(Not) A Very Merry Christmas!
18 December 2018
By Lindsey Tydeman
Christmas isn’t always the perfect family time we like to think it is… sometimes illness, arguments, unexpected tasks, family tensions and catastrophes get in the way. We’ve selected some memories from the diaries in the Mass Observation archive of Christmases past which didn’t quite go according to plan…
‘My brother is a policeman and the most reactionary person I know; also he is stoically heterosexual, with two rather colourless children and a wife who thinks women should be paid less than men. It had always been a problem for me to relax among them. The last Christmas I spent with them was agonising. ..There were too many rows. I said ‘Never again’. And I never returned to that house, even for a visit.’
M, 45 SXMOA2/1/20/3
‘A nice short service but the ‘Te Deum’ was bloody awful… Read ‘National Velvet’ all afternoon… Gram on all evening, bed 10.30.’
M, 24 SXMOA99/51
‘Rob told me he had had a very severe bout of food poisoning…he thinks on reflection, it was the antipasto. He was violently sick all night and part of the next day…Meanwhile, he told me, Ruth had started to feel ill… As we spoke, upstairs in my bedroom she was violently sick, into a plastic carrier bag, it seems.’
F, 60 SXMOA99/14/4/15
‘The only misfortune was the Aran sweater that my aunt knitted for Elizabeth. The thank you letter is going to take a lot of careful phrasing as the sweater was far too small and had one sleeve an inch longer than the other… If only she’d rung for measurements!’
F, 53 SXMOA2/1/20
‘Karen helped both Marjorie and me to get up out of our seats and to be lowered gently into them! At 86 and 89 both movements need a strong arm to prevent a struggle or undignified collapse… I told Karen to be wary of handsome boys who tend to be demanding and arrogant… I have seen quite a few of them married for six or eight years and then going off with another woman and bringing another family into existence… I didn’t tell her that a billion pounds had not been paid to the first deserted families. Women have had the worst of the sexual revolution.’
M, 89 SXMOA99/85/1/10
‘Eventually cooked a turkey steak, potatoes, green beans and sprouts and was having it as it got dusk. However Jane had brought Sweep across to be here as a refuge because they had visitors and he was unhappy and restless, going to the door, clawing at the carpet etc so I let him out. This deterred me from my dinner and it got a bit cold and I didn’t enjoy it much.’
F, 71 SXMOA99/92/18
‘When I got home Bob went out to ‘do his kiosk’. He takes part in the BT ‘Watch the Box’ scheme which aims to prevent vandalism and ensure speedy reporting of faulty (telephone) kiosks. His particular box is about three-quarters of a mile away and he had reported the coin slot as jammed on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day he decided to take a screwdriver and see if he could free the jammed coins as he did not think the coin box was full. He also made sure he had his BT identity card in his pocket in case someone thought he was a vandal. In fact, the slot was jammed with two 5p pieces stuck together (a trick to try to get £1 worth of phone time, apparently) and he freed it easily with the screwdriver.’
F, 53 SXMOA2/1/20
‘Christmas shopping and preparations begin for me any time after the summer. I make out lists of people to whom I send things, averaging, over the past four years, 45. I keep past lists for about three years so that I may check up and avoid repetitions… on the other hand I don’t like festivities. I am unsociable and avoid them.’
F (no age given) SXMOA1/3/25/1
‘Xmas was a day of gloom in our family, my father hated it and did his best to make it a day of misery my mother being religious tried to jolly it up so we had these two opposing forces battling it out, and the shadow of the marital war-games stills hangs over the 25th for me… A gay Xmas is much nicer and less trouble.’
F, 50 SXMOA16/1/1/64/12
‘Christmas at home consists of washing up (one maid and about seven in the house); sitting in the lounge (there are no comfortable chairs) and watching my father go to sleep after lunch; perhaps a walk round suburban roads in the morning and on Christmas morning a ridiculous ceremony of opening presents… I particularly dislike my sister and do my best to conceal it.’
