Handsworth Shakespeare Reading Society

Shakespeare Reading Society reference book [Ref. MS 4907]

One of the many exciting collections to be added to Archives and Collections in 2017 was the records of the Handsworth Shakespeare Reading Society (MS 4907). The society began in 1880 when a group of women in Handsworth Wood decided to meet for a literary afternoon. As the name suggests, this developed in to a society for women which met regularly to read plays by Shakespeare. Membership was by personal invitation only and in 1887 rules were drawn up which specified that there should be nine meetings a year with eight of the nine meetings dedicated to reading Shakespeare plays and the ninth to work by another author.

The archive holds fascinating groups of records that tell us more about the running of the group through the years. Included are annual reports, minute books and the society’s reference book. The reference book includes a dated list of plays read and members who played the principal parts. Minute books in the archive cover the period from 1884-2001 beginning at the group’s 49th meeting and annual reports cover the period 1902-1999.

MS 4907 List of programmes in the Society’s reference book

Over the years group members carried out their own research in to the history of the group and these notes form part of the archive. They discovered that in 1903 the ladies went on, what is thought to be, their first theatre visit to the Stratford Theatre. They met at Snow Hill station, had lunch at the Shakespeare Hotel and then attended a matinee showing of ‘Everyman in his Humour’ by Ben Johnson. The archive contains programmes from some later performances attended by the group.

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Closed Week Retrospective

Last week was our ‘closed week’ in Archives & Collections which meant the Wolfson Centre was closed to researchers while we carried on working behind the scenes…

Staff of Archives & Collections practicing salvage techniques to save water damaged items.

Having the Wolfson Centre closed meant that staff could attend training on the Disaster Plan. Led by our Conservator, Lucy Angus, the training makes sure that in the case of an emergency, be it fire or flooding in the building or in the stores for example, that staff are aware of the procedures to follow so that minimum losses are incurred. As I’m sure many of you are aware, there have been a number of high-profile disasters in recent years including the collapse of the building housing the archives of Cologne in 2009 and most recently a fire that gutted the National Museum of Brazil. Planning is taken very seriously so that we are prepared to deal with any events that arise and can save as much of the archives as possible, should the unthinkable happen. The training also familiarised staff with where our emergency equipment is stored, which includes hard hats and steel toed boots!

Just some of the disaster and salvage equipment in Archives & Collections.

Elsewhere in the stores, following a very large deposit of court records earlier in the year, staff have been arranging these in date order and this will be followed up by listing them in the future. Given the very high number of volumes received, this is quite a task to be keeping us busy!

Acc 2014/203 Consent under the Substitution Act 1858.

In addition to taking in a new deposit of records from the Birmingham Methodist Circuit on Wednesday, closed week also gives us the opportunity to try to catch up on our accessioning.We still have documents we received back in 2014 which are still waiting to be put in their permanent location within the stores. Amongst those waiting to be re-boxed are a collection of documents from the Charity Commissioner which includes a Consent allowing parishes formerly under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Worcester to be transferred to the Bishop of Birmingham following the creation of the Diocese of Birmingham. The document is dated 15 February 1906 and what this shows is the transfer of the parishes of St. Mary the Virgin, Acocks Green, St. Asaph, Birmingham, St. Luke, Birmingham, St. Mark, Birmingham, St. Matthew, Duddeston, St. Mary, Selly Oak, St. Margaret, Olton and St. Andrew, Bordesley into the newly created Diocese of Birmingham.

Schedule showing the parishes transferred to the new Diocese of Birmingham.

There are plenty more tasks waiting for us during our next closed week at Christmas!

Nicola Crews
Archivist

The Apollo Gardens

Eighteenth century Birmingham was graced, at different times, with two sites called the Apollo Gardens.

John Tomlinson’s Plan of Aston Manor, 1758, reduced in Plans of Birmingham and vicinity, ancient and modern,1884 [Ref. MAP/45209]

Holte Bridgman’s Apollo Gardens are shown on John Tomlinson’s Plan of Aston Manor, surveyed in 1758 [Ref. MAP/45209], on the north-east corner of the junction of Lichfield Road and Rocky Lane. The date when the gardens were first open to the public is not known.

