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and TV and radio plays (Born Kicking, The Price of Coal, Looks and Smiles, Threads, and many more) as well as numerous unpublished and unproduced scripts.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.

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.



The Basque child refugee archive

Archives Hub feature for May 2017

Explore descriptions relating to the Spanish Civil War on the Archives Hub.


In May 1937 approximately 4,000 children, with labels pinned to their clothes, came to Southampton on board the Habana from Santurzi/Santurce, the port of Bilbo/Bilbão, fleeing the Spanish Civil War and its consequences.

Label of the Departamento de Asistencia Social
Label of the Departamento de Asistencia Social, one for each Basque child refugee on board the ship.

The Spanish Second Republic had been established in 1931, with an ambitious agenda to eliminate deeply-rooted social and cultural inequalities. The republican programme encompassed land and education reform, improved rights for women, restructuring the army, and granting autonomy to Catalonia and the Basque Country. Threatened by far-reaching change, diverse political groupings aligned themselves in the so-called ‘two Spains’. The ensuing civil war lasted three years, with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy helping one faction, Communist Russia the other, with Chamberlain’s Britain leading a policy of appeasement among Western democratic nations. In this bitter conflict, there was a third Spain, which did not want to take up arms, but to live in peace. War, hunger, revolution, counter-revolution, denunciations, persecution, summary trials and executions, and mass repression often resulted in the disintegration of family and community life, desolating a country and forcing thousands of its people into exile.

On 26 April 1937, General Franco attacked Guernica and Durango, one of the first bombings of a civilian population in Europe. In the wake of this, the Basque government and the National Joint Committee for Spanish Relief, co-ordinating relief in the UK, organised the evacuation of children from the north front of the war zone.  The British government had a policy of non-intervention in Spain and, whilst it permitted the children to entry the UK, no public funds were made available for the expedition, nor for the care of the children once they arrived. Their maintenance was provided for entirely by private funds and those raised by voluntary groups and organisations, under the overall co-ordination of the Basque Children’s Committee.

On arrival at Southampton, the children were sent to a hastily constructed camp at North Stoneham, near Eastleigh, which now forms part of Southampton Airport.

Camp at North Stoneham.
Camp at North Stoneham.

This was the children’s temporary home until they were dispersed to be cared for by the Catholic Church, the Salvation Army, which accommodated children in a hostel in London, or in the so-called “colonies” set up by local committees across the country.  Eventually over ninety “colonies” were established, each housing between 20 to 50 children. Ranging from stately homes to converted workhouses, the “colonies” were run on donations. When the initial funding for them began to dry up, the niños were drawn into helping raise funds by performing concerts and shows and by taking part in football matches with local teams.

Football team, Hull colony
Football team, Hull colony

The children who came on board the Habana brought very little in the way of personal possessions with them, but they brought memories of the conflict and a sense of their identity. Aside from the shows and concerts where the children dressed in national costume, sang songs or performed dances from home, publications such as Amistad, one of the newsletters produced by the children themselves, were a means for them to remember. Conceived as an informative monthly publication, the newsletter contains pieces describing life in the Basque region, the bombing of Guernica, reflections on war and the journey on the Habana.

Amistad newsletter
Amistad newsletter

The Special Collections at the Hartley Library, University of Southampton, holds archives for the Basque Children of ‘37 Association UK (MS 404), which was founded in 2002 to ensure that the legacy of the Basque children was not forgotten, together with small collections relating to Basque child refugees (MS 370) that have come from individuals. Further details on the collection can be found on the website at:

There are also a series of interviews of the niños vascos conducted as part of an oral history project undertaken by the University of Southampton:

Karen Robson
Senior Archivist
Hartley Library, University of Southampton


Browse the University of Southampton Special Collections on the Archives Hub.

Archives Hub Themed Collection: Open Lives. The OpenLives project documented the experiences of Spanish migrants returning to Spain after settling in the UK. Researchers from the University of Southampton collected oral testimony, images and other ephemera.

All images copyright the Hartley Library, University of Southampton and
reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers Collection at the TUC Library (London Metropolitan University)

Archives Hub feature for May 2016

Photo of books
Books from the TUC Library’s collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

The Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) was a network of community-based writing groups that stretched across the UK and, to a much lesser extent, Europe and the USA. Voluntary, community-run groups met to allow working class people to share and discuss their creative writing and facilitate community self-publication.  It was the most significant working class writing/publication project of the 20th century, distributing over a million books between 1976-2007. It thrived during a period of significant social, economic and political change in the UK especially through the 1970s and 1980s, and represented a significant counter-cultural movement.

