Friday, 31 January 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~10~ 55 Bridge St, Evesham

This week 's Treasure is a series of deeds and other papers relating to 55 Bridge St, Evesham, which are brought to us by Gillian Roberts, Archivist:

When I first cast my eye over the entry for Accession 13610 'Zurich Financial Services deeds and other papers relating to Evesham' I didn't expect to get drawn into the remnants of a family dispute.

I opened the first un-prepossessing box of deeds and the first deed was for a bargain and sale for 17th July 1637 and mentioned a property in the occupation of one Alyce.  That's my daughter's name.  That's a good omen.

'…in the possession or occupation of one Thomas Kinge deceased and late in the tenure or occupation of one Alyce Tolley..' 

On the West side lay the property of Peter Ffrensham and to the East, a property occupied by Anne Clemens.

And so I plodded, slowly getting to grips with the rusty land law floating around in my brain that hadn't been tinkered with for nigh-on 20 years, trying to root out clauses and the little clues that make out one transaction from another.

The property passed between bookseller to apothecary, apothecary to bookseller until 1739, when 'Joseph Preedy hath bought and purchased of …Thomas Lingen …half part of a messuage or Tenement with it's appurtenances scituate [sic] in the Bridge Street in Evesham now in the possession use or occupation of Thomas Andrews Apothecary and before then in the possession of Ann Ballard widow deceased who was the Grandmother of Ann Lingen Wife of the above-bounden Thomas Lingen'.

In a bond of 25 August 1739 between Thomas Lingen and Joseph Preedy was detailed a claim by George Ballard:

'George Ballard doth pretend to have or claim some right or title to the said premisses' 

And there in the midst of an inheritance wrangle, someone's family tree was neatly laid out and their disagreement condensed to a single legal document. 

Intrigued as to why this property was so hotly contested, I wanted to find what was left of the plot. It looked promising.  The Worcestershire Pevsner mentioned ' a good late C18 group' on Bridge Street and 'more C16-C17 timber-framed remnants behind No.64…with probably medieval buttressing'. I might even get to have a look at this property.

The trade directories didn’t glean much.  I scoured for entries for 55 Bridge Street.  Littlebury's Directory of the County of Worcester, 1879 shows that were a number of milliners, a Mrs Emma Harwood ran a Berlin wool depot and Mrs Eliza Mace had a cane and rush working business.  There were two chemists, one Richard Loxley Dingley 9pharmaceutical) and Thos. New (dispensing and family) and booksellers, shoemakers, banks, auctioneers. But nothings for number 55. The list of residents didn't include a 55 Bridge Street either.

So I asked Andie in the Historic Environment Record to have a look for 55 Bridge Street and to see what description there might be.  There seemed to be a plot clearly marked in the OS first edition.

But there was - nothing.  Number 51, but not 55.  As a last resort, he looked at street view and there it was, the subject for all the argy-bargy between George and his sister Ann: a pound shop.  A 1980s brick-built pound shop.  

I wonder if George Ballard would still contest the ownership now.  I think he probably would.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Manorial Documents Register Project Update January 2014: Meet the Project Volunteer

We currently have four volunteers in Worcester helping us with the Manorial Documents project, and six in Hereford.  They've done some really great work for us so far, transcribing the contents of handwritten and typed manorial index slips onto an Excel spreadsheet.  Soon, some of them will also be helping compile summary histories, or what we call 'authority files', for individual manors.  I'll explain more about what these are and why they are important for archives in upcoming posts.
Like all WAAS volunteers, those working on the MDR come from a wide variety of backgrounds, from students and recent graduates, to professionals in fields very different from archives, and individuals who play an active role in local history societies.  They also volunteer for a range of reasons, from a potential interest in pursuing a career in the archives or heritage sectors, to a keen enjoyment of local history or a desire to give something back to their local community.  A couple of things that they have in common are accuracy and a great eye for detail, as well as dedication.

This week, we meet one of our volunteers, Hazel Jennings: 

“My name is Hazel, and I retired 8 years ago.  I used to teach computing, at a college in Worcester. However, I started my working life at Worcester Record Office [now known as Worcestershire Archive Service], so was interested in voluntary work at The Hive.  I always knew the Record Office to be a very organised place, so this matches my love of computers.

My other interests are walking, travel and looking after the grandchildren."

