Friday, 31 October 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~47~ Affidavit for burial in wool

This week's Treasure has been chosen by David Everett, one of our long-serving regular customers and a member of the Friends of Worcestershire Archives. David came across the following item nestled amongst the records of Stone parish whilst undertaking research in the Original Archive Area at The Hive. The particularly ghoulish illustrations that accompany these documents make them quite fitting for our Halloween post: 

The documents we are featuring this week are a series of affidavits from the parish of Stone that date from the 1680s. 

For centuries England relied on the woollen trade as a prosperous source of revenue and was key to the wealth of the country. The introduction of new materials and an increase in foreign imports was viewed by many as a threat to this vital industry. In an attempt to create a new market for woollen cloth, and to maintain the demand for domestically produced wool, the Burial in Woollen Acts were passed as Acts of Parliament (18 & 19 Cha. II c.4 (1666), 30 Cha. II c.3 (1678) and 32 Cha. II c.1 (1680)).

The Acts required that when a corpse was buried it should be dressed only in a shroud or garments made of wool...

And it is hereby enacted by the Authority aforesaid That from and after the First day of August One thousand six hundred and seaventy eight noe Corps of any person or persons shall be buryed in any Shirt Shift Sheete or Shroud or any thing whatsoever made or mingled with Flax Hempe Silke Haire Gold or Silver or in any Stuffe or thing other then what is made of Sheeps Wooll onely or be putt into any Coffin lined or faced with any sort of Cloath or Stuffe or any other thing whatsoever that is made of any Materiall but Sheeps Wooll onely upon paine of the Forfeiture of Five pounds of lawfull Money of England to be recovered and divided as is hereafter in this Act expressed and directed.[1]

An illustration from an affidavit, which looks like a design for a gruesome, human-shaped sweet. 

Failure to comply with the Act was punishable by a £5 penalty. As a point of reference, according to the National Archives' currency converter tool, £5 in 1680 would have been equivalent to £417.70 in 2005's money, which is no small sum by any account! 

In order to prove that a body was buried in wool, it was a requirement of the Act that an affidavit be sworn in front of a Justice of the Peace of the Mayor by a credible person within 8 days of the burial. If the parish did not have a JP or Mayor then the vicar or curate could administer the oath. David chose this particular item as his Treasure as, apart from the eye-catching illustrations, this was the first time he had encountered an affidavit that was signed by the vicar himself.

The affidavits took various forms depending upon the individual parish. Some parishes began new burial registers to record them in; some had separate volumes for them and others, as is the example at Stone parish, had individual printed forms produced. We are lucky to still have surviving examples of these forms as quite often they were thrown loose into the bottom of the parish chests and later destroyed. 

The Burials in Woollen Act was eventually repealed in 1814, although it was generally ignored from 1770 onwards. 

Records of burials in woollen, where they survive, are another great resource for family historians to consult when piecing together the lives of their ancestors and can be a good indicator of economic status - particularly where those not wishing to be buried in wool were willing to pay the £5 fine in order to be buried in finer materials such as lace. The documents featured here can be viewed in our Original Archive Area at The Hive (reference b 850 Stone BA5660/7). 

Further reading

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Averting Evil: Evidence from Worcestershire Buildings

As we celebrate Halloween and gorge ourselves on chocolate and sweets, the idea of all-pervading evil seems a long way away. But in the past this wasn't the case. In the medieval and post-medieval periods, there was a real belief in evil, witches and demons. It was felt that they could attack you, your household, buildings or their contents and protective practices were developed to prevent harm from the evil. In historic buildings you can often find marks that were intended to protect the occupiers or contents of the building.

 Gorgoneion – Head of Medusa used to ward off evil

Shona Robson-Glyde, our Historic Buildings Archaeologist, has put together a fantastic Powerpoint, which looks in detail at examples of apotropaic marks that were used to ward off evil throughout the centuries and provides real examples of these found across historic buildings in Worcestershire. You can access the full slideshow here

Daisy wheel found at Court Farm, Himbleton

Do you know of any apotropaic marks in Worcestershire? If so, please send photographs and details of their locations to or leave us a comment here on the blog. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

World War One War Memorials School Packs

As part of the Worcester World War One Hundred project we are producing resources for schools to help them with a local focus to looking at the World war One.


 The first is based around war memorials and tracing soldiers, which many schools are undertaking. In the pack are lesson plans and ideas. The majority of this relates to Key Stage 2, but the principles of investigating the lives of soldiers can be used in secondary schools too as part of projects.

The next being produced is about Worcestershire during the war, looking at the experience on the home front. This is still being worked on but we can send you a copy as soon as it is available if you let us know.

We are in the process of e-mailing the completed pack to schools, but if your school hasn't received one please email us on or ring 01905 766352 and we'll happily send you a copy.

