Life on the Gloucestershire Home Front, by John Putley

When, on Sunday 3rd September 1939, the public were informed that Britain was again at war with Germany, few people were surprised.  Initially life remained oddly ordinary, but although as time passed there were air raids and other characteristics of the war, nothing particularly terrible or terrifying took place on a large scale.  Gloucestershire was never in the front line in either the 1940 invasion scare (though if the Germans had invaded, the Severn Estuary was the goal of a second assault) or the 1944 D-Day preparations, but the sense of involvement in the conflict thanks to the Blackout, the media and rationing, made the Home Front very real for most people.

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Dowty in the Second World War

The original company formed by Sir George Dowty to manufacture aircraft equipment, named Aircraft Components and then Dowty Equipment, was formed in 1931, eight years before the start of World War 2. It meant that by the time war broke out, the company had prepared itself for the massive increase in orders and, as a result, factory space. By 1940, when Dowty Equipment was named, there were nearly 3000 people employed by the company and various sub-contractors around the country as well as in Canada and the USA. Dowty was able to claim that by the end of the war “not a single aeroplane during the war years had ever been grounded for lack of a Dowty spare”. Continue reading

How to preserve your family or community archive: the Collection Care Covid-19 lockdown blogs. Blog CC #7

  • Worried about the cost of preserving your collection?
  • Want some tips on getting help?

Have you:

  • done a Caring for Collections Action Checklist? (see Blogs CC #3 & CC #6)
  • prioritised tasks? (see Blog CC #6)
  • found out about archival quality materials and suppliers? (see Blog CC #5)

If so, you have all the information you need to look into costs more closely. It may be that you find there are cheaper alternatives to what you first thought necessary. Also, it doesn’t have to be done all at once – baby steps are fine! Continue reading

Sir Robert Atkyns and Mr J Kip delin et sculp (artist and engraver)

Thirty years ago, Nicholas Kingsley (late of this parish as it were) wrote an article for Country Life on the ‘conundrum’ of how Sir Robert Atkyns chose the places which Johannes Kip was asked to draw and engrave for inclusion in his Ancient and Present State of Glostershire published in 1712. Although there are 65 illustrations in the book, 60 of them the houses of the county gentry (61 counting Chepstow Castle which was not in Gloucestershire but was linked through the lord of the manor of Tidenham and the bridge over the Wye), there were yet others he might well have chosen. As we know, Gloucestershire was a big county, including those parishes in the diocese of Bristol when it was created in 1542 and much more recently in Avon and then in South Gloucestershire local authority areas. It must have taken Kip a considerable amount of time to travel around the whole county, as well as staying in each place long enough to carry out a simple survey and then to draw it. Kingsley suggested therefore he may not have been able to reach the farther bounds of the county. The engravings are a unique resource and particular ones are frequently used by local historians. The Gloucestershire Gardens and Landscape Trust is one such, using them to examine historic gardens and compare them with the present day. Continue reading

How to preserve your family or community archive: the Collection Care Covid-19 lockdown blogs. Blog CC #6

  • Completed a Caring for Collections Action Checklist (see blog CC #3)?
  • Got a ‘to do’ list as long as your arm?
  • Don’t know where to start?

 Don’t worry.  Here are some ways you could approach it – choose one that works for you, or use a combination: Continue reading

The Delectable Mountains

Had things been different, I would probably have spent part of this weekend preparing for my talk in the Hub about a Gloucestershire composer during World War Two. That composer was Ralph Vaughan Williams and, although I explained when asked to speak, that VW was in Surrey or London or Wiltshire for most of the war, but Vaughan Williams was after all a local man. As things have turned out my talk won’t happen and I am locked down in Yorkshire – Delius country, if we keep the musical analogy, or perhaps Black Dyke Mills. But I can still listen to Vaughan Williams on my headphones, and imagine the Cotswolds.

Vaughan Williams rehearsing his Opera the Pilgrim’s Progress in 1951

            That is not too difficult because, just as last year when I made my audience sit through a recording of Holst’s Egdon Heath and imagine Hardy’s Dorset, so my plan this time was to play you part of the fifth symphony by Vaughan Williams, the most important and enduring work that he completed during wartime, and tell you about its background.

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