Five Hundred Years of the WS Society Archive, Edinburgh

WS Society deed box.
WS Society deed box.

The creation of the WS Society’s archive catalogue on the Archives Hub  during the first period of national lockdown was the completion of stage two of a long-term project to remap and rehouse the records of Scotland’s oldest and largest body of solicitors. The Society of Writers to HM Signet, to give it its full name, has its origins in a fraternity of legal clerks working for the king’s secretary in medieval Scotland, and it was incorporated into the College of Justice by James V in 1532. The Society underwent reforms in 1594 and the minute book that was opened in that year is the oldest single item in the archive. Over the centuries, the Society’s lawyers have played a key role in the history of Scotland, but they were also central to the country’s intellectual and cultural development. Our archive is a map of the Society’s history – the lives and careers of generations of Scottish professionals – but it is also a map of its greatest cultural creation, the Society’s home and headquarters, the Signet Library in Edinburgh.

The archive now has its own specially adapted space within the Library, and all bound records are now recorded in the catalogue. The archive’s five centuries of unbound records have been surveyed and the task of adding them to the catalogue will be the third and final stage of the project. The Victorian deed boxes that once housed these records may be obsolete but they are also beautiful, and some are now on display in public parts of the building.

The WS Society’s archive is open to academics and post-graduate students, and to bone fide independent researchers at the discretion of the WS Society’s officers. For more details, please contact the Research Principal James Hamilton on library@wssociety.co.uk.

The Signet Library in 1867 - glass slide - George Washingon Wilson.
The Signet Library in 1867 – glass slide – George Washingon Wilson.

The Signet Library is both a building and a collection. It is one of the largest private libraries in the United Kingdom and the books, art, furniture, artifacts and ephemera that it contains are a direct and important product of and survivor of the Scottish Enlightenment. Its scholar-librarians, who include the antiquarian David Laing and the church historian Thomas Graves Law, played vital roles in the development of Scottish historiography. The Library has its own record series within the archive, mapping the growth of a major Scottish intellectual institution from the first book purchases in 1722, through the golden age of the Scottish Enlightenment to the present day.

John Watson's institution entry form for Euphemia Bridie 1837.
John Watson’s institution entry form for Euphemia Bridie 1837.

The WS Society is a registered charity and the solicitors who are the Society’s members have always played a key role in the Scottish charitable world. In the archive are records of people who have otherwise entirely vanished from the historical record, preserved in the treasurer’s records of charitable giving. The Society ran a school for orphans in Edinburgh for 200 years – John Watson’s Institution – and early records of those entering the school are here, with evidence of family and support networks and with the (often tragic) stories that led them to the Institution’s door. A host of charities providing hospitals, homes, food and education to the less fortunate were administered by WS Society lawyers and the archive contains extensive records of these involvements.

Letters of Madeleine Smith, accused of the Sandyford murder in Glasgow, from the Working Library of William Roughead WS letters.
Letters of Madeleine Smith, accused of the Sandyford murder in Glasgow, from the working library of William Roughead WS.

In a building that contains both library and archive there will be materials that could be defined as belonging to either or both. One instance of this is found in the working library of the author William Roughead, Writer to the Signet and Scotland’s famous historian of true crime, which was deposited with us in 1952 along with a host of correspondence and papers. This collection is now the most heavily used part of the library and archive, and is in constant demand from journalists, television producers and academics.

Session Papers, including the trial of Deacon Brodie 1788 and the Joseph Knight slavery trial 1772
Session Papers, including the trial of Deacon Brodie 1788 and the Joseph Knight slavery trial 1772.

Another jewel in our crown is our collection of Scottish Session Papers, printed materials used in civil court cases from 1711 onwards. All Scottish life is here – from arguments over the contents of window boxes to the records of the cases that finally ended slavery north of the Tweed – and amongst the bald legal texts can be found fascinating annotations by the lawyers themselves, beautiful hand-drawn maps, letters, and, later, photographs. These papers are the greatest untapped historical resource in Scotland and a collaborative effort to digitise the various collections of Session Papers is ongoing. Our collection was indexed during the Great War and the index has been placed online.

Bar bill from a WS Society dinner in Ediburgh, 1722.
Bar bill from a WS Society dinner in Ediburgh, 1722.

The WS Society has always had within it a strong social and artistic life, and the archive reflects this with records of the Society’s rifle club and militia at the one extreme (created in response to a French invasion threat in the 1850s) to records of dining societies, sporting and golf clubs (Scotland’s greatest all-round sportsman, Leslie-Balfour Melville, was a Writer to the Signet), and more recently records pertaining to the Edinburgh Festivals where the Society has provided both administrative support and a venue.

John Jardine’s list of the women of Edinburgh 1746.

Not all of the records that the Society possesses are currently held at the Signet Library. The great collection of papers about the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion built up by the Reverend John Jardine (1716-1766) are now mostly on deposit at the National Records of Scotland, although we still hold Jardine’s astonishingly indiscreet lists of the women in Edinburgh during the ’45 and these have just been edited and published by the Scottish Record Society.  Recent years have seen a long overdue recognition of the importance of business records and of the records of legal firms. In Scotland, a single law firm might serve a community for generations, and its records if properly preserved offer a unique and important window on the lives of everyone within it. But a new wave of mergers and takeovers of legal firms, along with the demise of some ancient firms with the death or retirement of the final remaining partners, has put these vital records under threat. The WS Society and Signet Library stand ready to provide advice on the preservation of such records, connections with bodies with specific expertise in the managing of such archives, and, if necessary, will provide law firm records with a permanent home.

James Hamilton
Research Principal
Society of Writers to HM Signet, Edinburgh

Related

Archive of the Society of Writers to HM Signet, Edinburgh (1594 – ongoing)

All images copyright the Society of Writers to HM Signet, Edinburgh. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Archive Collections in the North – Global Change

Archives Hub feature for June 2021

June’s Archives Hub feature is the result of animated discussions between members of Academic Libraries North (formerly Northern Collaboration) Special Interest Group for Special Collections and Archives. We chose Global Change as an overarching idea and asked group members to pick a collection that spoke to this theme. Far from being a random assortment of disparate collections with no common ground, the resulting list revealed linked collections with great research potential for those interested in political history, social history, activism, immigration and emigration, technological and design innovation – and even railway engineering.

