Brighton As It Could Have Been – unbuilt plans from our archives
17 January 2018
By Andrew Bennett
Whilst carrying out preparatory work for the move to The Keep, I came across a beautifully illustrated architect’s impression of a brutalist conference centre proposed for the Pavilion Gardens, Brighton, dating from the late 1950s. The building was not unattractive but its positioning was controversial and, almost without exception, everyone I have shown it to has reacted with horror. Not long after that discovery, I came across plans drawn up in 1965 for the Skydeck, a very tall viewing platform situated on Brighton seafront, which would have dominated the skyline and bears a passing resemblance to the i360. There are many other examples of town planning that may have looked forward-thinking in the 1960s but look like eyesores in 2018, and other plans that look ahead of their time. There are others that must have seemed ambitious when they were proposed and remain puzzlingly eccentric.
It is easy to forget that every project, whether realised or not, needs plans in order to be approved or rejected. It is also very difficult to search for plans of abandoned projects – how can you look for something you didn’t know existed? As I came across more of these examples of these plans, it occurred to me that they would make a great book. Unfortunately, the time-consuming nature of resolving copyright and ownership issues has always put me off starting such a project, but my technologically able colleague Ben Jackson, who works for the University of Sussex, suggested that we could make an ebook to display the plans. This ebook was put together for our Open Day back in September and is available to view on ipads at The Keep by prior arrangement (we are not publishing it in electronic format for the reasons mentioned).
The earliest of the plans was drawn up in 1799, when sea water bathing was in vogue, and shows the route of a proposed pipeline taking sea water from Brighton to Lambeth to provide Londoners with access to sea bathing. The majority of designs date from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, when town planners were considering how to use new building materials such as concrete, and how best to integrate huge numbers of cars into our town centres. The designs were often radical and usually provoke a strong response.
These plans offer an interesting insight into the aspirations and practical considerations of architects and town planners in Brighton and Hove over the past 200 years. Whilst you may breathe a sigh of relief that a flyover wasn’t ploughed through North Laine, you may wish that you could have a beauty treatment at the handsome Summer and Winter Palace that was planned for the seafront just west of the West Pier!
If you’d like to have a look at the ebook, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a convenient time.
Beachy Head Lighthouse lantern slides acquired by East Sussex Record Office!
1 December 2017
We were delighted to announce yesterday that East Sussex Record Office has acquired at auction a wonderful collection of lantern slides showing the construction of Beachy Head Lighthouse, taken between 1900 and 1902. The purchase was made possible thanks to funding from the Arts Council/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, Trinity House, and the Friends of The Keep Archives, plus the generosity of a number of individual donors from the Eastbourne area.
The photographs are thought to have been taken by Sir Thomas Matthews, the son of a borough surveyor who joined the United Kingdom’s lighthouse service, Trinity House, in 1874. He succeeded to the office of Engineer-in-Chief in 1892, and went on to design over a dozen lighthouses for Trinity House. He also worked on illumination systems, notably a lamp designed to burn oil vapour.
Matthews’ most significant achievement was the construction of Beachy Head Lighthouse. Completed in 1902, it was the last rock lighthouse built by Trinity House. The work took two years to finish; it involved building a coffer-dam and an aerial ropeway from the cliffs to transport materials, both of which are illustrated by these slides.
Beachy Head is an iconic feature of the landscape of East Sussex, and a crucial element of its maritime heritage. The site of a naval engagement in 1690 and celebrated by Eric Ravilious (1903-1942) in a watercolour of 1939, it also provides an element of the frieze which decorates the external faces of The Keep, home of East Sussex Record Office. A large collection of lantern slides which minutely record the construction of the lighthouse is an important acquisition, and we are delighted that we will be able to conserve them for future generations and to share them with a wider public.
We currently hold digital copies of 31 of the slides, and these can be viewed on computers in our Reference Room (reference ACC 12988). When the complete collection of slides arrives at The Keep, they will be delivered to our conservation studio, where they will be cleaned by hand, using warm, distilled water, by a dedicated group of volunteers. They will then be dried with cotton buds, and the remaining 40 will digitised, so a complete set of scanned copies will be available to view. The glass plates themselves will then be placed in Silversafe envelopes designed for photographic conservation, packed in custom-made boxes, and stored in our environmentally controlled repository.
