The Legacy of Ahmed Archive and the Courage and Inspiration of his Mother

Archives Hub feature for March 2018

In 1986 Ahmed Iqbal Ullah was murdered by a fellow pupil in the grounds of his high school in Manchester. Very quickly, Ahmed the boy disappeared behind the story of his tragic death. The story of his family and of his mother’s bravery and fortitude similarly became obscured.  The Legacy of Ahmed Archive held in the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre at the University of Manchester Library was collected through a Heritage Lottery Fund project across 2015-16, leading up to an event commemorating the 30th anniversary of Ahmed’s death in 2016. In creating this archive and curating the exhibitions that have emerged from it, we have tried to restore Ahmed the boy and to reveal the extraordinary and positive developments led by his mother Fatima Nehar Begum. We want to share her story again for International Women’s Day.

“[Ahmed] had a strong sense of justice and a soft heart. After he died lots of people came to me – I didn’t even know them. They said ‘He was my best friend’… He gave his life for pride, honour and dignity and I would like people to remember him.”

Fatima Begum, Ahmed’s mother (GB3228.19.1.5)

Ahmed was 13 years old. He was tall for his age and often defended smaller children from bullies. He enjoyed sports, particularly playing football with friends. He liked reading and regularly visited the library. His favourite author was the sci-fi novelist Isaac Asimov. The summer before he died Ahmed started to write a novel about a Third World War set in Western Europe. He spent time researching the war in Vietnam and writing out the lyrics to Paul Hardcastle’s record ‘19’.

Ahmed’s written copy of the lyrics to ‘19’ by Paul Hardcastle (GB3228.19.6.2)
Ahmed’s written copy of the lyrics to ‘19’ by Paul Hardcastle (GB3228.19.6.2)

Ahmed was one of six children in a close-knit family. His parents settled in Britain during the 1960s. His mum, Fatima Nehar Begum was one of the first Bangladeshi women to live in Manchester.

Family photograph, Ahmed third from left (GB3228.19.6.1)
Family photograph, Ahmed third from left (GB3228.19.6.1)

Ahmed’s death and the way it was handled by the ambulance service, the police, the school, Manchester City Council and the press caused fear and outrage. The shock of the murder reverberated across Manchester and the whole of Britain. Ahmed’s family and the local community demanded an independent inquiry into the murder and the circumstances around it. Young people took to the streets to protest against racism. In 1987 Barrister Ian Macdonald conducted an Inquiry into racism and racial violence in Manchester schools. The Macdonald Inquiry report ‘Murder in the Playground’ was published in 1989 (we also hold the papers of the Macdonald Inquiry in our archive).

“I think Ahmed Iqbal Ullah’s murder was in a way a catalyst and a watershed … people woke up to the fact that this could happen and why.”

Nurjahan Ahmad, former Ethnic Minority Achievement Service teacher (GB3228.19.1.19)

Fatima Nehar Begum was part of a small community of Bangladeshi women who felt impelled to become better organised. They created Ananna, the Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation in 1989. For its founding members, Ahmed’s death was a catalyst that brought women together, highlighting the need for greater cooperation and an organised response to discrimination. Addressing inequalities within the education system was an initial priority.

Since 1997 Ananna has been based in the Longsight area of Manchester, welcoming women from all cultures. During weekly advice sessions staff help those in need to access practical and emotional support. Regular classes in English and information technology help women to develop new skills and improve their employment opportunities. Other courses such as childcare, yoga and dressmaking encourage women to increase their confidence and have fun. Ananna also organises lunch clubs, social events, outings and a crèche. The organisation is today a cornerstone of the local community. We hold the Papers of Annana collection in our archive, which tells the story of this remarkable organisation.

Ananna flyer for International Women’s Week celebrations 1990 (GB3228.58.3.1)
Ananna flyer for International Women’s Week celebrations 1990 (GB3228.58.3.1)

Fatima Nehar Begum was determined that something good would come out of death of her son. Through a community fundraising campaign in Manchester and with land donated by her family, she built a school named in Ahmed’s memory in her home village of Sylhet, in Bangladesh. She supervised the building work in meticulous detail, counting the bricks to ensure they were all accounted for. She interviewed and recruited all of the staff. The Ahmed Iqbal Memorial School opened in 1996 with just four classrooms and a head teacher’s office.

Fundraising leaflet from the campaign that helped to raise the initial £7000 building cost (GB3228.19.5.2)
Fundraising leaflet from the campaign that helped to raise the initial £7000 building cost (GB3228.19.5.2)

By 2016 the building had 14 classrooms and provided secondary education for nearly 1000 young people.  Fatima is President of the school and continues to be intimately involved with its development, still supporting it with her own money. Literacy rates in the school catchment area have risen to around 98% and graduates now work in a wide range of professions including banking, the police service, medicine and education.  Fatima’s efforts and commitment are an inspiration.

“We may have lost Ahmed but we feel that Ahmed is with us all the time, because of the school. We can never forget him. He will always be remembered as our son, brother, grandson…and we believe the benefit is enormous.”

Committee member, Ahmed Iqbal Memorial High School (GB3228.19.5.3)

Jackie Ould , Co-Director
Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and Education Trust


Legacy of Ahmed Project Archive, 1984 – 2016

All Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Heavenly Harmony: Music in the Collections of Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library

Archives Hub feature for February 2018

In 2018 a project will commence to restore and enhance Canterbury Cathedral’s organ, due for completion in time for the 2020 Lambeth Conference, when Anglican bishops from all over the world assemble in Canterbury. The first organ was installed at Canterbury in the 12th century although it is believed that unlike its modern counter part, it was not viewed as a musical instrument, rather “a producer of cheerful though fairly random noise.”[1] The current organ was built in 1888 and underwent a number of renovations in the twentieth century. To mark the commencement of the Organ Project, funded through the Canterbury Cathedral Trust, here is an enticing overture of musical collections held by Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library.

1662 drawing of the Great Organ by Lancelot Pease, organ builder (CCA-DCc/Fabric/8/4)
1662 drawing of the Great Organ by Lancelot Pease, organ builder (CCA-DCc/Fabric/8/4)

Music in the Aisles

There has been a tradition of music as an integral part of worship at Canterbury Cathedral since its foundation over 1,400 years ago and there is evidence of this in both the fabric of the Cathedral itself and the collections it holds. The Cathedral’s medieval archive was added to the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register in 2016. This outstanding nationally significant collection includes over 8,000 charters, 30 of which date from before 1066. The collection of medieval music of the Cathedral is principally made up of fragments of music manuscripts from the 11th century onwards. This is partly as a result of the practice of music manuscripts being reused when the music became obsolete during the Middle Ages, and then later due to the Cathedral’s service books being mostly destroyed, dismantled or given away after the Reformation. A number of music fragments were re-used to bind later manuscripts, such as the fragment of 14th or 15th century antiphonal music pictured below, which was re-discovered in 1937 as part of the cover of a Court Book (CCA-DCc/AddMs/128/9).

