Wednesday, 1 October 2014

WAAS heritage displays make a mark at the Heart of Worcestershire College's St Dunstan building

If you go into the new creative learning quarter of the Heart of Worcestershire College's new campus, just by The Hive, you'll see the local history of the site marked in a number of ways.  We've been working with the college over the summer to incorporate the history of the local area in the design of the interior.

The official opening included a ribbon cutting by Samia Ghadie (Coronation Street actress) 

Last Saturday (27th September) Nick Boles, Minister of State jointly for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, formally re-opened the Heart of Worcestershire College's Art & Design Department in its new premises, the former Russell & Dorrell furniture store, in Dolday Worcester.

Minister Nick Boles is pictured above with Principal Stuart Laverick and Vice Principal Nikki Williams of the Heart of Worcestershire College

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and The TEW Group were commissioned by the college to provide some permanent wall and table displays on which a potted history of this part of Worcester from the mediaeval period onwards are interpreted, alongside local people's memories of the former cattle market site.

The terrace café at St Dunstan's, open to students and the public feature 8 table displays with interpretations of life in Dolday and Worcester through the centuries, with civil and personal stories and maps.

One of the 8 table displays, here touching on the story of Cyril Cale, cattle market foreman from 1930 to 1962.

Much of the information came to light when we were preparing for the opening of The Hive in 2012, and you may remember seeing the promenade performance of Offal tales during the first week of opening, or seeing the exhibition Beyond the City walls here or in one of the county's libraries. It has been great to have an opportunity to bring the history of the area to a wider audience in the college. So if you are going in there please have a look out.

 Elsie (pictured here) and her twin sister Josie lived in Netherton Lane in the 1920s and they share some of their memories of the cattle market on this wall display in St Dunstan's.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Lyttelton collection: Conservation work

In the course of cataloguing a collection there will be items which are found to be in poor condition and require some conservation work.  Some of the work will be minor such as fixing tears, removing sellotape or protecting the item with secondary packaging such as a custom made wrapper.  Other items may need more substantial work.

In the course of sorting and reboxing the Lyttelton collection a number of torn up pieces of paper were discovered in the bottom one of the boxes.  They turned out to be pieces of some letters.  It was possible to group the fragments according to handwriting style to identify three different letters.  They were then handed over to our Conservator, Rhonda.

 One of the letters before repair

Rhonda was able to look at the fragments, determine which piece went where and then make an almost seamless repair of each letter.  She describes the technique she used:

'By carefully looking at the letter fragments, I was able to determine which piece went where.  Luckily the letters had been torn which meant the paper was split diagonally.  This made it easier to re-align the text, as edges went under and over each other to hopefully produce an 'invisible' repair.  Had they been cut, the edges would have to be butted up to each other, with more possibility of moving during repair and the repair would have been more obvious.  After carefully weighting the fragments in place, I placed a thin strip of very fine Japanese tissue along the tear, and brushed some Japanese wheat starch paste through the tissue.  This was left to dry under light weights, and then repaired in the same way on the back.  It was a fun challenge to get the letters back together, a bit like doing a jigsaw but without a picture to go by.'

The front of the above letter after repair

What does the letter tell us now it's repaired?

It is not immediately clear why the letter would have been torn up as there does not appear to be anything particularly personal, sensitive or confidential in it other than perhaps the mention of a very ill baby.  It's mostly social chit chat about travel arrangements and a description of a ball and musical entertainment while the writer was staying at 'Gorhambury', the home of James Walter Grimston, 3rd Earl of Verulam.

'Nan', the writer of the letter, was Francis Henrietta Lyttelton, daughter of Charles George Lyttelton, 8th Viscount Cobham, so 'Mother' was his wife Mary.  Someone has added the date 'Jan 1908' to the letter and the content and chronology of the letter is consistent with other letters written by Nan in January 1908.

The first page of the letter mainly relates to changing arrangements.  On page two Nan talks of Gwen's baby being 'desperately ill' with tubercular meningitis.  It's not clear who 'Gwen' is, but Nan had a married cousin Gwendolene Stephenson née Talbot whose baby died in January 1908 aged one, so this could be the 'Gwen' referred to.  Gwen had an older sister Evelyn who might therefore be the 'Evelyn' also referred to in the letter.

Nan then goes on to talk about a ball which the Grimstons had given and some of the guests, comparing it to one she had been to at Hatfield House, the home of the Cecil family.  From other letters of Nan's from this period it would seem that she had been staying at Hatfield House just prior to coming to Gorhambury.

