‘I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not’ (PAL, letter to Monica Jones)
The 9th of August 2022 marks the centenary of the birth of poet and librarian Philip Arthur Larkin.
His approach to life as represented in the above quote will resonate with anyone involved in archival work and research. It speaks to the core function of the archivist in preserving the surviving evidence of past thoughts, beliefs and events.
Although not born in Hull, Larkin was intimately connected with the city. Appointed to the post of Librarian at the University of Hull in March 1955, he spent half of his life in the area, living first in Cottingham, then in Hull’s Pearson Park, and finally in the well-to-do area of Newland Park near the University. Some of his most famous works were inspired by the experience of living in, travelling from and returning to the city. During his time at the University, he guided the library through a period of significant development, helping to transform it from a small operation in a series of makeshift spaces, to a purpose built and sector-leading academic library. Through his collaboration with academic colleagues, he promoted the growth of Hull University Archives from a small selection of manuscripts to an internationally significant repository for archive collections. So, it is fitting that his surviving archive is held at Hull as part of the University Archives.
Creative process of a poet…
‘[T]o construct a verbal device that would preserve an experience indefinitely by reproducing it in whoever read the poem’ (PAL, definition of the purpose of a poet, from Required Reading)
One of the most important of the Larkin related collections held at Hull is his personal archive which contains, amongst other things, his manuscript poetry workbooks.
Written in pencil, they contain manuscript drafts of poems written by Larkin, and provide evidence that he drafted and redrafted individual poems over several days or weeks, even returning to them months later. The pages sometimes feature small doodles or comments, giving us an insight into his feelings and state of mind in a given moment. Thus, the workbooks are a vital and unique record of Larkin’s creative process.
Capturing a view on life…
‘I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you’re an artist, by children if you’re not’ (PAL, letter to Monica Jones)
Aside from writing poetry, Larkin was a keen and skilled amateur photographer and the evidence is preserved in his photographic archive [RefNo. U DLV]. Having shown an interest in photography from a young age, Larkin was given a camera to use by his father, a Houghton-Butcher Ensign Carbine No.5. In a letter dated 1947, addressed to a childhood friend, he notes that he has spent a large amount of money on a camera of his own, believed to be a Purma Special. From this point there was no looking back, and later on he became known for his use of a professional quality Rolleiflex camera with timers, lenses and filters.
His approach to photography seems akin to that of his writing. His photographs skilfully capture the experience of everyday life according to fundamental principles of photographic composition. His subjects regularly include self-portraits, rural landscapes, church yards, and the friends, family and women in his life. His surviving photographs often show evidence that he marked up prints for enlargement to create a better composition.
Communication is key…
‘Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal shelf. Get out as early as you can, And don’t have any kids yourself’ (PAL, This be the verse)
In an age of emails, texts and social media, we perhaps forget how important letter writing was to communication in the mid-20th century. Larkin was a prolific letter writer, maintaining contact with friends, acquaintances, and family on a regular basis. There are many collections of his correspondence at Hull.
Highlights include letters sent to Monica Jones, his life-long partner [RefNo. U DX341], which reveal their close and frank relationship, along with aspects of Larkin’s character and life views. Another highlight is the correspondence between Larkin and his childhood friend James Sutton [U DP174 and U DP182]. The two friends discuss home life, friends, jazz music, and their current creative endeavours, which provides opportunity to explore Larkin’s formative years at home, school and university.
In this centenary year we’ve been busy working to enhance access to the Larkin collections, improving catalogue descriptions, producing a new source guide and creating an online exhibition.
Rather than regurgitating the Scope and Content of the catalogues in this blog (which you can read if you click on the links above), I’d like to highlight ten thoughts/statements prompted by items I came across when cataloguing.
It must be acknowledged that this material was largely created and collected by the upper echelons of privileged British aristocratic society, and so the view provided by the material relates to people who were, on the whole, white, wealthy and powerful. Glimmers of other peoples’ stories can be ascertained sometimes, but usually as a by-product of the record creation and retention process rather than directly from those individuals.
1. School-aged children will always doodle in their exercise books
A number of 17th century exercise books belonging to the 2nd and 3rd Earls of Devonshire are part of the Hardwick Manuscripts (HMS) and Hobbes Papers (HS). Many of them are covered in griffonage on the flyleaves, just as one might expect of a schoolbook today.
They include the 3rd Earl practising his new name “William Devonshire” When, aged 9 ½ he lost his father, the title of Earl of Devonshire passed to him, therefore entitling him to sign himself with the surname Devonshire rather than Cavendish.
2. Financial account books are a window into daily life
The Hardwick Manuscripts include some astonishingly well-preserved 16th– and 17th-century financial account books from across the Devonshire estates. Some of the most fascinating for the study of daily life in an English aristocratic household are those that record the grocery shop!
Here is an example of Bess of Hardwick’s household spending recorded by her steward for one Thursday in February 1552:
two poteles of claret wine for dinner; eggs; apples to roast; items to make fritters; ale to make fritters; an item delivered to a person for his “bele”; a pint of “momse” for when her ladyship was sick – totalling 4 shillings, 1 ½ pence.
