Following the Accession Trail

I’ve been a little self-indulgent with this week’s blog. We recently had an enquiry from a member of the public about how the Library Service functioned during the First World War, or even if it did remain open and active. It was not something I could have answered with any confidence without looking further, so I went digging.

Amongst the City Council records survives a nice series of Free Libraries Committee, Later Public Libraries Committee, Minute Books dating from 1860 through to 1968, and includes minutes for the war period. Certainly following the initial outbreak of war it was business as usual across the Library Service – an interest over the number of books borrowed was ever present, and the rebuilding of Northfield Library following its destruction by fire featured as a regular report.

What struck me was that the minutes also discussed new gifts, and one that caught my eye was the permanent loan in July 1914 of 41 deeds relating to the Manor of Solihull from the Rev. H. Couchman, a collection that should certainly have made its way into Archives, Heritage and Photography.

BCC 1/AT/1/1/11 Free Libraries Committee Minutes 1914

BCC 1/AT/1/1/11 Free Libraries Committee Minutes 27th July, 1914

From here it was fairly easy to track down which collection this was – the Libraries Newscuttings contained a more detailed report of the collection, which was connected to the Gough Family. Following all the hard work done by our Documentation Team leading up to the move, it took no time at all to find the accession record on CALM (our cataloguing software). On 17th July 1914, Rev. H. Couchman deposited Deeds and related papers concerning the Gough family estates in Edgbaston, Kings Norton, Olton, Solihull, Studley, Yardley and Sussex, 1616-1833. It was given the accession number 1914/021 signifying the 21st accession received that year.

Libraries News Cuttings 1914

Libraries News Cuttings 1914

At that time, all items received by the Library were given a 6-figure reference number so that their origins could be traced (something our regular researchers will be familiar with). These particular documents were numbered 252019-59 with the intention of binding them into volumes titled Deeds Volumes 116 – 118. They were never actually bound, however even to this day we use the finding number DV followed by the volume and 6-figure number to retrieve them. They were given a new collection reference of MS 3145 prior to our move, but sure enough, in the boxes for DV 116 – 118 can be found the Gough deeds.

252058 DV 118 One of the larger indentures from the collection

252058 DV 118 One of the larger indentures from the collection

As I say, a little self-indulgent but it was quite exciting to see in practice how important proper documentation about the  collections is, and that after 100 years this allows us to provide access to these fascinating resources. Not to mention it was a happy couple of hours reading and playing detective!

Nicola Crews, Archivist

You may have seen our recent post on the Voices of War project – as part of the commemorations, there will be a series of interesting talks at the Council House on 3rd August and details are available from the Events page of their website.


All Archives Great and Small

Two years ago when we began the Paganel Archives project and were confronted with a room full of bags of children’s work and boxes of photos and shelves of art and craft projects we were a bit daunted!

Two years later, with our beautifully designed archive room, an online catalogue and a team of year 6 archivists we feel quite pleased with ourselves for the job we have done in creating Paganel Archives, a living school archive that documents its school and community from the school’s opening in 1938, to the present day.  We even have an ongoing archive after school club to keep recording, collecting, archiving and cataloguing

Paganel School Archives

Paganel School Archives

This week we went to visit The National Archives to see how it compared…… it’s a bit bigger!

We were amazed to discover that they have over 12 million items stored on about 150 miles of shelving – pretty much the distance we travelled from Weoley Castle to visit The National Archives in Kew!  We had a fantastic time being shown round two huge archive stores and followed the journey of a document from its request to its production.  Unlike our archive, where we can just turn round to a shelf and pull it down, the request was generated electronically and even sometimes fetched on a trike!

Exploring the National Archives

Exploring the National Archives

Paganel School Archives

Paganel School Archives Room










There were some similarities though. We noted the two and three letter codes for finding material that we use as well, the use of ties, the archival boxes for storage and the use of gloves for serving photos – all practices that Paganel young archivists are very used to.  We also both have our own branded pencils which we exchanged!