F (no age given) SXMOA1/3/25/1
‘A went to bed for his usual siesta. I watched The Reluctant Dragon, which I had recorded and which, in 1941, I had given top rating. Why? I was very unimpressed and bored by it all and even the cartoon was below Disney’s then high standard…. We are both very relieved when Twelfth Night has passed and it can all be abandoned. I enjoyed my childhood Christmasses and our carol services at boarding school, but that was then; this is now.’
M, 68 SXMOA16/1/2/18/12
‘Continued typing a letter begun yesterday to a dear gay friend in Australia. He’d sent me a tea towel with lots of little Koala bears on it, and a sexy Xmas card. At page five-and-a-half I smelt burning. The peas! Mostly blackened; I salvaged a few and got some more out, scoured the black pan, boiled it clean again and set it boiling again; this time winding up my very useful timer clock to remind me in five minutes.’
M, 66 SXMOA16/1/2/18
‘I spent all Xmas Day in bed coughing due to a flu virus, waited on hand and foot by my mate who had had it a little earlier but was still coughing. Luckily we have two different coughs, she sounding like a trombone, I like a cat being sick.’
F, 50 SXMOA16/1/1/64/12
‘Shopping – I leave that as far as possible to mother. Services – never attend them. Emotions – disgust. Interest – nil. Parties – never go to any. Dances – don’t dance…. Christmas I know from past experience will be a bore, it always is. For example, Christmas Day, spent at home with parents and a widow of some 75 years who always visits us at that time. Dinner is late and mother gets irritated because of the extra cooking. After dinner sit around and eat chocolates and nuts and play some damn fool card game.’
M, 28 SXMOA1/3/25/2
‘I cycled to church… a lovely ride through West London. The church was a tiny one in Petersham. I wore trousers but no-one in my family complained. It was the first time I had darkened the doors of a church for ages…..We had Christmas dinner at half past six. My sister had provided a chestnut and apple roast as a turkey substitute for me and the other vegetarian in the family. My other sister asked me to wear a skirt for the meal. I declined but I don’t think she really expected me to anyway.’
F, 25 SXMOA16/1/2/3/11
‘The evening buffet started with soup served in the dining room but – Someone Had Blundered and the buffet was not yet laid out in the Turpin Room and we had to wait. Profuse apologies from the waiter.’
F, 77 SXMOA99/92/18
New display celebrates Women’s History Month at The Keep!
8 March 2018
By Eleanor King
For Women’s History Month this year, a display has gone up in our reception area highlighting some of the lesser known heroines of our collections. Pictured below, the display loosely takes the themes of ‘a woman in a man’s world’ and the power of the female voice and friendship. The women featured all created something unique in their lifetimes and all have contributed to the place of women in the 21st century. To gather these women together, I put a call out to the ladies of The Keep for their champions and unsung heroines, and sure enough the call was answered.
A women whose archive I‘ve wanted to explore in more detail for while is that of the remarkable Dr Rosey Pool, whose scrapbooks of her time working with African America poets in the United States I have had the pleasure of being able to leaf through in teaching sessions. Dutch-born Dr Pool studied in Berlin until the expansion of the Nazi regime forced her return to Amsterdam, where she became a teacher, counting Anne Frank among her pupils. She had formed an interest in African American poetry at university and during the war continued to seek out and collect works by poets and artists. Following the war, Pool spent time in America, lecturing and speaking out in favour of civil rights, desegregation and championed the work of unknown African American poets and artists. Her archive includes a wealth of poetry from the middle of the 20th century, as well as much of her own writing. A recent display at The Keep featured a book from Rosey Pool’s archive that underwent conservation last year. A piece written by Special Collections Supervisor Rose Lock about this book and its conservation can be found on the University of Sussex library staff blog.
