What working for Gloucestershire Archives Has Taught Me, by Sally Middleton

On the eve of my retirement, it’s a chance to look back at the last (almost) 6 years, and see what I’ve learned.

I was new to heritage, when I arrived, and new to archives. I’d always worked with communities, or individuals, but around social justice or in a therapeutic context. I hadn’t seen, or understood, quite what an impact heritage can have on people and communities.

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Women’s History Month – Naomi Patterson

For our last post during women’s history month we’ve taken our information from the Barton and Tredworth community heritage site. This was set up during one of our community partnership projects, looking at the lives of local people. Read below for an insight into Naomi’s life and follow this link to listen to audio clips of her describing her experiences: https://www.bartonandtredworth.org.uk/content/living-barton-tredworth/blackhistorymonth/naomi-patterson

Naomi Patterson came to Gloucester from Jamaica in the 1960s. She came to join her husband William who had travelled to the UK several years earlier to work at Gloucester Foundry. After her long trip, one of Naomi’s clearest memories upon arrival is remarking to her husband about how many factories there were in Gloucester, not realising that she was in fact looking at the terraced housing of Barton and Tredworth.

She also clearly recalls the first meal William made her when she arrived – freshly cooked mackerel and a glass of stout! Naomi and William lived with family in Barton and Tredworth before getting their own home, and in this collection of audio clips, Naomi recalls some of her experiences and her memories of the area from the time of her arrival. (Click on the link above to listen)

Since coming to Gloucester, Naomi has had several different jobs, raised three children and now volunteers at her church, the United Reform Church and also the Black Elders’ Luncheon Club. ‘Mrs P’ is still very much a part of her local community and a well known personality in Barton and Tredworth.

Naomi Patterson 1
Naomi Patterson

Women’s history month – Quarter sessions

The Quarter Sessions is a collection of accounts regarding mostly petty everyday crime. Last year we went through and picked out various cases that mentioned women, which you can read here: https://gloucestershirearchives.wordpress.com/2021/06/15/maligned-marginalised-and-misunderstood-blog-3/

There’s plenty more material to look through though, such as the case in 1741 concerning Mary Smith. It’s a settlement case, meaning they were trying to find out where she belonged and which parish was responsible for looking after her. According to her statement, she was

‘about 63 and was born in Shaftesbury in Dorset. She married Jeremiah Smith forty years ago and lived with him for twenty eight years. They travelled the country with earthenware as their living. She has gained no parish of settlement since her husband died.’

Such a short statement for such a long life lived. By the sounds of it, she travelled all over the country and would have met a much wider variety of people than most others did, especially women who would be expected to stay in or near their home most of the time.

White document with black inked handwriting

Other records follow the same themes of settlement, theft, and assault against women. There are rarely happy stories in the petty sessions, this was after all where crimes were heard.

In 1738, Andrew Phipps of Berkeley accused Daniel Pick of assaulting his daughter Martha and tearing her apparel on Dursley Fair day. Q/SD/1/1738 A year later Mary Jagger stated she was

‘travelling from Minchinhampton to Cirencester on her husband’s business with Laurence Chidsley, a barber of Tetbury, as her guide. Chidsley pulled her off her horse, violently assaulted her and stole a silver pair of buckles which he still has’.

Neither case goes into much detail and it’s difficult to find further examinations that might tell us how the cases were closed.

White document with black inked handwriting
White document with black inked handwriting

Without a doubt the most common way a woman appeared in the quarter sessions was in cases of bastardy. Women would be hauled in front of the courts and told to name the father of her unborn (in some cases already born) child, so that he would be charged for their welfare instead of the parish. Such is the case in 1738 when Elizabeth Thorn appears. The case states that she is 28 and born in Cowley and has had no settlement since birth. It goes on to say

‘She is with child by Francis Tomlinson with whom she has cohabited for two years. She has sometimes begged but mostly got her livelihood from travelling about selling phisick.’

This one is interesting as it gives a bit more detail, and rarely are the women in these cases said to be living out of wedlock with the fathers for any length of time, which begs the question why weren’t they married? Where was her family? It also mentions she travelled around ‘selling phisick’ – so she did try to fend for herself in some way, and had enough knowledge of herbs and plants to make a living out of it. Who taught her this knowledge – was she particularly skilled? Of course, she isn’t asked any further questions than who the father of her child is, so we’ll never know.


The marginalised voices of women in the justice system hint at so much history yet to uncover, waiting in the archives to be discovered.

Women’s history month – Fielding and Platt workers

In the second week celebrating women’s history month, we’d like to highlight some local women in the workforce.

