ANSWERING THE CRITICS
The questionnaire recently sent out to our members produced interesting and challenging results. I was delighted that so many readers approved of, and gave high marks to, The Local Historian (many thanks for that vote of confidence). But there were criticisms, and I'd like to address two of these now. A number of readers complained, with varying degrees of forcefulness, about the regional imbalance of articles, and also about the lack of chronological balance. To assess this evidence, I looked at the last ten years' worth of articles (volumes 27-36 inclusive, February 1997 to the present November 2006 issue) and analysed their geographical focus and the historical period which they cover. It is obvious that coverage is indeed uneven. Six pre-1974 English counties (such as Cumberland and Northamptonshire) have no article, and several others (such as Cornwall, Wiltshire and Suffolk) have one, or a shared paper. Conversely, and not entirely unexpectedly, others, such as Greater London, Lancashire, Norfolk and Yorkshire are especially favoured. Wales is poorly represented, with only three articles (none relating to mid- or north Wales). Scotland has only four articles in total, and there are four for Ireland, which admittedly is not part of Britain. In terms of chronological scope, the results are also interesting. Several people observed and apparent absence of medieval material, but the graph shows (unexpectedly, I think) that the least well-represented period is in fact the sixteenth century—very surprising, in view of its enduring popular appeal. The dominance of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries is extremely clear and I suppose should occasion no great surprise. There is no doubt that there is a geographical and a chronological skew to articles in The Local Historian, but what can be done about it (assuming that this is perceived as a problem, which it may not be to other readers)? Some of you expressly asked 'Why can't we have more articles about [for example'>more... the West Country' or 'the medieval and early medieval periods'. The answer is that the journal is very heavily dependent upon the unsolicited submission of articles for consideration and, to my regret, I scarcely ever receive articles on pre-1700 subjects, and in my five years as editor have never had a contribution about, for example, Cornwall or Cumberland. Ideally, I could commission articles on, say, seventeenth century Herefordshire, or late medieval North Wales or … the list is endless … but the reality is that commissioning articles is itself problematic and is therefore the exception. There is a very good reason for this—namely that, in common with almost all other journals, The Local Historian does not pay its contributors. It is very difficult to request someone to write 7000 words of academically-sound, properly researched and accessible text on a specialised subject and by a certain date, and then give them no payment. Most journal editors, other than those involved in glossy commercial publications, have the same problem. Another difficulty is that those whom I might potentially commission to write articles are rarely in a position to undertake such projects, because of heavy pressures of time and workload. In the past, for example, academic historians could write for journals such as this because their timetables were far more flexible, their students far fewer in number, and such writing was seen as a worthwhile and important part of their work. Today, very few academics are allowed such freedom and liberty. The articles which are published in The Local Historian are therefore, with comparatively few exceptions, submitted to me by authors who feel that they have a contribution to make to our knowledge and understanding of local history (especially with case studies which illuminate broader issues and themes). Some, of course, are academic historians, but many are 'amateur' researchers, or students who have completed dissertations as part of local history courses. I would love to publish articles on those parts of the country which have been neglected in our pages, or on medieval and early modern themes, but my ability to do so depends in large measure upon the supply of material. The gaps and imbalances are the consequence not of my own bias or preferences as an editor, but because they reflect the material which is sent to me. So, I'd like to take this opportunity to give wholehearted and enthusiastic encouragement to anyone working on medieval or early modern topics, or working in parts of Britain that appear to be neglected, to consider writing a paper for possible publication. Of those papers submitted, about three-quarters are accepted for the journal. I am always very happy to suggest improvements, to undertake detailed editorial work, to help to shape an article so that it reaches the widest possible readership and, if ultimately it is not really suitable for this journal, to propose alternative ways of publishing. If you feel there are gaps in what appears in TLH, and you have material which might help to fill them, why not get in touch? It doesn't even have to be an article that's already written—send me an idea, or a synopsis, and I will comment on it and give advice.
THE NATIONAL METROROLOGICAL ARCHIVE
'In January there was warmth, with moderate dryness, and in the previous winter there had not been any considerable cold or humidity, but more dryness and warmth. In February, during the first week there was moderate frost, and after an interval of 3 days there was slight frost for another week. In March .....'This is the beginning of the earliest known weather journal, kept by Rev. William Merle, Rector of Driby, Lincolnshire. From January 1337 he kept a brief account (in Latin) of the weather conditions experienced month by month, sometimes in Lincolnshire, and at other times in Oxford. There is greater detail in the later years, but the record ended abruptly on 10 January, 1344. More than 500 years later, in 1854, the Meteorological Office began life as a tiny department within the Board of Trade, under the leadership of Admiral FitzRoy (perhaps better known as commander of HMS Beagle, which took Darwin on his famous round-the-world voyage of discovery, between 1831 and 1836). An international conference in Brussels the previous year had agreed to adopt a uniform method for the making and recording of weather observations by ships at sea. It was hoped that free exchange of this information would increase knowledge of prevailing winds and sea currents and improve the profitability of trade routes, by reducing shipping losses due to storms. The meteorological department's two main functions were to • supply meteorological instruments, instructions and registers to ships via the ports; • compile statistical summaries from the completed registers of observations. No forecasts were issued at this stage. However, in 1859 a ship – the Royal Charter – was lost in a terrible storm off Anglesey and 459 people died. FitzRoy began using the collected observations to produce storm warnings (a mixture of drums and cones hoisted at the entrances of ports and harbours to warn ships of impending storms). FitzRoy also started producing weather forecasts, which were published in the national newspapers from 1861. This didn't go down well with his bosses, who felt that he had exceeded his original remit; following FitzRoy's suicide in 1865, storm warnings and weather forecasts were suspended. A year later, as a result of public outcry simplified versions