Saturday, 31 May 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~27~ Croome - the Lord Keeper's docquets

This week's Treasure is a large series of docquets, which form a part of the Croome collection - the archives of the Earls of Coventry:

As part of the official papers of Sir Thomas Coventry (1578-1640) 1st Baron of Allesborough, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England held in the Croome collection are a series of around 22,000 chancery docquets authorising grants to be made under the Great Seal.

Sir Thomas Coventry, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal under Charles I

Following his education at Balliol College, Oxford, Sir Thomas had a very busy career in Law, including positions such as Counsel for the Company of Apothecaries; Justice of the Peace in Surrey and Middlesex; Autumn Reader and High Steward for Cambridge, Coventry, St Albans, Kingston-upon-Hull and Bath. In November 1616 he was appointed as Recorder of London and at various times in his life he also held the position of Recorder for Coventry and Boston. In March 1617 he was appointed as Solicitor General, the same year in which he was Knighted. He was elected as MP for Worcestershire in 1621 and later that year was appointed as Attorney General. He became Custos Rotulorum for Worcestershire in 1624. In 1625 he was appointed to perhaps his most prestigious position, that of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England, which is how we come to have the Lord Keeper's docquets at Worcestershire Archive Service.

One of the many boxes of docquets held at Worcestershire Archive Service

Docquets were produced as part of the administrative procedure by which grants, commissions or patents were issued, which would have been under Lord Coventry's remit as Lord Keeper of the Great Seal

The docquets provide a useful guide to the contents of the Patent Rolls for Charles I's reign. These summaries offer the quickest means of discovering when and to whom royal grants were made and they also provide a valuable insight into the workings of central government and the patronage system during this age. Furthermore, because grants were only enrolled if the grantee was willing to pay, these docquets list some grants which do not appear on the Patent Rolls themselves.

An individual docquet for a licence of alienation

The documents cover a fascinating, wide-range of subjects and are a brilliant resource for researchers of many different topics. The docquets include commissions of bankruptcy; licenses of alienation; licenses to eat flesh (not as scary as it sounds!); grants and patents; pardons; inquisitions post mortem; commissions of sewers; licenses to sell tobacco and wine; warrants; writs and royal declarations amongst many others.

The docquets can be searched at file level using our online catalogue, however; users wishing to get a more detailed look at the wide range of information provided by the docquets can use the calendars, which were produced by the List and Index Society and cover 18,900 of the docquets we hold. These calendars are spread across four volumes and they provide summaries of the information contained in each docquet and list names and places provided. The calendar volumes are held in paper format only and are available to view by visiting the Original Archive Area at The Hive. The docquets themselves are held at reference 705:73 BA14450/342-353; 373-436.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Treasures of Worcestershire's Past: ~26~ Unusual Seals

This week's Treasure has been chosen by Angela Downton, Senior Archives Assistant. Whilst working on one of our existing collection she discovered an unusual example of a seal attached to one of the documents. This is just one example of the hundreds of fascinating seals that can be found amongst our collections at The Hive. Here, Angie tells us more about the item: 
Whilst repackaging a collection of deeds from the Clarendon collection, I came across a very unusual seal. It depicts a man knelt in prayer, his cowl and beard clearly visible.

Thomas Priest's seal

The seal is attached to a deed realting to a burgage in Leominster dating from 1391. A burgage was a town ("borough') rental property (to use modern terms), owned by a king or lord. The property ("burgage tenement") usually, and distinctly, consisted of a house on a long and narrow plot of land, with a narrow street frontage. Rental payment ("tenure") was usually in the form of money, but each "burgage tenure" arrangement was unique and could include services, such as being a religious benefactor.
This particular burgage was granted to Joan wife of Bartholomew by Thomas Preostes [Priest] and John Panel. We do not know if the seal is simply a play on words or if Thomas was actually a priest.
The seal of Joan attached to the same document is unfortunately damaged but you can still see her gown and the jesses; strips of leather which were tied to the feet of hawks. Part of the hawk is clearly visible on her arm. The hawk, was a symbol of wealth and nobility and a common motif on seals of aristocratic women.

