Friday, 2 December 2016

River Severn Frozen at Bewdley 1895


Wow. You loved this image of the River Severn frozen at Bewdley in 1895 (we'd misread it at first as 1898). It has been viewed over 35,000 times on Facebook, liked over 1500 times, shared over 300 times and received lots of comments.

We've had a look to see what the newspapers said about this event but there is nothing specifically on the river freezing at Bewdley. The county papers do talk about the bad weather, but rather than fun on the ice it was mostly in relation to the amount of help being given to unemployed people. Bread, coal and soup were given to the poor, 200 gallons of soups being distributed in Bromsgrove alone. There was already a lot of unemployment, but the hard frost meant that a lot of outdoor work was impossible, causing a lot of hardship for people paid by the job. In 1890, and probably other years, many craft on the river at Bewdley were badly damaged by the ice, including the floating swimming baths, something not usually considered. However it wasn't all negative news, as the Worcestershire Chronicle of 9th Feb 1895 reported people down the road in Droitwich were skating on the pond in Westwood Park for 3d.

We widened our search to see what was said about other big freezes. Back in December 1892 the Severn was frozen in Worcester for the first time for many years, up to 4 inches thick in places. Due to the importance of the river to trade a tug went up and down trying to keep a channel open, but many canal barges were stuck. Skating took place on local ponds such as at Spetchley, Perdiswell and Boughton, including in the evening by moonlight, although some who tried to do this on the Severn at the bottom of Newport Street ended up falling through the ice, with a rather cold bath, although it wasn't very deep at that point so were ok.

Worcester Herald 27 Dec 1890

Two years later came another big frost over Christmas. The Worcester Herald of 31 Dec 1892 reported
   The keen frosts on Saturday, Sunday and Monday gave quite a seasonable appearance to everything outdoors, and to the delight of those who are fond of skating, it was perfectly safe to indulge in the favourite pastime upon the various ponds in the vicinity, in some places on Sunday as well as Monday. There was a large company at Spetchley Park, as a still larger one at Perdiswell, where the pond had been partially drained for mud-clearing purposes, thus considerably minimising the danger in case of immersion. Northwick Pool had also been partially drained, to allow repairs being affected to a culvert crossing the road, and consequently there were comparatively few visitors. 


It was also mentioned on the Facebook comments that there may be an inscription of the bridge commemorating the river freezing over. There is indeed one, and it relates to when it was so thick a sheep could be roasted on the ice. The full inscription reads:
  In memory of a Sheep roasted on the ice by Charles Lloyd.
  Labour in Vain. Feb 21 1855

Checking the Worcestershire Chronicle for 28 Feb 1855 we came across this report

  SHEEP ROASTING ON SEVERN – Two sheep were roasted on the Severn on   Wednesday, having been purchased by subscription, the money being collected by Mr   Lloyd, of the Labour-in-Vain and the Dog and Wheel public house, and were distributed to   the poor. It is now 41 years since a sheep was roasted on the Severn at Bewdley. One of the animals was carved and eaten in a barge opposite Owner Lloyd's public house, and the other was carried off to the Dog-Wheel in Dog-lane. The visitors, after satisfying themselves with the sight of the large fire burning on the ice, took themselves to skating, sliding, football etc. On walking beneath Telford's beautiful arches we found that several ambitious persons had recently carved their names deeply upon the stone with the date 1855. Under the centre arch there is the following inscription, but it is wearing away from the influence of the water:- "In memory of the hard frost. Sheep roasted, Jan 22, 1814"

If the river freezes over again we'll keep our eyes open in case the roast on the ice is revived again!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: An 1850 Stourbridge Circus


Philip Astley was credited with being the 'father' of the modern circus when he opened the first circus in 1768 in England . Early circuses were almost exclusively demonstrations of equestrian skills with a few other types of acts to link the horsemanship performances. Circus performances today are still held in a ring usually 13 m (42 ft) in diameter. This dimension was adopted by Philip Astley in the late 18th century as the minimum diameter in which acrobatic horse riders could stand upright on a cantering horse and perform their tricks.

Details of a circus in Stourbridge 1850 (b899:31/BA3762/vol2 p304)


 
 
This advertisement from a Worcestershire paper from 1850 shows drawings of a visiting circus performing these very skills.

 

Charles R Davies, hairdresser - an update

On Twitter on Tuesday we showed an advert from 1869 for Charles R Davies at 80 High Street, Worcester. A few people asked whether we knew any more about him so we had a look.