Another woman I knew I had to feature was Tilly Edinger, an eminent scientist whose pioneering work led to the discovery of ‘paleo neurology’. It was Samira Teuteberg, archivist for the German-Jewish collections held at The Keep, who told me about Dr Edinger; knowing my interest in all things ‘Jurassic Park’, she knew a woman who pioneered the study of dinosaur brains was always going to pique my interest. Tilly Edinger led me to Eva Ehrenberg, her cousin and a translator and writer. I came across a photograph that, for me, embodies the phrase ‘a woman in a man’s world’, featuring Eva Ehrenberg at work at her desk in an office alone, on one side of the room whilst a group of men sit around at a desk on the other side of the room. The two parties could be occupying entirely separate spaces; Eva is isolated and ignored, working alone while the men appear to be deep in discussion. A copy of this photograph is now part of the display, alongside material related to the work of Tilly Edinger.
Despite Tilly’s move to America to pursue her career, she and Eva maintained a correspondence and a friendship. This got me thinking about the importance of female friendships and how empowering they can be, and I wanted to find other examples in our collections.
It was Rose Lock who alerted me to the incredible women of the Cooperative Correspondence Club, the CCC, who, following a call for help from a lonely mother in Nursery World magazine, created a publication written by the women, for the women and only to be read by CCC members. The magazine ran from 1935-1990 starting with 24 contributors who all wrote under pseudonyms and formed close friendships over the years. The power of being given a voice cannot be underestimated, and the CCC offered women across the country a chance to have their voices heard and their opinions counted in a world where they may have otherwise been ignored or undervalued.
In keeping with the theme of female friendship and comradery, East Sussex archivist Anna Manthorpe directed me to the Women’s Institute records we hold from chapters across the county. These include reports, minutes and record books, and we also hold several scrapbooks created to celebrate key events such the Golden Jubilee. On display are some images taken from the Falmer WI scrapbook from 1965 that feature a run-down of the year’s activities, including thoughts on the impact the new university will have on the village. Community groups such as the WI provided a space for women to work beyond the male gaze and their domestic arrangements, forming friendships and contributing to their local communities.
Other women who feature in the display include Mrs Mary Philadelphia Merrifield, a Brighton-based writer and translator from the 19th Century. She took herself off to France and Italy to study the Old Masters and later studied marine life, becoming a leading algologist (seaweed expert). A blog about Merrifield written for International Women’s Day in 2016 by archive assistant Emma Skinner can be read here. Brighton and Hove colleague Kate Elms and archive assistant Lindsey Tydeman also provided me with the names of many great women, including politician and activist Margaret Bondfield, pioneering physician Dr Helen Boyle and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Bodichon, all of whom have local connections but have made an impact historically.
The archives at The Keep are full of fascinating, remarkable and extraordinary women; from scientific pioneers to outspoken activists, to housewives seeking friendship. We hope you will inspired to come and find out more, or perhaps to discover your own family heroine? In 2018, the female voice is being heard perhaps louder than ever before, let’s keep it up!
John Lockwood Kipling and the V&A
By Rose Lock
Here at the University of Sussex Special Collections we have got to know John Lockwood Kipling through his papers, especially the wonderful sketches which we are lucky enough to look after on behalf of the National Trust, so we were delighted to hear in 2014 that the V&A were planning an exhibition exploring his life and work.
John Lockwood Kipling is currently most famous as the father of Rudyard, but he is himself a fascinating man. Originally from North Yorkshire, he moved to India in 1865 when he was appointed as a professor of architectural sculpture in the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in what was then called Bombay. He was later appointed the Principal of Mayo School of Arts at Lahore and became curator of the Lahore Museum. As an accomplished artist he made many artworks showing local people and places, with his portraits of Indian craftsmen and soldiers being personal favourites. They convey a strong sense of these being real people, with their personalities shining through to create a real emotional bond with the viewer. His architectural sculpture can still be seen at the V&A, Crawford Market in Bombay, and in the Durbar Room at Osbourne House. This last is one of the projects he worked on with Bhai Ram Singh, one of the Indian artists he mentored through his work at the Mayo School. His recognition of local artists, craftsmen and designers and his support of them through training and apprenticeships was strongly connected to his association with the Arts & Crafts movement in Britain. He died in 1911 and is buried in Tisbury, having returned to England on his retirement in 1893.
