Curious discovery from the time of Jane Austen

Sometimes it’s an unexpected glimpse of times past that I really enjoy about my job here at Gloucestershire Archives.  I had such a moment recently, with a discovery that came my way.

Part of my role as Collections Care Conservator is to protect the collection against damage from insect pests.  Our eagle-eyed staff and volunteers are super-vigilant about spotting any possible signs of infestation.  One of our volunteers was emptying out an old box when she spotted what she thought was frass (i.e. insect poop) and so brought the box to my attention.

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New arrivals in our strongrooms (4)

Autumn has seen a flurry of new collections arriving at Gloucestershire Archives – and all are now recorded, labelled, boxed and tucked away safely in our care.

We were delighted to receive an archive bequeathed to us by the late June Lewis, a well-known local author and historian of Fairford. Alison Hobson of Fairford Local History Society has spent over 12 months listing the contents of the collection ready for its transfer to the Archives. This help is much appreciated by our busy team! Mrs Lewis collected, researched and wrote extensively so it will take a little longer before the 20 or so transfer boxes have been processed ready for research.

Some of the highlights for September and October are listed below. As ever, please search our online catalogue using the reference numbers given in the list to find further details. Most items are now ready to be used by visiting our research room.

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Gloucestershire’s archives revealed

Flash bang wallop – I’ve just broken my back.

Photography these days has become easy. With the advanced technology available to anyone who can afford it, pointing and pressing a shutter normally results in a perfect picture. Thanks to many intelligent auto settings on the camera doing all the work, even I can get a semi-decent shot of my chosen subject.

And when one of my pictures does accidentally come out frustratingly blurred, I’ll pretend that I meant it and enter it into the Turner Prize. So far, I’ve been beaten to the award by a dead cow, a used bed and an empty room, so I need to concentrate on worsening my work considerably before I’m successful.

But back in the Victorian era, photographers couldn’t just go around taking happy snaps wherever and whenever they liked. The time it took to expose the photographic plate and then develop it certainly wasn’t instant, as it is today. Photographers were skilled technicians and chemists who didn’t waste their precious negatives on images of twerking chimney sweeps or the workhouse Master’s avocado lunch. Continue reading

Munching on archival cakes for The World’s Biggest Coffee Morning! By Rachel Wales

The staff and volunteers at Gloucestershire Archives have always been keen to support the Macmillan Coffee morning, and this year saw our Tea Room table groaning under the weight of brownies, blondies, biscuits, cakes and other yummies.  When trying to decide what I’d bring in, I remembered a recipe I have made before – one that had come to light in one of our collections (GA reference D2455/F3/10/9/3).  This is a small handwritten volume of recipes, compiled by Michael Hugh Hicks Beach (a gentleman, politician and officer who led a very interesting life but who sadly was killed on the 23 April 1916, in the Battle of Katia, thirty miles from the Suez Canal.)  Most of the recipes were for soups or beef dishes, but there were some baking recipes included too, such as one for Oatmeal Scones, and this one, for “Guard’s Cake”.  Continue reading

Gloucestershire’s archives revealed

Model me a railway, Eric

Apart from qualified train drivers, how many of us have, in fact, driven a train? Maybe that question should actually be: how many of us want to drive a train?  I would – for the unique driving experience and the challenge of keeping hundreds of people simultaneously on track (excuse the pun) for their appointments.

The desire to drive trains is normally heightened if the train happens to be pre 1948, the year that saw the nationalisation of Britain’s railways. Regrettably, most of us could only drive one of these vintage vehicles if we visited a heritage railway line or, failing that, pretend. And by ‘pretend’ I mean building a model railway, rather than sitting on a chair making choo-choo and chuff-chuff noises. Continue reading

Mayor Visits Gloucester City Charters, by Rachel Wales

It’s an exciting day when the Mayor of Gloucester calls in.   But it’s not me he’s here to visit – along with several Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, he has come to see the gorgeous Gloucester City Charters, kept here at Gloucestershire Archives since 2012.  The City Council consider the Charters to be amongst the most significant items held here because they document the development of Gloucester as a city.  Continue reading

Gloucestershire’s archives revealed

Dig this, dude

It’s fair to say many of us would like a go on a digger.  Perhaps not a prominent desire, but the thought of moving large piles of earth at the touch of a joystick or smashing concrete into oblivion with a deft swipe of the controls is quite tempting.

Sadly, it must remain a wish and not become a reality, for us at least – because the joy of excavating massive holes would lead to a temptation to lift things that shouldn’t be lifted, like people or cars, or even other diggers. That’s a very good question: can a digger lift another digger?  Well, for as long as we’re not allowed to play with diggers, we won’t find out.  We think it probably could though.

So why all this talk about construction machinery?  Well, it’s because we’re awash with it at our Alvin Street premises in Gloucester: diggers, excavators, dump trucks and all manner of large and powerful machinery that we are (sensibly) banned from having a go on.  But we have fun watching them in our breaks, seeing them go about their destructive and constructive business to create new facilities for Gloucestershire Heritage Hub and build three more specialist storage rooms for the Archives’ collections.  You’ll probably know all about this if you’ve been following our Blogging a Building posts or visited recently. Continue reading