of the port storm warnings were reinstated, but routine weather forecasts were not resumed for another 13 years The first official mention of the Met Office having a library was in the Report of the Met Committee of the Royal Society for 1870: “In consequence of the constant reference which is made of the Office for information on meteorological questions, it has been endeavoured to collect a small library containing the standard works on meteorology and the subjects allied to that science." In 1910 when the office moved to South Kensington (next door to the Science Museum), a central feature of the new building was a fine library and museum for the office's growing collection of books and instruments. What about archives? While published material and instruments were given pride of place, unfortunately the same could not be said of original records. The 1911 Annual Report of the Met Committee stated: “The accumulation of meteorological records of all kinds made at the office during the last 55 years has proved more difficult of accommodation than had been anticipated. The boxes of exposed sunshine cards alone form a wall 50 feet long, 10 feet high and 14 inches thick, and already the storage room is found to be filled. The question as to the future policy in regard to this accumulation is one of some difficulty." In January 1912 The Commission on Public Records identified four types of public record held by the Meteorological Office: 1) Records of scientific observations at the office and its observatories, dating back to 1868 2) Meteorological registers from stations in the British Isles and British possessions 3) Meteorological logs specially prepared on board certain ships 4) Charts and schedules of the Daily Weather Service dating back to 1860. On 29 April 1914 the Meteorological Office accepted responsibility as custodian of appropriate Public Records. The archive collection continued to grow as the Meteorological Office took over the weather observing station networks from organisations such as the Royal Meteorological Society, Scottish Meteorological Society and British Rainfall Organisation. In the 1960s the new Meteorological Office Headquarters at Bracknell, Berkshire, included the National Meteorological Library. The archive collections were also brought together as the National Meteorological Archive. This decision had been given further impetus by the 1958 Public Records Act, which required more stringent practices concerning the selection and retention of records, as well as public access. In 2003 the Met Office relocated to a new building in Exeter, Devon, which, again, included the National Meteorological Library, which is still open to the public. A new archive was also being built for Devon Record Office, just across the road from the Met Office HQ, and both parties quickly realised the benefits of sharing the new building. The Devon Record Office and National Meteorological Archive were officially opened by HRH Princess Anne in December 2004. The National Meteorological Archive is one of the most comprehensive collections on meteorology in the world. It includes: • The published UK Daily Weather Report from 1860 onwards, containing a daily summary of the general weather conditions, reports from specific stations and, from 1872 onwards, a simplified weather chart. We also hold collections of similar reports from around the world. • Daily weather diaries kept by private individuals, some of which date back to the 18th century. These include Admiral Beaufort's diaries where he first wrote down his famous Beaufort scale for estimating wind force. • Daily hand-drawn and analysed weather maps from 1867 onwards including those drawn prior to the D-Day landings in June 1944. From these, Dr James Stagg, senior forecaster, advised General Eisenhower of a temporary improvement in weather conditions, allowing the invasion to proceed. • Ships meteorological logs from 1855 onwards, including the weather log from HMS Prince of Wales, when she attacked the German destroyer, Bismarck, in May 1941. • Daily climate data from weather stations in England and Wales from the 1870s to the present day, as well as some overseas stations (mainly former British colonies). Elements include daily rainfall, temperature, wind and sunshine. • Hourly weather data from aerodromes in England and Wales from the 1930s to the 1990s. Elements include pressure, temperature, wind, visibility and cloud amount. The large number of records from the Second World War have provided a rich source of information for historians researching this period. A wide variety of researchers can and do use our records. For example, family historians can discover the weather conditions on a day that a relative was born, and novelists can ensure that when a certain date is described as 'wet and windy' it is accurate. While we encourage enquirers to visit us and browse through the collections, staff also answer many requests by post, telephone and email. The National Meteorological Library and Archive catalogue is available at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/library/catalogue.html Weather records from stations in Scotland are kept at the Scottish Meteorological Archive in Edinburgh. They are also open to the public –but visitors must telephone in advance on 0131 528 7311. Ian MacGregor National Meteorological Archive Great Moor House Bittern Road Sowton Exeter EX2 7NL Email: email@example.com Telephone: 01392 360987
A LOCAL HISTORY PARTNERSHIP
Dorothy Lockwood takes great pride in her position as President of the Essex Archaeological and Historical Congress. She has been connected to that organisation for many years, serving as its Hon Secretary and Chairman before taking on her current role. Her particular interest has focused on the individual local societies that make up the Congress, and it is there at the grass roots that she has worked to promote both the subject, and the Congress and its achievements. These societies, numbering about 80, include groups concerned with archaeology, family history, and museums as well as local history. This experience has also enabled her to give support to the Victoria County History of Essex, and to advise on the formation of the Norfolk Archaeological and Historical Association, as well as assisting the Essex Journal. Much of Dorothy Lockwood's involvement with local history research, writing, and publication came through working with her husband, Herbert Hope Lockwood (1917 – 2004). She assisted with the preparation of lectures, exhibitions, articles and books, from the initial unearthing of sources to the selection of illustrations, and marketing the finished product. Their long and productive partnership resulted in more than 20 volumes over nearly 40 years. Bert Lockwood was a BALH Council member for a considerable time, and Dorothy regularly accompanied him to Association events. Mrs Lockwood has a long-standing involvement in the societies closest to her home – Ilford Historical Society and Barking & District Historical Society, and she is a founder member of The Friends of ILford Hospital Chapel. This, and her membership of an amazing variety of other groups has given her knowledge and understanding of the workings of local history in Essex that she has used with great enthusiasm to raise the awareness of local people in their history. Dorothy Lockwood was presented with a 2006 BALH award in recognition of her own personal contribution, but this also permits the Association to acknowledge Bert Lockwood's long service to Essex local history.
