‘A much esteemed Friend’

Come-to-good meeting house, Cornwall, August 2014

Come-to-good Friends meeting house, Cornwall, August 2014

While cataloguing the Central England Area Meeting archives, it has been fascinating to see how individuals referred to in the records pop up in other collections we hold (see Birmingham and Warwickshire Quakers cataloguing project leaflet for a list of other Quaker collections). One such example relates to Catherine Payton Phillips (16 March 1727 – 16 August 1794), a Quaker minister and writer. She also campaigned for greater representation of women within the formal structure of the Religious Society of Friends, which eventually resulted in the establishment of Women’s Yearly Meeting in 1784.

Chadwick Monthly Meeting 1749 extract from minutes

Extract from Chadwick Monthly Meeting minutes 1749, recording Catherine Payton Phillips’ application for a certificate to travel as minister to Wales

Born in Dudley, Catherine first ministered at Dudley Preparative Meeting at the age of 22, and went on to preach throughout the country as well as in Ireland, Holland and America. Many of these journeys were recorded in the minute books of Chadwick Monthly Meeting when she applied for a liberation certificate to travel in ministry (see image above) and on her homecoming when she returned her certificate to the Monthly Meeting (see image below), with entries being made for several visits to Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire, London, Yorkshire, Westmoreland, the west of England, the northern counties, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Extract from Chadwick Monthly Meeting minutes 1749, recording the return of Catherine Payton Phillips' certificate to travel

Extract from Chadwick Monthly Meeting minutes 1749, recording the return of Catherine Payton Phillips’ certificate after coming back from Wales

The first time she travelled in ministry was in 1749 when she went to Wales, where she met her future husband William Phillips, a widower who worked in the Cornish copper mining industry as an agent. However, her sense of calling to ministry led her to reject any contact with him and it was not until 1772 that they married at Bewdley, Worcestershire. After their marriage, she moved to Redruth, where he lived and from where she continued to travel and minister.

The industrialist, Matthew Boulton (3 September 1728 – 17 August 1809), who spent a good deal of time in Cornwall as many of the Boulton and Watt steam engines were used in the copper mining industry, was friends with William and Catherine. After his wife’s death in 1783, Boulton wrote a number of letters to his daughter Anne when he was away on business, which are preserved in the Matthew Boulton and family papers (MS 3782). His letter of 17 August 1785 written in Chacewater describes a very large Quaker meeting at Truro, which he attended and where he heard Catherine preach:

Extract from MS 3782/14/76/8, letter from Matthew Boulton to his daughter Anne.

Extract from MS 3782/14/76/8, letter from Matthew Boulton to his daughter Anne, describing a Quaker meeting at Truro, 1785.

Thou mayst remember I told thee in my last [letter] that there was to be a great meeting of Quakers at Truro, and a great meeting it was. Our Neighbour Dearman & his Wife were there, & many others that I knew from London, Bristol & Worcester. I did not go to the meeting till third day, when I heard our friend Catherine Phillips Preach with great energy & good sence for one hour & a half: although so weak in Body that she was obliged to lye upon the Bed for several Preceeding days, except at those hours she came to the meeting. Her worthy & good humour[e]d Husband sat faceing her, & I presume admired her very much. Continue reading

Hidden Spaces Revealed

A couple of weeks ago I went along to one of the Hidden Spaces events – a behind the scenes tour of The Electric Cinema. It started with a fascinating talk by the Manager, and his enthusiasm not just for the Electric, but for the history of cinema, made for a really interesting look through the past 100 years of the theatre.

Over the years The Electric has been a silent movie theatre, a news theatre, even an adult theatre, moving through all these phases in the history of British cinema to its current revival showing a wide range of popular blockbusters which allows them to show foreign and art-house films alongside.

Birmingham Building Plan The Electric 1936 [66013]

Birmingham Building Plan: The Electric 1936 [BBP 66013] (The Tatler Theatre as it was then known)

The behind the scenes tour that followed was equally as unexpected, finding a hidden recording studio in the basement, and a huge projector sitting alongside state of the art digital projection equipment in, funnily enough, the projection room. (Which, by the way, was very tiny and very warm!) You can find a history of The Electric on their website.