Drink driving awareness lantern slide: Abstainers have the best of it. Courtesy of the Livesey Collection, UCLan Special collections & Archives.

University of Bradford – Peace Pamphlet Collection

This collection comprises thousands of peace pamphlets gathered by Commonweal Library from their rich network of connections in protest campaigns worldwide. They present an incredible resource for researchers and illustrate the ideas and activities of British peace movements from the First World War to the present day. Significant publishers include the Peace Pledge Union, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Fellowship of Reconciliation. They also offer a fascinating visual record, with many well-known artists contributing designs.

Pamphlet cover from Daily Mirror spotlight on the Common Market, c1960
Pamphlet collection, Special Collections, University of Bradford
.

Durham University – Malcolm MacDonald Papers

Son of Ramsay MacDonald, Malcolm MacDonald was elected Labour MP for Bassetlaw 1929. He held the seat until 1935, and was National Labour MP for Ross and Cromarty 1936-1945. He held ministerial office in the Dominions & Colonial Office 1931-1940, and was British High Commissioner to Canada, 1941-1946. He was Governor General of Malaya, his responsibilities subsequently extended to cover all S.E. Asia. In 1955 he became High Commissioner for the U.K. in India and in 1960 was appointed co-chairman of the international conference on Laos. The final part of his administrative and diplomatic career was spent in Africa as Governor and Commander in Chief and later High Commissioner for Kenya 1963-4.

Lancaster University – Socialist Pamphlets

A significant item in this collection is ABC of votes for Women by Marion Holmes (nee Miller) 1867-1943, printed in 1913. Marion was a suffragette, a freelance journalist and writer. She was on the committee for the Society of Women Journalists and established Margate Pioneer Society.  In Croydon she was the President of the local Women’s Social and Political Union and a member of the Women’s Freedom League and the first female election agent in Keighley. This work covers the importance of women having the ability to vote.

https://lancaster.alma.exlibrisgroup.com/view/UniversalViewer/44LAN_INST/12159677070001221#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-1271%2C-92%2C3602%2C1820

University of Leeds – Leeds Russian Archive

The Leeds Russian Archive, established in 1982, comprises around 650 collections of manuscripts, photographs and other archival material related to Anglo-Russian contacts in the 19th and 20th centuries. The Archive contains papers of members of the British community in Russia, as well as travellers and diplomats, governesses and soldiers, including the papers of writers such as Leonid Andreev (1871-1919); Nobel prizewinner Ivan Bunin (1870-1953), as well as the papers of the Russian railway engineer Yuri Lomonossoff (1876-1952).

https://library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections/collection/728/leeds_russian_archive_collections

Liverpool Hope University – Nugent Archive

Monsignor James Nugent, better known as Father Nugent, was a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. He was a passionate social reformer, appalled by the state of the homeless living in the squalor of Victorian England, he dedicated his life to the education and rescue of destitute children. Father Nugent was also an early pioneer of children’s emigration. In 1870 he took the first group of 24 children to Canada on 18 August 1870 on the SS Austrian; this was probably the first organised emigration of its kind.

Liverpool John Moores University – Stafford Beer Archive

Photograph of the Operations Room, created as part of Project Cybersyn in Chile 1971-1973. Courtesy of the Stafford Beer Collection, LJMU Special Collections & Archives.

Professor Stafford Beer (1926-2002) was an inspirational thinker, teacher and writer in the field of management cybernetics.  A polymath and credited as the founder of Management Cybernetics, he was appointed Honorary Professor of Organisational Transformation at LJMU in 1989.  He is probably best known internationally for his work on Project Cybersyn, a Chilean attempt to develop a cybernetic approach to the organisation and control of the economy in the 1971-1973 under the socialist government of President Allende.

https://www.ljmu.ac.uk/microsites/library/special-collections-and-archives/special-collections/stafford-beer-collection

University of Salford – Richard Badnall Papers

Richard Badnall (d 1842) and his collaborator Richard Gill patented the design of an “Undulating Railway”, an eccentric invention which caught the interest of many prominent people, including George and Robert Stephenson and the Directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.  The collection, comprising mainly of correspondence, has been fully digitised.

https://usir.salford.ac.uk/view/archive_collections/badnall.html

Sheffield Hallam University – Festival of Britain Collection

The 1951 Festival of Britain was a showcase of British contributions to art, design and industry and a chance to celebrate and raise the nation’s spirits after the austerity of the war years. In the 1970s Sheffield Hallam University acquired a box of Festival items including press releases, letters and some official guides, but this has been enhanced through acquisition of a wider range of Festival literature and commemorative ephemera – such as postcards, teapots, toys, glassware and medals.

https://libguides.shu.ac.uk/specialcollection/festival

University of York – Denis Brutus Archive

Cover of Constitution of SA Sports Association. Copyright: Dennis Brutus Archive, Borthwick Institute for Archives, University of York.

Dennis Brutus (b. 1924) is best known for founding the South African Sports Association (SASA) whose essential aim was the elimination of racialism in South African sport. The South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SAN-ROC), with Brutus as its president, had considerable success: not only with the exclusion of South Africa from the Olympic Games in 1968, but also with the withdrawal of many African competitors from the 1976 Olympics. Forced into exile in 1966, Brutus left South Africa for England, where he worked for the International Defence Aid Fund. In 1971 he moved to the United States and died on 26 December 2009.

Related

Browse more collection descriptions for these institutions on the Archives Hub:

University of Bradford Special Collections

Durham University Archives

Lancaster University Archives

University of Leeds Special Collections

Liverpool Hope University Archives and Special Collections

Liverpool John Moores University Special Collections and Archives

University of Salford Archives & Special Collections

University of York, Borthwick Institute for Archives

All images copyright. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Enhancing Access to the Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) at the University of Leeds

Archives Hub feature for May 2021

“Wallops – nine pins” by Werner Kissling. LAVC/PHO/P1748

The LAVC is a unique, nationally important collection that holds all the materials from the internationally renowned Survey of English Dialects (SED) as well as the archives of the University’s former Leeds Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (IDFLS).

It is currently the subject of a 3-year project “Dialect and Heritage” (2022). Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project aims to open up the LAVC to public audiences, mapping its rich archives with 5 partner museums’ complementary collections and putting the LAVC back into the communities from which it was originally collected.

