Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Want to start researching your family history? Our resources at The Hive can help

Christmas and New Year is traditionally a time for families to gather and this may have inspired you to start researching your family history. But where do you start?

It is always best to start with what you already know and work backwards.

Record all the information that you know, your date and place of birth, marriage, spouse and children, then add any known details about your parents, siblings and grandparents. Check whether you already have any records such as birth, death or marriage certificates or perhaps newspaper cuttings, letters, photos or diaries.

Ask relatives if they can add any more information, they may have some relevant documents. Remember to write down any information that you find and where you found it.

Once you've gathered this information together, it's time to start using official records. Some records such as the census and index to births, marriages and deaths are available online and access is available free of charge in The Hive and all Worcestershire libraries. For other records such as parish registers, wills, newspapers and trade directories you may need to visit your local archive. Many of the records for Worcestershire are available in the self-service area on level two at The Hive. This area is open seven days a week from 8.30am-10pm and there are useful guides and finding aids to help you find your way around. More information is available in the starting family history guide which is available on our website.

We also have a wealth of family history books which will provide you with details of additional sources as well as useful tips. Details are available on the library catalogue.

If you are interested in starting your research, but would like some more help we run a regular hour-long introduction to family history on the first Tuesday of every month 10am-11pm. If you are looking for something a bit more in-depth we have a two part 'Starting Family History' workshop, the first will be on Wed 4th & Wed 11th February 10am-12:30pm, with a second one on Sat 21st Feb & Saturday 28th Feb 10am-12:30pm. For more details or to book a place contact us on 01905 766352 or e-mail

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sir Winston Churchill's visit to Worcester

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of Winston Churchill, one of the most notable figures in British and world history

75905 – photographer RJ Collins

Churchill came to Worcestershire to receive the Freedom of the City of Worcester in 1950. It was a very memorable event for the city, and when the subject comes up we've heard many people telling us how they or someone they knew were there to see him.

Invitation to Winston Churchill by Mayor 1945

The city archive includes documents about the work that went into getting him to come to Worcester, and then organising the event. Over 60 towns and cities wanted to make him an honoury freeman in light of his wartime leadership, but with his many commitments it was five years before he was able to come. That he came at all was down to the persistence of successive mayors and council officials who kept writing at regular intervals with invitations. The first was in 1945, coinciding with the final days of the war and General Election, which was followed up at least twice in 1947, three times in 1948 and twice in 1949 before finally agreeing a date in his diary.

Details of visit

Admission ticket to presentation

When he did agree to come the day then needed to be organised, and the letters and memos tell this story as the itinerary was created, people were invited, food and drink ordered, presents arranged, microphones sorted by the Midlands Electricity Board and his name was engraved on the Guildhall boards. Fownes presented gloves to Sir Winston and his wife, beginning the work on them in 1945. They had existing pairs sent to them so they could get the size right, along with a note that Mrs Churchill didn't like coloured gloves, preferring black. A writing desk was also given, although originally it was going to be a cabinet. This had already been made a couple of years earlier and when they inspected it they saw that it had been damaged, so organised a table instead. The desk was engraved with coat of arms, although they first had to check to see whether it was appropriate for this to be carved on.

Lunch menu

76293 - photographer RJ Collins

Sadly the itinerary meant a shorter visit than some would have liked, leading to at least one letter of complaint that no public event on Pitchcroft was organised. This was because Churchill needed to leave mid afternoon in order to visit the Baldwin Memorial near Bewdley before returning to London that evening.

76290 – crowds after Churchil's visit. Photographer RJ Collins

The documents about the Churchill visit are in the process of being catalogued so require at least 7 days notice to be accessed. Please quote reference BA14069.

Wps32765 - This image shows a poster in Blackfriars for the memorial appeal in 1965. This national appeal led to the formation of the Churchill Memorial Trust, which hands out 100 fellowships a year, paying for travel overseas to recipients as part of projects to help them with study and work looking into challenges. Photographer R.J.Collins

We’ve reproduced some of the photos taken that day. We also have film footage taken by John Beer, a well known local amateur film maker, which has been shown in a number of the film screenings we've done at the Swan Theatre and around the county. The film footage is especially interesting as we have letters from some of the newsreel companies saying they couldn't come, and a letter from the BBC saying Churchil had refused them permission to film him that day.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Prehistory sessions now available for schools

With the addition of Prehistory to the National Curriculum we have been contacted by a number of schools for help and advice. Many teachers have never taught the subject and are not sure what it covers. Central guidance just mentioned the main national sites such as Stonehenge, Avebury or Orkney's Skara Brae. Worcestershire has a rich heritage of prehistoric archaeology too, and it is a great opportunity to link a subject to local primary evidence. We now have Prehistory sessions available to schools wishing to find out more about the topic. 