It was great to have a chance to share stories of our archive with Clem, the director of the National Archives, to tell him about our punishment books, our recorded museum of me project and our oral history interviews.

We were tremendously impressed by The National Archives, how helpful everyone was and how much amazing material they have there (we saw Henry VIII’s portrait in the Valor Ecclesiasticus!) and how much they do to conserve it and make it accessible. It was exciting and inspiring and it felt good to be part of a national organisation that is much about capturing heritage and sharing it.

It has to be said though, our myths and legends themed archive room still has the edge on their search room…!

Paganel Archives room is available to visit by appointment by contacting Paganel School office on 0121 464 5040.   More information about the archive can be found at

Information about The National Archives, visiting and their collections  can be found at


Birmingham Burial Records

Graves at Brandwood End Cemetery

Graves at Brandwood End Cemetery

Tracing a burial can be a particularly tricky aspect of genealogical research as there are no hard and fast rules which govern final resting places. The following is a source guide to material within Archives, Heritage and Photography which relates to burials in Birmingham and the surrounding counties.  All of the resources mentioned (with the exception of the suggestions for further reading) contain names and details of individuals. The resources are arranged by type.

A useful starting point is to read the brief guide to tracing a burial on our website:

Unless marked otherwise, these records are available in the Heritage Research Area (the open access section of the department).

Cemetery Records:

  • Microfilm copies of Cemetery Registers are held for all local authority cemeteries in Birmingham from the dates of opening to the mid 1980s (1973 for Brandwood End).
  • Contact details for the 11 municipal cemeteries and 3 crematoria can be found here:
  • Key Hill Burial Index 1837-1855 (Microfilm Cabinet 2)

Church of England Burial Registers

  • Burial Registers for the present-day Birmingham Diocese are held here and many have now been digitized and are available to view on Ancestry.  Our Parish Register index is available to view and is also available on our online archive catalogue.  A list of churches and covering dates that are available on ancestry can be seen here:
  • Burial registers for areas outside Birmingham – see card index in our Heritage Research Area for details of holdings of printed parish registers. Those for Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Staffordshire and Shropshire are on the open shelves. Those for other parts of the UK need to be ordered in advance.

Non-conformist Burial Records

  • Non-conformist registers prior to c.1837 are held at the National Archives but are now available online on Ancestry. A list of the coverage and dates is available on the website.
  • Microfilm copies of these registers are also available.
  • There are other miscellaneous records relating to deaths & burials amongst our collection of non-conformist material including Baptist, Congregational, Methodist, Presbyterian and Unitarian records – some of these are available on microfilm.
  •  Quaker/Society of Friends burials – our collection of Quaker material is not fully catalogued at present but a box list is available on request.
  • Digest Registers of Births, marriages and burials for England & Wales 1650-1837 (Microfilm only)

Roman Catholic Burial Register

  • Burial Register of St Chad’s Cathedral 1807-1849 (Microfilm only)

National Burial Index (3rd edition) – CD Rom (Currently unavailable to use)

  • A list is available showing extent of inclusion of Birmingham Burials in the NBI.

Jewish Records

  • Records of Singer’s Hill Synagogue In Archives
  • JA/2/D/1 Death certificates and Burial orders 1866 – 2003
  • JA/2/D/2/2-4 Registers of Interments in Witton Cemetery 1826-1997
  • JA/2/D/2/18 Burial orders 1964 – 2001
  • JA/2/D/3/2 List of graves in Brandwood End Cemetery 1947 – 1961

