Archives

On the importance of socks…

on Thursday, 19 September 2013. Posted in Archives

Letters from soldiers, sailors and airmen of the First World War are often quite formal in their style and the things they say. But of all the hundreds of letters I have read from the archive over the past few weeks, most of the writers are united by one subject – the importance of socks.

To help you do your job, no matter how unpleasant, basic comforts are the priority. For the servicemen of the First World War, freezing a lot of the time in a trench, at sea or in the air, having warm dry feet was a daily challenge.

No unfairness intended, it just so happens that all of these letters are from the chaps. So far I have only found letters from service men.

Methuen's Maps

on Wednesday, 18 September 2013. Posted in Archives

Anyone with an interest in history will understand what I mean. If your interest is sparked by the First World War then your understanding will be all the greater. Read on…

Like many of us, I first studied the First World War at school, and over the years have seen many dramas, films and documentaries, and read many books about the events of 1914 – 1918. No matter how well done they are, there is always the safety of years to distance and protect us from the true realities of that terrible war, and what it was really like to be there. Names like the Somme, Ypres and the Dardanelles have a haunting resonance, yet as the passage of years mean that they are passing into myth.

“Dear Miss Baker…”

on Tuesday, 17 September 2013. Posted in Archives, Military

As an MA student from Bath Spa University, on placement here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, my first task has been to search the archive for First World War documents and photographs.

The opportunity to spend hours in the midst of archive documents is, for a history graduate like me, a complete joy. I’ve been impressed at the speed with which the production team retrieve items from the store rooms, and the helpfulness and expertise of the staff. The Centre is a wonderful facility.

Amongst many other papers, I came across a box of hundreds of letters, sent to a Miss Frances Baker, in her capacity as Honorary Secretary of the Salisbury branch of Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild, and dated from 1914 to 1919. The Guild was part of a national charity of ladies who raised money and used this to make and supply garments for the needy of their area. During the First World War, their focus shifted to service personnel of the British Army, Navy and Air Force, and in all theatres of war. Wiltshire people served in many different places, as far flung as the North Sea, France, Salonika, Mesopotamia, Egypt, India and Palestine. Later in the war, the Guild also took responsibility for sending parcels to Salisbury men who were prisoners of war in Germany.

 

'Lacock Unlocked' is unlocking secrets already!

on Tuesday, 20 August 2013. Posted in Archives

It is about two months now since I started working on the Lacock collection and every day I am finding something noteworthy in the boxes. The collection contains a range of beautiful and informative documents: legal documents and correspondence are particularly good at providing valuable insights into the Talbot, Davenport, Feilding and related families who are associated with the Lacock estate. Different documents appeal to different researchers according to their area of research but also their personal preferences. An example here is a series of letters discovered as part of the Davenport collection.

Henry Davenport (1678-1731) was married twice, the second time to Barbara Ivory, the younger sister of John Ivory Talbot who was one of the owners of Lacock. Later, the Lacock estate would come into the hands of Henry and Barbara’s descendents, first in trust to their daughter-in-law Martha (Talbot, who married their son William) and then to their grandson William Davenport Talbot. Sharington Davenport (1709-1774), Henry’s son by his first wife Marie-Lucie Chardin, attended Eton and many letters have survived from his school days and into his time at Cambridge, written to his father and stepmother Barbara Davenport from him and also from his tutors and servants at Eton. These letters are fascinating, and show his character as a slightly rebellious and highly amusing schoolchild, also displayed from various letters written to his father by his aunts (spinster sisters Arabella and Leticia Davenport). Henry Davenport kept many varied letters especially from family memmembers and Sharington’s schoolboy writing is particularly clear and consistent.

Living at the Workhouse in Secret?

on Wednesday, 19 June 2013. Posted in Archives

An interesting enquiry recently came in from a person seeking corroboration of the birth of her ancestor in Highworth and Swindon workhouse in 1909.
This child’s birth certificate gave her address as 8 Highworth Road, Stratton St Margaret. Read on to discover why……


It provided an example of the implementation of the advice of the Registrar General, who in 1904 suggested that the birth and death certificates of inmates should have a euphemistic address, one that spared the family the disgrace of the workhouse.

The correspondent will send this example to the website www.workhouses.org.uk which alerted her to this practice, which has interesting implications for family historians. Intrigued by this I did a spot check on two births in the Devizes workhouse in December 1909. The birth register gave the address as 7 Commercial Road, Devizes. In each case the address was for the roads in which the institutions stood.

Checking the Devizes example was possible because all but the most current registers of the Wiltshire Registration Service are held in the History Centre. Its copy certificate service is now based at the History Centre and their email address is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

The new arrivals that have it all plan'd out...

on Friday, 03 May 2013. Posted in Archives

We have recently received the first part of series of deeds from the Salisbury diocesan registrar which will be an important source for local historians. In the early 19th century, two enabling Acts of parliament permitted the exchange of land and property in order to improve the estates which supported parish clergy, known as glebe. Each incumbent was tenant for his term of office, without power to buy or sell. Now it was possible to rationalise scattered glebe lands and to acquire new parsonages or vicarage houses. The deeds have detailed maps, often the earliest for the land being exchanged. Highlights among the first batch include a deed of 1817 for Long Newnton (now in Gloucestershire) with a plan of the entire glebe, surveyed by John Hayward, Rowde in 1811.

But the star of the group is an 1826 deed of houses in St Mary Street Chippenham. The plan offers a detailed ground plan of both houses with less detailed one of the church. The then present vicarage house, on the east side of the churchyard was exchanged for one on the other side of the street opposite the church. It has the date stone GL 1717, which refers to Gilbert Lake, vicar from 1716. The new vicarage, now a care home, is called The Old Vicarage. The other property now called St Mary House, should perhaps be named ‘The Even Older Vicarage House’.

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