As well as listing provisions (food bought from tenant farmers on the estates) and achats (food bought from town), the kitchen accounts for the 3rd Earl’s household for the years 1640-1678 note the guests dining on particular days. Names include: Lord [Henry] Clifford; Lady Windsor; Lady Salisbury [mother to Elizabeth, Countess of Devonshire]; Lord Cranborne [brother of Elizabeth] and Sir Ed Caple [possibly Cappell, a known Royalist family].
3. Death was still upsetting even though it was common
Losing a family member or friend during one’s own lifetime may have been more common in the 17th and 18th century, but letters in these collections suggest it was not any less of an emotional event because of its regularity.
The letters of Rachel, Lady Russell (c. 1636-1723), show how the execution of her husband – in 1683 for his involvement in the treasonous Rye House Plot – affected her for a long time afterwards. She put on a public show of composure to most of her correspondents. However, her innermost sorrow and grief she shared with her chaplain, Dr Fitzwilliam.
Even three years after her husband’s death she writes:
“…desiring to know the world no more, [I] am utterly unfitted for the management of anything in it, but must, as I can, engage in such necessary offices to my children, as I cannot be dispensed from, nor desire to be, since ‘tis an eternal obligation upon me, to the memory of a husband, to whom, and his, I have dedicated the few and sad remainder of my days, in this vale of misery and trouble.”
4. Women held power
Despite Lady Russell’s deep sorrow that lasted most of the rest of her life, she continued to engage a network of acquaintances through her letter writing. Reading her letters provides a picture of a woman who used the position of a wealthy widow to her advantage in the advance of her estates and her daughters’ positions in society. There are many letters between Lady Russell and her lawyer, John Hoskins (CS1/34); and her cousin Henri de Massaue, 2nd Marquis du Ruvigny (CS1/97). They present an example of how aristocratic women engaged with the management of their estates as much as – and sometimes more than – male landowners, when their widowhood provided them with the opportunity to take control.
Another example of this is Dorothy Boyle (nee Savile), Countess of Burlington (CS1/164), who like Lady Russell, was responsible for the preservation of large groups of inherited family letters, which make up the Cavendish Family and Associates: 1st Correspondence Series, 1490-1839 (CS1) collection at Chatsworth. The archive is a place of power, and the stewardship of family papers ensured these two women could assert theirs.
5. Archival sources and scholarship don’t always align
In most scholarship, the portrayal of Dorothy, Lady Burlington’s influence and legacy is almost non-existent. Eclipsed by the reputation of her architect husband, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, Lady Burlington has been a footnote or a minor character in repeated anecdotes. Her letters illuminate a more significant role as a facilitator of the Burlington circle and in 18th-century artistic society. You can read more here.
6. Mental health illness isn’t a modern issue
Many references are made to ‘low mood’, ‘upset humours’, ‘delirium’, ‘nerves’, ‘nervous cases’, ‘hysterics’ in the 18th century letters. Whilst some of the language used is different to how we would describe illnesses such as depression and anxiety today, the references do show that mental health was a case for comment just as much as peoples’ physical health.
Elizabeth Biddulph (nee Bedingfeld) wrote to Lady Charlotte, Marchioness of Hartington in 1754 (CS1/378/1) of her prolonged “illness of the nerves” that began after the birth of her last child. Could she be describing what we would nowadays identify as post-partum depression?
7. Fresh air and exercise were known cures for illness
As with the above letter where we see that fresh air and exercise aided Elizabeth Biddulph’s recovery, the 4th Duke of Devonshire’s brother, Lord Frederick Cavendish, in December 1761, advised his brother to partake of the same. The 4th Duke, having suffered from a bout of poor mental and physical health, was given the following warning by his brother:
“if you set in that room in London and fret yourself about our damned politics, you’ll kill yourself. Go down to Chatsworth look at your works, and keep yourself out in the air the whole day, I don’t joke… if you was to sleep once or twice a week on the top of Lindop [woods near Chatsworth] I believe it would be better than all the physic that doctors can give”. (CS4/1565)
8. It’s possible to draw out historically overlooked people in fleeting remarks
A passing reference to three black children arriving on a French cargo ship into Waterford 1756 in one of the letters of Lord Frederick Cavendish led me to research who they were and what might have happened to them. You can read the full story here.
9. Lord Hartington visited Confederate lines and it changed his opinion of the South
Spencer Compton Cavendish, Lord Hartington (1833-1908), visited North America in 1862/3, during the American Civil War. He wrote to his father, the 7th Duke of Devonshire, that seeing the Confederates and their earnestness at Richmond had caused him to begin to support their view. He described himself as becoming more “Southern” as the trip progressed and believed the Southerners to have a lot of “dignity”. This was around the time of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation (1 January 1863) that “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states, “are, and henceforward shall be free”, which would have the biggest effect on some of the Southern states.
Hartington admitted he had not seen enough plantations to be a judge of “the state of things”. However, he wrote that “the “Negroes” hardly look as well off as I expected to see them but they are not [different?] or more uncomfortable looking than Irish labourers” (CS8/184) – a damning indictment of the state of conditions for 19th century Irish labourers!
On the 21 January 1863 he wrote to his father from Charleston, South Carolina, that the Emancipation Proclamation hadn’t seemed to make “the slightest difference” and “even in the Sea Islands [Georgia] in the possession of the enemy, they hear that the “negroes” are doing their work just as usual under the overseers”.
