Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Robin Breakfast Club

At Christmas time there are often charity appeals to help those less fortunate, and a newly catalogued collection at Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service gives a fascinating glimpse into what our Victorian and Edwardian ancestors did. The Guild of the Good Shepherd was comprised of members of the Unitarian's New Meeting House, Kidderminster. Their aim was to support the poor and needy, by providing food and coal for those in need, and sending flowers to those unwell. In Autumn 1892 a suggestion was made to have a breakfast for children from the poorest families at Christmas. This was agreed to be a good idea, and so a sub-group was set up and the Robin Breakfast was born.

At 7:30am on 26th December 650 children came into Kidderminster Town Hall to receive a breakfast of beef and ham sandwiches, bread and butter, two types of cake and a cup of tea. On the way out they were given a bun, an orange and a Christmas card. Fifty four Guild members helped, some working from 4:30am in the Coffee Tavern preparing food. It was seen as a great success. The society's report said of the children, "Many of them were in rags and had no hats or caps. Many were also in tears due to the intense cold." £25 was raised by members, and as the breakfast had cost less than £15 it was decided to use some of the surplus for a soup kitchen for the rest of the winter.

The Robin Breakfasts were then a fixture for future years, but were now held on Christmas Day itself. For a few brief years it changed name to the Robin's Treat, which was held on a Saturday afternoon after Christmas, and included entertainment, either Punch & Judy or a Magic Lantern Show. However the breakfast soon returned. They almost always made a surplus due to the generosity of local people, with some money over to the next year and the rest used to supply essential goods to needy families. Being careful not to show favouritism they purchased pies and other food from up to ten local shops.

The numbers invited fluctuated between 560 and 1100, depending on number of children they felt they could cope with each year, the economic conditions and how many children they felt needed this. Admittance was usually by ticket, although sometimes the police would suggest children or even bring children they found on the streets that morning too. The list was checked to ensure that those invited were from needy families, with some taken off the list if their parents were in regular work.
 Although the number of helpers for the first couple of years was felt to be low, they managed to attract assistance from other local churches. The number of helpers then increased to 100 which made preparations a lot easier and quicker.

The Town Hall was allowed to be used by kind permission of each year's Mayor, and some years  they would also attend. One Mayor, Mr Tomkinson, gave out 900 newly minted pennies when he visited, which was much appreciated by the children. Father Christmas made an appearance in 1906 for the first time, handing out toys to the smallest children.

  The value of this service was evident to all. This comment from 1895, quoted in the Kidderminster Shuttle, was echoed with similar sentiments at other times. "While rejoicing at the sight of so many happy faces, the members of the Guild were only too conscious that the treat was only a brief alleviation of the poverty and want that form the lot of the juvenile guests".

 Reading through the society's minutes you can see how they learnt from experience. After the third breakfast they reported, "We are generally learning to do our work better each year." After a few years they stopped giving the children a paper bag to put the food in that they took away, as it caused so much litter in the streets. Distribution of tickets changed from being given by teachers to being given directly by Guild members, as they felt that the tickets were used as rewards rather than to deserving children. There are also comments on logistics, with much work at first on Christmas Eve and then from 4:30am in the morning on Christmas Day, but this was refined, helped by a change from sandwiches to pies, so that helpers could leave early Christmas Eve and get there later on Christmas morning. On other occasions references allude to near accidents with the throng of children. However the reports all say how well the breakfasts went off, and how well behaved and appreciative the children were. Although in 1911 they had to remind children not the throw the orange peel about after they'd eaten them.

In 1914, with many away at war and others heavily involved in war work, it was decided not to hold a Robin Breakfast, but to donate £5 from their funds to Nurse Jones' Christmas Treat. The Guild continued with their charitable work in Kidderminster for many years, but they don't seem to have revived the Robin Breakfast. We have spoken to Kidderminster residents who remember something similar, so it looks like another group continued the tradition after the war. The Guild's notebooks and minutes were passed to Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service, where they can be seen today, giving a glimpse into a local charity.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Find Your Place in Local History classes

Are you interested in researching the history of your town, village, house, school, church or local industry?

We will be running the popular Find Your Place in Local History class next year after a break for a couple of years for our move. Led by Dr Pat Hughes, the group will meet in the Explore the Past area of The Hive on Thursday evenings. Pat has led research classes for many years and will guide and advise about sources and next steps, whilst you'll have the Archive resources available to use.

