Friday, 28 August 2015

Time Travelling with Royal Grammar School Springfield

Last term we were contacted by a teacher from the Royal Grammar School (RGS) Springfield. Their Year 5 pupils were studying the history of Worcester as that term's topic, using the idea of a Time Travel Agency needing information for a new brochure. The teacher asked us whether we could help, and the answer was of course yes. We have a wide range of information about the county, dating from recent years and reaching right back through to the stone age, with documents, photos, artefacts and information about local archaeological discoveries. We arranged to run four sessions with them to give them a chance to explore all we have on offer.

Community project Officer Rob Hedge demonstrates prehistoric flint

The children explored a range of themes from prehistoric settlements, landscapes and technologies; to the Roman world of the military and its empire of towns and cities; to the early medieval lives of villages and the cultures expressed through burial ritual, and finally to the high medieval periods of the Plantagenet and Tudor dynasties.

Pupils look through 16th century book detailing Queen Elizabeth I's visit to Worcester

All four sessions employed hands-on, practical and visual resources, using artefacts, flint knapping, maps and reconstruction paintings to illustrate local and national archaeological sites. The children were very enthusiastic and we feel that this is partly because of the use of local evidence to investigate the KS2 curriculum-related themes of historical understanding: chronology, continuity & change, enquiry & perspective.

We received great feedback from the RGS teachers: "Thank you so much for all the fantastic sessions you led for us. What a huge variety of content you covered and a wide range of artefacts you shared with us".

An RGS Springfield pupil

If your school would like us to provide one or more sessions of a similar nature, dating from any historical period, please get in touch. Whether it is for archaeological exploration or the investigation of primary historical sources within our archive collections here at Explore the Past at The Hive, we will be happy to help.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Home Front Legacy Day School, 5th September at The Hive

Home Front Legacy is a national project supporting community groups researching local places associated with the Great War for recording the remains of surviving sites, structures and buildings around Britain. On Saturday,  5th September we are hosting a regional training session for the West Midlands.

The Home Front Legacy website provides tools, guidance and resources for you to carry out archaeological recording and submit your data to your local Historic Environment Record and National Monuments Records to add to our knowledge and inform future protection for sites.

Using the Home Front Legacy Recording toolkit and the resources on the Home Front Legacy website, everyone can help to research and record their local sites and structures and help to safeguard First World War survivals here in Britain. Exploring these remains brings you into closer contact with what our families lived through, and the ways in which the Great War shaped their lives and the places we live today.

You don't need to be an archaeologist or have experience of fieldwork to take part. You may have an interest in the Home Front, and be researching your family or local area, or involved in a First World War Centenary project.

The Council for British Archaeology invites local community group members, national and local projects and partners to this free day school to find out how to use the Recording toolkit and online app for your project. We would like to thank Council for British Archaeology, Historic England and Worcestershire World War 100 for funding this event.

This day school will:
  • Get you actively involved with the Home Front Legacy 1914-18 project
  • Share the toolkit and resources to use within your own projects, or to start one up
  • Enable you to start discovering your local First World War surviving sites, structures and buildings using online resources
  • Help you connect with your local Historic Environment Record
  • Give you the skills and confidence to share your learning with your community group
  • Provide the forum to share your projects and to meet potential partners

The day school will take place on Saturday, 5th September at The Hive, Worcester. Places are free and can be booked online now. 

Evaluating the My Worcester Pop-Up Museum

The pop up museum was a roaring success and the trainees had a lovely time chatting to the public about their placements and the project. Here, Sarah Ganderton our own Skills for the Future trainee assesses what was most popular about the pop-up museum over the weekend.

Our sandpits were a big hit with visitors of all ages

Over 200 people came to the pop up museum over the weekend, many of whom knew one or more of the placements represented by the Skills for the Future trainees. But many had not heard of all the placements, or thought the Museum of Royal Worcester was at the Worcester Museum and Art Gallery or that The Infirmary and the George Marshall Medical Museum were one and the same. Hopefully through this project we have successfully shared with the people of Worcester just how many great heritage venues the city has, and encouraged them to seek out the museums for themselves.

The Mayor of Worcester meets the Skills for the Future trainees at the Pop-Up Museum

Even before the pop-up opened to the public is was proving popular.  A special opening event allowed us to welcome the volunteers and visitors back to see the panels we had created based on their chosen artefacts and the comments they made.  This was also a chance to invite dignitaries such as a visitor from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Worcester's Mayor, the project's Steering Group and the Director of the Worcester Festival.

