Thursday, 13 April 2017

Celebrating the launch of the Worcestershire Manorial Document Register

We have recently completed a project funded by The National Archives to update and computerize the Manorial Documents Register for Worcestershire. 

Come celebrate the launch of the database with us at The Hive on Saturday, 22 April, and learn more about these fascinating records and what they can tell us about Worcestershire's past.  There will be talks, displays and a demonstration.  Tea, coffee and biscuits will be available!




This is a free event, but places are limited, so book your place by 19 April. 

To book, please submit an enquiry online and simply quote 'Manorial Document Register Launch' in the information box provided. Alternatively, phone us on 01905 845714

Friday, 7 April 2017

Vote for us in the Record Keeping Service of the Year award

We are thrilled to announce that we have been shortlisted for the 2017 Record Keeping Service of the Year Award!

This award is part of the Archives and Records Association (ARA) Excellence Awards and aims to recognise the achievements of services across the sector. Voting is open now until 30th April and we would be hugely grateful if all of our readers would support us. Voting only takes a few seconds and can be done by following this link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/ara_awards2017 


Friday, 24 March 2017

Accredited Archive


We are pleased to announce that, following a recent assessment, Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service has retained its Accredited Archive status!

Archive Accreditation, which recognises good practice in all areas of archive service delivery, was introduced in 2013.  We were pioneers of the scheme, taking part in the pilot and then becoming one of the first 3 local authority archive services to become accredited (link to previous blog post at http://www.explorethepast.co.uk/search?q=accreditation).   After three years we had to go through a review, and the results were confirmed this week.

Some of our frontline archive staff at our enquiry desk


In its feedback, the Accreditation Panel noted that 'the service’s achievement in continuing to deliver well and to address key issues…material is particularly impressive', particularly in light of reductions in budget, staffing and opening hours.

We are thrilled with the result, which is a testament to the hard work of the team and their commitment to providing an excellent archive service.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

The 1947 Floods

Floods on Hylton Road with the power Station in the background
It is 70 years since the 1947 floods, which were some of the worst experienced in Worcestershire and the UK. Floods are a regular natural phenomenon to this area and most people can recall particularly high ones, most recently 2007 and 2014. The 1947 ones were exceptional and are often still talked about.

The cause lay in the preceding months when a weather front more common to Scandinavia hit Britain for a couple of months. In February the temperature never rose above 0.7ºC, and there were frequent snow falls. During the Harvesting the Past project which interviewed people in the Martley area of the county, a number of people told us of their memories of that terrible winter. In some cases they were cut off for weeks, and one man said he never went to school for 6-8 weeks as there was no way to get there from his farm. Keeping livestock alive during that period was a struggle for the county's farmers.

In early March warmer stormy weather hit southern England causing a thaw. This then slowly moved northwards. As the thaw reached the Midlands the snow melted into the rivers, filling them up with the accumulation of the past couple of months. It was exacerbated by a storm, followed by rainfall way above the March average, putting even more pressure on the rivers and sodden land.



The newspapers (viewable on microfilm here in The Hive) tell the dramatic story. They are fascinating to read, and in many ways reflect what newspapers today are looking for as they look to include the offbeat in amongst reporting the serious news. They start with the storms of 16/17 March. Just a couple of years after the end of the war they describe the scenes as like the aftermath of an air raid as slates, tiles and chimney pots were scattered across the streets. Trees were blown down and roads blocked including Tallow Hill, where enterprising residents helped clear an Elm tree blocking the route whilst helping themselves to wood for their fires! Builder's merchants saw long queues as people rushed to make repairs before more rain arrived.

The floods continued to rise, and on 19 March it was reported that the waters had almost topped the records, and it was feared a big tide in Gloucester would make things worse. Worcester Bus Station on Newport St had to be evacuated when the waiting room was surrounded by water, although the destinations for buses were already extremely limited. Lock keepers at Diglis and Stourport prepared to be evacuated. By the 22nd March many records were being broken, and the army were being brought in to help.

New Road, Worcester, under water


"Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink"
Perhaps surprisingly considering the sheer amount of water, Worcestershire people were told to save water. The Worcester City Engineer reported that the floods made it difficult to supply water, as their filters struggled to cope with the volume. They were also not helped by the burst pipes from the frosts and half a million gallons of water were being lost this way.  Despite this there was no change in usage, and they even sent out vans with loudhailers asking the public to cut back on water. Electricity carried on with the help of pumps and a lot of assistance. It was also a challenge for workers to get in to work to keep it going. Unfortunately telephone exchanges were not so lucky, and parts of the county around Evesham found themselves cut off.

