (not forgetting the hard-working editors who prepare and produce the journals involved) and to draw attention to their achievements. Next year's selection of articles is already taking shape, and as always I look forward to reading them and finding that, as every year, it is almost impossible to choose between them!
'ALL THAT IS VISIBLE'
The Landscape of Gloucestershire Alan Pilbeam Tempus 2006 ISBN 07524 3602 3 £17.99 In terms of its landscape Gloucestershire is divided into three parts, the Cotswolds, the Vale of Gloucester, and the Forest of Dean. This book examines the factors which created that landscape and takes the reader through the variations to be seen in each of the three areas which often provide striking contrasts. One of its strengths is the plan of starting from the present day landscape that can be seen by anyone visiting the county. A second is the admirable clarity with which the author explains the relationship between forces at work on the landscape and the results in the 21st century. This particularly applies to the chapter on geology (headed 'cliffs and cuttings, mines and quarries' – ie what can be seen now), to the extent that it provides an effective introduction to the topic in general. A slight qualification to that praise is the scattering of technical terms without interpretation; for example we read of 'solifluction' on page 8, but do not discover what it means for another twenty pages. A basic glossary would be valuable. There is much to interest the local historian, and many associations that apply equally to other parts of the country. Reference to farming practices, building materials, transport infrastructure, the development of villages and towns are to be expected; 'landscapes of pleasure and leisure' is a more unusual topic. This book benefits from many good photographs which, as the cover blurb states, 'illustrate the picturesque scenery and rich heritage of this area of Britain'. However, the images do more than that; they contribute to the explanations of how the modern landscape was formed. The main criticism is the complete absence of any map. It seems very short sighted to assume that all purchasers of this book will be sufficiently familiar with Gloucestershire not to need one. Arriving at the index after 150 pages, OS grid references are provided for each place mentioned. But this is discovered without any prior warning to suggest that the reader, if they are suitably equipped and so inclined, could locate the relevant sites for themselves while reading through the text. Add a map and a glossary to the next edition, and this will become an exemplary short landscape history for the interested non-specialist (if a little expensive).
THE EVE OF DESTRUCTION
In the last issue of Local History News I wrote about a newspaper report which described the destruction of the archives at a paperworks near Bolton, in the late nineteenth century. The problem of lost records is a widespread difficulty for historians, and that sort of wanton destruction is particularly annoying. However, Pat Pomeroy of Boston, Lincolnshire, has pointed out an even worse case, in which official records were destroyed not by the ignorance of a company official but by the deliberate decision of the very body, and the very public servant, who should have been protecting them. Pat had been working on the Poor Law records of the Gainsborough Union in Lincolnshire, and in the Board of Guardians' minute book for the 1880s came across the following entry: 30 October 1883 Sale of old books and papers The Clerk reported that he had gone over the old Union books and papers which the Guardians proposed to destroy and had reserved a complete set of the Master's and other officers books for three years past. Ordered that the Master's Books for the past seven years be kept and that an advertisement be inserted in one of the local newspapers offering the remainder for sale. A fortnight later, on 13 November, another entry recorded that A letter was read from Mr. F. Hinde of Retford offering to give £5.5.0. per ton for the waste paper and books. Ordered that the offer be accepted (Lincolnshire Archives PL4/102/9). Destruction of this sort is far from rare and, shamefully, continues to the present day. In my own area, Lancashire, other cases that I have come across include several examples of solicitors who emptied their strongrooms or basements by dumping the contents of trunks, deed boxes and other storage onto the council tip or in a skip (naturally, these papers were not their property, but such niceties were seemingly of no interest). A fascinating collection on which I have done a good deal of work has some very large gaps. These can be filled, but only to a very small extent, by a group of superb fifteenth century documents which a sharp-eyed council worker found on the municipal rubbish dump at Chorley in the 1960s: a local firm of solicitors had disposed of them. For Lathom House, one of Lancashire's most important historic sites, the entire archive of the Bootle-Wilbraham family was fed into the furnaces at Blaguegate Colliery near Skelmersdale when the estate was sold in 1925. The only part to escape destruction was a few boxes which happened to be with the family solicitors in London at the time (thus proving that solicitors are not invariably guilty). Yet care of archives in the past could be meticulous. The White Book of Preston (the borough's first surviving assembly minutes, starting in 1608) includes a lengthy minute setting out how the archives of the Corporation were to be maintained, with specially numbered cupboards for different categories of material. There are many such examples, and the evidence for careful filing, arrangement and protection of records is often to be found, either in such minutes or notes, or in the physical form of documents themselves. One of my favourite examples of the latter is a Lancashire quarter sessions petition from the 1630s. Lancashire's sessions met in five different towns, and the papers are arranged accordingly—there are sixteen files per year (since Ormskirk and Wigan alternated, there were four sittings for each quarterly session). On one of the documents a careful seventeenth century clerk has written 'Here beginneth Preston'. That was his note to himself, reminding him of the order for filing the material and, 375 years later, that is still where the Preston sequence for that quarter begins. What a contrast to the attitude of the dolt who was clerk to the Gainsborough Guardians.
