IN WILDEST SURREY (PART 1)
At Christmas we went for a walk at Newlands Corner near Guildford, where the steep scarp slope of the North Downs gives wonderful views southwards across the Surrey hills. It's a place I know intimately, since I grew up close by and it was one of the favourite places for family outings throughout my childhood. Then, long ago, the 4 x 4s which now congest the car park were of course unknown—their advent constitutes, I suppose, that elusive and debatable commodity known as 'progress', though I confess to serious doubts on that point—but, bar the visitors' centre and a few signs, the landscape is otherwise unaltered. Or is it? Looking at the one-inch map which was published not long after the war and a few years before I was born, I see that it shows a great deal less woodland than on its modern successor. Nowadays, much of the summit plateau and the slopes of the hills are thickly clad in what seems to be natural woodland, but when I was small the cladding was a good deal less thick, and there were more glades and clearings. A hundred years before my time, these hills were extensively used for sheep-pasture, and had broad swathes of nibbled turf in classic downland fashion, with tangled underwood only found on the clay-with-flints capping. Now the scrub and bushes, and some substantial trees, have advanced across the erstwhile open ground, as Surrey—paradoxically, given its densely-crowded population—returns in part to wilderness. The sheep are long since gone, and nature is reclaiming its own. The woodland is not so much natural, as naturally-regenerated. The following day we went for another walk, on Fetcham Downs near Leatherhead. It wasn't exactly 'getting away from it all', for seemingly half of Surrey was of like mind, and the pathways were positively congested in places, but walking further from the car park and into the heart of the woods produced as much of a sense of remoteness as is possible twenty miles from Charing Cross. The name tells its own story—these, too, were 'downs', open grassed expanses, but they are now clothed in dense woodland. But the evidence of the past is there if you know what to look for and where to find it. Here, as at Newlands Corner, the North Downs have some of the finest and oldest yew trees in the country. With their massive trunks, often in entwined pairs and embracing triples, and their huge sweeping boughs spreading gracefully down to the ground, they are a distinctive feature of the woodland landscape. In their dark shade there is little vegetation, so in the gloom beneath the trees the rounded nodules of flint protrude from the sticky clay, their white chalky coating making them look like emergent mushrooms or bleached white bones. The trees have an extraordinary aura, and a palpable sense of antiquity. On Fetcham Downs a straight line of huge ancient yews can be traced up the hillside, close to a path but among dense oak, hazel and holly wood, tangled with old man's beard. The yews stand on a pronounced bank and ditch feature, some of it eroded away, most of it still very clear, and about a quarter of a mile to the south-west the Ordnance Survey map marks 'Field systems' in the Gothic type signifying antiquity. Who planted those yews? How old are they? They must have been there for many centuries old, to judge from their size, and the bank and ditch on which they stand runs down the slope from the ancient parish boundary between Fetcham and Mickleham. When those yews were newly-planted saplings—a thousand years ago perhaps—the chalk downlands were already criss-crossed with property boundaries and the patterns of small fields, but the little trees must then have stood out prominently on the grassland slopes. Now they are hidden and mysterious, deep within a wood which is perhaps eight centuries younger than they are. I am moved to realise that those yews are probably the oldest living beings that I have ever met or will ever meet.
THE VOLUNTARY ACTION HISTORY SOCIETY
Records of charities and branches of voluntary organisations are important sources for the local historian, but histories of individual charities are rarely disseminated much further than the organisation concerned and records of charities have often been lost or destroyed. Voluntary action includes many subjects of interest to local historians, ranging from institutions such as hospitals, alms houses and schools to social and philanthropic groups including sports clubs, women's institutes and rotary clubs as well as informal welfare providers like visiting and mutual aid societies. The Voluntary Action History Society (VAHS) was founded in 1991 to ensure that this history of voluntary action and individual organisations was not forgotten, ignored or seen merely as a part of the study of social policy, but as a subject in its own right with a rich and interesting past. A registered charity since 1995, VAHS was relaunched with a new committee in November 2005 and is now rebuilding the membership. VAHS runs a seminar series on the history of voluntary action. Seminars are aimed at a general audience and the programme is determined by members' interests. Seminars may focus on individuals, organisations or broad trends in voluntary action. In 2006 talks were given on Thomas Corum and the Foundling Hospital, South London charity St Michael's Fellowship, the little-known life of the first woman civil-servant Jeanie Senior, and on the neglected topic of home-front volunteering in the First World War. Upcoming seminar topics in 2007 include Rowton Houses, the Salvation Army in the 1960s and the Toynbee Hall archive collection. VAHS is holding its Third International Research Conference at Liverpool University 16 to 18 July 2008.Please see the website www.vahs.org.uk for the 2007 seminar programme and information on membership or contact the Secretary Georgina Brewis by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
APPRECIATING YOUR SURROUNDINGS
An important theme running through Bryan Waite's work has been his pioneering innovations in bringing together history, geography, environmental studies, education, conservation, and planning. In 1950 he went from Bridlington in his native county of Yorkshire to what was about to become the University of Keele where his foundation year introduced him to the idea of integrated studies. Graduating with double first class honours in history and geography, and a Diploma in Education, he was awarded the first research studentship of the university which he took up at the Institute of Historical Research under the supervision of Professors J Goronwy Edwards and H C Darby. There he began his study of the impact of monasteries on the landscape which he has followed ever since, finally publishing Monasteries and Landscape in North East England in 1997; a new edition is due in Spring 2007. Bryan has never forgotten his Yorkshire roots and has continued to write about the area. Bryan's varied teaching career began, after a short period back in his old school, as an Instructor Lieutenant in the Royal Navy. This was followed by the City of Leicester Teachers' Training College which later became Leicester Polytechnic. Visiting commitments in Kenya, Uganda and Australia expanded his global horizons as a geographer and as a teacher. Subsequent teaching appointments were at the University of Technology, Loughborough and Oakham School. Bryan's publications - textbooks and articles - in the 1970s and 80s (many with colleagues, particularly Keith Wheeler) demonstrated his commitment to developing children's awareness and understanding of their environment. The very first 'town trail', for Leicester, resulted from this enthusiasm. Described as 'the urban equivalent of a nature trail', this was hailed as a pioneering development. Although originally aimed at schoolchildren, the idea attracted locals and visitors alike, and lead to the 'town trail movement' which has since spread across the country. Increasing emphasis on local history in Bryan's work culminated in 1979 when he became one of the founders of the Rutland Record Society, and took the post of first honorary editor. Twelve annual issues of Rutland Record later, plus a number of major publications for the Society, resulted in his being elected an honorary life member in recognition of his services to the history of Rutland. This has been another area of innovative work where he has brought to public attention the rich historical and modern environment of his adopted county. Bryan edited Celebration of Rutland (1994) which contains contributions from over 80 people, a clear testament to his ability to inspire others. A firm believer in the importance of experiencing the landscape, he has also written many books to encourage just that.Waterside Walks in Leicestershire and Rutland (2000), Pub Strolls in Leicestershire & Rutland (2002), and Discovering Rutland Epitaphs (2006) demonstrate both the enjoyment and the knowledge to be gained. Bryan Waite's long involvement with his surroundings, his innovative approaches to exploring the environment, and his ability to communicate his enthusiasm to young and old in both popular and more formal styles, resulted in his 2006 BALH award for personal achievement in local history. Editor's note: Bryan Waites has already written his own obituary, which has proved invaluable in the compilation of this profile!