'LOCAL HISTORIANS SHOULD GET TOGETHER'
Paul Anderton comes from Halifax, but lives in North Staffordshire, and his achievements as a local historian mirror many aspects of life in his adopted region. The politics of the Potteries, silk, agriculture, music, markets, and natural history all feature in his work. During a long and distinguished career in education as a school teacher and college, university and WEA lecturer Paul encouraged numerous students to pursue the delights of local history. He has not forgotten, as a post-graduate trainee teacher, being given the task of defending the place of history in the school curriculum, and later, working at Madeley College of Education where great emphasis was placed on local studies, he had the challenging job of introducing local history to intending secondary school teachers. Retirement has not prevented Paul Anderton from continuing to be motivated by what he describes as 'a consistent driving force … a belief in the importance of studying the history of particular localities'. He has committed his time to both wide-ranging research in local history, and to sharing his enthusiasm with others to encourage them to become actively involved. Paul has been a prime mover in founding several local groups studying specific areas, including Leek and Whitchurch. He writes that 'meeting a wide range of people and listening to their accounts of discoveries, discussing solutions to their difficulties, and admiring their finished work are among the joys of involvement with history societies.' One of Paul's particular skills that is much appreciated is the ability to help others achieve the highest possible standards of scholarly research, debate, and writing. His work as an editor, creating a coherent whole from the cooperative efforts of a group of volunteers, has produced some highly praised publications. These include the occasional series ofChronicles for Leek and District Historical Society, of which three issues stand out: Leek and the Home Front 1939-45, William Morris and Leek, and Leek Market. Paul's reputation as an author has attracted commissions that represented a special kind of challenge, the subjects being outside his own spread of interests. The success ofCeramic City Choir and Trentham Golf Club: Centenary 1894-1994 demonstrated that a historian's skills can transcend personal involvement. Communication is clearly one of his great strengths; he has video productions, appearances on radio programmes, specialised academic articles, and popular talks to his credit. The North Staffordshire Historians' Guild was founded, largely on Paul's initiative, in 2000 and, as a result of his tireless work organising speakers, publishing a newsletter, and injecting rigorous, questioning, and good-humoured debate into its meetings, it is flourishing today. He believes strongly that 'local historians should get together to test their ideas and rub off their prejudices in informal exchanges and constructive debates', and this is the Guild's role. It 'acts like a market where information is moved around and new activities stimulated'. Paul's innovative approach to fund-raising thought up the Guild's 24-hour marathon non-stop lecture series, with 24 speakers sponsored to take part! The results were great fun for all involved and £4,500 for the 'Saving Sutherland Appeal'.* Paul Anderton has had a life-long commitment to local history. His teaching and the impressive list of authored or edited publications to his name would be enough for many. But, in addition, he has devoted his time to encouraging others to discover the history of their locality via the excitement of research, the challenge of debate, and the satisfaction of sharing the outcome. *see LHN 79 p 25 and 80 p 9 '>more...
Wikipedia: A research source and a way of sharing your findings. Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/ ) is an online encyclopaedia which anyone can edit. It contains a wide range of information which is likely to be of interest to local historians and also provides an opportunity to share information about your particular interests with a very wide audience. About Wikipedia Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has rapidly grown into the largest reference website on the Internet, currently with over 1 million pages of information in the English version. The content is free, written collaboratively by people from all around the world. Wikipedia uses a simple page layout to allow editors to concentrate on adding material rather than page design. It has robust version and reversion controls, which means that poor quality edits or vandalism can quickly and easily be reversed or brought up to an appropriate standard by any other editors, so inexperienced editors cannot accidentally do permanent harm if they make a mistake in their editing. As there are many more editors intent upon good quality articles than any other kind, articles that are poorly edited are usually corrected rapidly. Wikipedia's greatest strengths, weaknesses and differences arise because it is open to anyone, has a large contributor base, and articles are written by consensus according to editorial guidelines and policies. This means that it is less susceptible to retaining bias, is very hard for any group to censor, and is far more responsive to new information, and it is more easily vandalized or susceptible to unchecked. In three years the usage of Wikipedia has grown massively placing it in the top 20 accessed sites on the web, which, along with the number of incoming links from other web pages, means that it is rated highly in Google searches and is more likely to be found by any users looking for information that topic. My experience When I first visited wikipedia I looked at the very limited information on the village in which I live and information about the local area, to which we had moved a few years before. As there was little available and I used some books from the local library to add further information about the old mine workings I the area and the Chew Valley Lake, which is really a reservoir built in the 1950's. This led me to find out more about both the wildlife and archeological surveys and excavations which had been undertaken during the construction which demonstrated Neolithic, Roman and more recent occupation. The chew valley lake page, with the addition of some photographs, map and further text from other users reached “Featured Article" status and appeared on the front page to be seen by thousands of other users around the world. From this beginning I started looking at other local villages, industries, historic houses and famous residents of the valley, and asked the local history society to check what I had written and add more information of their own. From the Chew Valley my interest has widened to include the nearby city of Bristol and the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Quality and Bias Because the articles are free to all and can be edited by anyone there are a lot of discussions about the quality of the material. There have been studies which suggest that Wikipedia is broadly as reliable as Encyclopedia Brittanica, however this varies widely amongst the articles and topic areas. As with any source it should be read with caution, but at least on Wikipedia you can do something about poor quality which is not often possible elsewhere. All Wikipedia articles must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing views fairly and without bias. Although this is not easy you can learn to do it. If you let your biases show someone will fairly soon point it out to you (generally very politely), or edit whatever you have written to present a more balanced picture. It is also recommended practice to cite your sources with a designated referencing format, which provides further links when someone wants to research the topic in more depth than the Wikipedia article can include. Thankfully blatant advertising is banned.Copyright and Licensing Wikipedia contributions are voluntarily given under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL), which applies the legal principle known as copyleft, a way of using the copyright process to prevent information being controlled by any one person, to ensure it remains freely accessible forever. It also means that anyone can take anything you contribute to Wikipedia and use it themselves as long as they comply with rules about citing the source and making their work freely available. How you can help If you are novice user of Wikipedia, it's worth taking a look just to see what other people are writing about topics that are of interest to you, whether that is your local town or village, historic houses, famous people, occupations or periods in history from the Neolithic to very recent history. Of course you might want to visit articles on some other interest, hobby, sport, profession etc, it's unlikely you will find a topic without an article. If you spot errors or can add other useful & unbiased information click on the edit tab and have a go. For the photographers - you can also upload photographs to illustrate the articles. More experienced Wikipedians may like to get involved in projects to improve the quality of whole groups of pages or help sorting categories or lists. Some users also dedicate themselves to anti-vandalism, attempting to rapidly revise spurious deleterious edits by others. What you get out of it You will not get any monetary reward for your efforts; however you will find a supportive group of people for whom collaboration is a way of working and, occasionally, grateful thanks from readers who have found your contributions useful. It is also a way of meeting people with similar interests to your own and share your learning and resources.