We received great feedback at the event

Visitors enjoyed reading the panels we had painstakingly put together over the months before the exhibition and the handling objects were popular with many of the visitors. One gentleman said 'its nice to be able to touch things.' Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service provided a tile and a glass bottle for this section.  The youngsters from Pershore particularly liked the medieval tile from Pershore Abbey and a few people even said they had a similar Malvern Water bottle at home.

A mini museum created at the event

But most of all our visitors enjoyed the free activities. A select handful came to the storytelling on Saturday, many enjoyed the print making on Friday and many more went away proudly carrying the mini museum they had made. But the archaeology activity Digging up the Past was perhaps the most popular activity of all. Although it was only expected to run on Thursday it was set up again on Friday and Saturday due to popular demand. Children of all ages enjoyed dusting away the sand to reveal roman pottery treasures, and a few adults were even spotted having a go when they thought no one was looking. 

More feedback from the Pop-Up Museum

All in all the pop up was a success and the exhausting preparations and sleepless nights were worth it for all the happy people who came to see us in the empty shop in reindeer court and the comments they left on the pear tree. Would we do it again? Let's recover from this project first… but it was definitely worth it.

Details of the map book from the Vernon family of Hanbury Hall - now available to explore on the Touch History table on Level 2 at The Hive.

The Vernon Map Book, and other artefacts chosen by Worcester Belles WI at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are still on display on level 2 of The Hive until the end of August.  There are also digital images of the map book on the Touch History table as the Vernon Map Book so that you can see the original maps in even more detail.  While you’re here you can see the book Where the Wild Things Are too, chosen from the University of Worcester Research Collection for the pop-up museum display.

by Sarah Ganderton

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Worcestershire Yeomanry and Chocolate Hill, 21 August 1915

The Worcestershire Yeomanry took part in one of the final major British offensives of the Gallipoli campaign on 21 August 1915.  They were at Suvla  Bay, initially in reserve, but were then called upon to advance across a dry salt lake to Chocolate Hill and then to push on to take part in an attack on Scimitar Hill.  Marching across fairly open country they and their fellow yeomen were easy targets and there were many casualties. The attack was ultimately unsuccessful and Worcestershire Yeomanry were recalled to their original positions.  They spent a further three months on the Gallipoli peninsula with spells on the front line and in reserve before being withdrawn back to Egypt.

Jack Lyttelton

Into active service

One of the soldiers who took part in the actions on 21 August 1915 was Jack Lyttelton, eldest son of the then 8th Viscount Cobham of Hagley Hall.  Jack had been with the Worcestershire Yeomanry since before the outbreak of the First World War and had previous experience as a soldier with the Rifle Brigade in the Boer War.  Jack wrote home regularly to his family and in particular to his wife Violet.  His surviving letters in the Lyttelton collection provide a very personal account of the actions in which he was involved at Gallipoli.

After initial training at home the Worcestershire Yeomanry were sent to Egypt in April 1915.  They did not see active service immediately, but did assist in unloading the wounded and dead from the ships returning from Gallipoli.  Jack did not mention this task in his letters home (it is recorded in the regimental history), perhaps to shield his family from the darker side of his situation as his letters to his family were usually very positive and upbeat.  Finally in August  the Worcestershire Yeomanry were ordered on active service to fight dismounted as infantry.  On board the Ascania and bound for Gallipoli, Jack immediately wrote a letter to Violet and tried to reassure her that everything would be alright.  He attempted to keep things light, sending her a picture of him playing polo and telling her how they'd won the Inter-regimental polo cup.

Letter to Violet from Jack Lyttelton onboard the Ascania,14 August 1915

Photo of Jack playing polo enclosed with the letter

After the fighting on 21 August Jack quickly penned a letter to his wife so that, if and when news of the offensive reached Britain, she would know he had survived it.  He did not go into much detail at this point, though he hinted that the Division had been 'knocked about rather severely' and he praised the men for having 'stood a real dusting under shrapnel'. 

Letter to Violet from Jack in the aftermath of battle, 22 August 1915

Time for reflection
Shortly afterwards Jack became second in command of the Regiment.  As part of the reorganisation of his Division following their losses and the desire to have a reserve of officers, he was sent to Lemnos.  The posting offered Jack some time for reflection on events in Gallipoli and he wrote several letters home during this period about the actions in which he had been engaged.  This included a detailed one to Violet dated 23 September 1915.  In it he recapped events over the last few weeks, described life before going into action, the polo tournament and their embarkation for Gallipoli.