We hold over twenty different collections related to the Kipling Family. I am currently cataloguing one of our newest Kipling collections, relating mostly to Alice Kipling, John Lockwood’s daughter who was known as Trix as she was ‘a tricksy little thing’. A staff favourite has always been the Kipling-Blaikie collection, consisting of letters written by Rudyard, Carrie, Elsie and John Kipling to Mrs Mary Blaikie, governess to Elsie and John between 1904 and 1909 and including some wonderful illustrations and a lot of moaning about cold weather and socks.
These and most of the other collections held by Special Collections here at The Keep are owned by University of Sussex, which means we can make decisions on loans within the department. The largest Kipling collection held here, from which the items loaned to the V&A for this exhibition were taken is the Wimpole Hall Archive, owned by the National Trust. These are the papers taken to Wimpole Hall after Rudyard and Carrie Kipling’s deaths by their daughter Elsie Bambridge. She added to this over time with other letters and manuscripts that she bought herself, and with copies she made of items held in other hands. This collection passed with Wimpole Hall itself into the hands of the National Trust in 1976, and was then deposited at Sussex in 1978. Although we can give access to the papers in our reading rooms and help researchers with their enquiries, any decisions on loans, copyright, exhibitions and the like need to be made by the National Trust, who own the papers in this archive. Working with multiple partners always takes longer, as decisions must be checked and permissions verified, but the good relationship we have built with the National Trust, along with their enthusiasm and efficiency, made the process much easier.
The first decision to be made with any exhibition is which items are to be loaned, and in this case, which are to be photographed by our reprographics department for the book and guide that accompany the exhibition. Our online catalogue allowed V&A staff to browse through our Kipling family collections and identify which items related to John Lockwood Kipling they wanted to view at during their visits to our reading rooms. University staff who have built a familiarity with the archive are an invaluable resource at this time, giving advice and suggestion on which sections might be relevant and which items have become our favourites through the years.
The visits from the V&A staff have been lovely, allowing us to delve with them into the wonderful art and life of John Lockwood Kipling. As archive staff we do not get as much time with our collections as we would sometimes like; we are not researchers and the day-to-day business of running an archive service to allow others to access the treasures we hold keeps us very busy.
It is also a great opportunity to look at the conservation and preservation needs of the items that are being loaned. Everything leaving The Keep to go on public view has to be assessed to ensure that it is in a good enough condition to survive exhibition. The National Trust sent us its experts to look closely at the items going on loan. They created reports with recommendations for conservation that needed to take place and also suggestions of the most suitable ways of displaying the beautiful items that have gone into the exhibition. This work was then undertaken and the items carefully packed and taken to the V&A by specialist museum transporters Constantine. We have worked with them several times and are always impressed by their care and skill when taking on these precious items.
Another asset we have gained from this exhibition is the high quality images that were taken for the book and exhibition guide. We kept digital copies of these beautiful photographs which can now be used by ourselves and the National Trust to promote the Wimpole Hall archive and the story and works of this remarkable man. I hope you have enjoyed those that illustrate this blog post and that you’ll visit the V&A’s excellent exhibition or our archives to see more.
Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London is on at the V&A until 2 April 2017; for details, see their website, https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/lockwood-kipling-arts-and-crafts-in-the-punjab-and-london
Henry Fawcett and Millicent Garrett Fawcett, campaigners for female suffrage
By Kate Elms
It might seem strange on International Women’s Day to focus on a married couple, Millicent Garrett Fawcett and her husband Henry Fawcett. It’s certainly true that Millicent’s achievements and legacy speak for themselves – she was an early and active campaigner for female suffrage and for higher education for women, and the Fawcett Society, founded in 1866 to fight for gender equality, is named after her. But Henry Fawcett, Brighton’s Liberal MP from 1865 to 1874, was equally committed to the idea of votes for women and encouraged Millicent in both her campaigning and her writing. Theirs appears to have been an equal partnership, which seems worth celebrating.