The Electric is the oldest working cinema in the country but this got us thinking about other cinemas that have found a home in Birmingham over the years. For instance there was a cinema on the corner of Ethel Street; and one occupied the premises of the Piccadilly Arcade. When you take the time to look up at the buildings around you, it becomes obvious.

Closing of West End Cinema, New Street, Birmingham. Note the Picture House Sign over the doorway. [WK/B11/141]

 Note the Picture House Sign over the doorway.

Ordnance Survey, 1918 Edition. Note the Picture Theatre next to the Theatre Royal.

Ordnance Survey, 1918 Edition. Note the Picture Theatre next to the Theatre Royal.

The Ordnance Survey maps we hold for Birmingham give an indication as to just how many cinemas there were . On the 1918 map you can see The Picture House, located next to the Theatre Royal. Although it didn’t last long, The Picture House and Café appears in the 1919 trade directory with Ernest A. Plumpton as manager. It closed around 1926 and would become the Piccadilly Arcade. There were approximately 60 – 70 cinemas in Birmingham during the 1920s, going by how many were listed in the trade directories at this time.

A few years later, on the Ordnance Survey map for 1937-8 we find 4 cinemas alone within a fairly short distance of New Street Station. Initially I had only spotted 3 – the Electric of course, the Odeon on New Street, and a picture house on the corner of Ethel Street and Stephenson Street which was once the Forum, later an ABC theatre. It was only when a colleague remembered going to a cinema called the Futurist that I dug a little and realised there was a fourth cinema nearby  – in John Bright Street.

Ordnance Survey 1937/8 Edition. Note the fours cinemas around New Street Station.

Ordnance Survey 1937/8 Edition. Note the four cinemas around New Street Station.

Continue reading

Explore Your Archives campaign – the road to democracy and human rights

ArchI've Democracy

Waverley School at Westminster Hall for Fight for the Right Project

Waverley School at Westminster Hall for Fight for the Right Project

In February I was lucky enough to go to an event at the Houses of Parliament celebrating the 800th Anniversary of Magna Carta. In the Queen’s Robing Room, we saw the four original copies of Magna Carta that survive today. Two are held by the British Library, one by Lincoln Cathedral and one by Salisbury Cathedral. All are written on parchment, but vary in size and shape.  It was amazing to see all of the four Magna Cartas together, to compare versions and marvel at their preservation over such a long period of time.

Over the last ten years of working with young people on archive collections, some of the most engaging items have been about protest and the local population of Birmingham’s involvement in demanding change for themselves and their communities. A brief look at some of these items will hopefully inspire you to come and look at them, take up your own research or capture your own activism on democracy to inspire future generations!

EFP History Pamphlets  [D942.008]

EFP History Pamphlets

In our archive we can go back to the 17th century pamphlets around the Civil War where a “print explosion” was said to take place as both sides of the argument turned to print to put forward their view and take apart their opposition. There was an exchange in pamphlets between Royalist commander Prince Rupert after his sack of Birmingham on 3rd April 1643 and his Parliamentary opponents.  This earlier pamphlet is explicit in its assertion that a King is made ‘by the people’s consent’.

A favourite and well published image from our archive is the rally of an estimated 200,000 people at Newhall Hill led by Thomas Attwood of the Birmingham Political Union in 1832 to call for a Parliamentary act to increase political representation. Not only do we have the print entitled The Gathering of the Unions but also a flag embroidered with the words Reform which very likely was waved at the meeting.

Political Gathering on Newhall Hill. [WK_B11_8 ]

Political Gathering on Newhall Hill, 1832.
[WK_B11_8 ]

  Continue reading

International Archives Day

Tuesday, 9th of June is International Archives Day. To coincide with the creation of the International Council on Archives on 9th June 1948, it was agreed in 2007 to make 9th June a day to celebrate archives and to raise awareness of their importance not just as bits of old paper, but as the records of our identity. Uniting across the world to promote collections, this year the ICA have asked archive services across the globe to send them images that reflect their locality. The fruits of the project will be available online so why not have a look at their website, which will be launched on Tuesday, 9th June.

