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.
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.
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!
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!
Family History and Beyond – talks and courses at The Keep
30 July 2018
By Kate Elms
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.
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…
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.
Untold stories of refugees working in Brighton and Hove’s restaurants come to The Keep
19 June 2018
To mark Refugee Week 2018, Stephen Silverwood of Brighton-based charity Refugee Radio writes about the Takeaway Heritage Project, a fascinating collection of photographs, transcripts and recordings which are now archived at The Keep
‘This was a unique project to capture the untold stories of ordinary refugees and migrants working in the food industry in our local area: the ways in which food became a conduit for social exchange with their new community, and the ways in which they built new lives in the UK. This is an area that has never been properly researched, with the exception of a few investigations of Indian fusion cuisine and the informal adoption of Chicken Tikka Masala as the national dish. Kebab shops and restaurants in particular have been overlooked by academics and researchers as perhaps too frivolous, but they represent a significant change in our high streets, our diets and our demographics.
‘Brighton and Hove has a special zone of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African food along Western Road that embodies the ways in which our area has changed because of immigration and the ways that people from very different backgrounds come together, and it was important to us to record the history of that area as it continues to evolve.
‘Whether you are staggering home with a post-pub kebab or sitting down to dine on a Persian banquet, you are taking part in an ongoing process of cultural exchange. We felt that the personal histories of the people behind that exchange would make for a good story, but we learnt a lot more during the project that we didn’t expect, especially about how welcoming and multicultural people found Brighton to be, and about how important family was to the story. We hope that the photographs, transcripts and recordings that we collected will be of interest to researchers and are really excited to know that the stories will be preserved for future generations.’
Alongside the interviews and photographs donated to The Keep by Refugee Radio are other documents that shed light on the experiences of refugees living in Brighton and Hove and East Sussex. We hold minutes and papers of the Brighton and Hove Refugee Forum, which includes publications regarding refugee women in East Sussex and the experience of Ethiopian refugees resettled to Brighton and Hove under the Gateway Protection Programme 2006 to 2007. We also hold the archive of the Pestalozzi International Village Trust (ACC 10461) which was established at Sedlescombe after the Second World War to house displaced children from eastern Europe. It went on to provide for children from Tibet, Nigeria, Vietnam and Palestine, and still continues to educate children from under-privileged countries www.pestalozzi.org.uk/
Lights, Camera, Action! Introducing the Richard Attenborough archive
12 June 2018
By Eleanor King
Following an 18-month cataloguing project, the archive of Lord Richard Attenborough, former Chancellor of the University of Sussex, is now accessible to the public here at The Keep. The archive came to the University’s Special Collections based at The Keep from Attenborough’s home and offices in Richmond in November 2015. Two archivists and one graduate archive intern were employed to organise, appraise and catalogue the collection of papers, photographs and memorabilia that span Attenborough’s life and career from his early days as a drama student at RADA to his final film project Closing the Ring in 2008; nearly 70 years.
Whilst much of the material pertains to Attenborough’s film career, both in front of and behind the camera, the collection also covers his other business and personal interests, including his involvement with Chelsea Football Club and Capital Radio. Attenborough was also committed to many charity projects throughout his life, which feature predominantly in the business and personal correspondence that can be viewed here at The Keep. As one might expect with a high profile figure such as Attenborough, there are many famous faces and names (including his brother Sir David Attenborough) scattered amongst the collection’s vast correspondence, and throughout the 25,000+ photographs. Frequent correspondents include Sir John Mills, Bryan Forbes and Sir John Gielgud, as well as political figures such as Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, and royalty including Prince Charles, Diana Princess of Wales and Queen Elizabeth II.