Over the years many people have taken part in the group and studied many different topics. It is up to you and whatever interests you. If you would like to discuss ideas you can ring Pat on 01905 424892. Although everyone is doing their own topic there is a community feel and members encourage one another and take an interest in each others work.

It is hoped to start the group, which will run for 10 weeks, in January 2013, on Thursday evenings 7:30-9:30. The cost will be approximately £75 depending on numbers.

If you are interested or would like to know more please email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Vote for us in the Archive of the Year Awards 2013

Are you impressed with our new facilities at The Hive? Are you pleased with the assistance you have received and would like to acknowledge a job well done? Voting is now open for the Archive of the Year Awards 2013, run by the Your Family History magazine and we would be thrilled to be nominated.

Here at Worcestershire Archives we are constantly striving to improve our services to our customers and our new location at The Hive has provided us with fantastic new facilities for accessing original archives, surrogate sources and our extensive Local Studies library. We have received a lot of positive feedback from visitors and it is great to hear how well we are doing. Now we would like you to tell other people how happy you are with the service we provide. We are participating in the Archive of the Year awards run by ‘Your Family History’ magazine and we need as many of our users as possible to nominate us for the award.

To vote for us simply go online to www.your-familyhistory.com/yourstories/ and select the Archive of the Year Nomination option. Make sure you state that you are voting for Worcestershire Archive Service in the comments box. Voting closes at the end of December.

We would like to thank all of our users in advance for their support.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Things are starting to get festive at The Hive in preparation for the rapidly approaching holiday season and our staff are entering into the spirit The main atrium now features a whopping 16ft Christmas tree to greet you as you enter:

The Hive Christmas tree

Are you struggling for original gift ideas? The Explore the Past desk features a cabinet full of Christmas presents inspired by the past, including reproduction pottery; reproduction jewellery; books; CDs and the Worcestershire on Film DVD. Why not pop along to have a look at the selection on offer when you next visit The Hive?

Original gift ideas on sale at the Explore the Past desk

We have a number of original archives on display in the cabinets on level 2, which give you a glimpse into Christmas from centuries past. Come and take a look to see an example of a 19th century Christmas card; newspaper illustrations; a recipe for 'Minced Pyes' dating from 1790 and a rather sombre poem written at Christmas 'to gladden the hearts of the Workhouse children'. If you are unable to visit us you can see more of these documents by heading over to our website.

Images taken from the London Illustrated News (1874-1881)

Documents on display at The Hive

So, have you all started preparing for Christmas already? We hope you'll pop along soon to see us during your Christmas break.

Monday, 26 November 2012

How well do you know your tackle?

Would you be able to tell us what any of the following are?

Brown Hackle Peacock
Bloody Mary
Green Midge
Golden Pheasant
Jenny Spinner
Orange Otter
Red Furnace
Yellow Peril
Colonel Dowman's Fancy
Treacle Parkin
Turkey Tip
Welsh Partridge
Imperial Fly
Yellow Sally
Bloody Doctor

Sound familiar? They are actually all different types of fishing flies.

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has recently acquired a small deposit of records originating from Fishing Tackle manufacturers, Martinez & Bird, Redditch. We have been able to secure these records for future preservation and use thanks to the kind support of the Friends of Worcestershire Archives.

The deposit includes a couple of pattern books, which give detailed descriptions of the fishing fly design – for instance:
  • The Alexandra: tail red feather; body – silver, flat; hackle – black hen; wind – sword peacock with red swan on each side;
  • The Alder: body – peacock; hackle – black hen; wing – speckled hen
  • And the Broader Greenwell: body – yellow silk rib, gold wire; inner hackle – Greenwell; head hackle – Blue Dun.

The deposit also includes a signed first edition of a book entitled The Trout and we also have a number of original hooks and flies.  

This collection has now been accessioned and is held in our secure strongrooms. As the documents are as yet uncatalogued users should give advanced notice if they wish to view the items. Please contact us if you are intending to visit.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Public Services Quality Group Survey of visitors to UK archives 2012

Do you wish to feedback comments about the archive service at The Hive? Now is your opportunity to contribute to the development of our future service provision…

From Monday 19th to Sunday 25th November we will be asking for your thoughts on the Archive Service at The Hive. The results will be analysed and, where possible, will inform improvements to the service.  This forms part of a national survey which runs every 18 months and gives us the opportunity to regularly review and benchmark our service.