Many of the groups emerged out of local politics and campaigning, some such as Hackney’s Centerprise were a model of community cohesion, providing a bookshop, publisher, crèche, cafe and legal advice. Others still exist such as Brighton’s QueenSpark, Books, the UK’s longest running community publisher that started out of a grassroots campaign to establish a nursery school instead of a casino.

Photo of books
Books from the TUC Library’s collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

Through the medium of poetry, prose, fiction, biography, autobiography and local history, they document the changing experience of working class people over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, and much like oral history, they contain testimony about cultural history and working lives. They also reveal an emerging identity politics focused on issues of local community, immigration, race/ethnicity, gender, mental health and sexuality, with groups setting up to discuss, publish and represent those identities.

Some of the groups were involved in the establishment of community bookshops, Bookplace, Newham Books, and Tower Hamlets Arts Project (known as THAP and Eastside Books). They were important in providing an outlet for FWWCP publications and frequently provided a meeting space for writers and adult literacy groups.

Photo of books

Books from the TUC Library’s collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers.

The TUC Library started its collection of publications from the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers in August 2014 with a major deposit from Nick Pollard, a lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University who had a long-running involvement in the Federation. This has been followed by a number of other smaller deposits over the last 18 months, from former writers, members and enthusiasts.

From London alone there are at least 11 groups represented, including: Black Ink, Peckham People’s History, Stepney Books, Basement Writers, Working Press, Tower Hamlets Arts Project, Hammersmith & Fulham Community, Newham Writers Workshop, London Voices, Age Exchange, Southwark Mind and Survivors. All published biographies, autobiographies, fiction, prose and poetry.

There are also audio recordings of meetings, performances and festivals, and some video footage of these events. The Collection contains publications from over 100 groups that were part of the Federation.

Photo of prose and poetry books
Groups were prolific in publishing prose and poetry.

Some of the FWWCP legacy still exists in the form of The FED, a much smaller network that follows many of the FWWCP principles but uses an online presence to keep members in touch. The FED includes writing workshops and groups across the country, mostly centered in London, and like its predecessor, continues to celebrate diversity. It is holding its annual writing festival on the 4th June 2016.

Photo of book collection
Although generally about working class experience, some groups were focused on gender, LGBT, BAME and mental health, and there is much testimony contained in this collection.

The TUC Library is working closely with the University in making the most of the FWWCP Collection, and we’ve provided inductions for students from social sciences and humanities generally, we’ve also provided workshops for those from creative writing students to theatre and performance students. Students from Syracuse University taking a Civic Writing course, helped create an index to the collection. The group taught by Jess Pauszek, through Syracuse’s London Campus, at Faraday House, spent three weeks in summer 2015 and will continue work in 2016.

Having carried out a series of consultative meetings with former members London Metropolitan University and the TUC Library will be applying for funds to carry out an oral history and digitisation project.

You can see an index of the collection that’s been sorted so far Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers

Jeff Howarth, TUC Librarian at London Metropolitan University


Browse the London Metropolitan University’s Trades Union Congress Library Collections on the Archives Hub.

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


Brunel University London’s special collections

Archives Hub feature for February 2016

Photograph of Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Image from The Big Ship, Brunel’s Great Eastern – a pictorial history by Patrick Beaver

In the early 1980s two substantial bequests, the Clinker and Garnett collections, were left to Brunel University Library. Charles Clinker and David Garnett were two railway historians, and their collections went on to form the basis of what is now known collectively as the Transport History Collection. Over the years their bequests were joined by others, so the collection now includes books, railway maps, Bradshaw guides, timetables, journals and photographs. The maps include early Airey and Railway Clearing House maps, as well as Ordnance Survey maps and railway junction diagrams. Archival material includes Charles Clinker’s extensive notes and correspondence concerning his Register of closed stations and papers relating to his revision of MacDermot’s History of the Great Western Railway. We still collect relevant railway material, and the collection is particularly strong on the history of the Great Western Railway.

Photograph of chalk sample
Chalk, Channel Tunnel Archive

To complement the Transport History collection, the papers of the Channel Tunnel Company and the Channel Tunnel Association were acquired in 2003. These offer a fascinating insight into the history and politics of tunneling under the English Channel from the early nineteenth century to the opening of the Channel Tunnel as we know it today. This resource includes a mixture of archival and printed material, including letters, photographs, objects (including a lump of chalk!), books, reports, advertisements, maps, conference proceedings and tunnel and bridge proposals.