LOCAL STUDIES LIBRARIES AND COMPUTER CATALOGUES
This short paper first appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of the Suffolk Local History Council Newsletter. Its aim was to express the concern of the writer at problems generated by the introduction of computerised cataloguing of libraries and collections accumulated for and dedicated to specialist fields of study and research. Many such collections have devised classification, cataloguing and information retrieval systems based not infrequently on a modification of 'Dewey', and such is the case in the organisation of the local studies library collections of Suffolk County Council held at the branches of the Suffolk Record Office, at Ipswich and Bury St. Edmunds. In 2000, Suffolk Libraries computerised its catalogue 'on-line', and included the local studies collections in this process. How this was done, and the subsequent problems that arose for both readers and SRO staff became the focus of concern expressed in this article. It seems possible that similar misgivings could exist or develop much more widely in relation to other specialist collections, and it may be helpful that BALH have provided a platform to voice them via Local History News. In theory, the wider 'Access to Information' provided by the Suffolk 'on-line' catalogue is to be commended. In practice this has not been such an easy or reliable process for the local history researcher. The original card catalogues, while still available for consultation within the searchrooms are in effect 'mothballed' – all additions to the collections after 2000 are entered only into the computer catalogue, and to make the local history classification system compatible with the general library computer programme, the modified Dewey classification has been discontinued, leaving a confusing retrieval system within the searchrooms. Prior to 2000, and using the Ipswich searchroom catalogue (the one I am most familiar with) one can find an author index; a 'place' section in the catalogue for tracing all specific material relating to individual places; a 'biographical ' section dealing with individuals, families and businesses; and a 'local author' section of literary and non-local subjects. The computer catalogue offers three options for similar searching through it - by the name of an author, by the title of a work, and by a keyword(s) search, this being what I would call a search for everything else - what I will call by 'subject'. The first two search areas of author and title seem to present few problems, but the local studies researcher, certainly at the beginning of any research study is usually not looking for, or even aware of particular authors and titles, but is dependent on the 'subject' approach as the starting point. The problems that can arise for the local studies researcher seem to stem, as far as my own computer catalogue searches reveal, mainly from the omission of crucial relevant 'local' information not being transferred from the card catalogue to the computer entries. To illustrate this I will go first of all to the subject of 'local authors'. A researcher may be specifically interested in 19th century poetry by such writers, and this information is accessible via the card catalogue under a modification of Dewey used to bring together such local authorship. But one finds on the computer catalogue, using the keyword 'poetry' or 'poems', that while such names as Crabbe, Barton, and Fitzgerald, are to be found, and would no doubt strike a 'local' chord with some researchers, there is actually no identification of their Suffolk connection as given in the card catalogue. This has not been transferred to the computer catalogue, and all other such Suffolk writers also seem to have had their county connection omitted. Who for instance could recognise the entry for Robert Whytehead and his Poems for the Afflicted, as the work of an Ipswich poet, 1808-1863, when this place and date information is excluded ? Two other 19th century local authors that I came across by cross-referencing between the card catalogue and the computer, and who are not recognisable as such in the latter, are John Bransby and John Bennett, both of Ipswich. The former wrote books on geography and the use of globes, the latter on shorthand explained, which were considered influential in their time. I found this problem of omission was one which could cause a researcher serious problems in other ways through non-recognition of a local connection. Under the subject of 'plague' - one quite popular for students - only my recognition of the name of an author, A.G.E.Jones, as a writer on a variety of local subjects gave me the clue to an item of local interest. The title entry on the computer reads Extracts from original and secondary sources. What is omitted is the rest relating to the plague in Suffolk with special reference to Ipswich. How can a researcher be sure of locating all relevant references if such omissions occur ? Under the keyword 'church bells' a work by C.H.Hawkins is given as Notes taken from a collection of inscriptions on and should continue, but doesn't, asancient and interesting Suffolk church bells. Even if one extends the keyword search by adding Suffolk or Ipswich, these same shortened titles is all that will be found. One begins to wonder if the computer programme cannot deal with such long titles, as other shorter title entries appear correctly. The Church Bells of Suffolk by J. Raven seems to offer no problem. In this same 'church bells' search there is a reference to Alfred Bowell church bell founder. He is of Ipswich, but again this information is omitted. For a bit of light relief, I used his name as a keyword search, and found him heading the list of entries relating to a certain medical problem! Amusing, if it wasn't so disturbing! If you would like to test the computer catalogue for yourself, key in 'village halls'. Two entries deal specifically with those of Suffolk, but you will not recognise them as such. They relate to a catalogue of village halls published in 1978 and 1998, by the Community Council for Suffolk, and its successor Suffolk Acre, with which our own SLHC has been closely associated, but again this local connection is not included. Another frustration is in the conflation of terms with similar words. 'Village halls' progresses into listing of books on Halls, as houses, and other variants. Try 'charity schools Ipswich' and not only do you get long listings dealing with 'charities', which in local history terms can have a difference of connotation, but here again the shortening of a long title obscures the local connection, e.g. Accounts of the gifts and legacies omits the really important bit bequeathed to charitable uses in the town of Ipswich. Finally I tried 'ragged schools Ipswich'. Nothing specific was listed, although I know that at least one work on the subject exists in the collections, but what appeared on screen was the title of the most recent book by local author Frank Grace, Rags and Bones. That it is a social history of a community in part of 19th century Ipswich escapes the computer ! Whether it contains anything on local ragged schools, I do not as yet know, but it seems probably to appear here because 'rags' is a similar word to 'ragged' - witness that it is followed by a work on making rag rugs and then by children's books published by Ragged Bear! This limited trial in using the computer catalogue turned out to be a frustrating experience, but even more so, a very troubling one. The inadequacies for local studies researchers that became apparent are compounded by the realisation that even in 2005, there is much, certainly in the Ipswich collections, that is still not entered from the card catalogue into the computer. While there is still the opportunity to consult the existing card catalogue to rectify this, the modified classification system that has been in use for an untold number of years, and served readers extremely well, has been more or less dismantled. The books in the Ipswich collection have been re-shelved according to their new Dewey class numbers. What has not happened is the re-numbering of the card catalogue, and this is the cause of further frustration to both readers and staff. The computer catalogue then has to be consulted to find the right location on the open shelves or when ordering from the stack. If indeed one can find the item on the computer! And all this is happening, now and in the future, without there being an experienced and professionally qualified local studies librarian within sight, either in Ipswich or Bury St. Edmunds. I earnestly hope that these comments will set some alarm bells ringing. If the researcher, and more particularly if the search room staff whose assistance is in any reference structure so crucial to them, experience these same difficulties in finding their way through the new finding aid, then all the effort put into providing it has been wasted. And note, that for all local studies library material collected in the new millennium, this 'information aid' is, I understand, all that will be available.