Since January 2020 Special Collections staff have been involved in the first phase, focusing on digitisation and enhancing the catalogue to support both long term access via its own catalogue as well as a dedicated project website due to launch in July 2021.

Already extensively catalogued as part of AHRB project in 2002, it has remained inaccessible to most non-academic audiences. Its rich narrative descriptions, pre-dated digital developments and metadata standardisation that can now optimise discovery. Current catalogue enhancements have therefore focused on adding new access points to facilitate improved search/browse.

About the LAVC: Dialect and Folklife

The SED was the first comprehensive, nationwide dialect survey in England, devised and coordinated by Professor Harold Orton at the University of Leeds during the 1950s-1960s. Originating at the end of World War 2, the Survey aimed to record and preserve the nation’s dialects before they were changed forever by modern development and migration. Fieldworkers would travel the length of the country to survey and interview informants in 313 rural locations with over 1000 questions on rural and home life. These were supplemented by a series of over 300 audio recordings for many of these locations, which were captured during or after the survey. To capture the natural richness of these local dialects, fieldworkers would engage informants by getting them to speak about absolutely any aspect of their lives.

“New Alresford Response Book”. LAVC/SED/2/2/3: 9/4/10

The former Institute of Dialect and Folk Life Studies (IDFLS) was part of the University of Leeds from October 1964 to September 1983. Under the initial directorship of Stewart F. Sanderson, the IDFLS expanded its focus from dialect and fostered teaching and research in the field of folk life studies. This included the Folk Life Survey and establishment of its own reference library which included undergraduate and postgraduate student research papers on dialect and folk life/folklore and research materials including manuscripts, printed and audio-visual items.

“Back Can” by Werner Kissling. LAVC/PHO/P1557

Highlights in the collection include:

  • The Survey of English Dialects questionnaire and response books: Detailed responses to over 1000 questions in 313 rural locations, written mainly in linguistic shorthand (IPA). They also contain more accessible glimpses into life in these communities with notes written in plain English and illustrations capturing ‘incidental material’ about the locations, informants and their traditions. All 313 books are being digitised with many online already.
  • Audio recordings: There are over 300 SED recordings and nearly 900 unpublished recordings relating to studies and research within IDFLS.  They are being digitised as part of the British Library’s “Unlocking Our Sound Heritage” (UOSH) project.
  • Interpretative Word Maps (mainly relating to SED results in the Linguistic Atlas of England ).
  • Over 2000 photographs which have now been digitised as part of the project. Over half were taken by Werner Kissling, employed between 1962 and 1966 as a photographic fieldworker in Yorkshire as part of the Institute’s Folk Life Survey. They also include photographs relating to SED locations and informants and student theses.

The Collection gives exceptional insights into language, culture and everyday life from the late 19th-20th centuries. It is particularly rich in capturing a variety of subjects including traditional methods of food production, rural work, crafts, hobbies, buildings, calendar and local customs, folklore and music.

Access Points

Prototype map-based search for LAVC Collection.

To improve access and discoverability the catalogue has been enhanced to include place, person and subject as structured data and access points.

This has included mapping 4000+ bespoke subject terms into 12 high level themes and 100 sub-categories based on Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH).  This will enable researchers to browse the collections by theme and discover related materials more easily.

We have also extracted location information relating to all photographs, audio recordings and SED response books to create several thousand geo-referenced location records. This means that these items can be plotted onto a map and are now available to discover on a new map-based search.

We have also created authority records for over 1000 informants of the SED, Folk Life Survey and Student Research Papers so that now it is possible to search by creators or informants.  

Finally, we have created a dedicated search page (currently in beta version) to bring together all these new ways of exploring the Collection with an A-Z for subject and people that can be browsed as well as the interactive map. Much of the cataloguing work is now complete and will be visible on the online catalogue over the next month. Work by the British Library to digitise and catalogue the SED audio recordings was delayed due to the COVID pandemic but is resuming. Work will continue to publish the wealth of digitised material over the coming year so that researchers can explore the collection remotely. The LAVC collection is available for research (https://explore.library.leeds.ac.uk/special-collections-explore/7436). 

Caroline Bolton, Archivist
University of Leeds Special Collections

Related

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

Previous features on LAVC

Cor, blust, squit! Stanley Ellis

Previous features on University of Leeds Special Collections

Interconnected archives: cataloguing the Rossetti family letters at Leeds University Special Collections

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

Sentimental Journey: a focus on travel in the archives

Recipes through the ages 

World War One

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

Robert Owen collection at the Co-operative Heritage Trust Archive

Archives Hub feature for April 2021

This May is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Owen (1771-1858).  Known to many as the Father of Co-operation, Owen left an extensive legacy which is shown in the collection held by the Co-operative Heritage Trust.

Robert Owen

Born in Newtown, Wales Owen moved to London in 1784 aged just 13, then to Manchester a year later. In 1785 Manchester was the epicentre of the Industrial Revolution, and also a hotbed of intellectual and philanthropic discourse.   Owen was often present at the meetings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society where he was able to expand his knowledge on a number of subjects.   When he first arrived in Manchester, Owen was employed at Satterfield’s Drapery on St Ann’s Square, where a blue plaque marks the site of the building.  He then became manager of the Piccadilly Mill and went on to establish the Chorlton Twist Mill.

Plaque dedicated to Owen on St Anne’s Square, Manchester.

Owen then went on to manage mills at New Lanark in Scotland which also marked his first venture into setting up a model community with an emphasis on education, particularly of young people as well as being involved in campaigns for a shorter working day.  He remained there for many years.  Today, New Lanark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After leaving New Lanark, Owen traveled to New Harmony, Indiana intending to set up another model community there.  After the failure of this venture, Owen returned to England where he found his ideas were growing in popularity.  In 1835 he founded the Association of All Classes of All Nations and presided over a series of Congresses in Manchester & Birmingham.   Among Owen’s followers were some of the founding members of the Rochdale Pioneers Equitable Co-operative Society.

Notice for Owen’s proposed model community at New Harmony, Indiana.

Owen continued to promote his ideas by traveling around the country giving lectures but in the last years of his life settled in Sevenoaks, Kent.   It was around this time that Owen decided he wanted to write a three-volume autobiography (of which only one volume was completed before his death).  To do this, he wanted to gather together as much of his correspondence as he possibly could.  This was not an easy task as he corresponded with many individuals from all over the world.