On May 9th 1748 it was reported,

Whereas the Performance of Music and Fire-Works at Bridgman’s Gardens, at the Apollo at Aston, near Birmingham, was to have been on Thursday last, but the Inclemency of the Weather preventing ‘tis postpon’d to next Thursday Evening, when a grand Trio of Mr. Handel’s out of Acis and Galatea, and that favourite Duet of Arne’s call’d Damon and Cloe, will be perform’d by Mr.Bridgman, and a Gentleman of the Town… 1

The concerts were promoted by Barnabas Gunn, the first organist at St. Phillip’s church, who also promoted concerts at Sawyers Assembly Rooms and at the theatre in Moor Street. He was also,

…notable as a composer, producing sonatas and solos for harpsichord, violin and cello, and ‘Two Cantatas and Six Songs’ of 1736 that included George Frederick Handel among its subscribers.2

On Monday July 15th 1751 ‘Eleven of the Gentlemen of the Holte Bridgman’s Club and Eleven of the Gentlemen of Mr Thomas Bellamy’s Club’ met at the Apollo Gardens for ‘the most of three innings, for Twenty-Two Guineas’, the first recorded cricket match to take place in the district.3

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Heritage Research Area familiarisation session

As part of Birmingham Heritage Week, Archives & Collections are offering the opportunity to get to know the sources available in the Heritage Research Area on level 4 of the Library of Birmingham.

At this free event, staff will guide you through resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session and pre-booking is essential. To book, click here.

Saturday 15 September 2018, 11 am – 1 pm.

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Roses in the Archives

It’s summer, the time for roses to bloom in all their glory: and roses are abundant in Archives and Collections, from botanical illustrations to mechanical sprayers, via metalwork, valentines, songs, poems, theatre and – of course – chocolates.

‘Rosa rubra plena spinosissima’, the Moss Provence rose [F0961760, Vol. II, Plate CCXXI, opp. p.147]

Let’s start with our first illustration, of the ‘Rosa rubra plena spinosissima’, the Moss Provence rose, from the ‘Figures of the most beautiful, useful and uncommon plants described in the Gardener’s Dictionary’, by Philip Miller, London, 1760. [F096/1760, Vol. II, Plate CCXXI, opp. p.147]

Miller (1691 – 1771) was one of the most important horticultural writers of 18th century and was gardener to the Society of Apothecaries at Chelsea Hospital for nearly fifty years, from 1722. His one volume ‘Gardener’s Dictionary’, was first published in 1731, and there were eight editions during his lifetime.

Another beautifully illustrated volume from that period is the ‘Temple of Flora’ (1807) by Robert James Thornton (1768 – 1837), physician and botanist. Two of his ‘heroes’ had strong West Midlands connections, Thomas Beddoes of Bristol (for whom Boulton & Watt manufactured breathing apparatus), and Erasmus Darwin (Watt’s doctor for a while and a member of the Lunar Society). Thornton (c. 1765 – 1837) was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, and taught at Guys Hospital, London.  His beautifully illustrated volume has roses as the frontispiece, and of the rose, Thornton writes:

Nature has given her a vest of purest white, and also imperial robes of the brightest scarlet; and that no rude hand should tear her from her rich domain, she is protected by a myriad of soldiers, who present on every side their naked and sharp swords against the daring invader.

He aimed to connect the scientific aspects of Linnaean botany with the arts of painting and engraving, and all dedicated to the royal family. Sadly, the volume, which appeared in a serial form, was never completed and Thornton ran out of money. The copy at the Library of Birmingham is a reprint from 1951, ‘no. 206 of a limited edition of 250 copies, on hand made paper, with plates faithfully reproduced from the original engravings and the work described by G. Grigson, with biographical notes by H. Buchanan, and botanical notes by W.T. Stearn’. [F 096/1951]

These aren’t the earliest references to roses in Archives and Collections. There’s a bill from Thomas Wright to Walter Gough of Perry Hall for plants, roses and trees in 1745 [Gough 274/46]. They owned much land in the Midlands, including property in Wolverhampton, and there are several bills for various repairs to the White Rose [Inn] in Lichfield Street, Wolverhampton, from 1749 to 1762 [Gough 279, 281 and 310].

Watercolour of the design of the Colonnade room at Aston Hall for James Watt jr, c.1819, showing the north wall decorated with roses  [MS 3219/9/5/2/67]

There’s another ‘White Rose’, in the Watt Family papers. A letter to James Watt (Soho) from Lord Dundas (Upleatham, Northallerton), 13 December 1805, begins ‘I do not know whether your Workmen at Soho will stoop to so trifling a thing as a Front for a Soldier’s Cap’, and goes on to explain that while he was in Weymouth with his Regiment, the North Yorks, that summer, the King was,

….graciously pleased to express his approbation of the Regiment, and give it the Badge of the White Rose of York, to be wore in the Colours, and on the Caps, – I have made a sketch of a Rose , Crown and Lion, for the Front of a Cap, but must own that it does not please me……if you would be so good as to get some of your ingenious men to exert their Genius and send me sketches of their ideas I shall be much obliged to you – .

