Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Archives: celebrating 75 years of female members

Archives Hub feature for April 2019

The British Paediatric Association (BPA), which became the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) in 1996, was founded in 1928. After an inaugural meeting of six attendees, its membership grew to 60 in the first year. The members had a few things in common: they all worked in or had a professional interest in practicing, teaching or researching paediatrics, and they were exclusively men.

In the 19th century, there was huge prejudice against women as doctors and many were unable to study medicine in the UK. World War I gave women the opportunity to progress in medicine as medical schools began allocating places to women to fill the spaces left by men away fighting, but after the end of the war, they were banned from studying medicine again until the 1930s. This led to many women leaving to study abroad, mostly in Europe, before returning to the UK to take up posts.

Most female doctors of the early 20th century were unmarried and childless, and many left the profession after starting a family. At this time, women also usually came into paediatrics from other routes, such as general practice or public health, rather than specialising from the start of their career.

Career guide for married women pursuing paediatrics produced by the BPA due to the increasing number of women graduating in medicine, of which many left the profession due to family commitments. The document proposes that establishing suitable posts and offering retraining schemes and financial inducements could support female paediatricians. 1972 [archive reference: RCPCH/007/141]
Career guide for married women pursuing paediatrics produced by the BPA due to the increasing number of women graduating in medicine, of which many left the profession due to family commitments. The document proposes that establishing suitable posts and offering retraining schemes and financial inducements could support female paediatricians. 1972 [archive reference: RCPCH/007/141]
Although there was nothing in the early rules of the BPA to say that membership was exclusively for men, only male doctors were invited to become members and attend the first meeting in May 1928. The aims established when the BPA was founded were to advance the study of paediatrics and to promote friendship amongst paediatricians, but this did not seem to extend to the female paediatricians male members were working alongside in hospitals.

This led to an awkward situation in 1938 when the BPA planned a joint meeting with the Canadian Paediatric Society. As women were allowed to be members of the Canadian society but not in the British Association, the BPA were in a situation where they were treating Canadian female doctors as their equals, but not the women they worked with. At a meeting of the Executive Committee, it was unanimously decided that female members of the Canadian Society would be invited to the meeting as they would be coming as members rather than individual guests. It was stated that “this should not be regarded as a precedent” and British women continued to be excluded.

Minutes of a meeting of the Executive Committee discussing whether to invite female members of the Canadian Paediatrics Society to a joint meeting in London, 1938 [archive reference: RCPCH/004/002/006]
Minutes of a meeting of the Executive Committee discussing whether to invite female members of the Canadian Paediatrics Society to a joint meeting in London, 1938 [archive reference: RCPCH/004/002/006]
Discussions of admitting women to the BPA began in the early 1930s after being raised by various members but each time it was agreed no action would be taken. It wasn’t until April 1944 that a vote was taken at a meeting of the Executive Committee on whether to admit women as members. Minutes of the meeting state that the BPA was “criticised as not representing those actively engaged in the Practice or Teaching of Paediatrics or in Paediatric Research”, reflecting the growing numbers of women in paediatrics.

All members were asking if they would be in favour of amending the rules for women to be elected as members and the response was in favour of changing the rules, although not by a large margin. Of the 65 members, 45 responded, with 34 in favour of allowing women to become members, 12 against and one member remaining “doubtful”. It was a step forward for equality in the profession, and at the next Annual General Meeting in 1945, the first women were elected into the BPA. Catherine Chisholm became an Honorary Member and Helen MacKay, Hazel Chodak-Gregory and Beryl Corner were made ordinary members.

Minutes of a meeting of the Executive Committee showing the vote to admit female members into the BPA, 1944 [archive reference: RCPCH/004/003/011]
Minutes of a meeting of the Executive Committee showing the vote to admit female members into the BPA, 1944 [archive reference: RCPCH/004/003/011]
While it was a step forward for the Association, female paediatricians still faced prejudice in their work. June Lloyd, the first female president of the BPA, was advised early in her career to pursue a specialty that was less male-dominated than paediatrics and Mildred Creak, the first purely psychiatrist member of the BPA who joined in 1949, applied for over 90 jobs before securing a post. It was the determination of women like these that aided the acceptance and rise of women in paediatrics.

Painted design of the RCPCH Coat of Arms featuring June Lloyd, 1997 [archive reference: RCPCH/009/001/014]
Painted design of the RCPCH Coat of Arms featuring June Lloyd, 1997 [archive reference: RCPCH/009/001/014]
While criticised in its early days for not representing female doctors, the BPA quickly became supportive all members and were recognised for their achievements, regardless of gender. Dame June Lloyd was instrumental in the BPA becoming the RCPCH and features as a supporter on the coat of arms alongside Thomas Phaire, and is one of the few coats of arms to include a woman.

Today, 60% of members are women and, although much has been achieved in the past 75 years, the RCPCH still continues to strive for gender equality and examines what we can do as a College to support and encourage women in the profession.

Kate Veale
Archivist and Information Governance Co-ordinator
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

Related

Records of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, 1928 to Present Day on the Archives Hub.

RCPCH Archives online catalogue

Explore more Paediatrics collections on the Archives Hub

All images copyright Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

The Devonshire Family Collections at Chatsworth

Archives Hub feature for March 2019

The Devonshire Collection Archives held at Chatsworth span over 450 years and date back to the time of Elizabeth Talbot, Countess of Shrewsbury (c.1527-1708, better known as Bess of Hardwick), with elements of the archive dating from even earlier. They document the lives, careers and estate management of the Cavendish family – one of the most important aristocratic families in English history, counting amongst its number politicians, art connoisseurs and collectors, industrialists, and leading society figures.

Filling over 6,000 boxes, the archives can be divided broadly into estate and family papers. The family papers comprise the personal archives of many of the Dukes and Duchesses of Devonshire, other family members, families who married into the Cavendish line, and some individuals who had a close association with the family, such as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, and the landscape gardener and architect Sir Joseph Paxton.

Sorting and listing of the family correspondence began in the 1920s, resulting in several extremely large series of correspondence focused on chronological or specific ducal periods. However, our first submissions to the Archives Hub – published this month – focus primarily on a separate group of smaller archives known as the ‘Devonshire Family Collections’. These predominantly date from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries, although they do contain some much earlier material – notably in the form of papers relating to the marital dispute between Bess of Hardwick and her fourth husband George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. Money and property played a major role in this dispute, but the rift between husband and wife was exacerbated by Shrewsbury’s role as custodian of Mary Queen of Scots for 15 years. So notable were the couple involved that Queen Elizabeth I herself intervened in an attempt to reconcile husband and wife – although this ultimately had little effect.

Letter from Elizabeth I to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, 12 May 1586.
Letter from Elizabeth I to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, 12 May 1586, mediating in the dispute between the Earl and his wife, Bess of Hardwick.