 Joan's seal
Translation of the deed in the Clarendon Collection to which the seals are appended:
[Editorial note: Apostrophes have been used to indicate where a word or name has been abbreviated in the original document, and not extended in the translation.  Square brackets contain information supplied by the translator.]
Let men, present and future, know that we Thomas Preostes and John Panel of Eton'[1] have given, granted and by this our present charter confirmed to Joan wife of Bartholomew le Corveser'[2] of Leominster all that burgage with buildings and all their appurtenances in Leominster situated in the street towards Eton' between the land formerly of Walter Lacy on the one part and the land sometime of William de Waketon'[3] on the other part, and extends from the king's highway to the land once of Robert Fauconer, which certain burgage we once had of the gift and feoffment of Hugh Ewyas.  To have and to hold all of the aforesaid burgage with buildings and all their appurtenances aforesaid, to the aforesaid Joan and her heirs and assigns forever, of the Chief lords of that fee by the services owed in respect thereof and by right accustomed.  In witness whereof we have affixed our seals to this our present charter.  These being witnesses: Richard Lorym[er][4], Walter Hoker', John Hood, Hugh Wheoler, Walter Wyg' and others.  Given at Leominster on Thursday next after the feast of St Richard the Bishop[5] in the 15th year of the reign of King Richard II after the Conquest [Thursday 4th April 1391].
The Clarendon collection deed with seals appended
This document is held by Worcestershire Archive Service and can be viewed in the Original Archive Area at The Hive at reference 705:255/BA1545.

Further reading:
Louise J. Wilkinson, Women in Thirteenth-Century Lincolnshire. (Studies in History, n.s.), 2007

[1] Probably Eaton, a hamlet of Leominster. 
[2] A corvesour or cordwainer was  a shoemaker or basketmaker; someone who manufactured other leather items
[3] Perhaps Wacton near Bromyard, Herefordshire.
[4] A lorimer was a craftsman who manufactured small metal objects, such as spurs or bits for horses
[5] Bishop of Chichester, d. 3 April 1253

Monday, 19 May 2014

Public Services Quality Group Survey of visitors to UK archives 2014

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

From Monday, 9th June to Saturday, 21st June 2014 we will be asking for your thoughts on the Worcestershire Archive Service, which is based at The Hive. The results will be analysed and, where possible, will inform improvements to the service.  This forms part of the national Public Services Quality Group (PSQG) 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.
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 aged at least 16 years.

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

Friday, 16 May 2014

Upcoming session for teachers: Teaching British Prehistory

To help support teachers who will be teaching Prehistory as part of the new national Curriculum we will be running a twilight session for teachers with Museums Worcestershire on 4th June.
The new history curriculum will include British prehistory for Key Stage 2 for the first time, and we know from conversations that many teachers are not sure where to start as they are unfamiliar with the subject. On the 4th June we will be running a session to help, hosted by Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery who currently have an Iron Age exhibition running. Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service and Museums Worcestershire have lots of experience of investigating, storing and interpreting Worcestershire's prehistoric past, as well as working with local schools, and we are keen to encourage local schools to utilise local resources and sites, which you may not be aware of.

Neolithic – view of Neolithic Worcestershire by one of our illustrators, based on evidence discovered by our archaeologists
At the event you'll be able to browse the exhibition, and we will do a short 'Bluffers guide' to British prehistory to explain some of the key terms and features, for instance when was the Neolithic period? and what were hunter gatherers?, as we know that some of the terminology can be unfamiliar; we will then discuss ways we can help you with lessons. There will also be an opportunity to get hands on with objects from our collections.

The event will start at 4:30pm with a cup of tea and a chance to browse the exhibition, before the brief introduction at 5pm. We aim to finish for 6pm. It takes place at Worcester City Museum & Art Gallery, Foregate St, Worcester. If you would like to come please RSVP to or ring 01905 766352. If you are unable to come but would like to know more about how we could help you then please contact us.
British camp – Iron Age hillfort

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~25~ Archaeological investigations on the Kempsey Flood Alleviation Scheme

This week's Treasure has been chosen by Tom Vaughan, Project Manager for Worcestershire Archaeology. Tom has chosen to highlight a series of finds which were uncovered as a result of archaeological investigations in Kempsey. Here, Tom tells us more about the rich history of this area:

In 2011 Worcestershire Archaeology undertook a series of investigations on behalf of the Environment Agency associated with the flood alleviation scheme either side of the Hatfield Brook at Kempsey. The area is of interest for many reasons: there are cropmarks of possible prehistoric activity across the floodplain; the promontory has been proposed as the site of an Iron Age fort; there have been Roman remains found in the vicinity (including a milestone inscribed with the name of Emperor Constantine, 306-337 AD); a Saxon minster church or monasterium, is documented here from 799 AD, followed by a Bishop's Palace in 868, which remained until demolition sometime in the 17th century; and the present St Mary's church which dates from the 12th century.

A first edition Ordnance Survey map showing the area concerned

One focus of our works was a new haul road to be located alongside the western boundary of the churchyard. It soon became apparent that the present churchyard extent is a later contraction of a much larger burial ground, as we revealed 55 intercutting burials along with extensive disarticulated (i.e. loose) human bone. Four of these individuals were radiocarbon dated to between 870-980 and 1040-1260 AD, so they may all pre-date the Norman Conquest.