We would be very grateful for your participation and will take your comments very seriously. This provides you with the perfect occasion to have your say about Archive services at The Hive since we opened in July.
The information you give will be treated confidentially and will not identify you in any way. We will not pass your information to anyone else – it will only be used by Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service to help make improvements.

Please note, however, that you can only take part if you are at least 16 years of age.

Please come and visit us next week and be sure to have your say!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

New DVD of Historic Film Footage

A new DVD is about the come out featuring archival film footage from around the county. Films have come from the collections of the Media Archive for Central England as well as our collections. One of the highlights will be the visit by Winston Churchill in May 1950 to receive the freedom of the city. Other subjects covered will be asparagus growing industry, floods, carpet making and Belbroughton scythemaking.

Bredon Spire

We know that historic films are always very popular. Over 2000 people have come along to the screenings we have done around the county over the last few years, and we often got asked if it was for sale. The Media Archive for Central England have now got a compilation of some of the most popular clips for sale.

In the asparagus fields

The DVD is being previewed at The Hive on Thursday 22nd November. At 2pm the editor, Andy McKay, will introducing a selection of films from the DVD. These will then be repeated at 3pm and 4pm for anyone unable to come the first screening. DVDs may be on sale on the day, for £14.99, and will then be on sale from the Explore the Past desk in the run up to Christmas.

Worcester Cathedral

If you are interested in seeing these films please come along to The Studio (behind the large painting on level 1) at 2pm on Thursday 22nd November.

For more details please email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk.

Living through the floods

Scythe making in Belbroughton

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

School visits at The Hive

We recently welcomed children from a number of Worcester Schools to Archives and Archaeology in The Hive. They had all been invited to see the 'Beyond the City Walls' exhibition which has been on display in the studio and marked the end of the Worcester Archive Source Project, a project to catalogue and promote the Worcester City Archives.
The children enjoyed a tour around the Hive, spending some time in the 'Explore the Past' area looking at some of our resources, visiting the children's library and going upstairs to level four to get a good view of the gold cladding.
They also got the chance to see 'behind the scenes' as they went down into the strongrooms to look at Shakespeare's Marriage Bond, the Vernon Map book and some of our more unusual treasures (including a homeopathic medicine chest and a set of false teeth!). They visited the archaeology workrooms and saw some of the finds discovered when The Hive site was excavated.
After the tour we returned to the studio to listen to the memories of some of the people who have lived and worked on the site and the children became 'time detectives' using some of the evidence from the archives and archaeology to discover more about the site and its history.

Most of the children thought the building was 'awesome' and the Touch History table and the Sound Domes were particularly popular with everyone. We were asked lots of questions including 'can I bring Mum and Dad in to show them the Table?', 'can I come back in and look at the newspapers on those films' and 'do you have a favourite archive?' It is always a great experience to introduce new audiences to the resources held at the Archive and Archaeology Service and we look forward to more visits in the future.
We are now planning our long-term programme for school visits which will start in February 2013.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Worcestershire Archaeology Annual Dayschool 2012

Bookings are now open for the Worcestershire Archaeology Dayschool on Saturday 17th November. The popular one day conference, organised by Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service, will showcase the latest results from archaeological fieldwork and other research for the public.

 This year the conference will again be held at the University of Worcester (St John's Campus), on Saturday 17th November 2012.

The topics covered in the Dayschool will be wide-ranging, all with a strong local focus. Highlights will include the recent archaeological excavations of the medieval monk's cemetery at Pershore Abbey, and the discovery of the medieval stone bridge (and a Victorian cemetery) during the construction of the new flood defences at Upton. Enthusiastic archaeological groups are working with professional colleagues on a growing range of projects across Worcestershire, and there will be reports on some of these during the day, including an extensive project in the Wyre Forest. In recent years archaeologists have used new techniques to investigate ancient environments and landscapes in Worcestershire, and there will be chance to hear about the latest research, including new evidence from the site of the Worcester Arena.