Medieval illuminators often added cartoons to their work. Here a face has been drawn in one of the capital letters of an antiphonal fragment (CCA- DCc/AddMs/128/9)
Medieval illuminators often added cartoons to their work. Here a face
has been drawn in one of the capital letters of an antiphonal fragment (CCA-DCc/AddMs/128/9)

A number of missals are also included in the collections held by the Cathedral Archives and Library. The Plumptre Missal is a particularly fine example of a Sarum Missal containing all the text and music required to celebrate mass and the variations for feast days (CCA-U53/1). Illuminated throughout this mid fourteenth century missal was written at the request of the Stathum family, lords of Morley, Derbyshire, presumably for use in Morley Church. The missal included in the collection of records from St Augustine’s College, a Canterbury based missionary college, is believed to have originally been used by All Saints’ Church, Woodchurch in Kent (CCA-U88/B/6/1). The missal, which is in two columns in red and black ink, with simple illuminated initials in blue and red and a small number of further illuminated borders for certain feast days, is extravagant for a parish church and possibly the gift of a wealthy donor. It shows evidence of having been heavily used since the time it was written circa 1430.

The entry in this missal for the festival of All Saints to whom the church at Woodchurch is dedicated is elaborately illuminated (CCA-U88/B/6/1, folio 52)
The entry in this missal for the festival of All Saints to whom the
church at Woodchurch is dedicated is elaborately illuminated (CCA-U88/B/6/1, folio 52)

Records relating to the Cathedral Choir are a significant part of the Cathedral’s collection of music. The archive holds the various part books used by the choir from the seventeenth century to the present day (CCA-DCc/MusicMS). These manuscripts include service settings and anthems for contratenor (alto), tenor and bass voices and comprise music for the choir, the organ and, occasionally, other instruments. The records of the Canterbury Cathedral Choir School (CCA-U166) contains accounts, administration files, records relating to pupils and performances and a wonderful series of photographs dating from 1881 onwards. This archive provides an insight into all aspects of the life of a chorister, including worship, musical practice and performance, study and leisure.

The Reunion Book of the Canterbury Cathedral Old Choristers is, to this day, a record of those who attend annual reunions of the Old Choristers Association. This page includes a photograph of those who attended the reunion in 1915, the last reunion until the end of the First World War (CCA-U166/F/2)
The Reunion Book of the Canterbury Cathedral Old Choristers is, to this day, a record of those who attend annual reunions of the Old Choristers Association. This page includes a photograph of those who attended the reunion in 1915, the last reunion until the end of the First World War (CCA-U166/F/2)

Music in the Streets

In addition to the religious music one would expect in a Cathedral archive the collections also contain a surprising range of secular music and music ephemera as part of the wide range of collections held on loan. Examples include handbills and programmes for musical and theatrical performances in the collection of personal diaries, notes and memorabilia of Alfred E. Johnson, a Canterbury based sugar-boiler (CCA-U520/6), and a collection of music hall patriotic song sheets held as part of Furley Solicitors Records (CCA-U51/44), both from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Most notable are the records of the Canterbury Catch Club, a musical members’ only society formed in 1779 (CCA-CC-W/7). The members met every Wednesday evening between October and March until it disbanded in 1865 to indulge in music making, alcohol, tobacco, and a considerable amount of merriment. While all members were expected to participate in the performance of amusing ‘catches’, the more technically challenging ‘glees’ were left to those more adept which would have included musicians employed by Canterbury Cathedral. Further music was provided by an orchestra funded out of the subscription fees, and occasional visiting musical celebrities.  The minute books of the society along with volumes of music performed by the Catch Club form part of the City of Canterbury’s large and varied archive which is housed at the Cathedral.

‘As Thomas Was Cudgell’d One Day By His Wife’, by Canterbury Catch Club Volume 9
‘As Thomas Was Cudgell’d One Day By His Wife’, by Canterbury Catch Club Volume 9

You can find out more about collections on the Canterbury Cathedral webpage:

Ashleigh Hawkins, Archivist
Canterbury Cathedral Archives and Library

[1] “The Liturgy of the Cathedral and tis Music, c.1075-1642” Roger Bowers, A History of Canterbury Cathedral, P. Collinson, N. Ramsay and M. Sparks 2002, p 417


Records of the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral, c800 – [ongoing]

All Canterbury Cathedral Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright of the Chapter of Canterbury and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

The 50th anniversary of the publication of A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines

Archives Hub feature for January 2018

“It’s fierce, an’ it’s wild, an’ it’s not bothered about anybody”

Towards the end of January 1968, Michael Joseph Ltd. published a novel written by Barry Hines, South Yorkshire born author and screenwriter, entitled A Kestrel for a Knave, later to be adapted as the celebrated film Kes, directed by Ken Loach.

First page of the manuscript of A Kestrel for a Knave
First page of the manuscript of A Kestrel for a Knave

It is the story of Billy Casper, a 15 year old boy from a mining village, his family and school life, and his passion for the kestrel which he trains and cares for. One of the most striking features of the book is its use of the Barnsley dialect, which seems to give it an enduring appeal, and it has been read and enjoyed by generations of schoolchildren, especially in Yorkshire.

Barry Hines aged 12 years
Barry Hines aged 12 years

In the Hines Papers, held by the Special Collections Department in the University of Sheffield Library, can be found manuscripts and typescripts of the novel (and also the film, play, radio, musical and dance-theatre adaptations that followed it), along with press reviews, correspondence, publicity material and photographs. The archive is also rich in material relating to Barry Hines’s other works – novels, films, and TV and radio plays (Born Kicking, The Price of Coal, Looks and Smiles, Threads, and many more) as well as numerous unpublished and unproduced scripts. It also includes quantities of research material as well as many personal items such as school reports, correspondence and photographs, and even Barry’s own school scarf from Ecclesfield Grammar School, which was knitted for him by his aunty because the shop-bought ones were too expensive! All of these items help to build a picture of the writer and demonstrate how his own life experiences informed his work.

Barry Hines’s school scarf
Barry Hines’s school scarf

Barry Hines was born in the mining village of Hoyland Common near Barnsley on 30th June 1939, and attended Ecclesfield Grammar School. One of his proudest moments was playing for the England Secondary Schools football team in 1957. His first job was with the National Coal Board as an apprentice mining engineer, but he returned to education, eventually gaining a teaching qualification at Loughborough University. He worked as a Physical Education teacher for several years, first in London and then in Hoyland Common, eventually leaving to become a full-time writer. He was Yorkshire Arts Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Sheffield from 1972 to 1974, and became an Honorary Doctor of Letters in 2010. He died in March 2016.

