The Long Journey Home: Edith Cavell and the “Cavell” Van

27 November 2018

by Emily Manser

Cavell Van HER ref MES24717

The Recording Remembrance project is aiming to record all world war one memorials across East Sussex. Volunteers across the county can record the condition, physical nature and inscriptions of memorials and report them to the website: Recording Remembrance Website.
Memorials recorded by the project can be crosses, plaques or more unusual objects such as the Cavell Van found at Bodiam Railway Station, commemorating Nurse Edith Cavell.

On 15th May 1919, a South Eastern & Chatham Railway Van left Dover on its way to London, carrying a very important passenger. Her name was Edith Cavell and, after a long and arduous war, she was finally being brought home to be laid to rest.
Edith Cavell was an English nurse, working in Belgium at a Red Cross hospital. Between 1914 and when she was arrested on the 5th August 1915, she had helped over 200 allied soldiers escape. She was shot by firing squad on October 12th 1915. She was 49 years of age.
Following her journey home from Dover to London, railway vans of the same type became known as “Cavells”. The fully restored railway van now sits in a siding at the rear of Bodiam Station. Inside, a single coffin sits in the centre, an eerie reminder of the cost of war.

This memorial, along with many others, is recorded on the Recording Remembrance database. With the help of the public, we are working hard to ensure that these physical representations of the sacrifice of war are preserved for future generations.

For more information on this, or any other HER record, please contact county.her@eastsussex.gov.uk

The expansion of Hove: a house – and garage – for everyone

6 November 2018

By Lindsey Tydeman

A devastating war may have come and gone but through it the register of planning applications in the Borough of Hove Surveyor’s Office was maintained faultlessly, the only evidence of the national trauma being a 50 per cent decrease in planning applications between 1914-1918. After the war, although local industries and shops continued to grow and modernise, there was a very slow start to house-building despite the temporary subsidies available under the Housing (Additional Powers) Act 1919.

Plans for 45 houses to be built in Amherst Crescent and Aldrington Avenue, Hove, approved December 1928, DO/C/6/6924

Plans for 45 houses to be built in Amherst Crescent and Aldrington Avenue, Hove, approved December 1928, DO/C/6/6924

It was to take ten years before confidence in the building industry returned. 1928 seems to be the key year in Hove’s expansion northwards into Hangleton, Blatchington and the surrounding downland farms. The roads between the railway line and the Old Shoreham Road were filled with large-scale developments (ie ‘45 houses, Amherst Crescent and Aldrington Avenue’) and the success of this was the cue for huge projects of new roads, sewers and housing north of the Old Shoreham Road which was only interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1939. Braybons the builders cornered the market in Hangleton as they had done in Brighton; they began building 103 houses in Elm Drive, May Tree Walk and Rowan Avenue in spring 1933, and started again building 80 houses and 38 garages on Hangleton ‘Estate Road No 4’ in early 1936. A garage was now considered essential; everyone who had bought a house without one or builders who had started constructing houses without them remedied their errors in the 1930s. The value-for-money option was the pre-fabricated garage from Booths Portable Buildings Ltd.

Plans for a house, and garage, at 130 Woodland Drive, July 1936, DO/C/6/10096

Plans for a house, and garage, at 130 Woodland Drive, July 1936, DO/C/6/10096

There was obviously rapid profit to be made in large estates of smaller semi-detached houses, and, later, of semi-detached and detached bungalows. The impression from the register is of developers, individually or in groups, being determined to start building as soon as land became available, often putting plans before the Borough Surveyor and Improvements Committee even before a specific plot had been identified on a new road and necessitating a measurement from the nearest landmark or building in order to plot it on the office map. A handful of local architects and builders maintained a firm grip on the developing housing market and, by 1937, some of them had been there since the 1890s, handing on the business through the family. Several names – Marchant, Nye, Parsons and Sons, Braybons, Cook, Callaways, Denman and Draycott – are still associated with the building industry and working in Brighton and Hove today.

After the First World War, the rich no longer came en masse to spend their summers in Hove. Some families sold their grand houses in Hove’s premier roads leading from Church Road and Western Road to the seafront, but others kept them, converting them into flats for rental income. Initially, each floor of a large house would become one flat, the architect’s plans rarely exceeding four in one building. However, in 1938 owners began to see the potential in ‘tenements’ (as the planning register called them), or ‘flatlets’ (in the words of the architect). Perhaps those at 9, 11 and 13 Holland Road were Hove’s first studios. The party walls separating the large terraced houses were demolished, making them ‘all intercommunicating’. The rooms were divided by a partition wall to create a living space with a ‘kitchenette’ in the corner. A shared bathroom was at the end of the landing or on the next floor. In August 1940, plans were submitted to make 16 flatlets and caretaker’s quarters out of the single house at 44 Brunswick Place.

Hove still remained the town of choice for wealthy individuals and retirees. The latter could move into one of the luxury, modern purpose-built flats occupying prominent positions on the Kingsway. In August 1936, Viceroy Lodge at the bottom of Hove Street was designed with its own servants’ quarters and every flat in St Aubyn’s Mansions had its own maid’s bedroom. In 1932, Hove’s first private swimming pool had been designed by the architect Mr S Clough. Designed for satisfying length swimming, it filled the entire back garden of number 8 Third Avenue and came with 2 diving boards, a terrace and, for privacy, a thick conifer screen at the back.

