Thursday, 29 September 2016


The 29th September is the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, often shortened to Michaelmas. In the liturgical year of the Church it celebrates the Archangel. It is a popular dedication to parish churches, including Salwarpe, Stoke Prior, Cropthorne, Great Comberton, Tenbury and in Worcester the church which stood next to the Cathedral.

St Michael's, Salwarpe, in 1964. From the Worcestershire Photographic Survey
St Michael's in Bedwardine, College St, Worcester in 1930 when it was the Diocesan Registry

With the day falling near the autumn equinox it also gave its name to this important moment in the agricultural year. By Michaelmas most of the harvest had been gathered in and farmers would start thinking about the coming farming year. Rents would often be due, as they would run from and to Michaelmas each year to coincide with this cycle. Within the archives we have several collections from Worcestershire Estates, such as Croome, which have ledgers and rent books using this day as their start points. With the harvest over farm labourers could also be looking for new work, their employment often starting and ending at special Michaelmas hiring fairs.

Accounts for 1784 by the Agent to the Earl of Coventry, listing rents in arrears payable at Michaelmas. Digitised by our Digitisation department.

Being near the equinox also meant that Michaelmas was the name chosen for the meeting of the Quarter Sessions, the meeting of JPs to try crimes and oversee county administration, held at this time of year. The files for each year in the archives are split into Epiphany, Easter, Midsummer and Michaelmas.

Report of Quarter Sessions from Berrow's Worcester Journal, October 1863

Roy Palmer, in his Folklore of Worcestershire, available in our Local Studies Library, describes a local tradition linked to Michaelmas. In Kidderminster the Monday after Michaelmas had Lawless Hour between 12pm and 1pm, in between the old constable stepping down and the new one taking office. This led to an hour when people couldn't be arrested, so groups would fight by throwing cabbage stalks and other fruit and vegetables at each other. The authorities mostly turned a blind eye, but by the mid 19th century this practice ended as it was considerate inappropriate.

Confusingly before the old calendar changed Michaelmas was celebrated on 11 October. After this day it was said that blackberries shouldn't be picked as it was unlucky and/or they belonged to the devil after this date. There may be a hint of truth as the colder weather means that they susceptible to mold.

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

2016 Worcestershire Archaeology Day School

Our popular Archaeology Day School is on Saturday 19 November at the University of Worcester. Once again we'll have a range of talks on archaeological topics from our staff and guests.

Talks include
  • Fascinating Finds
  • Portable Antiquities Scheme in Worcestershire
  • Roman & Saxon Kempsey in two recent digs
  • Detached Worcestershire Kitchens
  • Historic Buildings and Worcester City's HER
  • Historic Droitwich: Its Streets and People
  • Neighbourhood Planning
  • Experimental Archaeology – Medieval Kiln Firing

Once again the event takes places at the University of Worcester, with the lectures in the main Lecture Theatre and refreshments in the Cotswold Suite, above reception, where there will also be displays and bookstalls.

You can book online here , or else print and return the form to ourselves in The Hive with a cheque payable to Worcestershire County Council.

The event costs £20 and includes drinks at the start and morning and afternoon breaks. Lunch is not included and you can either bring your own or purchase refreshment from the University's catering outlets.

For more information please email or ring 01905 766352.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Statue of Queen Victoria - letter from a prospective artist

Statue of Queen Victoria in 1950
Are you enjoying the ITV series Victoria? Queen Victoria's long reign was celebrated across the country in many ways including statues in many towns and cities. In Worcester there is a statue of Queen Victoria outside Shire Hall (now the Crown Court), commissioned in 1887 for her Golden Jubilee. We have a letter within the archives from Thomas Brook asking to be considered as the artist. Brook was quick to mention to the Chairman of the County Council and member of the selection committee, George Woodyatt Hastings, that he had created a bust of Hastings' famous father, Sir Charles. Whether or not this letter helped is unknown, but Brook was the artist chosen for the job.

Transcript of letter from BA 14429, Thomas Brock to George Woodyatt Hastings.

‘The Studio
30 Osnaburgh Street
Regents Park N.W.
19 Jany 1887

Dear Sir

Hearing from friends at Worcester that it has been decided to erect in front of the County Hall a Statue of Her Majesty in commemoration of the Jubilee year of her reign, I have ventured to address the High Sheriff asking that my name may be submitted to the Committee when the selection of a sculptor comes under consideration, and I now take the liberty of seeking your interest as one of the Committee. My name may perhaps occur to you as having executed the bust of your late Father, and I would ask your support on the grounds of being a Native of Worcester and having received my early Arts training at the School of Design there, and partly in the hope that my having attained the distinction of an Associateship of the Royal Academy of Arts may afford credentials in my favour and give me some claim to the preference of my fellow citizens. I gave Mr Milward a list of the principal public works I have executed, the latest being the National Memorial Statue to Sir Bartle Frere to be placed on the Thames Embankment, the model of which I shall be only too happy to shew to you or any other members of the Committee who may happen to be in town next week.
I stated a price to the High Sheriff (£1600) for a ten feet statue in bronze or marble on a twelve feet granite pedestal, but if it should be felt that a smaller size would suffice, it might be done at a proportionately lower price

Believe me, dear Sir
Yours faithfully
Tho: Brock

G.W.Hastings, Esq. M.P.

Within the Worcestershire Photographic Survey we also have photos of when the statue was unveiled to the public.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

All change at Explore the Past!

It has been four years since Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service opened at The Hive, and during that time we have been monitoring use of the service and receiving lots of feedback.  The result of this is that Level 2 of The Hive will be changing soon… 

The main change is that the public Archaeology office – where customers access the Historic Environment Record (HER) – will be moving out onto the public area of Level 2.  This will help to provide a seamless Archive and Archaeology service to customers and highlight the use of the resources for local information and research.  This will help the resources to be much more accessible to customers onsite at The Hive who may not have used the HER before. 

The microfilm and PC area will also change, taking into account customer feedback that we have received over the years.  We will be bringing the microfilm readers closer to the archive enquiry desk and to the original archive area and the aim is to create a cosier, more comfortable space (without losing functionality) and address some of the practical issues such as sunlight shining on the microfilm screens. 

To facilitate the move, there will be no public access to the HER after 23rd September and the team will be available in their new location on 10th October.  In the meantime, we can be contacted via our website.

We look forward to seeing you in the new look Explore the Past!