Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Upcoming Exploring Archives workshop: Worcester Royal Infirmary

Worcester Royal Infirmary is the focus the last in the present series of Exploring Archives workshops on Tuesday 19th May. Like the rest of the series, we'll be looking at original records and documents within the archives to highlight what is available, how it could be useful to you, and how to search the collections.

The Infirmary, Worcester

The workshop will be led by Sarah Ganderton, who knows about the Worcester Royal Infirmary after researching it for her dissertation and working at The Infirmary, an interactive museum which is part of the new University City campus. The dissertation, which researched how the hospital was funded during the latter part of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century, has also earned her two awards, including one by Worcestershire Historical Society for the best dissertation by a University of Worcester student on a Worcestershire subject.

Sarah will be leading the workshop

Prior to the formation of the NHS, hospitals such as the Infirmary were funded by subscribers – people or organisations who voluntarily contributed a fixed amount to the running of a hospital and, in return, could recommend people for treatment. Sarah’s research aimed to lift the lid on the people who contributed to the running of the hospital. She explains: “Studying accounts, subscriber lists and local trade directories, I looked at the people, charities, businesses, and even employee groups paying an annual fee to the Infirmary as subscribers in 1885 and 1910. 

“I then used the information from the original records to create statistics and look at patterns to compare my finding with previous research on different subscribers at other institutions. 

"I found there were interesting changes through this period, with rises in the number and amount of subscriptions from women and the working class. Worcester had many female subscribers, who were not necessarily motivated by male family members.

An 1896 minute book - one of the many original sources available for research

“The number of female subscribers and the amounts they subscribed rose, while the number of male subscribers fell in the same period. This was different to what other historians had discovered in other institutions.  I also found that there were increasing numbers of employee groups subscribing for their own benefit to nominate patients to use the Infirmary, just before the National Insurance Act came into force.”

Sarah was appointed as the part time project administrator at the Infirmary – which is now an interactive museum which forms part of the University’s City Campus – during the second year of her degree, a placement which she says inspired her to explore the history of the building.

Now, she works as a Graduate Trainee within the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, based at The Hive, conducting research and working alongside archivists, conservator, digitisers, archaeologists, and the outreach team.

Of her Worcestershire Historical Society Prize, she says: “I was surprised and delighted to receive a letter from the Society congratulating me on the award.  It was lovely to receive this recognition; it really makes all the work seem worthwhile.”

Places on the workshop cost £6 and can be booked online here

Friday, 24 April 2015

Visit up British Camp to help school explore the past

As we have mentioned previously here on our blog, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has been helping a number of schools after the recent inclusion of Prehistory in the National Curriculum. With one school, Cradley primary, we were able to take advantage of their location to get out of the classroom and go up a significant historic monument on their doorstep.

Cradley Primary School's classroom for the day, learning more about Prehistory at British Camp

Justin Hughes, one of our community archaeologists, went into the school to run a session using replica artefacts to explain the changes between the different periods, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age. This allowed the children to get hands on and understand how tools and technology changed, as well as finding out how archaeologists can interpret the clues which they discover. He also brought along a reproduction drawing created from the evidence our archaeologists have found locally to show the class. 

Justin getting hands on with some replica artefacts in class

For our second session with the school we went out to British Camp in the Malvern Hills to explore the amazing Iron Age hillfort, only a short distance from the school. This enabled the children to understand both the defences and possible remains of roundhouses, which it can be easy to walk past if you are not looking for them.

The view from British Camp

Justin said, "We had a couple of great sessions with the children. It can be a difficult period to understand, but by using reproduction tools, reconstruction drawings and going up an Iron Age hillfort we can help them get a picture of what life would have been like here during those periods. Going up on to British Camp and recognising the archaeological clues gave them a great sense of how we can discover the past through visible archaeological remains. They also enjoyed getting outside and exploring the site".

The children enjoyed having the chance to get out and explore the archaeology of their local area

If you would like to talk to us about what our Learning and Outreach team can do with your school please email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk or phone 01905 766352.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Introducing... David Tyrrell. A partnership between Remploy and Worcestershire County Council

We are delighted to introduce you to David Tyrrell, who has been working with us since last September. David has been busy getting involved in different aspects of our varied work here at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS). Here he introduces himself and tells us some more about the work he has been doing so far: 
My name is David and since September 2014, I've been working with WAAS thanks to a partnership between Remploy and Worcestershire County Council. Remploy is a service that helps people with disabilities gain employment by running training courses and running job searches so people don't feel so isolated. The groups were friendly and I made a couple of like-minded friends that have interests in historical battles.  My disabilities are hidden ones. I found it really difficult to find work having been unemployed for three and a half years, but now I consider this to be my first ever job and I feel much happier. This role has already given me a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities.