Monumental Inscriptions

  • Records of monumental inscriptions from most C of E church graveyards in Birmingham,  plus Bull Street Quaker Burial Ground, Christ Church Catacombs,  Key Hill Cemetery, Park Street Burial Ground and St Joseph’s R.C. Nechells.  (West Mobile Press, Heritage Research Area.)
  • Warwickshire, Worcestershire and Staffordshire Monumental Inscriptions are also held but need to be requested in advance. See Library Catalogue.
  • Record of the inscriptions of the gravestones in Saint Mary’s churchyard taken in February 1882 prior to its being laid out under the Birmingham Burial Grounds Act. (West Mobile Press, Heritage Research Area.)
  • MS 1493/1  Transcription with index of monumental inscriptions in the burial grounds of the Baptist Chapel (from 1811) and All Saints, Kings Heath (from 1859) (Archives only)
  • MS 1493/2 Copy transcription of monumental inscriptions in the burial ground of St. Bartholomews, Birmingham (from 1761) (Archives only)
  • Beale, Catherine Hutton. Memorials of the Old Meeting House and Burial Ground, Birmingham. Copied, collected, and illustrated by Catherine Hutton Beale (Birmingham: Printed for the subscribers by White and Pike, 1882).  BCol 18.4 
  • See also Removal of Graves & Graveyards

Records of Rubery Hill Hospital(Archives only) Continue reading

World War One sources

Photographed in 1914. First World War recruits lined up in front of the Town Hall then being used as a recruitment station.  [MS 2724/2/B/3494]

Photographed in 1914. First World War recruits lined up in front of the Town Hall then being used as a recruitment station.
[MS 2724/2/B/3494]

A question we are increasingly asked in this centenary year of the start of World War One, is what sources we hold for researching the histories of ancestors who were in the armed forces in the First World War.  So in this week’s blog post we thought we’d take a look at some of the resources we have available in Archives, Heritage and Photography.

In our military genealogy section you can find:

  • General histories of national regiments from the Famous Regiments Series
  • In the Men at Arms series British Battle Insignia 1914 – 1918
  • Registers of recipients of the Victoria and George Cross
  • General  guides to using military records
  • Books on medals
  • RFC and RAF roll of honour  1914-1918
  • Airmen who died in the Great War
  • Prison Service Roll of Honour  1914-1918
  • Red Cross list of wounded and missing  1917
  • List of British Officers taken prisoner  1914-1918
  • Warwickshire Roll of Honour  1914 – 2005
  • National Roll of Honour, Great War
  • Roll of Honour, Birmingham World War One

There are also a number of useful books in the Birmingham Collection relating to Birmingham Battalions and the Royal Warwickshire Regiments as well as more general books about the First World War. These can be found in the section Birmingham History under the reference BCOL 75.

Available in the Quick Reference section, we have:

  • Lists of Soldiers Died in the Great War for the Worcestershire, Royal Warwickshire and South Staffordshire regiments
  • Birmingham City Battalions Book of Honour
  • Book of Honour for Birmingham Men and Women who fell in the Great War 1914-1918
  • Bibliography of Regimental Histories
  • City of Birmingham Book of Remembrance

We hold a number of General Register Office indexes on fiche:

  • War deaths  1914 – 1921 (divided into Officers, other ranks etc.)
  • Navy deaths (all ranks) 1914 – 1921
  • Marine deaths 1837 – 1965
  • Marine births 1837 – 1965
  • Army marriages within British lines 1914 – 1925

and the Absent Voters lists for 1918-1926 are available on microfilm. To view microfilm and fiche records, please come to the customer service desk on floor 4 to book a reader.

Continue reading

Joseph Chamberlain and Sir Benjamin Stone

OXF/1: John Benjamin Stone at The Rollright Stones near Long Compton, Oxfordshire. Photographed by Stone for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey in February 1897

chamberlain joseph

Birmingham Portraits Series: Joseph Chamberlain

Today marks the centenary of the deaths of two prominent citizens and political figures from Birmingham, Joseph Chamberlain and Sir Benjamin Stone.

Both were born around the same time, Chamberlain in 1836, Stone 1838. Both grew up in families that were successful in local business, taking positions in their families’ respective firms before branching into local and national politics once they had built up their fortunes.

Chamberlain was by far the most famous and controversial of the two. As a Liberal Councillor and Mayor of Birmingham, from 1873 ‘Radical Joe’, as he became known, instigated a number of important infrastructural reforms in the city including bringing the gas and water supply under municipal control and the Borough Improvement Scheme, 1875 (see Iron Room blog piece of 30 June 2014). His time in office saw the development of municipal infrastructure, parks and magnificent public buildings, much of which remains to this day.