Gordon Stephen is an amateur historian and a web designer. Frustrated by failing to find local history material on the web, he set about working on a system that would enable poeple to publish their own material online. Given the comments we have had from other readers in recent issues of Local History News about the importace of local historians sharing the results of their research, this is a development to be welcomed, and provides an interesting alternative to Wikipedia described above. Web Historian was created by an amateur historian, for use by amateur historians, with the aim of providing them with a free means of publishing their work for everyone to enjoy. Web Historian is basically a collection of micro websites. Individual contributors are given their own site to use as they want. Access and editing is via a standard web browser so no special tools or knowledge are required. Although Web Historian doesn't have the same universal take-up that Wikipedia has, it can still offer a few advantages for those working on historical projects. Unlike the Wikipedia system, with Web Historian, individual editors remain in full control of their material. Pages can only be edited by their owner. Wikipedia, on the other hand, encourages widespread participation, and in general anyone can edit any page. I wouldn't want my carefully researched material being modified. One Wikipedian page shows ".. built in the 1920's using World War 2 tank traps as building blocks." Material published on Wikipedia is placed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Work can therefore be copied and used by anyone else and it can even be published by them. With Web Historian, copyright remains with the original copyright owner. Web Historian has the potential to develop into an extensive body of historical work. Through it, material that might otherwise never have reached the general public can be enjoyed by everyone. It is still in its early stages, but is fully functional and contains some example sites that demonstrate what can be done for local hisory. Readers are encouraged to look at these, and to contact me if they are interested in discussing Web Historian further. www.webhistorian.co.uk firstname.lastname@example.org
FONTMELL MAGNA VILLAGE ARCHIVE SOCIETY
In 1988 an historical exhibition was held here to celebrate the 1100th anniversary year of what (we then thought) was the first recorded mention of our village. We now know that in fact Fontmell was mentioned in a Saxon charter of 759, so perhaps in three years time we might want to celebrate our 1250th aniversary. Over 200 items were collected for display and by the end of the 10-day exhibition nearly double this number were brought in by intrigued visitors. The opportunity was taken to record all these new discoveries and many were eventually donated to the organisers. This formed the basis of our present collection, which 18 years later now totals some 2500 items, all solely to do with Fontmell Magna, a parish of some 320 homes. The Archive Society was formally constituted in 1999 and in due couse we were fortunate to receive a three-year grant from the Local Heritage Initiative (now the Heritage Lottery Fund) which enabled us to expand our activities in several directions – exhibitions, publications, regular workshops, more sophisticated cataloguing and preservation techniques, and crucially, the development of our own website. We were able to attract further funding from LHI and launched our website in the summer of 2004 with some home pages and a couple of articles. Since then we have published another 27 web articles, averaging just over one a month. You can see from the titles that there is a wide range of interests covered in this format: Methodist Churches in Fontmell Magna Parish; The Vicarage Tea Party 1923; The Parish Council in 1894; Fontmell Magna in 1915; The Origins of the Clothing Club in 1859; Coronation Celebrations in 1937; The Introduction of Tollgates in the Village; Blandford's Farm and the Chick Family; the Role of Water Mills in Fontmell Magna; The Lost Cottages of Fontmell Magna; St Andrew's Primary School; Then and Now changes in Village Architecture; Cottage Book Survey, 1883; The 1926 Glyn Sale; Three Generations of Tailors; The Edwards Family; Social Welfare in the 19th century; The Salkeld Family; Fontmell Policemen; The First 60 years of the Parish Council; Guest article from Clayesmore School; The Mystery of the Mayo Family; Village life 140 years ago; Was there a Roman Villa in Fontmell?; Memories of a Fontmell-born inhabitant; Looking for your Fontmell antecedents?; Fontmell marriages in local parishes; A 20th century Domesday Book; 18th century tourists in Dorset.Perhaps the most important things we have learnt from this experience are: • Web articles are essentially visual, demanding a good balance of text and images • They need to express the variety of interests of our members • You need a good web designer – we had one in the village! • Opportunities for collaboration in our monthly workshops are essential • The web creates a two-way exchange of ideas and information • Interest in Fontmell is strong in Canada, the USA and Australia and so we need to explain locations very clearly • Members need to take on specific responsibilities – we now have a publications manager, an exhibitions manager and a website manager • Not everyone is connected to the internet, and so hard copy versions, perhaps in the form of anthologies, need to be made widely available We have now produced a dozen books and pamphlets, and since 2004 we have published every three months a bulletin (in colour with pictures) which is delivered to every house in the village.