Part of Jack's long letter to Violet detailing the change to infantry and initial arrival on Gallipoli

He then went on to describe the Regiment's march to Chocolate Hill, how they were caught under shrapnel fire and the battle itself.  The Yeomanry's march was made famous by the commander of the Gallipoli forces, Sir Ian Hamilton, who called it ‘a sight calculated to send a thrill of pride through anyone with a drop of English blood in their veins’.  Fellow Worcestershire yeoman Victor Godrich also recorded the event, but his description was perhaps much more down to earth.  He recollected  'Shrapnel fell like hail, rifle fire like rain, made gaps in our ranks.  It was not a pleasant feeling to see a man dropping ahead of you knowing that you would soon be amongst it.  The two miles or so that we marched seemed the longest that I have ever travelled.'

Part of Jack's long letter to Violet describing their move off into battle 

Jack finished the letter off by talking about more personal things such as sending him photos, how he mistook a framed photo in his pack for a bar of chocolate and reassuring his wife that he was well and safe.  His final verdict on the campaign so far was that he doubted 'whether the difficulties were properly appreciated when we started in on it, but that's a thoroughly English way of butting in'.

 Part of Jack's long letter to Violet describing his posting to Lemnos  and his attempts to keep her informed of his movements

For other Worcestershire Yeomanry First World War accounts see:
  • C[Cobham], Yeomanry Cavalry of Worcestershire, 1914-1922 (1926)
  • V Godrich, Mountains of Moab, The Diary of a Yeoman 1908-1919 (2011)
  • Arthur Valentine Holyoake, The Road to Yozgad My war 1914-19  (2013)
  • Oscar Teichman, Diary of a Yeomanry MO (1921)

For more about The Worcestershire Yeomanry see:

By M. Tohill

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Pop in to the Pop-up Museum

After months of planning, researching and worrying, the Skills for the Future Trainees are pleased to announce the pop-up museum is finally ready to open.  Sarah, the trainee based at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service will be on hand alongside the other 6 trainees to welcome you to the museum, and here she tells you a little more about the temporary museum in Reindeer court. 

The Pop-Up Museum leaflet

'It has been an exciting week as all the preparations of the last few months have come together.  We collected the key on Monday and took delivery of furniture.  This was the bit I was most involved with, so once the furniture had arrived and I had cleaned the cobwebs off it, I left the others to transform it, and what a wonderful job they did.  The trainees decorated the empty shop space, designed panels, and set up for the activities that will run from Thursday to Saturday in the pop-up museum.  By Monday afternoon this empty shop looked like a real mini museum and it is beautiful.

The Pop-Up Museum all set up

'I can't wait to get into the shop tomorrow. The first day's activities include 'Digging Up The Past' where children (and the young at heart) can brush away sand to reveal treasures.  These will include the sort of archaeological finds we recently discovered at Lich Street. There is also the opportunity to make mini museums from shoe boxes, handle objects from different museums, and chat to the trainees. 

'Every day that the pop-up museum is open there is an opportunity to see the panels designed by the trainees.  These reveal treasured artefacts chosen from each project placement by our volunteers or visitors.  The whole display is a lovely way to bring together all the placements in one place and to show the public what great historical things there are to see in Worcester. 

The Pop-Up Museum window

'For the adventurous there is the opportunity to become a 'History Hunter' and follow a trail around the city looking for clues for entry in a prize draw, and for those who prefer a sedentary activity, join us for 'Stories Under The Pear Tree' on Saturday only 11am – 12 noon with local storyteller Cat Weatherill.'

The pop-up museum opens to the public tomorrow, so why not pop in and check out all the hard work.  It will be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday 11am-3pm with FREE activities and events. For further details, find the pop-up museum in the Worcester Festival brochure or follow it on Twitter.

The exhibition on level 2 at The Hive


The artefacts chosen at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and the University of Worcester Research Collection are on display in the cases on Level 2 of The Hive.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Remembering V J Day

For many World War II ended with VE Day in May 1945.  For others, such as the 2nd and 7th Battalions of the Worcestershire Regiment serving out in the Far East, the War would not be over until August 1945.  After some days of rumour and speculation the news broke that the Japanese had finally surrendered on 14 August.  15 August was designated 'VJ Day', Victory over Japan Day, though the official surrender was not signed until 2 September.  Prime Minister Clement Atlee confirmed the news in a broadcast and King George VI addressed the nation and Empire from Buckingham Palace.  The end of the War was marked by a two day holiday.  Like VE Day people crowded onto the streets singing, dancing, lighting bonfires and letting off fireworks. 

Berrows newspaper, 16th August 1945 recalls the jubilant VJ Day celebrations of the previous day

Recollections of VJ Day

Several Worcestershire residents interviewed back in the 1990s about their recollections of World War II recalled where they were on VJ Day and the celebrations in which they were involved.  The following are a small selection of those memories.