Despite his radical domestic agenda Chamberlain was also a staunch Imperialist. Following his election as a Liberal Member of Parliament in the mid-1870s, he eventually took a leading role in resistance within the party that helped defeat the passage of Prime Minister Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule Bill in 1885, effectively splitting the party,putting it in the electoral wilderness for the best part of twenty years.

Chamberlain joined the Conservative Party, eventually landing his preferred job of Colonial Secretary. His career in his new party was even more controversial, his stewardship of the Colonies taking place at the exact same time as the notorious Jameson Raid that led to the brutal South African (Boer) War 1899-1902. Chamberlain remained an extremely popular figure in Birmingham however. The future Prime Minister David Lloyd George was almost lynched by a patriotic mob following an anti-war speech he made at Birmingham Town Hall on 18 December 1901, with Lloyd George having to be escorted out of the building in disguise by police!

WK/M6/47: Exterior of Highbury Hall, Moseley, the Chamberlain family residence. Photographed by Thomas Lewis for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey c1890s.

By the 1906 General Election, Chamberlain’s proposal of a policy of economic protectionism favouring Britain’s colonies split the party into free-trade and protectionist factions, leading to a Liberal landslide. Despite his reputation of being possibly the only political figure to effectively split two parties, his actions did nothing to harm the future political careers of his sons nor did it tarnish the reputation of the Chamberlain family brand in his home city. The energy he devoted to municipal politics and the great reforms and infrastructural improvements were amongst his greatest gifts to the city and the nation, hence the affection felt for him by many in the city. Not for nothing was he later referred to as ‘The Uncrowned King of Birmingham’.

WK/E2/114: The library in The Grange, Erdington, home of John Benjamin Stone. Photographed by Stone for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey in 1897.

By contrast, Stone’s political career was relatively quiet – it was in the arena of photography that Stone made his biggest impression. An avid collector of images as well as a keen amateur photographer, Stone built up a huge collection of negatives and photographic prints at his house at The Grange, Erdington, as well as a large library of books, journals and periodicals devoted to the hobby as well as his other myriad academic interests. His photographic work is well represented in the Library of Birmingham’s Photographic Collections.

His own personal archive (Collection MS 3196) comprising tens of thousands of photographic prints, negatives and other papers. The collection has a local, national and international interest, Stone having photographed all over the world. His work is also well represented in the Birmingham Photographic Society (MS 2507) and the Warwickshire Photographic Survey (MS 2724), having been appointed President of both groups. A selection of Stone’s work from his archive and the Warwickshire Photographic Survey is available on the Library of Birmingham Website.

His pioneering work alongside William Jerome Harrison in the Warwickshire Photographic Survey, effectively the first photographic record of the country, inspired him to set up the National Photographic Record Association in 1897. Digitised material from this short-lived organisation is now available on the V&A Website. He also took a series of Parliamentary Portraits of members of the Houses of Commons and Lords. Digitised content is available on the National Portrait Gallery on-line resources, as well as the Stone galleries on the Library of Birmingham Website.

Stone was exceptionally well-travelled, and he was keen to document ancient folk customs and ways of life of all peoples, particularly where rapid economic, social and technological change were transforming everyday life. His portraits of Native American tribes and their leaders were particularly powerful; by the end of the nineteenth century their resistance to the encroachments of white settlers moving west had practically been broken and many were forced to live on reservations.

Travelling could be dangerous, especially on his trip to Brazil in 1890, which he visited on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society to photograph the solar eclipse. He visited the town of Cerea whilst the country was in the grip of a revolution. His obituary in the Birmingham Mail of 3 July 1914 recounted what happened next:

MS 3196 Box 376 Print 36: The Revolution at Ceara. Brazil 16th Feb. 1892. Prepared for Bombarding (firing out) of the Governor’s Palace. Photographed by John Benjamin Stone.