We are enormously grateful for all the hard work our volunteers have done and their commitment over the coming months, and we hope to introduce more of them to you soon.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~9~ A Roman oven or smoker

This week's Treasure is a Roman oven or smoker, chosen by Jane Evans, Senior Finds Archaeologist 

My 'treasure' is a group of finds. They are not shiny or precious but capture what makes archaeology interesting for me. Over the years, excavations of Roman sites have uncovered distinctive fragments of fired clay that we have struggled to interpret. We knew they were made by potters working in the Malvern area as the clay was 'tempered' with fragments of Malvernian rock, but we didn't know how to reconstruct the fragments, or what they were used for. Excavations at The Hive produced a large assemblage of this material, with some fragments in-situ in an oven. Using all the evidence it was possible to suggest what the original structure looked like. It had a chimney or vent at the top, an opening at the front, and about a third of the way up, short internal ledges with perforations below, perhaps for supporting a grill. We originally thought these must be pre-formed ovens, but they may have been used for smoking meat or fish. There is still a puzzle to be solved!

               Angus Crawford on site with some of the 'oven' fragments

    A reconstruction of an oven/smoker

Found with these were fragments of large ceramic plates, which may have been used for baking bread. These had a smoothed upper surface and a rough, sanded base, suggesting they had been laid out on the ground to dry before firing. My favorite piece had a fingerprint and a fabric impression, identified as a tabby weave using wool or linen. When I saw that, just for a moment I knew my path had crossed with someone who lived about 1,700 years ago. Someone who couldn't have imagined my life now (and whose world I am continually struggling to understand). And for me, that's what archaeology is about.
                                  Angus Crawford on site with one of the oven plates

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Finding out about life in Roman times

In December two classes came to The Hive to discover more about the Romans. When we think of the Romans we may think of the Roman army, the Coliseum in Rome, or Hadrian's Wall, but there are local examples too as The Hive is built on a site occupied in Roman times. So since Somers Park Primary School were studying the Romans they asked if they could come and see some real Roman objects.
Before The Hive was built our archaeologists led a community dig to unearth the evidence of what stood here in the past, with the help of over 100 volunteers. We uncovered a bustling area of Roman shops and houses along a road, and so much was found that our specialists are still sorting through today.

The children arrived after a train journey from Malvern (which already made it an exciting day for them) and we started with a tour outside to explain what they would have seen 1750 years ago. We have incorporated into the landscape clues to tell us about what the site was like in Roman times, with evidence discovered during our excavations here in 2008. Many of our visitors walk past these features without realising what they are, such as the iron slag found here, and the willows which we've planted as an echo of the plants which grew here then.

In the main session we looked further into the evidence and got hands on. The children sorted through pottery fragments to see what local people were using. They then investigated the environmental evidence, discovered from places like the toilets, and viewed the seeds under the microscope. They also looked at animal bones to see what clues they could give us about what animals the people would kept and eaten. All these are skills used by our archaeologists, and the children enjoyed being able to handle the real bones and objects.

We are happy to run this workshop for other schools too. If you are interested in discussing this with us please email

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Changes to Archive and Archaeology Service opening hours

Following the announcement of savings to be made by the County Council, we have reviewed the opening hours for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.   These hours have now been confirmed, and the opening hours are given below.  Please note that these do not affect access to microfilm resources, catalogues and indexes, the Local Studies and Archaeology Reference Library or computer resources, these will still be available from 8:30am to 10pm 7 days a week.

Access to Original Archives:


Opening Times

Additional Information


No access to Original Archives



Closed 13:00-13:30





Closed 13:00-13:30



Closed 13:00-13:30



Closed 13:00-13:30


No access to Original Archives

These new opening hours will take effect from Monday 3rd February 2014

Access to Archaeology (Historic Environment Record) Resources:


Opening Times

Additional Information













Every 2nd and 4th Saturday

These new opening hours are already in place.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~8~ Letters from a Malvern Family

New deposits of archives come in to us in all shapes and sizes, this particular one arrived in a rusty hat tin. It had been found by a mechanic in a Malvern garage and passed on to us via a local historian. Initially the box appeared to contain about 200 letters and photos dating from the First World War, however when we started to sort the box it became apparent that it spanned a slightly wider period of history and using other resources we have been able to piece together the story of one Malvern family over a 25 year period.

The letters fall into two distinct periods of time, 1892/83 and the majority from 1914-1917. The early letters chart the growing relationship of 'Louie', who is in service in Hallow and 'Tom' who lives and works in Worcester, while the later letters were sent home by soldiers serving during the First World War.