One of our partner projects was all about Fielding & Platt, an engineering firm from Gloucestershire started in 1866. You can see all about the company and the lives of the people that worked there here: https://www.fieldingandplatthistory.org.uk/

Black and white photograph of the women working at Fielding & Platt, Second World War

One particular page we’d like to highlight today though is this one about the woman who worked there, see here: https://www.fieldingandplatthistory.org.uk/content/works/fielding-and-platt-in-world-war-ii/fieldings-female-workers-during-world-war-ii

Daphne Collier was one of these women. To listen her memories of working at the engineering firm, check out the link below: https://www.fieldingandplatthistory.org.uk/content/people/people-general/daphne-collier

Daphne Collier

Women’s History Month – U. A. Fanthorpe and R. V. Bailey

To kick off woman’s history month in the UK, every Friday in March we’ll be bringing to light women in Gloucestershire, often overlooked or under appreciated.

This week’s new arrival for our local studies collection was ‘From Me to you – Love poems’ by U. A. Fanthorpe and R. V. Bailey. The authors were a couple who lived together in Wotton Under Edge until Fanthorpe’s death in 2009.

From Me to You, Love Poems

Ursula Fanthorpe was a teacher at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and went on to run the English department there. She later left that job to work in a hospital and started publishing her own poetry in 1978.

Rosemarie Bailey met Ursula when she was also working in the English department at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. Later, she worked as a University lecturer in Bristol.

They first lived together in Merthyr Tydfil, before moving to Wotton Under Edge in Gloucestershire. Both have spoken about their faith in the Quaker community, and how accepted they felt in it, which features in this book. Neither indicated which poem was written by whom, calling it a kind of ‘comic modesty’.

We think it’s fitting that Gloucestershire Archives should hold a copy of this book for future generations to peruse and learn about the life and love between these two women which inspired these poems.

You can find it by searching in our local studies collection, under B739/60038GS.

The Story of one woman, throughout the census

The census can be a great tool for tracking your family history through the years. Our January Passport to the Past event focused on what the census could tell us about one women. The full event is available on our YouTube channel here!

Living in Chadstone Lodge in Northampton Mary Robinson first appears on the 1871 census at age 3, along with her parents Mary Elizabeth and James White Robinson and two younger sisters Margaret and Edith Maria.

Copy from the 1871 census including Mary and her parents
Mary listed in the 1871 census

From the 1881 census we can learn that Mary is now 13 and has four more younger siblings James, Ethel, Katherine and Louisa. The family have now moved to Waterfall Farm in Northampton. Mary is still living at the family farm in the 1891 census and is not listed as employed.

Copy from the 1881 census including Mary and her family
Mary listed in the 1881 census
Copy from the 1891 census including Mary and her family
Mary listed in the 1891 census

A lot changes in the 10 years between the 1891 and 1901 census for Mary. At age 34 she is now married to bank manager John Riddey and has three children Edith Mary, John and Cicely. She has also moved to London.

Copy from the 1901 census including Mary and her husband John and children
Mary listed in the 1901 census

1911 is a bit interesting as Mary is not found in the same household as her husband John who has now moved to Moreton-in-Marsh a Cotswold Village in Gloucestershire. Instead, Mary and her youngest child Cicely is found visiting Elizabeth Dunkley in Lincolnshire.

Copy from the 1911 census including John Ridley
John listed in the 1911 census
Copy from the 1911 census including Mary Ridley
Mary listed in the 1911 census

Before the release of the 1921 census in January 2022 this could have been where Mary’s story stopped for us but we are lucky to have two more document that call tell us more about Mary and her children.

Firstly the 1939 register, from this we can learn that Mary is now 72 and living with her daughter Cicely and Cicely’s husband Rev Reginald G Bennett at The Steps in Morton-in- Marsh. The register also shows that Cicely is in the Women’s Voluntary Service.

Copy from the 1939 register including Mary
Mary listed in the 1939 register

The Second document we have is a scrapbook compiled by Joyce M Deacon the grandaughter of Mary Riddey (nee Robinson). This scrapbook contains family photographs, of Mary and John Riddey as well as their children and grandchildren.

two black and white photographs, one of Mary and John Ridley and one of Mary, John and Cicely with a dog
Photographs from the scrapbook (D13668/2/1/1) including Mary and John Riddey and their daughter Cicely

The census is a great source of information for finding out about your family history. But it is great to have this scrapbook, so that we can be able to put a face to Mary and her family!

Finding the White Swan Inn

Recently we received an inventory relating to the White Swan, a pub in Westgate Street, Gloucester (reference D15916). When we came to log details into our online catalogue, we realised we were missing an important detail- precisely where was it?  This pub no longer exists, and we have only 3 other records in the archives that mention it, GBR/L20/2/1914/52, D3117/4568 and D3117/4158A.