Barry Hines at his honorary degree ceremony, 2010
Barry Hines at his honorary degree ceremony at the University of Sheffield in January 2010

As well as archival documents, the collection also includes many examples of Barry Hines’s published works, and particularly notable are the many editions of A Kestrel for a Knave in a variety of different languages.

A selection of editions of A Kestrel for a Knave in various languages
A selection of editions of A Kestrel for a Knave in various languages

The Hines Papers are already being viewed as a valuable research resource: David Forrest and Sue Vice from the School of English at the University of Sheffield have recently published a monograph entitled Barry Hines: Kes, Threads and beyond with Manchester University Press; a PhD student is currently researching Hines’s lost works; groups of school students have visited the archive, as have members of the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership’s reading group: work created by these latter two groups has been added to the collection.

Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award for Best British Screenplay for Kes, 1970
Writers’ Guild of Great Britain award for Best British Screenplay for Kes, 1970

To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of A Kestrel for a Knave in 2018, and of the release of the film Kes in 2019, the Special Collections Team is delighted to be collaborating with academic colleagues and a local photographer and local designer on an innovative artistic project that plans to use text and images from the archive to celebrate the book and film both in the city of Sheffield, and also in the wider South Yorkshire region.

Still from Kes with David Bradley as Billy Casper
Still from Kes with David Bradley as Billy Casper

Other papers of literary interest held at Sheffield University include the Bonett Manuscripts, the Elizabeth Firth Manuscripts and the James Montgomery Manuscripts, as well as the Richard Hoggart Papers – Hoggart was described by Barry Hines as his “hero”.

Jacky Hodgson
Head of Special Collections
University of Sheffield Library


All University of Sheffield Library collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright University of Sheffield Special Collections and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Pantomime: performance, interpretation and the importance of the popular at Special Collections and Archives, University of Kent

Archives Hub feature for December 2017

As winter rolls in and Christmas looms around the corner, it’s fascinating to reflect on how nostalgia shapes this most memorable of seasons. When it comes to British festive traditions, one stands out more than most: pantomime.

Pantomime is a uniquely British institution – it’s always fun trying to explain it to international friends! Here at the University of Kent, we’re incredibly lucky to be celebrating the arrival of one of the largest collections of historic pantomime material in the UK: our David Drummond Pantomime Collection. We’re working in partnership with our local museum and art gallery, The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, and one of the most famous producers of pantomime in Kent – The Marlowe Theatre. Between November 2017 and February 2018, all are welcome to come and view material from our newest collection in a very exciting exhibition called ‘Oh yes it is!’, a free display hosted at The Beaney art gallery in Canterbury city centre.

Jack and the Beanstalk poster, undated, David Drummond pantomime collection
Jack and the Beanstalk poster, undated, David Drummond pantomime collection

The David Drummond Pantomime Collection explores the development of pantomime from its 17th century origins in Italy, to its critical period of transformation and popularity in the Victorian era, to the celebrity-filled extravaganzas we know and love today. The collection itself is a goldmine of beautiful illustrations, rare playbills and posters promoting shows and wonderful ephemera including an entire box filled with pantomime badges. Whilst exploring the collection in preparation for The Beaney exhibition, SC&A staff were struck by just how many galleries we could fill just from one collection alone.
What’s equally fascinating to us here at Kent, however, is how well the David Drummond Pantomime Collection complements our existing theatre collections. Rather than spoiling our newest acquisition for you, we thought we’d take a look at how pantomime is explored through our extensive archives of Victorian and Edwardian theatre…

Melville Collection: Walter, Fred and the Lyceum theatre

The Melville collection is the archives of a dynasty of thespians: the Melville family. Spanning two centuries and several generations, there was barely an area of theatre that the Melvilles left untouched: they owned theatres (notably the Prince’s and the Lyceum – now known as the Shaftesbury – in London), wrote and produced plays and acted in productions.

Whilst Walter and Frederick Melville shared an intense sibling rivalry, they are well known for collaborating on moral melodramas about women, widely referred to as ‘the Bad Women plays’. However, they were equally well known in the early 20th century for their elaborate pantomimes they produced at the Lyceum theatre, which the brothers shared ownership of. Their pantomimes were long – with up to 19 scenes and 4 tableaux in a single performance, audiences certainly got their money’s worth!

Cinderella takings books, Melville collection
Cinderella takings books, Melville collection

The takings books held in the Melville collection show how popular pantomime was, running throughout the Christmas season well into the following year. The exception to this was during the winter of 1916 – 1917, when the popular war drama ‘Seven Days’ Leave’ was such a hit with Lyceum audiences that the brothers skipped the pantomime for that year. The takings books show how much money was generated each week through performances, and the Melvilles certainly did well out of popular theatre – when Fred and Walter died in the early 1930s, they left a fortune of £519,000 – about £19 million in today’s terms.

Cinderella rates, Melville collection
Cinderella rates, Melville collection

The other items in the Melville collection provide a unique insight into the theatrical profession: we hold cast lists and playscripts for pantomimes, many photographs of the theatres, the family and the actors, correspondence and promotional programmes.

Pettingell Collection: from Arthur to Frank via Drury Lane

Some of the scripts for the Melville pantomimes can be found in another collection we hold: the Pettingell collection of theatre playscripts. The playscripts in this collection, which total over 4400, show the extent and variation of theatre during the Victorian period. The Pettingell collection has two distinct owners: Frank Pettingell, the collection’s namesake, was an actor who performed in many plays and theatres during the mid-20th century. He acquired his collection of theatre scripts from the son of Arthur Williams, who was a popular comedian during the Victorian-Edwardian era.

Aladdin page, Pettingell
Aladdin page, Pettingell

What makes the Pettingell collection unique is the annotations added into each text by Williams, who either saw, was involved in, or had heard about the plays.  The majority of additions take the form of typescript cast lists, but there are also manuscript annotations to be found. Some plays are entirely written in manuscript, providing evidence of how texts were edited as they were rehearsed, and we also have ‘parts’ of plays too – copies given to actors for their individual role.

The Pettingell collection is fascinating because it provides a comprehensive snapshot of what types of theatre were popular with Victorian audiences beyond the Shakespearean type theatre we often think of. There are many versions of Dickens’ novels transformed into dramatic versions relatively quickly, showing how popular he was during the time. Plays by the melodrama writer Dion Boucicault (whose archives we also hold) are well represented – evidence of how audiences would flock to see spectacles on stage. In a time well before the moving picture, the power of the visual still held strong.