“It might also be said that the camera proved mightier than the sword. At one point in Cerea a barricade was constructed by the rebels, and cannon were posted that the Governor’s palace might be shelled.

When approached by the photographer the rebels readily agreed to postpone the bombardment for a few minutes that Sir Benjamin Stone might picture the revolution, and stood to their guns posing.”

MS 3196 Box 376 Print 38: Reception Room at the Palace of the Governor after the bombardment (firing out) of the 16th Feb. 1892. Photographed by John Benjamin Stone.

On the 8 July 1906, celebrations were held in Birmingham to mark Chamberlain’s seventieth birthday, who would be in the city to attend the various processions and visits to mark the big day. Photographers from the Warwickshire Photographic Survey, including Stone, were in attendance to capture the festivities for posterity. This print by Stone shows Chamberlain, his wife and other family members meeting locals and civic dignitaries at Ward End Park that day.

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain and Grandchild. His Birthday Celeb

MS 3196 Box 17 Print 16. Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain and Grandchild. His Birthday Celebrations. Ward End Park. July 7th 1896. Photographed by John Benjamin Stone.

By 1910 Stone had retired from politics due to ill-health. Despite increasing health problems, Chamberlain continued to represent his constituency as a Conservative-Unionist until January 1914.

On 2 July 1914 Joseph Chamberlain suffered a heart attack and died in the arms of his wife Mary surrounded by his family. He was buried at Key Hill Cemetery following a Unitarian ceremony, in the heart of the town he grew up in, worked and represented as a Councillor, Mayor and Member of Parliament. His family had refused an official order for a burial at Westminster.

Stone died at his home the very same day, his wife tragically passed away just days later. The couple were eventually buried in the parish churchyard at Sutton Coldfield, the borough he too had once represented as Councillor and Mayor, and close to the city he served as an M.P. and the home that, at the time of his death, had become a repository of visual and written records dedicated to his extensive travels and his fascination with photography and other educational interests.

Michael Hunkin, Archivist

Some initial further reading:

1. Elizabeth Edwards, Peter James and Martin Barnes, A record of England: Sir Benjamin Stone & The National Photographic Record Association 1897-1910 (Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2006)

2. Peter T. Marsh, Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics (London: Yale University Press, 1994)

Joseph Chamberlain and the Birmingham Improvement Scheme

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Joseph Chamberlain, one of the most influential figures in the history of Birmingham. In commemoration, Newman University College and the Library of Birmingham will be hosting the Chamberlain International Centenary Conference on 4th and 5th July 2014, and further events will follow at the Library of Birmingham.

By 1875 Joseph Chamberlain, as Mayor of Birmingham, turned his attention to the removal of slums from the city centre and the creation ‘of a street as broad as a Parisian boulevard from New Street to Aston Road’, later named Corporation Street.

Birmingham Improvement Scheme Back of 14 Little Cherry Street 1895 Print 31

Birmingham Improvement Scheme Back of 14 Little Cherry Street 1895
Print 31

The Artisans and Labourers’ Dwellings Improvement Act, 1875, had been passed by Parliament after considerable intervention by Chamberlain and leaders of other large towns, to enable the demolition of areas of slum housing and overcrowded courts, make landlords improve their housing stock and hence improve the health and welfare of citizens.

Birmingham Improvement Scheme Court 9 Thomas Street 1875

Birmingham Improvement Scheme Court 9 Thomas Street 1875

The Improvement Committee was appointed by Birmingham Council in July 1875 to receive reports from the Medical Officer of Health on insanitary conditions within the Borough, to prepare schemes for the improvement of such areas with estimates of cost, and to carry out the provisions of the Act which also gave local authorities the right of compulsory purchase and demolition.