REGIONAL ARCHIVE COUNCILS
In order that the voice of archives be heard in any government regional initiative, about 7 years ago the National Council of Archives funded the creation of Regional Archive Councils. Members were drawn from the professional world and representatives of archives. Those national bodies who were members of the NCA were also invited to send representatives to each of the nine RAC's; for example ourselves, The Historical Association and the Federation of Family History Societies. The BALH ensured that a member of the Association joined the newly formed group under the chairmanship of a county Archivist. Each BALH member was determined to attend every meeting during which time the strategy for the archives for that region was complied and published. The government's agenda was to amalgamate museums, libraries and archives as the communication sector with funding, and with the remit which included access and learning within the region. At first the government agency was called re:source but now it has been rebranded as Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. The regions similarly now call themselves, MLA plus their region: for example MLASE. The regions covered a large number of counties and centres of learning, all with their separate archives. For example the South East stretches from Gravesend, through East and West Sussex and the Isle of Wight to Oxford; needless to say the members travelled some distance to meetings. These area included many libraries and museums who often had a larger 'voice' as they could be seen to be more 'inclusive' than the equally numerous archives. The South East has nearly 300 repositories of which 84 are higher education institutions and other collections too diverse to list here. The strategy for the SE was published: Making SenSE for Archives. The problems were enumerated and a future plan was drawn up. Once that had been accomplished, the council became an 'archive policy advisory group' but that too was soon disbanded into a virtual group using email. Up to that point, amateur views could have been aired. As an overview of the other regions, their positions have developed differently from amalgamation, to demise and to a struggle to find their place in the regional structure. Of the 9 regions, it would appear the North West continues to meet on a regular basis as the NWAC led by a professional but with national a representative. The meetings are open to discussion and lately some consideration was given to the processes and opportunities for HLF funding for smaller archives. In the East Midlands, the representative felt optimistic that amateur voices would be heard. The present council for Yorkshire has concentrated on the concerns of the professionals but will listen to users' points of view at the end of the meeting, though they are rarely carried forward. At present the Yorkshire group is concentrating on its future position. The archivists there are keen for it to continue, but user representatives may be difficult to recruit since, as it appears the new body will have no funding, it will be necessary for them to pay a subscription. A similar problem is found in the South West, any discussion is based too far away for our representative to attend. The London area council has been absorbed into Archives for London, I believe, and our representative is trying to ensure amateur voices are heard. Nothing is known of the Eastern region. The MLA Council has produced its corporate plan for 2006/7 and firmly states, 'users come first in everything we develop and deliver', but there are few platforms, if any, for the amateur voice to be heard. The amateur can so often offer practicalities to some new initiative broadcast by the regional and national assemblies. But there are a number of points to be considered; the major one being that there a three large and individual communication sectors to be catered for by the MLA, each one vying for funding. Concerns of the professionals often take priority so much so that one representative found her role so frustrating that she has withdrawn and no replacement can be found. The regions are so large that the centres are not often convenient for volunteers to reach and not only that, the representatives from voluntary groups are not always included in the new amalgamated bodies. Amateur representation to any arranged venue would rely heavily on volunteers who had the time and interest to attend. The archives themselves have some problems as some are not open to change, any modernization is too expensive to follow and they are concerned they could not cope with the increase in visitor numbers. With digitisation this is a possibility, a local genealogy society has noticed a considerable increase in their members. They feel that family historians can work well on their own using the web but only so far as the census allows, only realising they will need help and that more can be obtained from the Record Offices the further back they attempt to go. The web is making local historians of us all.
BBC HISTORY MAGAZINE 'HISTORY MATTERS' AWARDS
The winning entry for the first BBC History Magazine award came from Friends of the Lister Lane Cemeteryfor Celebrate Democracy! Halifax's Chartist Festivalwhich took place in July 2006. Lister Lane is an abandoned early Victorian cemetery in which Ben Rushton of Overton, a local leader of the Chartists, is buried. Admirably fulfilling the aims of the award, the Festival included a lecture at Halifax Library on Rushton; a walk with a festival banner to the summit of Blackstone Edge where historian Dr Mike Sanders gave a talk on the Chartists; the convening of a Yorkshire Chartist Choir; a parade of teachers, parents, children and residents; and the publication of a booklet on the life of Ben Rushton. The judging panel (including BALH Chairman Professor Claire Cross) considered this project to be worthy winners because of the breadth and range of activities, the real involvement and enthusiasm of the local community, and the way it brought together academic and non-academic sides of local history. Runners up were: Great Tree Hunt, Countryside Service, East DevonDeptford Stories Project, Art of Regeneration, East London Snatchup Alley, Kate Morris, St Albans, Hertfordshire Town Centre Initiative, St Neots, Cambridgeshire Downriver, Magic Torch Group, Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland Lister Lane Cemetery's website is www.listerlandcemetery.co.uk and further details of all the projects mentioned here can be found in the February issue of BBC History magazine. Watch out for details of the 2007 award.
