Friday, 12 September 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~42~ Bromsgrove People and Places

This week's 'Treasure' has been chosen by Justin Hughes, Project Officer, Outreach; with the second in a series of the stories we have recorded from our oral history projects which are available for loan or purchase at the Hive. This week he describes 'Bromsgrove People & Places':

WAAS has been commissioned by Bromsgrove District Council to deliver a number of community programmes for the Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI).  The THI is working closely with High Street retailers to refurbish priority shop fronts to celebrate the rich architectural styles which have adorned frontages of the main street for several centuries. WAAS has re-assessed the heritage of the buildings; we have coordinated a community excavation in St John St (click here for the report); and we are currently supporting the THI with the 'High Street parade' (a series of posters will be visible along a number of the streets historic shops from 11th to 26th September). This will be complemented by an exhibition at Bromsgrove Library.

Running alongside these archaeological explorations, we have completed an oral history project working with students from Bromsgrove School and with Bromsgrove Library. Fifteen hours of interviews were recorded with 19 local people who kindly gave us their reflections about the town and the High Street in particular, from the 1940s onwards. The major themes which arose, related to specific shops, cafes, pubs, cinemas, fairs, markets and to changes in the town brought about, for example, by pedestrianisation in the early 1980s.

An audio CD narrative of these stories 'Bromsgrove: People & Places', with the voices of Sam Adamson and Katie Leather, students at Bromsgrove School in 2013-14, will soon be available for purchase for £4.99 at Bromsgrove Library and it is also available for loan at the Hive.

Here are just a few of the stories:

Jo Collings – the pleasure of biscuits at John B Wilson's Click here to listen to the audio clip

Jean Sleigh - cosy fireplace at Morris' Click here to listen to the audio clip

Rosamund Bateman – delightful toy shop Click here to listen to the audio clip


Dorothy Tabberer & Robert Kendall – fast food & delicious faggots Click here to listen to the audio clip

Pete Lammas - at the Silver Grill Click here to listen to the audio clip

Phil Nokes – rehearsal for a date Click here to listen to the audio clip

Roy Gibson – the Roebuck alehouse Click here to listen to the audio clip

Friday, 5 September 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~41~ Before the Hive

This week's 'Treasure' has been chosen by Justin Hughes, Project Officer, Outreach, who has selected the first in a series of the stories we have recorded from our oral history projects which are available for loan or purchase at the Hive. Here, Justin tells us more:

Prior to the construction of the Hive, WAAS carried out full archaeological excavations of the site via a community project involving 90 local people who volunteered and received training throughout the 10 weeks of the community dig: click here for the community report. As a second phase we also interviewed people who have lived and worked in this area of the city and the edited story is encapsulated in an audio CD called 'Before the Hive. Below you can listen to a snapshot of 4 of the interviews, with Cyril Cale who worked as the cattle market foreman from 1930 to 1962, with Heather Stone whose father Reg, would often take her to the market as a treat in the 1960s, and with Elsie and Josie who lived in Netherton Lane in the late 1920s.


Elsie and Josie


The Roundhouse – Cyril describes the Roundhouse in the middle of the Cattle Market which housed the auctioneers’ offices. Cyril took on the job of winding the clock at the top of the clock tower. Sometimes he had to put a penny on the pendulum to get the right time.
Click here to listen to the audio clip.

The Ewe and Lamb – Cyril had to close the Cattle market at 5pm so he’d go over to the Ewe and Lamb to get the marketers out of the pub. He’d never go in, as he was a teetotaller, but would holler to the hauliers from the doorway to get the men to come out and move their wagons and stock so he could close up. 
Cattle Market – Heather describes being taken to the cattle market with her father. She used to walk around the wooden railings holding her father’s hand, and then have tea in a cabin on stilts. In the shed her father encouraged her to let the calves suck her fingers.
Netherton Lane – Twins, Elsie & Josie, moved to Netherton Lane aged 2. There were fourteen houses in the lane and 4 more up an alleyway. They describe the houses and the communal lavatory which had 3 adult holes and a children’s one.
Click here to listen to the audio clip.

The neighbourhood – The twins describe the area around Netherton Lane, firstly Mrs Carmichael’s garden, then the ‘Lane’ with the Corporation, Joseph Woods, the Almshouses and the Cattle Market.  

Please ask for more information relating to our oral histories at the Explore the Past desk and we will return later this year with other stories from 'Engineering the Past' in Redditch, 'People and Places' in Bromsgrove, and 'Generations Together' across Worcestershire.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~40~ A Court Roll from the Reign of Richard III

22 August 2014 is the 529th anniversary of the Battle Bosworth, where Richard III was killed.  It is also two years on from the discovery in Leicester of the remains later identified as those of the king, so we have decided to explore our collections to see what they could tell us about Worcestershire's experience during Richard III's reign.  Although the Archive Service holds nothing directly related to the king, we do have plenty of documents providing a glimpse into ordinary life in the late 15th century.