These changed views were clearly private ones as, in another letter to his father, he acknowledges his constituents would not approve of his Southern persuasions (CS8/186).
10. British concentration camps existed before Nazi ones
A reference in a letter from Sir Lawrence Oliphant to Louisa Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, February 1900 (CS8/2824), mentions his arrival in South Africa and the capture of Boer weapons, women and cattle. He mentions a group of “Freestater” women [from the Orange Free State] who were “delighted not to be taken to the camps”. A reminder that the British used concentration camps for Boer women and children in the South African Boer War – a generation before the Nazis.
I hope that these ten points have shown what wide-ranging material is featured in the Cavendish family papers catalogued in this project and the benefit of having the full catalogues available online on Archives Hub!
Edge Hill University’s history dates back to the 1880s when a committee was formed in 1882 to establish a teacher training college for women in Liverpool. Students would be instructed “in the Christian Religion upon a Scriptural but undenominational basis.”
The College was opened on Durning Road in the Edge Hill district of Liverpool in January 1885, with just 41 students. Sarah Jane Yelf was appointed as the College’s first Principal, with the intention of producing ‘a superior class of Elementary School Mistresses’. Sarah Jane Hale took over as principal in 1890 and the institution began a gradual expansion. Miss Hale died in 1920 and by the end of her tenure the College had trained 2,071 girls, of whom 213 were Head Mistresses, 178 First Assistants, and 30 science mistresses. Miss Hale’s successor in 1920 was Eva Marie Smith and she would continue with the ambitious expansion of the College, with it by now having a firmly established reputation for excellence.
Miss Smith and her colleagues had begun to feel that the Durning Road site was not suitable for the growing student and staff population (as well as facing regular problems with the upkeep of the site. In 1925, Edge Hill was placed under the control of Lancashire County Council who would provide a new building for the college, preserving the original name, history and reputation. A site in Ormskirk was chosen and the foundation stone of the new building was laid in 1931, before opening in October 1933.
During the Second World War, the College was evacuated to Bingley Training College while the campus served as a military hospital. The original Durning Road premises were destroyed in a German bombing raid on 28 November 1940, killing 166 people – the worst single incident in the Liverpool Blitz as regards loss of life.
The gradual expansion of the Ormskirk campus resumed after the War and, in 1959, the first male students were welcomed to the College. During the 1960s courses were expanded and diversified, with a rapidly developing range of degree courses on offer.
Over the next decades, the institution would maintain its reputation for excellence in teacher training while also steadily expanding a range of successful degree courses in other areas. This acceleration of curriculum, infrastructure and institutional development has continued to the present day, with the University Title awarded in 2006.
The Edge Hill University archives offer a wealth of potential areas for research. The collections have vast potential for the history of teacher training, women’s education and the changing lives of women in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The expansion of Edge Hill in recent decades means its history has a great deal to tell us about the development of higher education in Britain as well as the changing experiences of those who studied and were employed here. Each milestone changed and broadened the horizons of what Edge Hill University is today.
It would be fantastic to see this collection being used more for research. It has already proven a fantastic resource for historians of women’s suffrage, with a number of Edge Hill’s alumni having been active in the fight for equality and some becoming particularly well-known figures such as the barrister and women’s rights campaigner, Helena Normanton and the socialist, feminist and human rights campaigner, Ethel Snowden. Discussions around women’s suffrage and equality were often covered and reported on in the annual Edge Hill College magazines – a wonderfully rich series of documents that reveal much about the cultural shifts in the lives of women during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The dedicated cataloguing of the archive only began in late 2019, so there is a huge amount of material yet to be catalogued, as well as a constant flow of new accessions arriving at the archive, so researchers are encouraged to contact us if they cannot find things that they might expect to find listed, would like to find out more about the collections or have a specific enquiry we might be able to support them with. Get in touch and discover an archive collection that is overflowing with untapped potential!
This month we explore the recently digitised Stanley Houghton Collection held by the University of Salford and made accessible on Salford Digital Archives. 2022 marks 110 years since the first performance of Houghton’s best-known dramatic work, Hindle Wakes.
William Stanley Houghton (1881-1913) was born in 1881 in Ashton-upon-Mersey, Cheshire and during his short life would become one of a group of playwrights known as the ‘Manchester School’.
It would seem Houghton had a standard middle-class upbringing. His father was a cotton cloth merchant in Manchester and in 1896 the family moved to Alexandra Park, a middle-class residential area south of the city from where Houghton attended Manchester Grammar School. On finishing school, Houghton went straight into his father’s cotton business, where he worked as a ‘grey-cloth’ salesman. It was during this time whilst working in the city that Houghton was developing his skills as a playwright and supplemented his income by writing critical reviews for the Manchester Guardian.
Houghton was one of several playwrights championed by Annie Horniman for his focus on what she called ‘real life’. Horniman was proprietor of Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre, the first repertory theatre outside of London with its own company of actors and a rotating programme of plays by local writers. It was through the association with the Gaiety that Houghton’s work was performed to audiences in London and America.
