Friday, 28 November 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~51~ A small piece of agricultural history

Recently, Rhonda Niven, Conservator for the Archive and Archaeology Service, presented me with a neat, dried bundle of plant material that had been found pressed between the pages of a Croome Estate inventory dated Oct 2nd 1819. The question was, 'what was this material?' The most likely at the time seemed to be hay or corn.

On the photograph above you can just see fibres exposed at the ends of the stems. When viewed with a microscope, these appear much clearer, and give a clue as to the identity of the original plant. Although it looks like grass or wheat, I immediately thought of flax, which was a very important crop until its decline in the 20th century, grown mostly for its fibres which are used to produce linen yarn, cloth or rope. It can also be grown for oil that can be extracted from the seeds to make linseed oil, but it is the crop grown for fibres which was more common. It compares well with reference material held at the Archive and Archaeology Service. If you take a flax stem and bend it several times, particularly if it has been retted (partially rotted), almost immediately, the outer part of the stem will break down and you will see the fibres inside. It is this quality which makes it such a valuable fibre crop, producing the soft, smooth linen cloth that we all know.

From field to cloth, flax needs a long and time-consuming sequence of processing known as rippling, retting, breaking, scutching and heckling, so a great deal of effort must have been put into processing the crop on the Croome estate. A previous blog post (Long-straw wheat and flax on the Young Archaeologists' allotment) shows a small but fine crop of flax that was grown on a Worcester allotment in 2013.

Flax remains are found every now and then in soil samples taken from archaeological digs, but is usually the seeds, seed capsules or pollen grains that are found as they are quite robust, so it is unusual to see the stem and fibres as found here. Recently, large quantities of burnt flax which were dumped in a pit during the post-medieval period (possibly Civil War era) at the Kings School, Worcester. One interpretation is that this waste represents the remains of a whole flax crop burnt in fire, perhaps a barn fire.

Along with the flax on the page of the Croome estate inventory were records of payments made to numerous people involved with the upkeep of the house and management of the estate and farmlands - the 'Butcher', 'Baker', 'Fisher' and lastly the 'Cornchandler', or retailer of corn and related products. Perhaps the bookkeeper pressed a small piece of flax leftover from samples shown to the cornchandler during the sale of flax and corn from the estate that year.

Christmas Shopping? You will find plenty of ideas for great gifts at Explore the Past!

Are you looking for presents that are a little bit different this year?  If so, come to Explore the Past on Level 2 at The Hive, Worcester to see the large range of Books and CDs related to the history of Worcestershire– ideal gifts for young and old.  Brought to you by the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, we also have a great selection of Jewellery, Gifts and Pottery, all inspired by the past.

New for 2014! For the first time this year we have a gift for the person who has everything.  You can now make a donation to Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service either as a gift to yourself or for someone else.   The minimum donation is £5, and in return you will receive a gift card to show what you are contributing to. There are three lovely cards to choose from, one of which has a Christmas theme:


Don't forget we also stock the newly published Stories of Worcester:  History through the Eyes of Children by Pat Hughes and Deborah Overton - a great read for any budding history lovers out there; and Worcestershire's War by Maggie Andrews, Adrian Gregson & John Peters, which was researched using letters, diaries and journals made at the time. This remarkable collection of voices gives a unique insight into this county's First World War.

Head along to The Hive today to grab a gift that will be treasured this Christmas!      

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~50~ Hand to hand with ancient Worcestershire

This week's Worcestershire Treasure has been chosen by the Archive & Archaeology Service Manager, Victoria Bryant. The artefact Victoria has chosen is a lower Palaeolithic 'handaxe', discovered in a field near Madresfield. It was produced by a species of human ancestor named Homo Heidelbergensis during one of the warm 'interglacial' periods within the last Ice Age. It's likely to date from either 427-374,000 years ago (Hoxnian stage: Marine Isotope Stage 11) or 337-300,000 years ago (Purfleet Interglacial: Marine Isotope Stage 9), periods during which the climate was warm and conditions were ideal for groups of hunter-gatherer hominins. Victoria describes her reaction to holding a Palaeolithic artefact for the first time:

"I have been a professional archaeologist for 31 years and have handled many objects.  I loved history as a little girl and rather romantically imagined that if I could ever get to touch the cooking pots, the arrowheads, the hairpins or the shoes I would feel a physical connection to the past which would be almost like time travel.  

