Friday, 25 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: An 1850 Stourbridge Circus

Philip Astley was credited with being the 'father' of the modern circus when he opened the first circus in 1768 in England . Early circuses were almost exclusively demonstrations of equestrian skills with a few other types of acts to link the horsemanship performances. Circus performances today are still held in a ring usually 13 m (42 ft) in diameter. This dimension was adopted by Philip Astley in the late 18th century as the minimum diameter in which acrobatic horse riders could stand upright on a cantering horse and perform their tricks.

Details of a circus in Stourbridge 1850 (b899:31/BA3762/vol2 p304)

This advertisement from a Worcestershire paper from 1850 shows drawings of a visiting circus performing these very skills.


Charles R Davies, hairdresser - an update

On Twitter on Tuesday we showed an advert from 1869 for Charles R Davies at 80 High Street, Worcester. A few people asked whether we knew any more about him so we had a look.

We have found very little. Checking the census the only match appears to be a Charles Rowland Davies born in Oxfordshire in 1843. In 1861 he was an apprentice to a barber in Shipston on Stour. We have not been able to find him in the census records until 1891 in Wolverhampton.

Checking other records we have found that he was involved in a court case where he prosecuted a former worker.  An article in the Worcestershire Chronicle of 1 June 1870 about the Police Courts states:

"A respectable looking young man named Frederick West, who carries on a business as a hair dresser in Sansome Street, was brought up on a charge of feloniously receiving 25 dressing combs, 3 ladies back combs and 4 nail brushes, the property of Mr Charles Rowland Davies, hair dresser, High St."

West was undefended, as he did not feel the need for an advocate. He worked for Davies until August 1869. David Davies, the brother of Charles, who worked as a hairdresser himself in Birmingham, was alleged to have been asked to steal them by West and was paid 50 shillings for them, with  20s now and 30 shillings on account. West later cabled 30 shillings to the brother which was intercepted along with an incriminating letter. The Police, led by Detective William Underhill, searched 4 Sansome St and found the articles with marks on them showing them to be the property of Charles Davies. The marks were a figure two.  West, when challenged, admitted they were the items, although he had previously denied seeing them when approached by Charles Davies. West claimed that the money given to David Davies was for money lent for horse racing. He also said he had bought the items at a fair price and believed David Davies had acquired them honestly.

The case was adjourned to be sent to the Quarter Sessions. West couldn't find anyone to stand surety for him at £20, so he was locked up until the trial. Fortunately for him it was only for a short while and on 30th June the case was heard (found on the Court registers on He was found guilty and sentenced to six months imprisonment.

The adverts for Charles Davies are all 1869-71 and as we couldn't find any census record for him we wondered if his stay in Worcester was short. However, upon checking Trade Directories we have found he is listed from 1869-84, with his private residence on London Road. After this he is not mentioned again, so it appears he was in the area for around fifteen years.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: First Vehicle Registered in Worcestershire

After the 1903 Act, it became mandatory to register motor vehicles with the County Council or Borough in which the driver was resident. Each City and County, and some Boroughs were allocated registrations that consisted of one or two letters to which a number could be added. The first registration issued in Worcestershire was AB 1. This was registered to the then Chief Constable of Worcester, Lt. Col. Herbert Sutherland Walker. The registration number was re-used for all the Chief Constable's cars until his resignation in 1931.  
Details of the First Vehicle Registered in Worcestershire AB1
According to the book 'From Fruit Trees to Furnaces: A History of the Worcestershire Constabulary' by Bob Pooler the registration was not used for a number of years after but was later reissued to the chief constable's official motor car.


Thanksgiving Day

Happy Thanksgiving Day to all our American friends! The first Thanksgiving is said to have taken place in 1621, when 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims, including two Worcestershire men, ate together at Plymouth Colony to celebrate a successful harvest. The event was described by Edward Winslow, one of the men who travelled on the Mayflower. His brother, Gilbert Winslow, was also there, and in the following decade they were joined by their brothers, John, Josiah and Kenelm.

Droitwich St Peter's register. Edward Winslow entry on bottom right. Photographed by our Digitisation team.