Millicent Garrett was born in 1847 in Suffolk into a large family in which freedom of speech and political debate was encouraged. At the age of 12, she was sent to boarding school in London, where her elder sister Elizabeth was studying, and it was there, in 1865, that she first heard the radical MP John Stuart Mill speak on women’s rights. Mill was one of the first men to argue against the subordination of women and, in 1866, presented a petition to Parliament on behalf of Elizabeth and a group of women known as the Kensington Society, demanding the right to vote. The petition failed, but it had gained a significant number of signatures as well as the support of certain MPs, suggesting that some men agreed with them. Henry Fawcett was one of these men.
Born in Salisbury in 1833, Fawcett was educated at Cambridge and initially planned a career in law. He was blinded in a shooting accident at the age of 25, but pursued his studies, becoming Professor of Political Economy in 1863. Two years later, he was elected MP for Brighton. A man with profoundly liberal views, he joined Mill and other radical members of parliament in campaigning for equal rights for women, which brought him into contact with Elizabeth Garrett and her circle.
In 1865, he proposed to Elizabeth but she turned him down, choosing instead to focus on her medical studies (she later became Britain’s first female doctor). Henry then met and fell in love with Millicent, Elizabeth’s younger sister, and the pair were married on 23 April 1867. Their meeting was described in Fawcett’s biography A Beacon for the Blind as, ‘the beginning of a rare understanding between two strangely harmonious and independent natures … their affection rested on a strong foundation of common principles and interests and of the love of freedom and justice.’ The couple had one child, Philippa, who was born in 1868.
Millicent assisted her husband in his work as an MP, while he encouraged her in her career as a writer. In 1870, she wrote Political Economy for Beginners and, in the same year, delivered a lecture at Brighton Town Hall on the ‘electoral disabilities of women’ which was reported at length in the local press. She became a well-known speaker, not just on women’s issues but on political and academic subjects too, at a time when few women expressed their views on public platforms.
Meanwhile, Henry supported Mill’s proposed (but unsuccessful) amendment to the 1867 Reform Act, which would give women the same political rights as men, and campaigned for equal access to further education and employment. In 1872, he and Millicent co-produced Essays and Lectures on Social and Political Subjects, and the couple had their portrait painted by Ford Madox Brown; the finished artwork was bequeathed to the National Portrait Gallery in 1911.
Henry Fawcett remained MP for Brighton until 1874, after which he represented Hackney. He was appointed Postmaster General by Gladstone in 1880, and in this role he continued to champion women’s rights, extending their employment opportunities and, after taking advice from his sister-in-law Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, appointing women doctors to care for them. He died in 1884 at the age of 51.
Millicent was only 37 at the time of her husband’s sudden and premature death, and within a short time, she was back at work campaigning for women’s suffrage, among many other things. She became leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, the main Suffragist organisation in the country, with far more members than the more militant Women’s Social and Political Union. Committed to a pragmatic, law-abiding approach, she distanced herself from the more violent campaigning inspired by Suffragettes such as the Pankhursts in the early years of the 20th century, but she acknowledged the impact their actions had on the overall movement, and is said to have commended the bravery of the women who faced imprisonment.
Millicent died in 1929 and until the end of her life she fought for equal access for women not just to the right to vote, but also to education, employment and divorce. Fittingly, she was present in the gallery of the House of Lords to see the Equal Franchise Act passed in 1928, more than 60 years after her first involvement in the struggle, one of the few women involved from the beginning to end.
A West Indian Romance
14 February 2017
By Jessica Scantlebury
The Mass Observation Archive has recently acquired the Dyde-Joseph Letters. The letters in this collection recount an intimate and moving love story, one that reveals what it is like to fall in love in a warm climate! The letters were written by Brian Dyde and Veronica Joseph between 1973 and 1974. The couple met while Dyde, who was a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy, was participating in some hydrographic surveying work in the Caribbean. Veronica Joseph was a young Antiguan woman who worked in the headquarters of a Caribbean airline.
Letters between the two are exchanged almost immediately after their first meeting. Although Dyde was already married, it is clear that he was infatuated with Joseph after their first encounter. Almost immediately, the correspondence between the pair is relaxed, comfortable, and not long after their first meeting, the couple fall progressively in love with each other.