Watt, who was then retired from business, redirected the letter to Matthew Robinson Boulton. A sketch survives and a note saying that if any of the designs are thought suitable the plate for the badge could be made for two shillings [MS 3219/4/47/13].

Other references to roses in the ‘Archives of Soho’ include a letter to James Watt jr. (Soho) from Josiah Wedgwood jr., at Stoke, near Cobham, Surrey, 29 April 1798, which mentions that ‘the nightingales sing day and night and there are moss roses in bud’ [MS 3219/6/2/W/183].

At Matthew Boulton’s funeral in 1809, the 17 horses had ‘crape roses’ on headbands. The charges for these are on George Lander’s bill to Matthew Robinson Boulton, 18 August 1809 [MS 3782 /13/149/51].

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Interesting discoveries

As you may have seen in a previous post, cataloguing is a part of our role within archives; we do this in order to make clear what we have in our collections and to make documents accessible to members of the public for use in research and family history. Once in a while, however, something within the archive being catalogued can surprise you. The document below is one such surprise!

Copy inspeximus of Roger de Northbrook concerning the endowment of the vicarage of Aston, 1327 [Finding Number: [DV 362] 394018]

 The document comes from the Ecclesiastical Parish Records of St Peter and Paul in Aston (EP 41) and it is interesting in that it is a 19th century transcript of a 14th century copy of a 13th century original document, pertaining to the Vicarage of Aston. It comprises a short introduction from the incumbent Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, followed by the Transcript of the 1254 original and below that the Bishop writes again that he puts his seal to the original document after he has looked through it. He has dated the inspection 1327.

Copy inspeximus of Roger de Northbrook concerning the endowment of the vicarage of Aston, 1327 [Finding Number: [DV 362] 394018]

Endowment of the Vicarage of Aston, Birmingham – 1254

To all the sons of the Holy Mother Church to whom these present Letters shall come Roger by Divine permission Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield health to him who is a true health to all Know ye all that we have inspected certain Letters of Roger sometime Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield of faithful memory our predecessor upon the ordination of the Vicarage of Aston in our Diocese made and sealed with his seal in these Words […]

To all the sons of the Holy Mother church to whom in their present writing shall come We Roger by Divine Mercy Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield send health Everlasting in the Lord to all of you Because our beloved in Christ the Prior Convent of Newport Pagnel in the Diocese of Lincoln have freely submitted the church of Aston in our Diocese with the Chapel of Bromwich and all other their appertenances /the right of Patronage is acknowledged to belong to them/ to our ordination by their letters patent as well of the Prior as the Convent under their seal promising that they would ratify and confirm whatever we should think fit to ordain concerning the church and chapel aforesaid with their appertenances the as well for the Honor of Religion as Hospitality attending to the charity which the said Prior and Convent say they are able to perform and likewise to the poverty of those who have suffered much in the cause of Religion and we desireing with great earnestness an increase in Divine Worship in our Church of Lichfield with this consideration that the said church of Aston with its appertenances ought not to be defrauded of its rights with the convent of our beloved in Christ Ralph Dean and the Chapter of Lichfield having God before our eyes have thus thought fit to decree concerning the same viz- that upon the departed or death of Mr Wm. Kelkennye Rector of same church the aforesaid Prior and Convent and their successors shall have for Ever to their own use the Church of Aston with the Chapel of Bromwich and all their appurtenances saving to the vicar in the same church the under written portions consisting viz- in the whole alterage with the Tithe of Hay, of mills principal Leganes, Tithe of Wool and Lamb, Sheaves increasing in and gardens tilled with the foot and in all other obventions and small tithes arising within the whole Parish with the House which Mr Ralph De Crophill sometime vicar of the said church of Aston possessed. Moreover the Prior and Convent aforesaid and their successor shall pay annually at Lichfield Twenty Marks viz, on the feast of the ascension of our Lord Ten Marks, and  on the feast of Saint Andrew the apostle Ten Marks and they shall procure and present a proper person to the archdeacon and to the said vicarage when it shall become vacant but the vicar of the said Church for the time being  shall personally minister in the same church and shall sustain of his own charges one Chaplain and on Deacon honest and fit in the said church and one chaplain and one clerk honest and minister in the chapel of Bromwich and he shall pay the Synodals but the in Chancil Books and Ornaments of the Church shall be provided and that sufficiently as well by the aforesaid Prior and Convent as by the Vicar aforesaid shall contribute to the Extraordinary burthens in equal portions. In Testimony and in confirmation of this our ordination we have put our seal to the present writing reserving to ourselves and our successors in the Church, the Pontifical and Parochial right and the Dignity of our Churches of Coventry and Lichfield. Dated at Breivode on the eve of Saint Cecilia the Virgin [21 November] Anno Dui 1254 in the presence of our Beloved sons in Christ Mr Ralph, Dean, Ralph, Treasurer, Mr R de Lakots, Walter de Perton, Alexander Blound, William de Eccleshall Nicholas de Lega, Canons of Lichfield.