The Dayschool will run between 9.45 a.m. and 5.30 p.m. The cost is £15 (including tea and coffee: bring a packed lunch).

If you would like a booking form please email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk and then return completed forms to the Hive Admin, The Hive, Sawmill Walk, The Butts, Worcester WR1 3PB.

For more details e-mail explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk or phone 01905 766352

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Celebrating a quarter century working for the Archive Service

Dr Adrian Gregson, our Collections Manager, recently reached the milestone of working for 25 years with Worcestershire County Council. We asked him a few questions about his time here.

What job did you do when you joined Worcestershire Record Office (now part of Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service), and what did it entail?

It was Hereford and Worcester in those days. I was Supervisor in Central Filing, County Hall but I also did some searchroom work. I did other archivist work as well including field work collecting records, and of course visiting places across the two counties for talks and exhibitions. We were based next to the Motorways section so we learned a lot about the bridges on the M5 and M50 – seems ironic we are back with Highways again! [N.B. the Archive and Archaeology Service has recently moved under the new Business, Environment and Community Directorate at Worcestershire County Council, which means we now sit alongside the Highways Department amongst others].

How have things changed in the time you've worked here?

Technology is most obvious difference. I remember buying the first computers for our section with some trepidation. Also the whole concept of  filing, records management and retention scheduling has developed in the Council so that there is now much more acceptance of its importance and relevance. The old bar's gone now, and some of the old characters of the place. Some of them are still here – you know who you are!

What are your highlights, and/or your favourite document/archive?

Teaching a Chief Officer on a Family History evening class only 3 months into the job;  organising the first county local history fair; the first day we were allowed into the Hive last December.
Favourite archive: possibly a collection of photos of the Worcestershire Yeomanry in Egypt and Palestine in the First World War

What is your current role and what does that entail?

I am now Archive Policy and Collections Manager and Diocesan Archivist. I'm based at the Hive and lead a team which is responsible for collecting and cataloguing archives from across Worcestershire, as well as supervising document conservation and digitisation programmes.

Adrian is just one of a number of long-serving employees at the Archive and Archaeology Service, which just goes to show it's not a bad place to be!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

An update on our Outreach services and upcoming events

Regular users of our service may have noticed that our packed programme of events has been on pause. With our move to The Hive taking up so much time we had to curtail our activities. Quite a few people have contacted us to find out when our courses will be running and when we will have our events back up and running.

So what have we been doing? Paul, Su and colleagues who help with outreach have been busy helping colleagues with the move and then with settling into our new home and we concentrated on ensuring that all our visitors were helped to find their way around the Explore the Past area. We have managed a few activities though.

At the end of August we went to West Midlands Family History Fair at Sixways. We almost spoke ourselves hoarse as we spoke to many of you who had come along telling everyone about our new home. It was encouraging hearing about the positive reaction to our new home, and hopefully we managed to encourage those who were putting off visiting to come along and try us out.

During the summer we also organised a 'Worcester Stories' day where children could hear stories from the city's past. This was held to run alongside the 'Beyond the City Walls' exhibition in the Studio. The children loved it, and we hope that this will be the first of many events we run for children in The Hive.

We've also continued Walkpast, our popular series of guided walks, now in their 25th year.  Leigh Sinton and the Clent Hills have been visited amongst other places, with Wick to come this weekend.

A lot of our time is being spent planning next year's programme. Our new facilities provide new opportunities and we are also looking at new ideas, as well as continuing popular favourites, such as the Archaeology Day School (17th November). Keep checking back to find out what we have planned.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Welcome back students!

It's that time of year when the students are returning and a fresh batch of newcomers arrive to begin their university careers. The Hive is currently bustling with students who are visiting to scope out their new university library facilities and all of the other services which share this amazing space. The Hive presents a unique opportunity for students from the University of Worcester to use a variety of sources for their studies - not just the book stock of their old university library.