So, where to start?

Well, one of the first places to look for lost buildings is old maps. This is only really useful if you have a vague idea of where the building was, and luckily we know this pub was in Westgate street. For many locals who know the city, Westgate street is actually quite a big place to start looking. So, to pinpoint whereabouts we then looked at the other documents, to see if they gave any clues. D3117/4158A mentions a right of way dispute that involved the Old Spa House, hinting the buildings must have been very close. A quick search for ‘old spa house’ in our catalogue comes up with a lot more hits than the pub. D3117/4156 lists number 95 Westgate Street, known as Old Spa House in the description. We have a number! What next?

Rather than search through huge and delicate rolled up maps, we use a fantastic online resource called ‘Know your place’, here: http://www.kypwest.org.uk/

This website was developed in Bristol and now covers other counties, including Gloucestershire. It holds digital copies of some of the maps we keep, and it’s a great place to start looking. After setting the base map to 2019, we started going through the comparison maps and scrolled up and down Westgate Street looking for our pub. All we had so far was the name ‘White Swan Inn’, ‘Old Spa House’ and the number 95 for a rough location. Unfortunately, numbers of buildings changed over time as they were built on, over, divided up etc. especially after World War II.

After 10 minutes or so – bingo! On a map from 1852 made for the local board of health, we found it! It’s on the extreme western end of Westgate street, which in 1852 was on White Swan Lane and is now swallowed up by Westgate Street parking. Where the building itself stood is now a block of flats. You can see two buildings along is numbered 95, which in 1852 was named ‘The Newfoundland’. 

All subsequent maps on Know Your Place have the building shown, but just the letters ‘P.H’ written, which mean ‘public house’. So we know a pub was still here in 1947, but was gone by the end of the 1960s when development plans in the city turned it into a car park.

Now what?

Well, the inventory discovered gives us a very vivid picture of a pub in early 20th Century Britain. It is dated 1933, so in the inter-war period. Everything is listed, every chair and table, what state it was in, what room it was in. Take the bar for example, arguably the most important room in a pub. You might have sat down with a metal mug, at a mahogany pembroke table, on a Windsor chair. You might have played with dice to pass the time, or perhaps chess or a game of quoit. The décor included a stuffed drake, dog and squirrel, a stag’s head and antlers, and a framed picture of Tom Sayers the famous boxer. A rubber stamp and pad is listed ‘for glasses stolen from the Swan’. Some traditions never die!

More details are given about the taps, the linoleum floor, hooks on the door and every basin, jug and pewter measures are listed. Anyone wishing to create an accurate film set for the time period has their research done for them! Inventories tells us not only what the trends were, but sometimes mention a local business that there remains no other trace of. We know in the bar they used a Gledhills patent cash till, which was a business at the time in Halifax. Further down, the staircase has a clock listed by ‘Mollinews, Painswick’ which doesn’t come up with any immediate hits online. Local names appear, such as in the private sitting room which has a portrait of ‘Mr Clutterbuck’.

What came in as a small booklet on a chance find turned out to give us a wealth of information about pub life in 20th century Gloucester.

So- now it’s your turn. What can you discover?

UPDATE 25/01/2022: One of our search room team was able to look up the demolition date of the pub in an index, which tells us it was demolished finally in 1972.

Penny for the Guy?

Do you still put a ‘Guy’ on your bonfire? Children displaying their homemade ‘Guys’ and asking ‘penny for the Guy?’ is thought of as an iconic British tradition.

Most people know that after King James I survived an attempt on his life by Guy Fawkes and his conspirators, bonfires were lit around London to celebrate. This continued across the country and gradually became part of tradition to commemorate the event.

The holiday is often been associated with violence in one way or another, not least because of the dangerous nature of fire and fireworks. It’s associated with Protestant ideals, and as such is used for anti-Catholic sentiments. Nowadays the politics of the celebration isn’t celebrated, but it is used as an excuse for a social gathering to observe the winter months coming on.

In the 18th Century children began to create their own ‘Guy Fawkes’ effigy to burn on the bonfires, carrying around their homemade guy and asking for money. In the 1960s however, the City of Gloucester Headteachers Association petitioned to not only stop the practice, but make it an offence. This petition was unsuccessful, as it was a seasonal practice and not considered threatening. It was also pointed out to them that what they were concerned about (children begging) was already covered under the Vagrancy Act of 1824.

Whilst children were allowed to continue begging a penny for the Guy, the teachers might like to know that the practice has now almost totally vanished. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of trick-or-treaters on Halloween who ask for sweets rather than money. Would they have shown similar disdain and anger towards this? The answer is: very likely.

Typed letter from the Town Clerk

Reference: GBR/L7/1/1/1/5

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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