Plans for an air-raid shelter at Windyridge, Radinden Drive, by Messrs Rodee Ltd for the Misses Rowson, May 1939, DO/C/6/11722

Plans for an air-raid shelter at Windyridge, Radinden Drive, by Messrs Rodee Ltd for the Misses Rowson, May 1939, DO/C/6/11722

In 1939, Hove’s main industries were still those of 50 years previously and they were in the same place, banked up against the Brighton to Shoreham railway line. Dubarry’s had bought out the Standard Tablet Company in 1924 and was installed in the factories and warehouses south of Hove Park Villas. Brighton and Hove Omnibuses were still in Conway Street and the laundries in Arthur Street were expanding and updating; in 1922, dry cleaning was offered at Channel Laundry. The newly-created industrial estate to the west of Newtown Road was dominated by the head office of Clarks Bakery, whose delivery men on bicycles, and later vans, supplied the local shops. Improvements in 1933 placed woodblock-floored offices, a telephone booth and boardroom around the strongroom, with a three-bedroomed flat upstairs. Green’s, makers of dessert and cake mixes, had been on its site between Portland Road and the railway for over 20 years and had its own spur line to the factory. The machine tool factory CVA Jigs, Moulds and Tools lay on the north side of Portland Road opposite Glebe Villas and had expanded from its ‘temporary building’ in 1917 to a full iron foundry works in 1930. Smelting work was carried out there until the early 1970s.

Away from Hove’s many pubs or ‘hotels’ as the planning register termed them, entertainment came in the form of football, greyhound racing and cinema. The Goldstone football ground had a new North Stand in 1930, to be followed by a clubhouse, improved lavatories and two ‘temporary’ bars, owned by Tamplins, in 1937. The nearby greyhound stadium, new in 1929, went from strength to strength; improved and extended during the early 1930s, it received a ‘totalisator’ building for betting in April 1936, additions to the grandstand in late 1938 and extensions to the east stand in January 1939. Hove Ice Rink, which lay alongside the railway at the top of Denmark Villas, was a huge temple-like building with a high-ceilinged entrance hall, orchestra pit, restaurant, board room and tea lounge. However, it lost popularity soon after opening in 1929 and was reopened as the Hove Lido cinema in 1932.

Gas-proof door on air- raid shelter in Conway Street for Brighton Hove and District Omnibus Co, June 1939, DO/C/6/11725

Gas-proof door on air- raid shelter in Conway Street for Brighton Hove and District Omnibus Co, June 1939, DO/C/6/11725

Dr Hart of 47 Cromwell Road was the first civilian to apply for permission to build an air raid shelter in his garden in January 1939. This threw the Planning Committee into a dilemma; as it was ‘a structure not provided for in their Building Bylaws, the Borough Surveyor suggests that the Council accept no responsibility in respect of the proposals’. They didn’t have long to wait before instructions from the War Office took the responsibility away from them. Only two organisations, the Brighton and Hove Omnibus Company and Boots Chemists, were proactive when it came to protecting their employees in the months before war became official, the former building two air raid shelters in Conway Street, one with a gas-proof door, and the latter providing shelters at all three of its shops in Boundary Road, George Street and Church Road.

Regarding the book itself, 1939’s planning register, purchased in June 1937 from Combridge’s Stationers at 56 Church Road, is a duplicate of Hove Borough’s first planning register of 1885. Its layout and listing style were unchanged, reflecting, one suspects, the procedural continuity of the council committee meetings at which the Borough Surveyor approved new buildings. Ink pens were still used although the writing was no longer standard nineteenth-century copperplate and formalities were important. The word ‘Messrs’ always preceded a company’s name and two or more unmarried sisters living together were termed, ‘The Misses…’. It was business as usual in the Surveyor’s Office right up to 24 December and again after 26 December. It would be 35 years before 1 January became a public holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

Life in Postwar Hove – insights from the Borough Minute Books

15 October 2018

By Lindsey Tydeman

In 1914, Hove was a grand town. It had been a regular retreat of Edward VII, the front page of the local paper carrying the latest on ‘The King’, and where the King had walked, the wealthy London elite still followed. The Brunswick Estate, Hove Lawns and the wide roads surrounding Grand Avenue made a most elegant seaside environment, with the ‘working classes’ tucked firmly away in mews cottages or in terraced housing to the west. Today, we know that the 1914-18 War changed British society irrevocably but in 1918-19 the Mayor, Alderman and Burgesses of the Borough of Hove saw no such portents. The minutes of Hove Borough’s myriad Committees show how they coped with the challenges of the peace while attempting to maintain the status quo.

As with councils today, finance – the need to conserve money and curtail unnecessary spending – was a predominant issue on every committee, from Small-Holdings and Allotments to Town Hall and Entertainments. Wounded soldiers returning home and unable to recommence their work in Borough departments were a worry. Lance Corporal Emsley MM and Bar, discharged from the army as unfit for service and declared not fit to return to work ‘for a considerable time’, was receiving a war pension but also half-pay from his job as a cemetery worker. The Parks, Baths and Cemetery Committee reviewed his case every month, only granting him half-pay on regular evidence from a doctor. With no regular wage reviews, it was up to municipal employees to request wage rises or increased War Bonuses, and it was only after a certain amount of pressure, for example the mass meeting of the Municipal Employees Association in February 1919, that committees would agree to ‘confer’ over the issue. Wounded soldiers and their charities were given consideration but there were increasing limitations to compassion where finances were at stake. In 1919, shell-shocked soldiers were allowed individual free use of the swimming baths, but the previous year Sir Arthur Pearson only had exclusive use of the Swimming Bath on Sunday mornings from 10.30 to 12.30 ‘on the understanding that (he) pays to the man left in charge the sum of 5/- per Sunday’. In 1919, the Parks, Baths and Cemetery Committee was very concerned about how long it could continue waiving burial fees for soldiers and sailors. Hove War Memorial Fund, set up in June 1921 to assist families of former soldiers in extreme need with money or clothing for children, declined to help the family of W. Butcher as he ‘was not a Hove man within the definition given in the Trust Deeds, therefore ineligible for assistance’.