LOCAL HISTORY AND THE NEW HUMANITIES COLLEGES
The mission of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust is to build a world-class network of innovative, high-performing secondary schools in partnership with business and the wider community. The Trust is at the heart of a network of over 3,000 affiliated English secondary schools, including the new humanities colleges. The network includes the most innovative high-performing secondary schools in England. The first specialist humanities colleges were designated in 2004. There are currently 121 designated specialist humanities colleges, including 30 schools combining humanities with another specialism such as technology or arts. 72 schools have chosen to use history as a lead subject. These schools, usually 11-18 schools, teach the whole national curriculum but are given extra funding by the DfES to develop innovative history work both within the school and with the community. Many of these schools take a keen interest in local history. For example, in Torquay, Torquay Grammar School for Girls is working with the National Trust to train guides. In Sunderland, St Robert of Newminster School has run courses for older residents to research their family and local history. Bury Church of England school is working with its local museum. The head of History, Mr Kanter reports: “The History department and History Club have been busy developing links with Bury Museum. Our History Club visits the museum once a fortnight. We analyse artefacts from the Victorian period, World War I & II. The History Department has been privileged to host the museum's 'Visitor Assistants' in school. The VAs have observed lessons and led practical workshops of object handling and investigation." Humanities colleges share their expertise and links in a range of ways including showcasing at the annual humanities conference which will take place in York in June 2007, the Trust's website and through the Trust's newsletters which go out to over 3,000 secondary schools. To find the humanities colleges in your area consult the DfEs and Trust websites. For more information contact Jacqueline Anthony at email@example.com http://www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/specialistschools/ http://www.specialistschools.org.uk/ www.tggs.torbay.sch.uk/ www.strobert.co.uk/ www.burychurch.bury.sch.uk/ -
FAMILY RECORDS CENTRE
The National Archives has announced plans to close the Family Records Centre which opened less than 10 years ago (in March 1997) to a fanfare of plaudits. 'This exciting joint venture has given us the opportunity to offer a much improved service to readers' said the PRO. Others agreed. The FRC won an award sponsored by Pricewaterhouse Coopers for the Best Agency – Innovation and Achievement. It also won the first Prince Michael of Kent award for family history. In reporting the nomination the PRO described it as 'a shining example of “joined up" government in action and a model for other national archives.' So why is it to close? Does it matter? And why has the decision been taken without even the pretence of user consultation? When the news first broke a straw poll of an admittedly small group of family historians in the common room of the Society of Genealogists expressed a mixture of reactions. For some of them the ability to consult censuses online meant that the closure of the FRC was not a big issue. When asked TNA confirmed that it believed that the demand for onsite services is falling because of the provision of online services. It also helpfully provided user figures for the FRC since it opened in 1997. These do indeed clearly show a decline in usage since the peak of 2002-3. But hang on! Isn't the peak of 2002-3 due to the release of the 1901 census? Doesn't received wisdom indicate that there is an established pattern of a mid decade decline in census usage? A request for information about census attendances back to 1970 is being treated as an FOI request. I suspect this means that TNA itself has not looked at pre 1997 figures –ironic given its new role in managing government information. Rather than wait, I have trawled through back copies of the Annual Reports of the Keeper of Public Records (an interesting exercise in glossification in its own right). Before 1989 usage figures were based on the numbers of microfilms produced rather than attendance. With the introduction of self service in 1989, usage figures switched to attendance. Despite their different approaches to measuring usage, there is a clear pattern of peaks in the year after a census release followed by a decline to mid decade and then a revival of interest in the second half of the decade in anticipation of the next census release. If this pattern holds good, then one would expect an increase in usage either from 2007 or from 2008 as interest in the release of the 1911 census grows. And grow it will, if only because over the next few years more and more users will become aware of that the detail contained in the 1911 returns is significantly more informative than previous census releases. The figures also suggest that the underlying trend in usage is up – each mid decade decline settles at a higher level than the one before. Given the popularity and huge impact of programmes like Who do you think you are? it is difficult to believe that this pattern will change. Of course what is really different in the early 21st century is the ability to deliver services remotely. TNA is obviously gambling that remote delivery will replace onsite demand, but even if demand is halved – which seems a fairly ambitious target – we are looking at the possibility that Kew will have to find room for some 70,000-75,000 additional visitors a year, as well as space for the microfilm and finding aids currently housed at the FRC. In answer to my specific queries, TNA does yet not know where FRC materials will be located at Kew or how it will deal with coach parties (34 to the FRC and 46 to Kew in the past year). TNA claims that reader numbers have not exceeded seats available at Kew in recent years, although it does admit to 'occasional short term shortages in particular areas.' Regular users of Kew will be heartened to learn that all those peak period tannoy announcements imploring readers to give up their seats in favour of new arrivals were actually unnecessary. Or perhaps they would simply point out that what matters is whether sufficient seats are available in the required reading room. Shortage of seats in 'particular areas' can still wreck a day's research. Some might even add that already space for reading large documents is cramped. The more general answer is that TNA will 'review all aspects of our Kew facilities and services – including the number of parking bays for coaches , the deployment of staff, the size and layout of enquiry areas and reading rooms and the provision of appropriate information and advice to visitors with different needs. We shall do this in consultation with our stakeholders – individual and institutional, family historians and academics, amateurs and professionals. We intend to make improvements for all categories of visitor.' A longer version of this article was published inArchives for London Newsletter 3 Summer 2006 and is reproduced here with thanks
A response from Heather Falvey to David Boote's letter in Local History News 80 (Summer 2006) concerning her review of Bob Trubshaw, How to Write and Publish Local and Family History Successfully that was published in The Local Historian, vol. 36, no. 2, May 2006, pp.130,131. From the detailed advice given by Bob Trubshaw in his book, it is clear that self-publication is not a cheap enterprise. It is also clear that a great deal of work needs to be put into marketing a book in order to sell it: actually producing it is, in some respects, the easy part. This being the case, I wondered whether the self-publisher would be able to arouse sufficient interest in their book to recoup their outlay through sales. This is, after all, the risk that a commercial publisher takes for an author. David Boote is, of course, correct in urging researchers to deposit a copy of their work in the relevant record office and/or local studies library and, indeed, publishing that work on the internet would make it available literally to the whole world. The purpose of any researcher who publishes their work is to share their findings with others. It is important, however, that local historians remember that they have two (usually distinct) readerships: firstly, interested local inhabitants, and secondly, historians. The latter comprise not only historians of other localities but also historians of specific aspects of past society. Both groups frequently wish to consult the sources used in a piece of local history to see whether these contains further information relevant to their own work; frustratingly, however, historians of all kinds sometimes fail to provide references for their sources. There is an unacceptable argument against references, namely that they 'put ordinary readers off'. Footnotes do not have to be long: the repository name, reference number and date are sufficient. Endnotes make references even less obtrusive. If a piece of historical writing does not give the sources for the information being conveyed, it is not a useful work of reference for others but, at best, an interesting read. Incidentally, six of the twenty book reviews in the May and August 2006 issues of The Local Historian specifically remarked on the virtual or complete lack of references in the local history book in question. For example, 'a more generous use of footnotes would attract more academic interest'. (Inga Volmer, The Local Historian, vol. 36, no.3, p.205.) Local history should attract the attentions of locals and historians alike.