Over the years I have been delighted, intrigued and puzzled by objects but never really felt a direct connection to the remote past. All this changed earlier this year when I was able, for the first time, to hold a Palaeolithic hand axe which my colleagues were studying as part of a reassessment of the Palaeolithic evidence for Worcestershire funded by English Heritage.

Handaxe from Madresfield, photographed and illustrated by our Digitisation and Illustration teams

Handaxes are rare finds, and during my career I have focused on artefacts from the Roman period onwards. As a result I had only seen these early tools as images in books or objects behind glass. I always thought they looked crude and primitive, not like the tools of the later prehistoric periods, and frankly rather dull. I felt that the human species who made them, whilst of intellectual interest to my colleagues, were probably equally primitive and dull.

These preconceptions were shattered when I held a hand axe for the first time. As soon as it touched my skin I understood its sophistication and complexity. It fitted the human hand perfectly and was clearly a tool of carefully considered weight and balance. Hundreds of thousands of years ago, the person who produced this design classic had the complexity of thought, spatial awareness  and forward planning which I had, in my ignorance,  always attributed to modern humans. It was a light bulb moment and also a powerful emotional one – time travel at last!"

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

West Mercia Police records to be catalogued thanks to National Cataloguing Grant success

We are delighted to announce that Worcestershire Archives are one of the lucky repositories to be awarded funding from the 2014 round of the National Cataloguing Grant programme. Each year the Cataloguing Grants Programme supports the cataloguing of collections that need external funding to provide access to their content. The 2014 round received applications for over £1.8 million in total from various organisations, so we are extremely proud that our project has been selected for funding support. 

The title of the project is 'Worcestershire's criminal record - cataloguing the West Mercia Police Authority Archives' and over the course of 15 months it will allow us to catalogue and make available the Police records in our care. For some years now the West Mercia records held by our service have had limited availability due to their uncatalogued status, so we are excited to finally dedicate the time needed to these records. Once catalogued the records will be made available on our online catalogue and, subject to any legal closure periods, will be available to view in our Original Archive Area at The Hive

For more information on the Cataloguing Grant programme and to find out about the other successful applicants check The National Archives' website. 

Keep checking back on our Blog for more information about the progress of the project throughout 2015!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~49~ A letter from Ceylon

This week's Treasure is a letter from the Bantock archive, which has been chosen by Lesley Downing, Archive Assistant. This item shows just how far afield the remit of records from Worcestershire Archives can stretch as the letter was sent from Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka). Although the opinions of the unknown author of this letter may be a little controversial, his letter provides a good description of the discoveries made there:

I came across this letter whilst looking through the archive of Sir Granville Bantock, ref: 705:462/4894.  It is a very chatty letter, from one old friend to another, and was obviously written when the sender was caught up in a moment of discovery – in this case of the similarities and differences between his own religion, Anglican, and that of the country he was visiting, Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then.  It is a very personal, individual description, and bubbles with joy and enthusiasm at his surroundings and observations.  It brings Ceylon, circa 1927 to Worcestershire, today.

Here is a full transcription of the letter: 

"My dear GB.

I promised you I'd call and here I am.  Your son has entertained me royally.  I just want to say briefly how Colombo impresses me.

It is the most wonderful place I have yet struck.  What a riot of colour!  And the people! I have been almost standing on my head, wondering where I had landed in, when I visited a Hindu Temple!

I am more convinced than ever that the origins of religion and ritual are in these functions and places.  From the daubing of the foreheads of children and adults with a cumin white paste and red paint, the burning of a candle at the entrance of the Hindu Temple, the glimpse of a mysterious image within,  (what is the arc of the covenant and the altar in Christian churches but this?), to the dancing and tom-tom drumming outside, the hullabaloo and general hubbub, we have all that makes for a religion ceremony in the west – only a bit more refined and sophisticated.