One example is a manor court roll from Kempsey, near Worcester, dating from 20th May, 1485, just a few months before Richard's death at Bosworth Field.

This is a typical medieval court roll, illustrating how the court could regulate life on the manor.  Courts Baron were held every three weeks, and dealt with land transactions, enforcement of the customs or rules which governed the manor, and disputes between tenants.  The functions of this court were combined with another type of court, the Court Leet or View of Frankpledge.  This was associated with a policing system in which groups of local men were responsible for overseeing the behaviour of group members and reporting infractions to the court.  This court also dealt with petty crime and those who fell foul of the regulations governing the price and quality of bread and ale. 

Below are a few examples of the proceedings of this court.

The roll tells us that a Thomas Forster took two 'wegges' (wedges or pegs) of iron from Thomas Herdman, and that Joan Forster took some rye and malt from the house of Thomas Pendesham.

Thomas Salter and Thomas Lee assaulted one another, and both were fined by the court.

We also hear that a Thomas Peres had recently died, and Joan his widow, after paying a heriot (tax payable to the lord of the manor on the death of a tenant), and paying fealty (swearing an oath of allegiance to the lord), was able to claim the property for the remainder of her life.  Interestingly, by the time of the court held on 13th July, Joan had found a new husband, one Richard Thomas, who paid ten shillings for a license to marry her—and share property she had recently claimed.

There seems to be little direct indication here of national conflict, discontent with Richard's rule or the encroaching threat of Henry Tudor, but manorial documents provide a wealth of information about the lives and deaths of people in Worcestershire.

Other sources for the history of late 15th-century Worcestershire held here include title deeds recording the transfer of land, bishop's registers and wills.

This document can be viewed in the Original Archive Area at The Hive by using reference b705:4/BA54B.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Summer Reading Challenge

Mythical creatures may not be the first things that come to mind when you think about historical archives or archaeology, but finding some in our collections was our challenge for this year's Summer Reading Challenge – Mythical Maze. In the end it wasn't too difficult, as well as the griffin on the medieval tile found during excavations at the Commandary a few years ago, we found several documents including one dating from the reign of Edward V1 which included a dragon. We also found unicorns on the embroidered purse which belonged to the parish of Salwarpe. This ornate late 13th or early 14th century bag is one of the more unusual items to be found in the Archives.


After showing children the artefacts and documents and telling them a little bit about what we do in the Archive and Archaeology Service we gave children the opportunity to create their own tiles depicting mythical beasts. Choices included mermaids, dragons, griffins, a centaur and the Loch Ness Monster. 

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~39~ Calendars of Prisoners

This week's Treasure has been chosen by Teresa Jones, Senior Archive Assistant, who has selected records providing an insight into crime and punishment in Worcester. Here, Teresa tells us more:

If you are researching someone who was tried for a crime at Worcester you may find further information in the Calendar of Prisoners.

Calendars of prisoners give details of those who were held at Worcester Gaol and include information such as the date of the trial, age, details of the charge, sentence and which parish the person was from. An index to our calendars of prisoners from 1839-1849 can be found with our online indexes and databases on ourwebsite.

This invaluable work has been compiled by one of our volunteers who is currently working on indexing the calendars from the 1850s and 1860s.

Calendar of Prisoners from 1864

This page includes the entry for Margaret Brown of Redditch, sentenced to seven years penal servitude for larceny at the sessions on 17/10/1864.

With the information contained in the calendar, it is possible to search local newspapers to see if there is any account of a trial.

Other sources can also be explored online. The Hive, along with all libraries in Worcestershire has a subscription to the website This website has a large amount of databases including parole records of women from 1853-1871, 1883-1887 and a criminal registers database from 1791-1892 Other subscription websites may also have further sources that may be of interest.

Margaret Brown (who had an alias of Shaw) was released on licence in 1869, after serving her time at Worcester, Millbank, Parkurst and Brixton. She is described as being 4'9" with grey hair and blue eyes. She states that her husband 'John Shaw' was serving four years penal servitude at the time. Previous to this conviction she had three summary convictions and three acquittals, including four years penal servitude in 1856 after a trial in Salop.

This item can be found at Ref: b117, BA 772, Parcel 5, (the entry for Margaret Brown can be found on page 97).

You will need to view the calendar of prisoners in our Original Archive Area during staffed hours. Please see our website for our opening times.