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
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. Continue reading
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
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. Continue reading
It’s been another busy time for new arrivals. We’re really grateful for all these new donations and deposits, many of which have been hidden away in homes and offices for years. If you’re planning on bringing items to offer to the Archives, please get in touch before you visit so that we can make an appointment for you.
We were delighted that the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives helped us to purchase a small but significant group of architectural plans relating to Gloucestershire’s early mental hospitals (then called ‘lunatic asylums’). These iconic buildings at Coney Hill and Horton Road in Gloucester survive in very changed forms today. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
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