Although we haven’t submitted any photographs (oops, we missed the deadline) we thought we would just show you a few images that we think are fascinating.

The following images show the changing face of the top of Broad Street. Note the third image which shows the colonnade and buildings in the background which now form the site of the ICC and Symphony Hall.

Hall of Memory 41 Broad Street Corner and Hall of Memory 1929

Broad Street Corner and Hall of Memory, 1929. [Hall of Memory 41]

WK_B11_170 Hall of Memory viewed from Broad Street, Birmingham 1931

Hall of Memory viewed from Broad Street, Birmingham, 1931. [Hall of Memory 4]

wk_b11_169 Hall fo Memory 3 Hall of Memory view from Easy Row Birmingham 1931

Hall of Memory view from Easy Row, Birmingham, 1931. [Hall of Memory 3]

Continue reading

From local beginnings…

On 3rd June 1765, a local bank was formed that 250 years later would become one of Britain’s biggest high street banks –  Lloyds Bank. In celebration of this remarkable milestone, Lloyds has published a fascinating history not only of the bank, but of the context in which the bank thrived.

The firm originally started life in 1765 as Taylors & Lloyds, opening for business in Dale End. The founders, Sampson Lloyd II, Sampson Lloyd III, John Taylor and John Taylor Jnr all had backgrounds in manufacturing and had shown skill at producing their wares efficiently. As the industrial revolution was changing the landscape of Britain, new ways of managing financial transactions was needed, and a new style of banking offered by Taylors & Lloyds was to pave the way.

Exterior of Lloyds Bank, High Street, Birmingham [WK/B11/134]

Exterior of Lloyds Bank, High Street, Birmingham. 1932. 

As prominent Quaker families, they gained a reputation of being trustworthy to do business with, and within 10 years had 277 customers banking with them. At that time, private banks issued their own bank notes, and it was a testament to the integrity of the company that their notes were accepted throughout Birmingham and remained in circulation for 100 years, despite still being handwritten.

A cheque from the Taylor and Lloyds Bank, 1792.  [MS 3357/1]

A cheque from the Taylor and Lloyds Bank, 1792.
[MS 3357/1]

In 1822, a packet of bank notes was stolen from the London Branch of Hanbury, Taylor, Lloyd & Bowman (a company founded jointly by the two sons and two associates) containing the sum of £4002. As the notes were indistinguishable from many others, they had difficulty recovering them, leading to the addition of a beehive emblem which became the first company logo.

Bank note issued by Lloyds. Note the beehive emblem.  [MS 3357/1]

Bank note issued by Lloyds. Note the beehive emblem.
[MS 3357/1]

Assignment and Mutual Release to Lloyds following the death of James Taylor[440844-5 DV 607]

Assignment and Mutual Release to Lloyds following the death of James Taylor.       [440844-5 DV 607]

Following the death of the last remaining member of the Taylor family, James Lloyd,  in 1853, the future of the bank needed to be decided and the Lloyd family chose to continue alone. It was now Lloyds & Company.

100 years after the company was established, rumours spread that they were in financial difficulties, prompting Lloyds & Company to take action before all their customers withdrew their money. Their first move was to publish their accounts in the local papers for all to see. Following this, they took the decision to become a joint-stock limited liability company, which was seen as a more ‘robust’ venture and preferable to private, family run firms in the emerging industrial era. The only other privately owned company, J L Moilliet & Sons, merged with Lloyds and the Lloyds Banking Company was born.