This is true religion.  The present Western type is a thinly-veiled replica of what I have seen today – with the hypocritical pretence that it is the only true revelation.

Our smug religionists don't like to peep too far back into the true sources of their ceremonies.

But there it is, and I have more respect for the simple honest faith of these people than the Western Christian, who won't admit the truth.

I am sorry I must stop.  I am going to meet your son at the races, and then a rush, after dinner back to the ship.

He looks the picture of health and I am delighted to meet him again.  He will write, of course, later.

Meantime my best thanks for your help and inspiration in telling me to call.  I shall write again, yours ever.

D[?] Vaughan [?]"

Sir Granville Bantock was an internationally acclaimed composer and conductor, a personal friend of Elgar and many other musical and artistic figures of his day.  His archive consists of approximately 6,000 items, many of which are personal letters, newspaper cuttings from his long and illustrious career and other personal items.

The archive holds several other items with an international feel, and I think it is a lovely illustration of the fact that we may be the Worcestershire Archive Service, but that does not mean that is all we are.  The Bantock archive itself holds letters from a German contact, Otto Kling written in French, 1906-1911, ref: 705:462/4664/6, some items in Persian, his own lecture notes on 'Chinese Music and Drama' and a huge volume of newspaper cuttings, VIP invitations, Concert Brochures etc., from his tour of Australia in 1938.  This includes a lovely photograph of the man himself, then around 70 years of age, cooling off during a heat wave by wearing a sarong!

We hold many, many private archives of Worcestershire people, the great and the good, and, of course, the ordinary people themselves.  There must be hundreds, if not thousands of items that bring the world to Worcestershire in this way, just waiting to be discovered.

Explore Your Archive: The End of the Dandy Row Tale...

After Thomas Boyce died in 1920, Dandy Row, Pleasant Row and three houses in Chestnut Street were left to his son Rowland.

In July 1936 it was proposed that the city council purchase Dandy Row, Pleasant Row and the land between from Rowland O'Hara Boyce for the purposes of widening Severn Street. Demolition orders had already been served on 20th May.

By January 1937 the majority of the tenants had been re-housed with the exception of 6 Dandy Row and 2 Pleasant Row. The occupier of 6 Dandy Row was George Sanders.

Julia at the area of Dandy Row as it is today

The land was purchased in April 1937 for a total of £367 by the Health Committee, with a portion transferred to the Streets Committee for road widening.

The tender for buildings was advertised in September 1937, but due to high prices it was deferred until the market was more stable for building work. Tenders were again called for in February 1938 and sixteen flats were built by Thomas Alfred Simpkins, a builder and contractor of High Street, Pershore. The land where the houses in Dandy Row stood was used for widening Severn Street.

Taken from The Worcester City Archives held at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.  Ref: 496.5/BA9360/Cab23/228

Teresa and Angie at the area of Dandy Row as it is today

 Explore Your Archive

The past week has shown what it is possible to achieve from one photograph and the use of your local archive. But it doesn't have to end here as we hope that we have inspired you to do some research of your own. There are many more people who lived in Dandy Row, not just those who lived there in the 1900 directory. There are also more sources that haven't been explored yet and they may have equally interesting stories to tell. If we have whetted your appetite, here is a recap of some of the sources we used that are all available at your local archive:

Available in our Original Archive Area during staffed hours:
  • Worcester City Archives
  • St Peter's School Admission Register (closure periods apply to records less than one hundred years old)

 Available on microfilm in our Self Service Area
  •  Astwood Road Cemetery Records
  • St Peter's Church, Worcester Parish Registers
  • Worcester Probate Records