So, how can Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service help your studies? It's not all about dusty old history! We offer a wide range of sources that you can use, including:
  • Original documents such as Police Charge books; diaries of landed families; documents relating to the Workhouse - all of these can be used to inspire Drama performances and add substance and context to the stories you tell. Examples of our original archives being used in theatre can already be seen through past performances, such as Offal Tales by Vamos Theatre and the Martley village community play created through the oral history project Harvesting the Past.
  • Maps and plans charting the development of Worcestershire, which can be used alongside archaeological records to demonstrate the past use of lands across the city and county.
  • Worcestershire Photographic Survey - tens of thousands of photographs to provide inspiration for your next art project, perhaps?
  • Horticultural records, including early bills for plants and flowers. Many of these represent some of the earliest instances of certain species being introduced into Britain.
  • Teacher training? We have a vast range of original sources that can be used to encourage creative learning. For example, original sources relating to electoral reform can be used to generate interest in ideas around Citizenship.
  • Are you researching the impact a particular event had on Worcester? We have newspapers dating back to the early 18th century available on microfilm, which can be used to assess the mood and reactions of residents at the time.
If you have a particular project you think we could help with then just pop along to the Explore the Past enquiry desk on Level 2. Our staff will be on hand during our staffed opening hours to give you advice and suggest any resources they think may help your research.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

And the rest is history...

Regular visitors to this blog may have noticed that it has undergone a slight change, as we have relaunched the blog with the new name 'Explore the Past'.

The original blog 'Worcestershire Archives on the Move' was designed to inform our users of our progress throughout the move of the Record Office and History Centre to our new premises at The Hive. We have loved hearing your feedback on this blog over the last 10 months and it is great to know that many people have enjoyed finding out about our work via this new medium.

Whilst the blog was originally intended to run only up to the time of our reopening, we have decided that we will continue to run it in the future as a way for our users to keep up-to-date with news, activities, events and developments from the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service. We will carry on giving you glimpses of our work behind-the-scenes, and hope that you will continue to enjoy the light-hearted view into our world.

As the blog now represents both the Archive and the Archaeology aspect of our service, we have chosen a name that covers both areas. 'Explore the Past' is the name of the floor we occupy at The Hive (as using our huge range of resources allows you to do just that!), so we felt it was a fitting title here too.

We hope you will stay with us as we enter this new phase, and as always please get in touch if you have ideas of features you would like to see on the blog in the future.

Friday, 6 July 2012

The things you find hidden under stairs

Visitors to The Hive may have noticed something quite unusual under the main staircase, which is in fact a reconstructed Roman oven. This exciting feature has been installed in the building to give a glimpse into the work of the Archaeology Service.

The oven structure was discovered during the archaeological excavation at The Hive in 2008, which uncovered part of an extensive area of Roman occupation. This type of oven was used for drying harvested grain before storage, as well as for drying sprouted grain to make ale ('malting'). It was built in the late Roman period using masonry from ruined Roman buildings.

Here are some photos to show the process of installing the oven:

The finished product!

The oven has been installed thanks to the hard work of Archaeologist Chris Gibbs, Stonemason Lewis Allard and his assistant Joe Priest.

So, next time you visit The Hive make sure you take a look under the stairs and let us know what you think of this great feature.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

A new beginning

The Hive opened its doors for the first time on Monday and since then we have been welcoming a whole host of users, new and existing, into our service. It has been really enjoyable to see how people are reacting to the service and to hear the positive comments that people have about The Hive and the opportunities it provides.

Here's what has been happening over the last few days:

Above: The building on the morning of the opening

 Above: Crowds gathered outside to witness the opening. A brass band played a fanfare written for the occasion.

Above: The doors opening for the first time, with staff waiting inside to greet the visitors.
Below: Visitors arriving at our enquiry desk for the first time.

Some familiar faces came to see us.

Above and below: some regular users visiting for the first time.

To ensure all of our users can find their way around the new service, and to make sure they get the most out of their visit, we are now conducting New User Inductions for everyone who visits. We've had extra staff working in the searchroom to help conduct these. Comments so far have shown that users are finding these very useful.

 Above and below: staff conducting New User Inductions

Our staff have found the last few days to be a steep learning curve. We are familiarising ourselves with lots of new processes to make sure we can provide advice to all customers. As a joint service building we are also providing advice and services to public and university library users, so we are getting to understand their processes too.

Above: Lisa issuing her first library card to a customer 

We've also had some groups looking around the service for the first time. Here are some students from Birmingham University who were visiting the Archaeology Service:

We hope those of you that have visited us have enjoyed the experience so far. We are confident our service will keep improving over the coming weeks as staff and customers alike become familiar with the new processes.