Houghton’s best and most successful work was Hindle Wakes (1912), a comedy about the freedom of the young and the ‘double standard’ of morality. Written in 1911 and premiered at the London Aldwych Theatre in 1912, the play was controversial at the time for its portrayal of a mill girl who shocks the older generation by choosing independence rather than marriage to the mill owners’ son. The play both appealed and shocked audiences but ultimately proved a hit on an international level. The financial success of the play, coupled with the production of Houghton’s earlier work The Younger Generation (1909) enabled him to leave the cotton trade and take to writing full time.
However, Houghton’s career as a full-time writer was short lived. After moving to London and then Paris, Houghton returned to Manchester in ill health where he died in 1913 at the age of 32.
Highlights from the collection
Purchased by the university of Salford in 1983, the Stanley Houghton Collection is largely made up of unpublished manuscripts of plays which give insight into his working methods and character. It was through a ‘chance check in a Manchester telephone directory’ that a PhD student at the University interested in the life and work of the writer discovered Houghton’ living descendants. It turned out that they had kept a collection of previously unseen manuscripts by Houghton and photographs of early performances ‘wrapped in brown paper…in various suitcases in the house and garage’.
The works are a mixture of comedies, such as Pearls (c1910) which was designed for the music hall, and melodramas such as The Intriguers(c1906) that demonstrate his development as a writer and working method. Ginger (c1910) is evidence of Houghton’s approach to planning and plot development. I particularly like Houghton’s handwritten note on the page opposite the start of Act 2, to ‘focus Ginger a bit’, which makes me think of Houghton, pencil in hand reviewing his work. The typescript of Act 3 of Trust the People includes handwritten stage prompts to get the ‘gramophone ready’, giving a sense of how the work might have been produced on stage.
There are also published first edition translations of some of his works including Twixt Cup and Lip, a version of Houghton’s play The Dear Departed in Scots dialect by Felix Fair.
My favourite items in the collection are two sets of photographs of early 20th century theatre productions of Hindle Wakesand The Younger Generation. They include actors from the Gaiety Repertory Theatre who first performed Hindle Wakes some 110 years ago at the London Aldwych Theatre. The photos not only capture the sets and costumes of a theatre production at a particular point in time, but are also portraits of early 20th century actresses, including Ada King, Sybil Thorndike and Edyth Goodall.
I would love to see the Stanley Houghton Collection used more for teaching and research. Houghton was writing and dramatizing the life and society of the young just before the start the 1914 Great War which of course would have an enormous impact on his own generation.
Salford Digital Archives
The Houghton manuscripts and photographs are one of several collections now available on Salford Digital Archives, the University of Salford’s new platform to access digital archive content online.
Other collections on the platform include Brass Band News, a unique newspaper about brass bands from the 1880s up to the 1950s, alongside photographs from the Working Class Movement Library and the Bridgewater Canal. We are adding new collections to the platform in due course including a set of architectural drawings and plans for the University campus and two series of Salford Student Union newspapers. We welcome ideas for new collections and opportunities to work in partnership to curate content from our own and other archives.
Alexandra Mitchell Archivist, The University of Salford
This is the true love story of Geoffrey Griffiths (1906-1993) and Ida Carroll (1905-1995).
Referred to as “Griff” by many alumni, the lasting memories of this charming chap are primarily as the pipe-smoking first impression of the Northern School of Music. Stepping into the school off Sydney Street (where the Manchester Metropolitan University’s sport centre is now) his lugubrious voice would greet you amid a stain of smoke.
He was the school’s bursar. He typed up the daily notices on the school’s stairwell pillars, he drove the van full of the larger instruments (and their carefully balanced players) to the concert halls for orchestral performances and he kept everything squared away with the balance sheets.
What many did not know, is that he was in a dedicated relationship with the school’s principal Ida Carroll, for about 60 years. The only reason we know it now is due to the treasure chest of incredible love letters he sent her.
Geoffrey wrote letters, beautiful love letters, to Ida throughout their relationship. He would write multiple times a week, often just after getting home late at night from visiting her in order to tell her how much he already missed and loved her.
His writing to her was so prolific it seemed only to continue the conversations they had started when meeting face to face, undoubtedly to be picked up again when they next met. Most are merely introduced as “Monday afternoon”, and “Tuesday evening”. No need to put down such frivolous details as dates when he’s seeing her again by the end of the week.
There are some incredible references the Second World War when he’s had to hastily put down his pen, pick up his papers and pipe (priorities), and make his way to crouch under the stairs or in the nearest bomb shelter. He is very put out as he continues his letter writing in the cramped din, often cursing Herr Hitler for getting in the way of their love affair, which was apparently damned inconsiderate of him.
Ida was an Air Raid Precaution Warden for the Didsbury area of Manchester. Griff was part of the Auxiliary Fire Service in Ashton-under-Lyne, spending many nights in the rooms of a bar parlour with a handful of other chaps, waiting for air raids and the inevitable fires that came after. Many long nights of boredom led to some very interesting letters, full of wartime musings, pining for more time with her, and pages upon pages agonising over details such as the merits of joining a journalism course, the exact details of the journey home, and Whist tactics.
The couple apart
However, despite their devotion to one another, they didn’t traditionally exist as a couple. Indeed, they never actually lived together. One reason for this, it would seem, was Walter Carroll.
Walter was Ida’s father, and a firm fan of Griff for all it would appear. Griff worked in the travel agency frequented by Walter for his many trips to London. Over time, they got friendly and upon discovering Griff’s interest in singing and music (he had a cello called Boris), Walter enrolled Griff into his own choir at Birch Church. It’s likely that this is when he got to know and fall in love with Ida.