Edward was born in Droitwich in 1595.  His baptism at St Peter's church is recorded in the parish records held here in the archives. The family had lived in the county for many years, residing at Kerswell Green Farm near Kempsey, before Edward's father, Edward senior, moved to Droitwich to be part of the salt trade.

After spending five years at King's School, Worcester, Edward began an apprenticeship in London.  He moved to the Netherlands soon after, and became involved in the Separatist church there. This group formed the basis of those who went to America on the Mayflower in 1620 and celebrated the first Thanksgiving after surviving the harsh winter. In fact, Edward and his second wife Susannah were the first to be married in the colony after they had both been widowed during that winter.

Edward went on to become Governor of Plymouth Colony three times. He was considered an accomplished diplomat and liaised with the English government in London on the colony's behalf. In 1646 he went back to England and worked for Oliver Cromwell, including helping to sell off estates of Royalists. His son Josiah later served as Governor of Plymouth Colony like his father, and called his residence Careswell, after the family's Kempsey home.

If you would like to explore the Worcestershire roots of the Winslows, you can find these publications in our Local Studies Library:

The Winslows of "Careswell" Before & After the Mayflower, by Quentin Coons and Cynthia Hagar Krusell (1975, The Pilgrim Society)

'A Pilgrim Father's Village', by A.F.C. Baber (1959, History Today)

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: A Day at the Archives

Our Learning and Outreach team have been busy giving a behind the scenes tour as part of Explore Your Archive week. For those not able to undertake the tour, here is an idea of some of the things that happen on a day at the archives

Our Conservator has been working on some 1853 Quarter Sessions parchment documents that have been damp and as a result the parchment has reacted with itself to form adhesive (animal hide glue), sticking the pages together. She has been gently moistening the parchment to re-activate the 'adhesive' which allows the pages to be separated page by page.  The documents are very dirty and rather whiffy when the moisture reacts with the parchment.

Conserving Quarter Sessions documents

Our Digitisation Team are working on digitising some Ordnance Survey Plans from the planning department. They undertake professional digitisation work for both internal and external customers

Working on digitizing maps in our dark room

We have also been preparing information for our blog posts!

Preparing for #autoarchives


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: Sir John Pakington and the Purchase of Wigs

The word wigs comes from "periwigs" which was the name of the particular long, curly wigs that became popular after Charles II was returned to the throne in 1660. They were used to simulate real hair and primarily used for adornment. However at the time, head lice were everywhere, and nitpicking was painful and time-consuming. Wigs stopped lice infesting people’s hair, which had to be shaved for the peruke to fit and the lice would infest the wig instead. Delousing a wig was much easier than delousing a head of hair: the dirty headpiece was send to a wigmaker, who would boil the wig and remove the nits.
Sir John Pakington became the 6th Baronet in 1748 the at the age of 26. Very little is known about his life only that he married at the age of 38 and died at the age of 40.In 'The Pakingtons of Westwood' by Humphrey and Richard Pakington it states 'the only clue  - if such it can be called – to his character and appearance is the purchase of one of those elaborate French wigs…'

Wigmakers bill: With kind permission of Lord Hampton

In England, bag wigs came into fashion around 1730. It was claimed that this type of wig had originated in France. French servants would apparently tie their hair back into a leather bag to keep it off their face when serving, it was not deemed appropriate to have free flowing hair.

Bag wigs got their name because they were exactly that, a bagged wig. In England, the long hair at the back of the wig was placed in a black silk bag. Then the ribbons attached to the bag were pulled to the front and tied in a bow.

The other wig mentioned in Sir John Pakington's bill is the bob-wig. This also became popular in the 1700s, arriving in England during George II’s reign. What made this wig popular was its apparent resemblance to real hair and was mostly worn by the general public. The best examples were made from natural hair, however horse and goat were used as a cheaper alternative.

 In 1795, the British government levied a tax on hair powder of one guinea per year. This tax effectively caused the end of the fashion for wigs.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: Henry Jetto

The earliest-known black person to have lived in Worcestershire is believed to be Henry Antonie Jetto. The first reference to him is in a parish register dating back to the late 16th century. The discovery was made by his 11x great-grandson whilst tracing his family history at the Worcestershire History Centre before we moved to The Hive. His descendant, Mr Bluck stated "He is referred to as a ‘blackamor' which at that time meant a black person, and I believe he had an adult baptism into the Christian faith at 26 as ordered by his master."

