Thursday, 13 April 2017

Celebrating the launch of the Worcestershire Manorial Document Register

We have recently completed a project funded by The National Archives to update and computerize the Manorial Documents Register for Worcestershire. 

Come celebrate the launch of the database with us at The Hive on Saturday, 22 April, and learn more about these fascinating records and what they can tell us about Worcestershire's past.  There will be talks, displays and a demonstration.  Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available!

This is a free event, but places are limited, so book your place by 19 April. 

To book, please submit an enquiry online and simply quote 'Manorial Document Register Launch' in the information box provided. Alternatively, phone us on 01905 845714

Friday, 7 April 2017

Vote for us in the Record Keeping Service of the Year award

We are thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted for the 2017 Record Keeping Service of the Year Award!

This award is part of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Excellence Awards and aims to recognise the achievements of services across the sector. Voting is open now until 30th April and we would be hugely grateful if all of our readers would support us. Voting only takes a few seconds and can be done by following this link: 

Friday, 24 March 2017

Accredited Archive

We are pleased to announce that, following a recent assessment, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has retained its Accredited Archive status!

Archive Accreditation, which recognises good practice in all areas of archive service delivery, was introduced in 2013.  We were pioneers of the scheme, taking part in the pilot and then becoming one of the first 3 local authority archive services to become accredited (link to previous blog post at   After three years we had to go through a review, and the results were confirmed this week.

Some of our frontline archive staff at our enquiry desk

In its feedback, the Accreditation Panel noted that 'the service’s achievement in continuing to deliver well and to address key issues…material is particularly impressive', particularly in light of reductions in budget, staffing and opening hours.

We are thrilled with the result, which is a testament to the hard work of the team and their commitment to providing an excellent archive service.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The 1947 Floods

Floods on Hylton Road with the power Station in the background
It is 70 years since the 1947 floods, which were some of the worst experienced in Worcestershire and the UK. Floods are a regular natural phenomenon to this area and most people can recall particularly high ones, most recently 2007 and 2014. The 1947 ones were exceptional and are often still talked about.

The cause lay in the preceding months when a weather front more common to Scandinavia hit Britain for a couple of months. In February the temperature never rose above 0.7ÂșC, and there were frequent snow falls. During the Harvesting the Past project which interviewed people in the Martley area of the county, a number of people told us of their memories of that terrible winter. In some cases they were cut off for weeks, and one man said he never went to school for 6-8 weeks as there was no way to get there from his farm. Keeping livestock alive during that period was a struggle for the county's farmers.

In early March warmer stormy weather hit southern England causing a thaw. This then slowly moved northwards. As the thaw reached the Midlands the snow melted into the rivers, filling them up with the accumulation of the past couple of months. It was exacerbated by a storm, followed by rainfall way above the March average, putting even more pressure on the rivers and sodden land.

The newspapers (viewable on microfilm here in The Hive) tell the dramatic story. They are fascinating to read, and in many ways reflect what newspapers today are looking for as they look to include the offbeat in amongst reporting the serious news. They start with the storms of 16/17 March. Just a couple of years after the end of the war they describe the scenes as like the aftermath of an air raid as slates, tiles and chimney pots were scattered across the streets. Trees were blown down and roads blocked including Tallow Hill, where enterprising residents helped clear an Elm tree blocking the route whilst helping themselves to wood for their fires! Builder's merchants saw long queues as people rushed to make repairs before more rain arrived.

The floods continued to rise, and on 19 March it was reported that the waters had almost topped the records, and it was feared a big tide in Gloucester would make things worse. Worcester Bus Station on Newport St had to be evacuated when the waiting room was surrounded by water, although the destinations for buses were already extremely limited. Lock keepers at Diglis and Stourport prepared to be evacuated. By the 22nd March many records were being broken, and the army were being brought in to help.

New Road, Worcester, under water

"Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink"
Perhaps surprisingly considering the sheer amount of water, Worcestershire people were told to save water. The Worcester City Engineer reported that the floods made it difficult to supply water, as their filters struggled to cope with the volume. They were also not helped by the burst pipes from the frosts and half a million gallons of water were being lost this way.  Despite this there was no change in usage, and they even sent out vans with loudhailers asking the public to cut back on water. Electricity carried on with the help of pumps and a lot of assistance. It was also a challenge for workers to get in to work to keep it going. Unfortunately telephone exchanges were not so lucky, and parts of the county around Evesham found themselves cut off.

In Bewdley the gas supply was stopped when water flooded the gas works. To cross the river people had to negotiate a bridge of planks. Those who had been evacuated from around the town, if they had no friends of family to put them up, were accommodated in the school hall. In Tenbury the floods had affected most of the town and the church was an island, with the surrounding churchyard under water. The depth of the River Teme was hard to measure as the gauge was under water!