The War is over

Miss Griffiths, a teenager during the War, was working at a gas show room on VJ Day.  She recalled hearing the rumours that the war was over, waiting for the official announcement and celebrating the end of the War with a group of American soldiers based nearby.

The headline of Worcester News and Times, 15th August 1945

A subdued affair?
For some interviewees VJ Day was a much more subdued affair than VE Day.  The general election had been held, a new government was in power and many people had already begun to move on with their lives when the end of the war came round.  For some such as Barbara, a child in Birmingham during the War, VJ Day was 'nothing compared with VE Day'.  Her family did not have anyone serving out in the Far East so it did not have the same impact.  For others serving in the forces it was very much business as usual.  Jean, serving as a Wren, had just been posted to the Isle of Man to cover the work of others due to go out to the Far East when peace was declared.  She recalled hearing the news with her fellow Wrens.

Parties and celebrations

Gordon, a child in Worcester during the War, remembered 'the bunting and Union Jack's everywhere' and 'a great relief, the whole thing'.  Betty, a child living in Birmingham at the time, recalled that she went over to her future mother in law's and they had 'a party in the road'.  A young nurse, whose visit back home from training coincided with VJ Day, recalled the celebrations in Wolverley vividly.  Her recollections included a bonfire, fireworks and a touch of food poisoning from a dodgy pork pie!

An account of VJ Day celebrations can be found in the Worcester newspapers available on microfilm here at The Hive

You can read transcripts of all of the oral history interviews featured here

70th anniversary of VJ Day

The 70th anniversary of VJ Day will be officially marked in London on Saturday 15 August.  Commemorative events involving veterans and their families will include a service, a parade and a fly-past.  

For more information about VJ Day and the 70th anniversary commemorations see: 

By M. Tohill

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Come and visit the My Worcester Pop-Up Museum at Reindeer Court

Sarah, the Skills for the Future trainee based at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service, is involved with the other trainees to create a pop-up museum.

My Worcester will be a one of a kind pop-up museum celebrating the city’s heritage.  It includes an exhibition and the opportunity to get hands-on with real objects a chance to uncover secrets of the city’s past with a range of events and activities for all ages. The pop-up museum will be open from 20th to 22nd August in Reindeer Court from 11am to 3pm each day. As well as an exhibition about objects at eight of Worcester’s heritage institutions, the pop-up museum will feature crafts and activities for all the family.

Here are details of all the free things that are part of the My Worcester Pop-up Museum, so come on down and take a look:

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: My Worcester Pop-Up Museum 11am – 3pm
The exhibition has been created by the local community showcasing treasures from Worcester’s historic collections. These are artefacts and documents from the 8 heritage institutions based in Worcester that have hosted a Skills for the Future trainee placement.  And it is these trainees, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund who are responsible for organising this unusual event.

On Thursday only: Digging Up The Past 11am – 3pm
Roll up your sleeves and try your hand at being an archaeologist at the My Worcester Pop-Up Museum indoor mini dig.  We will hide under the sand some treasures that have actually been found at archaeological digs around the county, and its up to our visitors to uncover them.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: Mini Museum Makers 11am – 3pm
Drop into the My Worcester Pop-Up Museum and get hands-on with fun familycraft activities. Print, paint or make your very own treasure to take home using images and stories from Worcester’s past for inspiration. These include some beautiful maps and documents from the Worcestershire Archives and images of pottery found by Worcestershire Archaeology Service.

Thursday, Friday and Saturday: History Hunters 11am – 3pm
This one is for adults and children alike and gives everyone an opportunity to tour around the city centre learning spotting just how much heritage there is out there. Explore Worcester’s heritage with a city centre historic hunt. Begin your mission from the My Worcester Pop-Up Museum in Reindeer Court and collect your trail. Be sure to drop your entry in to participating venues by the 31st August to be entered into a prize draw.

Saturday only: Stories Under The Pear Tree 11am – 12 noon
Join local storyteller Cat Weatherill for a session of tales inspired by Worcester’s treasures. This will highlight each of the items chosen by members of Worcester's community as their favourite objects from each of the heritage institutions.  The favourite artefact from the Hive is the Hanbury Hall map book from 1731 which visitors to the Hive can see in more detail during the Worcester Festival   Stay on afterwards to pin a pear on the story tree and get crafty as a Mini Museum Maker.