From the 18th and 19th centuries, there are extensive networks of family correspondence. Letters were exchanged between family members in the UK – between those resident at or moving between different properties and estates, between city and country, and between parents and children at school. Letters also crossed continents as a crucial means of keeping in touch when family members were travelling or working abroad: there are letters home from family members undertaking the continental Grand Tour in the eighteenth century; letters from William Cavendish, 7th Duke of Devonshire, sent home from an American trip in 1859; and – from the same writer as a much younger man – some wonderfully detailed letters sent to his mother from Russia in 1826, where he accompanied the 6th Duke of Devonshire to attend the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I. Amongst descriptions of palaces, country houses, working mills, customs and language, the voice of an 18-year-old also shines through: in one letter he remarks rather wearily that he hopes when they get to Moscow they will not have to look at any more relics of Peter the Great as they have seen so many already.

Cavendish family members served for centuries as MPs in the Whig and Liberal cause, so there is extensive political correspondence amongst the family papers. The papers of Spencer Compton Cavendish, the 8th Duke (better known throughout his political career as the Marquess of Hartington) include letters from W.E. Gladstone amongst others. His wife’s papers (Louise Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire) contain letters of condolence she received on his death, including one from a young Winston Churchill expressing his gratitude for having had an opportunity to work with the 8th Duke. Also notable are the papers of the 8th Duke’s brother, Lord Frederick Cavendish (1836-82), which contain references to the 1867 Reform Act, industrial reform, education and much more. There are also posthumous papers relating to his death in a politically-motivated murder in Phoenix Park, Dublin, in 1882.

Photograph of Spencer Compton Cavendish when he was Marquess of Hartington, c.1880.
Photograph of Spencer Compton Cavendish when he was Marquess of Hartington, c.1880.

In addition to letters, there are diaries of various family members, including one documenting the 4th Duke of Devonshire’s Grand Tour in 1739-40; scrapbooks and commonplace books – including some compiled by Duchess Georgiana (1757-1806), whose papers also contain some of her own literary manuscripts; personal and household accounts; official documents; and keepsakes and mementoes such as locks of hair treasured by parents and spouses in memory of lost family members.

‘The Dog’, a manuscript poem by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.
‘The Dog’, a manuscript poem by Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. This is just one of the archival items which will be on display at Chatsworth this year as part of a major exhibition ‘The Dog: A Celebration’, running from
23 March-6 October 2019.

Special mention must be made of William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire (1790-1858). An art collector and bibliophile who loved entertaining and travel, he was also responsible for transforming Chatsworth through the addition of the great North Wing and his support of Joseph Paxton’s innovative work in the gardens. As so many of the family collections date from the 19th century, he and his activities feature in many of them.

Photograph of the 6th Duke dating from c.1852.
Photograph of the 6th Duke dating from c.1852.

The 6th Duke also had a great archival sensibility and his own papers are particularly rich: significant trips, visits or activities are meticulously recorded in scrapbooks containing letters, cuttings, tickets, invitations, calling cards and other printed ephemera (Papers of William George Spencer Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire). Alongside journals, diaries and notebooks, he also kept yearly datebooks detailing places he visited. A great socialiser, he recorded lists of acquaintances as well as keeping guest books and visitors’ books.

An excerpt from one of the 6th Duke’s guest books, in which his guests’ weights were recorded using his ‘weighing machine’.
An excerpt from one of the 6th Duke’s guest books, in which his guests’ weights were recorded using his ‘weighing machine’. This excerpt, from 1816-17, shows that the Grand Duke Nicholas (later the Tsar of Russia) weighed 13 stone 7 pounds – exactly the same as his friend the 6th Duke who appears as the third entry.

There are also the manuscript and proofs of his Handbook to Chatsworth and Hardwick (1844), which stands the test of time as an engaging and accessible guide book to his two principal houses; his writing was admired by Charles Dickens, who read his copy of the Handbook on a train journey back to London after visiting the 6th Duke at Chatsworth and commented that the writing was worthy of a novelist.

An excerpt from the 6th Duke’s joke book
An excerpt from the 6th Duke’s joke book: he was an enthusiastic collector of jokes and witticisms, which he carefully recorded and indexed by theme (from ‘moral’ to ‘highly improper and unfit’).

Most of the family collections now have item-level catalogues available in PDF form via the Chatsworth website. Many of the other, larger, collections have item-level lists in various states and formats which can be provided on request. We will be submitting further collection-level descriptions to the Archives Hub in due course.

Fran Baker
Archivist & Librarian
Chatsworth

Related

Browse all Devonshire Collection Archives, Chatsworth descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.

The Dog: A celebration at Chatsworth
Exhibition: 23 March – 6 October 2019

All images copyright Chatsworth House Trust and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

“Gather them in” – the musical treasures of W.T. Freemantle

Archives Hub feature for February 2019

A new exhibition at the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery at the University of Leeds explores the story of a forgotten Yorkshireman whose achievements are now being reassessed.

Dr Bryan White, Senior Lecturer in the School of Music at the University of Leeds, has been researching the material collected by the Sheffield-based organist, antiquarian and collector William Thomas Freemantle (1849-1931). Dr White’s investigations have revealed a tenacious collector who would “endure martyrdom in Siberia” to acquire unique treasures for his library.

Photograph of W.T. Freemantle, 1912. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, MS 1700/6/7.
Photograph of W.T. Freemantle, 1912. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, MS 1700/6/7.

W.T. Freemantle’s musical interests extended widely and he gathered a valuable collection of manuscripts and prints. Much of this material has only recently been catalogued, and more still remains to be explored.

“W.T.” was born in Chichester and moved with his family to Sheffield in 1855. At the age of 16 he was apprenticed organist at Lincoln Cathedral and developed an interest in the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847).

Engraving of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy made by A.H. Payne and W.C. Wrankmore, after a portrait by Theodore Hildebrand (c.1835). Leeds University Library, Special Collections, Brotherton Collection, uncatalogued holdings.
Engraving of Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy made by A.H. Payne and W.C. Wrankmore, after a portrait by Theodore Hildebrand (c.1835). Leeds University Library, Special Collections, Brotherton Collection, uncatalogued holdings.

Freemantle’s enthusiasm for Mendelssohn ran against the tide. At the mid-point of the nineteenth century the composer was a towering figure in the musical landscape, particularly in Britain. Mendelssohn’s reputation waned in subsequent decades, but Freemantle continued to value his music highly. Today Mendelssohn is again one of the most popular Romantic composers, and Freemantle’s collection has much to offer the researcher.

Freemantle described his metamorphosis into a collector in a lecture entitled “How I became an autograph collector and what I have got”. He tells of a visit to a Sheffield market where he stumbled upon a “rather soiled looking lot of manuscript music”. As he worked through the pile he found a Mendelssohn signature and felt “my blood had heated, my pulse had quickened” … “Oh! That bundle of music! I was now indeed an autograph collector.”