He would visit her at her family home and seemed openly intimidated by her father who, despite his appreciation of Griff’s musical passion, did not appreciate any other passion of Griff’s finding focus in his daughter.
The majority of their friends were also unaware of their affair. Both avid Hallé concert goers, they would arrange tickets to go with friends, fully intending to casually meet up at the concert, sit together or near, and meet up together after. A sort of stealth date night.
Getting closer and closer was all well and good, but still they never made the marriage/cohabitation plunge. Even though at one time they had planned to get married and were actively hunting for flat to take together. His letters describe in detail their dreams, just as the Second World War was being announced. Unfortunately, Griff’s mother died shortly after their plans were made. Moving out would have meant leaving his father alone in the family home through war and through grief. It seemed that Walter’s unwillingness to support the union and this tragic weight of family duty, led Griff to write a heart-breaking letter explaining why he needed to call off the engagement.
The couple together
After the war, he quickly took up the opportunity to work as the Bursar of the Northern School of Music (where Ida was Secretary and later Principal) in 1946. Typical of the Northern School of Music and of Ida’s method of career advice, he was not expected to interview but simply to show up and never leave. Which is pretty much what happened.
They remained dedicated to each other, but never married. Their relationship continued for many years, almost in a perpetuating stage of courting. Griff later fell severely ill and Ida nursed him through to the end of his life, almost moving into the nursing home where he lived his final days.
A lovely side-note here that shares some of the effectiveness of the school’s teaching. A friend and former student of Ida would visit her at Griff’s nursing home. The building was all locks and electronic key codes and it became a bit of a faff. Ida, having taught aural skills for decades had learned the key codes to the door locks simply based on the melody they made. She would relay this to her old friend in “tonic sol-far” (you know the one: do re mi fa sol…), singing the code notes to her, to allow freer movement in and out of the building when she visited.
While not dramatic opera-esque, or reminiscent of soaring symphony crescendos, this was a quiet, steadfast, romantic love of the ages. To read all the letters, head over to the Manchester Digital Music Archive with a cup of tea and sigh ready in your heart.
Heather Roberts RNCM College Archivist Royal Northern College of Music
For the 30,000 traumatised refugees from Nazi-occupied Austria living in the UK at the start of the Second World War, the Austrian exile theatre the Laterndl was a beacon of light and hope during the dark days of the Third Reich. Refugees were living with the loss of their homes, the uncertain fate of families left behind, and the poverty and isolation of exile life. At the theatre they could laugh, weep and mourn together over stories, music and poetry presented by performers who shared the same experiences. For the artists themselves, the theatre allowed them to escape the daily grind of refugee life, provide a home for Austrian culture and contribute to the fight against Nazism.
Members of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies at the University of London have begun to piece together the history of the theatre using the papers of Austrian Jewish refugees Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert Miller, key figures at the Laterndl. Their papers are one of a growing number of archives of German-speaking exiles held at Senate House Library on behalf of the Institute of Modern Languages Research. A programme to catalogue and promote the collections has been funded in recent years by the Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert Miller Trust and the records have now been added to the Archives Hub. This feature for the Hub marks Women’s History Month by considering the role of women in the theatre and how they contributed to its aim to keep alive the spirit of resistance to the Nazis.
Five of the 16 artists who contributed to the opening production of the Laterndl in June 1939 were female artists, all experienced professionals. They played an important role both on stage and behind the scenes from the offset. The cast of the first production ‘Unterwegs’ included seasoned theatre performers Lona Cross, Marianne Walla and Greta Hartwig. Cross had performed in regional Austrian theatre and Walla and Hartwig were active in anti-fascist political cabaret in Vienna in the mid-1930s. ‘Unterwegs’ offered a wide range of strong female roles and included one scene, ‘Bow Street’ which was singled out for particular praise by reviewers. Standing on trial at Bow Street court before ‘General Bias’ and ‘Mrs Charity’, Walla, playing the ‘Eternal Woman’ alongside the ‘Eternal Jew’ and the ‘Eternal Revolutionary’, made a powerful plea for leniency and understanding from the British authorities for women who had taken a stand against Nazism.
In early 1940 another Viennese actor already familiar to Austrian theatre audiences joined the troupe, Hannah Norbert Miller (then Hanne Norbert). Norbert soon became one of the leading performers, appearing in over ten productions in three years. She also acted with other exile theatre groups and had a wide network of contacts which helped connect the Laterndl players with the wider German-speaking theatre scene. Norbert’s excellent English enabled her to act as commere, communicating the theatre’s message of resistance against Nazism to British audience members, who included well-known cultural figures like J.B. Priestly and Richard Crossman of the BBC.
Theatre programmes in the archive indicate that female artists also worked in a range of non-acting roles over the course of the theatre’s existence. Kaethe Knepler was a musician and pianist from Germany who worked as director of music at the Laterndl in 1941 and 1942 together with her husband, Georg, a musicologist. The couple regularly performed as a duo, and in 1940 Kaethe Knepler composed the setting for a song by Jura Soyfer, a young Austrian writer who had died in Buchenwald a year before.