David, with the work he produced for the Touch History table at The Hive

In 2011 I finished and graduated from Aberystwyth University with a degree in drama. I think theatre is a roundabout way of looking at history from another perspective, which is good because I always look at things from a different angle. Whilst at WAAS I have been working on the Worcestershire World War One project and this has improved my research and organisational skills. I have developed a methodical approach to work from cropping all the fallen soldiers and developing a way of presenting the information so that other people can use it. I am finding that with this experience I am more focused in what I'm looking for.  I am also developing my knowledge of the area - before I came to WAAS I had no clue who Vesta Tilley was or that Worcester had musical or theatrical claims to fame, apart from the musical genius that is Sir Edward Elgar. I am now using different types of sources, such as maps, building plans, and photographs and trade directories, which can get a little bit addictive as I keep on wanting to know more and more.
Another project I have worked on is gathering available material together to form a presentational piece to go on our Touch History table at The Hive. I am also currently putting together a heritage trail that follows Vesta's history in Worcester, and some more general World War One history about the development of the tank from agricultural steam driven vehicles before she went on to became Britain's greatest recruitment sergeant. Vesta Tilley was a music hall performer and her act was a male impersonator. I like discovering new facts in my research here, for example I have discovered that Worcester's former mayor Arthur Carlton played various Shakespeare Characters wearing tights and his wife was apparently was shot out of a canon as part of a circus act! I enjoy looking at historical photos held by the Archive Service and seeing things such as the opening of the Swan Theatre, or learning that we once had more theatres in Worcester and one once stood where the Angel Street Co-Op supermarket now is. I look up occasionally to try and imagine where the building stood. 
I am very proud to have contributed to work at WAAS and hope that people can come to learn as I have. As a person not used to socialising I have found that my people skills have improved by communicating with my colleagues across the service. I can now put this on my skills belt as 'networking.' I've had to adapt to new ways of working in an office environment - I've found out that there are many different people with different quirks and have developed ways to work alongside them. I sometimes find that I drift and ask questions about things like the Tudors, Shakespeare, the price of beer in the late 1860's and the history of cake, but don't worry, it's all connected to my interest in history and curiosity in the past. I enjoy digging for research and I am surprised at what I can sniff out here. I used to do those dot to dot books, when I was little, now I connect the links in history instead. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Your Place Matters: Community Planning for the Future of Rural Buildings and their Setting

What makes your parish special to you and your community?
What do you think your local area would have looked like 20 years, 50 years and 100 years ago? What would you like it to look like in 50 years' time?

These were some of the questions asked when Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service welcomed a variety of community advocates, heritage and non-heritage professionals to the Your Place Matters: Community Consultation Workshop on 24th March.

The workshop invited delegates to explore the potential form, context and use of a toolkit being developed by Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, in collaboration with Historic England. The toolkit aims to strengthen the status of rural buildings and landscapes in local decision making (including neighbourhood plans) by empowering communities to assess the historic character and significance of their parish. 

© Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

The toolkit will also support communities to confidently measure proposed changes and will enable them to guide new development so that it responds to broad patterns of landscape and settlement. This approach is not intended to fossilise places or encourage imitation but encourage new development which seamlessly integrates with local character.

The workshop incorporated three excellent presentations from Steve Bloomfield (Worcestershire Wildlife Trust), Jeremy Lake (Historic England) and Pete Boland (Historic England) on 'Cross-cutting conservation themes in development', 'Understanding historic character and significance and 'Conservation of rural buildings in Neighbourhood Plans'.

© Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

People experience and appreciate heritage as places – streets, neighbourhoods and landscapes – and not just as individual buildings, monuments or sites. Places are recognised by the unique combination of characteristic features that they encompass. It is these features - the landscapes, geology, buildings, flora, fauna, farming, industry, culture, traditions, food, drink, dialect - which give them their uniqueness or local distinctiveness.

Heritage should not be viewed in isolation but as a symbiotic element of the wider environment. The environment is not purely 'natural' - it has been formed through generations of human occupation, activity, and modification. This has resulted in a diverse array of features, landscapes, and characteristics which facilitate the presence of our valued ecological assets, biodiversity and habitats.

Lower Broadheath © English Heritage NMR27763_004

Historic buildings, dating from the medieval period to the 20th century are a significant feature of Worcestershire's rural landscapes. They have social, cultural and economic importance and reflect the nature and history of the communities who created them and add distinctiveness, meaning and quality to the places in which we live (English Heritage, 2008). Rural buildings are incredibly diverse in their function, scale, design and use of materials.

© Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

© Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service

Understanding the overall character of an area enables a better integrated approach to planning and management and is central to securing good quality, well designed and sustainable places that recognise and respond to all elements of the environment.

If you would like to explore your neighbourhood or would like further information about the Your Place Matters project please contact the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service on 01905 765560 or at archaeology@worcestershire.gov.uk. Why not book an appointment to come and see us at Explore the Past, Level 2, The Hive, Sawmill Walk, The Butts, Worcester, WR1 3PD. See http://www. worcestershire.gov.uk/waas for general enquiries.