Continue reading

George Henry Bonner – so much more than a casualty of War

I first came across George Henry Bonner several years ago as a result of an enquiry at the Library – someone had requested a copy of the inquest into his death on 2nd March 1929.  George had served in WWI but was discharged with shell shock in 1919 and had suffered for the next 10 years till he ended his own life by hanging himself from his bedroom window. A shocking and distressing story and I tried to find out more about him and his background. I didn’t get very far beyond discovering from standard genealogical sources that he was born on 26 May 1895, the son of Rev Henry Bonner – Minister of Hamstead Road Baptist Church – and his wife Margaret Elizabeth.  He had married an Eleanor Ford in 1921 and they had one son Augustine (known as Austin) born in 1925. His inquest described him as a journalist but I could find no clue as to which newspaper or journal he had written for – or any of his writings.

Extract from Inquest on George Henry Bonner, April 1929

Extract from Inquest on George Henry Bonner,          April 1929

There was one intriguing lead in the inquest though – one of the witnesses, described as a friend of Bonner’s, was Alvin Langdon Coburn. Coburn (1882-1966) was an American born photographer active in England in the early 20th Century and noted for both symbolist photography and portraiture. His “Men of Mark”(1913) and “More Men of Mark” (1922) featured portraits of the leading American & European literary and artistic figures of the time including Rodin, Henri Matisse, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, WB Yeats and George Bernard Shaw had described him as “the greatest photographer in the world”. But I couldn’t find any connection between him and the Handsworth born journalist Bonner despite an inkling that it may have had something to do with Coburns interests in mysticism and freemasonry.

My interest in George Bonner was rekindled when the inquest was featured in the recent Voices of War Exhibition and I used it as an example in my recent talk at Who Do You Think You Are? Live at the NEC last month as a tribute to those sometimes forgotten victims of WWI who died as a result of their experiences many years after the conflict ended. This time I made a breakthrough – thanks to a tangential line of enquiry by a Tolkien scholar, John Garth. His research into the war experiences of JRR Tolkien had uncovered a link between Bonner (who turns out to have been a near contemporary of Tolkien at both King Edward’s School, Birmingham and Magdalen College, Oxford) Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen via the Craiglockhart Hospital in Scotland. The fascinating story of how Garth happened to make connections with George Bonner’s son and in so doing uncovered “lost” editions of The Hydra, Craiglockhart’s in-house magazine can be seen here.

Continue reading

What’s new on the shelves?

Birmingham Collection behind the scenes - titles not available on the open shelves can be requested from staff.

Birmingham Collection behind the scenes – titles not available on the open shelves can be requested from staff.

Yet more fascinating titles have been added to our collections. How to access them? BCOL items are freely available on the open shelves on floor 4 in our Heritage Research Area. All titles that are prefixed with one or two letters need to be requested in advance of a visit from library staff. With the exception of books in the Black History Collection (which is now available on floor 3) , all other publications are also accessible to view on floor 4.

1.Cadbury, Geraldine.
Young Offenders Yesterday and Today.
L 42.1 CAD

2.Chinn, Carl.
The Real Peaky Blinders. Billy Kimber, the Birmingham Gang and the Racecourse Wars of the 1920s.
BCOL 42.31

3.Dale, R.W.
Laws of Christ for Common Life.
L 18.1 DAL

4.Fahey, David(ed.)
E. Lawrence Levy and Muscular Judaism, 1851 – 1932.
L 78.1 LEV

5. Iqbal, Karamat.
Dear Birmingham : A Conversation with my Hometown.
BCOL 21.85 KAR

6.Limbrick, Gudrun.
A Great Day : Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Birmingham.
LF 21.7 LIM

7.Mills, Robert.
From Great Barr Chapel to St. Margaret’s Church : The Story of the Stained Glass Windows.
LP 14.93 MIL

8.Nadin – Snelling, Erica.
Matron At War : The Story of Katy Beaufoy (1869 – 1918).

9.Pringle, Marie.
Brasshouse Language Centre : A Vibrant & Imaginative Affair.
BCOL 48.36

10.Roberts, Stephen.
Dr J.A. Langford (1823 – 1903). A Self – Taught Working Man and the Sale of American Degrees in Victorian Britain.
LP 78.1 LAN

Continue reading