Owen’s magazine, The Crisis.

Once the collection was gathered together Owen was assisted with the arranging of the material by his close friend James Rigby, who, at the same time, wrote the correspondents name and date of postage on the reverse of many of the letters, which was very helpful when the collection came to be catalogued!  In 1853 Owen wrote of his intentions to appoint William Pare, Robert Dale Owen, and Dr. Henry Travis as Trustees for his letters, as he wanted to ensure their safe-keeping following his death.

After Owen died in 1858, his letters were unaccounted for for many years due to being passed around the various executors.  It was not until the early 1900s that George Jacob Holyoake a journalist, secularist, co-operator and follower of Owen, made efforts to trace their whereabouts.   Holyoake eventually located the letters at a barristers’ chambers in London where they were stored in a metal trunk.  This became known as the ‘hair trunk’ as in addition to the letters, the trunk contained a lock of Owen’s hair.

Letter from Owen to his wife, Caroline.

In 1903, Holyoake gave the collection, which comprised over 3000 letters, to the Co-operative Union.  This was the first collection of what is now the Co-operative Heritage Trust Archive.   In 2010 the Collection was awarded a National Archives Cataloguing Grant and in 2016 the Collection was added to the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register as a collection of significance.

The Archive also holds the correspondence of James Rigby which contains many letters from Owen as well as the correspondence of George Jacob Holyoake.

The Co-operative Heritage Trust Archive is located in central Manchester.   Due to Covid-19 restrictions, the reading room is currently closed to the public.  Information about re-opening will be on our website.

The Co-operative Heritage Trust looks after the Archive and the Rochdale Pioneers Museum.

Email: archive@heritagetrust.coop

Twitter: @CoopHeritage

Sophie McCulloch
Archivist
Co-operative Heritage Trust

Related

Robert Owen Collection, 1805-1858

James Rigby Correspondence Collection, 1848-1858

Papers of George Jacob Holyoake (1817-1906)

Browse all Co-operative Heritage Trust collections on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Co-operative Heritage Trust. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Researching LGBTQ+ History at North East Wales Archives

Have you ever wondered what LGBTQ+ archives might be held at North East Wales Archives (NEWA)? 

North East Wales Archives images.
North East Wales Archives images.

Today, we would like to shine the spotlight on some of the initiatives which are helping Wales to uncover the LGBTQ+ heritage held within our archives.   It can be quite a challenge to find records of this type of history since, because of its historically subversive nature, it was often hidden, destroyed or even put into code to avoid discovery.  Searching for records of LGBTQ+ history can prove difficult, because the terms that were used historically are different to those used in today’s language. Glamorgan Archives have put together an extremely helpful guide (PDF) called ‘Queering Glamorgan’, which also has an essential glossary of words and terms to help researchers find articles and stories in historic newspapers.

Image of archival storage, provided by North East Wales Archives/Adobe Spark.
Colourised image of archival storage units #LGBTQ (NEWA/Adobe Spark).

Societies like #Draig Enfys or #Rainbow Dragon are working tirelessly to find and share the stories and lives of people in Wales throughout the ages and to help us to explore the archives for ourselves. Draig Enfys is a research group set up by Norena Shopland, who specialises in researching, recording and promoting LGBT+, women’s and Welsh histories; Mark Etheridge, National Museum Wales; and Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archives. They wanted to create a forum for researchers to network, help each other out and prevent people working on duplicate subjects.  They saw the benefit of people joining forces and collaborating together in this often lonely field of research.

There is also a hive of creative activity in this field, with original research being undertaken in Wales.  Projects like Living Histories Cymru, run by Jane Hoy and Helen Sandler, bring historic Welsh LGBTQ+ individuals to life through lively, costumed talks and plays. Other researchers and groups of young people are currently working with National Museum Wales to host various exhibitions and publish books on LGBTQ+ history.

James Henry Lynch: The Rt. Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby 'The Ladies of Llangollen'. A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales. Image in the public domain.
James Henry Lynch: The Rt. Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby ‘The Ladies of Llangollen’. A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales. Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

At the Denbighshire branch of NEWA, we hold Minutes of the weekly medical officers meetings which contain details of patient cases, including discussions on the benefits and problems associated with ECT treatment, and brief details on the treatment of a homosexual patient in March 1968.  We also hold records relating to the celebrated ‘Ladies of Llangollen’, ‘romantic friends’ in the 18th century, who ran away together to escape the constraints of patriarchal society to live together in isolation. Newspapers and court records at both branches are also rich sources of LGBTQ+ stories and pathways to further research.

Photographs of North East Wales Archives.
Photographs of the Hawarden (Archifdy Sir y Fflint / Flintshire Record Office) and Ruthin (Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives) branches.

If you are interested in LGBTQ+ history, why not try using the terms in Glamorgan Archives’ glossary to search for stories in online newspapers? You can also visit our website to uncover more sources of historical stories from your local area!

Teresa Davies
Archive Assistant
North East Wales Archives/NEWA (Hawarden)

Related

Explore more LGBTQ archives on the Archives Hub

Browse all Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

Browse all Archifdy Sir y Fflint / Flintshire Record Office collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous feature

Unlocking the Asylum: Cataloguing the North Wales Hospital Archive

All images copyright. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Online resources from the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre Archive

Archives Hub feature for January 2021

Over the past few years at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, we have been working towards digitising parts of our collections in order to provide open access to them online. Our digitisation has been focussed on small, self-contained series of nineteenth-century periodicals and pamphlets from The Salvation Army’s early history. We envisaged these digital collections not only as ways of allowing more people to use and enjoy the material, but also as places where we could put the historical material in context and provide other helpful tools like indices and research guides. As they represent only tiny fraction of our holdings, these digital collections were never intended to be a substitute for accessing our collections in person. However, when in March 2020 we had to close to the public and limit our own access to the archives due to the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic, they unexpectedly became one of the few ways we had of keeping ourselves and others connected with our collections.

Three of the digital collections that we have created so far have now been added to Archives Hub as Online Resources. They are all still works in progress that will continue to grow as we are able to add to them, but this feature provides an introductory overview.