 Available in the local studies reference library, in our Self Service Area
  • Littlebury's Directory of the City of Worcester, 1896, 1898, 1900 (ref: 900.1896, 900.1898, 900.1900 respectively)
  • The Worcester Daily Times Trade and Industrial Edition, 1903 (ref: oversize 609.42448)
  • Jones, Ray,  Porcelain in Worcester 1751-1951: An Illustrated Social History (ref: 738.27)
  • Clarke, A, The History of the Net Fishermen of Worcester, (ref 799.13).
  • Measom, George, Guide to the Great Western Railway,1860. (ref 942.4)
  • Lyes, D.C., The Leather Glove Industry of Worcester in the Nineteenth Century. (ref 338.476854)

  Available through the free subscription to the website, which is available at any Worcestershire library
  • Census records for 1871,1901 and 1911
  • General Register Office Index to birth, marriage and death.
  • Service Records for Henry William Martin

Please see our website for more information about visiting us.

Keep searching!

By Teresa Jones

A special thanks go to Angie, Julia and Teresa who have spent months researching the history of Dandy Row in order to bring this series of posts to the Blog. Their initial discovery sparked their interest and inspired research that has taken them across the full range of records held by Worcestershire Archives. Their joint research demonstrates just how much one can find out about an area by digging through our records. 

If you would like to start your own research then why not come along to The Hive to find out more? We have an ongoing programme of courses available to help new users, including classes on family, local and house history. To find out more please see our Events Guide. You can sign up to hear about updates on future courses available by emailing

Friday, 14 November 2014

Explore Your Archive: No. 2 Dandy Row

At No. 2 Dandy Row, lived Nathaniel Wale and his wife Ellen.

Nathaniel married Ellen Morgan in 1870 and the newlyweds moved into their home in Severn Street where in early 1871 their first child Ellen Maria was born. Sadly, their baby daughter died the following year, but they had five further children: Anne Marie (who also died in childhood), Frederick, Bertram (known as Bertie) Gertrude Ethel (known as Ethel) and Harold. Ellen Wale died in 1912 and Nathaniel in 1921. They were one of the longest inhabitants of Dandy Row.

In the 1911 census the three youngest children are still living with them in Dandy Row and working for local companies; Bertram is a labourer at McKenzies, Ethel is a gloveress (glove maker) for Dents and Harold is an organ builder for Nicholsons.

Picture of the Vulcan Works, Worcester taken from 'Guide to the Great Western Railway' by George Measom. 1860.

McKenzie and Holland Limited. Railway Signal and Interlocking Engineers.
The Vulcan Iron Works were established in Worcester in 1857. They manufactured railway signalling equipment as well as signal boxes, telegraph poles, towers for telephone lines, water tanks and bridges. The business was begun on a small scale, with a total workforce of less than 80. By the start of the 20th century the factory employed between 600 and 700 men and covered approximately 5 acres as well as having plants in Australia. The business had flourished with the huge expansion of the railways, both in Britain and around the world and particularly within the British Empire.
In the early 20th century the Managing Director was Walter Holland who had also been Mayor of the City.

Photograph of the river front, Worcester c. 1900. This photograph is from a collection of glass negatives held by Worcestershire Archives. It shows the factory of Dent, Allcroft and the centre of the picture (behind the bridge). The photographer and copyright holder of the photograph are unknown, so if you know who they were please get in touch.

Dent, Allcroft and Co. Glove Manufacturers.
In 1772 John Dent received freedom to trade in Worcester and established a glove manufactory in Sidbury, Worcester. An advertisement for Dent, Allcroft and Co. from the early 1900s claimed around 1000 people worked in their factory and 1500 worked as outworkers. However, 'The Leather Glove Industry in Worcester in the Nineteenth Century', by D.C. Lyes puts the figure of outworkers nearer to 10,000. From the number of Worcester women who put their occupation on the census as 'Gloveress', the higher figure would seem more accurate. The book also gives the number of gloves produced by the company in 1884 as 12¼ million pairs - nearly half the UK's total production. The company of Dents still manufactures gloves, but no longer in Worcester.

Picture of the Nicholson factory on Palace Yard, Worcester by kind permission of Nicholson and Co. More information of the company can be found on their website.  