Costumes for the first three productions were the responsibility of two Viennese designers, Hertha Winter and Kaethe Berl. Little is known about Winter’s background, but Berl had studied design at art school and in the post-war era she would became a pioneer in enamel art in New York. With wartime shortages and the Laterndl’s tiny budget, the pair had to summon all their creativity to produce costumes, improvising them out of old garments or purchasing them cheaply here and there, including in the East End’s Petticoat Lane. Berl also designed the distinctive red logo for the theatre shown on the programme (above).
One of the most powerful anti-Nazi plays produced by the Laterndl was written by the theatre’s only female writer, journalist and Communist activist Eva Priester. Priester’s ‘The Verdict’, performed in the autumn of 1942, saw Norbert and Walla play two women imprisoned in a cell together in an unknown location in Nazi Europe. The women unite against their male guard and anticipate the liberation of Europe with the declaration: ‘We are not alone. They will come over the sea, by ship, any moment now they could come and land in France and open our doors. Can you hear them – soon they will break down the iron doors – soon they will be here!’
By the end of the war over 40 women refugees had worked at the theatre, some of them over several years. How many of them managed to rebuild their careers as artists in the post-war world is not recorded these archives, though for a lucky few, at least, the Laterndl was a stepping stone to a career in the performing arts in the UK, such as the BBC. What is clear is that, despite the hardship and pain of their situation, women played a central role in the theatre, helping to keep alive the hopes of the community in a better post-war world and an independent and democratic Austria.
Dr Clare George Archivist (Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Trust) Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies Institute of Modern Languages Research University of London School of Advanced Study Senate House Library
In 1984 reports of an unfolding famine crisis in East Africa began to reach the international community. Band Aid’s ‘Feed the World’ charity song and the Live Aid concerts are probably the most well-known of the responses to the situation, but these were by no means the only efforts. In Birmingham a group of young Muslim volunteers led by Dr Hany El Bana OBE, then a medical student at University of Birmingham, began to fundraise in mosques, though friends and family and local Islamic associations. They were successful in raising enough funds to implement a project to build two chicken farms in Sudan along with two other projects to distribute biscuits and multivitamins (also to Sudan) and flour to Mauritania in one year. As fundraising efforts took off the name ‘Islamic Relief’ was adopted and a small one-room office was rented from which the group coordinated their growing operations.
Fundraising around the seasonal observance of Ramadan (a sacred month of fasting in Islam) soon became a mainstay. The group organised tours of national mosques selling prayer mats and other small items in a van they called the ‘Caravan’. Raising money through the Islamic principles of zakat (a form of alms-giving and religious tax) and sadaqah (voluntary charity giving) were also a key part of the work and remain so at Islamic Relief to this day. This evidence of Muslim community based voluntary action is one part of what makes the Islamic Relief Archive truly unique and significant. Today Islamic Relief Worldwide has grown to one of, if not the world’s largest Islamic faith-inspired NGOs currently working in over 40 countries. Islamic Relief was founded with a single donation of 20p, in 2020 we had and income of over £149 million.
Humanitarian and development work has always been at the heart of what Islamic Relief does. The archive documents major humanitarian responses to some of the most notable global events of the last four decades. This includes conflict in Bosnia and Chechnya in the 1990s, crises in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s, tsunami in Asia 2004, genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and earthquake in Pakistan in 2006. The ‘International Programmes’ series (IRW/IP) contains a wealth of materials relating to both emergency responses and also development work in countries such as India, Bangladesh, Mali, Niger and Occupied Palestinian Territories. Here you can find records such as project reports, country strategy documents and case studies. You can also find related photographic materials in the ‘Audio Visual’ (IRW/AV) series, publications such as emergency update reports, country annual reports and newsletters in the ‘Publications and ephemera’ series (IRW/PUB). Within the fundraising the ‘Emergency appeals’ sub-series (IRW/FU/2/3) will also yield results on IRW’s fundraising efforts in relation to specific international situations. Today, Islamic Relief is present at crises in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen. The archive continues to collect materials relating to these significant global events.
In 2021 Islamic Relief made its archive accessible to the public for the first time with our catalogues newly available through Archives Hub. The records have meaning at a local, national and international level and we believe that in making them accessible they will not only contribute to research in the fields of humanitarianism and histories of the charity sector, they will also importantly increase the representation of Muslims and Muslim communities in the shared archival landscape. As the archive continues to grow and further cataloguing is undertaken we hope that researchers and a wide public audience will be able to benefit from this rich and valuable source of local and global memory.
Elizabeth Shuck, Archivist Islamic Relief Worldwide
Our institutional archives, 144 metres of which are now catalogued on Archives Hub, hold the key to countless stories of student achievements, past and present. One of our most noteworthy alumni is botanist Maria Dawson, the recipient of the University of Wales’ first awarded degree, a Bachelor of Science, in 1896.
Dawson also jointly holds the title of the first Doctor of Science of the University of Wales. She was granted a prestigious scientific scholarship which funded her pioneering research into agricultural fertilisers.
Degree-awarding powers in Wales
In October 1892, Dawson was admitted to the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire (the predecessor to Cardiff University) to study mathematics, chemistry, zoology and botany.
At that time, the College did not have degree-awarding powers, and students were prepared for University of London examinations. However, in 1893, whilst Dawson was a student, the history of Welsh education was altered irrevocably with the establishment of the University of Wales. The University Colleges in Cardiff, Bangor and Aberystwyth were its constituent institutions.