Also in the 1980s here at Brunel University, John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall were compiling their annotated bibliography, The autobiography of the working class (Harvest Press, 1984-1989). The bibliography includes descriptions and locations of unpublished manuscripts produced by working class people who lived in England, Scotland or Wales between 1790 and 1945. Many of these autobiographies are now kept in Special Collections and are an extremely popular resource, amongst History, English and Creative Writing students.

Photograph of a letter from the Blount archive
Letter, Blount archive

Many people are surprised to learn that we have very few collections relating to Isambard Kingdom Brunel himself. Those we do have include a collection of photographs relating to the publication of The Big Ship: Brunel’s Great Eastern – a pictorial history by Patrick Beaver, and the small Gilbert Blount archive. Blount was an English Catholic architect born in 1819 who received his earliest training as a civil engineer under Isambard Kingdom Brunel, for whom he worked as a superintendent of the Thames Tunnel works. The collection here covers his early career, including correspondence with the Brunel family. It was given to the University Library by Michael May, Blount’s grandson, in 1976 and so is one of our earliest acquisitions.

Some of our other collections were later acquisitions, and we have been developing a theme around equality and advocacy issues. These collections include the Dennis Brutus Archive. Dennis Brutus was a South African poet and human rights activist who spearheaded a successful campaign to ban apartheid South Africa from international sport competitions, including the Olympic games. Related collections include Celia Brackenridge’s research archive. Celia is a recently retired Brunel academic who donated her collection to Special Collections in order to preserve original sources and information about the development of child abuse and child protection research, advocacy and policy in the UK and overseas from the 1980s to 2000s.

We also look after a couple of collections on behalf of external organisations. These are the South Asian Diaspora Arts Archive, a wide-ranging group of small collections of South Asian literature, art, theatre, dance and music by British based artists and organisations. The archive covers five main areas: literature, visual arts, theatre, dance and music, dating between approximately 1947 and the present day. The Operational Research Society houses their library at Brunel. Operational Research looks at organisations’ operations and uses mathematical or computer models, or other analytical approaches, to find better ways of doing these operations. Their library includes over 1500 books on topics including operational research, statistics, management science, market research, logistics, industrial engineering and management accounting.

Photograph of the new reading room
New reading room

In 2015 Special Collections saw a big change as we moved into new reading room and storage facilities. This has improved access to our collections, as we now have a dedicated reading room space which can also be used for workshops by both internal and external groups, as well as improving and increasing the amount of storage we have.

You can find out more about our collections on our webpages, on our blog and Twitter feed (@BrunelSpecColl).

Katie Flanagan
Special Collections Librarian


Browse the collections of Brunel University London on the Archives Hub.

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

Exhibitions at the Shakespeare Institute: seeing beyond the book shelves

Archives Hub feature for February 2015

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Birth in Shakespeare's time
Poster for 2014 exhibition: Birth in Shakespeare’s time (to mark the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth)

The Shakespeare Institute Library holds monthly exhibitions which bring out lesser known aspects of our collections and especially our archive holdings.

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Where are we now?
Poster for 2014 exhibition: Where are we now? (Showcasing alumni careers)

These exhibitions were designed as a way to inform our users, predominantly our student body, of the breadth and depth of our holdings. As they have developed they have also enabled us to connect with the students and our local community in other ways: highlighting the careers and output of alumni of the Institute, promoting other collections in the local area, tying in with events and conferences, etc.

All library staff get involved in the researching, formatting, publicising and mounting of exhibitions so, as well as informing our users our staff get an excellent chance for learning more about the contents of the library and to work on areas of professional development – which, of course, can only benefit out users. The enthusiasm of the staff for the exhibitions has helped developed an exciting programme themes which we programme for the year. Work on these is scheduled so that there is a clear picture of when other collections need to be approached. As one is launched the work on the next begins.

Photo of exhibition on Henry V
Exhibition on Henry V (1913) commemorating the boys of King Edward VI School killed in WW1

These exhibitions have also given us the opportunity to collaborate with neighbouring collections. In November 2014 we held an exhibition on the boys of a King Edward VI School (Stratford-upon-Avon) who died in the First World War and performed in a production of Henry V in 1913, directed by Frank Benson.