THE PENNY BLACK CHANGED THE WORLD
The Penny Black Changed the World KS 2 Education Pack from the British Postal Museum and ArchiveWhen you think of the postal system 'excited' might not be one of your first thoughts. I told my class of 10 -11 year olds we were, as part of our work on the Victorians, going to look at the postal system and the groans were almost audible. However, having to hand this education pack called The Penny Black Changed the World, my class was in for a surprise. Firstly, the pack includes interesting and easy to read facsimiles of letters, envelopes, stamps, and posters. These were well received by the children. They found the cross-written letter most intriguing. Secondly the clearly defined themes enabled me to enthuse the class quite easily. Thirdly, and importantly to a busy teacher, was the inclusion of photocopiable activity sheets. We started by looking at the time line in the pack; as we had already worked extensively on the Victorian period we could connect many events. To a group of 21st century children used to the internet, email and mobile phones, the Penny Post was new territory, but it grabbed their interest. The activities were straightforward, and could graduate in difficulty for the more able, and most of all they were fun to do! I was very impressed. Although we did not have time to use all the activity sheets, the ones we did were great eye openers for the children. The 'how' and 'why', and the odd quirks, kept my class completely focused. We all gave this pack the thumbs up. It will be incorporated into our scheme of work for the Victorians for next year. Activities include suggestions for local study, references to material on the BPMA website, and learning objectives and curriculum subject links. This pack and other free resources for teachers can be found in the Learning section of the BPMA website www.postalheritage.org.uk. New developments: BPMA has recently been awarded another Heritage Lottery Fund grant to be the lead partner in a joint project with the City of London Archives and The Royal Armouries at the Tower of London. This project Last Post: Remembering the First World War will make original archive material from BPMA and Westminster accessible to children at KS 1 – 3 through high quality education packs (to be printed and available online). There will be two sets of teaching resources: one for KS 1 and 2 looking at remembrance and literacy; and another for KS 3 – 4 on History and Citizenship. One key theme will be the censorship of personal mail, and another will focus on remembering the lives of those involved in the war. Although primarily a schools project, these materials will be available for communities, and accessible online, bringing digitised archive material to a far wider audience of all ages.
Guided Visit to Harrow School and Headstone Manor, October 2006. Ten members and guests booked for this visit, though unfortunately not everyone was able to attend on the day. We arrived at the school, some travelling by car and others by public transport. There we met Mrs Maggie Bishop, our excellent and well-informed guide. We were shown the original 17th century school room, with many names cut in the panelling. Our next stop was the Art Gallery, very ably described by the curator. We went via the shrine in memory of the dead of two wars to the speech-room, the chapel, and the museum of Harrow School history. At one o'clock we were welcomed by Mrs Baker of the Stanmore &Harrow Historical Society who had arranged cars to take us to Headstone Manor. In a huge restored tithe barn we ate our sandwiches, and enjoyed the exhibits and various facilities of the Museum. The Society had mounted a small exhibition of their recent activities. The tour of the partially restored Headstone Manor was fascinating. The mainly 18th and 19th century brick house hides vestiges of an aisled hall of the 14th century, all but one bay of which has disappeared. Much research during the first phase of work has revealed some of its structure, now supported and made watertight. Further work awaits funding. The two elements of this visit made for a most interesting day. Prue Stokes De-coding the National Archives, 23 January 2007 I came away from the excellent visit to The National Archives at Kew with the phrase 'use the Research Guides' firmly implanted in my head. Ably organised by Jan Shephard, members missed a real treat as just eight of us were guided through some of the mysteries of finding the way through TNA collections. Dr Paul Carter combined a depth of knowledge with a lightness of touch as he directed us on how to use online resources to discover what is available at Kew, answering basic but essential questions such as 'how do you get what you want?' He emphasised the value to local historians of the government's official archives, containing 900 years of history, its wealth of documentation not always appreciated. In many ways TNA is an underused resource by local as opposed to family historians. Yet if one considers the role of the state in social unrest in the localities in the 19th century, central government often became involved as in Chartism, the Swing riots and the Trade Union movement. Paul spent time discussing the Home Office records relating to law and order, using fascinating flow charts, unravelling the sometimes tortuous procedure taken in recorded crime cases with examples of depositions, indictments and petitions for pardons in TNA. He then moved on to the Poor Law records and especially what he described as the 'special stuff' of MH12, the correspondence between the Poor Law Board and the individual unions after 1834, a veritable goldmine for local historians as I was later to discover. After a splendid morning enjoying Paul's clarity and expertise, we had time to pursue our own research and enter the inner sanctum of the reading room. As a first time user, despite the general helpfulness of the staff, I still found the experience intimidating. Having remembered my passport, and crucial details such as removing the eraser from my pencil and not using hand cream, I ordered and later collected my poor law documents. But my anxieties disappeared as I realised the wealth of material which I could access; pages of correspondence relating to the scandal of the death of a pauper girl who died in the Salisbury workhouse in a sulphur bath in 1856. The Board of Guardian minutes for that period are missing from my local record office, but here was the correspondence with the central Poor Law Board in its entirety: letters from the coroner, the inspector, statements from the workhouse master and its medical officer and copies of the commissioners' replies. It was a revelation. Ruth Newman Details of Visits planned for the rest of 2007 can be found on the EVENTS page of this website
'VITAL TO THE WAR EFFORT'