Clock on the Stairs, Pettingell
Clock on the Stairs, Pettingell

Of course, the Pettingell playscripts have an entire section of pantomimes; unlike the majority of plays in the archive, they are bound together to create multiple volumes of works. This decision alone shows how popular pantomime was for Victorians; no other genre of plays in Pettingell gets its own distinct category. The collection includes scripts of famous pantomimes written by E.L. Blanchard performed in London (notably at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). Our overview of pantomimes in the Pettingell collection demonstrates how popular some pantomime stories were during the late 19th century. Unsurprisingly, the well-performed titles are the same fairy tales we use in pantomime today: Aladdin, Dick Whittington, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk and Robinson Crusoe.

Reading Rayner Collection: biography, memoir and theatre today

How do we account for the success of pantomime during the Victorian-Edwardian era? The answer may well be found in our extensive array of theatre books and programmes donated to us by Jack Reading and Colin Rayner. The collection primarily covers 20th century performances, but the origins of modern theatre are well accounted for, including biographies of actors and histories of theatres.

The Theatre Royal at Drury Lane is the subject of several publications as writers sought to explore the success of pantomime due to its 1880s-1890s manager, Augustus Harris. Harris exploited the Victorian love of spectacle by creating lavish processions on stage, employing several hundred people for any single show. The risk paid off, and most of Harris’ productions ran for over 100 performances each season.

The Sketch Drury Lane
The Sketch Drury Lane

The Reading-Rayner collection provides a different look at pantomime through secondary sources; it is interesting to note how pantomime is, once again, described separately from the rest of theatre history. It also offers us a look at the world through actors’ eyes as there are many memoirs from performers in the collection. Through Jack Reading’s extensive collection of theatre programmes, we can also chart what plays remained popular from Victorian times to the late-20th century.

Cinderella 1931
Cinderella 1931

Pantomime as a tradition is certainly not (quite) as popular now as it was in the 1890s, but the University of Kent’s extensive collections evidence that shift. By exploring theatre through the eyes of the audience, the actors and the producers, archives can offer us a unique glimpse of the past that proves how much more there is to pantomime than dames, celebrities and songs. Not that we’d deny, of course, that that’s all part of the fun too – long may it continue!

Joanna Baines
Senior Library Assistant
Special Collections, Templeman Library
University of Kent

Explore on the Archives Hub:

Melville Theatre Collection, c.1800-1987

Victorian and Edwardian Playbills, c.1756-c.1950:

Dion Boucicault Collections, 1813-2002:

Browse on the Archives Hub:

All University of Kent Special Collections and Archives collections

More pantomime collections

More Hub features about Theatre archives

The D’Oyly Carte Archive

The Association of Performing Arts Collections

Variety and Music Hall, National Fairground Archive

Curtain up! The Theatre and Performance Collections at the V&A

All images copyright  University of Kent Special Collections and Archives and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Anniversaries in Contemporary Music at University of Huddersfield Archive Service

Archives Hub feature for November 2017

BMIC advert, 1968, 'Composer', Composers Guild of GB Journal.
BMIC advert, 1968, ‘Composer’, Composers’ Guild of GB Journal.

The University of Huddersfield Archive Service at Heritage Quay is the home of two significant contemporary classical music collections, the British Music Collection (BMC) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival archive (HCMF), both of which are celebrating exciting anniversary years in 2017.  Sound and Music, owner of the British Music Collection, are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the collection in its original form, as the British Music Information Centre.  2017 also marks the 40th edition of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, which is the UK’s largest international festival of new and experimental music.

The British Music Collection

The British Music Collection (BMC) is the music library and other records of the British Music Information Centre (BMIC).  The British Music Information Centre (BMIC) opened in London on 7 November 1967 as a place for musicians, composers and the general public to see and hear new classical music. When it closed in 2004 it had collected thousands of scores and recordings and hosted hundreds of performances.  It had been founded by the Composers’ Guild of Great Britain at a time when similar centres were opening around the world. Composers and publishers donated works to make a huge library of British classical music. This library was used by students, composers and performers for inspiration or to select new works for performance. The BMIC also hosted and organised concerts to help promote British artists.

Photograph of the BMIC, c1967.
Photograph of the BMIC, c1967.

The BMIC’s role was to collect and provide access to cutting edge work by British or British-based composers. Therefore, the collection tells the story of the development of composition and performance in this country during the 20th and 21st centuries. It features both published and unpublished materials, including things that are not stored anywhere else. The collection features famous composers such as Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughan-Williams but also more obscure people ready for rediscovery.

Following the closure of the BMIC in 2004 the collection was split into three parts. The whole collection was deposited at the university by Sound and Music, the national organisation for new music. Archivists at Heritage Quay reunited the three parts and fully catalogued the collection which is now available for researchers again. The collection continues to add exciting contemporary works through Sound and Music’s New Voices project.  This large collection features over 80,000 scores and recordings of 20th and 21st century classical music.

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Archive

Poster: Iannis Xenakis - Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield
Poster: Iannis Xenakis – Contemporary Music Festival, Huddersfield, 27 November 1982.

hcmf// is an annual event celebrating new and experimental music. Since the first festival in 1978 it has hosted some of the most important names in contemporary music, including Karlheinz Stockhausen and John Cage. hcmf// also supports young and up-and-coming composers and performers and inspires local people through its Learning and Participation programme.

The archive covers the history of the festival from its beginnings as a long weekend of performances in October 1978 to its current 10 days in November. During the 2009 Festival, the hcmf// archive was transferred to the University to enable public access and research into this collection.

The archive features a wide range of materials including programmes, posters and administrative records that tell the story of the Festival’s development. It also contains financial and marketing records, performer contracts, musical scores and audio-visual recordings of concerts.  These records chart the exciting history of hcmf// from its modest beginnings to an internationally renowned event on the contemporary music stage.

These collections not only cover the histories of these important institutions. They also reflect the much bigger story of the local, national and international development of new and experimental music throughout the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.   Music forms one of the University archives significant research themes alongside Education, Politics, Art and Design, Theatre and Sport.

Lindsay Ince
Assistant Archivist & Records Manager

Related content on the Archives Hub

Please note: Collection descriptions for the British Music Collection and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival Archive are due to be added to the Archives Hub shortly – we’ll add the links to this feature as soon as they become available.

Browse Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous feature by Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield : ‘Scrum, Ruck and Tackle: Rugby Football League Archive‘.

Related Links

Sound and Music – The national charity for new music in the UK, and formerly the home of the British Music Information Centre (BMIC), a collection now deposited with the University of Huddersfield.

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival – The website of the festival, which takes place in Huddersfield every November.  Includes a guide to the current festival’s programme, and associated public events.