The minute books provide much information on women’s roles during the War and beyond. With men serving in the military, women were used as a labour source throughout the town’s municipal departments. They were particularly useful as labourers in Hove Cemetery, where they cut the grass and cleaned the walks. Always termed ‘temporary’, their pay went up from 4d to 5d per hour in March 1918 (they received no War Bonus) and in May an extra six were taken on. In the Rates Department, Miss Springer and Miss Winter had been doing the work of Messrs Cheverton and Bolton, but when these gentlemen returned from military service, the Town Clerk was instructed to ‘give one month’s notice to Miss Springer and Miss Winter to terminate their engagements’. In April 1919, following a Home Office circular which recommended that ‘women auxiliaries may be of great assistance to the Police when dealing with cases in which women and children are concerned’, the Watch Committee decided ‘to expend the sum of £15s’ on the appointment of two Policewomen, ‘and in addition the cost of necessary uniform, including boots’.

In February 1920 Miss Basden, Honorary Secretary of the Joint Housing Committee of the Brighton and Hove Branch of the National Council for Women, asked for two women to be co-opted on the Housing Committee. The Committee’s reply was abrupt: there were already two ladies on the Committee. In May, Miss Basden wrote again, this time using the term ‘working women’ and referring to the recent Circular of the Ministry of Health, which recommended that ‘where women are co-opted upon a Housing Committee, the claims of working women who have had experience of bringing up a family and doing all the work of their home should be specially considered’. She gave the names of Mrs Aldridge of 21 Shakespeare Street and Mrs Standing of 22 Molesworth Street, as recommended for co-option and the Committee resolved that the Council be recommended to co-opt them ‘to hold office until 9 Nov next’.

Extract from the Housing Committee Minutes, 1920

Extract from the Housing Committee Minutes, 1920

The provision of affordable rented housing for working people was a huge issue and Councillors felt the pressure of expectation from both central Government and individuals in the Borough. A new estate fronting Portland Road had been earmarked for development and Housing Committee minutes chart its slow progress, with discussion of various house types and arguments over sizes of kitchens and sculleries – the women had a voice here. Costs were regularly restructured, with expenditure shaved from kerbs (replaced by boundary stones), roads (gravel instead of macadam in some areas) and economies on roadside planting. The cottages were estimated to cost £1000 each, with an ‘economic’ rent working out at about 35/- per week. The Housing Committee had been set up in 1919 and one of its first tasks was to read a circular from the Local Government Board asking for a survey of the town’s empty houses ‘which might be converted into flats or tenements for the working classes’. There was such a list, submitted by the Assistant Borough Surveyor, which he had obtained from the Rate Collector. ‘It appeared that most of the empty premises were the larger residential houses, situated in Palmeira Square, or localities of that character. The Committee are of the opinion that in view of the position of the empty houses… it would not be advantageous to the Borough for such premises to be converted into flats or tenements.’ They duly replied to the Local Government Board ‘that there are no houses in the Borough at the present time which would be suitable for conversion’.

The dry bureaucracy of Hove’s collection of Committee Minutes provides an unexpected insight into the local human cost of the War. In March 1918, the Parks, Baths and Cemetery Committee heard from the Town Clerk that ‘questions had arisen’ regarding the portion of Hove Cemetery which had been reserved for the burial of those ‘whose deaths had occurred in connection with the war’. Now it appeared that relatives wished to be buried in the same grave as those they had lost … ‘the Committee agreed that permission be granted’. In September 1919, a Mrs Oliver wrote to the Committee asking if she could pay to have the path from the Cemetery Chapel to her son’s grave asphalted at her own expense, as it was in a bad state of repair. The Committee replied that this work was in hand along with other paths in the Cemetery. Two months later, Mrs Oliver wrote again; she wanted to leave £1,000 in her will to the Borough ‘for the perpetual upkeep of her son’s grave’. The Committee replied that it would be much better if the money be paid over now and a Trust created during her lifetime.

The minute books give a sense of daily life in Hove in 1919, and also of the changing face of the town at the end of the War. Large sections of Hove Park, Hove Recreation Ground and Aldrington Recreation Ground (Wish Park) had been turned into allotments and notice was given in January 1920 to the allotment holders that their tenancy would be terminated the following December. Flag days, collections and fairs in the parks had been almost weekly events during the War, all on behalf of the military; even after the Armistice the Committee was loath to give other charities permission to make collections without permission from the Government. There were still military camps at Shoreham and Portslade, so buses from Brighton to Portslade were continually overcrowded. This caused general ill-feeling and, particularly, anxiety during the influenza outbreak in 1918; however, after an equal vote the Watch Committee decided against asking the bus company to keep to its licensed number. Similarly, they decided they did not have the powers to ask cinemas to stop admitting children under 14, despite the fears that back-to-back performances and lack of ventilation increased children’s susceptibility to infection. Local Government Board regulations would soon limit entertainments to a maximum of three hours with a requirement for ventilation.

The Minute Books from the Borough of Hove’s scores of Committees and Sub-Committees are a resource in waiting, not only for the local historian and researcher but also for those interested in the broader context, how a community and its individuals fitted into the national framework of post-war Britain in 1919.

For more information about Hove Borough Council and the records held at The Keep go www.thekeep/info and search the catalogue under DO/A.