NEWS FROM LIBRARIES
Lancashire County Library and Information Servicehave launched Lancashire Lantern (Lancashire Life & Times E-Resource Network) and the Online Reference Library. Much of the information is available free of charge, and will be of interest to local and family historians. Lancashire Lantern has a Community Information link that provides access to details of local groups and societies, and a Local Resources link indexes can be found to local history society transactions, newspaper articles, some census records, obituaries, and armed forces press cuttings. In addition Lancashire Image Archive has collections of local photographs, postcards and other images of people, buildings, streets, transport, celebrations and much more. www.lantern.lancashire.gov.uk/ Butler Border Library in the Old Gaol, Hexham, has received the papers of David Jennings, past chairman of Hexham Local History Society, and author of 'Hexham 1854 – 1939', a scholarly and definitive history of local government in Hexham. David spent many hours at Northumberland Record Office, and other repositories during research for the book. He has deposited 63 lever arch files, and 20 tubes of maps and plans. The papers include information on buildings, education, finance, local government, and health, among many other topics. The contents are being listed, and will go on the website. Contact Fiona Lockhart at the Border Museum 652351. The Heritage Council of Ireland has awarded a grant to the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle, under its Museums and Archives programme. It will be used to rehouse the library's Arabic manuscript collection. A major project to produce a new and comprehensive catalogue of the collection is already under way, funded in part by the Getty Foundation. The Chester Beatty Library is now seeking additional private funding to continue this project and to treat those manuscripts in need of conservation. The Heritage Council of Ireland has awarded a generous grant to the Library to support its participation in the Council's standards and accreditation scheme for museums. James Scannell, an authority on local history in Ireland, kindly functions as BALH's honorary Irish correspondent and supplies the news of developments in local history across the Irish Sea, such as the paragraph above. He is currently seeking information on Private Denis Dempsey, who was born at Rathmichael, Shankill, County Dublin, in 1826; won the Victoria Cross in the Indian Mutiny; and died at Toronto, Canada on 10 January 1896. James Scannell, 19 Hazelwood, Shankill, Dublin 18, Ireland (email@example.com)
NEWS FROM MUSEUMS
Sports Heritage Network is a partnership of sports-based museums and academics established three years ago to maximise the potential of the country's sports heritage. The network is funded through the Renaissance programme of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and recently commissioned a report detailing the significant collections that are held in the public domain for 59 sports, located in national specialist sports museums, regional museums, libraries and archives. Also published are recommendations for the future, including proposals on contemporary collecting, displays and exhibitions. Above all, it highlights how the London 2012 Olympics will be a major opportunity for the sports and heritage sector to cooperate. The Arts and Humanities Research Council has awarded £25,000 to De Montfort University for a series of seminars on sports heritage to be held over the next two years, organised by Professor Jeff Hill. Sports Heritage Network contact M Rowe, River and Rowing Museum 01491 415643 www.mla.giv.uk Amongst the programme at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery is 'Unearthing our Past: Brighton and Hove Archaeology Society 1906 – 2006, which runs from 12 September 2006 to 25 March 2007. Curated by members, the display shows how the society has evolved over the last century, both as a group and in the recording of the archaeology and history of the city. Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton BN1 1EE www.brighton-hove.gov.uk Sunderland Museumhave recently bought an important engraved armorial cut-glass table service, dating from 1815-25, produced at the Wear Flint Glass Works in Sunderland. This is known as the Darnell Service and was produced at the zenith of the company's activities when they were producing services for the Londonderrys and the Lambtons among others. At over 400 pieces in size and a great variety of shapes it is perhaps the largest and most complete surviving glass table service attributed to the Sunderland glass works, and may well be one of the most extensive produced in England in the early 19th century. The service appears to have been ordered to celebrate the union of the Darnell and Mowbray business families who we involved in the development of the East Durham coalfield around 1820. Cleveland and Teeside Local History Society Newsletter No 82 May 2006 When the Museum of Knots and Sailors' Ropework, Ipswich, opened ten years ago visitors came from as far as the Netherlands, Germany, and New Zealand. Its enthusiastic and knowledgeable owners, Des and Liz Pawson, have the developed the collection over many years. They believe passionately that the world should recognise the art and skill of knots and sailors' ropework, and give due note to the importance of rope throughout the history of mankind. The current displays include a wide range of ropes, items made from rope, tools and equipment, and there is a reserve collection for those interested in exploring an aspect in greater depth together with a unique library for reference. Mr Pawson received a Bob Harding Grant which allowed him to attend an international conference which resulted in an invitation to attend others, and in the publication of an academic paper. AIM Association of Independent Museums, June 2006 www.museums.org.uk/aim