In Bewdley the gas supply was stopped when water flooded the gas works. To cross the river people had to negotiate a bridge of planks. Those who had been evacuated from around the town, if they had no friends of family to put them up, were accommodated in the school hall. In Tenbury the floods had affected most of the town and the church was an island, with the surrounding churchyard under water. The depth of the River Teme was hard to measure as the gauge was under water!

Newspapers always look for the unusual stories. One story described how a man managed to float to safety from his house on a door he had recently bought, and used as a raft. Another story described how an 80 year old woman slid down a roof on a carpet to a dinghy which had come to rescue residents in Diglis Avenue and surrounding streets. They also told of a lady who hadn't quite grasped the serious of the situation, when she called for help from the emergency services to leave her home on Hylton Road, but the 'emergency' turned out to be a dancing match she was keen to attend.

Another story which featured over several days in between the tales of disaster was the battle between Worcester Sauce and Yorkshire Relish. In London representatives from each county went to a railway station to debate which was better. The Chairman, the Director of BBC's Children's Hour, tactfully declared a draw at the end!

Entrance to the cricket ground, New Road


Sadly amongst the humorous stories there was also tragedy. Many were flooded out of their homes (hotels were full of evacuated people), businesses were affected, and livestock died where they couldn't be got to dry land. There were also reports of a few people who had drowned in the floods.

We also have a number of photos in the archives of the floods. Despite their regularity ever time there is a flood there are plenty of people who come down to take pictures. Some of these make their way to us and help us tell the story of floods over the years. Everytime we feature them in talks or on social media they always get people talking.

As well as photographs, one man took film footage of the floods. John Beer was a keen amateur film maker. A number of years ago his films were passed to us, and were digitised by the Media Archive for Central England. If you have been to one of our archive film screening you may have seen his films of the floods (as well as others he shot of the visits of Winston Churchill & HM The Queen). Part of the film can be seen on the MACE website .




Flooding is a fact of life for Worcestershire. Hopefully future ones won't be as dramatic but they will continue to be recorded here.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Lost Landscapes of Worcestershire

Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS), in partnership with Museums Worcestershire, has been successful in its bid for £74,900 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to bring the Lost Landscapes of Worcestershire back to life.  Over the next 18 months staff at WAAS and the Museum will be delivering events and exhibitions celebrating over half a million years of the area's prehistory, from the time our ancestors arrived until the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. 





The first people to live in the area now called Worcestershire arrived at least half a million years ago, as the ice sheets receded northward and the climate warmed.  They slowly worked their way up river corridors from central Europe as the animals they hunted migrated northwards.  Remains of their tools and dwelling-places from across Europe show that they had sophisticated cultures.  These first people didn't stay, they came and went with the warming and cooling of the climate over the next few hundred thousand years, retreating into Europe as glaciers covered much of Britain and returning in warmer periods. 

Various species of animals came and went during these periods too, and their remains lie in the gravels and sands beneath our feet.  It is incredible to see a 2 metre long mammoth tusk exposed by a mechanical excavator, and to imagine that animal once roamed an icy Siberia-like tundra where now people eat burgers and fill up with fuel on their 'migrations' up and down the M5. 

Working with volunteers, local schools and the public, we will explore our understanding of the Ice Age objects and information in the care of WAAS and Museums Worcestershire as well as the collections of institutions across the West Midlands. Worcestershire's collections, amassed since the 1830s, tell a story of antiquarian study and a developing understanding of the most remote of periods in human history. Wonderful objects were collected both from within Worcestershire and from key Ice Age sites in Britain and Europe throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Exhibitions and activities will bring together what we know of Worcestershire's lost Ice Age landscapes from two centuries of collecting and study, and examine the consequences this had for the ferocious debate surrounding the origin of our species and what it means to be human.


400,000 year-old Handaxe from St Acheul, France. Held in the collection at Worcester


Alongside the Museum exhibition, a complementary exhibition will be showcased in The Hive.  This will tell the history of how the museum collection came to be. Founded in 1833 by members of the Worcestershire Natural History Society, Worcester is the 8th oldest museum in the country.  For the next century, wonderful artefacts from across Europe and beyond found their way into the collections. These include artefacts from the type-sites for the European Palaeolithic:
  • St Achuel: ‘Acheulian’ (Lower Palaeolithic)
  •  Le Moustier: ‘Mousterian’ (Middle Palaeolithic)
  •  Aurignac: ‘Aurignacian’ (earliest Upper Palaeolithic)

The impact of these exotic arrivals must have been revelatory. This exhibition will explore the cultural context of their acquisition and understanding.  Set against the back drop of Darwin’s Origin of Species and the emergence of our understanding of evolution and the antiquity of humankind, the story of how 19th century collectors acquired, shared and discussed these extraordinary specimens that spoke of distant aeons, is the story of how we understand what it means to be human.