Nicholson and Co. Organ Builders.
Nicholson and Co. Organ Builders, was established in Worcester in 1841 and the company's factory was in Palace Yard, not far from Dandy Row.
The company built (and still builds) organs for cathedrals, public halls and churches around Britain and across the world.
From 1903 to 1915 Nicholsons was owned by A.H. Whinfield. The Whinfields often gave musical evenings at their house and Edward Elgar was a frequent guest. In 1903 the company featured in The Worcester Daily Times Trade and Industry Edition 'Worcester at Work' where the quality of the organs manufactured at Nicholsons is extolled,
 'Every care is taken that the material used, the workmanship bestowed, the proportions of the organ will lead to a correct musical result.'

By Julia Pincott

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Explore Your Archive: 4 Dandy Row

The Webb Family who lived at no 4 were one of the many fishing families that lived in the area.

Isaac Webb baptised in 1790 was the founder of this fishing dynasty. He was an apprentice fisherman. He completed his apprenticeship and received his freedom of the City in 1812. He married and had 11 children. All five of his sons worked within the fishing community.

He died on the 1st May 1866 at the age of 75 having been admitted into Nash's Alms House 5 years earlier. His death was reported in the Worcestershire Journal. It states the he was 'much respected' and that he was 'at the Battle of Waterloo'.

According to The Waterloo Medal Roll of 1815 on Ancestry there was a Private Isaac Webb in the 2nd Battalion 3rd regiment of Foot Guards.

His first son Isaac became a Severn Steam Tug Captain and according the 1871 census his tug was called 'Enterprise. It carried coal along the Severn.

Issac died in 1909 in Wyatts Alms Houses in Friar Street Worcester. In his will he left his son a photograph of himself, his wife and Grand-father and a picture of a punt. This is a flat-bottomed boat with a square-cut bow designed for use in small rivers or other shallow water.

The Fishing industry on the Severn came to an end in 1929 when netting of fish on the Severn was prohibited by Parliament.

By Angie Downton

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Explore Your Archive: 5 Dandy Row

John Baylis was born around 1868. His father Samuel Baylis is also a previous resident of Dandy Row. John and his wife Susan (who died in 1908) had five children, Sidney, Gertrude, Edith, Arthur and Bertram.

For many years John worked at Worcester Porcelain as a china printer, although in some sources he has also been described as a china painter and china guilder. Amongst their archives, Worcester Porcelain Museum has a photograph of long serving personnel from around 1929, which they have been kind enough to give us permission to use here. John Baylis can be found in the back row, at the far right of the picture.

Photograph reproduced with permission from Museum of Royal Worcester, Severn Street, Worcester

Worcester Porcelain was a large local employer, and their factory was just next door to Dandy Row on Severn Street. The Museum of Royal Worcester have been adding items from their collection and archive images to their website. This can be found at:

John Baylis was living at Dandy Row when he died and was buried at Astwood Cemetery on 11 April 1933. His children Arthur, Bertram and Edith are listed in the 1936 register of electors at Dandy Row.

By Teresa Jones

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Explore Your Archive: 7 Dandy Row

Fanny Martin and her only child Henry William came to live at Dandy Row after her husband William died in 1891.

Henry William Martin was born in 1887, and we have found that he attended St Peter's School.

 Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, ref: b899:749, BA9294/49(iii)

Henry Martin died, aged 30, on 15th September 1917  after being gassed the day before. He is buried at Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium, Grave VII. G. 15. He is mentioned on both the St Peter's war memorial (now at St Martin's church, London Road) and on the memorial at the Guildhall. This information has been found and transcribed, with permission, from the website 'Remember the Fallen' which is 'dedicated to all the men and women who sacrificed their lives so that we may live and enjoy our freedom today. A searchable database of those commemorated primarily on war memorials and rolls of honour in Worcestershire (with a small number from Warwickshire, Gloucestershire and Shropshire) can be found at:

Fanny Martin was still living at 7 Dandy Row in 1936, according to the electoral register of that year. She is listed in the General Register Office death index for the March quarter of 1937, aged 84.

