Gloucester City Council and the City War Memorial, by Jonathan Hoad

As Remembrance Day approaches, I thought I would share my findings in the Gloucester Borough Records (GBR/L6/23/B5018), on how the names of World War Two fallen on the Gloucester City War Memorial, in Gloucester Park, were collected by the Council using official sources and a public appeal.

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Natasha Young – our Bridging the Digital Gap Trainee, in her own words

Natasha with Sid

My name is Natasha Young and I am a Digital Archive Trainee taking part in the 2021 cohort of Bridging the Digital Gap trainees. The traineeship is run by The National Archives and I have been seconded to Gloucestershire Archives to get hands-on archiving experience. I have had the privilege of learning traditional archiving skills from professional archivists and digital preservation experts in an active archive setting. As well as learning whilst working, The National Archives have also set up an online training program that teaches us how to be archivists and how to approach the various considerations for digital archiving and preservation.

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Cotswold Roundabout goes Digital, by Natasha Young

I was appointed as a Gloucestershire Archives trainee in January 2021 under the National Archives “Bridging the Digital Gap” scheme.  My post has an emphasis on digital and technical skills and one of my tasks has focussed on the Cotswold Roundabout collection (D6112).  This wonderful sound archive consists of programmes compiled and edited by the Cotswold Tape Recording Society from around 1960 to 1976.  Originally called Hospital Roundabout, the programmes were designed to provide comfort and entertainment to hospital patients. The scope then widened to reach the elderly, the blind and the disabled, through clubs, homes and societies. .Despite being an amateur endeavour, the recordings were made in a professional manner and the quality of the audio is high.  The content is extremely varied, showcasing the talents of local people and “characters”, from singing and stand up comedy to telling spooky tales.  It also includes people’s reminiscences and unvarnished interviews about local trends. 

Original Cotswold Roundabout reel-to-reel tapes
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One of our volunteers sent this lovely feedback….

I’m everyone’s volunteer. In normal times I would be dashing between Gloucester Cathedral, Berkeley Castle, Cheltenham College, Cobalt and of course Gloucestershire Archives. I like to use my brain to do something potentially useful, I like learning new things, meeting people with the same interests and chatting to fellow volunteers, friends I have made over the years. All that stopped with lockdown.

John Humphris’ probate inventory, 1690, mentioning the hogs (see below)
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Cataloguing the Stanley Gardiner photographic collection: the volunteers’ story (by Camilla Boon and Roger Carnt).

Sitting in fourteen boxes in a refrigerated strong room at Gloucestershire Archives, Stanley Gardiner’s collection of over 5,500 old images of views, events and people in and around Stroud’s Five Valleys  was an obvious goldmine for anyone interested in local history. The problem was that the collection was uncatalogued. The wrong choice of box number might bring you traction engines, not images of Rodborough, and heaven help you if you were just hoping for something on Edwardian farming!

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Tracking the owners of land in 1873

On a shelf in the Frith Room at the Heritage Hub are two large, fat, blue-bound tomes labelled ‘Return of owners of land 1873’.  They tell us that the Returns were ‘Presented to Both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty’ and were printed in 1875. The first volume contained English counties from Bedford to Norfolk (so included Gloucestershire) and the second Northampton to Yorkshire West Riding, also the Welsh counties. London was not included. The information was arranged in two sets of seven columns on each page. They record the surname of the owner in alphabetical order in each county, followed by christian name(s) and title, the address of the owner, the amount of land owned in acres, roods and perches, and the value in pounds and shillings. Nearly a million names were listed, 37,705 in Gloucestershire.

You have to admire the compositors of the time who set up the type, back to front in the ‘forms’ which could then be inked and printed. You have also to admire the clerks in the Civil Service who coped with the varieties of hand-writing on the returns from each Poor Law Union in the country, as were the returns transcribed by a willing and persevering band of volunteers for Lloyd George’s attempt to tax the increasing value of land. The Unions were the effective local governments of the time. Jean Gibbons has searched for some of the mysterious addresses in 1873. ‘Rhirdeville’ –  nothing else said –  was Rhodeville in Leckhampton. Other house names, too, were given without stating the place.

Owners of land did not necessarily live where they owned land. Ninety-five people lived in Cheltenham, and owned land  in Gloucestershire varying from 1 acre to nearly 2,000 acres; Richard R C Rogers owned nearly 3,000 acres. Thirty-six people lived in Bath. The really big land-owners, like Lord Fitzharding at Berkeley Castle (18,264 acres ) or Lord Sherborne at Sherborne Lodge (15,773) owned land in many other places. 

At present we are transcribing those owning 10 acres or more: 3,281 names.

by Anthea Jones, Gloucestershire Archives researcher

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

A field trip to another era.

Who remembers their school trips? I’m sure you can recall a few memorable ones, can’t you? I know I can.

Going ice skating at the rink in Swindon was one of them. That wasn’t particularly memorable in itself, as I was both rubbish at ice skating and very accomplished at falling over, so combining the two made me rather damp and helped change my skin colour to various shades of ‘bruise’.

But what I do remember is my classmate executing his falling over routine far more impressively than my efforts. He even decided to top the lot and end his performance with a show stopping ankle breaking routine. There was no way I was going to compete with that, as my ankles certainly didn’t want to extend the competition all the way to the local hospital’s operating theatre. So I let him win that one.

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Dear Diary…

By John Putley

The diaries of William Thomas Swift, schoolmaster & teacher, 1860-1915 are a remarkable series of documents with entries for every single day from 31 December 1859, when the diarist was eighteen years old, until 5 February 1915, just five days before his death at the age of 73.  Early entries are brief, but as time goes on they become more and more comprehensive and none more so than the entries for the various Christmas holidays that he recorded.   They reveal a Christmas that most of us would easily recognise today, despite the fact that they took place over a century ago.

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