Ab initio – or from the get go

So when was the first record office established in Gloucester? 1930s? 1940s? 1950s? Well, thanks to a chance conversation a year or two back I think I now have a more radical, and surprising, answer. I was chatting to Giles Standing, then The National Archives Transforming Archives trainee at Gloucestershire Archives (and now working for the Diocese of Lichfield). It transpired that we had both studied Roman archaeology, and had both been involved in publishing. Moreover, Giles was editing for book publication the collected essays of his former tutor at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, an eminent scholar of Roman Britain, Mark Hassall (whom I then only knew by reputation). And, since I still operate as a small publisher in my spare time, would I be interested in publishing Mark’s work?

Yes, of course! And now, two years later, I find myself typesetting Mark’s essays (meticulously edited by Giles), which happen to include a paper on ‘The Tabularium in provincial cities’. The Latin word tabularium means record office (or to put it in modern parlance, ‘heritage hub’!) and Mark had assembled evidence from Roman sites in continental Europe about what archives such an office might contain. He prefaces his remarks with the caveat that there is hardly any evidence from Britain itself, but that (because Roman bureaucracy was pretty standardised) what he describes is very likely to have existed in the cities of Roman Britain, and especially in the coloniae, of which Gloucester (Glevum) was one of three.

He then goes on to list the categories of archives, and they begin to sound eerily familiar. There would have been the city charters and constitutions, lists of magistrates and councillors, minutes of council meetings, decrees (perhaps the equivalent of our local byelaws), maps and surveys, contracts and leases. By analogy elsewhere, the Roman record office would have been a room or office attached to the basilica (or town hall) and presided over by the tabularii publici curator, the city archivist.

As a young man Mark was involved in archaeological excavations in Gloucester and Cirencester, and his tabularium essay was originally published in a tribute volume to an archaeologist whom he had worked under in Gloucestershire, John Wacher. Although his paper does not mention it, Mark would know well that in Gloucester the site of the basilica was excavated in the late 1960s and is now occupied by Marks & Spencer. The Emperor Nerva, who in 97 AD was apparently responsible for founding the colonia of Gloucester (and presumably therefore for instigating the first city archivist to look after its first charter) sits astride his horse nearby. I walk past his statue every day – from now on I’ll treat him with a little more respect.

 

John Chandler

VCH Gloucestershire

New arrivals in our strong rooms

April 2017

IMG_20170531_092145180

Tree planting on Leckhampton Hill in the early 1970s (among records of R W Paterson architect of Cheltenham, catalogue reference D3867 Accession 14388)

Each month new archives arrive at Gloucestershire Archives – either as gifts or as deposits on indefinite loan. We regularly process between 25 and 35 new batches (or ‘accessions’). All are logged into our collections management database and stored securely.

We know from users’ feedback that it can be difficult to pick out these new arrivals from among the thousands of entries  in our online catalogue. So for those of you keen to find out what’s new, this is the first of a regular blog.

If you’d like more details of any collection listed below, click on the link in the left hand column which takes you to the online catalogue. No link means there’s no more description ready as yet.

The online catalogue will also tell you whether you can access the records now or whether they are closed for any reason. If this is the case you may be able to arrange to see them by appointment.

Reference
Title Description
D14375 Local cricket clubs, 1949-1957 Gloucester Thursday Cricket Club scorebook, 1953-1957; Bream Cricket Club scorebook, 1949-1954 (2 volumes)
GCC/ENV

Accession 14377

Gloucestershire County Council: County Surveyor’s Department c.1955 Publicity for a new accounting machine installed to calculate wages and the costs of all projects undertaken, c.1955. Includes photographs of machine operators  (1 volume, 4 photographs)
D14378 Samuel Bradley & Son, builders of Frampton-on -Severn, 1907-1959 Business accounts, 1907-1949 (3 volumes); estimates books, 1937-1959 (3 volumes)
D14379 Frampton-on-Severn deeds, 1843-1939 Fernleigh, Prospect Cottage, Tom Clarke’s Cottage; Tamaris Cottage, the Street, 1909-1939 (1 bundle);  Severnthorpe and the Mechanics’ Institute, The Green, 1843-1939 (1 bundle); other property on The Green, 1939 (3 bundles)
D14380 War Invasion Committee for Corse, Staunton and Hartpury, 1941-1945 Air raid precaution records formerly belonging to A G Compton, Chief Air Raid Warden for Corse, Staunton and Hartpury. Include a log book of events,  1941-1945, and an Invasion Committee war book, 1944-1945 (5 volumes, 1 bundle, 3 items)
P377

Accession 14381

Woolstone with Gotherington and Oxenton Parochial Church Council PCC minutes,  1984-1996 (1 volume)
D1180

Accession 14382

Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, 1936-[1950s], Plans of trows ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Palmerston’ and unnamed vessel, undated, [1950s] (3 documents); plans of trow ‘Alma’, 1952 (2 documents); Port of Gloucester handbook, used as a working copy by boatman on the Stroudwater Canal, 1936 (1 volume)
D14383 [Hulbert’s] builders of Marshfield, 1786-1871 Accounts showing charges for various goods and services, 1786-1798, 1797-1815, 1815-1818 and 1856-1871 (4 volumes)
GCC/LEG Accession 14386 Gloucestershire County Council: Legal Sealed orders for Public Rights of Way and Highways, 2016-2017 (1 box)
GDR Accession 14387 Gloucester Diocese, 2016 Faculties relating to properties in the Diocese, 2016 (52 items)
D3867