Newspapers always look for the unusual stories. One story described how a man managed to float to safety from his house on a door he had recently bought, and used as a raft. Another story described how an 80 year old woman slid down a roof on a carpet to a dinghy which had come to rescue residents in Diglis Avenue and surrounding streets. They also told of a lady who hadn't quite grasped the serious of the situation, when she called for help from the emergency services to leave her home on Hylton Road, but the 'emergency' turned out to be a dancing match she was keen to attend.

Another story which featured over several days in between the tales of disaster was the battle between Worcester Sauce and Yorkshire Relish. In London representatives from each county went to a railway station to debate which was better. The Chairman, the Director of BBC's Children's Hour, tactfully declared a draw at the end!

Entrance to the cricket ground, New Road

Sadly amongst the humorous stories there was also tragedy. Many were flooded out of their homes (hotels were full of evacuated people), businesses were affected, and livestock died where they couldn't be got to dry land. There were also reports of a few people who had drowned in the floods.

We also have a number of photos in the archives of the floods. Despite their regularity ever time there is a flood there are plenty of people who come down to take pictures. Some of these make their way to us and help us tell the story of floods over the years. Everytime we feature them in talks or on social media they always get people talking.

As well as photographs, one man took film footage of the floods. John Beer was a keen amateur film maker. A number of years ago his films were passed to us, and were digitised by the Media Archive for Central England. If you have been to one of our archive film screening you may have seen his films of the floods (as well as others he shot of the visits of Winston Churchill & HM The Queen). Part of the film can be seen on the MACE website .

Flooding is a fact of life for Worcestershire. Hopefully future ones won't be as dramatic but they will continue to be recorded here.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Lost Landscapes of Worcestershire

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS), in partnership with Museums Worcestershire, has been successful in its bid for £74,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to bring the Lost Landscapes of Worcestershire back to life.  Over the next 18 months staff at WAAS and the Museum will be delivering events and exhibitions celebrating over half a million years of the area's prehistory, from the time our ancestors arrived until the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. 

The first people to live in the area now called Worcestershire arrived at least half a million years ago, as the ice sheets receded northward and the climate warmed.  They slowly worked their way up river corridors from central Europe as the animals they hunted migrated northwards.  Remains of their tools and dwelling-places from across Europe show that they had sophisticated cultures.  These first people didn't stay, they came and went with the warming and cooling of the climate over the next few hundred thousand years, retreating into Europe as glaciers covered much of Britain and returning in warmer periods. 

Various species of animals came and went during these periods too, and their remains lie in the gravels and sands beneath our feet.  It is incredible to see a 2 metre long mammoth tusk exposed by a mechanical excavator, and to imagine that animal once roamed an icy Siberia-like tundra where now people eat burgers and fill up with fuel on their 'migrations' up and down the M5. 

Working with volunteers, local schools and the public, we will explore our understanding of the Ice Age objects and information in the care of WAAS and Museums Worcestershire as well as the collections of institutions across the West Midlands. Worcestershire's collections, amassed since the 1830s, tell a story of antiquarian study and a developing understanding of the most remote of periods in human history. Wonderful objects were collected both from within Worcestershire and from key Ice Age sites in Britain and Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Exhibitions and activities will bring together what we know of Worcestershire's lost Ice Age landscapes from two centuries of collecting and study, and examine the consequences this had for the ferocious debate surrounding the origin of our species and what it means to be human.

400,000 year-old Handaxe from St Acheul, France. Held in the collection at Worcester

Alongside the Museum exhibition, a complementary exhibition will be showcased in The Hive.  This will tell the history of how the museum collection came to be. Founded in 1833 by members of the Worcestershire Natural History Society, Worcester is the 8th oldest museum in the country.  For the next century, wonderful artefacts from across Europe and beyond found their way into the collections. These include artefacts from the type-sites for the European Palaeolithic:
  • St Achuel: ‘Acheulian’ (Lower Palaeolithic)
  •  Le Moustier: ‘Mousterian’ (Middle Palaeolithic)
  •  Aurignac: ‘Aurignacian’ (earliest Upper Palaeolithic)

The impact of these exotic arrivals must have been revelatory. This exhibition will explore the cultural context of their acquisition and understanding.  Set against the back drop of Darwin’s Origin of Species and the emergence of our understanding of evolution and the antiquity of humankind, the story of how 19th century collectors acquired, shared and discussed these extraordinary specimens that spoke of distant aeons, is the story of how we understand what it means to be human.

Regular updates will detail how the exhibition comes into being from the very start until the doors open, with all the behind the scenes work that culminates in a museum exhibition.  Starting with the background to the project and information about the Worcestershire museum collection, the blog posts will follow the journey the project takes as we put the materials together and learn more about the collection and the County's past.