The Darkest England Gazette

In October 1890 — just over 130 years ago — The Salvation Army’s founder William Booth published what is probably his best-known and most influential book, In Darkest England and the Way Out. Planned and researched in under a year while his wife Catherine was terminally ill and released just weeks after her death, the book was penned with substantial assistance from the journalist WT Stead, a family friend and supporter of The Salvation Army’s work. Taking inspiration from the title of Henry Morton Stanley’s In Darkest Africa, published earlier the same year, In Darkest England described the social landscape of the United Kingdom as it had come to be seen by Booth over the course of 25 years of directing The Salvation Army’s evangelistic and social work among people living in poverty.

In Darkest England lithograph.
In Darkest England lithograph.

Booth estimated that a tenth of the country’s population experienced conditions of such extreme misery and destitution that it had become impossible for them to improve their lives without assistance. He called these people ‘the submerged tenth’ and the striking and colourful frontispiece of the book (the work of an unknown artist) shows them struggling to stay afloat in a turbulent sea as waves of hardship (unemployment, starvation, drunkenness, want and sin) crash over their heads. The book set out Booth’s grand plan for rescuing them, which would form the basis for The Salvation Army’s social work going forward. The overarching idea was to reverse the urbanisation that Booth saw as being at the root of so many contemporary social problems by creating a system of ‘colonies’ which would provide shelter, work and support. He intended that people progress through these in a landward direction, starting off in the ‘City Colony’ before moving to the ‘Farm Colony’ and then ultimately to the ‘Colony across the Sea’ where, in the dominant imperial view of the time, open land was considered plentiful and available for the taking.

In Darkest England sold exceptionally well—its first print run sold out on the day of publication and two more editions were printed by the end of the year. Although the reception from readers was mixed, it succeeded in providing the finance and impetus for the rapid expansion of Salvation Army social work and the establishment of many of the institutions Booth had envisaged. The Darkest England Scheme, as The Salvation Army’s organised social work became known, had far-reaching and lasting effects on both The Salvation Army and wider society that have recently been explored in a new anniversary publication, In Darkest England 130 Years On (London: Shield Books, 2020). At the time, however, the Scheme’s objectives and achievements were reported in a weekly newspaper called The Darkest England Gazette which is the subject of one of our digital collections.

The Darkest England Gazette ran from 1 July 1893 to 16 June 1894, after which it continued under the new name The Social Gazette. The Social Gazette soon adopted a smaller, cheaper 4-page format, and it continued to be published in this form until 1917. All 51 issues of The Darkest England Gazette have now been digitised and a growing selection is available online. The digital collection also includes a series of research guides that offer brief introductions to prominent themes from the Gazette which include some quite surprising subjects from animal welfare, vivisection and vegetarianism to poetry and popular fiction.

The Christian Mission

The Salvation Army counts its age from July 1865, but its current name was not adopted until 1878. For most of the first 13 years of its existence it was known as The Christian Mission. The Mission grew out of the East London Special Services Committee, a group of Christian businessmen who did evangelistic work in the east end of London. William Booth, a former Methodist turned independent evangelist, first had contact with this committee in June 1865, when he preached at a meeting organised by them at the Quaker Burial Ground in Whitechapel. Within a short time, he had been asked to give permanent leadership to their ministry and over subsequent decades, grew it into an international movement.

Christian Mission Magazine, January 1870.
Christian Mission Magazine, January 1870.

From October 1868, the Mission began publicising its work by means of its own monthly magazine, which ran until it was superseded by the well-known War Cry in December 1879. This magazine is one of the most important surviving sources of information about the early development of The Salvation Army and its expansion from the east end of London throughout the UK. We have now put many issues online alongside a selection of other documents produced by the Mission.

Rare pamphlets

As our other digital collections show, since its earliest days as the Christian Mission (and even before), The Salvation Army’s leaders and members have been prolific publishers, not only of periodicals and books, but also of various forms of pamphlet. One of the earliest in our collection is an 1870 edition of Catherine Booth’s treatise Female Ministry, or Women’s Right to Preach the Gospel, which is a revised version of her 1859 pamphlet Female Teaching. No known copies of the first edition survive but a second edition of her original text dating from 1861 survives in the John Rylands Library at Manchester University. Catherine’s views shaped The Salvation Army’s position on women preachers, whose equal status with their male counterparts has been written into the organisation’s constitution since 1870.

Catherine Booth.
Catherine Booth.

This pamphlet and more than seventy others are now accessible online in our Rare Pamphlets Collection, covering a wide variety of subjects from slum ministry and social work, to international missionary work, to biographies and songs.

Ruth Macdonald
Archivist & Deputy Director
The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Twitter & Instagram: @salvarmyarchive

Related

The Darkest England Gazette’ Digital Collection

The Christian Mission Digital Collection

Salvation Army Rare Pamphlets Collection

Browse all Salvation Army International Heritage Centre Archive collections on the Archives Hub

Browse all Online Resources descriptions on the Archives Hub

Previous features on the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre’s Archive collections:

Personal diaries in the archive of The Salvation Army International Heritage Centre

Researching 150 years of Salvation Army history

All images copyright Salvation Army International Heritage Centre. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Cotesbach Archive: A Remarkable Harvest

Archives Hub feature for December 2020

High up on a sheltered, well lit corner of a wall in an outbuilding at Cotesbach Hall can be deciphered a faint scribbling entitled ‘TOTAL TATERS 1920’ [1]. 

Writing on the Wall, Cotesbach Hall: 'Total Taters 1920'. Photo: Tom Clarke, CET Archive volunteer.
Writing on the Wall, Cotesbach Hall: ‘Total Taters 1920’. Photo: Tom Clark, CET Archive volunteer.

The unmistakeable hand of Rowley Marriott (1899-1992) can be discerned listing the weight of potatoes yielded from each of three areas in the walled garden, to a total imperial equivalent of 1,238 kg, nearly three times what we considered to be an exceptional yield this year, 420kg.  Struggling out of the war years, the family having lost two sons on the bloody fields of Flanders and then Father who died of grief in 1918, this harvest would have been no mean feat, and their circumstances many times more challenging than ours.  What may seem a trivial detail holds spine tingling resonance for us, a most tangible, personal connection to the people who lived here before us.  It was a remarkable harvest a century ago, otherwise the result would never have been written on the wall. 