It has been wonderful to see the level of local interest in this material, and we’d like to reiterate our thanks to those who contributed or helped publicise our bid. We shall be looking at ways of providing access to this remarkable collection in 2018, both on our website and through our events programme; the possibility of producing a book has also been mentioned. Updates will appear on our blog and social media channels, so watch this space!
Meet the Volunteers: Julia Wacker, volunteer for the German Jewish Collections
4 October 2017
‘The world is not in your books and maps. It’s out there’, Gandalf (Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings)
‘I wanted to get out of my daily routine, even if it was just for two months. I’m doing a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Besides my studies, I work as a student assistant at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. My weekdays include a three-hour commute between my hometown and Berlin.
The Erasmus programme gave me the opportunity to do the required internship for my Master’s programme in another country. As I wanted to polish my spoken English, Great Britain was my first choice. I contacted many institutions all over the country and The Keep responded with interest. As my native language is German, the German Jewish Collections held by the University of Sussex were a perfect fit. After organising the flights, lots of paper work, a small language test and finding accommodation, I was able to start my little adventure.
My first day at The Keep was 31 July. Everyone here is welcoming and very friendly, and speaking English all day turned out not to be that difficult. I was amazed when I realized how many different types of materials are held here: maps, photos, newspapers, prints – and many more. Considering all the different projects people are working on, I also found it surprising how well staff get on with one another.
I was shown around the whole building, which includes the reading room, the repository for all the stunning archival material, the digitisation suite and a lot more. I got to see the University of Sussex campus, including the library, where I worked for a week. I joined a number of workshops, helped at The Keep’s Open Day and attended a conference, Digitising the Past: Revealing Jewish History, at the London Metropolitan Archives . I also got an insight into some of the other collections, such as the Mass Observation Archive and, for a special treat, learned how to bind my own book in the conservation studio.
The family collections of the German Jewish Collections include really personal mementoes, like watches and Poesiealben (friendship books). During my time at The Keep, I worked continuously on various things. I transcribed a German diary written by an 18-year old girl in 1884 from old German script into modern script, which was sometimes quite difficult because of the handwriting. I enjoyed that very much, because it contained a lot of gossip about a ‘Mr Springer’ and I wanted to know if they became a couple in the end – they didn’t, because ‘Mr Springer’ paid no attention to her. I also processed many digital images of archives so that they can be made accessible to The Keep’s users. Further, I boxed and described books about Rudyard Kipling, and repackaged and listed a new donation for the German Jewish Collections.
All in all, it really was the right decision to leave my shell and to go for an internship abroad. The Keep is full of lovely staff, fascinating materials and many mysterious stories about people from another time that are there to be explored. I will also really miss the gorgeous tea.
My week of work experience at The Keep
9 May 2017
By Orla Padwick
Hello! My name is Orla Padwick and I am currently a first-year History student, studying down at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall campus. As part of my Public History module – which is all about the issues and conflicts around museums and archives, and how these can be applied – I was tasked to undertake a week’s work experience for an analytic essay.
Naturally I was thrilled when I was accepted to do my week at The Keep (more thrilled than I was about the essay at the end). Not only is The Keep local to me, as I grew up in Barcombe, but it was mentioned in our course for being a pioneer in archival studies. Straight away I was thrilled by the full schedule I was given, and it certainly made the getting up at 7am more exciting!
Before this week, I had never been to The Keep itself, only driven past on the way to Brighton, so I was amazed on my first day at how big the space was and how many resources were right at my fingertips! The space only seemed to get larger, especially when I was shown the storeroom, which is meticulously controlled for the storage of the archives and also looks like something out of a sci-fi novel.
My job for the week was to sort and begin to ‘archive’ a collection from the University of Sussex Student Union in the 1970s and 80s, and it was quite literally unreal seeing some of the things that were in the Fresher’s leaflets; for example, I’m almost certain I wasn’t given a leaflet about being arrested when I went to university last September. I also stumbled across a pretty horrifying horoscope, which certainly made me glad that I wasn’t a student in the 1980s, or I’d be living in permanent paranoia!
As well as archiving my own collection, I was also grabbed by various members of The Keep team who were keen to show me what project they were working on, explaining it in great detail and really making me feel like an archivist. So many areas of archiving and historical research I had been completely oblivious to and they all helped me understand and apply this knowledge to my own project. They even let me help out on their own.