Fittingly, one of the largest series in the collection is the material relating to Attenborough’s film epic Gandhi. Although Attenborough’s 20-year journey to make the film is already fairly well documented, what one learns from this archive is the true scale and scope of this project, how close it came to being made in both the 1960s and 70s, and how very different a film it would have been. Examples of the scale of the project include ‘Call Sheet 55’, the call sheet for the day of filming Gandhi’s funeral procession, also known as ‘Operation Rajpath’. For this sequence, over 300,000 extras were used, and perhaps unsurprisingly in this day of CGI, this scene still holds the record for the greatest number of extras used in a film. Attenborough’s personal commitment to the project is also striking, and he directly sought the ear of Indian and British Government officials. Long-running correspondence between Attenborough and figures such as Lord Mountbatten, Pandit Nehru and Indira Gandhi are indicative of the respect and admiration he inspired throughout his life.
The material relating to Gandhi is just one example of the scale of this fascinating collection, which offers a unique insight not only into the life of Richard Attenborough, but also into Britain in the 20th century. Alongside his personal career as an actor, producer and director, Attenborough was also a pioneer of the British film industry and worked tirelessly to promote and save it. Largely overlooked in most biographical writing, Attenborough also maintained a career in broadcasting and journalism throughout the 1950s, focusing mainly on music journalism. He supported many charities, with a focus on access to the arts for those with disabilities, and was a lifetime supporter of the Muscular Dystrophy Group, becoming its President in 1971. As well as his commitment to charity work at home, he actively supported civil rights causes abroad such as the release of Nelson Mandela and an end to Apartheid in South Africa. In short, this archive offers a unique view of a changing time.
Attenborough’s list of accolades and achievements is impressive, but among the documents relating to these, and the celebrity names and faces, there are also letters and correspondence from fans, listeners, viewers and the public in general, and these have proved an equally enlightening record of this man’s life, work and achievements. So now you can come and discover ‘Dickie’ for yourself – there really is something for everyone in this collection. ‘Keep’ an eye on our website for further updates from the collection and also activities and events that we will be holding in connection with this truly remarkable archive.
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!
An Artist’s Life in Wilmington – Harold and Lilian Swanwick
11 May 2017
By Anna Manthorpe
Harold Swanwick (1866-1929) depicted agricultural life on the Downs in his paintings of Sussex, some of which are held by the Towner Gallery in Eastbourne, and is one of the local artists represented in our holdings at The Keep.
Joseph Harold Swanwick was born in Cheshire but moved to Wilmington soon after his marriage to Ethel Lilian Heatley (known as Lilian) in 1907. The couple rented accommodation in Crossway House in Wilmington from early 1908 until August 1909, then moved to Street House Farm, Wilmington, which they purchased in 1912 from Robert Lambe; they renamed it Twytten House and remained there for the rest of their lives.
In 2005, we were donated the diary of Lilian Swanwick for 1908, and in 2011 that for 1909 arrived. Written in the early days of the marriage, the diaries give a detailed account of the couple’s life in Wilmington. Much of their leisure time was spent walking on the Downs, motoring farther afield, particularly on shopping trips to Eastbourne, or to places to paint (Lilian was an amateur artist). There was frequent correspondence between Lilian and her family, and friends stayed with them regularly. And there was considerable suspense in waiting to hear if work had been selected to hang at the Royal Academy!
The same donor later asked whether we would be interested in taking some letters written by Lilian to her brother Hugh (Harry) Heatley. Harry emigrated to Kenya in 1903, where he led a flamboyant lifestyle, but went bankrupt and returned to Arlington, where he lived for nine years, before moving to Wales. He was financially dependent on Lilian for the latter part of his life. Lilian’s letters were written during the early part of the Second World War and give a vivid account of the war effort in Wilmington. We hear about the planned evacuation of London children to the village (reversed once it was realised that the south coast was the likely invasion area), the fitting of gas masks, an attack from a German bomber, fortunately with no casualties, and a visit by Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother).