Bedfordshire Library Service has a policy of making a wide range of local studies material available to the public through a Virtual Library on its website, and this now includes a section on the Women's Land Army in Bedfordshire. It can be found via the Bedfordshire County Council website, www.bedfordshire.gov.uk, under Libraries (then >Local and Family History>Subjects>Second World War). Once you get there, the Land Army site is easy to navigate and the language accessible, with many relevant and interesting photographs. The research was carried out by Stuart Antrobus, a history graduate who specialises in English Social History of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. One hundred and sixty women who were Bedfordshire 'land girls' completed questionnaires for the study, and the recorded interviews Stuart carried out with eighteen of them have been deposited at the Sound Archive of the Imperial War Museum. As an introduction, the research is put into the context of the national organisation, which employed 203,000 women during its existence from June 1939 until November 1950. Following the National Service Act of 1941, when all unmarried women aged 19 to 30 were required to undertake some form of war work, the numbers in Bedfordshire peaked and 1006 women were employed by December 1943. An alphabetical listing of 850 of the Bedfordshire land girls is given, linking to details and photographs so far available. During 2007 Stuart hopes to add audio snippets of oral history, eventually providing the option to listen to the full interviews online. Where applicable, the women have been linked to the hostel in which they lived. Prior to their introduction in 1942 the women were employed directly by private farmers, but eventually about half of the women were housed in hostels and transported to those farms in need of extra labour. The number of women living in each of the seventeen hostels in Bedfordshire varied between sixteen and one hundred, with an average of forty. Considerable information is provided about the hostels, including the dates they were opened and closed, a map of their locations, a plan of a typical interior, and photographs of the buildings and the women living in them. A Land Army song, written by two Surrey members and recorded by Alison Young in 2006, can be accessed via the website, as can a newsreel of a 1946 parade. There is a bibliography of books for further reading, although no details of their content is included. The site also contains a wealth of information on government directives and the practicalities of farming in Bedfordshire. An illustrated timeline of each year from 1939 to 1950 gives details of administration and activities, such as training, hostel openings, dances and recruitment drives. The study describes the land girls as 'vital' in achieving increased self-sufficiency for the country: they were instrumental in reducing food imports from two thirds at the beginning of the war to one third by the end. The research was first published on the Internet in February 2006, but it is continually being updated and any useful information should be sent to email@example.com.
'The Landscape of England evokes intense passion and profound emotion' writes Sir Neil Cossons. It is unique but at the same time it is continually changing. English Heritage in conjunction with Collins has published a sumptuous eight volume series of books on the English Landscape, of which Neil Cossons is the series editor. The inspiration behind the books is, as Neil Cossons writes in the foreword to each volume, to enable us all to understand the landscape better, interpret its different elements and above all enjoy it. Each of the eight volumes covers a different region; the South East, East Anglia, the South West, the West, the East Midlands, the North East and the North West. Some volumes have a single author, the South East, East Anglia, the East Midlands and the West Midlands, whilst the rest are edited collections of essays by different editors. Each editor or author has been allowed to present the material in a different way, as appropriate to the region under discussion, but all volumes have the same chronological time span, from the prehistoric period to the present day, and although the themes covered vary depending on the region, these are comprehensive and include villages, early settlement and the division of the land, industrial landscapes, and conservation of the landscape. At £35 a volume these books are not cheap, but they are beautifully produced with stunning illustrations, so worth saving up for, or ordering from the public library. All the richness and diversity of the English landscape is portrayed, and the text is clear and accessible for every reader. In fact these volumes should inspire the reader to go out into the fields and city streets and look at the features for themselves. Each volume will be reviewed separately in The Local Historian, by someone who knows the region being discussed. But the review editor felt it was worthwhile drawing local historians' attention to these volumes before the more formal reviews appear. Like the landscape this is a unique series, and one which will remain on our bookshelves for many years to come. England's Landscape, English Heritage and Collins, 2006. Volume 1 The South East, by Brian Short, ISBN 0 00 715570 0, £35Volume 2 East Anglia by Tom Williamson, ISBN 0 00 715571 9 £35 Volume 3 The South West edited by Roger Kain, ISBN 0 00 715572 7 £35 Volume 4 The West edited by Barry Cunliffe, ISBN 0 00 715573 5 £35 Volume 5 The East Midlands by David Stocker, ISBN 0 00 715574 3 £35Volume 6 The West Midlands by Della Hooke, ISBN 0 00 715575 1 £35 Volume 7 The North East edited by Fred Aalen, ISBN 0 00 715576 £35 Volume 8 The North Westedited by Angus Winchester ISBN 0 00 7155778 8
CLEARING THE FOG OF PREHISTORY
Homo Britannicus Chris Stringer Allen Lane. 2006. £25. ISBN This is not a 'local history' book in the usual sense, but if you have ever wondered where and how the early people of these islands lived, this is the book to read. Its subtitle 'the incredible story of human life in Britain' hints at the awe and wonder that emerges from its pages. The reader (at least this one) is also amazed at the skill of the author in making scientific ideas and terminology so clear to the non-specialist. Because, of course, Chris Stringer is telling a very complex story, and at the same time explaining how modern experts - geologists, archaeologists and others - have explored and analysed the evidence. The book is based on the work of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britian Project (AHOB) which brought together over thirty scientists from institutions across the country in 'a unique collaborative network to reconstruct the most detailed calendar of human presence and absence in Britain yet achieved'. The comprehensive text is well-supported by ample illustrations - beautiful photographs, maps and diagrams. Equally fascinating to a historian is the first chapter which traces the early centuries of such work. Antiquarians and others gradually started to question, or tried to reconcile with what they were seeing in rocks and fossils, the origins of the world as set out in the Old Testament. As Danish professor Rasmus Nyerup put it in 1806 'Everything which has come down to us from heathendom is wrapped in a thick fog; it belongs to a space of time we cannot measure'. Two hundred years later much of that fog has been cleared. Sophisticated modern scientific techniques permit a great deal of precise measuring which has thrown light on this huge subject. In the 21st century, the story of succeeding ice ages and inter-glacial periods, and the effect they had on the flora and fauna - including early humans - is food for thought. Thus another powerful message from this volume is its relevence to the modern world. Jane Howells
IN WILDEST SURREY (PART 2)