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Shakespeare's Composers
Poster for 2014 exhibition: Shakespeare’s Composers

We’ve also worked extensively with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the Library of Birmingham, most recently on an exhibition on Shakespeare’s Composers for which we displayed a manuscript of Vaughan Williams incidental music to the afore mentioned Henry V (1913) and a manuscript of Granville Bantock’s music for a production of Macbeth performed at the Prince’s Theatre, London, 1926.

We also utilise the knowledge of our academic staff in order to develop exhibition ideas, themes and to check over content. When tied in to our curriculum, conference and symposia themes the exhibitions have also proved an ideal way of encouraging students to look beyond the reading list. By highlighting areas of direct relevance they also encourage visiting academics and students into the Library when they are attending events at the Institute. Our library users have really appreciated the opportunity to see beyond the book shelves.

Blogging about the exhibitions has also helped to market our library beyond the University.

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (Old Vic, 1945)
Poster for 2014 exhibition: Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2 (Old Vic, 1945)

In January 2015 as student came from America to consult the collections at the Shakespeare Institute, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and King Edward’s School after reading about the KES Henry V exhibition online. Now he has had access to the archives for this production he’s started writing a play as well as his MA dissertation. SIL blog address:

Our programme of exhibitions is going from strength-to-strength and their success has been acknowledged by our department in Library Services with the funding of high quality display boards and a glass cabinet in order to facilitate more ambitious projects. This year we look forward to showing off our resources on some fascinating themes, including: Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare, Elizabethan Printing, Comic Book Shakespeare and Shakespeare and the Actor. We hope that they’ll continue to be informative and inspiring to our users!

Karin Brown, Shakespeare Institute Librarian

Shakespeare Institute Library:

Shakespeare Institute:


Browse the collections of The Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham) on the Archives Hub:

Image of poster for 2014 exhibition: Foakes and Hawkes
Poster for 2014 exhibition: Foakes and Hawkes

All images copyright Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holder.

James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth – pioneering educational reformer

Archives Hub feature for November 2014

Funded by a grant from the John Rylands Research Institute, we have recently catalogued the papers of celebrated Victorian educationist Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth (1804-1877), opening up the rich content of this archive to researchers across the world.

Kay-Shuttleworth was born James Kay in Rochdale, Lancashire, into a textile manufacturing family. After qualifying as a doctor, he went on to have a distinguished career. He was a pioneer of public health, an influential civil servant, and played a key part in nineteenth-century educational reform, laying the groundwork for today’s system of national school education.

Kay-Shuttleworth’s career

After training at Edinburgh University, James Kay returned to practise as a doctor in Manchester in 1827. The following year, he co-founded the Ardwick and Ancoats Dispensary, a charity based in one of the poorest areas of the city. Through this work, he witnessed the appalling living conditions of the urban poor, and became increasingly involved in public health initiatives.

In 1832, the year of the cholera epidemic, he published his seminal pamphlet, The Moral and Physical Condition of the Working Classes Employed in the Cotton Manufacture in Manchester. This predated by some 13 years Friedrich Engels’ better-known The Condition of the Working Class in England.

In 1835, he became an Assistant Poor Law Commissioner for Norfolk and Suffolk, a role which gave rise to his lifelong interest in education and his conviction that it held the key to society’s regeneration.

Image of pamphlet The Training of Pauper Children
The Training of Pauper Children (1839): Kay-Shuttleworth’s ideas about educational reform had their origins in his work with pauper children.

In 1839, he was appointed as Assistant Secretary to the Whig government’s Committee of the Privy Council on Education, which administered grants for public education, a post he held for nine years. He was a highly effective civil servant and much of what we take for granted today had its origins in his inspired reforms. In 1840, he established Battersea College, the first teacher training college in Britain. He created a school inspection system; he argued for state education; and he forced through regulations around how children were taught, the design of school buildings, the structure of the teaching profession and the ways in which schools were governed.

There are over 1,000 letters in Kay-Shuttleworth’s archive, reflecting his whole professional career. Correspondents include those involved in education and philanthropy like Matthew Arnold and Angela Burdett-Coutts, as well as many Liberal or Whig politicians, including Gladstone, W.E. Forster, Lord John Russell and John Bright. Most of his key publications are also represented.

Family ties

The archival material relating to Kay-Shuttleworth’s public life is complemented by extensive personal and family correspondence, providing a fascinating insight into family relationships, social and gender roles.