The archive has recently been further increased by scans of negatives held by the family. A researcher into the life and work of Harold Swanwick mentioned he hoped to borrow them, and I offered to do the scanning at The Keep and provide him with copies. The 30 negatives had deteriorated in some cases, but most came out well after adjustment of the light levels. Harold was a keen photographer who taught Lilian to develop photographs, and the images are doubtless the work of one or the other. Harold is depicted shooting, fishing and gardening, in addition to painting. He seems to have been a lively individual and is shown dressed up as a clown with a group of friends. Lilian is photographed in a bathing-dress in the sea, with the Seven Sisters in the background, as well as during a painting expedition on the Downs, with her paints and portable stool. Both seem to come very much alive in these pictures, which are a fascinating addition to the archive.
Andrew Forrest will be giving a talk Perspectives on Harold Swanwick at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne, on Sunday 21 May at 12.00 (£6.00 or £5.00 concessions; online booking advisable).
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!
Open wide! A peek into the German Jewish collections
11 October 2016
By Samira Teuteberg
The German Jewish collections of the University of Sussex at The Keep can be full of surprises. When cataloguing one of these collections, I came across a small number of letters from Louis Mallachow, dentist in Bromberg (now Bydgoszcz in Poland) to his daughter Regina and his son-in-law, Siegfried Kroner. In the top left-hand corner of one of the letters, I found a very small image attached showing a dentist practising on a patient.
Although the picture is tiny and had the top-right and bottom-left corners removed, the scene is very clear. The patient’s face is not visible, but we can make out the chair he is sitting in and we can see some of the instruments Mallachow is using. The dentist himself is obviously proud of his work and, while we know he was an amateur photographer himself, we can only speculate on who took this image.
The letter the image is attached to is dated 31 July 1891 and was sent the same year, after the birth of Louis Mallachow’s granddaughter Eveline, who later brought it to the UK when she fled from Nazi rule in 1934.
Further correspondence reveals that Mallachow was very enthusiastic about photography and tried to pass this on to his son-in-law, who might not have been quite as excited. This extract from a letter of 30 December 1892 from Louis Mallachow to Siegfried Kroner states:
[…] ‘Was nun die Photographie betrifft, so muss ich mich über dein Kopfzerbrechen sehr wundern. Dazu gehörst du für schwere 20 Mark dem grossen Berliner Photographen Verein an?
Dazu unterhalte ich seit 2 Jahren mit dir einen lebhaften Briefwechsel über Photographie??
Dazu schickte ich dir selbstgefertigte Photographien u. machte dich auf meine Fehler aufmerksam???
Dazu habe ich dir für 25 Mark einen vorzüglichen Apparat kaufen u. dich unterrichten lassen ????’ […]
[…] ‘When it comes to photography I am very surprised about your queries. Given that you belong, for a hefty 20 Marks, to the great Berlin Photography Club?
Given that I have had two years of lively correspondence with you about photography??
Given that I sent you self-made photographs and showed you my errors???
Given that I have bought you an excellent camera for 25 Marks and paid for your course????’ […]
He continues to explain the best ways of lighting when taking pictures of people indoors and what can and can’t be done.
‘Ferner weiss u. muss jeder Laie wissen, dass wenn jemand – hier Frl. N. – dem einfallenden Licht vis-a-vis im Operationsstuhl sitzt, dessen schwach blaue Augen nicht noch schärfer sein können, wenn dem Photographen jede retouche darin verboten worden ist.’
‘Furthermore every amateur must know that if someone – in this case Miss N. – sits opposite the incoming light in the operating chair, her eyes will not come out any sharper if the photographer is not allowed to retouch the photo.’
Unfortunately, the image of Miss N[eumann] (who was Dr Mallachow’s housekeeper) in the operating chair does not survive, and neither do any of his other photographs. Nevertheless, the diaries, photographs and correspondence from the Mallachow family give a rich insight into the domestic life of a Jewish family in Germany before the Holocaust. If you would like to find out more about the collection, you can access the catalogue of the SxMs170 Gerda Sainer Collection and browse the hierarchy.