By Teresa Jones

Monday, 10 November 2014

Explore Your Archive: Early History of Dandy Row


This piece of land was purchased in 1792 from a Mrs Ann Gamidges widow, by Mr Fincher and the row was built soon after. In early years of the 19th century the top half of Frog Lane that was behind the city wall became High Timber Hill Street. The rest of the lane remained Frog Lane until the late 1820's when it was renamed Diglis Street. The name apparently fitted with its new image. There is some debate as to the meaning of the word Diglis, but it may have originated from the Norman French D'Eglise 'meaning of the church'. Lands in Diglis were some of the first outside the City to be given to the Priory.
Forgotten Worcester. H.A. Leicester Dated 1930.  

'On Christmas Day, that dirty unpleasant thoroughfare, Frog-lane which has been under-drained and re-paved, was lighted with gas, and elevated to the rank of Street by name of Diglis-street. For this improvement, citizens are chiefly indebted to the liberality and exertions of Mr Daukes, of Diglis House.'
Worcester Miscellany March 1829 page 37.

By 1870 High Timber Hill Street and Diglis Street were finally united under the name of Severn Street

Dandy Row was made up of nine buildings. Eight of the houses had a front living room containing an oven grate and side cupboards and a small adjoining back room. There were 2 bedrooms and a strip of garden to the front of the houses. The ninth house was much larger and comprised of a small front shop with living room behind, 2 bedrooms and a cellar. The house had gas laid on to the ground floor. Outside the properties were 2 party brew houses with a furnace, sink and a town water tap. There were also 3 party W.C's.

By 1898 The Littleburys Directory listed The Shades Public House as part of Dandy Row and by 1900 the residents of Dandy Row such as the Wale family had been living there 30 years, the Webb family 50 years, the Baylis family 10 years and the Martin family 10 years.

Dandy Row was put up for sale in 1900 when the land owner Joseph Williams died. The sale particulars state that the row would make an annual rent of
76 pounds and 14 shillings. It was purchased by Thomas Boyce.


The sale particulars for Dandy Row and the plan of 1792  are from the Worcester City Archives. The copies are with kind permission of Worcester City Council, whose early archive is held by the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.

By Angela Downton

Explore Your Archive. Dandy Row: It all started with a photograph

While sorting through a small collection I came across a photograph taken from Worcester Cathedral looking across the Worcester Porcelain works and surrounding area. It showed Worcester when the Bath Road took you to open Countryside.

With thanks to Mr Gwillam for use of this photograph

We were intrigued by the photograph and began trying to work out what the streets were. We knew the date of the photograph was c. 1900, so we started by looking at an ordnance survey map of the area to try and get our bearings. The area we are looking at is the parish of St Martins. The next step was to find out the names of the streets in the photograph. We did this by searching local trade directories around 1900, copies for 1898 and 1900 gave us lists of the local streets. This led us to discover Dandy Row which captured our imagination.

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service reference library. Littlebury's Directory 1900, Ref: 900.1900

Jeremiah Pitt, Albert Dufty, Nathaniel Wale and Mrs Tandy would seem at first glance to be characters from a Dickensian Novel. Their names may indeed come from the 19th century, but they were all actual residents of Worcester and they lived in this small terrace of houses called Dandy Row. This small row of houses has been lost in the mists of time, but by delving into the archives the row and its inhabitants have been brought to life.

Over the next few days we will share with you what we have discovered and introduce you to some of the residents of Dandy Row.

By Angela Downton

Get involved with the 2014 Explore Your Archive campaign #explorearchives

The 2014 Explore Your Archive campaign will be running from 10th to 16th November and Worcestershire Archive Service is lending its voice to encourage the nation to engage with and value the archives that make up our national treasures. 