The walk from Newlands Corner took us at a slanting angle down the last great stretch of open grassland that remains in the vicinity. The air smelled, as here it has always smelled, faintly and sweetly and hauntingly of wood smoke. To me, indeed, that scent, wherever I encounter it, instantly evokes a winter afternoon and a pale dying sun at Newlands Corner. From the top of the slope we looked at the lovely view, hazy and misty (the Great Fog of Christmas 2006 was just dispersing). The landscape to the south is spread out at one's feet, wooded ridge following wooded ridge in great dark waves to the crest of the greensand hills away to the south-east. Standing there, I invariably remember Surrey's proud claim that it is the most wooded of all English counties, for a variegated carpet of trees occupies most of the land in sight, interspersed with tongues of green pasture and (though not at Christmas) patches of rich mid-brown ploughland along the valley below. We carried on, past dog-walking and child-walking families, and sturdy older couples clad in mountain gear (for this is Surrey's Himalayas, and people dress accordingly and expensively) and down past White Lane Farm, in one of the deeply-entrenched hollow-ways which are such an outstanding feature of the Surrey Hills. We passed the always-remembered spot where, when I was six years old, I found the pale, delicate, beautiful and sinister spikes of toothwort growing in the hazel hedgebank. Oh sandy horsey county of Surrey! Oh broad tracks and narrow paths and hoofmarks by the holly hedge! As we started the climb to St Martha's we were passed by two riders, who waved cheerily. Horse no.1 had a large garland of tinsel round his/her neck and Horse no.2 had a wreath of holly. The slopes of St Martha's Hill are steep, sandy, and scattered with lovely lumps of the dark shiny ironstone which provided the raw material, here and across the borders of Kent and Sussex, for the great Wealden iron industry. Proverbially at least, the cannon which won us many a heroic battle (by us I mean the English) were made with iron smelted from this ore, which outcrops in narrow beds and seams in the greensands. The woods of which these trees are the descendants provided the charcoal for the fuel to do the smelting and, even more proverbially, the timber for the ships which carried the great guns. Read almost any older history book about these counties and you will see such claims—invariably, it appears, followed by the statement that so many trees were cut down for the Royal Navy that the forests were stripped bare. Nonsense, methinks! We reached the summit (don't be too impressed, as it is only 600 feet, and a mere 250 feet of actual climb). On the top of St Martha's Hill is an eponymous parish church, originally Norman but rebuilt almost in its entirety in 1848-1850 because it had become ruinous. That it should have fallen into that state is no surprise, since it has no road access, no village, hardly a parishioner, and stands on top of a pointy steep-sided summit. It is Surrey's equivalent to those chapels on prominent hills of which Glastonbury Tor is a much more famous example. The restoration coincided with a great wave of antiquarian fantasy concerning the site and its connections. It lies precisely on the alignment of a prehistoric trackway, running along the crest of the sandstone hills from Hampshire into Kent. For the early Victorian romantics, this was transmuted into the Pilgrims Way, along which bands of Chaucerian characters were held to have travelled from Winchester to the shrine of St Thomas at Canterbury. Some may have done so, but they followed a route which was hallowed by many more centuries of time. But once it had been labelled as the Pilgrims Way, a superabundance of romantic pseudo-history grew up around the places on the route, and a literature exemplified by the best-selling and now totally (and I fear deservedly) forgotten novels from Martin Tupper's prolific pen. Inside St Martha's church a Christmas service was in progress. Outside the churchyard wall, though, we beheld a sight most incongruous for, verily, we were confronted by a new band of pilgrims. On the sandy track beyond the wall was a group of people, drinking mulled wine poured from stainless steel flasks into polystyrene beakers. They resembled not the faithful of yore, in whose footsteps or hoofprints they trod. Even less, though, did their mode of transport recall the palfreys and ponies of Merrie England. Munching happily on the dead bracken, gorse and woody heather of wildest Surrey were seven llamas.
NOTES, NEWS AND ISSUES
Family Records Centre In the last issue it was reported that on 11 November BALH would co-host a seminar with Archives for London on the 'transfer' of the Family Records Centre from Clerkenwell to Kew in 2008, a matter of considerable concern to local historians. The Chairman later reported what had been discussed. Assurances have been given that the influx of family historians to Kew would be accommodated in the TNA Library and the Map Room would continue to be reserved for consulting medieval and early modern documents. For the greater numbers, improved catering, lavatories and other ancillary services were promised. Government 'green transport' policy meant no increase in car park space. The inadequacy of the indexing of TNA documents on line was acknowledged and there was 'hope' of improvement. Present charges would continue. [ The Chairman's full report, of which the above is only a very brief summary can be found on the 'What's New' page of this website '>more... Finance Any charity is required to have a reserves policy. For a small organisation such as BALH this needs only be a simple statement of how much money can be allowed to build up, and why. This is included in the annual report each year. In recent year our policy has been to use our accumulated assets as an unrestricted fund, to provide investment income and meet the cost of special projects. The proviso was made that the fund should not normally be greater than one year's subscription income. This threshold is on the point of being reached. At its November meeting the Management Committee, looking to the renewed development of the Association, decided that the reserves could be reduced to £40,000 over the period 2007 – 2010, using the surplus for purposes designed to further our charitable aims. The same meeting also decided that there would be no change in the subscription rates for 2008 for individuals and institutions but that the rate for societies from 2008 would be £58. A schools' subscription rate from 2008 would be considered by the Education Committee. New members in 2007 and existing members renewing from 2008 will be asked to pay by direct debit. Annual General Meeting 2007 This will, as is now customary, be held during Local History Day on 2 June. The Annual Report for 2006 and the draft agenda for the AGM are included in the coloured centre pages. Note the small print! We publish here, for economy, only the narrative part of the report and not the 10 page formal document with the full accounts. This is available to members on request after the various formal processes with our accountants and Independent Examiner have finished by the end of April. At the AGM members have three opportunities to influence the work of the Association; by asking questions about the Annual Report, by nominating members of the trustee body (Council) and by proposing a matter for inclusion in the agenda. The latter two have, of course, to be sent in advance, before 30 April, so that they can be incorporated in the final agenda published in the May issue of Local History News. Emails to BALH We are delighted to receive emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com but please put BALH and a fairly specific topic in the subject line [such as 'change of address' or 'insurance query' or 'article for LHN''>more.... At BALH emails are received at one point and then answered or forwarded to the correct person. There is so much 'spam' around these days that an email saying just 'hello' or 'help' is liable to be deleted without further ado, and we would be sorry to lose an important communication from you.