New acquisition: the knights of the black and white dogs
26 August 2016
By Anna Manthorpe
Victorian women generally appear very sedate – their clothes cannot have allowed much freedom – so it was a pleasant surprise to see the antics of Leila Lamb and her friend Mrs Musgrave dressed up in armour and doing battle to champion their pets.
The photographs shown below come from albums which were purchased on 3 August 2016 at auction, thanks to funding from the Friends of The Keep Archives (FoTKA). The albums illustrate the related families of Lamb of Beauport in Hollington, and Adamson of Rushton Park (later Vinehall) in Mountfield. Leila, who married Charles Anthony Lamb in 1886, was an Adamson.
The photographs are evocative of the late Victorian and Edwardian upper-class life of leisurely country pursuits and house parties. Both families clearly loved their dogs, whose names are unfailingly recorded. The archive also includes a visiting book, in which the Lamb family entered photographs of the houses they visited with the signatures of those present.
We are most grateful to FoTKA for their generous donation. Unfortunately, military history is now very sought after and we were outbid on further albums, including material concerning Charles Lamb’s military career in the Rifle Brigade during the second Boer War (1899-1902).
The London to Brighton Walk
12 August 2016
By Kate Elms
One of the great things about the Olympic Games is the way it introduces people to a whole range of sports that rarely attract a large audience or the attention of the media. So it is with archives: here at The Keep we are always looking for ways to shine a light on some of the less-well known material in our care, and looking at a broad theme such as sport gives us a similar opportunity.
One of the gems in our collection is an album containing photographs of the London to Brighton Stock Exchange Walk. Most people are familiar with the London to Brighton bike ride, but the idea of a competitive London to Brighton walk was certainly a new one for me. This particular event was the brainchild of William Bramson, a member of the London Stock Exchange himself and, not surprisingly, a keen walker. It first took place in 1903, when the winner took nine and half hours to walk from Westminster Bridge to Brighton seafront, a distance of 53 miles (about 85km).
The album features races from 1928-33, and shows men making their way from London via familiar places such as Crawley and Bolney, through Patcham to Brighton. The photographs shown here are of the 1933 event, won for the second year running by L J Hollyer in a time of just under nine hours. Research carried out by archivists at East Sussex Record Office suggest that this may have been Lawrence John Hollyer, a member of the London Stock Exchange who was born in Surrey and moved to Australia in 1952. As the album was sent to ESRO from Australia, it’s possible that it belonged to Lawrence and that he took it with him when he emigrated.
There’s a nostalgic, cinematic quality to these images, and it was no surprise to discover clips of some of the races can be found on British Pathe newsreels. But they have a modern counterpart, too. The sight of crowds cheering on the competitors near the finish on Brighton seafront reminds me of today’s Brighton marathon, another feat of endurance. The spectators are dressed differently, of course, but the palpable sense of excitement and admiration looks similar.
From 1930 onwards, some of the walkers wear a swastika emblem on a black jersey, which at first suggested support for the Nazi Party. However, there seems to be a less sinister explanation. Correspondence found in a Brighton Town Clerk’s file between Brighton Borough Council and Surrey Walking Club (SWC) shows that SWC were using the swastika emblem, formerly a symbol of good fortune, until at least June 1939. Clearly, some members of the Surrey Walking Club also belonged to the Stock Exchange Athletics Club, and took part in the London to Brighton Walk.
A final note on racewalking at the Olympics. It was introduced as a stand-alone event for men in the 1908 Games in London. There were two distances, 3,500 metres and 10 miles, and both races were won by British athlete George Larner. Women were excluded from athletics at the Olympics until 1928, when they were admitted to just five events, and it wasn’t until 1992 that they were finally allowed to compete in racewalking. Today, men race over 20km and 50km, while women contest only the shorter distance, and in Rio this summer, the finals take place on 12 and 19 August.