Dawson was a high achiever from the outset: she won an exhibition (a bursary) at the College’s entrance examinations, which covered her matriculation and lecture fees, and another at the end of her first year.
She excelled in her scientific studies, winning prizes for her performance in all four of her subjects following her second year.
From Botany modules to researching root nodules
After graduating with her B.Sc., Dawson was awarded a £150 research scholarship by Her Majesty’s Commission for the Exhibition of 1851. Her pioneering research, undertaken at the Cambridge Botanical Laboratories, investigated how the addition of nitrogen and nitrates to soil, a new practice at that time, affected crop yields.
In her research paper, ‘“Nitragin” and the nodules of leguminous plants’ published by Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, she concludes that adding nitrogen “to soils rich in nitrates” is inadvisable. Adding “a supply of it to soil poor in nitrates results in an increased yield”, however the best results are obtained when “nitrates [are] added to the soil”.
Dawson may not have enrolled at the University of South Wales and Monmouthshire at all if it were not for the dedicated all-female hall of residence the College offered. Her family lived in London, too far to return home each day, and it was not considered respectable for a young, unmarried woman to live in lodgings unchaperoned.
Aberdare Hall, a Grade II-listed Gothic revival residence founded in 1885, was one of the first higher education halls for women to be founded in the UK, and remains an all-female residence and community to this day.
Doff thy caps: the first degree ceremony of the University of Wales
The first degree ceremony of the University of Wales took place in Cardiff at Park Hall, a large concert hall, on 22 October 1897.
The magazine of the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire, a student publication, reported on this auspicious occasion:
“The first to be presented was Miss Maria Dawson, for the degree of B.Sc., and her appearance was the signal for a great outburst of enthusiasm among the audience. The Deputy-Chancellor… gave her the diploma…, and with a… bow, she retired amid deafening cheers.”
Having our collections listed on Archives Hub makes them visible to a worldwide audience via Google. Since migrating our catalogues, we’ve received enquiries from as far afield as Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Sydney. Our collections hold a multitude of stories as inspirational as Maria Dawson’s, and thanks to the reach of Archives Hub, they can be discovered, remembered, and celebrated. We’re proud of our long history of supporting women’s research in science, technology, and medicine – you can find more stories of women innovating today here: Women in STEM at Cardiff University.
Alison Harvey, Archivist Special Collections and Archives Cardiff University / Prifysgol Caerdydd
On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 is a free display, mounted in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London, to celebrate the centenary of the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) which was founded in 1920 with the aim of improving the standards of dance teaching in the UK. The display uses a wide range of material from both the RAD and the V&A archive collections, some of which are listed on the Archives Hub website, to explore the RAD’s story from its foundation to its influence on ballet and dance internationally.
The display occupies three rooms in the V&A’s Theatre and Performance galleries, and each space includes original costumes, designs, drawings, artefacts, and documents, as well as film footage and many photographic images. It’s a largely chronological arrangement with the first room focusing on the founders of the RAD, the context in which the organisation was founded, and its early development.
In 1912, Philip Richardson (editor of the Dancing Times magazine) met the dancer, choreographer and teacher, Edouard Espinosa, at the Arabian Nights Ball in Covent Garden. The two men became friends and found common purpose in campaigning to improve the state of dance and dance teaching in in the UK. It was Richardson who essentially cherry-picked the five founders who agreed to form the first committee in 1920. Their international backgrounds represented the principal schools of ballet training (French, Italian, and Russian) and together they pooled their knowledge to produce a syllabus that would provide the foundation for a new British standard.
Adeline Genée, Phyllis Bedells, and Tamara Karsavina were among the greatest ballerinas of the early 20th century and committed to the RAD for the remainder of their lives. Lucia Cormani and Edouard Espinosa combined the roles of performers, choreographers, and teachers from early in their careers and were only involved with the RAD during its first decade. Their connections with the professional ballet scene were an important factor in shaping its work, its initial influence, and continuing development. Although the organisation was primarily concerned with teaching, the founders were also keen to promote the talents of young British dancers and provided many opportunities for performance.
Genée agreed to become the first President of the RAD and was instrumental in securing the patronage of Queen Mary in 1928 and the Royal Charter in 1935. Following the end of the Second World War, she turned her attention to getting ballet recognised as an educational subject to be taught in schools alongside the sister arts of music, drama, and painting. The second room explores the heart of the RAD’s business in teacher training and syllabus development more fully. We also introduce Margot Fonteyn who succeeded Adeline Genée as President of the RAD in 1954.
One of the highlights of Fonteyn’s presidency was the series of gala matinées she organised between 1958 and 1965. These performances showcased artists, companies and repertoire that had not been seen in London before, including the first appearance of Rudolf Nureyev in 1961. The galas proved to be an enormous success and provided the foundation for the legendary Fonteyn and Nureyev partnership. There were also opportunities for RAD scholars to perform in the programmes alongside the professional artists. The display includes a selection of materials relating to the galas – set and costume designs, photographs and programmes, alongside a beautiful costume from the romantic ballet Les Sylphides, which Fonteyn danced many times throughout her career.