Baptism of Henry Jetto 1596

Mr Jetto was baptised in Holt in 1596, and was a gardener to Sir Henry Bromley of Holt Castle. Mr Jetto  was also buried at Holt in 1627. Mr Jetto was wealthy enough to leave a will when he died and left goods to the value of £17 15s 8d.

will of Henry Jetto

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Explore Your Archive: Looking back at 2015 and 2016 launch

Last year Explore Your Archive week saw us feature some extraordinary people with links to Worcestershire. As part of this we held an exhibition of some of the archives and held a successful drop in day featuring talks about the individuals we featured.

During the course of the day it was wonderful to meet some of the relatives of Harry Martin, one of our unsung heroes, who was a talented painter with Worcester Porcelain before the First World War.
Meeting the descendants of Harry Martin and an exhibition about him and his work
One of the other people featured was the painter Joseph Blackburn.After the campaign finished we received feedback internationally and our work was included in Art History News. The DNB entry for Joseph Blackburn is also in the process of being updated due to the findings we made for Explore Your Archive.
Join us this year for Explore Your Archive 2016 where from now until November 27th we will feature insights from our archives. Follow our blog and twitter page during the course of the week to keep up to date. 


Friday, 11 November 2016

Open days at Broadway Dig

UPDATE 20/11/2016: Unfortunately the weather forecast is absolutely horrendous for tomorrow, so we've decided to postpone the site tours. The site is very exposed and ground conditions are likely to be treacherous. Besides being unsafe, there's not going to be much to see (unless you're particularly keen on puddles) until the rain passes. We'll re-arrange for later in the week once we (and the site) have all had a chance to dry out! We'll let you know the revised date as soon as its confirmed.
Apologies for the inconvenience.

The site from the air. Photo by Adam Stanford of Aerial-Cam Ltd
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are carrying out an archaeological excavation in Broadway as part of the works for the Environment Agency's Badsey Brook Flood risk management scheme. It's proving to be an exciting site!

We're holding two open days, on Friday 18th November and Monday 21st November, 10:00-16:00. It's an opportunity for residents to come along and visit the excavation, talk to our archaeologists, handle some of the finds, and find out about the fascinating history of their local area at first hand.

We've got evidence of some of Broadway's earliest known residents, Mesolithic hunter-gatherers living here around 10,000 years ago. The main focus of the site is a complex Iron Age and Roman settlement, with fantastic Roman finds emerging.

Graham holds the base of a Roman jar, and Tim stands at the bottom of an enclosure ditch

The site can be accessed on foot from the village via footpaths (dotted lines on map) from Cheltenham Road or Church Street, or from the site car park on West End Lane. If using SatNav, postcode WR12 7JP will take you to about 100m to the southeast of the car park entrance.

Stout footwear is advised, as the site may be muddy! Visitors should gather by the site cabins next to the car park, where artefacts will be on display. Tours of the site, starting from the site cabins, will be conducted by the archaeologists.
There's no need to book – just drop in and find out more about the thousands of years of history beneath your feet!

Friday, 4 November 2016

The Grazebrook sketchbooks

Worcestershire Archive Service is in the process of cataloguing a collection of four volumes that were deposited with us by Homery Folkes, an architect, local historian and noted antiquarian. These volumes contain newspaper cuttings, postcards, photographs and drawings reproducing architectural details and images from nature.  Obviously the work of someone very interested in architecture – an architect perhaps?

These beautiful pencil drawings show the artistry and talent of the person who created it.  A person, possessing such skill in observing and reproducing fine detail, could perhaps be considered a true artist.