In 1842, he married Lady Janet Shuttleworth, the heiress of Gawthorpe Hall in Lancashire, and adopted her surname on marriage, becoming Kay-Shuttleworth. The couple had five children.

Photograph of Gawthorpe Hall
Gawthorpe Hall, Padiham, Lancashire. James Kay-Shuttleworth set his own stamp on his wife’s ancestral home, employing fashionable architect Charles Barry to undertake major renovations in the 1850s. Photograph courtesy of Lee Pilkington.

The letters between Kay-Shuttleworth and his son Ughtred James (1844-1939) show the closeness of their relationship. Ughtred inherited Gawthorpe Hall, and estate management is discussed in some detail, as is Ughtred’s early political career; he went on to become a successful Liberal MP.

Other relationships were less straightforward. Correspondence in the archive documents the young James Kay’s unsuccessful courtship of Helen Kennedy, daughter of a wealthy Manchester family. Later, he grew apart from his wife, Janet; in 1851 she moved permanently to the Continent, ultimately settling in Italy with her eldest child Janet, two youngest sons, and the family governess Rosa Poplawska.

Two of the Kay-Shuttleworth sons – Robert (known as Robin) and Stewart – caused ongoing anxiety to their father. Neither lived up to his expectations, either getting into debt or associating with people of whom their parents disapproved. Ultimately Kay-Shuttleworth arranged for Robin to travel to Australia and take up sheep-farming (although he proved a continued source of worry to his parents), and Stewart emigrated to Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to run a plantation.

Literary circles

Kay-Shuttleworth’s literary aspirations are less well-known than his public career. Always passionate about literature, after his retirement he published two historical novels set in his home county of Lancashire, Scarsdale (1860) and Ribblesdale (1870). Correspondence and reviews relating to these two novels are included in his archive, as is the manuscript of a third novel, Cromwell in the North, which remained unpublished at his death, and his unpublished autobiography.

Image of a page from Gaskell’s manuscript of The Life of Charlotte Brontë
A page from Gaskell’s manuscript of The Life of Charlotte Brontë, from the Library’s Elizabeth Gaskell Collection

His own literary endeavours failed to attract much critical acclaim, and his greatest contribution to literature was probably his role in bringing together Charlotte Brontë and Elizabeth Gaskell. The two writers first met in August 1850, during a visit to the summer home of the Kay-Shuttleworths in the Lake District. Gaskell was already fascinated by what she knew of Brontë and her isolated life in Haworth, which was so different from Gaskell’s own bustling home in Manchester. Despite their many differences, the women immediately struck up a friendship which lasted until Brontë’s premature death in 1855. Gaskell went on to write the celebrated biography of her friend.

Photograph of Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell, c. 1864. Photograph by Alexander McGlashon


Having been refused access to the manuscript of Brontë’s unpublished novel, The Professor, by her widower, the Rev. Arthur Nicholls, Gaskell recruited Kay Shuttleworth’s assistance. They visited the parsonage at Haworth together in July 1856. The forceful personality of Sir James overcame the misgivings of Nicholls. He and Gaskell came away not only with The Professor manuscript, but also the fragment of a novel called Emma which Brontë had been working on before her marriage, and the now-famous miniature ‘Gondal’ and ‘Angria’ manuscripts created by Brontë and her siblings.


Fran Baker (Archivist) and Jane Speller (Project Archivist), The University of Manchester Library

Find out more and explore the collection:

Papers of Sir James Phillips Kay-Shuttleworth

Facing the Music: are researchers and information professionals dancing to different tunes?

Still of presentation at ELAG 2013
What are the chief weapons we need to use to improve the user experience?

At ELAG 2013 I gave a presentation with a colleague from The University of Amsterdam, Lukas Koster. We wanted to do something entertaining, but with a worthwhile message that we both feel strongly about. We believe that more needs to be done to integrate resources and provide them to researchers in a way that suits end-user needs. We gave a presentation where we urged our colleagues to ‘mind the gap’ between the perspective of the information professional – their jargon and their complicated systems, which often fail to link resources adequately – and the researcher, who wants an integrated approach, language that is not a barrier to use and expects the power of the Web to be used within a library context, just as they might when looking for music online.