Regular updates will detail how the exhibition comes into being from the very start until the doors open, with all the behind the scenes work that culminates in a museum exhibition.  Starting with the background to the project and information about the Worcestershire museum collection, the blog posts will follow the journey the project takes as we put the materials together and learn more about the collection and the County's past. 

Thursday, 2 March 2017

New entries added to our Quarter Sessions index online!

Regular visitors to the Indexes and Guides section of the Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service website may have noticed that the index to our Quarter Sessions papers has grown since Christmas, with the addition of an index to the 1854 papers.  This is an increase of over 2,000 entries, now searchable online.

This is entirely thanks to one of our very dedicated volunteers, Mary Lawrance.  Since 2007 Mary has worked on Quarter Sessions records from the 1850s, systematically working through the papers, sorting them into order, numbering them and listing them onto a spreadsheet.  From this spreadsheet we can find out all sorts of information, for example, in the Midsummer session of 1854 William Counley of Tenbury appeared in court charged with stealing combs, braces, pins, printed books, printed paper and cotton tape – goods belonging to Michael Duffy.  He appeared alongside Julia Hunt of Wolverley, charged with stealing half a peck of potatoes belonging to Benjamin Edmonds, a farmer of Blakeshall.

An example of an entry in the Quarter Sessions records.


The collection contains a wealth of information about criminal activity in the county, and is an excellent resource for all kinds of research.  We are grateful to Mary for helping us to make them more accessible.

Mary is currently working on the 1855 Sessions papers, which will be uploaded onto the spreadsheet in due course.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

New Community Planning toolkit and guidance by Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service and Historic England

Your Place Matters



All rural places and buildings are a reflection of how people have lived, worked, thought and related to each other throughout history. Rural settlement is at the core of our everyday lives and provides a base from which we view and experience the wider landscape. The villages, hamlets, farmsteads, and houses that we call home, connect us to each other and to our shared sense of history.

Understanding the series of changes that have created a place over time, can inspire and guide future changes, including the scale, style, form and location of new development, as well as opportunities presented by the natural and historic environment.
Your Place Matters: Community Planning Toolkit for the Future of Rural Buildings and their Setting is a new toolkit by Worcestershire County Council and Historic England. It focuses on what buildings tell us about places and can support Community-Led planning, including Neighbourhood Plans, by offering a framework to inform the location and character of new development in rural areas, based on an understanding of place, as the result of past change.  It can also be used by those undertaking research into individual areas.



This toolkit is supported by a guidance document Your Place  Matters: A Guide to Understanding Buildings and their Setting in Rural Worcestershire. This complementary document provides detailed information on the broad range of rural building types and their settings within their settlement and wider landscape.

The toolkit can be found at www.worcestershire.gov.uk/Yourplacematters www.worcestershire.gov.uk/Yourplacematters

Monday, 20 February 2017

Love Worcester


Once again February Half-term sees the return of Love Worcester festival, as heritage venues throughout the city invite residents and visitors to come and explore.

Here is The Hive we have a couple of events:

Hands on History
Thursday 23 February 10am-3pm
We'll be in the Children's Library with a sandpit so children can take part in a mock –excavation and hunt for Roman artefacts. They can then take it to the identification table, draw/record it, and have a look under the microscope. There's also the opportunity to make a mosaic for a small charge of £2.50. No booking needed, just come along.

A young archaeologist at last year's event

 
The Mystery of Shakespeare's Marriage and the World of Tudor Worcester
Saturday 25 February 2:00-3:30pm   £6
Join us on a Tudor themed behind the scenes tour as we show you documents and artefacts related to the 16th century. We'll look at Shakespeare's marriage bond and discuss whether there is a discrepancy with the Bishop's Register, browse Shakespeare's grandfather's will, and find out what happened with Queen Elizabeth I visited the city. We ran this tour twice last year and it was sold out both times. You can book online at https://e-services.worcestershire.gov.uk/LibraryEvents/EventDetails.aspx?id=308



There are plenty of other events happening around the city and you can see them all at http://www.visitworcestershire.org/worcester/Love-Worcester.aspx

Love Worcester also saw the launch of a film promoting the members of the Worcester Heritage Forum and hopefully highlighting things people may not have been aware of before.