The Improvement Committee minutes [BCC 1/AX/1/1-10, 1875 – 1899] chart the purchase of properties, both domestic and commercial, to enable the planning of new roads such as Corporation Street and new public buildings such as the Victoria Law Courts. Included in the minutes, which have indexes [BCC 1 AX/1/2/1-2], are printed versions of parliamentary legislation relating to the Birmingham Improvement Scheme, financial information and accounts, schedules of works, leases, property and rentals, progress reports, and observations of municipal officials on the areas near what would become Corporation Street. The minutes relating to the surveys of John Street undertaken during January 1879 by Councillor William Cook contain interesting details on the condition of many of the back to back houses and courts in that area. They show the processes by which the Corporation identified and bought insanitary or dilapidated properties for demolition and the impact this had on tenants, property owners and the local economy. There is also a printed report on the development of Corporation Street, 3 April 1881.

Birmingham Improvement Scheme Corporation Street Victoria Law Courts Print 132

Birmingham Improvement Scheme Corporation Street Victoria Law Courts
Print 132

There was also an Improvement Sub-Committee [BCC 1 /AX/2/1/1-6, 1875 – 1899] whose main function was to confer with the architects, the Birmingham-based architectural practice of Martin and Chamberlain. These minutes include reports on the renovation or demolition of existing properties and the construction of new ones, particularly the Victoria Law Courts. They also give details of compensation cases of individual businessmen (particularly public house landlords and shopkeepers) and tenants of houses owned by the Corporation who faced eviction from their property.

Birmingham Improvement Scheme rear of Union Hotel Cherry Street 1875 Print 34

Birmingham Improvement Scheme rear of Union Hotel Cherry Street 1875
Print 34

There are a number of plans of the Improvement Scheme areas drawn up by Martin and Chamberlain which show the intended redevelopment [e.g. LS 504/1-2 (1875)] and there is a further wonderful visual accompaniment in the collection of 134 Improvement Scheme photographs taken by James Burgoyne, a photographer from Small Heath, which date from 1876 – 1885 and show the conditions of the main streets which were redeveloped [LS 2/1-134]. The images seen here are all from this collection.

The minutes, maps and photographs are all available to consult in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, Archives, Heritage and Photography at the Library of Birmingham by appointment.

The new edition of the History West Midlands Magazine is also dedicated to Chamberlain and you can subscribe through their website at for access to a fascinating insight into his life and career.

Fiona Tait

A sign of things to come…

Report of the assassination in the Birmingham Post, 29th June, 914

Report of the assassination in the Birmingham Post, 29th June, 1914

The next four years will see national commemorations of all aspects of the First World War to mark its 100th anniversary. Over the coming few months we hope to bring reflections of this turbulent time in history to mark significant events in the conflict. This won’t be an attempt to analyse these events, there are those more expert in the field than us, focussing instead on a local perspective.

28th June 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo. This was to set in motion a chain of events that tested the intricate web of alliances in place across Europe and would eventually lead to the outbreak of a type of war never before witnessed.

At the time, world affairs were not reported on the front few pages of newspapers – these were reserved for advertisements, notices and classifieds, followed by local news stories and sports. The Birmingham Post carried the news of the assassination on June 29th 1914 as their leading article (on page 6) with the simple headline of The Austrian Tragedy. The report describes how one assassin threw a bomb at the carriage the Archduke and his wife, the Duchess of Hohenburg, were travelling in. When this exploded, neither were hurt. The second assassin was ‘unhappily successful’.

The Archduke was described as someone who on the one hand would stave off the influences of the Kaiser, but who equally spread alarm through his military enthusiasm. The Post comments that the assassination must certainly have a serious political influence however it seemed to suggest the impact would only be felt by Austria-Hungary and its Empire.

The next article to appear was news of the visit of the British Fleet to Kiel, which held a luncheon in honour of the senior officers.

The proceedings were marked by the greatest good fellowship. The Burgomaster, in a speech, said the British and German seamen were filled with the same spirit of mutual respect and esteem, and he hoped the British and German people would meet only in peaceful rivalry….. Admiral von Koester …..was pleased the relations between the British and German bluejackets were the best imaginable.

The thought that history is not without its sense of irony has never rung  so true.

Nicola Crews