Veronica Joseph to Brian Dyde, 10th September 1973
‘All my life, or rather all my adult life, I’ve been looking, searching, seeking for something, someone with whom I could share my life, someone I could love and cherish and who needed me.
From the moment I first saw you that night at Shelia’s, as I’ve said to you before, – to use a West Indian cliché – my spirit and my heart took to you – even though you were of all things, English.’
Because of the nature of Dyde’s job, which leads him to travel to many islands in the Caribbean Sea, the only way the pair could maintain regular contact was through letters and very occasional visits when Dyde’s ship, the HMS Fawn, docked again in Antigua. At times, it is clear that this has advantages for their courtship, as it allows them to speak authentically to one another:
Brian Dyde to Veronica Joseph, London 16th July 1973
‘My real purpose of my writing is because I feel I must tell you how much I enjoyed seeing you and being with you at the weekend. I am very poor at expressing myself verbally, but on paper, I have more time to collect my thoughts and put them in some kind of order. The sight of your little red car bowling along towards the ship on Saturday evening raised my spirts immeasurably and from then on, I felt quite a different sort of person for the rest of the weekend. I am elated to be in your company, and I enjoy to the full everything we do together.’
This collection of letters details a blossoming love, daily life on Antigua and in the Navy. Early on in their courtship, the couple make plans to marry and this is realised in the autumn of 1974, when Joseph moved to the UK to live with Dyde. This collection would be of interest to anyone researching love and affairs; the Navy; life on Antigua, mixed- race relationships and the 1970s.
Most of the letters are handwritten, although there are a few that have been typed. The letters are all original and some contain illustrations by Brian Dyde.
The collection was donated to the Mass Observation Archive by Brian and Veronica Dyde in 2016.
The Duality of a Daguerreotype
19 December 2016
By Rachel Maloney
Working as a digitisation technician within the Centre for German Jewish Studies Archives is a fascinating role that has given me access to many interesting and sometimes challenging objects that require digitisation. I have documented photographs, paintings, letters, passports, marriage certificates, World War I medals, and even a pressed edelweiss flower. However, when I came across several daguerreotypes within the Elton/Ehrenberg collection I knew I had found something special. It was the first time I had seen or held a daguerreotype and there was one in particular that struck me. It was an image of a young woman with neat dark hair, a vase of flowers by her side, looking out of the frame with an intense and powerful stare. Who was she? Julie Fischel was scrawled on the back in faded pencil.
I wanted to find out more about Julie Fischel but I also wanted to effectively digitise this rare and amazing object. Looking at a daguerreotype is unlike looking at any other type of photograph, it is an intimate thing- you have to hold it in your hands and manoeuvre it in the light to really see it and understand it as an object.
The daguerreotype: What is it?
In 1839 the Daguerreotype became the first commercially available photographic process, yet they took time and precision to create so would have been considered a great luxury. Every daguerreotype is a unique object, an image captured and fixed on a silvered metal plate. The daguerreotype plate was polished until it became highly reflective, then iodine fumes were used to form a light sensitive surface of silver iodine on its surface. The plate would be kept in a light tight holder until it was exposed within the camera, then it was developed in a mercury bath to ‘bring out the image’, and finally the image was fixed using a solution of sodium thiosulphate. When this process was complete the daguerreotype would be placed in an ornate casing behind glass to protect it from damage, bestowing it with a
precious keepsake quality. Unlike a photograph printed onto paper the daguerreotype is not a reproduction created from a negative – it is a one off and unique object that carries an indexical link to the person or place it represents. The image appears to float above the surface of the plate giving all daguerreotypes a haunting and eerie quality.
Daguerreotypes are highly reflective and act like a mirror so you often see yourself being reflected back when you look at them.
It is difficult to describe what a daguerreotype really looks like because it constantly changes depending on how the light hits its surface, at one moment the image is positive, turn it slightly and the image becomes a negative. It is a thing of duality; both positive and negative, heavy yet fragile, its image both visible and invisible depending on the angle of light. So how can you reproduce or digitise an object that is reflective in nature and which involves a dynamic process of seeing?