MAPPING THE PAST
A welcome development in recent years has been the publication of historical atlases for English counties and other geographical areas. This has often been undertaken under the auspices of county local history organisations and, increasingly, in conjunction with commercial publishers who can offer a very high standard of production, thus combining visual quality with solid and reliable academic input. While a considerable number of counties remain unmapped, the trend shows no sign of slowing down and it is to be hoped that in due course all will have been covered either individually or as part of regional atlases. Of the latter, perhaps the most impressive is the superb Historical Atlas of South-West England, edited by Roger Kain and William Ravenhill and published by the University of Exeter Press in 1999. With 564 large format pages, and 65 sections, each of which covers several pages, it is a remarkable and enduring piece of scholarship which can be read as well as quarried. That atlas covers the two historic counties of Devon and Cornwall, neither of which has suffered significantly altered boundaries over the past thousand years, and that gives it a very strong geographical basis. More curious in that respect is the beautiful Historical Atlas of North Yorkshire, edited by Robin Butlin and published by Westbury in 2003. The oddity there is that unit chosen is the post-1974 county of North Yorkshire, from which the City of York was subsequently shorn although it retains its place in the area covered by the atlas. The problem is that North Yorkshire thus defined is historically anomalous, since it does not correspond with the pre-1974 North Riding. It includes the extensive rural parts of the former West Riding, and some of the old East Riding, but it lacks, for example, the Cleveland and Middlesbrough area, Bowland and Sedbergh which were transferred to Lancashire and Cumbria respectively, and the Yorkshire side of Upper Teesdale (now in Durham). Yet it includes a long tongue stretching south to Selby and beyond, the bit that was left over after the unlamented Humberside and the metropolitan county of West Yorkshire were created. It thus makes little sense in historical terms and, should counties be abolished as before long they might, the atlas coverage may stand testimony to the ephemerality of late twentieth century administrative uncertainties. Nonetheless, it is a splendid book and lavishly illustrated with full colour throughout. In contrast to this, An Historical Atlas of Norfolk, published by Phillimore in 2005, is fortunate in dealing with a county which experienced relatively little change in 1974. The transfer from Suffolk to Norfolk of some parishes on the edge of Great Yarmouth was the only major alteration in boundaries—indeed, the only major change in the past millennium. The editors sensibly chose the pragmatic approach, recognising both the old Norfolk and also its slightly modified successor. The mapping of this, the fifth largest English county, is notably challenging because there were over 700 medieval parishes, more than in any other English county—I have a strong personal awareness of this, since I drew the parish map which was used as the basis of the first edition of the atlas and the jigsaw puzzle of almost-always small units was fascinating to construct. The very density of administrative areas represents not only a challenge but also a major advantage, allowing mapping at an unusually detailed level. The recent edition of the atlas (an earlier version appeared in 1993) has been attractively produced by Phillimore in a combination of black, greys and reds (also used, for example, in their atlas of Sussex). The particularly impressive feature of the Norfolk atlas is the remarkable range and diversity of subjects which have been portrayed. There are 93 separate sections, occupying two or three pages each, and with the now-customary pattern of text on one side and map opposite forming the layout for the majority. They range in time from prehistory to the late twentieth century, although the past hundred years receives comparatively little coverage (only nine sections, of which three concerns defence installations in the two World Wars). The coverage of trades, crafts and industries is notably strong, a point of particular importance in a county all too easily, and incorrectly, dismissed as 'just farming'. Towns are also well-represented, with special sections on all the larger urban areas and, not unexpectedly, major attention to Norwich and its almost unequalled historical richness. Some of the sections are peculiarly Norfolk, reflecting its distinctive character—for example, that on rabbit warrens, which in most other counties would be of minor significance at best, or those on the Broads and on the dramatic 1549 Kett's rebellion. Others are of the type which would find a place in any county atlas—Poor Law Unions and workhouses, demographic change, monasteries, castles, the Roman period and ecclesiastical jurisdictions. Clearly any successful atlas should combine the predictable standards and the special themes of the local community or region, and the Norfolk atlas achieves this very well. Any serious user of a work such as this needs some guidance on following up the information contained in the short 'text plus map' section. Given the extremely condensed nature of the descriptive and analytical essays, it is important that the bibliography should be carefully chosen. Referencing, in the sense of footnotes or endnotes, is rarely practicable because of space constraints—better to include a few more maps than pages of notes—but here the 'further reading' is sensibly chosen, with between five and twenty titles of published works and (sometimes) unpublished sources which have been used. Commendably, quite a few of the sources listed are articles in local, regional and national journals, a valuable way of encouraging readers to explore beyond the straightforward book and to investigate other secondary sources. The contributors (there are 63) include not only historians but also local government officers, archaeologists, history teachers, museum staff, writers and environmentalists, making it clear that the editors, Trevor Ashwin and Alan Davison, drew upon the widest possible range of skills and specialisms in compiling the book. It is always possible to find reasons to quibble—my personal peevishness is that the section on twentieth century roads appears to draw heavily on my own work, published in 1989 but unacknowledged except for a statement that there are 'a few references' to the subject in the relevant volume (it was actually a detailed 10-page essay). But that is unworthy grumbling on my part—overall, this is a very fine achievement and it maintains the excellent standard which those county atlases published by Phillimore have established. At £30 it is not cheap, but as a work of reference it will have great and lasting value.
