Friday, 8 May 2015

Remembering VE Day

VE Day party held in the paddock at the rear of Landsdowne, Port Street, Evesham, 1945. 

Photograph from Worcestershire Photographic Survey courtesy of Mr Perkins of Evesham.

The end of World War II in Europe had been on the cards from the beginning of 1945 following a series of surrenders by the German Army.  So for many it came as no real surprise when at 19.40 on 7 May 1945 the Ministry of Information made a short announcement:  “In accordance with arrangements between the three great powers, tomorrow, Tuesday, will be treated as Victory in Europe Day and will be regarded as a holiday.”   Within minutes of the announcement, tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of central London to celebrate.

On 8 May VE Day the celebrations continued.  The then Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, made a speech in the afternoon  and suggested that people should allow themselves 'a brief period of rejoicing' and in the late afternoon the Royal family appeared on the balcony at Buckingham Palace joined by Churchill.  In the evening the King made a broadcast to the nation in the evening and two searchlights made a giant ‘V’ in the sky above St. Paul’s Cathedral. 

Recollections of VE Day
Several Worcestershire residents were interviewed about their recollections of World War II to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of the War as part of an oral history project run by the then Hereford and Worcester Record Office.  Many recalled where they were on VE day and the celebrations in which they were involved.  The following are just a small selection of those memories.
Celebrations in London
Jim was a solider at Woolwich in May 1945.  He was one of the many people outside Buckingham Palace

Diana, a child during the War, was part of celebrations in her own street in Croydon and then went up to join the crowds at Trafalgar Square.  She described both events in her interview

Parties around the country
Parties and celebrations also took place across the country.

Betty, a teenager in living in South Yorkshire at the time of VE Day recalled how the party in her village came about.

While in Worcester Iris was working in Woolworths on VE Day and recalled the day vividly:

In the midst of all the celebrations VE Day was also bittersweet moment for many people as they were also mourning a loved one killed on active service or in an air raid and, while the War was officially over in Europe, the fighting continued in the Far East for several more months. 

For more information about VE Day  and the 70th anniversary commemorations see

VE Day photograph from Worcestershire Photographic Survey courtesy of Mr Perkins of Evesham.

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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

A hidden treat found in the Palfrey Library

One of the volumes held in the Palfrey Library has been found to have a charming painting hidden on its fore-edge.

The volume, entitled 'An Address to Persons of Quality and Estate' by Robert Nelson, dated 1715, includes a fore-edge painting showing a view of Worcester cathedral from the river.

The painting is revealed by very carefully fanning out the pages of the book

fore-edge painting is a scene painted on the edges of the pages of a book. In order to view the painting, the leaves of the book must be fanned, exposing the edges of the pages and thereby the painting. This type of painting is not visible when the book is closed.

The volume is from the Palfrey Library, which is a special collection of some 4,500 volumes, forming part of the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service Local Studies Reference Library. In 1962 this extensive collection was bequeathed to Worcestershire County Council by Alderman H. E. Palfrey who was Chairman of the Records Committee, to be used as a resource for the County Record Office. Alderman Palfrey was crucial in the County Council's decision to set up a County Record Office in 1947.

At first sight one would not guess what a treat is hidden on the fore-edge of this volume

The Palfrey collection, which is available to search on the library catalogue, was compiled over many years and boasts a rare selection of antiquarian studies, first editions and volumes relating to the study of Worcestershire and surrounding counties.

Our Local Studies Reference library can be found on Level 2 at The Hive. Please note that the Palfrey Library is a special collection that may only be consulted in our Original Archive Area during our opening hours.  

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Upcoming Exploring Archives workshop: Worcester Royal Infirmary

Worcester Royal Infirmary is the focus the last in the present series of Exploring Archives workshops on Tuesday 19th May. Like the rest of the series, we'll be looking at original records and documents within the archives to highlight what is available, how it could be useful to you, and how to search the collections.

The Infirmary, Worcester

The workshop will be led by Sarah Ganderton, who knows about the Worcester Royal Infirmary after researching it for her dissertation and working at The Infirmary, an interactive museum which is part of the new University City campus. The dissertation, which researched how the hospital was funded during the latter part of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century, has also earned her two awards, including one by Worcestershire Historical Society for the best dissertation by a University of Worcester student on a Worcestershire subject.

Sarah will be leading the workshop

Prior to the formation of the NHS, hospitals such as the Infirmary were funded by subscribers – people or organisations who voluntarily contributed a fixed amount to the running of a hospital and, in return, could recommend people for treatment. Sarah’s research aimed to lift the lid on the people who contributed to the running of the hospital. She explains: “Studying accounts, subscriber lists and local trade directories, I looked at the people, charities, businesses, and even employee groups paying an annual fee to the Infirmary as subscribers in 1885 and 1910. 

“I then used the information from the original records to create statistics and look at patterns to compare my finding with previous research on different subscribers at other institutions. 

"I found there were interesting changes through this period, with rises in the number and amount of subscriptions from women and the working class. Worcester had many female subscribers, who were not necessarily motivated by male family members.

An 1896 minute book - one of the many original sources available for research

“The number of female subscribers and the amounts they subscribed rose, while the number of male subscribers fell in the same period. This was different to what other historians had discovered in other institutions.  I also found that there were increasing numbers of employee groups subscribing for their own benefit to nominate patients to use the Infirmary, just before the National Insurance Act came into force.”