Google Cultural Institute Exhibitions – Exhibitions curated by current composers looking back at the organisational archives.

Related Publications

Gottchalk, Jennie (2016) Experimental music since 1970.  Bloomsbury.  ISBN 978-1-62892-247-9

Metzer, David (2009) Musical Modernism at the turn of the Twenty-First Century.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.  ISBN 978-1-107-40280-5

Rupprecht, Philip (2015) British Musical Modernism, The Manchester Group and their Contemporaries.  Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.  ISBN 978-1-316-64952-

Steinitz, Richard (2011) Explosions in November. University of Huddersfield Press, Huddersfield. ISBN 978-1-86218-099-4

All images copyright Heritage Quay, University of Huddersfield and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Raymond Williams papers at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Archives Hub feature for October 2017

Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language”– Raymond Williams, ‘Keywords’ (1983).

Photograph of Raymond Williams. Image reproduced by courtesy of the family of Raymond Williams.
Photograph of Raymond Williams. Image reproduced by courtesy of the family of Raymond Williams.

A collection level description of the Raymond Williams Collection has been available on the Archives Hub for several years but in recent weeks the entire catalogue has been exported from our CALM database and made live. This is one of the outcomes of Archives Wales Catalogues Online, a collaborative project between the Archives and Records Council Wales (ARCW) and the Archives Hub to increase the discoverability of Welsh archives. This project was supported by the Welsh Government through its Museums Archives and Libraries Division, with a grant to Swansea University, a member of ARCW and a long-standing contributor to the Hub.

The papers of the renowned cultural critic and writer Raymond Williams (1921-1988) were catalogued courtesy of funding from the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust, the College of Arts and Humanities and Information Services and Systems at Swansea University. The collection has been extensively used by researchers from the UK, Japan and America since it was catalogued, it is hoped that the inclusion of item level descriptions on the Archives Hub will promote its potential use further and wider.

Photograph of notes about the theory of culture. Image reproduced by courtesy of the family of Raymond Williams.
Photograph of notes about the theory of culture. Image reproduced by courtesy of the family of Raymond Williams.

Raymond Williams is probably best known for his notion that culture is ordinary. Through published works such as ‘Culture and Society’ (1958), he was one of the leading academic figures undertaking research and publishing works that explored and redefined ‘culture’. Other seminal works written by Raymond Williams included ‘The Long Revolution’ (1961), ‘The Country and the City’, ‘Keywords’ (1976), ‘Towards 2000’ (1983). As a major intellectual figure of the twentieth-century, Williams is recognized worldwide as one of the founding figures of Cultural Studies.

As well as his productive academic career, which included becoming the first professor of drama at Cambridge University (1974-1983) and the ten works published, Raymond Williams also published seven fictional works. The first was ‘Border Country’, which was set in the landscape of his childhood, in the rural area between England and Wales. Originally published in 1960, it was re-issued in 2005 by Parthian as part of the Library of Wales series, with Dai Smith, his biographer, claiming it to be ‘the Greatest Welsh Novel’.  Other fictional works include the two volumes of ‘People of the Black Mountains’ which were prepared for publication by his wife, Joy Williams, following his death.

The prodigious writing ability of Raymond Williams went beyond academic works and novels. He wrote weekly book reviews for ‘The Guardian’, reviews for other publications, as well as a regular column in ‘The Listener’ which revealed his keen interest in television and film. Raymond Williams also wrote newspaper type publications to explore and convey ideas, such as ‘The Cambridge University Journal’ when he was at university, and ‘TwentyOne’, the weekly newspaper of the 21st Anti-Tank Regiment that he edited and contributed to during his active service during World War Two, under the name of Michael Pope and other aliases.

Photograph of timetable of studies. Image reproduced by courtesy of the family of Raymond Williams.
Photograph of timetable of studies. Image reproduced by courtesy of the family of Raymond Williams.

The collection held in the Archives shows the full range of Raymond Williams’ creativity:

  • manuscripts and typescripts of draft and final versions of novels, dramatic works, poetry and academic writings
  • newspaper articles and reviews
  • professional correspondence
  • personal and family papers (including his diaries)
  • talks, lectures and debates

This comprehensive collection is illustrative of how he could explore and express ideas in many formats and on many subjects; culture, drama and literature, politics, communications and media, sociology, language, technology, history, war and ‘The Bomb’, class, education, region and geography.

The breadth and depth of ideas within the archives mean that the Raymond Williams collection can be used in a multitude of ways. For example, groups of undergraduate and postgraduate students have used items within the collection as part of their courses studying World War One, the General Strike, World War Two, the Cold War and nuclear disarmament, as well as culture, literature, education and social policy. It is a ‘go to’ collection for material to display for VIPs and other visitors.

Photograph of student group in the reading room.
Photograph of student group in the reading room.

This collection has been the catalyst for fascinating conversations in the Reading Room about Raymond Williams as a writer, researcher, teacher, as well as discussions about some of the questions posed by the archive: challenging handwriting, apparently random notes and half-finished texts, who wrote what – was it Raymond or was it his wife, Joy?

We look forward to receiving more enquiries about the collection and seeing this valuable archival material being used for to its full potential.

To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair convincing” ― Raymond Williams, ‘Resources of Hope’ (published posthumously in 1989).

Dr Katrina Legg
Assistant Archivist
Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University


Explore the Raymond Williams Collection on the Archives Hub.

Browse Swansea University Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Swansea University / family of Raymond Williams and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.


A potted history of Conway Hall Ethical Society


Rev. Elhanan Winchester
Rev. Elhanan Winchester (1751-1797) from Stone’s Biography Boston Mass 1836, from Conway’s Centenary text 1893.

The story of Conway Hall Ethical Society dates back to 1787 and a nonconformist congregation, led by Elhanan Winchester, rebelling against the doctrine of eternal damnation. This group of freethinking individuals, based in a small chapel on the eastern edge of London (Parliament Court Chapel), was the beginnings of what was to become a society of radicals and social and political reformers, devoted to freethought.  There is no other Society in the United Kingdom, possibly the globe, that has such a long history dedicated to creating a fairer, more equal world through free religious thought and ethical enquiry.

It has had many names, being known as the Philadelphians (or Loving Brothers), Universalists, Society of Religious Dissenters, South Place Unitarian Society, South Place Society, Free Religious Society, South Place Religious Society, South Place Ethical Society and now Conway Hall Ethical Society.

Throughout its early history as a religious institution, the Society’s ministers led the congregation through various spiritual quandaries, including the rejection of the Trinity, which lost the Society many of its members. It weathered the loss, however, surviving and flourishing after many similar erosions of membership on the progressive journey from universalism and unitarianism to the present humanist position, which the Society had reached by the end of the nineteenth century.