Two intercutting burials (view West)

Interestingly, in 1954, two burials were revealed in a narrow trench dug by Worcestershire Archaeological Society on the floodplain further to the west. These were considered by the then Vicar to be 'victims of the Battle of Worcester' in 1646, traces of which are visible as pock-marks from musket shot and shrapnel on the south wall of the church's west tower. It would now seem more likely that these two are in fact of earlier medieval date, and form part of a much larger burial ground.

Main excavation plan

A ditch, parallel to the present churchyard boundary, was found to truncate a number of the burials. It was sealed by soils containing artefacts from the 12th to 14th centuries. This appears to indicate that the churchyard was reduced in size and deliberately enclosed at this time, presumably well after the locations of these burials had been forgotten about!

Plan showing the location of trenches

The earlier soil was in turn sealed by a horizon which contained extensive 13th to 16th century material, including quantities of building debris, such as partially glazed roof tile, ridge tile, decorated floor tile. This may represent the demolition of a substantial and significant medieval building, potentially the Bishop's Palace itself, the site of which is marked on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map, immediately to the west of our investigations.
Work in progress at Kempsey (view North)
The human skeletal remains, associated burial ground and features are a unique source of archaeological data, being the first recorded archaeological evidence from the Late Saxon and early medieval period in Kempsey. We intend to undertake some further survey work over the area of these excavations and to publish our report in the coming months. The skeletal remains have been reburied in the churchyard, with a memorial to ensure they are not forgotten again.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~24~ The King's Book

This week's Treasure has been chosen by Claire Haslam, Archivist. The item is a highly illustrated volume produced to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V and forms part of the Stanley Baldwin collection, which is currently being catalogued. Here Claire tells us more about her Treasure:

For my treasure I have chosen the colourful King's Book on Empire, red bound in a white case.

This book was created in celebration of King George V's Silver Jubilee (1910-1935). It is a collection of delightful artistic images and a piece of text representing countries of the Dominion. The book was published by Raphael Tuck and Sons Ltd. 'with the gracious consent of the King, the profits accruing to the publishers from the sale of this Book will be devoted to some philanthropic work in the United Kingdom and Overseas approved by His Majesty'.

The book forms part of the Stanley Baldwin private collection which I am currently cataloguing. Stanley Baldwin was, at the time, in office as Lord President of the Council within The National Government and the book forms part of his collection of personal memorabilia. He was soon to return to office as Prime Minister for a third time and much of this collection contains ceremonial records over a period covering the Jubilee, the death of George V and the Coronation of George VI.

My treasure particularly stands out in the collection for its sheer beauty. It is signed by King George and Queen Mary and there is an individual photograph of both the King and Queen at the front of the book.

Even the frontispiece is wonderfully decorated. It is an extract from a speech given by The King to The Empire broadcast Dec 25th 1934 where he speaks proudly as "the head of this great and wide-spread family".

The book then has a sonnet written for The King by John Masefield before moving on to an image of each nation complete with a short description and brief history of its connection to the United Kingdom.

I have selected 3 of images as part of this blog to represent what is contained within. I was particularly struck by the colour and detail of these images and the way they were designed to represent each Nation's strength and contribution to the Empire in a most gentle and celebratory manner. 

Whilst being absolutely of its time, I feel that this book represents something heartfelt from a King to his people in celebration his "long and sometimes anxious" reign.
This volume forms part of the Baldwin collection, which is currently in the process of being catalogued. For more information on viewing any part of this collection please email us for further advice at

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Upcoming Workshops: Exploring

After our last series of workshops booked up quickly we are running some more in the next couple of months. Ancestry website, which is free to use in The Hive, has many great resources, but sometimes it can be difficult to know what it has, what the different sources are and their benefits/disadvantages, and how to navigate the website itself. We have been running these workshops for a number of years, based on our experiences, to help people get the most out of it.

We run three different workshops, and you can book onto individual workshops or all three. Each one will consist of a presentation providing background to the historical sources on Ancestry, before having opportunity to go onto a computer and put what you've discovered into practice. As it is computer based you should have some basic computer skills and be familiar with the internet to get the most out of it.

Starting Ancestry: The census               Tue 27 May 2-4pm

This is one of the most common sources for starting family history, and we'll also look at the website itself.

Further Ancestry: Beyond The Census   Tue 3 June 2-4pm

Birth/marriage death records, immigration & emigration databases, military information and court lists are some of the other useful sources we'll cover as we look at what the next best places to look are after the census.

What's New on Ancestry                        Tue 17 June 2-4pm

New information is constantly being added to the website, and it's hard to keep track. This workshop will focus on what has been added over the past two years.

Places cost £6 each and can be booked by emailing or ringing 01905 766352.