Sarah was appointed as the part time project administrator at the Infirmary – which is now an interactive museum which forms part of the University’s City Campus – during the second year of her degree, a placement which she says inspired her to explore the history of the building.

Now, she works as a Graduate Trainee within the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, based at The Hive, conducting research and working alongside archivists, conservator, digitisers, archaeologists, and the outreach team.

Of her Worcestershire Historical Society Prize, she says: “I was surprised and delighted to receive a letter from the Society congratulating me on the award.  It was lovely to receive this recognition; it really makes all the work seem worthwhile.”

Places on the workshop cost £6 and can be booked online here

Friday, 24 April 2015

Visit up British Camp to help school explore the past

As we have mentioned previously here on our blog, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has been helping a number of schools after the recent inclusion of Prehistory in the National Curriculum. With one school, Cradley primary, we were able to take advantage of their location to get out of the classroom and go up a significant historic monument on their doorstep.

Cradley Primary School's classroom for the day, learning more about Prehistory at British Camp

Justin Hughes, one of our community archaeologists, went into the school to run a session using replica artefacts to explain the changes between the different periods, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age. This allowed the children to get hands on and understand how tools and technology changed, as well as finding out how archaeologists can interpret the clues which they discover. He also brought along a reproduction drawing created from the evidence our archaeologists have found locally to show the class. 

Justin getting hands on with some replica artefacts in class

For our second session with the school we went out to British Camp in the Malvern Hills to explore the amazing Iron Age hillfort, only a short distance from the school. This enabled the children to understand both the defences and possible remains of roundhouses, which it can be easy to walk past if you are not looking for them.

The view from British Camp

Justin said, "We had a couple of great sessions with the children. It can be a difficult period to understand, but by using reproduction tools, reconstruction drawings and going up an Iron Age hillfort we can help them get a picture of what life would have been like here during those periods. Going up on to British Camp and recognising the archaeological clues gave them a great sense of how we can discover the past through visible archaeological remains. They also enjoyed getting outside and exploring the site".

The children enjoyed having the chance to get out and explore the archaeology of their local area

If you would like to talk to us about what our Learning and Outreach team can do with your school please email or phone 01905 766352.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Introducing... David Tyrrell. A partnership between Remploy and Worcestershire County Council

We are delighted to introduce you to David Tyrrell, who has been working with us since last September. David has been busy getting involved in different aspects of our varied work here at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS). Here he introduces himself and tells us some more about the work he has been doing so far: 
My name is David and since September 2014, I've been working with WAAS thanks to a partnership between Remploy and Worcestershire County Council. Remploy is a service that helps people with disabilities gain employment by running training courses and running job searches so people don't feel so isolated. The groups were friendly and I made a couple of like-minded friends that have interests in historical battles.  My disabilities are hidden ones. I found it really difficult to find work having been unemployed for three and a half years, but now I consider this to be my first ever job and I feel much happier. This role has already given me a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities.

David, with the work he produced for the Touch History table at The Hive

In 2011 I finished and graduated from Aberystwyth University with a degree in drama. I think theatre is a roundabout way of looking at history from another perspective, which is good because I always look at things from a different angle. Whilst at WAAS I have been working on the Worcestershire World War One project and this has improved my research and organisational skills. I have developed a methodical approach to work from cropping all the fallen soldiers and developing a way of presenting the information so that other people can use it. I am finding that with this experience I am more focused in what I'm looking for.  I am also developing my knowledge of the area - before I came to WAAS I had no clue who Vesta Tilley was or that Worcester had musical or theatrical claims to fame, apart from the musical genius that is Sir Edward Elgar. I am now using different types of sources, such as maps, building plans, and photographs and trade directories, which can get a little bit addictive as I keep on wanting to know more and more.
Another project I have worked on is gathering available material together to form a presentational piece to go on our Touch History table at The Hive. I am also currently putting together a heritage trail that follows Vesta's history in Worcester, and some more general World War One history about the development of the tank from agricultural steam driven vehicles before she went on to became Britain's greatest recruitment sergeant. Vesta Tilley was a music hall performer and her act was a male impersonator. I like discovering new facts in my research here, for example I have discovered that Worcester's former mayor Arthur Carlton played various Shakespeare Characters wearing tights and his wife was apparently was shot out of a canon as part of a circus act! I enjoy looking at historical photos held by the Archive Service and seeing things such as the opening of the Swan Theatre, or learning that we once had more theatres in Worcester and one once stood where the Angel Street Co-Op supermarket now is. I look up occasionally to try and imagine where the building stood. 
I am very proud to have contributed to work at WAAS and hope that people can come to learn as I have. As a person not used to socialising I have found that my people skills have improved by communicating with my colleagues across the service. I can now put this on my skills belt as 'networking.' I've had to adapt to new ways of working in an office environment - I've found out that there are many different people with different quirks and have developed ways to work alongside them. I sometimes find that I drift and ask questions about things like the Tudors, Shakespeare, the price of beer in the late 1860's and the history of cake, but don't worry, it's all connected to my interest in history and curiosity in the past. I enjoy digging for research and I am surprised at what I can sniff out here. I used to do those dot to dot books, when I was little, now I connect the links in history instead.