The final digitised version of the daguerreotype of Julie Ehrenberg was taken using an Icam Guardian archive system with an attached overhead camera that is directly parallel above the object being digitised. This minimises reflection on the object and also controls any distortion that could occur if the camera were positioned at an angle or the object and camera were not parallel to each other. The two fluorescent strip-lights on the Guardian system have been positioned to the side of the daguerreotype so that the light hits it at a 45 degree angle, eliminating any reflections. The resulting digitised image contains no distracting reflections and shows the daguerreotype as a positive image with all its fine detail and intricacy.
This is a successful image for digitisation purposes but it isn’t obvious that the image is of a daguerreotype- it could easily be a reproduction of a traditional photograph. So how can we accurately represent objects for digitisation when they change under light, are dynamic or 3D in structure? What should a digitised image do? Should they offer information clearly i.e. legible text, clear image reproduction? Or should they relay a little more about the nature of the objects held in museums and archives? These are just a few of the intriguing questions and considerations that digitisation within archive collections can bring. If you would like to share your thought on this topic, or would like to know more, please email me at: R.Maloney@sussex.ac.uk
If you would like to find out more about the Elton/Ehrenberg collection, you can access the catalogue here: http://www.thekeep.info/collections/getrecord/GB181_SxMs96
And keep your eyes peeled for our next blog post to find out more about Julie Ehrenberg!
Rachel Maloney, Archive Technician for the German Jewish Collection housed at the Keep. December 2016.
Our Advent calendar returns!
30 November 2016
In December last year, we created The Keep’s first archive-inspired Advent calendar. Choosing 24 Christmas images that we felt represented our collections was a tough task, but we reminded ourselves that those that didn’t appear in the 2015 calendar would be first in line in 2016.
Fast-forward 12 months and here we are, about to unveil the 2016 selection. Again, these images come from the holdings of The Keep’s three partners; some are visual, some text-based; we’ve included handwritten and printed material, plus photographs and illustrations that range from the early 18th century to the 1970s. You can have a look at last year’s calendar here, and we will be unveiling this year’s images day by day in our reception area. You can also view the calendar as it is revealed daily on our Twitter and Facebook pages. Merry Christmas!
Clare Sheridan – A Woman Ahead of Her Time
22 March 2016
Nestled in a few boxes at The Keep are many photographs and negatives (dating from around 1915 to the 1950s) of the fascinating sculptor, photographer, journalist and writer Clare Consuelo Sheridan (nee Frewen).
Jenny Geering, who has been digitising some of this material, writes about this extraordinary woman.
Clare was born in 1885 to Moreton Frewen, a man of good gentry who suffered some financial misadventures, and his wife Clarita, the daughter of an American financier. She had a varied and interesting childhood, enjoying trips to London, seeing her cousin Winston (Churchill) and spending time with her mother and aunts. There were also visits with King Milan of Serbia (he doted on Clare, calling her ‘darling’, and brought all the children gifts; he may also have been her mother’s lover). There was a sense of loneliness too, as her parents did not have much time to spend with their children; they were left under the supervision of a nurse and subsequently a governess.
At the age of 14, Clare was sent to a convent in Paris but this was a miserable time for her. Despite speaking fluent French, she was not able to relate to other girls of her own age and they bullied her for being English. After Clare declared that she wanted to be Catholic, not Protestant, so that she could fit in with the other girls, her mother withdrew her from the convent and sent her to live with a Protestant family in Darmstadt. After some time being ‘finished’ (going to opera and museums), she returned home to her parents.
Becoming an Independent Young Woman
In May 1903, Clare met a young man named Wilfred Sheridan at her first ball and was instantly smitten with this charming and handsome man. He too was taken with her but was aware of her family’s financial problems. Other ‘suitable’ men showed interest in young Clare, but she did not reciprocate. Her cousin Winston stayed in touch via letter and when she shared the fact that she’d like to write a book herself, he supported her dream of finding independence for herself.