An example of the fine drawings contained within the sketchbooks

So, who was the artist?  On first receiving the deposit staff originally attributed it to Tom Grazebrook, but our paperwork shows that, upon Homery Folkes insistence, the volumes were later attributed to Phillip Grazebrook.  The depositor perhaps based his assertion upon the initials found on the front of two of the volumes; JPG appears in Gothesized text.  Our paperwork relating to this acquisition states "4 architectural sketchbooks of Philip Grazebrook, architect, of Hagley", however, on the inside covers of one of these volumes it states: "Tom Grazebrook Nov/95".  Upon inspection we have found that all of these images are consistent in style and level of execution suggesting that they were created by one person alone.  So who was the creator? Phillip or Tom?

The only clues that we have, in terms of dates, is Nov/95, which we take to be November 1895, and a watercolour of battleships dated 1917. With these dates as a point of reference we took a look at the 1911 and 1901 census and found no trace of a Philip Grazebrook listed, whereas a John Philip was recorded as living at the Court, Hagley.  At this point he was 75 years of age, living with his wife Harriet, son William and daughter Ellen. Far from being an architect his profession was given as retired iron master. In the 1881 census John P. was listed as head of the household with 3 children, including a 19 year old Tom whose profession was given as architect.  Also on Ancestry there is an entry on the National Probate Calendar for John Phillips Grazebrook, who died on March 1919, and one of the executors is identified as Tom Grazebrook, architect.

Could John Phillip/s be our artist?  It is possible that a successful iron master would still be interested in design and would like to contribute ideas to those who developed products but it is unlikely that so many fine and precise architectural details would have been reproduced in iron work.  These volumes are far more than a catalogue of designs - they were obviously created by someone who had a passion for architecture. 

The front cover of one of the Grazebrook sketchbooks, featuring the initials JPG.

Looking at the Kelly's trade directory of 1912 both J.P and Tom Grazebrook were listed as being at the Court, Hagley.  The 1911 census showed Tom to be living at the Dene, Pedmore.  Perhaps the entry in Kelly's referred to Tom's business address.  If he were working from his parent's home then it could explain why Tom would use volumes, with his father's initials upon, in which to make his drawings.  

Tom Grazebrook (1862-1949) seems to have been a successful architect.  He designed the church of St Saviours, Lower Hagley in a mixed style owing much to the Arts and Crafts tradition; a number of projects providing model housing for the poor; Bluebell Park Cottages at Wrens Nest (1902-3); workmen’s dwellings Vicarage Road, Wollaston (1905-7) and Urban District Council housing in Vicarage Road Amblecote (1920-1).  The public buildings that he created included Cemetery Road Board School (1884); the Dispensary Worcester Road, Stourbridge (1893) opened by Lady Cobham; the Victorian Jacobean Netherton Library for the Earl of Dudley (1894); the Tudor style Oldswinford Hospital Great Hall (1905-6); All Saints Home for girls, Clent (1910) and the Guest Hospital of Dudley Outpatients (1915-16).  We believe these volumes must have been Tom's creation.  So why did Homery Folkes, working in the same profession and in the same locality, attribute these drawings to the wrong person?  Perhaps Phillip was Tom's family name given in honour of his father? The entry of his baptism at Hagley church provides no record of a middle name.

In trying to find answers we have posed even more questions. Turning to other collections within our archives for further information we looked at a deposit made by Ellen Grazebrook, John's daughter and Tom's sister. Included in this is John Phillips' obituary where it is stated that he was very good at handicrafts and "he excelled in wood carving. In Hagley church there stand two memorials to his ability, the communion table and the footstool". To be responsible for such an important piece of church furniture shows the level of his skills.  Ellen proudly reported that when her father died his tools were left to Birmingham University and they called him an "engineering genius".  It could be said that many of the images, contained within the volumes, are of details that would be found in church architecture.  Perhaps John Phillip could be responsible for the collection after all.  If the volumes are to be attributed to Tom then it is obvious from whom his ability came.

An example of the fine drawings contained within the sketchbooks

We are no nearer to finding the answer but, in the process, we have learnt an enormous amount about two individuals from the past.  What has been so memorable about the research is finding Ellen's recollections of her father.  She obviously adored him and wrote "In his relationship to his children he was always most affectionate and sympathetic and he looms large in the vista of childish memories". The image that is created of John Phillip challenges the idea of a distant Victorian father figure and shows one that encourages his children's interests.

By Carol Wood
Archive Assistant