On my second day, I helped with one of the University of Sussex groups of students, who were looking at the Mass Observation Project. It made me wish that I had facilities like the ones The Keep has to offer down in Cornwall, because the sources for essays and sessions would be amazing. So if you see me trying to sneak into more talks when I’m down – I’m a Sussex student! Handling books from the Travers Collection, produced as early as the 15th century, was incredible and Karen, one of the University of Sussex archivists, was so helpful explaining in greater detail about the binding of the books themselves, as well as how to handle them and set them up on their cushions.
I also attended a talk hosted by another archivist, Samira Teuteberg, which introduced and explained the German Jewish Collections held by the University of Sussex at The Keep. The talk explored the experiences of Jewish families during the Holocaust, which I found particularly enlightening. It is an area of history which I have always held an interest in, and I had been able to help with the digitisation of some of the articles in the collection in the morning, so it was fascinating to learn about the wider context.
Overall, my experience at The Keep has been informative and enjoyable, helping not only with my historical knowledge but also enabling me to gain experience in a field I hope to be able to enter in the future. The Keep has such amazing facilities, I fully recommend popping in if you’re ever in the Falmer area because there is a piece of history there for everyone.
Lantern slides of travellers return
5 January 2017
By Anna Manthorpe
We had been aware for some years of the existence of a number of lantern slides of travellers held by East Sussex County Council’s Schools, Library and Museum Service, having borrowed them to scan as a security measure in 2009. Some of the images were then used in a WRVS Heritage Plus project concerning the lives of travellers, and published in Hidden Photographs of a Hidden People; in and around the south country hop gardens (2010). We were delighted when it was agreed recently that the lantern slides should be transferred to The Keep for safekeeping and to make the images fully available for everyone to enjoy.
The lantern slides were formerly held in a large wooden box thought to have been owned by Dr Edwin Percy Habberton Lulham (1865-1940). Lulham had a very interesting and varied career. He was initially a professional cricketer: he was in the Sussex team, and played for England in 1894. He became a doctor, graduating from Guy’s Hospital in 1896. He worked at the Sussex County Hospital in Brighton as a ‘dresser’ for the Senior Surgeon, Dr Blaker, and practised as a doctor in Ditchling and Brighton. In 1911, he was enumerated at 38 Sweyn Road, Margate, the home of Dr Thompson, but lived in Ditchling. He was at 11 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, from at least 1915-1923.
Lulham also wrote poetry inspired by the Sussex countryside, which included Songs from the Downs & Dunes (1908). He became interested in rural life and customs, and is known to have given talks illustrated with lantern slides. He was an authority on gypsy life and was an honorary member of the Gypsy Lore Society. It is thought that he stopped practising as a doctor during the 1920s due to sciatica and high blood pressure, and concentrated on photography and public lectures. He committed suicide on 27 June 1940, and was then living at Haven, Hurstpierpoint.
In 2009, the lantern slides had not been scanned in any order, and cataloguing involved arranging them in a way that made sense; in the process it became clear that not all the images were by Lulham. Lantern slides were available commercially, and it is likely that some were obtained from photographers with similar interests. But Lulham was certainly responsible for the majority of those depicting gypsy life in the 1920s and 1930s, two of which show him tending to traveller patients.
A large number of the lantern slides also depict rural life and crafts. It is not always clear whether the photographs were taken locally, but a considerable proportion are labelled and include fine views of the harvest at Housedean Farm, near Lewes, and the Clergy House at Alfriston under restoration. Even when there seems to be is no known local connection, the images still provide fascinating viewing, ranging from the activities of a mole catcher to convicts working in a quarry, possibly HM Prison Portland, Dorset. There are a number of forgotten crafts such as rope-making using a rope walk, charcoal burning, and bee-keeping using hives in the form of straw skeps.
The digitised images are now available for viewing in The Keep’s Reference Room (reference R/L 39) and browsing is highly recommended!
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.
Digitisation news: one thousand parish registers, and counting!
12 August 2015
Eighteen months after beginning work scanning the parish registers of East Sussex, volunteer John Phillips has scanned his thousandth register. ‘I have to keep a thorough count in case I’m given the same one to do twice!’ he commented. ‘It’s an achievement but now I’m working towards the next thousand.’ The scanned parish registers are available for visitors to consult on the digital image viewers in The Keep’s Reference Room, allowing us to conserve the original documents while still providing access to the handwritten records. ‘A thousand digitised volumes saves a thousand trips to the storeroom,’ said John.
Pictured below right is a page from the thousandth volume, a 1939 confirmation register from St Anne’s Church, Eastbourne.