 

 

 

 

German-Jewish history and identity: exploring the Ehrenberg-Elton Papers at The Keep

24 September 2018

by Anika Wagner

Alles Erleben ist eine Episode. Auch Hitler war eine Episode. Daß er nur eine Episode bleibt, liegt an Euch.’

‘Every experience is an episode. Even Hitler was an episode. That he remains just an episode is up to you.’

Eva Ehrenberg, Sehnsucht – mein geliebtes Kind, p67

I’m a Librarian Master’s student from Berlin/Leipzig, Germany and, earlier this year, I joined The Keep for a nearly nine-week internship. This is not my first time abroad; during my apprenticeship as Library Assistant and my Bachelor study I’ve already been in London, Baltimore and Vienna to work in different libraries. So the procedure in preparation for this internship was nothing new to me. In November 2017, I started to write to lots of different libraries in the UK, asking for the possibility to intern with them. Luckily, I got a positive reply from the University of Sussex Special Collections at The Keep. After this, I applied for financial support from ERASMUS+ and my University’s Friends’ association (both of which I got, hooray), booked my accommodation and finally the flight as well.

Still, it was exciting: a new house, a new city, a new workplace and new colleagues. Everyone was really welcoming and tried their best to make me feel comfortable! During the first few days, I was introduced to all the staff here (unfortunately I’m not good at remembering names), had a tour of the building and got familiar with the collection I was going to work with over the next few weeks.

Rewrapping the archive material to ensure it is protected

Rewrapping the archive material to ensure it is protected

My work here focused on the Ehrenberg-Elton Papers. I checked the collection box by box, folder by folder. In six weeks, I got through the first 33 boxes, which contain a lot of different materials, from letters, photographs, passports and medals to newspaper cuttings and even hair. With each folder, I compared the catalogue entry with the real material. Was everything in the folder? Was the number of pages identical? Did the description match? Sometimes I had to give the material a new title to make it more meaningful. Last but not least, I tried to fit the material into a new, revised classification. Some objects needed new packaging, so I got new folders for them or wrapped them in tissue paper and made a label with their reference number and title on it. It felt a bit like wrapping Christmas presents.

While doing this, I had the chance to read the odd letter or literary manuscript. This was really fascinating and I had to watch out to not just read all day long. With every folder and box, I got deeper into the Ehrenberg family. When I reached the boxes with the family’s photo albums and loose photographs, I already knew so much about the people, what their past had been and what become of them in the future. It’s saddening when you read next to a portrait the simple caption ‘Hans im Konzentrationslager’ (Hans in concentration camp), although you already know he survived. I got most emotional about the photos of Eva Ehrenberg in her later years, as she reminded me of my grandmother.

My attempt to get an overview of the Ehrenberg family and their relatives

My attempt to get an overview of the Ehrenberg family and their relatives

I was told me on one of my first days that I may need to write a family tree while working on that collection. First this advice puzzled me a bit, but soon I did so. In the end I had at least five family trees interweaving different strands of the Ehrenberg family.

The Ehrenbergs, especially Eva, were in contact with so many different people that I easily got lost. Even if it turned out that they were related, I still had to work out which side (Eva or Victor) they belonged to. Luckily there is already material about that in the collection itself. One of my most exciting objects in this collection was a book about an old German legend (I had never heard of before) which was dedicated by the late Kaiser Wilhelm II to Eva Ehrenberg’s father Siegfried Sommer.

In my last two weeks, I did some research in preparation for a collaboration with the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. They also hold material by and about the Ehrenberg family, which they have already digitised. I checked their digital archive to see if what they hold is also in the Ehrenberg/Elton Papers collection at The Keep, so it can be later linked into the catalogue.

As The Keep is a partnership of different institutions, I was  introduced to their staff, their work and their different kinds of materials. I also had the opportunity to join a lot of sessions and events of different kinds. These included a workshop called ‘Refugees in Times of Crisis, 1938-2018’, which reminded me that history sometimes repeats itself, and the 12 May Day Diary, with fun activities like badge-making. I didn’t know that so much could be done for outreach in an archive. Most of the sessions were for students to show them what an archive is and the kinds of materials are held here. It was really impressive to see how enthusiastically the colleagues spoke about their work and collections!

Having fun at the 12 May Day Diary event at The Keep

Having fun at the 12 May Day Diary event at The Keep

I’m really sad that my time in Brighton and The Keep ended so quickly. I would have liked to spend more time here and finish my work on the Ehrenberg-Elton Papers. Whilst working here I learnt a lot: about archives in general and The Keep’s collections in particular, about British life, emigration and identity, and about German-Jewish history. Of course, in school we often talked about this dark episode in German history but my own country’s history became more graspable to me, working with all these authentic and personal materials. Especially at a time when right-wing populists are regaining power in so many countries, it is important to know the history and prevent repeating it.

I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the work of archives to join The Keep for an internship or work experience. It was my most enjoyable internship, and I’ve done eight so far!

 

 

 

Pioneering women: Margaret Bondfield, 1873-1953

6 August 2018

By Kate Elms

Portrait of Margaret Bondfield by Bassano Ltd, 10 February 1922. Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Portrait of Margaret Bondfield by Bassano Ltd, 10 February 1922. Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London

Did you know that the UK’s first female cabinet minister started her working life in Sussex? Margaret Bondfield, elected Minster for Labour in 1929, was born in Somerset in 1873 but, at the age of 14, she moved to Hove where she was offered work at Mrs White’s ladies’ and juvenile outfitters in Church Road.