As well as providing you with information, HERs can act as a depositary for your research. If you have any research or information about your local area, please consider sharing it with the HER - sharing your work will help to cultivate and enrich the resource for the benefit of all.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Secret Spines of the Stuart Collection

Alongside my work of conserving the Archive collections within the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, I am also responsible for conserving the Stuart Collection for the Libraries and Learning Service.  Housed within the glass cabinets on level 4 of The Hive, the Stuart Collection consists of approximately 2000 volumes relating to the Civil War and Stuart period.

The collection was established John Grainger, a bookseller on Foregate Street from around 1838 until his death in 1900, when he bequeathed the collection of approximately 1000 volumes to the Victoria Institute. Over the years, the collection has gained another 1000 volumes but is now in need of extensive conservation treatment to enable the items to be publically accessible.
In the course of my work I have surveyed the collection, checking each volume to determine if it could be used without causing further damage, and what treatment needed to be carried out if it could not be used in its current condition.

Treatment then began on the 221 cloth-bound volumes that had been identified as being 'unusable' in their current state.  Typically, these volumes had spines that had torn along the 'joints'- the area where the cloth bends and flexes to allow the cover of the book to be opened and closed.  Treatment involved attaching a replacement spine made from aero linen that had been coloured to blend in with the colour of the original cloth.

 B4657 Cary's Memorials Volume 1 1842 showing typical damage to cloth-bound volumes

The process often uncovered lining papers that had been hidden from view since the book had initially been constructed. Termed 'Printer's Waste' these spine linings form part of a long tradition of bookbinders using material to hand when a book is constructed.  The process can be traced back at least to the late medieval period to what are known as the Worcester Fragments. These are a collection of 25 short pieces of vocal music from the later 13th to early 14th century that had been used as binding material in various books that had been recovered from Worcester Cathedral Priory.  Once it was recognised that these scattered fragments came from the same source it was possible to piece them together, though much remains missing.

These may not be the Worcester Fragments of the future, but I have enjoyed this glimpse into these 'secret spines' that very few people get to see.  These spine linings will now remain hidden from view until their next round of conservation, in many years to come.

Spine-lining of B5712 Clarendon Historical Society's Reprints 1882

Spine-lining of B4818 Records of
Churches of Christ 1854 (Recto)
Spine-lining of B4818 Records of
Churches of Christ 1854 (Verso)

By Rhonda Niven, Conservator       

Alongside being busy working on our Archive collections and the Stuart collection, Rhonda is able to provide advice and preservation and repair work to external customers. We are able to carry out preservation and conservation work on a range of materials including paper, parchment, leather and cloth bound volumes. Our Conservation Studio is fully equipped with modern facilities, although we do not provide conservation services for objects or paintings. For more details, discussion and a quote, please contact Rhonda via conservation@worcestershire.gov.uk.                 


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

'Tell Us About When You Were Little!’ Find Your Grandparents Family Stories

One comment that we often hear when we are running family history workshops is 'I wish that I had started my research earlier so that I could have asked my parents or grandparents what they knew about the family' This gave us the idea to develop a family history workshop for families, giving children the opportunity to ask parents and grandparents about their family and their memories.  The  adults and children will then have the chance to work together to discover more about their family history using resources on level 2 at The Hive, including on-line records such as the census and parish records on microfilm. Children will receive a family tree poster to start recording their research.

The course will run from 4-5pm for four weeks, starting on Tuesday 21st April, so is ideal for anyone looking for an after-school activity. The cost is £32 per family group (1 adult and up to 2 children) and is suitable for children aged 7-12. To find out more please phone 01905 766352 or e-mail explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk To book a place use our online booking system here.  

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Lich Street Uncovered

If you've been past Worcester Cathedral in the last month you'll probably have seen our archaeologists working away, uncovering the remains of the properties that once stood either side of Lich Street. This was, before the construction of College Street in the early 19th century, the main thoroughfare into the city centre from the south and east, linking Friar Street to the south end of the High Street.

Excavation in progress. Lich Street can be seen crossing the site from centre-right to bottom-left of the image

  The topsoil and rubble has now all been removed, and our staff are now carefully exposing the structures and deposits by hand.

WAAS Archaeologists at work

We've uncovered the remains of cellars, yards, paths, wells and a wealth of domestic debris that is helping us to piece together the story of life on the site, which has been at the heart of the settlement of Worcester for 2000 years.

 Roman (left) and medieval (right) pottery from the site

You can find regular updates about what we've discovered, get news of forthcoming opportunities to talk to our archaeologists and have a closer look and share your memories of the area on the project blog at http://diglichstreet.blogspot.co.uk/. You can also follow the project on Twitter at http://twitter.com/worcsdigs.