Pages two and three describing Gwen's baby's illness and the ball at Gorhambury

Musical entertainment for the previous evening had been provided by singing from a Mr Greenlees, whom Nan describes as 'a splendid baritone' and 'the married Grimstone, Ina' who played the violin well.  'Mr Greenlees may be Weir Loudon Greenlees (1882-1975) a well-known Scottish baritone of the time.  The Earl of Verulam had several daughters, including Sybil mentioned at the bottom of page four.  Two daughters seem to have been married at the time of the letter - Hermione, who had married in 1904 and Aline who had married in 1907.  The latter may be more likely given her name ends 'Ine'.

Page four describing the musical entertainment at Gorhambury

It was a very interesting exercise to piece the letter back together and then try to find out about its contents to see if they would shed light on why it was torn up.  Other than the illness of the baby, nothing obvious has presented itself, so the reasons for it being torn up and kept rather than thrown away, remain a mystery.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~43~ Stoulton Sale Particulars

This week's Treasure has been chosen by Julia Pincott, Archive Assistant, who shows us how she managed to solve a puzzle in her family history by using sales particulars. Julia tells us more: 

One of the many problems facing family historians is how to find the exact location of a property listed on a census return; names and house numbers change, buildings are demolished or redeveloped and often in rural areas the only address given is the name of the village. In the 1911 census, one of my ancestors, Matthew Corbett, was living in 'Salt Bog', Stoulton, Worcestershire. His place of abode is also given as 'Salt Bog' on the entry of his burial in the Stoulton parish register in 1916. So where was 'Salt Bog'?
Current maps do not show such a place existing.

Luckily for me, in 1917 Lord Somers sold his estate at Stoulton. The estate had been in the Somers family for two hundred years. Sale particulars were produced describing the properties to be sold, many of which had sitting tenants, so their names, when the tenancy started and the amount of rent they paid were also listed. These particulars are held at Worcestershire Archives at reference  b705:73 BA14450/463(4).

Lot 36 describes the property as let to 'the representative of the late Mathew Corbett'.

The particulars contain a map showing the location of the various lots, so I was finally able to locate the property.

The list of tenants also contains other family members, including Kate Howse, who ran the local grocers shop. 

I discovered the particulars within the Croome archives by carrying out a search of our online catalogue available at for any mention of ‘Stoulton’ and investigating the results. It shows that occasionally a little lateral thinking, perseverance and luck can be needed to solve a family history puzzle!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Upcoming House History workshop at The Hive

"Who lives in a house like this?" was the question in Through the Keyhole, but a similar question is also asked by many people who wonder about the history of their house. On Saturday 4th October we'll be re-running a popular workshop to help guide you in how to trace the history of a house or building.

We'll look at the various sources we have here which can help, such as maps, photos, historic environment record, building plans, electoral registers, census and trade directories, and how to search the indexes and catalogues.

The workshop runs 10am-1pm on Saturday 4th October in The Hive, and costs £8. Booking is required, and you can do so by emailing, phoning 01905 766352 or visiting the Explore the Desk when it is open.

Upcoming Family History workshops at The Hive

At Worcestershire Archive Service September and October traditionally sees an increase in people coming in and asking staff for advice on how to begin tracing their family history. Therefore we are running our workshops again to help you make a start, or to help you get the most out of the resources we hold. Many key family history sources are held here, and we are experienced in helping people get started, so we are the ideal place to make a start.

There are different options, whether you just a one hour guide to the resources here, a 3 hour workshop on how to begin and the main sources and techniques, or whether you just want to focus on the Ancestry website. All workshops will take place at The Hive, Worcester. You can book for just one of these or more. If you would like to book please email or ring 01905 766352.

Starting Family History

Thu 9th Oct 10am-1pm or Sat 11th Oct 10am-1pm
Want to know how to begin tracing your ancestors and building your family tree? This workshop, will explain how to get started, key tips and the main sources you will need, including census and civil registration records, parish registers and wills.


Ancestry is one of the best family history websites, but how do you get started on it, how do you make the most of it, and what information is available? Our workshops focus on researching family history using the website and participants should already be familiar with computers and the internet.
All Ancestry workshops are £6 and must be booked in advance.

Starting Ancestry – The Census     Wed 8th Oct 2-4pm
Beginners guide to the website focusing on the census records, one of the most important sources for family historians.

Further Ancestry- Beyond the Census     Wed 15th Oct 2-4pm
Find out what else can be found on the website. This is a follow up to Starting Ancestry.

What's new on      Wed 22nd Oct 2-4pm
Ideal if you already use the website but want to keep up to date with sources that have been added over the past couple of years.

First steps in Family History

First Saturdays in Month 10am – 4th Oct, 1st Nov, 6th Dec
&  First Wednesdays 2pm – 1st Oct, 5th Nov, 3rd Dec
These 1 hour introductions will guide you round the most useful family history resources we hold on the Explore the Past floor and give you some tips on getting started. The sessions take up to 5 people and are £5 per person. Contact us to confirm dates and reserve your place.