This seems initially to have been a positive experience. In a biography written by Mary Agnes Hamilton, a pioneering woman in her own right, Margaret is quoted as saying,’I was apprenticed to one of those old-fashioned businesses where the relations between customer and server were of the most courteous and friendly, and the assistants, of whom I was the youngest, were treated like members of the family.’

During this time, she was befriended by Louisa Martindale, a customer of Mrs White’s and a well-known local suffragist. Louisa had moved to Brighton to ensure her own daughters, Louisa, born in 1872, and Hilda, born 1875, received a good education and the opportunity to pursue fulfilling careers, and she opened up her home in Stanford Road to young working women on Saturday afternoons. Margaret had grown up in a family that valued social justice, and this chance to mix with like-minded people helped to develop her political ideas.

When Mrs White retired, Margaret moved to Hetherington’s, a much larger establishment in Western Road. There she had a different experience of working life, with long hours and cramped living conditions. In the 1891 census, she is listed as the youngest resident (aged 18) in a household of eight female draper’s assistants, none from the local area, in a small house owned by William Hetherington in Stone Street, Brighton. It has been said that the Victorians invented late-night shopping – premises were often open until 10pm at night and young staff worked up to 74 hours per week, while the ‘living-in’ system gave them no privacy or freedom.

Extract from Margaret Bondfield's obituary, published in the Brighton Herald, 20 June 1953

Extract from Margaret Bondfield’s obituary, published in the Brighton Herald, 20 June 1953

Moving to London in 1894, Margaret seems to have drawn on her own experience, becoming active in the Shop Assistants’ Union, campaigning for equal pay and better conditions for workers. She joined the London District Council of the Union and began to contribute articles to Shop Assistant, a publication launched in 1896. In the same year, she was asked by the Women’s Industrial Council to investigate the pay and conditions of shop workers. Her subsequent report and elevation to Assistant Secretary of her Union meant that by the age of 25, her political potential was being noticed in wider circles. She was recognised as the leading authority on shop workers, giving evidence to parliamentary select committees and was often the only female delegate to speak at conferences.

In 1908, she turned her attention to the Independent Labour Party and some of the broader issues it faced, including healthcare and pensions. She was involved with numerous organisations, including the Women’s Co-operative Guild, the National Federation of Women Workers and the Women’s Peace Council; supported equal suffrage for men and women, which put her at odds with the Women’s Social and Political Union; and continued to campaign for equal pay.

In 1923, she was elected as MP for Northampton and became the first female chair of the TUC. And in 1929, she became Minister of Labour in Ramsey Macdonald’s government, the first woman to hold a cabinet post. It was a difficult time, defined by the depression following the Wall Street Crash, and Margaret became a controversial figure who was seen by some to have betrayed the principles of her own party. She retired in 1938 and died in 1953.

 

Family History and Beyond – talks and courses at The Keep

30 July 2018

By Kate Elms

Family History and Beyond – talks and courses at The Keep

Some of the resources available at The Keep for researching family history

One of the perks of working at The Keep and, in particular, being involved in the planning and delivery of our public events programme, is having the opportunity to attend most of the events themselves. I’ve learnt a huge amount from the fantastic speakers who have given talks here, and also from colleagues who have helped curate displays of relevant original archives, enabling us to showcase some of the remarkable material in our care.

Family historians are among our most dedicated users, and earlier this year, we were delighted to collaborate with the Sussex Family History Group (SFHG) on an introductory session for those inspired to start tracking down their ancestors. SFHG volunteer Roy Winchester gave a presentation that covered all the basics, from how to draw up a family tree to how to interpret the data to be found in census returns and parish records, as well as shedding light on alternative sources of information that can be found at The Keep, such as electoral registers, street directories and newspapers. The event concluded with coffee and biscuits and a lively question-and-answer session.

Participants share their work with family and friends at the end of our creative writing course

Participants share their work with family and friends at the end of our creative writing course

For those hoping to go ‘beyond the family tree’, we recently piloted a six-week creative writing course led by author and life historian Shivaun Woolfson. A group of ten participants met on Saturday mornings to share their ancestors’ stories and explore different ways of presenting them. Finding a balance between historical accuracy and storytelling was important; within families, much can be left unsaid – for all sorts of reasons – so using contextual information and personal experiences to fill in the gaps is part of the process. Many of the writers were inspired by a family heirloom – an object, photograph or letter – and the course included advice from The Keep’s conservator on caring for family collections as well as research tips and guidance from our archivists.

The participants read their work aloud at the last session, to which friends and family were invited. Each story was unique and personal – and all the more powerful for that – but the issues touched on were universal, from infant mortality, the impact of war, poverty and life in the workhouse to marriage, loss and the position of women. There was a strong sense of place, too, with locations ranging from Vancouver to Victorian Rodmell. The final morning concluded with a plea for us to repeat the course next year, with longer sessions and more of them! Watch this space…

Settlement examination of John Davies in the parish of Wadhurst, dated 11 June 1790, ref PAR 477/32/4/34

Settlement examination of John Davies of the parish of Wadhurst, dated 11 June 1790, ref PAR 477/32/4/34

Anyone interested in family, local or social history should make a point of delving in to what archivists refer to as the ‘parish chest’. We were thrilled earlier this month to welcome Elizabeth Hughes back to The Keep to share her expertise on this subject and to draw attention to some of the little-known gems in the parish archives.

Parishes were the main unit of local government until the mid 19th century, and Elizabeth highlighted material relating among other things to education, charity and, in particular, relief of the poor. These records illustrate vividly what life must have been like for those with no wealth or status who were dependent on the parish when they fell on hard times. Rigorous settlement examinations, for example, were recorded with care and can provide extraordinary detail about the lives of named individuals who would never have appeared in the history books. The process itself – of trying to establish the right to settle in a particular place and quite frequently being refused – has uncomfortable parallels in the present day, making it more relevant than ever.