William Johnson Fox (1786 – 1864)

William Johnston Fox
William Johnston Fox

Notable leaders of the Society include renowned orator William Johnson Fox who became minister in 1817. His popularity, resulting in an increase in the congregation, led to the construction of their first purpose built home, South Place Chapel in Finsbury, into which the congregation moved in 1824. Among the congregation and its close kin was a circle of radicals and progressive thinkers who stood for various political and social causes, including women’s rights, suffrage and education for all. These included women’s rights advocates Sophia Dobson Collet and Caroline Ashurst Stansfield, poet Robert Browning, philosopher John Stuart Mill, social theorist Harriet Martineau as well as adherents of William Lovett and Chartism.

Fox himself was an early supporter of women’s rights, campaigning in regard for women’s rights respecting infant custody, marriage and divorce and for freedom of the press. He was also a Member of Parliament where he was renowned for his impassioned speeches against the Corn Laws and stringent support of the Lancastrian system of education, which ultimately resulted in the opening of board schools and free education.

Fox remained minister until 1853 during which time he led the congregation toward a more rationalist outlook reflecting the freethinking nature of both himself and the circle of intellectuals that surrounded him both within and without the congregation.

Dr. Moncure Conway (1832 – 1907)

Moncure Conway and a baby
Moncure Conway and a baby.

The most outstanding of Fox’s successors was an American, Moncure Conway, after whom the Society‘s present home is named. He settled at the South Place Chapel from 1864 until 1897, excepting a break from 1885 to 1892 during which he returned to America and wrote his famous biography of Thomas Paine. Conway had adopted an uncompromising anti-slavery position at home, despite having two brothers serving in the Confederate army, and came to England in 1863 on a speaking tour. The same year he helped his father’s slaves escape to freedom in Virginia at the start of the American Civil War.

He was also a supporter of women’s rights, speaking at the first recorded public meeting on women’s suffrage in 1871 at Hackney Town Hall and he was strongly anti-war. These pacifist beliefs being cemented during his experience of seeing first hand the brutality and devastation of battle whilst a war correspondent during the Franco-Prussian war.

His views seem to have been formed by his questioning outlook and by the intellectual circles he inhabited which included the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott in America and George Eliot, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin in London.

The breadth of his interests is reflected in the discourses he gave which covered such matters as slavery, religion, war, ethics and freedom of expression. It is Conway’s unquenchable curiosity about the world around him and the religion that had been his calling that was ultimately responsible for taking his rationally minded congregation towards its current humanist approach and which in 1888, under the leadership of Stanton Coit (during the seven year break of Conway’s tenure), finally lost its remaining religious trappings cemented in the change of its name from South Place Religious Society to the South Place Ethical Society.

Conway Hall

Conway Hall, watercolour by Frederick Herbert Mansford
Conway Hall watercolour by Frederick Herbert Mansford.

Conway Hall, and our previous home South Place Chapel, have witnessed many of the great and the good from the world of radical and liberal thinkers, including political activists such as Annie Besant, Charles Bradlaugh and Peter Kropotkin, suffragettes Marion Phillips and Marion Holmes, writers T. H. Huxley, Charles Darwin, William Morris, H. G. Wells, Dora Russell, Bertrand Russell and in more recent times Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Brian Cox and Jacqueline Wilson.

The story of our current headquarters, named after Moncure Conway, dates back to the beginning of the last century. By 1900 the Society realised its current home in South Place was no longer fit for purpose, and began debating whether to repair the existing building or investigate erecting a new one, potentially on the same site. At this early stage plans were drawn up by architect Frederick Herbert Mansford F.R.I.B.A. (1871–1946) for a new home. Mansford, along with his three siblings, had been a lifelong member of the Society. His brother, Wallis, advocated selling the Chapel and erecting a new building which would have a ‘swimming bath convertible into a gymnasium in winter months,’ a bookshop, separate lending and reference libraries, a labour and emigration bureau and a roof garden. Sadly, progress was halted by the outbreak of the First World War, but money raised from the sale of South Place Chapel in 1921 along with an appeal for funds finally allowed the construction of Conway Hall in 1928. F. Herbert Mansford was appointed architect.

The new building was to be a place of enlightened education and social activity, and was designed with this in mind.  Whilst funds did not allow for the extent of Wallis Mansford’s wishlist, his brother worked with the building committee to create an edifice with space to hold lectures, concerts, dances, social evenings and play-readings as well as a library and spaces for the various membership groups, such as the Ramblers’ Club and the Poetry Circle. The new headquarters for South Place Ethical Society opened officially on 23 September 1929.


The Society today

Today, the Society is an educational charity whose objective is the advancement of study, research and education in humanist ethical principles. Conway Hall offers a vibrant range of cultural activities including classical concerts (the longest running chamber-music series in the world), exhibitions, contemporary dance and theatre as well as free access to our Humanist Library and Archives. Through the Library and Archives we run a variety of learning activities ( These include adult education courses, talks and debates, family activities and sessions for schools covering a range of subjects linked to the heritage and ethos of our Society.

Conway Hall school art workshop
Conway Hall school art workshop.

Conway Hall Humanist Library and Archives

The Library and Archives was founded in 1886 at a time when public libraries were a rarity in the U.K. and when self education was being promoted for those without the means to access education. Free access to knowledge through books and pamphlets was seen to be the foundations of our Society which led to the creation of the Society’s free library, with a special section for children.

Today the Library houses a humanist collection covering such subjects as ethics, philosophy, free speech, education, environmental issues, civil rights, animal rights, religion and rationalism and holds rare and important journals such as The Freethinker, The National Reformer, The Republican, The Agnostic Journal, The Literary Guide and our own journal, The Ethical Record.

We hold the archives of Conway Hall Ethical Society which record our Society’s evolution from the radical dissenting congregation of the 1790s, through the nineteenth century challenges to thought and belief, to the creation of Conway Hall in the 1920s and the educational charity of today.

We also hold the archives of the National Secular Society from 1875, a campaigning organisation promoting secularism established in 1866 under the leadership of Charles Bradlaugh.

Among our collections we have treasures such as the manuscript autobiography of the Chartist leader William Lovett (1800–1877), Illuminated addresses presented to Charles Bradlaugh (1833–1891) and artefacts such as Richard Carlile’s (1790-1843) prison writing desk. You can search our collections here (

Since 2015 we have begun the intricate task of digitising our collections. You can explore the pilot project, Architecture and Place, here ( It has allowed us to digitise items relating to our current and former homes such as plans, leases and photographs and you will also find the files documenting the plans and procedures we have put in place for our future digitisation projects. We hope these will be useful for other organisations working on small budgets and with small teams.