For more details about the Worcestershire World War One Hundred project please visit our website

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

The Pershore Hoards and Votive Deposition in the Iron Age

Twenty years ago almost 1,000 Iron Age coins were discovered at Pershore by metal detectorists, which turned out to be one of most important archaeological finds in recent years. Archaeologists were informed quickly and this led to an excavation revealing an Iron Age/Roman settlement which professionals had been unaware of until then. The coins, both gold and silver, were declared Treasure Trove and were subsequently bought by the British Museum.

The reverse view of the Pershore type gold stater, named as such for the first  time as a result of the discovery in Pershore. 
Image supplied courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum 

Derek Hurst, one of our Senior Project Managers, has written up the report of the excavation along with Ian Leins (British Museum) in the 2013 edition of the Proceeding of the Prehistoric Society. They look at the fieldwork which was carried out at the time as well as the analysis from the post excavation work, and the subsequent discussions.  This journal is available to see on level 2 in The Hive, just to the left of the Explore the Past desk, along with many other archaeological journals. It is also available from the Society.

The Pershore hoard is the subject of the next meeting of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society on Mon 3rd November at 7:30pm when Derek will share details about the find and the latest interpretations. More details about the talk can be found at

Monday, 27 October 2014

Upcoming WWI in the Archives workshop at The Hive

On Monday 10th November we are running a workshop about World War I in the Archives here at The Hive. Although there have always been people using us to research WWI soldiers and local places during the war, there has been a large increase recently due to the centenary, prompting many individuals and groups to investigate ancestors of their local communities.

During this workshop we'll look at how you can use the resources here to research more about soldiers' lives, find out whether your ancestor or as part of a study on a war memorial. We will also go through how to search our archives for information about the war, the period and links to local communities.

The workshop runs from 10am to 12:30pm and will be at The Hive. Places cost £8 and will need to be booked in advance. You can book now by emailing or by phoning 01905 766352. 

Please note this is a repeat of the workshop we ran in June this year.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Worcestershire's War: Voices of the First World War book launch event at The Hive

On Tuesday 28th October a new book about Worcestershire during WWI will be launched here in The Hive, co-authored by our Archive Collections Manager, Dr Adrian Gregson. 'Worcestershire's War: Voices of the First World War' is a collaboration between Adrian, Dr Maggie Andrews and Dr John Peters, who have been working closely together on the Worcestershire WWI centenary events. Adrian has had a long standing interest in the First World War, and did his PhD on the experiences of a Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment as well as those they left behind in Southport. He's currently co-ordinating Worcestershire World war One Hundred HLF Project.

The book uses letter, diaries and other historic sources to tell the story of Worcestershire in the war,  the experiences of those living in the county, rural identity, as well as the experience of Worcestershire men fighting on the front line around the world. This remarkable collection of voices gives a unique insight into this county's  First World War.

The launch will start at 4:30pm on Tuesday 28 October, and will be followed 5:30-7:30pm by two talks based around the Battle of Gheluvelt, the centenary of which is on the 31st October. The Battle plays a significant role in the history of the Worcestershire Regiment, and Barbourne Park was renamed Gheluvelt Park after the war due to its significance. Dr Spencer Jones of the University of Wolverhampton will speak on:  The Demon Saves the Day:  Charles FitzClarence VC and the Battle for Gheluvelt and be followed by Dr Janis Lomas (Independent Scholar)  discussing  The Women Gheluvelt Left behind: WW1 Widows.  

Adrian Gregson said, "In amongst the commemorations we are hoping that this book will be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about the impact of the Great War here in Worcestershire. It brings together the research myself, Maggie and John have been doing . We're also pleased to be able to have the Gheluvelt seminar in The Hive. The battle is an important part of the county's regiment history, and it is an opportunity to hear more about it and the significance of what the regiment did, three days before the centenary of the battle."

The launch will be in the atrium here in The Hive, and the talks will take place in the Studio. To book a place for the talks please email The book will be available to purchase for £14.99 from the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service shop, which is located on Level 2 of The Hive

For further information on commemorating Worcestershire in the Great war see:

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Worcestershire Archives celebrates Accreditation award at Houses of Parliament

On 15th October we attended a celebratory event at the Houses of Parliament to celebrate the first 14 UK Archive Services to become accredited under the new Archive Service Accreditation scheme.  Worcestershire was one of the first 6 archive services to become accredited in November 2013, and one of the first 3 local authority archive services. 

The event took place in the Churchill room, a beautiful room displaying some of Churchill's own paintings, and was hosted by Lord Clark of Windermere, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Committee on Archives and History.  In his speech he praised all services present for their hard work and willingness to be pioneers for the wider sector.  There was also a speech from Bruce Jackson, Chair of the Archive Service Accreditation Committee, and Worcester MP Robin Walker popped in to congratulate the Worcestershire team.  