The Keep holds an extensive range of material to support family history research, and volunteers from the Sussex Family History Group are on hand at from 10am – 4pm, Tuesday to Friday, to provide help getting started. For more information about future talks and courses, please see the Events page of our website. If you would like to receive news of forthcoming events, you can sign up to our monthly e-newsletter via our website.

 

A Digital Woolfian ‘Ode’

24 July 2018

By Dr Bryony Randall, Senior Lecturer in English Literature, University of Glasgow

Just over a year ago, on 14 July 2017, an innovative new digital edition was launched of a short work by Virginia Woolf, rejoicing in the name Ode Written Partly in Prose on Seeing the Name of Cutbush Above a Butcher’s Shop in Pentonville (surely the longest name Woolf gave to any of her works). The six-page typescript of this work is one of the most fascinating items in the Monks House Papers, the archive of Virginia Woolf’s papers held by the University of Sussex Special Collections at The Keep, and was selected for republication by the New Modernist Editing Network, or NME.

Virginia Woolf, photographed c1912

Virginia Woolf, photographed c1912

The NME (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council) brought together people involved in or with an interest in the scholarly editing of modernist texts, including academics, publishers, editors and book artists, in the light of the many new editions of modernist writers currently underway. One of our aims was to produce an interactive digital edition of a modernist work, and to showcase some of the issues and challenges faced by the editor of a modernist text by handing over as much control as possible to the reader. The new edition, produced collaboratively between Network members, can be found here, and we would be delighted to get feedback from anyone who’d like to explore it!

This digital edition of the ‘Ode’ shares many features with existing digital editions of literary texts. For example, we were able to reproduce facsimile images of the original typescript, alongside a transcript. This was particularly important since, in common with the vast majority of the short fiction Woolf wrote, the ‘Ode’ remained unpublished during her lifetime. So we are not dealing with something that Woolf necessarily saw as a finished work, and we wanted to convey this to the reader. What’s more, Woolf’s typing was not particularly accurate, so her editors often choose to ‘correct’ the typescripts they have quite substantially in published versions. By presenting the facsimile and interactive edited version side by side, the reader can clearly see – and if they wish, disagree with! – the editorial ‘corrections’ made.

Another feature common to many digital editions is the presentation of explanatory notes as pop-up windows which appear when you click on an underlined word, rather than having to turn to the back of a book as one would with a printed edition. But we also used this feature to show a range of alternative possible readings of Woolf’s handwritten insertions, some of which are more or less illegible – even to experts with years of experience of reading Woolf’s handwriting! In addition, Woolf herself revised the typescript in both ink and pencil; the digital format means that readers are able to view a transcript showing the pencil revisions only, or ink revisions only.

Screenshot of the index page of the NME digital edition of Woolf's text

Screenshot of the index page of the NME digital edition of Woolf’s text

However, one important feature of this text makes it particularly intriguing and distinctive as the subject of a new digital edition. Although the use of the term ‘Ode’ in the title, to some extent the quality of the language, and the layout of the type on the page, may collectively indicate that this text was intended to be set out with line breaks like verse, there is also evidence to the contrary. For a start, the title indicates that the text is indeed ‘partly in prose’. In addition, a number of Woolf’s typescripts from around the period that ‘Ode’ was typed have a similar appearance to this one, with a very wide left hand margin taking up almost one third of the width of the page. For that reason, we felt that the question of whether to preserve the line endings of Woolf’s typescript remains moot, and invite the reader to experiment with the effect of each version – whether presented as verse, or as prose.

In the year since its launch, this edition has been used for teaching in a number of universities across the UK and beyond. We’re delighted that it’s proving useful in introducing students to some of the issues facing the scholarly editor, and hope it piques further interest within and beyond academia. The idea of ‘textual editing’ might evoke images of the solitary scholar buried in a dusty archive ploughing through arcane manuscripts; our hope is that this digital ‘Ode’ not only showcases Woolf’s own lively and dynamic writing, but does so in a way that brings out the lively and dynamic aspects of the work of the textual editor!

The Many Hats of Mass Observation

19 July 2018

By Lindsey Tydeman

A lady wearing a hat to complete her outfit is an unusual sight in 2018, unless she is on her way to Ascot or a high-end wedding. But in 1939, at the start of what would become World War 2, the subject of hats and their wearing were felt to be important by the people at Mass Observation. There was anxiety on the topic, and, although definite fears were unspecified, the interest of MO in women’s fashion in general showed that the subject was considered to be an indicator of, and an influence on, the state of female civilian morale. ‘What happiness for the millions, who in this way can escape from their sooty street so gardenless, by buying a hat with flowers in front, ‘as good as any lady in the land’,’ wrote MO’s founder Tom Harrisson. A woman could be, ‘a Duchess for 3/11.’

In December 1939 an MO Observer was sent to a fashion gala at Grosvenor House attended by the wealthy and aristocratic. He reported that, ‘standards of fashion generally were quite up to pre-war standard’, with women ‘only too glad to go back to ultra-fashionable dress. Hats particularly take this turn.’ There was, ‘Obvious approval when told by the commentator that it is more patriotic to buy new clothes than not to.’

That was reassuring, but what about most women? Fewer seemed to be wearing hats as the war went on and observers were regularly sent into the West End and East End of London to note exact numbers. They also drew and described hats in shop windows. In 1944 a hat count taken by an observer standing at Whitechapel Station recorded that out of 300 women, 94 were hatless, 128 wore hats (nearly half of them in black felt), while the remaining women wore scarves and ‘pixies’.