We are very fortunate that the Cotesbach Archive preserves a mine of documents which enable us to piece these stories together connecting people to place, and to wider context.  Rowley was one of seven brothers whose boyhood was filled with occupations such as collecting birds eggs [2] and following the hunt, through which they learned to know and love the countryside around, the names and characteristics of each field and spinney. 

Record of birds’ eggs collected by Marriott brothers of Cotesbach, 1910-1913, Digby (1895-1915), Rowley (1899-1992), Michael (1900-1974).

They stepped up to the challenge of vegetable production when the war came along with a spirit of novelty and competition which shows through in Rowley’s letters from his brother Michael, who nicknames him ‘My dear old Parsnip’, signed ‘Your blasted Broccoli’, describing to some extent what and how they were growing.  Yet the yield from an initial search on ‘harvest’ in the archive catalogue is sparse: Mother (Mary Emily nee Peach 1862-1934) writing to their elder brother James ca 1914, along with reporting on the tenant farmer’s arable harvest mentions that: ‘Potatoes are being taken up, so there is plenty to do in the garden’ [3, understatement!].  So often, the commonplace is un-remark-able. 

Letter from Mary Emily Marriott to her eldest son James, September 13th 1914. COTMA:5413.
Letter from Mary Emily Marriott to her eldest son James, September 13th 1914. COTMA:5413.

Engrossed in cultivation as we have been this year, we are curious for more knowledge of traditional cultivation methods, management, storage, diet.  Did they only eat potatoes, and game? Detective work into estate maps, periodic reports, receipts and correspondence will gradually reveal more, but the very absence of everyday detail is an indication of social change.  Families of landowners who had previously relied on farm labourers were undergoing hardship themselves and stepped into vegetable production when it was needed most.  There were mouths to feed at Cotesbach Hall, 11 residents recorded in the 1911 census, 19 a generation earlier in 1861 out of a village community of 186 (108 in 1911). Harvest time is backbreaking work, dependent on the weather, sadness at the end of summer mingled with celebration of work well done. 

It was a way of life, the annual round, which for a scarcely educated farmer would involve attending Sunday church, with its diet of interminable sermons.  One such work of Rev. James Powell Marriott delivered for Harvest Thanksgiving on 6th October 1864 warns repeatedly of God’s ultimate harvest of souls and His Almighty Hand which could wreak revenge just as blessing to the crops, implying the villager’s conduct would make a difference, whilst rays of light pouring into the nave would have only reminded him of work to be done, and his disappointment that the Wake or Harvest Festival had been cancelled due to villagers’ overindulgence in previous years.  We empathise with that, yet also wonder at the change in values and ideologies, in these days of locked down pews, witnesses as we are of a Faustian reality where humans have induced climate change wreaking havoc with weather patterns, and the need to build and rebuild skills, knowledge and science of the environment which is greater than ever before.

When we agreed to do a slot for the Archives Hub this time last year, the world was a very different place, with our plans to take on four MA students from Leicester University for their summer placements getting under way, the results of which would have provided displays for Heritage Open Days and content for this article.  Everything changed with lockdown, yet in all four areas we have made progress, enabling us to be even better placed for next year’s students. Additional HLF funding has brought forward the task of solving the question of migration of our Item level records to the Hub, which involves adopting CALM software, instead of  MODES.  Back in 2008, the latter seemed the most suitable match for our holistic approach to heritage, our overall aim being to preserve not only the archive but the material culture and books belonging to past generations which retain associations and have already frequently been used as educational resources and display material for the CET.  Each object, especially combined with document and imagination, is a doorway into history, into time travel, into discovery. 

Our catalogue records need to be as versatile as any of these possibilities, not locked into proprietary arrangements, ensuring it stays relevant and dynamic for new generations.  When harvest time comes for our crop of catalogue records it is hoped that the yield will be plentiful, its quality sound, that it will reflect diversity over monoculture, the commonplace and the extraordinary – that there will be much to celebrate and fertile ground for new seed to be sown – starting with new placement proposals for summer 2021.

Smith’s Potato Crisps vintage tin 1930s, Cotesbach Family Trust.

This year has made us more attuned to the unexpected, more likely to see things with fresh eyes.  And so, returning to the most wonderful subject of potatoes, this Smith’s Crisps tin suddenly came into the spotlight, from a dark corner containing bits and pieces roughly where it has sat since the 1930s [4].  My retro-hope is that after all the loss and drudgery, Mother experienced the pleasure of a ‘dainty and appetising’ potato crisp before her day of reckoning. 

Sophy Newton
Heritage Manager (Hon)
Cotesbach Educational Trust

Related

Records of the Marriott Family of Cotesbach, 1661-1946 on the Archives Hub

Cotesbach on Instagram

@cotesbach_educational_trust
@cotesbach_organic
@cotesbachestate

All images copyright Cotesbach Educational Trust. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Creating a COVID-19 archive at the Royal College of Nursing

Archives Hub feature for November 2020

Now more than ever as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is reliant on its digital infrastructure; the need to provide and access accurate and up-to-date information is of paramount importance. This raises some interesting questions, challenges and opportunities for archive services who can play their part in the collective response to the crisis by capturing and recording events, activities and decisions. Archives and recordkeeping professionals have always supported the notions of accountability and transparency through their work, something which is being demonstrated in real time during the development of the pandemic.

As the UK’s largest trade union and professional association for nurses, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has been supporting and representing nurses and healthcare workers throughout the pandemic. It is vital that records of how this has been done are available to the organisation in perpetuity as evidence of advice given and decisions taken. The RCN has a responsibility to its members to be able to demonstrate that the organisation has been working in their best interests and the interests of their patients. In turn, the RCN archive has a responsibility to ensure that records with evidential and research value are captured, preserved and accessible to right audiences at the right time.

One of our first attempts at archiving the RCN COVID-19 webpages using our digital archive.
One of our first attempts at archiving the RCN COVID-19 webpages using our digital archive.

As a result, like many of our archivist and recordkeeping colleagues across the world, we have created a COVID-19 archive. Since the beginning of the year the RCN archive team have been actively collecting records relating to COVID-19 from across the organisation to build up a picture of how the pandemic has unfolded through the eyes of RCN members and staff. Unsurprisingly, this covers a wide range of record types and digital formats: web crawls of special COVID-19 webpages containing up-to-date guidance and advice, targeted staff emails, member surveys on working conditions and PPE, General Secretary’s video messages, special committee situation reports, newly created online nursing resources, publications – the list could go on. Within this set of records is a complex combination of access requirements and restrictions which, through balancing business confidentiality with public interest, we will manage alongside the records themselves.