Accession 14388

R W Paterson of Gloucester and Cheltenham, architect, 1903-1991 Include photos of Paterson’s architectural projects, 1940s-1950s; Leckhampton Court Estate sale particulars, 1912, and water supply, 1956; papers about Ashmeade Lodge, 1910-1949,  Tower Lodge (1938)-1989, and the development of Leckhampton Hill, 1970s-1980s (8 bundles, 2 volumes)
D14389 Gotherington in 2012 Gotherington and Area Local History Society’s text and photographic survey of houses in the village, 2012
D14390 Marshfield Reading Room, 1887-1947 Minutes and accounts, 1887-1947 (1 volume)
D12550

Accession 14391

The Nailsworth Society, 2012-2015 Group leaders’ annual reports delivered at annual general meetings, 2012-2015 (4 files)
D10943

Accession 14392

English Association of Male Voice Choirs (based in Gloucestershire) Committee attendance register, 1983-1999; accounts, 1983-2013; minutes and correspondence, 1992-2001 (3 files, 1 volume)

This isn’t the whole story as we also take into our Local Studies Collection a wide range of publications and printed items relating to Gloucestershire. They include newsletters, journals, reports, programmes and leaflets produced by organisations across the county. Too many to list here, but April gifts also include:

  • A draft MLitt (University of Bristol) thesis by John R Howe, 1977 titled “Political history of the Parliamentary constituencies of Cheltenham, Gloucester, and the Cirencester and Tewkesbury divisions of Gloucestershire, 1895-1914” (catalogue ref JF5.36GS)
  • Photographs of Gloucestershire Cottages presented to the Library Service by Miss Harriet C Fawkes in 1942 (catalogue ref J3.238GS).  Not all the images are identified.
  • Good Man and a Brave Man, The story of a Gloucestershire soldier, Cecil Thomas Packer, 1885-1916 by Alan Gaunt, 2017 (catalogue ref B733/57715GS)

We’re looking forward to having space in the new Heritage Hub to display new publications!

 

 

 

Blogging a Building (10)

There are aliens and strange structures just metres from my desk. But don’t be alarmed.  I haven’t been beamed from Starship Enterprise to a parallel universe!  The strangers are just asbestos removal experts – back for a second visit.  This time they’re making the under-floor spaces for the new Heritage Hub safe, ready for remodelling work.  And it’s all happening behind closed doors – so there’s no danger.

Meanwhile, Archives staff have been celebrating some good news. The Local Government Association has awarded us £15,000 to develop online customer registration arrangements and streamline our online document ordering system.  These improvements should make it quicker and easier for everyone to access original documents and minimise any queuing times at the new Heritage Hub reception.  Well done to our Digital Preservation & Access Officer, Claire Collins for leading the way on the successful bid!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Archives Revealed (1)

There are countless hidden gems in Gloucestershire Archives’ collections.  These range from beautifully illuminated medieval manuscripts to nuggets of priceless information and funny facts, often concealed in ordinary-looking documents.  These treasures are usually uncovered in the Archives’ research room, either by visitors using our collections or by Archives staff that handle them as part of our access arrangements.

It seems a shame to keep these special finds a secret so we thought we’d set up a new blog series to share them with you, beginning with a post we’ve written ourselves.  Here it is:

Have you ever felt like eating Hens’ Turds?  We have, but we were put off by their unappetising appearance.  Mind you, it turns out they aren’t meant to be eaten raw, as they taste as bad as they look in their uncooked state – quite acidic with astringent qualities. But they do become edible with processing…

Before we go any further, we should explain that Hens’ Turds are actually a variety of apple: a cider apple native to Gloucestershire and listed as critically rare in 2000. We’re guessing this is still the case – so you’d be more likely to find half a hen’s tooth in a field of haystacks.

We know about this unusual species thanks to a book in our collections: one that a recent visitor wanted to look at. It’s called ‘Native Apples of Gloucestershire’ by Charles Martell (ref. B544/56497) and contains a detailed inventory of all known indigenous varieties of Gloucestershire apples.  Before checking it out, we thought we’d test our apple knowledge by listing the names of as many apples as we could. And we came up with a total of ten (listed as ‘the magnificent ten’ below).  None of them were from Gloucestershire, though. Maybe you can do better?

Well, how did you get on? More than ten types of apple is good.  More than twenty is even better.  And a whopping fifty would be seriously impressive.  But the prize fund is reserved for anyone with a list of over 190 varieties, because that’s the number listed in the book as native to Gloucestershire alone.