By 1947 Harrisson was worried about scarves. He set out to discover ‘if the scarf has become a permanent menace to the hat trade’ and reported that women were willing to sacrifice two clothing coupons for a scarf although hats were coupon-free. An observer in London one Sunday in October 1947 found that out of 20 women, 7 wore hats, 5 wore scarves and 8 went bareheaded.

An audience of middle-aged women at Brighton Dome, possibly the County Conference of the British Legion Women’s Section in November 1958. Nearly every woman is wearing a hat.

An audience of middle-aged women at Brighton Dome, possibly the County Conference of the British Legion Women’s Section in November 1958. Nearly every woman is wearing a hat.

It was a sign of things to come. In the early days of the War, MO had noted that 82 per cent of women over 40 were wearing ‘a proper hat’ compared with only 45 per cent of the under 40s. As time went on it was the younger women who were the quickest to lay their ‘proper’ hats aside while the older group clung on to theirs the longest. Harrisson, beginning a survey designed to prompt the reawakening of the British hat industry in October 1947, stated that, ‘It must be of great interest to the hat manufacturers to find out the present day attitude of the general public.’ However, the ensuing MO survey was to reveal that the general public, especially women, didn’t care half as much about hats as Harrisson did and they were certainly not prepared to spend large amounts of hard-earned money on them. MO has been quiet on the subject ever since.

 

 

Mary Dring – an 18th-century businesswoman from Brighton

11 July 2018

By Madeleine Dickens

To mark the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which extended the franchise to some women, we have been looking at some of the extraordinary women represented in our archives, both before and after the suffrage campaign. Genealogist Madeleine Dickens discovered records relating to Sussex-born Mary Dring (née Widgett, later Kirby) while working collaboratively with one of her clients, Wayne Jackson from Canberra. Here, she tells her story.

Mary Dring was a successful businesswoman in 18th-century Brighton. Although remarkable in her own right, her success was not unprecedented; she was one of many enterprising, determined women with ambition to succeed. By her own assessment, ‘[she has] by her care and assiduity established a considerable share of custom by which she has been enabled to support herself and her three children by her late husband William Dring.’

Baptised in 1747 at West Tarring, Sussex, Mary  married William Dring on 12 October 1770 at Finsbury St Luke, London. They had several children, including a son John, before moving to Brighton, where they ran a grocery business. They had several more children, of whom only two, William and David, survived infancy.

Mary was one of four siblings and the entrepreneurial spirit clearly ran in the family. Her sister Elizabeth ran Miss Widgett’s Library on the Steine up to about 1779, publishing a guide book to Brighton in 1778. Diarists of that era referred to her as ‘the milliner and library woman’. Another sister, Ann, was almost certainly the Miss Widgett who, in partnership with Miss Wayte, opened a Boarding School for young ladies in West Street in 1785.

William Dring died and was buried on 27 September 1779 at St Nicholas’ Church in Brighton. Despite her loss, a week later Mary advertised that she would continue to run her late husband’s grocery business. By 1784, she had added the running of a ‘house, coach-house and stables’ to her portfolio in North Street, Brighton’s principal trading street. According to rating valuations, her properties were among the most valuable in the town.

An account of payments to be made by Mary Dring as administrator for her late husband, ref ACC 2409/2/851

An account of payments to be made by Mary Dring as administrator for her late husband, ref ACC 2409/2/851

One of the documents held by East Sussex Record Office at The Keep details the debts incurred by William Dring that Mary settled following his death, and gives an idea of the standing of the family. The debts incurred and settled amounted to nearly £2,000 (modern day equivalent, at least £250,000). There are also several inventories of her possessions and stock (drawn up at the time of her husband’s death) which give an even clearer idea of her relative wealth.

Mary married for a second time to John Kirby, in St Nicholas’ Church on 20 July 1784. It was the Deed of Settlement she had drawn up prior to this marriage that marked her out as an unusually independent and determined woman. It could best be described as an 18th century pre-nuptial agreement, and suggests that Mary was aware that the law at that time would not allow her to retain control of her business on remarriage (it was only with the passing of the Married Women’s Property Act in 1870 that married women were granted any legal rights to their own property).

Deed of Settlement signed on the day of Mary Dring's marriage to her second husband John Kirby, which includes provision for her children by her first marriage, Ref, SAS-N/15/557

Extract from the Deed of Settlement signed on the day of Mary Dring’s marriage to her second husband John Kirby, which includes provision for her children by her first marriage, Ref, SAS-N/15/557

The extract below gives an idea of the strictures imposed on Mary’s second husband: she had two main objectives – to ensure he met with her exacting standards and to generate the necessary returns to protect her own and her children’s futures.

‘…that the said trade or business during the continuance thereof shall be managed and carried on and all purchases, sales, bill, notes dealings and transactions which shall be made, given or taken for any matter concerning the same to be taken, exercised and entered in the joint names Kirby and Dring and also that the said John Kirby shall bestow his whole time and attention on the said Trade or Business and endeavour by his utmost skill, care, diligence and attendance to advance and promote the same; shall not deal or trade with any other than that of grocer or enter into co-partnerships or engagements in the business or any other with other person/s whomsoever; and that all goods, wares and merchandise monies payments and securities and all dealings relating to the business shall be daily charged and entered by him in proper books to be provided for that purpose in such manner as other persons of the same Business usually do or ought to do whereby the fair and clear amount of the said trade and the true state thereof may appear and in particular that a book may be kept for the said William Gifford, Thomas Hudson and Edward Widgett [the carefully selected trustees] or the survivor/s of them, their executors and ads and administrators, shall be at liberty to resort at all times have the sight, perusal and examination of and to take copies or extracts without any Let or Denial whatsoever. And also that the said John Kirby shall not nor will at any time or times during the time or term of aforesaid without such consent and approbation and so testified become Bail or security for with or to any person by Bond Bill Note promise or otherwise….’

