Gloucestershire’s 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

Heritage Hub partners feature at Police Open Day

The Open Day at police headquarters is always a great opportunity to showcase Gloucestershire’s amazing police heritage.  This year’s event, on Saturday 17 September,  was the best one yet with over five and a half thousand visitors coming through the gates.

The Police Archive Group, Gloucestershire Archives and Gloucestershire Family History Society were all brought together in the “history zone”, with complementary displays and expertise.   Everyone was kept very busy with people finding out what will be on offer in the new Heritage Hub as well as seeing what’s available in the police archives. There were lots of enquiries about police ancestors and the team of police volunteers will be following up many of over the coming weeks.

register-of-rural-constabulary

We made sure to take along the register of rural Constabulary- a star item from the official police archives.  It’s packed with information about the earliest recruits to the new Force in 1839, and the neat copper plate handwriting is a source of wonder to children of the digital age.

girl-and-the-register

And there’s still interesting material at large in the community – we had promises of photographs and memories from ex officers and from people who had suitcases, belonging to ex members of the constabulary, in their attics. There were also some tentative enquiries from people not connected to the police who were interested in joining the archive group. It was also great to hear that many people were already aware of the police archive website that went live just a couple of weeks ago.

All in all, a very productive day.

Co-authored by Sue Webb, police archive officer, and Kate Maisey, Gloucestershire Archive development officer.

Police archive website – www.gloucestershirepolicearchives.org.uk

Lucky 13 for Gloucestershire history

Founded in 1899, the Victoria County History (so named because of its dedication to Queen Victoria) aspires to create a scholarly history of every parish in every County in England.  It is organised on a County basis and the first Gloucestershire volume was published in 1907.  There was then a gap in production until the 1960s, but volumes have since been produced on a regular basis.

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Coming soon to an Archives near you

Did you know that the Archives’ site is used for purposes other than just caring for and making available the County’s historic documents? For instance, the Gloucester branch of Gloucestershire Family History Society holds their meetings here once a month, currently in the Frith Centre.  Anyone is welcome to attend, although a small charge is made for refreshments, and you can find a list of the upcoming events at http://gfhs.org.uk/events-2/action_agenda/cat_ids~29/. Continue reading

Gloucester History (and Retro) Festivals; Gloucestershire Archives recommends….

Gloucester History Festival 2016The following sessions are being run by colleagues, volunteers or researchers connected with the Archives.  Full details for most events are available in the History Festival booklet – available on-line or in hard copy from Gloucestershire Archives.

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Crime on Yate Common, By Catherine Vaughton

The town of Yate in South Gloucestershire has recently had its history published by Victoria County History books.

The name that Yate was given historically means Gateway, which is derived from the old English word giete or gete, which meant ‘gateway to a forest area’. During the Anglo-Saxon and into the medieval period much of the area now known as Yate was enveloped within Horwood Forest; this forest land was a place for the privileged and rich, along with medieval Lords and Bishops to visit. In later years farmers and peasants were also given the opportunity to visit the royal forest. Through the centuries the forest had been cleared for farming and for mining industries, such as coal, limestone and sandstone.  In more recent years Yate’s industrial history has included aircraft production and it now boasts an innovative shopping centre. Continue reading