Newsletter – September 2007

Wellington boots de rigeur at summer shows

Wellies and crocs vied as the most popular footwear at this summer’s country shows which nevertheless attracted good crowds in between the showers. The two-day Cheshire Show was an interesting experience made quite exciting by a neighbouring stand being burgled with the alleged loss of £40,000 of jewellery. Although many of us were wondering at the wisdom of leaving goods of that value in an unattended tent overnight, I was more concerned about the number of policemen congregating near my stand putting off potential customers, although one of the officers did ask for a brochure.

Despite having to drive through a flooded stream to leave home, we managed to reach the Newport Show in time to set up and were pleasantly surprised at the number of visitors who braved the weather. We were disappointed that the Burwarton Show had to be cancelled but we have secured our place for next year. There was great weather for the Herefordshire Country Fair held on the banks of the river Wye, which a month earlier had been under water. Being near the food tent ensured a steady supply of delicious ice creams and other locally produced goodies.

Into Staffordshire

This summer we branched out east and added Staffordshire to our list of client counties. We researched the history of a delightful cottage there and I put my client’s first aid abilities to the test when I got my fingers trapped in their loft ladder while investigating the roof space. I had to go steady on the keyboard for a few days but otherwise no harm done. Maybe I should invest in a periscope.

A legal challenge

Spent an absorbing day at the National Archives in Kew reading witness statements from an 18th century Chancery court case which revealed how an unpaid legacy of £50 escalated into a full-blown law suit between members of the same family. The documents were a challenge to read – and to fold up into their original arrangement – but they provided a fascinating glimpse into the lives and characters of the people concerned and were an extremely useful source of information about family relationships. This was only one of the sources consulted during a research commission which was able to show that the house had been owned by the same family for eight generations covering a period of more than 250 years.

Licensed to brew

Another interesting source used recently were alehouse recognizances, consulted when researching a former pub. Recognizances were an early type of licence in which alehouse  keepers were bound to keep the peace in their establishments. These documents not only provide details of individuals and, in later records, the name of their ‘sign’, but also show just how many alehouses and inns there were in every village and hamlet across the county. Used with other records I was able to track the former innkeepers of my client’s house back to the mid 18th century.

National Monuments Record

Visited the National Monuments Record down in Swindon last month. The NMR is part of English Heritage and holds a large and impressive collection of photographs of buildings and aerial photographs from all over the country. Not only did I find photos of some clients’ properties, but also one of my own house showing a tantalizing glimpse of an old building whose origins I have puzzled over since we moved in. As with many documentary sources, finding one piece of information triggers more questions. If only the photographer had stood just a little further to the left …

Video Nation

The Video Nation I recorded for BBC Shropshire has now appeared on their How we built Britain web page which you can see here.

From the archives

A postcard discovered at Shropshire Archives date-stamped Hinstock, 13 November 1908 addressed to Mrs Bone in Kings Lynn, Norfolk reads:

‘Schooling here

13.10.08 I thought you’d like a view of Village School, concert tonight here, Phyllis taking part, Lottie comes as a ‘specked tater’. Love from Laurie & Phyllis.’

That’s what you might call audience participation.

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