TRY FOR YOURSELF
The Coracle J GERAINT JENKINS Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2006 £7 ISBN 1 84527 045 2 Traditional Cheesemaking in Wales EURWEN RICHARDS Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2006 £5.50 ISBN 1 84527 047 9These two small volumes are numbers 5 and 6 in a series on Welsh Crafts that also includes works on other key resources for Wales – slate and wool, and well-known products – beer and carved wooden spoons. All have authoritative authors, are copiously illustrated in both black and white and colour, beautifully designed, and good value for money. The topics are placed in their historical and geographical contexts, and bring relevant issues right up to date. Bibliographies are provided for readers who wish to pursue a topic further. The author ofThe Coracle is the inaugural president of The Coracle Society, and this volume is actually a version of part of his seminal work Nets and Coracles originally published by the much-missed house of David & Charles. Reading about coracles, a powerful impression comes over of the minutiae of local variations in their construction methods, materials, and traditions. These apparently simple craft were highly specialised, and both their building and use demanded great skill. Having said that, it might be easier to make a coracle than to describe how to do it! The diagrams and other illustrations are, of course, very helpful. Although most of the people photographed are clearly from older generations, there are young people enjoying coracle regattas and 'fun-days' demonstrating that this is not a lost art. [there is a coracle making weekend at Weald & Downland Open Air Museum in April www.wealdown.co.uk'>more... Eurwen Richards has an international reputation as a cheese expert. She is also a skilled historian and author, as in Traditional Cheesemaking in Wales she has traced the history of cheesemaking from its earliest development, interweaving science, agriculture, technology, business, politics, and education all of which form part of the story. The influence of the Milk Marketing Board, wartime controls, and health and safety issues are explained clearly. It is sad to read that there was a time when 'Welsh cheese was labelled 'English': the word 'Welsh' ..seen as indicative of an inferior product'. Ms Richards' enthusiasm shines through when she discusses the recent resurgence in small-scale farmhouse cheesemaking; a directory of sources and contacts leads the reader to shops and markets to taste the products.
This evening I gave a talk to a local history society in which, among other subjects, rates of illegitimacy in the past were mentioned. Without really thinking about the implications, I proudly declared that quite a few of my ancestors were illegitimate—and I think I said it with such cheerfulness that I am now marked as shameless. Those blots on my escutcheon matter not at all to me (in fact they add greatly to its interest) but such a 'devil may care' attitude to, for example, my great-great grandmother's serious fall from grace contrasts with the feelings of those rather nearer her time. My mother recalls that the matter was Not Discussed In Front Of Children, and my grandfather was party to a rather odd semi-deception in which, while the illegitimacy was admitted, it was justified by the 'facts' that a) the father was from Aberdeen (which apparently made it less culpable, or at least more explicable) and b) he would have married the girl but he went to America to look for work and was drowned while returning across the Atlantic to claim her. I was greatly intrigued by all this as a child (I was particularly anxious to have a Scottish ancestor to add to the Welsh and Irish ones) and of course I did the family history research. Alas for romance, alas for my longed-for Highland, or even Aberdonian, blood! The 'girl' turned out to be 31 years old, and the romantic Scotsman with the tragic fate was actually from Rochdale, lived next door but one, and in the next census was still living there, only by that time he was accompanied by his wife and children (not, unfortunately, by my great-great grandmother and her children .. she had illegitimate twins by him, for goodness sake). This 'without shame' attitude to the wrong side of the blanket contrasts with that expressed by a person for whom, many years ago, I undertook some genealogical research. I discovered that his forebear, born in the 1833, was illegitimate. He replied by expressing his disgust, saying that he felt sick and ashamed and would be terminating all family history research at once. Some 150 years on, an ancestral lapse filled him with dismay and horror—not that he could do anything about it at that or any other distance. After all, what's done is done. On the other hand, an Australian lady whose ancestry I also researched was quite delighted to learn that back in the eighteenth century one of her forebears had had no fewer than eleven illegitimate children (the parish register dutifully recorded the numerous different putative fathers). The reply came from Australia by return: 'What a girl she must have been. I'm proud of her!' Another Australian client made his own shameless genealogical pursuit very clear: 'My wife has seven convict ancestors and I only have five, so I want to get even with her. Can you find me a couple more?' I rarely have time for family history these days, but the thrill of the chase is still there, and I love them all irrespective of morality or virtue. In fact, given that so many of my forebears over five centuries lived in and around Manchester, I would dearly love to find a link to one of my all-time favourite shameful characters, whose nickname would look wonderful on the family tree. In a quarter sessions petition of 1638 one Mary Cawdall (deceased), mother of a bastard child, was said to have been 'defamed and as supposed justly accused of incontinency with one Thomas Worsley of Blackley, alias Desperate Tom'.