Martell set out to create his definitive account because many varieties of local apples were gradually disappearing. And his findings are useful for conservation and reference purposes. So if you want to identify an apple as being of Gloucestershire origin, or you’ve stumbled across a new example of Belchers Pearmain, this is a marvellous book to consult. Browsing its contents, we discovered: the last record of a Captain Kernel tree was before 1960 in Tibberton; there aren’t any Dainty Maids left in Cam; Rissington Redstreak has also been lost; and, sadly, there are only two Hard Knock trees remaining in Oxenton and only one Old Tankard in Westbury-on-Severn.

This trend reflects the ever decreasing acreage of traditional orchards in the County – currently around 3,000 acres, considerably less than the 15,000 estimated in the mid-1800s. Fortunately, Martell is propagating some of the lost and rare varieties of local apples, and these now form the National Collection of Gloucestershire Apples.

Interestingly, according to local legend, there’s also been an apple-linked manslaughter. Apparently, the Kill Boy apple came by its name after an Oldbury-on-Severn man became so fed up with the foolish antics the boys collecting fruit one harvest time that he threw an apple at one of them, hitting him on the head. The apple was so hard that it killed the boy. ‘Nasty weapons, those apples.

Finally, we thought we’d mention that our Alvin Street premises have an apple related link too.  The site was once home to Wheeler’s Nursery, which supplied apple trees to Queen Victoria.  Sales particulars of the nursery in 1853 (ref. D3269) advertised that it consisted of 2000 apple and pear trees.

Well, that’s it from us for now.  We really need your help to find and share more fascinating facts from our collections.  So please let us know if you’ve an interesting story to tell and would like to write a blog article about it!

PS For those who are interested, here are our magnificent ten apples: Braeburn; Royal Gala; Cox; Cameo; Bramley; Jazz; Zari; Pink Lady; Golden Delicious; and Granny Smith.

Jenny Rutland and Anthony Phillips, Archives Assistants

Blogging a Building (9)

Well, our planned ‘hard hat’ tours of the construction and refurbishment site that’s to become the new onsite Heritage Hub have gone well.  And the learning has been two-way: project stakeholders have been able to glimpse the spaces to come and we have discovered more about the history of our building.

The new evidence of our building’s past comes from two sources.  Firstly, the builders discovered a window above the original front entrance.  It was hiding above an artificial ceiling that that’s been removed in order to change the room layout.  Here it is:

Winsow above front door 20170426

This space will eventually become an office area for Gloucestershire Family History Society volunteers.  The window can be their secret as it’ll be hidden behind a new ceiling by the time they take up residence there.

The second piece of evidence came from a lovely lady, Pam Brogan who took part in one of our tours.  We discovered the experience was actually a trip down memory lane for her, as she was a former pupil of Kingsholm School, the original occupant of our premises.  And she was kind enough to share a photo of herself with her infant school friends, and let us feature it here.  She told us it was taken in the 1940s and the children and their teachers are shown in front of an air raid shelter.

Thanks, Pam, it’s great to be piecing together the history of our building and we’re glad you enjoyed your evening with us!

Do get in touch if you’re reading this and have your own memories of Kingsholm School, as we’d like to use these as part of the interpretive displays (stories about Gloucestershire, Gloucester and Kingsholm) in the Heritage Hub.

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Blogging a Building (8)

The dust has settled after the first stages of our building works and this has been another relatively quiet week, other than the removal of some air ducts.  The lull is down to the discovery of  some previously unidentified asbestos and we need to follow a proper process for removing this.  But there’s always a bright side and the current waiting game presents an ideal opportunity for the site tours we were hoping to offer.

First in the queue for tours are our ‘For the Record’ project partners.  And we began yesterday by showing a few key members of the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives around.  The photo below shows us in what’s going to be the new Heritage Hub reception area, wearing our Mickey Mouse shoes and egg head hats, and looking at the architects plans to get a better idea of what the spaces are going to look like.

FoGA tour 20160412

Left to right: Jill Shonk, Heather Forbes, Liz Jack, Stephen Haygarth and Hilary Haygarth.

We plan to offer bookable tours to anyone who’s interested later on in the building programme.  If you come along we hope that you, like us, will be excited by what’s happening!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

 

Blogging a Building (7)

This week our builders have been busying themselves with behind the scenes arrangements  to progress the next stages of construction.  So I thought you might like to look ahead with me, to get a taste of what the Heritage Hub is going to be like when it’s finished.

Firstly, hot off the press, here’s the latest image of how it’s going to look.  Very smart!

Quattro building image

We want the inside to be stylish too, and are looking forward to receiving the draft mood boards soon.  These will help us to consider the look and feel of the internal spaces, and to make good interior design choices, bearing everyone’s needs in mind.

Like our builders, we too have been making behind the scenes plans.  But ours are about adorning the building and its surrounding site.  There are two strands to these: internal and external interpretive displays that reveal a potted history of the historic county of Gloucestershire’s cultural and natural heritage; and, on a functional level, information sharing media and signage that will show visitors what the Heritage Hub has to offer.  We’ll be working with stakeholders and community groups to develop these over the coming months.  And we’re eagerly waiting to hear if our allied bid to Arts Council England has been successful, as it would allow us to include more art installations as part of our storytelling.  We should know the outcome in mid May.  ‘Fingers crossed!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader