Saturday, 18 October 2014

Upcoming Explore Maps workshop at The Hive

'All good adventures begin with a map', according to the saying. We have thousands of maps here in our collections, and this workshop will help you with using them for your adventures in research.


Ordnance Survey, Tithe, Enclosure, New Domesday, Estate, Geological, GOAD and definitive maps are some of the types we'll be looking at. We'll discuss how they can be used, as well as how to search our indexes and catalogues to discover what we have.


The workshop is on Monday 3rd November, 10am-3pm, with a short break in the middle. Places cost £12 and should be booked in advance. You can book by emailing explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk, phoning 01905 766352 or by visiting the Explore the Past desk during our staffed opening hours.

Friday, 17 October 2014

New blog address and email updates

Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed our shiny new address for this Blog - www.explorethepast.co.uk. All old links should redirect to this new address so we hope the transition is smooth, but if anyone comes across any problems please let us know by popping a comment below.

If you want to keep up-to-date with all of our posts you can now follow our Blog by email. Just pop your email address into the 'Follow by email' box in the top right-hand corner and press submit. 


Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~46~ Seals

This week's Treasures have been chosen by Robin Whittaker - our former Archives Manager from our days as Worcestershire Record Office, based at the County Hall branch on Spetchley Road. Although he is now retired, Robin still frequents our Original Archive Area at The Hive, both as a volunteer and as a private researcher. Here, Robin tells us more about the fascinating selection of personal seals that can be found within our archive collections:

On my retirement from the Worcestershire archives in 2011 I wanted some projects that would keep me in contact with original documents. I had recently got a copy of Dr Elizabeth New’s ‘Seals and Sealing Practices’, published by the BRA, and I realised that in all the years I had been examining medieval deeds I had to some extent taken the seals for granted, and this struck me as a potentially interesting new field of study. A trip to the National Library of Wales to meet Dr New and see an exhibition she had put on there on Welsh medieval seals convinced me.



I decided that the parameters of my study would be personal seals held in Worcestershire collections up to 1500. Much work has been done on royal and ecclesiastical seals so I thought I’d concentrate on the seals of the lower strata of society. I wanted to see how seals varied over time, what sorts of images were used on seals, and also see if I could get an idea of how seals were used – did people borrow the seals of others? Did women have their own seals or did they use those of men in their family? Did the images on seals have any special significance? These were some of the questions that came to mind.

Deed ~ Reference BA 1638/4 705:192 ~ No date [late 13th cent]


The procedure I have been using to gather my corpus of examples is to systematically examine all the accessions in the Archive and Archaeology Service from BA 1 onwards and identify those which have deeds pre-dating 1500. I then examine these boxes to seek examples. In any box of medieval deeds it may be that at least 50% have lost their seals and another 35% have very damaged examples. So for any box I search it may be that only a few deeds yield examples I can use. These I record on a standard form, recording reference, date, parties, and sealing clause. I then describe each seal giving its size, shape, colour, material (almost always wax) and the image and any inscription (though often illegible). Even on a well-preserved seal these can be difficult to decipher, and I am learning to recognise various medieval religious symbols and family coats of arms. I also take a photograph of each seal and then (having been instructed by the Conservator, Rhonda) apply a simple protective covering.

Reference BA1638/4 705:192 ~ No date [late 13th century] ~ Fleur-de-lys + S.RADULFI DE GRIMESPUT


 Reference: BA 1638/3 705:192 ~ 18 June 1402 ~ A wheel of St Catherine


I have now recorded about 350 examples, and can see some patterns emerging. Sometimes I can guess the approximate date of a document merely by the appearance of the seal, the image chosen and the inscription. Thirteenth-century examples might be simpler fleur-de-lys, eight-pointed stars/flowers or coats of arms. Fourteenth-century examples might have more complex religious symbols, and by the fifteenth century many seals just bear an initial letter. Some seals defy identification, and there are quite a few with coats of arms where, to date, I cannot identify the family. The project offers up many areas for further research. In due course I hope to explore other archives in the county, such as that at Worcester Cathedral, to add to my examples.

































Reference BA 1026/1 No. 63  850 Worcester St Swithun ~ 8 May 1469 ~ A heraldic seal (family not yet identified)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Worcestershire Archaeology Dayschool 2014



Our popular annual Archaeology Dayschool will take place on Saturday 15th November. Once again there will be a full programme of talks from our staff and guest speaker, covering a range of archaeological topics. Many of these are current or recent projects so you can find out about some of the latest research. Topics covered will include:

  •      Fascinating Finds of 2014
  •      Archaeology of the Worcester Porcelain Industry
  •      Flooding and the Historic Environment
  •      A new LIDAR survey at Devils Spittleful
  •      Skeletons from Worcester Royal Infirmary
  •      Redditch – New Town, Old History
  •      3D Modelling of Droitwich
  •      Hot off the Shovel – news from the excavations at Copcutt
  •      Iron Age Bridle Bits – an equine perspective

There will also be book stalls and displays by local groups, as well as opportunity to find out more about the wide range of things we do.


This year Worcestershire Archaeological Society are kindly supporting the event, and you will be able to find out more about them and forthcoming activities.

The day, which runs from 10am to 5pm, costs £20 to attend. You can download a booking form from our website here. Please note that advance booking is required as the event often sells out. 



Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~45~ The Projectionist

This week's Treasure has been chosen by Justin Hughes, Project Officer, who has been working alongside VAMOS Theatre: 

WAAS has recently been working again with VAMOS Theatre. During the first week of the Hive's opening, in July 2012, the Worcester-based mask theatre performed 'Offal Tales', the story of twins Elsie and Josie who lived in Netherton Lane, off the Butts in Worcester in the 1920s and 1930s, and of Cyril Cale, who served as the cattle market foreman (on the site of the Hive) from 1930 to 1962.

During 2014 VAMOS Young People's Theatre (with some research support from WAAS) produced a first class exhibition 'From History to Theatre', which explored memories of the cinema in the 1950s and 1960s.

 Some of the VAMOS Young People's cast

The Young People's Theatre also recorded interviews with 5 local people who are, or who have, worked for cinemas as Projectionists: Matt Dainty, Andy Wright, brothers Jim & Mike Bowley & Norman Holly. Click here to listen to a sample of Tim Montague's edited clips of the 5 Projectionists describing their work, before and during, the move to digital projection systems.

Norman Holly
The pièce de résistance of the HLF funded project is the theatre performance of 'The Projectionist' which tells the story of Norman Holly, who worked for many years at the Regal Cinema in Evesham. The Young People's Theatre played the roles of projectionists, usherettes and Kids Club cinema goers, with great music and film projection behind stage The shows were performed at local schools and in care homes.


Norman & Margaret performing in The Projectionist