Taking inspiration from the first Explore Your Archive campaign (2013) we have continued a year-long feature here on our Blog, which aims to highlight the Treasures that can be found by exploring our collections. To mark the 2014 campaign we will have displays on-site of some the items we have featured so far. Visitors to The Hive will have the chance to get involved with a range of events throughout November, including a Behind the Scenes tour and our popular Parish Records workshop. Also, several members of staff have been busy delving into the history and former residents of old Dandy Row in Worcester - an area that captured their interest with its cheery name. Using their extensive research across many of our collections we will be hosting posts for this feature all week here on the Blog to bring this forgotten street back to life and show just what you can find out by exploring archives. 

Follow us on our Facebook and Twitter accounts throughout the campaign to find out more about what we are doing. 

You can find out more about events all across the country by checking the Explore Your Archive website, following the Explore Your Archive Twitter account or by following the hashtag #explorearchives on Twitter throughout the week. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Treasures from Worcestershire's Past: ~48~ Grazebrook Watercolour

This week's Treasure is a watercolour, which has been chosen by Carol Wood, Archive Assistant:

This watercolour was found in the front of one of the design sketch books created by Phillip Grazebrook, an architect from Hagley.

His sketch books are full of pencil drawings of decorative features and designs.  A number of these are direct copies of what he would have seen whilst visiting medieval churches and grand houses but in many of them he was taking inspiration directly from nature.  These drawings are well executed and show what a fine artist Grazebrook was as a well as a conscientious architect looking to improve his designs.

This painting was done on the flip side of a postcard addressed to W. Stallard Edwards, Pierpont Street, Worcester. It is dated 1917 and shows two British shops of seemingly different periods. Research continues as to whether these were painted in response to first-hand experience.

This item is currently in the process of being catalogued and can be found at reference BA13065. If you wish to consult uncatalogued material in our Original Archive Area we require 7 days notice in advance. Please email for more information. 

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Guest Post: A university placement student's time at WAAS (part 2)

Here is the second instalment of Emma Heatherley's post detailing her time at WAAS on a university work experience placement:

I spent a lot of time working with the User Services team on level two of The Hive, mainly on the 'Explore the Past' desk shadowing the Archivists and Archive Assistants as they carried out different roles associated with the Original Archive Area. These included: collecting and returning requested documents from the strongrooms to the general public (production); overseeing the Original Archive Area and fronting the desk- often issuing CARN (County Archive Research Network) tickets and library cards to members of the public. I learnt how to locate documents in the strongrooms, how to find the document when in the strongroom, the correct way to issue a document including how to weigh the box or object and how to return the document when the individual had finished. On my first day however I was inducted to the Original Archive Area the same way anyone else would be if they were entering the original archives for the first time; and included information on where to find aids to help with reading the documents including weights, pillows and gloves if needed to protect the document.

This is the part of the Archive Service that most of the general public will deal with when coming into the Original Archive Area, so I was around the public during this time a lot more than when I was down working with the collections team. It was interesting, however, to see the different types of people using the archive area for different kinds of research, including of course students researching for their dissertations.

Furthermore, while working with User Services I had the opportunity to help answer some enquiries that had been emailed or written in to the archive from people around the country (and even abroad) requesting copies of documents, or to find out if we did in fact keep certain collections in the archive. This is a service that the archive charges for because of the time needed to locate documents, and get copies if the search is successful; as I was answering the enquiries I was able to learn a little bit more about the charges than what I knew before, for example, the archive team will not charge for queries about collections they hold and to search their catalogues and indexes.

And finally I helped to produce a resource for the library staff including contact details and frequently asked questions about what the Archive and Archaeology teams do. Doing this helped me to get more background information on the structure of the archive and archaeology department that otherwise wouldn't have known, and the different teams involved in both areas that the public don’t often see or have contact with.

As I was starting my placement the archaeology department were heading a project on one of the local areas that I was lucky enough to be able to research on in my first few weeks. It was fascinating to look at some of the documents that I otherwise wouldn’t have used, for example about six 16th century wills that proved to be particularly hard to read. I was given books on the different letter forms that made it easier to decode some of the medieval words. I also got to look through the archival photographs, and pick out ones that could be used for the publication of the project.

It was from this project that I got to use the Self Service Area of the archive which I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do; and learnt how to use microfilm readers, and had a look through some of the hearth and land tax returns from the 17th and 18th century. 