At this point, Clare and her parents lived mainly at the beautiful Brede Place in Sussex and they entertained famous characters of that time, including Rudyard Kipling and Henry James. These authors encouraged Clare with her literary pursuits and passions. Soon after this, Clare befriended the Prime Minister’s daughter, Violet Asquith, who asked if she would write an article on her behalf for the National Review; Clare took to this with great gusto and earned her first income.
Despite a proposal from a kind, older suitor, Clare could not escape thoughts of Wilfred. Her Aunt Jennie invited both Clare and Wilfred to dinner and , hearing of her prior proposal, Wilfred himself proposed and Clare accepted. In October 1910, they were married in a large ceremony attended by members of the royal family and the Cabinet.
Children and the First Sculptures
Clare gave birth to a first daughter, Margaret, in 1912 and her second daughter, Elizabeth, in 1913. Sadly Elizabeth became ill with tuberculosis and passed away in 1914. Wanting to create a memorial for Elizabeth’s grave, Clare learned how to sculpt with clay and relished this creative outlet. At the same time, she took many photographs of Margaret, their home and her family and spent time creating sculptures of the heads of her friends’ children.
When the First World War broke out, Wilfred left Clare, who was pregnant again, at home whilst he went and fought. At the end of September 1915, Richard ‘Dick’ Sheridan was born and a few days later Wilfred Sheridan was lost in battle.
Her Own Income
By 1919, Clare’s independence and income were growing – she was able to earn hundreds of pounds a year but it still was not quite enough. Thanks to a very large donation from an American colonel who admired her work, Clare was able to focus more on her bust bronzes – her subjects included her friend Princess Patricia of Connaught, former prime minister Herbert Asquith, and writer HG Wells. In mid-1920, Clare was invited to travel to Russia to sculpt busts of revolutionaries. The British government objected to her going but, being the stubborn, determined young woman she was, she went anyway, and stayed for a couple months, allegedly having affairs with a few of her sitters. Cousin Winston discovered her exploits and was livid, as were many people back in England. Soon after, she left for America.
Initially Clare spent time doing publicity (which she resented) for her new book Mayfair to Moscow but soon she was arranging an exhibition of her art and taking commissions again. She had to stand up to her father (who was never very supportive) and to justify herself as a mother to her own children, but things improved and Clare’s writing became well known across America. She was offered a trip to LA at the expense of MGM Studios as Charlie Chaplin was eager to meet her after reading Mayfair to Moscow. Clare and Charlie got on wonderfully, despite having incredibly different backgrounds, and even little Dick adored him. However the press put pressure on their relationship and it soon came to a close.
She spent the next few years travelling through Europe as a journalist and, after returning to London in the mid-1920s, published two novels on travel in quick succession. During the early 1930s, Clare visited Africa, where she took many photographs, but at around this time Dick became heir to the Frewen House at Frampton, which the family needed to sell.
Tragically, Dick died of complications from appendicitis in 1937, and Clare was inconsolable. Her loss did not stop her travelling, however; she set off for America, where she joined an art colony on a Native American reserve. Here she started carving wood into beautiful art, which she later exhibited.
Second World War
Once war started, Clare returned to Brede Place. By 1942, Winston had asked her to do another bust of him, possibly to represent a time of such prominence for him. After the war, Clare converted to Catholicism and moved to a Franciscan convent in Ireland. Clare still expressed herself with her sculpture whilst living here, moving in to her own house but still visiting the convent. Life had begun to quieten down for Clare by the end of the war but she still wrote and released a book called To the Four Winds. At this point, Clare had really rejected England but still travelled and made her way to Greece, where she began to carve in marble. Clare came down dysentery after visiting Biskra and seeing no improvement, returned to England as she sensed the end was imminent. Clare Sheridan finally passed on, on 31 May 1970 aged 84, leaving a legacy of art, writing, photographs and stories behind her.
The Clare Sheridan material held at The Keep forms part of the Frewen Family Archive. It includes photographs and glass-plate negatives, drawings and illustrations, newspaper cuttings, letters and family papers. The material is currently being catalogued and is not yet available to order, but watch this space for future updates!