We have found very little. Checking the census the only match appears to be a Charles Rowland Davies born in Oxfordshire in 1843. In 1861 he was an apprentice to a barber in Shipston on Stour. We have not been able to find him in the census records until 1891 in Wolverhampton.

Checking other records we have found that he was involved in a court case where he prosecuted a former worker.  An article in the Worcestershire Chronicle of 1 June 1870 about the Police Courts states:

"A respectable looking young man named Frederick West, who carries on a business as a hair dresser in Sansome Street, was brought up on a charge of feloniously receiving 25 dressing combs, 3 ladies back combs and 4 nail brushes, the property of Mr Charles Rowland Davies, hair dresser, High St."

West was undefended, as he did not feel the need for an advocate. He worked for Davies until August 1869. David Davies, the brother of Charles, who worked as a hairdresser himself in Birmingham, was alleged to have been asked to steal them by West and was paid 50 shillings for them, with  20s now and 30 shillings on account. West later cabled 30 shillings to the brother which was intercepted along with an incriminating letter. The Police, led by Detective William Underhill, searched 4 Sansome St and found the articles with marks on them showing them to be the property of Charles Davies. The marks were a figure two.  West, when challenged, admitted they were the items, although he had previously denied seeing them when approached by Charles Davies. West claimed that the money given to David Davies was for money lent for horse racing. He also said he had bought the items at a fair price and believed David Davies had acquired them honestly.


The case was adjourned to be sent to the Quarter Sessions. West couldn't find anyone to stand surety for him at £20, so he was locked up until the trial. Fortunately for him it was only for a short while and on 30th June the case was heard (found on the Court registers on Ancestry.co.uk). He was found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment.



The adverts for Charles Davies are all 1869-71 and as we couldn't find any census record for him we wondered if his stay in Worcester was short. However, upon checking Trade Directories we have found he is listed from 1869-84, with his private residence on London Road. After this he is not mentioned again, so it appears he was in the area for around fifteen years.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: First Vehicle Registered in Worcestershire


After the 1903 Act, it became mandatory to register motor vehicles with the County Council or Borough in which the driver was resident. Each City and County, and some Boroughs were allocated registrations that consisted of one or two letters to which a number could be added. The first registration issued in Worcestershire was AB 1. This was registered to the then Chief Constable of Worcester, Lt. Col. Herbert Sutherland Walker. The registration number was re-used for all the Chief Constable's cars until his resignation in 1931.  
 
 
Details of the First Vehicle Registered in Worcestershire AB1
According to the book 'From Fruit Trees to Furnaces: A History of the Worcestershire Constabulary' by Bob Pooler the registration was not used for a number of years after but was later reissued to the chief constable's official motor car.

 
 

Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all our American friends! The first Thanksgiving is said to have taken place in 1621, when 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims, including two Worcestershire men, ate together at Plymouth Colony to celebrate a successful harvest. The event was described by Edward Winslow, one of the men who travelled on the Mayflower. His brother, Gilbert Winslow, was also there, and in the following decade they were joined by their brothers, John, Josiah and Kenelm.

Droitwich St Peter's register. Edward Winslow entry on bottom right. Photographed by our Digitisation team.


Edward was born in Droitwich in 1595.  His baptism at St Peter's church is recorded in the parish records held here in the archives. The family had lived in the county for many years, residing at Kerswell Green Farm near Kempsey, before Edward's father, Edward senior, moved to Droitwich to be part of the salt trade.

After spending five years at King's School, Worcester, Edward began an apprenticeship in London.  He moved to the Netherlands soon after, and became involved in the Separatist church there. This group formed the basis of those who went to America on the Mayflower in 1620 and celebrated the first Thanksgiving after surviving the harsh winter. In fact, Edward and his second wife Susannah were the first to be married in the colony after they had both been widowed during that winter.

Edward went on to become Governor of Plymouth Colony three times. He was considered an accomplished diplomat and liaised with the English government in London on the colony's behalf. In 1646 he went back to England and worked for Oliver Cromwell, including helping to sell off estates of Royalists. His son Josiah later served as Governor of Plymouth Colony like his father, and called his residence Careswell, after the family's Kempsey home.

If you would like to explore the Worcestershire roots of the Winslows, you can find these publications in our Local Studies Library:

The Winslows of "Careswell" Before & After the Mayflower, by Quentin Coons and Cynthia Hagar Krusell (1975, The Pilgrim Society)

'A Pilgrim Father's Village', by A.F.C. Baber (1959, History Today)