Using various sources we found the marriage of Tom and Louisa in 1893, a census record showing the family living in Malvern in 1911 and details of the family grocery and cab hire business. At the outbreak of war three of their sons joined the Worcestershire Yeomanry and while on active service wrote home from camps in Britain as well as Egypt. These letters mainly contain notes of thanks for gifts sent by the family, brief descriptions of day to day life and questions about the family and acquaintances back at home.

These letters are just some of the World War One archives currently being researched by our team of volunteers.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Changes to use of lockers in the Original Archive Area

We have experienced some problems with a limited number of lockers being available for use by visitors to the Archives as locker keys have been going missing. In order to ensure the facility continues to be made available for Archive users, starting from Monday 20th January the following changes will be made to our procedures:

  • Lockers will be restricted to Archive users during our opening hours.  Customers using the library, PCs and microfilm stock do not have to lock their bags away, but would be welcome to use the lockers if they would like to.    
  • Locker keys will be issued out to customers on their library cards, so if members do not already have a Worcestershire Library card they will need to apply for one.  This is a straightforward process, and identification showing a name and address is required.  
  • Keys will need to be returned to Archive staff before closing.  The closing times will be clearly displayed, and it will be the customer's responsibility to return the key on time.
  • Failure to return the key upon closing will result in a fine.  This is £1 a day for the first 8 days, rising to £60 after that.  £60 is the cost of replacing the locks and keys on the locker. 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Wyre Forest Stream-walking survey: an update on progress

There is an update of progress available on the Wyre Forest Stream-walking blog, which is available here. This update looks at the Ram pumps and boundary stones at the Lem and Tanner's Brook.

Ram pump on the Lem Brook

Don't forget you can catch up with our previous posts on this here and here.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~7~ Vesta Tilley scrapbooks

This week's Treasure is a series of scrapbooks compiled by Vesta Tilley, which are brought to us by Adrian Gregson, Archival Policy and Collections Manager:

The Music Hall star, Vesta Tilley, was born Matilda Alice Powles in Worcester in 1864. She went on to be a hugely successful star of the music and variety halls at the end of the Victorian, start of the Edwardian era, here and across the Atlantic. She toured America at least twice. She toured Britain continually, from the age of about 7, and finally retried in 1920.
The Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service holds her personal scrapbooks and photographs, while some of her costumes are held at Hartlebury Museum. They were purchased a number of years ago from a family who had bought them at an auction of material from her house, around the time of her death in 1952. They remain the only known extant personal material available for research and interest.

It is the 150th anniversary of Vesta's birth in May 2014. Look out for special events and activities around this date.

The document of particular treasure is one of several scrapbooks which Vesta compiled of letters sent to her, meticulously collected over many years. The letters are fan mail, from young and old, rich and poor, societies and individuals, from the UK and around the world. Painstakingly conserved and digitised by WAAS they represent the very personal recollections of a star who was as huge then as any of our modern pop stars.

Vesta spent the First World War years campaigning for new recruits to the services and working tirelessly for charities, particularly for injured servicemen. She married Walter de Frece who was later knighted and elected MP for firstly Ashton under Lyne and then later for Blackpool. After his retirement she lived for most of the year as Lady De Frece in Monte Carlo.
Her most famous songs are probably 'Jolly Good Luck to the Girl who loves a Soldier', Burlington Bertie' and 'Following in Father's Footsteps' and she was immortalised in the film 'After the Ball'.

More of the Vesta Tilley collections can be found in our Original Documents Area at The Hive at reference 899:1400 BA 13801 and BA 14233. You can also find out more on our website.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Important update: Change to our Historic Environment Record opening hours

Following the announcement of savings to be made by the County Council, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service is currently reviewing its opening hours. The new opening hours for our Historic Environment Record have now been confirmed and are as follows:

Monday – Friday: 13:00 – 16:00
Saturday: 10:30 – 13:30
(Please note the HER is open every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month only)

The new patterns of opening hours for the Archive Service are currently under consultation with staff, but we expect to introduce them at the end of January 2014. Please keep checking back on the blog and on our website for more information.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~6~ A map by John Ogilby

Maps and plans are a great source for a study of a local area, house history and how people lived in the past. Worcestershire Archive Service hold Ordanace Survey maps, Tithe and Enclosure plans, Estate Maps, Public Health Maps which can all be used for comparing the lives of rich and poor, landowners and tenants.

A sample of a John Ogilby map, 1675
John Ogilby (1600-1676) produced one inch to the mile road maps on scrolled parchment. Each map consisted of vertical strips with a compass showing the orientation. He also depicted churches, hills, gallows and rivers and numerous other features, which make these such fascinating documents.