NEWS FROM LIBRARIES
Highgate Library has been celebrating its centenary. The building, financed by donations from the Duke of Bedford and Andrew Carnegie, was opened in October 1906.Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre's collection includes a number of reminiscences about the library's early days. For example, Enid Evans recalls that, when it first opened there was no access to the books. Borrowers consulted a catalogue, and the librarian fetched the book from the stack. In the 1930s there was a lot of disease in St Pancras. Mr Howkins, who worked at the library then remembered books (exposed to cases of diphtheria and smallpox being returned to a disinfecting station rather than the library itself.Backtracks. Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre Newsletter No 16. www.camden.gov.uk/localstudies The Women's Library is marking five years in its award-winning building on the site of a Victorian wash-house in Aldgate East. It has recently achieved designated status from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and is on the long-list of the 2007 Gulbenkian Prize (see page X) for its current exhibition. That marks the centenary of the death of Victorian social reformer and campaigner Josephine Butler, and examines the questions she raised about prostitution, sexual exploitation and trafficking, both in her own time and in a modern context. There will be a Study Day on 10 March entitled 'The Transatlantic Slave Trade: Women's roles and experience'.www.thewomenslibrary.ac.uk 0207 320 2222 Libraries around Sheffield will host a number of events bySheffield Archives and Local Studies through the Spring and Summer. At Ecclesfield Library on 7 March there will be a 'Book Surgery' to learn 'How to look after your books and preserve them for the future'. 'Sheffield's Parks in Sheffield Archives and Local Studies' will take place at Highfield Library on 9 May. You can 'Trace Your Ancestors' at Manor Library on 27 June, and 'Trace the History of Your House' at Walkley Library on 19 September. Sheffield History Reporter, issue 107. www.sheffield.gov.uk/libraries Organised by the Library Services Trust, the Alan Ball Local History Awardswere established to encourage local history publishing by public libraries and local authorities. 2006 was the twenty-second series of awards. Originally all entries were of printed items, but in recent years the judges have welcomed increasing numbers of non-print items such as websites and CDs. The maximum permitted number of three awards were made in 2006, with three other entries commended. Awards went to:Nottinghamshire County Council for Viewing the Lifeless Body by Bernard V Heathcote, a study of the career of a 19th century coroner. City and County of Swansea forThe Cambrian Index Online, an ongoing project indexing the first newspaper to be published in Wales, dating from 1804. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council for St Lawrence's Church, and The Two Saint Michaels, both by Michael Nevell and Ivan Hrandil. Commendations were:London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, for The Dagenham Murder by Linda Rhodes; Durham County Council for Image of the Soldier by Steve Shannon and Gill Parkes; and Newcastle upon Tyne City Council for Tall Ships on the Tyne by Dick Keys and Ken Smith. The Local Studies Librarian Vol 25 No 2 Winter 2006. editor firstname.lastname@example.org
NEWS FROM ARCHIVES
Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies Open Day this year will feature 'Homes and Gardens'. On 20 May 2007 it will be possible to see some of the fascinating documents, pictures and maps relating to the county's houses - from grand mansions to slum dwellings. Nurseries, orchards, lost gardens, and the work of landscape gardeners like Humphrey Repton will be on display. Anyone wanting to know how to discover more about their house will be welcomed. Talks include 'Courts and Yards', Glorious Gardens of the Past', 'A Hertfordshire Mansion: Knebworth'. There will also be tours, displays, exhibitions and children's activities.www.hertsdirect.org/hals The Cumbria Manorial Recordsproject at Lancaster University has now been completed. The Cumbrian sections of the national database of manoral documents, the Manorial Documents Register, is now online at www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/mdr/ The project's web guide to using manorial records, which focuses specifically on manorial records from Cumbria is also now live atwww.lancs.ac.uk/depts/history/cmr/index.htm Cumbria Local History Federation www.cumbrialocalhistory.org.ukThe collection of non-coal abandonment plans at Cumbria Record Office and Local Studies Library, Whitehaven, provides detailed surveys of nearly 250 iron and lead mines that operated in Cumberland, Westmorland, and the Furness between 1819 and 1980. There are over 1,100 plans showing the extent of mine workings, tramways, depths of shafts, surface structures etc. The Coal Authority are digitising this material, and when complete will be again available to researchers. Friends of Cumbria Archives www.focasonline.org.uk 2007 marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford.Shropshire Archives and Telford Libraries are getting together a group of volunteers to help research Telford's work in Shropshire. Anyone interested in joining the group should contact Kerry Dickins on 01743 255350 or email email@example.com. Friends of Shropshire Archives are holding Claverley History Day on 14 April. The programme includes talks, walks, memories and resources. Contact 11 Lime Tree Way, Wellington, Telford TF1 3PJ. Discovering Shropshire's History website was launched last Autumn, to provide a 'one-stop-shop' for the county's heritage. There are interactive maps, biographies, a reconstruction of Shrewsbury c1630, and a dedicate search engine for many offline databases. Local societies and groups will be able to advertise their events and activities, and make available the results of their research.www.discovershropshire.org.uk The Mills Archive is the main repository for images and documents relating to traditional wind and water mills. Free public access is available through the internet catalogue, or at the newly opened Library and Research Centre at the University of Reading. The Mills Archive Trust is run entirely by volunteers and funded by donations from individuals and groups. www.millsarchive.com A landmark has been reached by the Black Country Archives project 'Documenting the Workshop of the World'. The searchable online catalogue has gone live, so digitised photographs and catalogued business records are now available for all to view via the internet. Working together the four Black Country archive services – Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, and Wolverhampton – have built a website that acts as a portal to the vast archive and local studies holdings in the area. New material is constantly being added; two recent examples from Walsall are the work of photographer William 'Billy' Meikle who documented scenes of local life at the end of the 19th century, and the co-operative movement.www.blackcountryhistory.org Hackney Archives has created an exhibition for the borough of the history of sporting interests and activities represented in its collections from the late 18th century to the present day. The popularity of blood sports is clear from the early decades – bull and badger baiting, rat killing and cock fighting as well as prize fighting are represented. From the mid-19th century onwards local clubs fielded competitive teams for a wide variety of sports – rugby, cricket, cycling, athletics, hockey, gymnastics, and rifle shooting. Scores of rowing clubs came and went on the River Lea. Clapton Orient Football Club was founded in the 1880s, later renamed Leyton Orient when it moved home. Hackney Terrier. Friends of Hackney Archives Newsletter Winter 2006/7. email: firstname.lastname@example.orgSuffolk Local History Council has been concerned about the impact of proposed County Council budget cuts on the archive services in that county. SLHC and a number of its affiliated local history societies wrote to protest at suggestions to reduce the number of archivists from 6 to 4, and to replace the retiring head of the service by a part-time manager from archaeology. They pointed out the inequity of the savings across the council, the loss of expertise and the danger to the excellent reputation of Suffolk archive services, and the workload on remaining staff – 4 archivists and 30,000 visitors a year (compared with a neighbouring county where 11 archivists receive 20,000 visitors). Some progress has been made in that a one-year appointment of a head of service 'preferably an archivist' is proposed 'to plan the way forward'. As the county council (and not just in Suffolk) is likely to face similar budget constraints in future years, this issue is likely to recur. Longer term there is likely to be more rationalisation, and the possible closure of one of the county's three record offices. It also leaves much uncertainty for both staff and users. There is also the larger question of the relationship between central and local government in terms of county income and expenditure. Who is responsible for the problems that arise? www.slhc.org. '10% of Canadians descended from Barnardo's children' was one of discoveries highlighted after the launch of The National Archives' latest online facility (with findmypast.com). Ancestorsonboard.com is a vast new database for tracing travellers on long distance journeys from UK ports to the USA and Commonwealth from 1890 to 1960. Emigrants, war brides, and the pioneering 'long haul' tourists of the 1920s appear in the passenger lists of more than 1,800 ships leaving 35 ports.