Autograph manuscript of Mendelssohn’s “Sonata” in B flat minor, 1823. This is the only source for this early sonata. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, BC MS Mendelssohn/Scores 1.
Autograph manuscript of Mendelssohn’s “Sonata” in B flat minor, 1823. This is the only source for this early sonata. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, BC MS Mendelssohn/Scores 1.

Several decades later his Mendelssohn collection encompassed 40 autograph manuscript scores, 300 letters, and hundreds of books, musical prints, concert programmes and other ephemera touching upon all aspects of the composer’s life and that of his family and colleagues. In the 1870s Freemantle began a biography of the composer, but eventually put the project aside when the extent of the surviving material overwhelmed him.

Engraving of Fanny Mendelssohn and her husband Wilhelm Hensel (August Weger and Johann-Paul Singer, 1846). Leeds University Library, Special Collections, Brotherton Collection, uncatalogued holdings.
Engraving of Fanny Mendelssohn and her husband Wilhelm Hensel (August Weger and Johann-Paul Singer, 1846). Leeds University Library, Special Collections, Brotherton Collection, uncatalogued holdings.

Freemantle collected music by other significant figures, and in particular committed himself to the music of Charles Dibdin (1745-1814), a prolific composer of theatre music and songs. Freemantle acquired a substantial set of Dibdin’s autograph manuscripts, working with great skill and dedication to organise and identify this very disordered material.

Charles Dibdin, autograph sketches of “Here’s all her gear” from his comic opera Rose and Colin, 1778. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, MS 1700/2/38.
Charles Dibdin, autograph sketches of “Here’s all her gear” from his comic opera Rose and Colin, 1778. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, MS 1700/2/38.

W.T. also took a strong interest in Sheffield history. He acquired books, pottery, painting, prints and tokens from the local area and wrote and lectured on local history. His collection of Rockingham pottery was eventually bought by the Sheffield Corporation and now resides at Weston Park Museum along with his collection of coins and seals.

Freemantle sold his Mendelssohn collection along with his entire library to Lord Brotherton of Wakefield sometime in 1927-28. The purchase was probably brokered by Brotherton’s personal librarian, J. Alexander Symington (1887-1961). Symington had oversight of the Freemantle Collection before it was formally accessioned by the University Library in Leeds, and he took the opportunity to sell significant parts of the Mendelssohn and Dibdin material to libraries and collectors in the United States. His actions played a significant role in suppressing the extent of Freemantle’s activities and his reputation as a collector.

Photograph of W.T. Freemantle and family at Barbot Hall, 1913. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, Brotherton Collection, uncatalogued holdings.
Photograph of W.T. Freemantle and family at Barbot Hall, 1913. Leeds University Library, Special Collections, Brotherton Collection, uncatalogued holdings.

Had Freemantle’s music collections remained intact he would be recognised as a pioneering figure in Mendelssohn studies, and more widely as a significant British collector of his era. Thankfully, the rest of Freemantle’s materials were left untouched and now form an important part of Special Collections at the University of Leeds. Now that Freemantle’s work is being reassessed, the real story of his achievements can begin to be told!

The exhibition runs from 1 March-31 July 2019 in the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery at the University of Leeds.

On show for the first time to the general public are many of the Mendelssohn manuscript scores housed in Special Collections at Leeds University Library, alongside other items from Freemantle’s extensive music collections.

The Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery is free and open to all. For directions, opening times and our programme of related events see:

https://library.leeds.ac.uk/galleries

Get all the latest news and behind the scenes insights by following the Gallery on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – @LULGalleries

Special Collections at Leeds University Library is home to hundreds of thousands of rare books, manuscripts, archives and artworks. Our collections offer a rich resource for staff, students, and the wider research community. Start your search here:

https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections

Dr Bryan White
Senior Lecturer, School of Music, University of Leeds

Rhiannon Lawrence-Francis
Collections and Engagement Manager, Special Collections, University of Leeds

Related

Miscellaneous papers collected by W.T. Freemantle, ca.1775-ca.1925

Browse all University of Leeds Special Collections descriptions on the Archives Hub.

The Mendelssohn papers, mid-18th-19th century (held by the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford)

Previous features on the University of Leeds Special Collections:

Sentimental Journey: a focus on travel in the archives

Recipes through the ages 

World War One

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

Survey: Digital Skills in the Archives Sector

 

Do you work in the archives sector? What are your digital strengths? What digital support and training do you still need?

The National Archives and Jisc have created a survey to hear the latest thoughts of those working within (or who have a professional connection to) the sector on all aspects of their digital services and capabilities:

https://www.snapsurveys.com/wh/s.asp?k=154765868779

The results of this survey will directly inform The National Archives’ programme of work in support of the sector over the next 3-5 years. In collaboration with Jisc, The National Archives want to tackle various challenges at the intersection of archival practice and digital technologies, as well as to celebrate digital excellence in archives whenever possible.

The survey takes around 20-30 minutes to complete but not all questions are compulsory and many respondents will only need to answer certain applicable sections.

If you have any questions, please contact asd@nationalarchives.gov.uk. Thanks in advance for your help.

For those in peril on the sea – Seamen’s Missions archives at Hull History Centre

Archives Hub feature for January 2019

Over the past year, staff and volunteers at Hull University Archives have been working on the collections of two maritime charitable organisations: The Anglican run Missions to Seamen; and the Catholic run Apostleship of the Sea.

Photograph of an early ‘floating institute’ operated by the Missions to Seamen, late 19th century [U DMS].
Photograph of an early ‘floating institute’ operated by the Missions to Seamen, late 19th century [U DMS].
Background to Seamen’s Missions

During the 18th and 19th centuries there was a growing concern over the spiritual wellbeing of those who spent their working lives at sea. First came the development of bible societies which existed to provide literature to sailors for their moral enrichment. Following on from this was the development of the seamen’s Bethels, which provided floating spaces where seamen could listen to sermons and take part in religious services.

The impetus for the establishment of both Missions to Seamen and Apostleship of the Sea can be found in the extension of this area to include concern with the physical welfare of seamen. Since their inception, the work of both organisations has been fundamentally the same: to minister, both spiritually and physically, to the needs of seafarers who find themselves away from home and family because of work.

The Missions to Seamen was founded in 1856 as a denominational society, Anglican in outlook. The first minute book of the society illustrates that the practice of ministering to seafarers was already active at the point of formation. Many of the pages, for instance, are taken up with discussions of how best to integrate existing local work, such as that undertaken by the Bristol Society established in 1837, with the newly formed national society.

The formation of the Apostleship of the Sea came later, in 1920, although the work of the Catholic Church in this area began much earlier. The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul had been undertaking charitable work on behalf of the poor, including seamen, since 1833. In 1894, the ‘Société des Oeuvres de Mer’ was established in France to tend to the needs of fishermen, and represented the first dedicated Catholic Mission. In Britain, five years later, a society was established at Glasgow under the name of the ‘Apostleship of Prayer’ by a Father Egger, again as a dedicated mission to those working on the sea. It was the work of this Glasgow society which eventually led to the papal sanctioning of the establishment of the Apostleship of the Sea as a Catholic society in Britain.

Ship Visiting and Seamens’ Centres

From the earliest days of their establishment, the undertaking of ship visiting by chaplains and the running of seamens’ centres in ports was at the heart of the work of both societies. The Missions to Seamen was known throughout the world by the sign of the ‘Flying Angel’, whilst the Apostleship of the Sea was known internationally as the ‘Apostolatus Maris’. For over a century, these symbols were displayed on badges worn by chaplains and on flags flown outside the centres operated by the two societies. The signs became immediately recognisable by seamen of all nationalities as symbols of aid.

Logo of the Flying Angel [U DMS].
Logo of the Flying Angel [U DMS].
Logo of the Stella Maris [U DAPS/12/4].
Logo of the Stella Maris [U DAPS/12/4].
Chaplains were appointed by both societies to minister to seamen on ships entering individual ports. Where ships were docked and crew unable to alight, the chaplain had responsibility for visiting the crew on-board in order to deliver spiritual reading material and to check on their welfare. Bibles were provided and publications produced by both societies were handed out to seamen. Both collections contain series of these publications, which include newsletters, journals, prayer cards and pamphlets. Missions to Seamen also contains an extensive series of personnel files for chaplains and lay readers who undertook this aspect of work. The files consist mostly of correspondence, applications for posts, and some photographs of individuals about their work.

Photograph of the interior of the original Apostleship of the Sea house in Glasgow, c.1920s [U DAPS/7/2].
Photograph of the interior of the original Apostleship of the Sea house in Glasgow, c.1920s [U DAPS/7/2].
Seamen’s centres were established at significant ports up and down the British Isles and, later, across the world. They provided facilities for relaxation, refreshment, and spiritual nourishment, and were intended to provide for seamen needing a place to stay whilst in port, whether this was overnight or merely for a few hours. Facilities included games rooms, libraries, dining areas, and a shop. Most centres incorporated a chapel where services and prayers were held, or else were associated with a local church where such spiritual ministry could be sought. In some ports, these centres were operated jointly by both societies as a more efficient way of ministering to the seafaring community which they served.

Both collections contain series of individual port files which include reports, correspondence, photographs and pamphlets. Hull, as a significant port town during the 19th and early 20th century, features heavily in the archival material, as does Southampton and Bristol, along with ports on the rivers Thames, Mersey, Tyne, Wear, and Tees. Internationally, Antwerp, Buenos Aires, Dunkirk, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Kobe, Mombasa, Port of Spain, Rotterdam, Santos, Vlissingen, and Yokohama, are well represented in the records.

Lighthouses, Lightships and Launches

The work of both Missions to Seamen and Apostleship of the Sea extended beyond those sailing on board ships to include those maritime workers who faced months of isolation manning lighthouses and lightships. Launches were acquired to enable chaplains and representatives of the societies to visit these remote workers. The launches were used to deliver reading material and personnel to allow the holding of services at lighthouses or on-board lightships. One such launch was the ‘John Ashley’ motor vessel. Operated by the Missions to Seamen, it was named after the Reverend John Ashley, an Anglican clergyman responsible for the establishment of the Bristol Mission in 1837. A significant number of files relating to the management and operation of the ‘John Ashley’ can be found in the Missions to Seamen collection, and these files include correspondence, photographs and minutes of the management committee.

Photograph of a visit paid to Bishop Rock lighthouse by Missions to Seamen representatives for the Scilly Isles [U DMS].
Photograph of a visit paid to Bishop Rock lighthouse by Missions to Seamen
representatives for the Scilly Isles [U DMS].
In the 1920s, a ‘Lighthouse Adoption Scheme’ was established by Missions to Seamen, whereby groups attached to local schools or parish churches were encouraged to take on responsibility for writing to and sending monthly reading material to lighthouse keepers. These groups were known as ‘parents’, and had special duties at Christmas time when they would raise money to send hampers and care packages containing food and warm clothing. One such group was constituted from members of the Guild of St Anne in 1925 to oversee efforts at Bishop Rock lighthouse in the Scilly Isles. Over the years, members of the Bishop Rock ‘parent’ group included Miss Jean Austin Dobson, Miss Ivy Shotter, and Miss D. Hobson. The collection contains Lighthouse and Light Vessel files consisting of correspondence, photographs, reports and minutes, and includes one file which contains correspondence between the Bishop Rock ‘Parents’ and headquarters in London.

Ongoing Work

The work of both societies continues to this day, largely unchanged, although increasingly incorporating themes of justice and legal rights for seamen. Meanwhile, work on these historic records continues at Hull History Centre. Whilst the records of the Apostleship of the Sea have been fully catalogued [U DAPS], work is ongoing to complete the cataloguing of the records of the Missions to Seamen [U DMS]. This work is expected to be finished by August 2019, however, access may be possible before then with prior notice by email.

Claire Weatherall
Assistant Archivist
Hull University Archives at Hull History Centre

Related

Records of Apostleship of the Sea, 1922-2014

Browse all Hull History Centre collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Hull History Centre and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

The Frederick Lanchester archive at Coventry University

Archives Hub feature for December 2018

The work of car manufacturer, engineer, scientist and inventor Frederick Lanchester (1868-1946) is being celebrated by the Lanchester Interactive Archive project at Coventry University. He was one of the UK’s leading automobile engineers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and creator in 1895 of the first all-British four-wheel petrol driven motor car.

Frederick Lanchester at the wheel of the 8 h.p. two cylinder Lanchester known as the ‘Gold Medal Phaeton’ with his brother George as passenger. c1899.
Frederick Lanchester at the wheel of the 8 h.p. two cylinder Lanchester known as the ‘Gold Medal Phaeton’ with his brother George as passenger. c1899. Coventry University [reference no. LAN/1/16/4].
He also made significant contributions in aerodynamics, helping to establish key principles of powered flight and publishing work about it in the 1890s before the Wright brothers’ first successful take off in 1903. His mathematical theories on military combat and strategy have formed the basis for operations models commonly used in business, and he advised the government on military matters in the First and Second World Wars. His interest in these areas, along with work on optics and field of vision, colour photography, musical notation, pneumatic-framed buildings, radios, loudspeakers, gramophones and many other subjects has led to him being described as the ‘British da Vinci’.

Frederick Lanchester with one of his model gliders used to make aerodynamic measurements, 1894.
Frederick Lanchester with one of his model gliders used to make aerodynamic measurements, 1894. Coventry University [reference no. LAN/7/4].
His work on cars led to him building the first all-British motor boat in the 1890s and then the first outboard motor engine – because restrictive speed limits on roads meant that he could not carry out meaningful engine tests in cars.

Image from a glass plate negative showing the rear view of the first all British motor boat, 1894.
Image from a glass plate negative showing the rear view of the first all British motor boat, 1894. Coventry University [reference no. LAN/7/125].
The Lanchester Engine Company (later Lanchester Motor Company) was formed in 1899. Acquiring factories in Birmingham and then Coventry, Frederick Lanchester spent much of his life and career in the West Midlands. His experiments revolutionised the development of gas and petrol engines. His early car models contained a radical new gearbox design later adopted by Henry Ford, and in 1902 the Lanchester Motor Company became the first to market disc brakes to the public. Another car innovation ahead of its time was a hybrid petrol-electric car built in 1927, which is now at thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.

In 1930 the Birmingham Small Arms Company bought the Lanchester Motor Company and made it a subsidiary of Daimler, where Frederick Lanchester continued to set benchmarks in car design. His models were favoured by the then Duke of York and future King George VI. The last Lanchester cars were produced by Daimler in Coventry in the mid-1950s.

George Lanchester’s daughter Nancy in the driver’s seat of a 4-door Straight 8 Lanchester, 1930.
George Lanchester’s daughter Nancy in the driver’s seat of a 4-door Straight 8 Lanchester, 1930. Coventry University ([reference no. LAN/7/57].
Despite this, Frederick Lanchester has not become a household name even though his skills were widely recognized by his peers in the scientific community, so the Lanchester Interactive Archive project aims to rectify this and increase awareness of this talented man.

The project started in earnest in early 2016 to digitise much of the material in the collection, which is the largest Frederick Lanchester archive in the world. Although the project’s first phase (supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and others) ends in April 2019, Coventry University will continue to support the project and the Lanchester Interactive Archive space (LIAS) that was created in its library to showcase Lanchester’s life and his work. The university will also explore more external funding to digitise further items.

The outreach work that has taken place during the project will carry on, such as the Lanchester Days held during Coventry Motofest, which include a variety of Lanchester cars parked outside the university library. Individuals and groups will still be able to visit the LIAS, which specialises in showcasing science, engineering, history and creative thinking. The project also celebrated in October 2018 the 150th anniversary of Lanchester’s birth.

Workshops tailored for any age group, and visits to schools, organisations, and communities will continue; and augmented reality (AR) and pop-up displays mean that the message can be taken outside the university.

An augmented reality tablet in a car steering wheel shaped frame being used in the Lanchester Interactive Archive space at Coventry University library, 2017.
An augmented reality tablet in a car steering wheel shaped frame being used in the Lanchester Interactive Archive space at Coventry University
library, 2017. Coventry University.

The LIAS has touch screens that include interactive games and puzzles to explain the engineering and technical aspects of Lanchester’s work and his inventions, and visitors can point AR tablets at the exhibition images to produce additional information on the tablets. Visitors can also sit in a car built by one of the project consultants (Lanchester historian and enthusiast Chris Clark).

The project had its official launch in April 2017 and a special guest was Danella Bagnall, a former student at the university’s predecessor Coventry Polytechnic, who is now Executive Vice-President Product Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover (China/Asia Pacific Region).

Over 21,000 images from the collection will be available by April 2019 via the university’s online catalogue including personal and business correspondence, sketch books, pocket note books, copies of his patent applications, blueprints, copies and manuscript originals of his published works and a large collection of contemporary photographs of Lanchester cars and other vehicles.

Other items that have not been catalogued yet include Lanchester family papers, objects, and donations from individuals and organizations such as the Lanchester Trust, a charity that supports the university’s Lanchester collection work.

Page from a sketch book showing drawings and notes on radio set design and signal strength, 1929-1936.
Page from a sketch book showing drawings and notes on radio set design and signal strength, 1929-1936. Coventry University [reference no. LAN/4/8/97].
The project aims to open up Lanchester’s archives for use and show their potential for research in a variety of subjects, and to inspire a new generation of engineers and designers. One student at Coventry has already used an 1897 Lanchester patent for an aircraft design in his work. As part of his MSc in aerospace engineering, Osita Ugwueze created a flight simulation model of the manned flying machine, which was never built at the time. Osita used advanced computer software to prove that Lanchester’s machine would have flown. His work also suggested it would have been more aerodynamically stable than the Wright brothers’ machine that was used in the world’s first powered flight. The simulation was among several designs showcased by Coventry University students at the 2018 Farnborough International Airshow.

Illustration from the Frederick Lanchester patent for improvements in and relating to aerial machines, 1897.
Illustration from the Frederick Lanchester patent for improvements in and relating to aerial machines, 1897. Coventry University [reference no.
LAN/6/34/10].
More information can be found on the Lanchester project website which includes a link to Coventry University’s online catalogue.

The project has updated its catalogue on the Archives Hub website for the university’s Frederick Lanchester collection and more records will be added soon.

Gary Collins
Archivist, Coventry University

Bibliography

The Lanchester Legacy volume 1 1895-1931 Chris Clark (Coventry University 1995)

The Lanchester Legacy volume 2 1931-1956 Chris Clark (Lanchester Legacy Ltd 2016)

The Lanchester Legacy volume 3: a celebration of genius ed. John Fletcher (Coventry University 1996)

Browse all Coventry University archives collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Coventry University (available via Creative Commons 4.0 license) and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Results of the 2018 student digital experience insights survey

Jisc aims to understand more about the student experience and student needs as part of its mission within UK higher and further education. The recent digital experience survey offers some useful findings about how students feel when it comes to digital skills and the digital experience.

37,720 students across 83 higher and further education institutions (HE and FE) are included in the data, equivalent to approximately 16% of colleges and 30% of universities in the UK.

Key findings are:

  • Students – regardless of setting – are positive about the quality of their institution’s digital provision, as well as digital teaching and learning on their course.
  • Over a third of all students want digital technologies to be used more on their course, although this does imply that the majority do not share this view.
  • Only 50% of FE and 69% of HE students think digital skills are important for their chosen career, and few agreed that their course prepares them for the digital workplace. This implies that there are many students who do not think digital skills are essential.
  • Many students bring their own devices to their institution but can’t use these to access subject-specialist software or online learning content. This indicates a lack of flexibility and interoperability.
  • One in five students use assistive or adaptive technologies, with 8% of HE and 6% of FE students considering these vital to their learning needs
  • About eight in ten students used a smartphone to support their learning, which is no surprise, and shows the importance of ensuring that sites are mobile-friendly
  • Around 10% of FE students rated Google search as their number one app or tool, compared with just over 1% of HE students. HE students on the other hand were twice as likely to cite Google Scholar as they were to cite Google on its own as a search tool. HE students also used a wider range of tools for online research, including online journals and journal catalogues.
  • A third of all students turned first to their fellow students when looking for support with digital devices or skills. A third of FE students turned first to their lecturers in comparison with only 8% of HE students. A third of HE students turned to online information in comparison with only 14% of FE students.

It appears that students feel there should be greater opportunities to work more flexibly, both in terms of device use and learning spaces, but overall the responses are generally positive in terms of the digital experience and there are high levels of overall satisfaction with institutional provision (FE: 74%, HE: 88%) and the quality of teaching and learning on students’ courses (FE: 72%, HE: 74%).

Read the full report:
http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/6967/1/Digital_experience_insights_survey_2018.pdf

 

The Imogen Holst archive: papers of a passionate and open-minded woman musician

Archives Hub feature for November 2018

Last year the Britten-Pears Foundation completed a project, funded by the National Cataloguing Grant programme, to catalogue Imogen Holst’s archive held in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, at The Red House, the former home of composer Benjamin Britten and his partner the singer Peter Pears.

Imogen Holst (1907-1984) was the daughter of composer Gustav Holst, best-known for The Planets. Holst, herself a composer, is perhaps best-known today as Britten’s musical assistant, but she also had an exceptional, wide-ranging but lesser known career as, amongst other things, educator, conductor and music traveller for CEMA, the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts, work which put her at the forefront of the development of music education and community music-making in England in the twentieth century.

Every Tuesday afternoon in Stories from the Archive a member of the Foundation’s collections team gives a short talk to Red House site visitors focusing on an item from the holdings. I chose to share with visitors my enthusiasm for an item from Holst’s papers: her 1932 to 1934 scrapbook. This is the sixth of ten large scrapbooks she started as a student at the Royal College of Music in 1926, and continued until 1941, in which she pasted letters, postcards, programmes, press cuttings, photographs, tickets, drawings and other ephemeral material, writing captions next to the items. These volumes represent a colourful social record of cultural and musical life in pre-war England as well as telling the personal story of a passionate and open-minded woman musician.

Holst’s scrapbook, 1932-1934 (ref no. HOL/2/7/6)
Holst’s scrapbook, 1932-1934 (ref no. HOL/2/7/6)

Holst left the RCM in 1930, having received the Octavia Travelling Scholarship for composition, a prize of £100 which she spent travelling round Europe, returning home in May 1931. In this sixth scrapbook we see Holst at the start of her career – using her talents as composer, arranger, piano accompanist, conductor, public speaker, teacher, writer and organiser, as well as her immense enthusiasm, to earn a living. All the threads are already here that will run through the rest of her life, echoing through her entire archive – skills she continued to use, and passions she followed, whilst teaching at Dartington Hall, Devon, after moving to Aldeburgh in 1952 and in her role as artistic director of the Aldeburgh Festival from 1956 to 1977.

Early in 1932 Holst joined the staff of the English Folk Dance and Song Society. She was passionate about the preservation and spread of our folksong and dance heritage and her scrapbook is full of press cuttings and programmes documenting her travels throughout the country lecturing, teaching, conducting and playing as accompanist for the Society, as well as her work arranging traditional folk tunes for amateurs and professionals to play and sing.

Holst’s bookplate reflecting her enduring passion for folk music and dance (ref no. HOL/2/20/1/81)
Holst’s bookplate reflecting her enduring passion for folk music and dance (ref no. HOL/2/20/1/81)

This sixth scrapbook epitomizes Holst’s enthusiastic and lifelong work on amateur and community music making, and the important role she played in the democratization of music. We see her as a keen supporter of the newly formed Pipers’ Guild, which encouraged people to make and play their own musical instruments. Items in the scrapbook document Holst lecturing on the making and playing of bamboo pipes, arranging old English airs for performance on pipes as well as composing original tunes for both beginner and more advanced players.

Holst with her Burford choir at the Abingdon Festival, 1933 (ref no. HOL/2/7/6/109)
Holst with her Burford choir at the Abingdon Festival, 1933 (ref no. HOL/2/7/6/109)

Almost a decade later Holst’s passion and gift for working with amateurs led her to work, from 1940 to 1942, under CEMA, a forerunner of the Arts Council, as a music traveller to boost home morale during the war by encouraging musical activities in rural communities. Holst was allocated the south west of the country and travelled the wartime countryside, often cycling or walking between villages, to keep people singing, dancing and playing while the bombs fell. The reports Holst filed whilst working in this role were digitised as part of our cataloguing project and can be read in full from the Britten-Pears Foundation’s online catalogue. They illustrate the central role played by women in the crucial task of morale-boosting on the home front during the war.

Imogen Holst’s continuing enthusiasm for writing for and working with amateurs made her a much-loved part of the music scene in Aldeburgh and more widely in Suffolk.

Holst’s music manuscript for Badingham Chime for 12 handbells, 1969 (ref no. HOL/2/1/1/99)
Holst’s music manuscript for Badingham Chime for 12 handbells, 1969 (ref no. HOL/2/1/1/99)

This enthusiasm emanates from the scrapbook page recording a Gustav Holst Concert on which is pasted programme and press cuttings from a concert held in Carlisle on 12 Feb 1933 featuring first performances of new works by both father and daughter. Imogen Holst’s composition, a suite for brass band entitled The Unfortunate Traveller, was dedicated to St. Stephen’s Band – the group of amateurs giving the work its first performance. Here Holst crossed social and cultural barriers, not only by writing for brass band, – the News Chronicle article reports on ‘the first occasion on which an original brass band work by a woman composer has been publicly performed’ – but also by conducting the performance herself. Holst is quoted in The Daily Mail review ‘This is the first time, so far as I know, that a woman has conducted a brass band at a public concert’. We see Holst as a pioneer, composing throughout her career for instruments such as brass band, pipes, recorders and hand bells, bringing these instruments into the art music or cultivated music worlds.

Holst conducting a military band, 1948, photographer: Nicholas Horne (ref no. HOL/2/11/4/6)
Holst conducting a military band, 1948, photographer: Nicholas Horne (ref no. HOL/2/11/4/6)

Imogen Holst pasted into this scrapbook one of the last letters she received from her father, in May 1934, the month he died. Her papers represent the most significant father-daughter relationship in 20th century British music and culture, one that added immeasurably to the democratization of music during this period, as both Holsts spent their lives and careers dedicated to the task of encouraging amateur music-making. The archive tells the story of the shared ideals, interests and talents of father and daughter – as composers, conductors, music educators, ethnomusicologists and community musicians – however we see from Gustav’s letter that he did not share his daughter’s enthusiasm for pipes!

Letter from Gustav to Imogen, May 1934, congratulating her on the publication of her Five short airs on a ground (ref no. HOL/2/7/6/223)
Letter from Gustav to Imogen, May 1934, congratulating her on the publication of her Five short airs on a ground (ref no. HOL/2/7/6/223)

Holst’s scrapbooks encapsulate, in a wonderfully lively and colourful way, what a remarkable, gifted, pioneering, energetic, generous and busy woman she was. Her papers form part of the Britten-Pears Foundation Archive which documents the lives and work of Britten and Pears, as well as their wider collaborative relationships through the papers of librettists, singers, producers, designers, musical assistants and organisations with whom they worked.

Judith Ratcliffe
Archivist
Britten-Pears Foundation Archive

Related

Imogen Holst archive

Browse all Britten-Pears Foundation collections on the Archives Hub

Britten-Pears Foundation online integrated catalogue

Holst Archive cataloguing project blog

The Holst archive project website gives an overview of the collection, details of digitised items available, list of works and further resources for researchers.

Bibliography

Imogen Holst: A Life in Music, revised edition, edited by Christopher Grogan, Woodbridge: Boydell, 2010 (first published 2007)

All images copyright the Pears-Britten Foundation and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

The Calvin Wells Palaeopathology Archive

Archives Hub feature for October 2018

Calvin Wells examining a human skull in his office
Calvin Wells examining a human skull in his office at White Horse Cottage, Hapton, Norfolk, c.1970. The University of Bradford, Bradford [Catalogue no. CAL/11/32].
Calvin Percival Bamflyde Wells (1908-1978) was a pioneer in the study of disease in archaeological skeletal remains, otherwise known as palaeopathology. A qualified medical doctor who spoke several languages Wells’ publications continue to be cited by researchers and academics working across a range of disciplines, including bioarchaeology, anthropology and the history of medicine. In 2017 the University of Bradford received a Wellcome Trust Research Resources grant to catalogue Wells’ archive of writings, research material and correspondence. One of the most significant parts of the collection relate to Wells’ skeletal reports, which document his analysis of excavated human remains from archaeological sites around the world.

Archaeological skulls featuring typically male and female traits, c.1970.
Archaeological skulls featuring typically male and female traits, c.1970. The University of Bradford, Bradford [Catalogue no. CAL/11/18].
Upon his retirement from medicine at the age of 55 Wells started to study palaeopathology full-time, and soon became the United Kingdom’s leading authority on the subject. Working out of his cottage in rural Norfolk Wells received specimens by post which he examined on his kitchen table, or weather depending, garden. A consummate professional Wells offered an efficient service though insisted that he was paid for his reports, and preferably published in a noteworthy journal. Among Wells’ clients were many distinguished archaeologists, such as Glyn Daniel, Sonia Chadwick-Hawkes, Cecil Hackett, and Charles and Barbara Green. Aside from his first and most impactful book Bones, Bodies and Disease, Wells’ most influential work remains the 120 skeletal reports he produced between 1965 and 1978. A biography of Wells in the Global History of Palaeopathology notes that:

“Calvin Wells’ skeletal reports are remembered for two reasons: the data presentation is meticulously executed and useful to bioarchaeologists today, and his interpretation for the evidence of disease are fascinating and creative, if not necessarily scientifically supported”

The extent of Wells’ dedication to the scientific method is revealed in the archive material, which includes handwritten notes, tables and graphs alongside photographs and radiographs of bone specimens. Almost paradoxically Wells combined a clinical approach to palaeopathological examination with an imaginative, if eccentric, manner in interpreting causes of injury and death in ancient people. For those familiar with Wells’ skeletal reports it would not be surprising to learn that he wrote a considerable amount of short fiction in his spare time. A fascination with the romantic and tragic bled into Wells’ skeletal reports, which has since left an indelible mark on his scientific bibliography.

Extract from a skeletal report 'Report on some Bronze Age human remains, Methwold', c.1955.
Extract from a skeletal report ‘Report on some Bronze Age human remains, Methwold’, c.1955. The University of Bradford, Bradford [Catalogue no .CAL/1/1/1/31].
One example among many which show Wells’ imaginative reading of skeletal remains is a 1963 report title The Human Skeleton from Cox Lane, Ipswich. The report contains Wells’ scientifically sound analysis of male skeleton in his early thirties with six injuries caused by blunt force trauma. It is only when Wells’ attempts to “deduce the probable sequence leading to the man’s death” that he veers into the realms of fiction. In this instance Wells concocts a scenario wherein the victim is pulled from horseback by two assailants before being gruesomely stabbed by a third. Wells concludes that the victim was:

“A young, vigorous energetic man who had probably led a not unadventurous life and finally died in some blood foray fighting desperately and it would seem not ingloriously”

While intriguing, this narrative does not hold up to scientific scrutiny, and there are many similar instances of Wells subjugating objective facts and the historical record to salacious invention. In consideration of these various faults, to what extent are Wells’ skeletal reports valuable for contemporary researchers in bioarchaeology?

Research slides from Wells' research on Paget’s disease, c.1970
Research slides from Wells’ research on Paget’s disease, c.1970 The University of Bradford, Bradford [Catalogue no. CAL/11/1].
As with all pioneers in unexplored disciplines, Wells was prone to deviation and false starts on his journey to new discoveries. For example Wells was among the first palaeopathologists to undertake serious examination of cremated skeletal remains, revealing that it was possible to ascertain age, sex and, in some cases, pathological change with some degree of certainty in charred bone. Wells was also the first to introduce the important concept of pseduopathology, which states that the appearance of disease may be caused by other factors such as bacteria, soil erosion, wildlife and the excavation process itself. Additionally Wells authored several significant reports which examined leprosy, Paget’s disease and Harris lines in archaeological human remains. Wells is also credited for reintroducing the use of radiography in palaeopathological examination.

Selection of research material from Calvin Wells' collaboration with the pioneering archaeologist Gerald Dunning, 1964
Selection of research material from Calvin Wells’ collaboration with the pioneering archaeologist Gerald Dunning, 1964 [Catalogue no. CAL/6/4/24].
The fact that citations of Wells’ bone reports in scientific and academic journals have increased in the forty years since his death are a testament to their enduring value. In the process of cataloguing his archive we have discovered the depth of research and preparation Wells invested in every single skeletal report. As a result of the cataloguing project, contemporary researchers can now access Wells’ original research material providing an opportunity to form improved or revised conclusions about the specimens he examined. In addition to unlocking the research potential of Wells’ archive, the cataloguing project has unveiled a lot about the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Palaeopathology’s’ enigmatic life and personality. Although forthright and resolute in his opinions, Wells by no means thought himself as completely infallible. As he was keen to remind scholars attempting to diagnose disease in the remains of the past:

 “When we remember the many ways in which a pseudopathological appearance can be produced – or a genuine lesion obscured – it no longer seems extraordinary that palaeopathologists occasionally make a wrong diagnosis. The wonder is that we ever make a right one”.

James Neill
Project Archivist – Calvin Wells Collection
Information Services
University of Bradford

 Bibliography

Bones, Bodies and Disease by Calvin Wells (London: Thames & Hudson, 1964)

‘Pseudopathology’ by Dr. Calvin Wells ‘Diseases in Antiquity: A Survey of the Diseases, Injuries, and Surgery of Early Populations’ Edited by Don Brothwell Springfield, Illinois: C.C. Thomas (1967)

‘Calvin Percival Bamfylde Wells (1908–1978)’ by Charlotte Roberts and Keith Manchester ‘The Global History of Paleopathology: Pioneers and Prospects‘ Edited by Jane Buikstra and Charlotte Roberts New York, NY: Oxford University Press (2012)

‘Crooked Timber: The life of Calvin Wells (1908-1978)’ by Tony Waldron in Journal of Medical Biography (May 2014)

Related

The Calvin Wells Palaeopathology Archive, 1953-1984

Browse all University of Bradford Special Collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous features by University of Bradford Special Collections Archives:

The Nuclear Disarmament Symbol Sketches, March 2017

The PaxCat Project: bringing peace archives to life, 2010

All images copyright The University of Bradford and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Uncovering censorship in the V and A Theatre and Performance Archives

Archives Hub feature for September 2018

On the 9th July 2018, the V&A Theatre and Performance Department opened a new display in our galleries titled Censored! Stage, Screen, Society at 50The display commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Theatres Act, which abolished state censorship of the British stage. As well as tracing the broader 300-year history of stage censorship, the display also looks at the censorship of music, film and print in the UK.

Uniquely for one of our displays, much of the material is taken from our collection of almost 500 named archives that form the V&A Theatre & Performance Archives. A significant portion of these are catalogued on the Archives Hub website, and all can be consulted by appointment in our Reading Room at Blythe House in London.

Poster for The Arts & Censorship gala at the Royal Festival Hall, 1968.
Poster for The Arts & Censorship gala at the Royal Festival Hall, 1968.                              Image copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [Museum no. S.2054-1995].
Telling a story of censorship

Censorship is a story shaped by legal documents and correspondence. Its battles were often fought on paper and were won and lost through Parliamentary Acts.

Patent for Theatre Royal Drury Lane, issued by Charles II to Thomas Killigrew, 1662.
Patent for Theatre Royal Drury Lane, issued by Charles II to Thomas Killigrew, 1662. Credit: On loan from the Really Useful Theatres Group. Image copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, courtesy of Really Useful Theatres [Museum no. LOAN:USEFUL.1-2000].
This meant that the core of the display had to be taken from the rich resource of company, theatre and individual archives which are comprised of these letters, licenses and administrative records.

Curatorially, we considered the challenges of presenting archives carefully:

  • We wished to avoid overwhelming the visitor with paperwork;
  • To select key documents which could communicate both a specific example and the overarching narrative of censorship;
  • Balance a paper-driven aesthetic with colour and innovative exhibition design

We carried out rigorous research, and found fantastic theatre designs, posters and photographs which equally contributed to the narrative of the display. We were also lucky to work with political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe, who created a special commission for the display, as well as leading graphic designers Barnbrook who conceived the display design concept.

Censored! Stage, Screen, Society at 50 display, Theatre and Performance Galleries, Copyright V&A Images.
Censored! Stage, Screen, Society at 50 display, Theatre and Performance Galleries, Copyright V&A Images.

There were obvious important examples of censorship that we wanted to include, such as the play Saved by Edward Bond. This was performed as a private ‘club performance’ at the Royal Court Theatre after it was banned by the Lord Chamberlain for its violence and profanity.

In the English Stage Company / Royal Court Archive, it was fantastic to find correspondence from Edward Bond to the Lord Chamberlain refusing to make alterations, as well as a handwritten note written by a theatre staff member recording a conversation with a police officer who came to investigate the illicit performances.

Lord Chamberlain’s alterations to Saved by Edward Bond, 1965.
Lord Chamberlain’s alterations to Saved by Edward Bond, 1965.  Image copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [Archive ref: THM/273].
There were also surprising discoveries within named archives. Joan Littlewood of Theatre Workshop had directed a semi-improvised play You Won’t Always Be On Top in 1958. She was prosecuted for producing a show which did not have a script for inspection by the Lord Chamberlain.

We discovered a letter in the Vivien Leigh Archive which Littlewood had written to the actress to ask for her public support. Leigh and husband Laurence Olivier were vocal supporters of the removal of censorship, and Littlewood was successfully defended in court. As well as this letter, we were also generously allowed to display photographs of the production from the Theatre Royal Stratford East Archive.

Letter from Joan Littlewood to Vivien Leigh, 1958.
Letter from Joan Littlewood to Vivien Leigh, 1958.  Image copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [Archive ref: THM/433].
The display also features a section on OZ magazine, which was the subject of a notorious obscenity trial in 1971 for the publication of its Schoolkids Issue. This was edited by children and featured a depiction of Rupert the Bear in a sexually explicit scenario. The successful defence of the magazine’s editors was a ground-breaking testament of an increasingly liberalised culture.

The acquisition of the Felix Dennis / OZ magazine archive in 2017, with the assistance of the Art Fund, provided with us with fascinating material for display. Not only tracing the creative process, including paste-up boards by Martin Sharp, the archive also contains a wealth of material relating to the trial and the magazine editors’ supporters, including flyers for benefit concerts, badges and a fundraising record by John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

‘God Save Oz’ charity record by Apple Records, 1971.
‘God Save Oz’ charity record by Apple Records, 1971.  Image copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum, London [Archive ref: THM/497].
As well as these examples, we also drew material from our core collection of Production Files, and images from our extensive photographic collections, including the Douglas Jeffery Archive. The Arts Council of Great Britain Archive also provided valuable documents relating to recent productions that had been the target of protest or loss of funding.

Production photograph of The Romans in Britain, National Theatre, 1980.
Production photograph of The Romans in Britain, National Theatre, 1980.            Credit: Douglas Jeffery. Image copyright: © Victoria and Albert Museum [Archive ref: THM/374/1/2283/5].
This a small selection of the fascinating stories uncovered in the archives and now on display. Visit in person to listen to a playlist of banned songs, hear interviews from leading practitioners and cultural critics, and contribute towards the debate ‘what is censorship?’.

Censored! Stage, Screen, Society at 50 is open until 27th January 2019.

Harriet Reed, Assistant Curator
V&A Theatre and Performance Department
Victoria & Albert Museum

Browse all V&A Theatre and Performance Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous features by V&A Theatre and Performance Archives:

The D’Oyly Carte Archive, October 2016

Curtain up! The Theatre and Performance Collections at the V&A, 2011

All images copyright the Victoria and Albert Museum and reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.