We are in the fortunate position of having a remotely accessible network and a digital archive, which has meant that we have been able to collect these records as they have been created and start uploading them to our digital archive straight away. While some of the records we’re collecting as part of the COVID-19 archive project would have been transferred to us anyway, there are several new record series on our 2020 collecting plan as a result of the pandemic. For example, our first venture in web archiving was a test crawl of the RCN COVID-19 webpages; these are now collected regularly and form an integral part of the COVID-19 archive. Having seen and been inspired by the experiences of other archives already running successful daily web crawls to capture public advice and the public response, we decided to capture our pages daily as well – this ensured that we were keeping up to speed with each piece of new advice and guidance shared on the webpages. As the rate of updates to the pages has slowed, we have since reduced the frequency to weekly, although we continue to monitor them, ready to capture more frequently if needed. This was the pilot web archiving project we didn’t know we were doing until it happened, and it has in turn has sparked interest in a larger web archiving project to capture the whole RCN website, which is well underway.

A video message from Donna Kinnar, General Secretary, on the staff intranet. An example of the range of formats collected for the COVID-19 archive.
A video message from Donna Kinnar, General Secretary, on the staff intranet. An example of the range of formats collected for the COVID-19 archive.

Alongside the collecting of material, we have been considering how the records of the COVID-19 archive will fit into our existing catalogue structure. While it would be easy to create a new Fonds for COVID-19, we realised that this view was being skewed by our thoughts about future access to the material, and the ease at which colleagues or researchers would be able to view all the material neatly packaged together. Instead we plan to preserve the context of the records by arranging them by creator, in our case this is mostly the department of origin, to fit within our existing catalogue structure. There will be occasions when it is important to view all COVID-19 records together to get a complete picture of the reaction and response to the pandemic, so using the ‘linked collection’ feature in our digital archive we plan to create a virtual COVID-19 collection containing records from across different record series to allow this level of access. Beyond this we are considering which records from our COVID-19 archive will be shared on our public digital archive website to ensure the transparency and accountability that creating the COVID-19 archive in the first place helps to achieve.

We have certainly learnt a lot this year and the team has upskilled, becoming more proficient and confident in processing a wide range of digital formats, from collection through to access. Our sector has also stepped up by providing online webinars and training events to share our experiences of this extraordinary time. In May we participated in a panel discussion facilitated by Preservica, our digital archive supplier, who generously donated 250GB of storage space for us to store the COVID-19 archive. At the event we shared our plans and projects for collecting COVID-19 records with the archive community alongside colleagues from a wide range of institutions. These included Network Rail, who have been collecting records such as emergency train timetables introduced in response to the falling customer demand, and all the documentation that went into making this happen, and University at Buffalo in the US, who are encouraging students and staff to share their experiences of the pandemic by submitting video diaries and photographs to the archive. Learning about and reflecting on the wide range of collecting projects happening around the world is as informative as it is inspiring.

An example of a publication for the COVID-19 archive. This is the cover of the April 2020 Bulletin RCN members magazine.
An example of a publication for the COVID-19 archive. This is the cover of the April 2020 Bulletin RCN members magazine.

It is amazing to think that in the (probably not too distant) future the COVID-19 records we have collected will be catalogued, available to view online through our digital archive and be being used to inform research into, and evaluations of, the response of the UK’s largest independent nursing organisation and our role in how Britain handled the pandemic.

Katherine Chorley, Digital Asst Archivist
Royal College of Nursing Archives

Related

Browse all Royal College of Nursing Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous RCN Archives feature: Cathlin du Sautoy and Hermione Blackwood: personal papers at the Royal College of Nursing Archives

All images copyright Royal College of Nursing Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Birkbeck’s Archive

Archives Hub feature for October 2020

Birkbeck was founded as the London Mechanics’ Institute on the evening of the 11th November 1823, when approximately 2,000 people listened to Dr George Birkbeck speak on the importance of education for working Londoners at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand.  Supporters there that evening included Jeremy Bentham, the philosopher and originator of Utilitarianism, Sir John Hobhouse, a Radical MP who held several important government posts across his career, and Henry Brougham, a liberal MP, anti-slavery campaigner and educational reformer.

George Birkbeck, founder of Birkbeck painted by Samuel Lane circa 1825, Birkbeck Image Collection.

Birkbeck has been transforming lives by helping people access higher education for nearly 200 years. This year, 2020, we celebrate our 100th anniversary of our membership of the University of London. When Birkbeck joined the University of London, it was on the condition that it should continue to provide evening teaching, and this remains our central mission.

The Library at Breams Building, Chancery Lane, Birkbeck Image Collection.
The Library at Breams Building, Chancery Lane, Birkbeck Image Collection.

As we move toward our 200th anniversary in 2023, part of the Birkbeck archive was rediscovered in an offsite storage facility. This has proved to be a rich source, not only providing insights not into our institutional history but also stories of both staff and students allowing us glimpses into their lives. We now find ourselves in the position of having two sections of the archive, each telling our story from different perspectives.

One section of the archive is held in the main Birkbeck building and is comprised of records pertaining to the history of Birkbeck from an organisational context, including minutes of various committees, published student journals and newsletters, annual reports, calendars, early student registers and staff information. 

Birkbeck College, Courses of Study front cover. Birkbeck Image Collection.
Birkbeck College, Courses of Study front cover. Birkbeck Image Collection.

The second section is held offsite and is made up of a range of material including; war correspondence, departmental papers, estates documents, all of which demonstrate Birkbeck’s unique aim and how that aim has held strong through changing political, economic and cultural times.

To date one Birkbeck academic, Professor Joanna Bourke, has explored this material, along with two of her PhD students. They have found it to be an excellent source for their research. One of the themes that runs through the archive is around trends in education such as educational policies and practices. This includes charting the life cycle of different academic disciplines as well as documenting different approaches to teaching and the broader aspects student life.

Art class at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution, Breams Buildings, circa 1915, Birkbeck, University of London. Birkbeck Image Collection.

