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

Blogging a Building (9)

Well, our planned ‘hard hat’ tours of the construction and refurbishment site that’s to become the new onsite Heritage Hub have gone well.  And the learning has been two-way: project stakeholders have been able to glimpse the spaces to come and we have discovered more about the history of our building.

The new evidence of our building’s past comes from two sources.  Firstly, the builders discovered a window above the original front entrance.  It was hiding above an artificial ceiling that that’s been removed in order to change the room layout.  Here it is:

Winsow above front door 20170426

This space will eventually become an office area for Gloucestershire Family History Society volunteers.  The window can be their secret as it’ll be hidden behind a new ceiling by the time they take up residence there.

The second piece of evidence came from a lovely lady, Pam Brogan who took part in one of our tours.  We discovered the experience was actually a trip down memory lane for her, as she was a former pupil of Kingsholm School, the original occupant of our premises.  And she was kind enough to share a photo of herself with her infant school friends, and let us feature it here.  She told us it was taken in the 1940s and the children and their teachers are shown in front of an air raid shelter.

Thanks, Pam, it’s great to be piecing together the history of our building and we’re glad you enjoyed your evening with us!

Do get in touch if you’re reading this and have your own memories of Kingsholm School, as we’d like to use these as part of the interpretive displays (stories about Gloucestershire, Gloucester and Kingsholm) in the Heritage Hub.

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Blogging a Building (8)

The dust has settled after the first stages of our building works and this has been another relatively quiet week, other than the removal of some air ducts.  The lull is down to the discovery of  some previously unidentified asbestos and we need to follow a proper process for removing this.  But there’s always a bright side and the current waiting game presents an ideal opportunity for the site tours we were hoping to offer.

First in the queue for tours are our ‘For the Record’ project partners.  And we began yesterday by showing a few key members of the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives around.  The photo below shows us in what’s going to be the new Heritage Hub reception area, wearing our Mickey Mouse shoes and egg head hats, and looking at the architects plans to get a better idea of what the spaces are going to look like.

FoGA tour 20160412

Left to right: Jill Shonk, Heather Forbes, Liz Jack, Stephen Haygarth and Hilary Haygarth.

We plan to offer bookable tours to anyone who’s interested later on in the building programme.  If you come along we hope that you, like us, will be excited by what’s happening!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

 

Blogging a Building (7)

This week our builders have been busying themselves with behind the scenes arrangements  to progress the next stages of construction.  So I thought you might like to look ahead with me, to get a taste of what the Heritage Hub is going to be like when it’s finished.

Firstly, hot off the press, here’s the latest image of how it’s going to look.  Very smart!

Quattro building image

We want the inside to be stylish too, and are looking forward to receiving the draft mood boards soon.  These will help us to consider the look and feel of the internal spaces, and to make good interior design choices, bearing everyone’s needs in mind.

Like our builders, we too have been making behind the scenes plans.  But ours are about adorning the building and its surrounding site.  There are two strands to these: internal and external interpretive displays that reveal a potted history of the historic county of Gloucestershire’s cultural and natural heritage; and, on a functional level, information sharing media and signage that will show visitors what the Heritage Hub has to offer.  We’ll be working with stakeholders and community groups to develop these over the coming months.  And we’re eagerly waiting to hear if our allied bid to Arts Council England has been successful, as it would allow us to include more art installations as part of our storytelling.  We should know the outcome in mid May.  ‘Fingers crossed!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

 

Blogging a Building (6)

This week we’ve been doing a bit of time travelling, journeying between the present and the 1970s when our building reached the end of its days as Kingsholm School. It’s been a low budget trip as we haven’t needed a TARDIS or the Time Lords’ other advanced technology.  Instead, our trusty time portal has been some perfectly preserved photos that are in our collections, which means you can enjoy the tour too!

Cloakroom area then research room; the entrance to the new Heritage Hub will be on the right.

Gym then strongroom for outsize items; the wall to the left will be removed to create a flexible volunteer workspace that links to the new research room.

This area is soon to become the new Archives research room; most of the internal walls will be removed to create it.  The right hand wall behind the red fire extinguisher is the other side of the wall on the left in the images immediately above.

More school day clues: playground tarmac under the concrete footing, an inkwell and marbles.

And finally the most up to the minute news: the tell-tale photo below shows the Horsa (hut) featured in last week’s post has finally bolted and we’re ‘ready for the off’ with works to lay the foundations of our new strongrooms!

Demolition of Horsa Hut complete

Come back next week for another update.

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Blogging a Building (5)

 

So, what’s been happening this week? Well, our builders have removed the giant slab that formed the base of the Horsa Hut they demolished last week.  The excavator swapped its careful claw for a pummelling pecker and broke it into tiny pieces.  Result!  You can see, but not hear (unlike those of us working onsite!), this for yourself from the images below – also by clicking on this video link: https://youtu.be/Y6hKgdm3s90

These works are all part of the groundworks needed to prepare the way for the three new specialist storage rooms (‘strongrooms’ in archives-speak) that are going to be built onto the back of our main building. They also involved an unexpected rescue operation: saving and re-homing a displaced hedgehog, now safe in our Archives Support Officer, Jenny’s garden and enjoying the company of other prickly friends.

Hedgehog 20170323

Recently rescued hedgehog happily snoozing

Back inside, the inner entrance door to the old Archives reception has been removed and the builders are ready to knock down some walls to create the new Heritage Hub spaces. They’ll be able to get on with this as soon as they have the necessary propping design (another new term for my construction vocabulary).  I’m discovering there’s a lot more to this building malarkey than meets the eye!

 

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

Blogging a Building (4)

As hoped, there’s been plenty of visible action this week!

Inside, our builders have begun the process of removing internal walls to create the new Archives research room and linked volunteer workspaces. And the view from the corridor outside my office door has changed, as you can see from the image below.

ormer Archives reception area, leading to former research room

Former Archives reception area, leading to former research room

In its current state, it’s easy to imagine how the building must have worked when it was home to Kingsholm School. More so if we add in the reminiscences of former pupils – apparently the long, wide corridor doubled up as a gym!

If you look closely at the image you’ll also spot the walls that are due to be removed as works progress (the blue ‘OUT’ lettering is the giveaway), so we can begin to see what the building should look like when it reopens as Gloucestershire Heritage Hub.

Outside, the landscape has changed dramatically! The Horsa Huts next to the railway track have gone, freeing up space for a new access route to our collections storage areas.  It’s been a fascinating learning experience, watching the Huts (formerly a conservation lab and archaeology store) disappear: I was expecting to see everything flattened in a dramatic swoop but I was wrong.  Instead, an excavator operator carefully deconstructed the Huts using a muncher (‘get me’ with my new vocabulary!), picking off the different construction materials and sorting them into piles, ready for recycling.  You can see this for yourself if you click on this link: https://youtu.be/PTVW5-ar1iw

 

‘All very exciting.  More next week!

JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader