Gloucester’s Bishops Court records unlocked, Or All human life is there…, by Judy Kimber

On the 5th December 1628 George Beard made his way to Gloucester from his home in Whaddon. A dispute had arisen concerning the will of his friend John Copp and he was going to give his testimony at the Bishop’s Court. There he was asked how old he was and he told them that he was 90.  Yes, 90! Just think about that for a minute. He had lived through the reigns of six monarchs from Henry VIII to Charles 1. He was alive when the Spanish Armada threatened England. He was in his sixties when Guy Fawkes and his gang had tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. And now he was mentally and physically fit enough to give evidence in court. So much for the notion that no-one lived past sixty in “olden times”.

An example of a Bishop’s Court case book (GDR/168)
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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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Blogging a Building (23) – the end of an era, by Heather Forbes

On 7th December 2020 we signed the completion certificate for Gloucestershire Heritage Hub.  This signified the end of the snagging period following the handover of the completed building and site in August 2019.  It therefore seemed appropriate to bring to an end this series of Blogging a Building, started by Jill Shonk back in February 2017. You can read the whole series here by searching for Blogging a Building, and see a pictorial record of how the building project developed from January 2017 to December 2020. We accidently missed out number 18, ambitiously jumping from 17 to 19! 

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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

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

A CATTER-LOG-ER-AT-HOME

As one of a group of volunteers, I’m missing our Monday get togethers and am really looking forward to when we can all get back together. But have we been allowed to be idle? OH NO!

That slave driver cum school ma, (so called volunteer coordinator) has continued to organise us! (Can’t she give us a break?). A long respite from ‘you’ve not used the right Archives format’; ’that shouldn’t be a capital letter’; ‘ there shouldn’t be a gap in the item reference’ etc etc ad infinitum… And what has she made us do? Continue reading

The joys of Volunteering

Have a read of this lovely article written by Anna at the beginning of 2020 about what it’s like to volunteer:

Thinking about volunteering in 2020? Why not take a look at Engage in Gloucester’s exciting website? We have nearly 200 volunteers at Gloucestershire Archives, and we share some of them with other heritage groups in Gloucester, many of them recruited through “Engage in Gloucester” which offers a whole range of volunteering tasks for those interested in history.

The challenge I set for 2019 – as a family – was to fit in 365 hours of volunteering around full time work and family commitments. Engage in Gloucester’s Volunteer Makers website is the perfect place for choosing tasks that can take a few minutes to a few hours.  I popped in what my interests are and received alerts for upcoming volunteering events then I have the option to accept or not, depending on availability.  

This year, I met lots of great people along the way who invest even more than I have in promoting Gloucester, and every experience has been very rewarding… and different. Highlights include: 

– I kicked off 2019 helping with the reopening of St Mary de Crypt.   I carried out numerous tasks, from photographing hundreds of paper wishbones made and annotated by children for display at the opening ceremony, to cleaning and buffing up the pulpit of George Whitfield fame.  

– Working alongside Miss Gloucester as welcoming host for the coaches arriving for the Tall Ships, and then wandering around ensuring that everyone had a great time

– A spot of conservation with weeding outside Llanthony Priory in readiness for the Gaia Earth exhibition, and hedging and tree planting in a number of special interest sites that I didn’t even know existed in my local area of Abbeydale/Abbeymead; shame I didn’t show as much attention to my own garden and weeding!

– Helping set up the Gloucester Museum Moon Exhibition was a real treat, and I learnt a lot from Nigel about how the museum is run and some of the amazing artefacts they have on display

– Who knew that the Jamaican Independence Day is celebrated in Gloucester Park each year; with my husband on the gate directing cars, me positioning community stalls and my son dashing around with messages and further directing of traffic.  Just generally mucking in where the organisers needed it.

– In September the Heritage and History Festival was massive …. with Green Room hosting and auditorium management, again with sessions to suit my availability in the evenings, and weekends, and the chance to meet some delightful history authors. 

– And later I squeezed in a few more hours inputting data from the History Festival feedback forms, affording me the chance to visit our fabulous Heritage Hub in Alvin Street, home of Gloucestershire Archives … now I know where to go to get help with my family history quest – challenge for 2020

– I finished the year with a spot of marshalling at the Santa Fun Run – not sure that the elf hat that I had to wear was really my thing! 

I cannot wait to see what pops up on the phone next and what lovely people I get to both help and meet. If you would like to check out opportunities for volunteering, in Gloucester, in 2020, please check out the Engage in Gloucester website at  https://engageingloucester.volunteermakers.org/ 

Anna from Abbeymead

The Memories Café at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

By Kate O’Keefe

Sunday December 1st – our last Memories Café at The Hub for the year.

The Memories Café has been a regular feature in our programme on the first Sunday of every month since the spring. Sunday afternoons can be an empty point in the week for some older people, so we decided to fill that space with companionship, conversation and cake. The café offers free refreshments, live music and activities with a nostalgic flavour. It is open to everyone and we take pride in making sure that all our customers have a good time. Many of our staff and volunteers are Alzheimer’s Society ‘Dementia Friends’, so people living with dementia and their friends and families can be sure of a safe and welcoming experience. We are very lucky to have the support of committed volunteers who help to make sure our customers have a friendly, enjoyable time with us. Our ‘regulars’ tell us that the café adds a ray of sunshine to their day:

We love coming here. Mum really looks forward to it.’

You’re all so good at making people feel relaxed.’

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