Like many university archives, we have records of notable Birkbeckians who worked or studied with Birkbeck. We can now develop more of a picture of the lives of people such as; JD Bernal (Crystallography), Eric Hobsbawm (History), Nikolaus Pevsner (History of Art), Helen Gwynne-Vaughan (Botany). We can also learn more about those who were less well-known who studied here and made an impact like the playwright Arthur Wing Pinero and socialist, women’s rights activist Annie Besant. The library is creating an online timeline to highlight the life and work of various Birkbeck academics as part of the celebrations in the lead up to our 200th anniversary.

Helen Gwynne Vaughan in her Botany Laboratory with students circa 1923, Birkbeck, University of London. Birkbeck Image Collection.

In terms offering different perspectives, this part of the archive also holds accounts of the wider Birkbeck community, beyond the academic staff and students, those members of staff working in catering and hospitality roles, administrative staff, laboratory technicians. This provides an opportunity to explore social history through those lived experiences documented through various formats, such as letters and photographs.

It’s an exciting time at Birkbeck as we continue to uphold the ethos and pursue the central mission of providing access to education for all. Birkbeck is still London’s only specialist provider of part-time evening higher education as well as being a world-class research institution. The archive will continue to tell the story of Birkbeck as an institution as well as all those who work, study and research here. You can follow Birkbeck’s journey to its 200th anniversary.

Main Birkbeck Building, Birkbeck Image Collection.

Emma Illingworth
Subject Librarian for Science (Biological, Earth & Planetary, Psychological)
Library Services, Birkbeck, University of London

Related

Browse all Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Birkbeck Library Archives and Special Collections, University of London. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

Comic strips and seaside holidays: unexpected stories from the Save the Children Archive

Archives Hub feature for September 2020

The Save the Children (SCF) archive, held at the Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham, charts the development of the charity from its creation in 1919. The collection includes a wealth of material relating to the charity’s founder, Eglantyne Jebb, and these papers provide a fascinating insight into how SCF operated during the 1920s. They also highlight the personal stories of individuals associated with SCF.

Concertina comic strips

Illustrated concertina comic strip (ref: SCF/EJ/9/2).

One fascinating item is a wonderful illustrated concertina comic strip created by Corinne de Candole, documenting her first week working at the SCF office in April 1925. She dedicated the strip to ‘Miss Jebb who showed me how the New World is being built at the Office of the Save the Children Fund’. The strip depicts Corinne’s interview with a Mrs Beach, as well as the making of blue cloaks and flags and ‘planning for the new world’.

Travelling to Geneva (ref: SCF/EJ/9/2).

Another two comic strips reveal how Corinne travelled to Geneva for the summer school in 1925 and she also wrote two poems about this experience: ‘The Disobedient Lady who never got to the SCF Summer School’ and ‘The Obedient Lady who went to the SCF Summer School’. Through these documents we can sense the pride with which Corinne felt for working for SCF and her thoughts on how it was helping change the world.

Thank you letters

The overseas country papers in the Eglantyne Jebb series highlight the personal stories of those affected by the crisis in Europe after the First World War. The Horak family, from Hungary, wrote a letter of appreciation to SCF, offering thanks and remembering their benefactors.

The Horak family letter with typed translation, 1922 (ref: SCF/EJ/1/17/1).

‘From the bottom of our hearts sending our Christmas Greetings and very best wishes [and] we are always thinking gratefully of those who helped to get homes for us poor war invalids and widows with our families. May you be as happy as you have made us […] The little cottage means also a new life to us, making us forget our sufferings and losses. We beg the Almighty to pour his blessing over you and your family and give long life and happiness to those who provided us with a home. This will be our prayer on this holy Christmas eve.’

The letter is accompanied by a photograph of the Horak family (ref: SCF/EJ/1/17/1).

In a letter to Miss Vulliamy, who was leading SCF funded projects in Poland, Vera Staack describes how her mother, and herself, had to flee Russia due to the Bolsheviks:  ‘But why are they frightened, why do I read such terror in their eyes? I shall explain you the reason. The red banner flashes, and on it the black words which make everybody tremble. “Death to the bourgeois.”…..The fathers or mothers are taken from their children, children are torn from their parents sides. And so everybody tries to hide quickly.’

‘The picture of the past rises involuntary before me. Christmas Eve! It was our last Christmas Eve in our native land-in far off Moscow. An enormous Christmas-tree made dazzlingly brilliant by quantities of electric lamps and brilliant ornaments and many, many presents…..And all this has been taken from me by the Bolsheviks. Dear Miss Vulliamy, and I shall have no more Christmas-trees or Christmas Eves, and mother is always very cross now, cries often, and wishes to speak to no one. She was quite different before.’

Letter from Vera Staack, 1921 (ref: SCF/EJ/1/22/7).

‘And now good-bye, my dear, dear English friend. I hug you very hard and remain your very respectful and unhappy little Domby friend

She ends ‘P.S. Why are men so wicked, dear Miss Vulliamy.’

A seaside holiday

Another example can be found in a report entitled ‘A seaside holiday’, written by M. Brown, where we learn of the impact that a trip to the beach had for a group of young children: ‘“Who pushes the sea?” Is water never still?” “Does sand bite?” […] even the Ukrainian student was among the unbelievers who doubted whether the sea was salt, and made a wild dash to stoop down and taste it to make quite sure that he was not being deceived.’

The children then share their stories of the horrors that they have been through: ‘that was a long time ago…my mama died in the truck on the way from Russia. She died of hunger my mama did not live long after my daddy was killed by the Bolshevists. I wouldn’t believe it at first when the doctor came round and bent down and listened to her heart and said that mam was dead.’

‘A seaside holiday’ report, 1922 (ref: SCF/EJ/1/22/8).

‘All the children have their own sad story, and all have lived through strange and dreadful times, and in all their young faces can be read the tragedy of the homeless and the outcast. It is to build up their energy for the life struggle before them that Miss Vulliamy inaugurated the Children’s Holiday Home at Danzig in 1922.’

These archives offer a glimpse into the traumatic events which children and families faced in the aftermath of the First World War, the attempts by SCF to help and the appreciation that this generated.

Matthew Goodwin
Save the Children Project Archivist
Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham

Related

Browse all Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham descriptions available to date on the Archives Hub.

All images copyright Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.