Still of a presentation where a librarian is explaining the library system to a researcher
A researcher tries to make sense of the library systems

Our presentation included two sketches: one in a music shop, where a punter (the ‘seeker’) expects the shop owner (the ‘pusher’) to know who else bought this music and what they thought of if; and one in a library, where the seeker wants an overview of everything available, and they want to look at research data and other resources without struggling with different catalogue systems and terminology.

In our presentation we referred to the ‘seeker’ wanting a discipline-focussed approach (not format based), and access regardless of location. I highlighted one of the problems with searching by showing examples of search terms used on the Archives Hub where the researchers were confused by the results. The terms researchers use don’t always fit into our approach, using controlled vocabularies.  We talked about the importance of connections between information. Our profession is making headway here, but there is a long way to go before researchers can really pull things together across different systems.

I spoke about the danger of making assumptions about our users and showed some examples of the Archives Hub survey results. Researchers don’t always come to our websites knowing what they are or what they want; they don’t necessarily have the same understanding of ‘archives’ as we do. Lukas expanded more on our musical theme. We can learn from some of the initiatives in this area – such as the ability people have to explore the musical world in so many different ways though things like MusicBrainz. Lukas also showed examples of researcher interfaces, looking to pull things together for the end user. Isn’t the idea of giving the researcher the ability to manage all of their research in this way  something libraries should be spearheading?

Image of a woman at a desk surrounded by books
A librarian contemplates the end of the index card…

We concluded that the vision of integrated, interconnected data is not easy. As information professionals we may have to move out of our comfort zones. But we don’t have any choice unless we want to be sidelined. This means that we need to change our mindsets (we talked about a ‘librarian lobe’!) and we need to actually think about whether it is us that needs to learn information literacy because we need to learn to think more like the end user!

Still of a scence in which the librarian cuts up a book for the researcher
The librarian has a frustrating time with a researcher who only wants one chapter!

See the slides on Slideshare.

The presentation is on You Tube, but be warned there are scenes of book cutting that may be upsetting to some!


Training and the Archives Hub.

A couple of weeks ago I took part in a training session for postgraduate students from the English department at the University of Salford. This had been organised with Ian Johnston, University Archivist at Salford, and Professor Sharon Ruston from ESPaCH. (School of English, Sociology, Politics & Contemporary History)

Training Room

Sharon kicked off the session by explaining what archives mean to her career and how she had actually made her name and written a book on the strength of some new evidence that she uncovered about Shelley and his desire to be a doctor: Shelley and Vitality (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), which explored the medical and scientific contexts which inform Shelley’s concept of vitality in his major poetry.

She went on to detail some of her new research on Humphry Davy (examining poetry & science) and explained that although it can often be a lot of effort to look for archives, it can pay dividends if you put the time and energy into searching.

Ian then took the floor and showed the students some of the hidden gems from the University’s archives. He also brought some items with him – a letter from Edith Sitwell, papers from the Duke of Bridgewater archive etc. He also showed some photos of Salford University in the 1970s. We were all fairly amazed by the picture of the paternoster lift, which is a lift that doesn’t stop. Literally you have to jump on as it’s going past. Talk about students living dangerously!

Ian explained why Salford University contributed to the Hub: the benefits of profile in being part of a national cross-searching service leading to more researchers benefitting from the Salford University Archives Collections.

I then did a demonstration of some different websites where you can search for archives online and went on to show how the Archives Hub, Copac and Zetoc work and the different types of information that you can find in each.

Prior to the session, Ian and Sharon had asked the students for their research areas and I used these as my examples. I find if students cannot easily see how and why something is relevant to them, then they switch off. It’s important to tailor your examples to your audience, whatever level they are studying at.

We then got the students to have a go themselves as we walked around the room and gave more individual help. This worked really well as each student got at least 5 or 10 mins of one-to-one help on searching for their particular subject area.

We were all really pleased with how the session went. I could actually see the students sit up and take notice when Sharon was talking about making her name from finding new knowledge. It underlined how primary source material can lead to students incorporating unique perspectives to their research. I feel that this was key to the success of the session. The students were able to see how important archives had been to someone who they respected and knew was an expert in her field.

Ian showed them actual papers and letters from the archive and this allowed them to see concrete examples of what we were talking about, as opposed to thinking about archive materials in an abstract and ‘virtual’ way by just looking at online finding aids.

Sharon and Ian did a great job of explaining the benefits of using archives, I just told them how to find stuff… It was great to see how engaged the students were with what we were explaining to them. So much so I’ve been asked back for a repeat performance. (With the academics!)