Another highlight in Room 2 is some previously unseen film footage of Fonteyn presenting the primary grade of the children’s syllabus which she devised in 1968. Filmed in 1972 by her brother Felix, it shows how involved she was with the work of the RAD, and was only recently discovered in the archives.
The final room focuses on the current and future RAD with photographic representations of recent initiatives such as Silver Swans – dance classes for older learners of any ability, and Project B – a campaign aimed to encourage more boys into dance. Well-established events such as the Genée International Ballet Competition (now renamed ‘The Fonteyn’) are also included here with the original Adeline Genée Gold Medal (first awarded in 1931) being displayed alongside more recent rehearsal footage and photographic images from across the years.
The presidents of the RAD are brought up to date with costumes worn by Antoinette Sibley (president from 1991 – 2012) and Darcey Bussell (president from 2012 to current) displayed alongside a tunic worn by Nureyev as Prince Siegfried in Act 3 of Swan Lake. The succession of legendary ballerinas who have assumed the role of president shows the strong connection that has always existed between the RAD and the ballet profession.
Visitors to the display are also encouraged to have a go for themselves! A ballet barre area has been installed with screens showing some simple exercises from the current RAD Graded Examinations syllabus to follow along.
100 years later, the RAD is now a truly global organisation, inspiring people and communities everywhere to enjoy the benefits and joys of dance – something of which its founders would rightly be proud.
On Point: Royal Academy of Dance at 100 is on now until Monday 29th August 2022 at the V&A Museum, London (admission free).
Eleanor Fitzpatrick Archives and Records Manager Royal Academy of Dance
The flourishing of the commercial music industry in early twentieth-century America enabled people thousands of miles away in Europe to hear the new and previously unimagined sounds of jazz and blues. Carried over the Atlantic in the form of 78 rpm shellac records – many of them brought by US servicemen during the Second World War – they became an object of obsession for collectors, some of whom sought to learn more about the lives behind the names on the disc labels. One such collector was Paul Oliver (1927-2017), who would go on to become one of the foremost authorities on the history of blues music, publishing such books as Blues Fell This Morning (1960) and The Story of the Blues (1969).
As a white Englishman, he was, as he wrote, ‘acutely aware of my remoteness from the environment that nurtured the blues’, but he made it his mission to try and understand that environment, encouraged early on by meetings in Paris with the black American writer Richard Wright (who wrote a foreword to Blues Fell This Morning). Oliver did not actually set foot in America until 1960, when with the aid of a US embassy grant and BBC sound equipment, he managed to interview some 70 blues musicians and associated figures, whose transcribed voices would form the basis of the documentary book Conversation with the Blues (1965).
The original tapes of those interviews, along with correspondence with Wright, now form part of the Paul Oliver Archive of African-American Music, based in the library of Oxford Brookes University (where Oliver taught architecture for many years). The collection is in the process of being catalogued with the support of the European Blues Association and an Archives Revealed cataloguing grant. The interviews – and the bulk of Oliver’s papers – have already been catalogued, but there are over a hundred other digitised audio tapes still to go. Most of these are compilations of obscure blues songs dubbed from 78s in the early 1960s; though nowadays such material can be accessed via streaming services (thanks to reissue labels such as Document and Yazoo), the original tracklists help situate Oliver in a network of collectors engaged in intensive discographical research.
There is a tendency now to view blues retrospectively through the prism of its influence on rock music, something Oliver in his later years remained unhappy about: ‘the perception of Robert Johnson as being the grandfather of rock, has led to a peculiar kind of history… which channels everything from Mississippi through a very narrow group of people’. Oliver was drawn to more overlooked performers, admitting to an initial bias towards those with distinctive nicknames: ‘Lightnin’ [Hopkins] or Peetie Wheatstraw were not the names you’d normally come across, so to speak, where a name like Tommy Johnson or Robert Johnson would just sound like the guy next door’. Ironically, this eye for names led to Oliver playing an indirect role in rock history, as it was his allusion in a set of liner notes to the little-known bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council that reputedly gave the young Syd Barrett the idea to name his band Pink Floyd.
The world Oliver inhabited was still one of paper, analogue media, and a dependence on the postal system. For over a decade he worked on a long-distance project about Texas blues with the eccentric American folklorist Mack McCormick, who sent him tapes of gospel services and Mexican Tejano music recorded from Houston radio, turning up so much material that a comprehensive account remained forever out of reach. A desire to trace the roots of the blues to Africa also led Oliver on a field trip to Ghana, where he made several recordings in 1964. These tapes now sit alongside boxes of handwritten lyric transcriptions, typewritten discographies, research cuttings, and visual memorabilia, all testament to a lifetime spent attempting to understand ‘the relationship between the music, the song and the community’.
A selection of Oliver’s photographs from the 1960 US trip – along with audio clips from some of the interviews – can now be viewed in an online exhibition hosted by Oxford Brookes Special Collections. Lower-level catalogue descriptions will be added to the Archives Hub as the project progresses; a collection-level record can be accessed here.
David Horn, Interview with Paul Oliver (2007) Christian O’Connell, Interview with Paul Oliver (2009) Paul Oliver, ‘Author’s note’ to Blues Fell This Morning (1960)
Fabian Macpherson Blues Off the Record Project Cataloguer Oxford Brookes University Special Collections and Archives