Plan of Conway Hall, first floor plan of hall and library
Plan of Conway Hall, first floor plan of hall and library.


Sophie Hawkey-Edwards
Library and Learning Manager
Conway Hall Humanist Library and Archives

Explore Conway Hall Humanist Library and Archives collections on the Archives Hub:

Harold Blackham Archive, 1919-2009

Red Lion Square deeds, 1685-1968

Also on the Archives Hub

Subject search: Humanism

Correspondence of William Johnson Fox, 1831-1847 – part of the Robert Owen Collection at the National Co-operative Archive.

Letters from Moncure Daniel Conway, 1880s – part of the Spence Watson/Weiss Papers at Newcastle University Special Collections:

Letter from Moncure Daniel Conway to Elizabeth Spence Watson, c.1880s

Letter from Moncure Daniel Conway to Robert Spence Watson, 1885

Letter from Moncure Daniel Conway to Elizabeth Spence Watson, 1883

All images copyright Conway Hall Ethical Society and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

William Speirs Bruce Archive in the National Museums Scotland Library

August marks the 150th birthday of naturalist and Antarctic explorer, William Speirs Bruce, who was born on 1 August, 1867.

Part of the Bruce archive is held in the library collections of National Museums Scotland, with other Bruce archive collections being held by the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Cambridge. You can browse the Archives Hub for various collections relating to William Speirs Bruce.

Cartoon of Bruce originally published in a Buenos Aires newspaper
Cartoon of Bruce originally published in a Buenos Aires newspaper.

As a teenager, Bruce attended a vacation course in biology at a marine station in Granton, studying under Patrick Geddes, which proved to be an influential experience. He went on to assist John Murray at the Challenger Office, and would help with dredging on the Forth or Clyde whenever there was an opportunity.

Bruce’s first Antarctic voyage was on the Balaena where he worked as a surgeon on the Dundee Antarctic Whaling Expedition. He went on to work as a biologist on the Jackson-Harmsworth Expedition, and then on the Coates Arctic Expedition. Bruce was then invited to make hydrological and biological surveys on trips to Spitsbergen.

Bruce’s best known expedition was on the Scotia where he was the leader of the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition during 1902 to 1904. This expedition set out to conduct hydrographic work in the Weddell Sea, and survey the South Orkney Islands and study their wildlife.

Bruce continued to make expeditions, and travelled to Spitsbergen several more times between 1906 and 1919.

The archive at National Museums Scotland holds a range of records that show the breadth of Bruce’s work over the years.

List of equipment and stores made by Bruce for an expedition to Spitsbergen
List of equipment and stores made by Bruce for an expedition to Spitsbergen.

The planning that was required to undertake a scientific voyage is evident from the many records held for ordering goods to take on board, and packing lists for specific parts of a voyage. Lists include everything from basic requirements such as food, to survival equipment, to specialised scientific apparatus.

The archive includes scientific data gathered on Bruce’s voyages. There are examples of scientific log books, oceanographic measurements of temperature and water density, and lists of specimens found in trawls.

Cuthbertson drawings of an Atlantic lizardfish and the head of a Shag
Cuthbertson drawings of an Atlantic lizardfish and the head of a Shag.

Scientific data is accompanied by scientific drawings and sketches of the flora and fauna collected and described as part of the expeditions. The artist of the Scotia was William Cuthbertson, and his artwork shows the array of wildlife that was observed by the scientific team.

Cuthbertson painting
Cuthbertson painting.

Cuthbertson also painted landscapes and seascapes as the crew travelled, and the archive has a collection of these, often showing the beauty of the environment that was encountered on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition.

Sketch by William Martin of Emperor Penguins
Sketch by William Martin of Emperor Penguins.

The archive includes many illustrations and descriptions of penguins, including this sketch by William Martin. Their behaviour was noted by Bruce and his colleagues during the Scotia expedition, and specimens were collected for scientific study.  Some of these specimens are part of the collections at National Museums Scotland, and still available for study. However, penguins and their eggs were also valued as food for the voyage, with black throated penguins being found the most palatable. Penguin was regularly served with fried onions, in soup, or as curry to those on board the Scotia.

William Speirs Bruce’s attempt to draw a pig in ‘Livre de Cochons’
William Speirs Bruce’s attempt to draw a pig in ‘Livre de Cochons’.

Despite the amount of scientific work undertaken during expeditions, Bruce and his colleagues did have leisure time to fill. Time would be spent singing songs, with each person doing a turn to entertain, Bruce being known for his rendition of ‘Two Blue Bottles’. The archive collection contains a notebook filled with attempts to draw a pig while blindfolded, which serves as a keepsake from the voyage, as well as evidence of the kind of games that would keep boredom at bay. The page shown is William Speirs Bruce’s attempt.

Sketch by William Martin of a cove at Gough Island
Sketch by William Martin of a cove at Gough Island.

The landscapes and living conditions experienced by those on the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition were captured by William Martin in a sketchbook that is also held in the National Museums Scotland archive. The sketch shown is of a cove at Gough Island where the Scotia stopped to collect specimens, and more images from the sketchbook can be found online

The Bruce papers also contain the diary of A Forbes Mackay who was a colleague of Bruce. Mackay reached the South Magnetic Pole on January 16th 1909, along with T.W. Edgeworth David, and Douglas Mawson. The diary tells of the difficult conditions as the men made the journey on foot over challenging terrain. Mackay also describes the pressure put on their relationships as a team, as the leadership passed from David to Mawson because David was no longer considered capable of leading.

You can find more about the archive collections at National Museums Scotland by visiting our webpage where you can access our library catalogue and archive listings.

Georgia Rogers
National Museums Scotland Library


Explore the William Speirs Bruce papers on the Archives Hub.

Browse the National Museums Scotland Library collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright the National Museums Scotland Library and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.



University of Portsmouth Archive

In July 2017 the University of Portsmouth celebrates 25 years since gaining university status. However, the University of Portsmouth archive reveals that the roots of the institution go back much further than this, to the late 19th century.

Page from minute book
PGSSA/1/1 Page from minute book of the Portsmouth and Gosport School of Science and Art [1874].
One of the earliest items in the university archive collection is a minute book from the Portsmouth and Gosport School of Science and Art. The school opened on 1st June 1870 and offered a mix of day and evening classes, the latter aimed at local artisans. Both men and women attended the school whose main premises were in the former Crown Sale Rooms in Pembroke Street. Students could receive instruction in a range of skills including practical geometry, artistic anatomy, and architectural and mechanical drawing.