Two of our community archaeologists, Justin Hughes and Rob Hedge, have both plenty of experience and knowledge in prehistory and working with young people. Both of them got hooked on archaeology through prehistoric archaeology and have in depth knowledge on the period and the tools. In 2006 Justin created an education pack for secondary schools looking at the local prehistoric archaeology in local quarries.

 Justin Hughes & Rob Hedge with replica axe, pottery and antler tool

Prehistory covers a very wide period of thousands of years, including changes in landscape, tools and technology. Our sessions use reproduction tools and animal skins so the children can handle objects to find out more about the technologies of our ancestors. Reconstruction drawings by our archaeological illustrators, which show scenes from different periods, are based on discoveries by our archaeologists and these can be used to allow the children to see and understand some of the developments that occurred and the context in which the object they handle would have been used. It also starts conversations around historical evidence and what we can tell about the past. Where possible we highlight information on local sites, which teachers and pupils are amazed by as they are usually unaware that so much prehistory lies in the areas where they live and work.

For those schools coming to Worcester they can have a joint visit with Worcester City Museum and Art Gallery. Here they can explore what an Iron Age Village would be like, and help to create what we think it would look like.

If you'd like to find out more please e-mail or phone our Learning and Outreach team on 01905 766352.

Neolithic pottery found in Worcestershire

 Neanderthal Hunters – reconstruction based on evidence from Worcestershire

Friday, 16 January 2015

Accounting for Croome

'Accounting for Croome' has been a conservation project funded by the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust enabling essential conservation work to be carried out on a series of financial records from the archive of the Earls of Coventry, based at Croome Court. 

The Household Accounts give costs and names for the apothecary, fishmonger, butterman, crops, turnpikes, distiller, charities, tithes, coach and carriage, stabling, servants, game licences, gardening, stone clearing, milking and butchering. The Allotments Rental lists rents due and paid by local tenants. The General Accounts additionally give details of all farms, tenancies and casual allowances and expenditure for the estate.

Throughout, there are names of people and places giving crucial information for family and local historians. Together they represent about 100 years of direct interaction with Lord Coventry demonstrating what was needed to run an estate and household which relied on local people.

Many years of storage in inappropriate conditions had led to damage to a number of items in the collection.  This meant that the items could not be consulted, as any handling, however careful, caused the items to crumble and suffer further damage.

General Accounts:

A series of 55 single-section 'pamphlets' sewn through the spine with paper covers. All volumes had suffered from damp damage, resulting in surface dirt, discolouration, tears, creases and areas of loss.

 b705:73 BA14450/163/9 Showing typical damage to General Accounts prior to treatment

Papers were brushed with a soft brush and then washed, initially in cold water, followed by washing in hot water.    The paper was then repaired as necessary using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste, then dried under light weights. When dry, the 'text-blocks' were re-assembled and sewn through the spine folds into card covers using linen thread. 

b705:73 BA14450/163/14 following treatment

Household Account Books:

Eight volumes with leather spines and corners, with marble papers sides. All volumes had suffered from damp damage, resulting in surface dirt and discolouration.  Areas of the binding materials were lifting, with tears, creases and loss to text-blocks.

Papers were carefully cleaned with a soft brush to remove surface dirt and deposits.  Bindings were retained as much as is possible to re-use, or in situations where this was not possible due to the item being too severely damaged, repairs were made using Japanese tissue and wheat starch paste.  Where leather and/or marble papers were lost, these were replaced with materials similar in colour and appearance to the original materials.

705:73 BA14450/173/8 Before treatment

705:73 BA14450/173/8 Following treatment

Allotment Rental Accounts:

These are generally single section 'pamphlet' style bindings.  A number of volumes had loose single-sheet material inserted within- generally, letters from tenants and/or receipts of payment. Most had suffered damp damage, causing the paper to become soft and crumbly.  In some cases, the covering material had separated from the bindings. 

Items were carefully cleaned with a soft brush to remove surface dirt and deposits.  Detached covering materials were backed onto Japanese tissue and then re-adhered to the bindings. Loose inserts were attached using hinged strips of Japanese tissue.

705:73 BA14450/20/5 Before treatment

705:73 BA14450/20/5 Following treatment

These and other volumes are on display within the Self Service Area of The Hive and now that conservation work is complete, will soon be available to researchers for the very first time.