NEWS FROM MUSEUMS
A report published last December, 'Museums and Galleries in Britain: Economic, Social and Creative Impacts', had many positive findings: 'Britain's museums and galleries are among the best in the world; the economic benefits are estimated to be £1.5 billion pa, in turnover and visitor expenditure, wider economic impacts are even greater; 42 million visits are made to major museums and galleries each year – more than attendance at Premiership and the whole of the football league, 50% more than people who visit West End and Broadway theatres combined. However, there were warnings that resources were unrelated to needs; many needed renovation; income was not rising as fast as costs; capital expenditure was falling. Museums and galleries were seen as institutions with huge potential, but there is a danger that they are being taken for granted. The press release and full report can be found on www.mla.gov.uk/website/publications The Anglo-Saxon Monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow will be the UK's 2009 nomination for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.Bede's World Museum has as its aim to promote the significance of the time when Jarrow, and its sister site at Wearmouth, was the centre of European learning and culture. Its most famous inhabitant Bede (ad 673 – 735) 'shone a light which illuminated the so-called Dark Ages'. Today Bede's World is a major tourist attraction in South Tyneside, welcoming over 70,000 visitors a year. Excavations carried out by Professor Rosemary Cramp of Durham University in the 1960s and 70s provided the foundation for the museum, and made Wearmouth-Jarrow one of the most well understood Anglo-Saxon sites in Europe. The museum opened in 1974, staffed mainly by volunteers drawn from the congregation of St Paul's church and the local community. It quickly developed a special reputation for its work with schoolchildren. This continues, as the museum has recently launched a major project working with young people from the area who have been excluded from school or are at risk from exclusion. Initially housed in the Georgian Jarrow Hall, expansion in the 1990s added a 10 acre Anglo-Saxon landscape with a farm with rare breed animals, and timber buildings which often house re-enactors and storytellers. www.bedesworld.co.uk Association of Independent Museums www.aim-museums.co.uk Talks at the British Postal Museum and Archive this summer include 'A Postal History of a Railway' on 22 May, 'Women Workers in the Post Office 1914-1939' on 19 June, 'Timeless and Classic: The Machin Design' (the portrait of the Queen used on postage stamps) on 26 July, and 'Envelopes: A puzzling Journey Through the Royal Mail' on 31 July. For further details see www.postalheritage.org.uk or phone 0207 239 2570 'My History, Our Heritage' is a community history project which has taken place across South East Cornwall over the winter months to encourage enjoyment, involvement and interest in local and community history. The project is run by the South East Cornwall Museums Forum, and made possible by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Lottery. Events were held across the area aimed at collecting, recording and displaying materials for local archives and museums. People were asked to bring photographs, documents, film, objects, and their memories to donate or have copied. One of the outcomes will be an internet archive for all to use. www.timetrailcornwall.net Many local museums began with Victorian natural history collections. An exhibition at Warrington Museum until May 2007 celebrates the historic collections of Warrington Library, Museum and Archives Service, and the role of distinguished local amateur naturalists such as Rheinhold Forster, William Wilson and Linnaeus Greening. Prussian-born Rheinhold Forster was a tutor of German and Natural History at the Warrington Academy, and the naturalist on Captain Cook's second Pacific voyage (1772-5). Newsletter 29, Archives and Local Studies, Cheshire Record Office, Duke Street, Chester CH1 1RL www.cheshire.gov.uk/Recordoffice/ Llanelli Community Heritage, in partnership with the Museums' Service, was launched to consolidate the long-term work of local historians in preserving historic buildings and structures in Llanelli, and promoting the community's rich heritage. Their work includes setting up interpretation panels and blue plaques to explain and mark important places, supporting the construction of models depicting phases in Llanelli's history made by pupils at Pen y Bryn Senior Special School, and publishing booklets and pamphlets which will combine to make an extended historical trail of the area. There are also specific projects and campaigns, such as the current petition to save the Island House pub from demolition under a new shopping complex.www.LlaneliCommunityHeritage.org Public perception of relevant and innovative work by museums is not helped by the sniggering tabloid press. Brighton & Hove Museum have advertised for researchers/interpreters for a major project on courtship. As the advertisement says 'our city has long played a special role in courtship – from George IV's pleasure palace to the 'dirty weekend'. A newspaper (which shall remain nameless) provided the headline 'Bring your own dirty mac' and added gratuitously 'experience of flashing Â….. not essential. Â… would suit heavy breather'.