While doing the project I learnt about the services that Archaeology provide, in particular the Historic Environment Record (HER) service. I spent an afternoon learning about the different records that they hold, and on that particular afternoon members of the general public were bringing in artefacts to be identified by the archaeologists; I happened to be there when one individual brought in a piece of Saxon gold that they had dug up.

I am really grateful to everyone at the Archive and Archaeology Service that let me come in and shadow or work with them over the 100 hours that I was there, and for letting me get involved with so many different projects over the time. They have given me great experience and a clear goal to head to at the end of my degree. 

If you would like more information on potential work experience placement with Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, please email

Monday, 3 November 2014

Guest Post: A university placement student's time at WAAS (part 1)

Over the last few weeks Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has had the pleasure of hosting a 100 hour work experience placement for Emma Heatherley, a student from Newman University, Birmingham. During her time here Emma had the chance to get an insight into the wide range of roles that take place behind the scenes in our service. Here, Emma has written more about her experiences: 

On my first day of work experience I was guided around the building, including the strongrooms and some of the precious documents in them, such as William Shakespeare's marriage bond to Anne Hathaway dated 1582, and given relevant safety talks. I was then allowed to spend time with Rhonda, the Conservator, during the afternoon. For the rest of my 100 hours, I worked one day a week here learning how to clean and repair documents, and even worked on a collection that had come into the Archive that was in bad shape and needed repair before it could be catalogued and used by the general public.

Some of the pages in these books were loose, torn and very fragile; so Rhonda showed me how to repair these using a Japanese tissue paper that can be pasted to the pages to strengthen, secure, or help to stitch them back to the covers, (some of these were also in a bad state and also needed to be conserved in the same way), in their original order. I also learnt that it is important to remove some of the metal pins and staples that had originally been used to hold some of the loose sheets of paper into the book. It was possible to see where they had started to rust and degrade the paper or make holes that also needed to be repaired. 

Under the supervision of Rhonda I carried on helping to repair some of the volumes in the collection, and gained skills and knowledge on an area that I really didn’t know a lot about when I first entered the conservation room in my first week. To me this has been invaluable experience in an area that I don’t think many people are aware of, and I am entirely grateful for being allowed to handle some of these fragile volumes, that were full of fascinating documents and information on the history of Worcestershire, and also the opportunity to have access to the conservation area and to Rhonda who had the knowledge and patience to show me how to help restore these volumes so they can be used by the public.

A few weeks into my placement I was lucky to be given the opportunity to work with John and Jonathan in Digitisation, helping on a project to digitise slides that had been sent in from another archive in the country who were paying for this part of their collection to be digitised. 

Digitisation is important for a few reasons: firstly it helps to protect the documents that are being digitised by producing electronic copies, therefore unless the originals are specifically requested they are not being handled as often which could lead to damage or further degrading of the document especially if it was particularly old or even damaged in the first place. And secondly, as technology moves on some of the technologies that were previously used to house and view these documents become obsolete, such as slide viewers and floppy disks, meaning there is a need to keep upgrading to ensure that no information is lost. Furthermore, if documents can be digitised and put onto computers the information that people require is more readily available quicker than it has been before. 

Again this is also another area that I previously had no experience in before the placement began, so when I started to work on the project I had very little knowledge of the programmes and technology that was used. Although after explanation and demonstration by John I was let loose on the slides and after a couple of weeks I had managed to digitise and edit hundreds of tiny slides into photographs viewable on the computer, that will be returned to the archive that sent them to The Hive.

Digitisation is a relatively new field that has grown with developing technology, and was one that I was not aware of beforehand; as an indication of how much work there is to be done to completely digitise the collections just in Worcester it would take two people working all day, every day of the year a total of nearly 800 years to complete. I can honestly say that this was part of my placement that I particularly enjoyed because it really was something entirely different and new to what I expected when I first approached the archive about a placement.

To read the second and final instalment of Emma's post check back here on the Blog tomorrow!