We hope you get a chance to enjoy some of these events this week and find out about Worcester's great heritage!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Final Broadway Dig Open Day

Our Broadway dig is coming to an end, so we are holding a final open day on Monday, 20th February from 10:30-15:00. Come along and visit the excavation, talk to our archaeologists, handle some of the finds, and find out about the fascinating history of the area.

We have got evidence of some of Broadway's earliest known residents: Mesolithic hunter-gatherers living around 10,000 years ago; and some intriguing and unusual Bronze Age finds dating back over 4000 years. The main focus of the site is a complex Iron Age and Roman settlement, with fantastic Roman finds emerging.

Car parking is not available on-site so please use the public car park on Childswickham Road (off Cheltenham Road). The site is a 5-minute walk from the car park via footpaths from Cheltenham Road (see map below).


Map of site showing car park and public footpaths

Stout footwear is advised, as the site and the footpaths may be muddy! Visitors should gather by the entrance to the site, where artefacts will be on display. Tours of the site will be conducted by our archaeologists.

There is no need to book – just drop in and find out more about the thousands of years of history beneath your feet!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Strong Rooms Project update

In June 2016 we blogged about the exciting Strong Rooms project that Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service (WAAS) was taking part in. The Arts Council funded Strong Rooms Project is coming to a close at the end of February 2017 but Archives West Midlands will ensure a legacy for the art installation which toured the West Midlands during the summer of 2016. Throughout the project WAAS worked closely with Warwickshire County Council Archives, with Culture Coventry, with Dudley Archives and with lead artist Mohammed Ali of Soul City Arts and its production manager, Steve Mclean. 


One of the Strong Room shipping containers, with exterior by artist Mohammed Ali


The two shipping containers, pictured here, were installed, consecutively, for one week each in Rugby, Coventry, Dudley and Worcester, attracting around 7,250 visitors. For the exterior, Mohammed depicted the story of a Warwickshire lady, Dorothie Feilding, who served the allied troops in World War 1 as an ambulance driver and nurse and who's collection of family letters is curated by the County Record Office. The interior of each container houses several art pieces reflecting stories from across the West Midlands via audio and visual media.


The second Strong Room shipping container, showing a depiction of Dorothie Fielding, along with the team behind the Project


For more details of the tour and of the significant community element to this project please visit the Strong Rooms website. If you are inspired to do some archive research, remember you can visit us here at Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service or you can visit any of the partners: Culture Coventry; Dudley Archives and Warwickshire Record Office.  

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Upcoming Orchards and Local History Workshops

Are you interested in orchards and local history? We have the perfect workshop for you!


 


Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service will be running two free workshops in Evesham and Tenbury Libraries next month to look at how people can research local orchards and local history with sources held in the archives and in local libraries.

Picking apples - photo from the Worcestershire Photographic Survey

Orchards are an important and much loved part of the historic landscape of Worcestershire (and our neighbouring counties) and we have long been famous for them. They are now the focus of a Heritage Lottery Funded project, which is seeking to help restore orchards and to provide people with the knowledge to look after them. They are also seeking to find out more about local orchards in particular areas to help manage the landscapes.

The workshops will look at sources we hold in The Hive and those held within local libraries, which can be used to investigate local history and particularly orchards. We will have some local examples of these available to view.

1880 OS Map of Rochford - many of the fields are shown at orchards

We hope the workshops will encourage you to volunteer to help research orchards in the Tenbury/Rochford and Evesham/Chadbury areas over the next few months. With guidance and support we are looking for helpers to look at maps, newspapers, census records and photos to see what information can be found in the community. The aim is to gather information and stories to contribute to a walk/talk led by one of our archaeologists in the spring. A report will also be produced which will help with the care of orchards in the future and ensure they are rightly recognised. All are welcome to attend the workshops and there is no commitment to any further involvement by doing so.

The workshops will be held as follows:
  • Evesham Library on Friday, 17th February 10am-12pm (previously advertised 10 Feb)
  • Tenbury Library on Saturday, 11th February 10am-12pm

At the end of each workshop there will be an opportunity to stay on and have a look again at some of the maps and sources and ask questions about your own research or about the project.

If you would like to come along, or just find out more, please phone Paul on 01905 766352 or email explorethepast@worcestershire.gov.uk