By 1908 responsibility for technical education had been taken over by the local authority. A grand new building opened behind the Guildhall to house the Portsmouth Municipal College. The building is still in use by the university today and has Grade II listed status. The college offered a mix of higher and lower courses, the higher being of university standard. The college also had another role in the wider community as the reference library on the ground floor was open to both local residents and students.

Portsmouth Municipal College building, later Park Building
PMTI/3/2.3 Plan of the second floor of the Portsmouth Municipal College building, later Park Building [1905]
The first edition of student magazine The Galleon was published in autumn 1911, shortly after the establishment of separate female and male student unions. It reported on the formation of a women’s basketball team and bemoaned the state of the common room.  Student media is a fascinating source of information on the daily life of students and many newspapers and magazines survive in the archive.

There has been a succession of name changes among the university’s institutional predecessors. Portsmouth Municipal College became Portsmouth College of Technology in 1953, before developing into Portsmouth Polytechnic in 1969. The collections chart this process of expansion – of both student numbers and buildings – through prospectuses, newsletters, annual reports and more. The university is located right in the heart of the city of Portsmouth and the range of buildings it has utilised over the decades is notable. In addition to creating new buildings of its own, sites include a former sailors home, hotel, building society headquarters, drill hall and barracks, illustrating just how closely the history of the university is related to that of the city as a whole.

College of Art later known as Eldon Building under construction
ART/3/1.1.20 College of Art later known as Eldon Building under construction [1960]
The university is also however, the result of the amalgamation of several institutions.  One of the richest collections of material in the archive is from the Day Training College, latterly the College of Education. This teacher training college didn’t merge with Portsmouth Polytechnic until 1976 and was mostly based at its own separate site in the city. The collection includes college admissions registers, correspondence and photographs of staff, students and buildings. The training college was all-female for several decades after its establishment in 1907, and is a valuable resource for women’s history.  Similarly, there is also a separate archival collection from the College of Art which maintained its independence until the 1990s.

Student hockey team at City of Portsmouth Training College
EDUC/15/3.10.21 Student hockey team at City of Portsmouth Training College [early 1940s]
In 1992 Portsmouth became a ‘new’ University, but one with a considerable heritage and a long-established connection to the local area. The university archive has an important role in helping to tell this sometimes overlooked aspect of the institution’s history.

Anna Delaney, Archivist
University of Portsmouth


Browse University of Portsmouth collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright  the University of Portsmouth and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.


Archives of the Erskine Hospital Ltd, veterans charity, Renfrewshire, Scotland

Archives Hub feature for June 2017

Erskine estate
Erskine estate

June 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the official opening of Erskine Hospital.  Located in the west coast of Scotland, Erskine was founded in 1916 as the Princess Louise Scottish Hospital for Limbless Sailors and Soldiers, a military convalescence facility for servicemen who had lost limbs in the First World War. The creation of the hospital was a direct response to the need for specialised medical facilities to deal with the unprecedented number of injured and maimed service personnel returning from the battlefields, and for the last 100 years has continued to care for ex-Service men and women.

In 2015 the University of Glasgow received an award from the Wellcome Trust to catalogue and preserve the records of Erskine Hospital. The partnership came about as part of the University’s Great War project, and as part of Erskine’s centenary celebrations. It will ensure that material is preserved and accessible for researchers and outreach projects in perpetuity.

Artificial limbs
Fitting Provisional Limbs At Erskine Hospital

The Erskine Collection is vast in its scope – ranging from items intrinsically tied to the running of the hospital, such as minute books and admissions records, to items such as silk embroidered souvenir postcards sent during the First World War, or correspondence and loose photographs, the owner or subject of which may have been a resident at some point in time.  While the administrative records are essential for documenting the running of the facility and tracing individual patients of Erskine, patient experiences, perspectives, and voices are also captured in an array of documents.

Admission Books show that by December 1917 the number of patients admitted to the hospital was 1,613, and of those 1,126 had been ‘discharged with limbs’. More than 2,145 ex-service pensioners from previous wars also attended Erskine to be fitted with new limbs or limb repairs. Between the opening in October 1916 and December 1919 over 400 major operations were performed.

The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital Rules for Patients.
The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital Rules for Patients

The Princess Louise Scottish Hospital Rules for Patients give a taste of the patient experience during the 1920s. While Erskine provided long term care and rehabilitation for many, patients were expected to follow the strict practices enforced by the hospital staff. Activities such as gambling and smoking were restricted or even forbidden, and bed and meal times were strictly adhered to. However, Erskine was always intended to be more than just a hospital. In return for their co-operation with the rules of the Hospital, patients were given the opportunity to retrain and gain new skills through onsite workshops; classes were set up in basketry, shoemaking, tailoring, woodwork, hairdressing and commercial training, ensuring the men would have the opportunity to re-enter the workforce despite their disability upon being discharged from Erskine.

After the war the number of patients entering the hospital due to amputation naturally decreased. The Executive Committee shifted focus toward providing a permanent home for ex-servicemen requiring long term care.

Patients in sunshine
Patients in sunshine

As well as being a busy functioning hospital Erskine became a permanent home for paraplegic residents unable to live independently. Additionally in 1934, a convalescent holiday scheme was introduced which allowed ex-servicemen who had been ill and could not afford to pay for a holiday to come to Erskine for a break.  In September 1946 the first of 50 cottages was built in the grounds of Erskine, allowing disabled men and their families to live near their place of work and close to the hospital facilities on which they depended.

During the 1960s and 1970s the patients of Erskine produced a magazine The Erskine Bugle. The Bugle ensured patients and staff could learn about events taking place throughout the hospital, and the poems, stories and letters submitted give a voice to those who stayed at Erskine during this period. The magazines offer a unique perspective into the community of Erskine, and serve as a worthy legacy to the patients and staff who created it.

Erskine Bugle, 1971.
Erskine Bugle, 1971

The hospital continually expanded in the second half of the 20th century, with new wings being built in 1950, 1962, 1975, and the 1990s. However it was clear the 19th century manor house was no longer equipped to deal with the demand of the busy convalescence home. In 2000 the new state of the art facility was completed to provide long term residential care for veterans.

The partnership between Erskine and the University of Glasgow is ongoing, and regular accessions are expected, ensuring an impressively full record of the activities of the hospital, its staff, and its patients is reflected in the collection, from both World Wars and the National Service era, right through to the present day.

Jimmy Quinn
Jimmy Quinn

For more information on the Erskine archive, and the collections held at the University of Glasgow Archives and Special Collections, please visit:

Katie McDonald
Archives and Special Collections Graduate Trainee
University of Glasgow


Explore the Records of Erskine Hospital Ltd, veterans charity collection (1916-2016) on the Archives Hub.

Browse all of the University of Glasgow Archive Services collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright the University of Glasgow and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.