L-R Victoria Bryant, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service Manager; Lord Clark of Windermere; Cllr Lucy Hodgson; Lisa Snook, User Services Manager.
Photograph courtesy of Simon O'Connor

Achieving Accreditation so soon after moving to The Hive is particularly gratifying, and the feedback received from the assessors praised the services that we deliver, especially “…the speed of service transformation in recent years and how the opportunities presented by The Hive have been grasped to bring benefits across the service… and were interested in the innovative approach of the archive service at The Hive.   They were also very keen to recognise the strong customer focus and how we strive to understand and meet customer requirements, something we are justifiably proud of.

We are thrilled to be one of the first accredited archive services. The application was a true team effort, with all areas of the service inputting information required from the Accreditation Panel. It is a great accolade, and a national recognition of the service that the team provide at The Hive, from managing and conserving the archive collections, making them available to our customers on site and taking them out to school and community groups.

Being able to celebrate in such amazing surroundings, with colleagues from the wider profession, really brought home to us what a great achievement this is. 

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, 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 - 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 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

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~44~ Honey in an Iron Age pot

It isn't very often that an in situ pot turns up at the office for excavation in the lab, and it isn't every day that you find archaeological evidence for the use of honey in the past, but that's what happened with this pot…

 Showing pot in situ, you can just make out the outline as a black, misshapen, ring (Photo: Sean Cook, One Ten Archaeology)

Although the Finds and Environment team spend the majority of their time on internal projects, we do also take in external work. So when Sean Cook from One Ten Archaeology arrived with a block of soil from Tibberton, a site being developed by Rooftop Housing Group, we set to work.

(Photo: Suzi slowly excavating the pot)

So, what were we looking for?
Well, Laura, one of our Finds Officers examined the pottery and found that this pot and all the other sherds of pottery from the site came from the late Iron Age, a period that is poorly represented in Worcestershire.

Suzi, one of our Environmental Archaeologists, on the other hand was looking for evidence not immediately visible to the naked eye - pollen grains. Pollen is usually preserved in waterlogged sediments, which we would expect to find in more natural settings, e.g. peat from palaeochannels and clay from flood plains. But it is also often preserved in archaeological contexts too. In this case, pollen was surviving in a charred layer on the base of the pot.

From the types of pollen found and the proportions of them, it appears that the pot may have once contained honey. We had pollen from plants such as dandelion, willow, buttercup, which are all insect pollinated and known to be attractive to bees. In most pollen assemblages you would normally expect to find some wind pollinated pollen too, but its absence led us to question how this pollen had arrived here. Honey provides us with a possible answer because bees would have only been collecting insect pollinated plants (rather than wind pollinated ones)

During the Iron Age, honey would have been one of the few sweeteners obtainable to people, sugar hadn't arrived in Britain at that point. Honey was used for food, but it was also used to make alcoholic drinks, such as mead, and it was used in offerings too. Exactly what the pot was being used for is likely to remain a mystery, but it has given us an insight into ancient culinary habits. 

We would very much like to thank Sean Cook from One Ten Archaeology for giving us the opportunity to work on such an interesting find, and Rooftop Housing Group for funding the work.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

WAAS heritage displays make a mark at the Heart of Worcestershire College's St Dunstan building

If you go into the new creative learning quarter of the Heart of Worcestershire College's new campus, just by The Hive, you'll see the local history of the site marked in a number of ways.  We've been working with the college over the summer to incorporate the history of the local area in the design of the interior.

The official opening included a ribbon cutting by Samia Ghadie (Coronation Street actress) 

Last Saturday (27th September) Nick Boles, Minister of State jointly for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, formally re-opened the Heart of Worcestershire College's Art & Design Department in its new premises, the former Russell & Dorrell furniture store, in Dolday Worcester.

Minister Nick Boles is pictured above with Principal Stuart Laverick and Vice Principal Nikki Williams of the Heart of Worcestershire College

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and The TEW Group were commissioned by the college to provide some permanent wall and table displays on which a potted history of this part of Worcester from the mediaeval period onwards are interpreted, alongside local people's memories of the former cattle market site.

The terrace café at St Dunstan's, open to students and the public feature 8 table displays with interpretations of life in Dolday and Worcester through the centuries, with civil and personal stories and maps.

One of the 8 table displays, here touching on the story of Cyril Cale, cattle market foreman from 1930 to 1962.

Much of the information came to light when we were preparing for the opening of The Hive in 2012, and you may remember seeing the promenade performance of Offal tales during the first week of opening, or seeing the exhibition Beyond the City walls here or in one of the county's libraries. It has been great to have an opportunity to bring the history of the area to a wider audience in the college. So if you are going in there please have a look out.

 Elsie (pictured here) and her twin sister Josie lived in Netherton Lane in the 1920s and they share some of their memories of the cattle market on this wall display in St Dunstan's.