Mary may have had another pressing motivation to have such a document drawn up – it’s likely that she was pregnant prior to her marriage. The couple were married on 20 July 1784 and their first child was baptised on 12 March 1785. A woman who valued her standing in society, however independent, would not have risked the consequences of having the child on her own.

There are many surviving documents relating to Mary’s life and business, but unfortunately the document trail dries up after her second marriage. We know more about her three sons from her first marriage, whose interests she had done so much to protect. Aged 14, John went up to Oxford University (a possibility only the wealthy could consider). He completed his MA in 1794 and took up a series of ‘livings’ as a vicar. William and David went into the grocery business together but were declared insolvent in 1802.

Tragically, all Mary’s sons predeceased her by some years – John was the first to die in France in 1804, William in Brighton in 1806, and David, who had travelled to the West Indies, in 1807. A very sad end to all Mary’s driving enterprise and maternal force. Her only grandchild, David Dring junior, appears to have inherited his grandmother’s formidable character. He became a master mariner who traversed most of the globe, making a particular contribution to the early development of Western Australia and the West Coast of America, both on sea and land.

Sadly, no will for Mary has been located so we have no idea of the estate she might have left behind or the outcome of her efforts to preserve her and her children’s independence.

When living on benefits meant wearing a pauper’s badge

2 July 2018

By Lindsey Tydeman

Inskipp, Maplesden, Langridge, Harriott, Muggridge… these are just a few of the Sussex names which feature in two parchment-bound books recently acquired by East Sussex Record Office (ESRO). They are parish record books and contain details of payments and benefits given to the poor in East Sussex over 250 years ago. Archivists at ESRO consider themselves fortunate to have bought them through two private sales, before going to public auction. The books come from the parishes of Catsfield and Battle and were kept by the small group of men who had been nominated to the two-year post of parish overseer, a time-consuming and often difficult role which involved doling out cash and assistance to the parish’s poorest individuals as well as monitoring their welfare and behaviour.

An extract from the Catsfield Overseers' Account Book

An extract from the Catsfield Overseers’ Account Book, AMS 7267

James Markwick and Thomas May, the Overseers of the Poor of Catsfield parish, began their Account Book in April 1764. A heavyweight affair, it was to last the parish until 1809 and its cost, 12 shillings, roughly the equivalent of 12 weeks benefit for an individual pauper, can be seen on the fifth page. Typical entries are, ‘one month’s rent’, ‘four weeks’ pay’, cash to individuals ‘in need’, faggots for fuel or clothing for children. As well as distributing funds and services, Markwick and May had to collect regular payments from everyone in the parish who paid rates and balance the books annually. The overseers would give out work such as spinning and mending to those who could do it, organise doctors’ visits and even arrange fostering placements for children and young people with nowhere to live. Understandably, parish overseers went to great lengths to confine benefits to those already settled in their parish. Paupers were given the parish’s ‘P’ pauper badge which had to be sewn onto their outer clothing to identify them as dependent solely on their particular parish for subsistence.

An example of a pauper's badge from the parish of Fletching, c1815-16, SPK/P/14

An example of a pauper’s badge from the parish of Fletching, c1815-16, SPK/P/14

Battle’s Small Vestry Book covers the shorter time period of the ten years between 1778 and 1788, but completes a series which runs from 1757 to 1835. It records the decisions made at regular meetings in Battle church vestry to distribute ad hoc cash payments, benefits or services to families and individuals who must have been on the verge of starvation or destitution. On 9 October 1782, for example, seven of the overseers agreed to allow Martha Pins ‘one upper coat, one under coat, a pair of stays and an apron’. Pauper women received an extra allowance during their ‘lying-in’ – when they gave birth – and bastard children were provided for. The overseers had also to rein in those who perhaps liked the perks of their job too much. In February 1784, it was agreed that ‘John Skeath the Governor of the Workhouse do pay to the overseers the sum of six pounds and nine shillings and fourpence being a deficiency in his account of spinning and other things… And also that the said John Skeath shall not sell any garden stuff or other things without the express leave of the parishioners…’

Taken together, the Overseers’ Account Book and the Small Vestry Book reveal how two Sussex parishes managed their sick, destitute and aged members. Every parishioner would have been known to the overseers, and, while it may have been humiliating to be identified as dependant on the parish for subsistence, it was also highly unlikely that an individual would have been left wholly without food or shelter, while there was enough food and resources to go round.

An extract from the Battle Small Vestry Book, AMS 7281/1

An extract from the Battle Small Vestry Book, AMS 7281/1

County Archivist Christopher Whittick commented, ‘These documents are wonderful finds. They chronicle almost half a century of assistance given to the poor and helpless people of two rural parishes. Every aspect of their lives, and of the suppliers, tradesmen and professionals who provided the services, is recorded in minute detail. Whether your interest lies in family history, Sussex in the 18th century or the parishes of Catsfield or Battle and its important market town, this volume will be of huge interest. We are most grateful to Bellmans of Wisborough Green and to Eastbourne Auctions for withdrawing these long-lost parish records from sale and arranging for us to buy them for preservation with the other papers of these two parishes at the County Record Office.

The Catsfield Overseers Book and the Battle Small Vestry Book are available for members of the public to order and view at The Keep. For more information, visit www.thekeep.info