NEWS FROM LIBRARIES
Two librarians at Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre have produced a new publication King's Cross a tour in time. They both have personal as well as professional interest in the area, and felt it was important to record, largely in historical pictures, an area that is changing so rapidly. They Centre's collections were trawled for images, and they also had help from the King's Cross Voices Oral History Project. The latest book from the Camden History Society is Wartime St Pancras: a London borough defends itself which was originally written in 1945 by Chief Air Raid Warden Charles Newbery, and has been transcribed and annotated by war historian Robin Woolven. As a result it has an unusually complete record of the organisation and operation of ARP in the borough. www.camden.gov.uk/localstudies The British Library has acquired a collection relating to the extended family of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge that contains new material on the poet himself and the extensive social network of his relatives and heirs, including three generations of judges. There is correspondence with other important figures such as Matthew Arnold, William Gladstone, and Cardinal Newman. Coleridge's father was the local clergyman at Ottery St Mary in Devon, and in the archive is a parish account book recording details of everything from events in the workhouse to individual misdeeds. The Independent 21 August 2006 www.bl.uk The Local and Family History Lunchtime Club has returned to theCentral Library, Albion Street, Hull this autumn. The event is free, and the varied topics covered include Knights Templar of the East Riding, and the Charterhouse of Hull, as well as a Question Time panel of local experts, and reports of members current research by East Yorkshire Local History Society. EYLHS Secretary, D Smith 114 Telford St, Hull HU9 3DY firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWS FROM MUSEUMS
In 2005 the West of Scotland Museum and Heritage Partnership received funding from the Scottish Executive's Regional Development Challenge Fund to create a research framework for local history and archaeology for the area. The partnership comprises representatives from the local authorities in the area, and the project's staff includes people with experience in museums, libraries and archives, archaeologists and active local historians. The first phase of the project involves an assessment of all the relevant materials held locally - museum, archive and library collections, film and sound, buildings, landscapes, sites and burial grounds. The result will provide a first-stop resource for anyone interested in local history, will reveal less-known material, and it is hopes promote collaborative work. This phase is half-way through, and is due for completion by December 2007. The second research phase will see the assessment of this information and the creation of a research framework. The intention is to ensure that this framework will be useful to as many people as possible, not just academic historians and archaeologists but local history and heritage groups, and independent researchers. During 2006 the project team has been hosting period-based seminars, from the Mesolithic to the 20yh century. A full public consultation exercise is planned for 2007; anyone wishing to be involved is welcome to contact the project team to register their interest. The research phases of the project are due for completion in July 2008, with publication of the outcomes following shortly afterwards. Information can be found on the project website www.glasgowmuseums.com (select 'Projects' and then 'Regional framework ..') Or contact the Project Manager Isobel McDonald 0141 276 9327 email@example.com Luton Museum is currently hosting the British Museums exhibition Across the Board: Around the World in 18 Games. In an article in Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service Newsletter local connections and references have been unearthed: Catherine Talbot recorded in her journal on 13 June 1745 being 'so Nonchalant when I came in [after a tiring walk'>more... that I was easily beat at Chess'. 1880-1920 was the golden age of the local chess club, and a blind player, J W Thorburn of Luton, was playing by touch using a special board nearly a hundred years ago. www.bedscc.gov.uk/archive The Peoples' History Museum, Manchester is holding a free workshop on 11 December entitled 'Facets of Fraternity'. Presented by the Subject Specialist Network for Fraternal and Friendly Societies and Association, this is for anyone with a social history collection or holding artefacts including archival material, decorative and folk arts, commemorative items or regalia. Friendly or fraternal societies provided mutual support in hard times, sociability, and moral leadership for their members, from the 1700s. To generate a sense of identity and comradeship, many produced flamboyant aprons and badges, mottoes and other objects, as well as documents. One of the aims of the network is to uncover these hidden items in local museum collections, and to encourage their effective use to attract new audiences. Further details may be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org A new fashion display has opened at Chertsey Museum. Featuring 18th century garments from the Olive Matthews Collection, there will be previously unseen pieces including a complete wedding outfit of hat, dress, petticoat and shoes. Its title 'The Line of Beauty' is taken from William Hogarth who claimed that the gentle curves of the serpentine line produced a pleasing and elegant whole when applied to dress. The Cedars, 33 Windsor St, Chertsey KT16 8AT 01932 565764 www.chertseymuseum.org.uk At Dulwich Picture Gallery, the exhibition from 24 January - 15 Aril 2007 is 'Canaletto in England'. Works executed by Canaletto during his two visits to England 1746-50 and 1751-55 include paintings and drawings of English scenes and imaginary townscapes painted for English patrons. www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk 0208 693 5254 Cataloguers at the British Postal Museum and Archivehave been working on the BPMA's large collection of handstamps. In 1945 the GPO received a letter from their French counterparts saying a number of bags of mail in transit had been hidden from the occupying authorities in Paris and kept safely for five years. 27,500 items were duly delivered five years late, marked with this stamp. Volunteers who would like to help with this cataloguing project are invited to contact email@example.com phone 020 7239 5149 www.postalheritage.org.uk What should aHexham Abbey and Town Museum collect and why? Both The Historic Hexham Trust and Tynedale Council's Museum Service are reviewing their Acquisitions and Disposals Policies. Part of this work involves asking people with an interest in the past what they think museums should collect. Anyone who has a view, or would be interested in getting together to discuss these important issues is invited to contact J Goodridge, Museums officer, Tynedale Council Museums Service, Dept of Tourism, Culture and Communications, Prospect House, Hexham NE46 2AZ. Northampton Museums have bee successful in their application for a grant from the Challenge Fund to improve their knowledge of the shoe industry since 1945, and share this information with the public. They have a significant collection of show-making machinery but little is known about how this was used. The project will use oral history and film as well as documentary sources to build up a picture of working life in post-war shoe factories. They are hoping to develop a specialised website similar to the Knitting Together site dealing with the hosiery and knitting industry in Leicester. Local people and local history societies are encouraged to become involved Northamptonshire Association for Local History www.northants-history.org.uk