The whole My Worcester Pop-up Museum is supported by Worcester's museums, archives and historic libraries and is only on for the weekend 20-22 August so please do come and see us in Reindeer Court while you have a chance.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Summer Reading Challenge: The Big Stuff Activity Day at The Hive

What's the biggest document in the archives? What's the longest? the oldest? These were some of the questions that we had to find the answers to when we offered to take part in The Big Stuff Activity Day at the Hive as part of this year's Summer Reading Challenge. We also set ourselves the challenge of trying to create the longest document in the archives, certainly a challenge when we found out how long the current 'record-holder' is! We asked children (and willing adults) to draw a picture or write about 'What they loved about Worcestershire'.

We had drawings of the river, the Malvern Hills, Gheluvelt Park and the splashpad, the cricket ground and The Hive. Then we used all the drawings to create a scroll, complete with seal, which we hung from level two, the 'Explore the Past' floor down to the children's library.

Above and below: The finished product!

...and the answers to the other questions? The biggest document held by Worcestershire Archive Service is the Worcester City  Board of Health map, a comprehensive survey of the City produced by surveyor Henry Webb in 1870. It measures 23ft x 25ft and was exhibited in the Guildhall in 2000, the only time that the map has been displayed. Quickly realising that the map was totally impractical, a smaller bound volume was commissioned, but even that one measures 4ft x 2ft.

Above and below: The biggest document Worcestershire Archive Service holds - a Worcester City Board of Health Map

The oldest document we have found so far is a legal deed made by Ralph de Mortimer by which he confirms a gift of land at Wribbenhall to the monks of Worcester cathedral. The document is part of the archives of the Lechmere family of Hanley Castle and has been dated to about 1100. It could also be a contender for the smallest document as it is just 6 by 3 inches.

The document currently believed to be the oldest held by Worcestershire Archive Service

The longest document in the archives is probably a Lay Subsidy Roll for the County of Worcester dated c1280. This exchequer roll is made up of parchment sheets sewn end to end, to a total length of 46 feet or 14 metres, and records thousands of names of people living in 284 named places in Worcestershire, hundreds of years before any official census, with the amount of money they were to pay.

The longest document held within our collections

Our scroll measured 5 metres in the end, approximately the length of five of the children who helped to create it, but 9 metres shorter than the current record holder!

Monday, 10 August 2015

My Worcester Pop up Museum – meeting the Worcester Belles WI

Sarah is our Skills for the Future trainee on a 15 month placement here at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service.  She is currently working on a joint project with her fellow trainees. This is a pop-up museum which will be open as part of the Worcester Festival to publicise the collections of Worcester's museums, archives and historic libraries. 

My Worcester Pop-up Museum leaflet

This project has given us the opportunity to plan and create a pop-up museum, which will be held in Reindeer Court from Thursday 20th to Saturday 22nd August and will be open 11am to 3pm each day. It will publicise Worcester's heritage with the theme of 'My Worcester' where local groups and members of the Worcester community were invited to choose favourite objects from each of the 8 heritage institutions involved with the Skills for the Future traineeships. 

Worcester Belles WI

This was the fun bit.  Members of Worcester Belles Women's Institute came to the Hive to chat about the documents from Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and eat biscuits.  They chatted for quite a while and said they found it 'hard to choose' their favourite from the selection of documents, because 'they were all so interesting'.

Worcester Belles WI select documents from Worcestershire Archive Service

But finally they narrowed it down to a few favourites, and these are currently on display in the cases on level 2 of The Hive.  The WI ladies selected two photographs – one is of ladies hop-picking in Harvington (near Evesham) in 1917, and the other is ice-skaters on the County cricket ground in 1956.  And their favourite document for Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology, after much discussion, is the 1732 Hanbury Hall map book. This will feature on a panel at the pop-up exhibition in Reindeer Court, alongside panels from the 8 other placements involved in the project.

Detail from the Hanbury Hall map book 1731-2 now on display on Level 2 at The Hive

The exhibition at The Hive can be seen now, and can be viewed at any time between 8.30am and 10pm on level 2.  It will be there throughout the Worcester Festival, ending on 2nd September. 

Why not pop along to see the pop-up museum too. It will be free to enter, and open between 20th to 22nd August between 11 to 3 each day, with family activities and craft sessions, so.  The objects featured on the other panels can be viewed in the other museums and libraries around the city, so it’s the perfect chance to get out there and see all the great historic things Worcester has to offer.

The other sites involved in the project are University Research Collections (also exhibiting in The Hive on level 2), The Elgar Birthplace Museum (open as normal), The Museum of Royal Worcester (free on Sundays during the Worcester Festival), Worcester Cathedral Library  (open for paid tours during the Worcester Festival), The Infirmary and The George Marshall Medical Museums (open as normal), and Worcester Museum and Art Gallery (open as normal).

Sarah Ganderton