Copy inspeximus of Roger de Northbrook concerning the endowment of the vicarage of Aston, 1327 [Finding Number: [DV 362] 394018]

Inspected by Roger De Northbrook (Northburgh) afterwards Bishop 1327In testimony of our inspection we Roger aforesaid have put our seal to the presents – Dated at Sallow 4th Mones of May Anno Dui 1327.

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Birmingham Heritage Week 2018

It’s not long now until Birmingham Heritage Week 2018, and we’ve got a wide variety of things going on here at the Library of Birmingham!

8th September

PICTURE BIRMINGHAM

Saturday 8th September 2018, 11:15am-4:15pm

Venue: Heritage Learning Space, Level 4, Library of Birmingham

Booking: Pre-booking essential! To book, click here.   

Birmingham is an ever-changing city, and its changing nature has been documented through Archives in various formats for centuries, a relatively recent format being photography!

This family-friendly workshop is about capturing the city, photographically, on one day (Saturday 8th September 2018) as seen by you.

After a brief introduction by Michael Hallett, an explanation of the activity, and guidance on how to make the most of using your mobile device (mobile phone or tablet – no “proper” cameras!), and a walk around the Gallery where a photography exhibition will be on display, you will be sent out into the city to take photographs that, for you, represent the city or a moment in the city.

You will then return to the Library of Birmingham where we will look at your photos on a screen with all the other people attending to discuss them (so you absolutely must bring the cable you have for your device so that we can connect it to our hardware and download them!). Of the photographs submitted, a selection will be exhibited at the Library of Birmingham in late 2018/early 2019, and deposited in the City’s Archives for permanent preservation.

A Dancer’s Tale

Saturday 8th September 2018, 11:30am-1:00pm

Venue: Library of Birmingham

Booking: Pre-booking essential!  To book, contact Library of Birmingham on 0121 242 4242 or email childrens.library@birmingham.gov.uk

Inspired by Birmingham’s theatrical heritage and the ‘Year of Movement’, we will be offering a creative writing workshop for children aged 12-17. We will be using movement, music and images to spark your imagination and help you to create your dancer’s tale.

14th September

Creative Writing using First World War Archives with Fiona Joseph

Friday 14th September, 11:15am-4:00pm

Venue: Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, Level 4, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2ND

Booking: Pre-booking essential! To book, click here

Join Birmingham historical novelist and biographer, Fiona Joseph, for a hands-on Creative Writing session around the theme of the First World War. Archive material at the Library of Birmingham has been specially selected by Fiona Joseph in conjunction with Corinna Rayner, Archives & Collections Manager. This writing workshop will give a unique opportunity to explore some of the many archival treasures themed around Women at War (Home Front, Industry) and Conscience at War (Quakers, patriotism and pacifism). You will be able to browse items such as family letters, photographs, posters, postcards, news items and memorabilia from the period and use these as a springboard for your own creative response. Writers at ANY level, including beginners, are welcome. Just bring some writing equipment – pen and paper or laptop.

During the afternoon there will be an opportunity to read your work to the group for reaction and feedback. (Please note that this is strictly optional!) Fiona Joseph will be able to offer professional guidance on shaping and editing your writing. You will also be able to submit your piece for possible publication on the Library of Birmingham Archives & Collections blog.

15th September

Heritage Research Area Familiarisation session at Archives & Collections

Saturday 15th September, 11am-1:00pm.

Venue: Heritage Research Area, Level 4, Library of Birmingham, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2ND

Booking: Pre-booking essential! To book, click here.

Meet staff at this event which will act as a beginners’ guide to resources such as maps, parish registers along with digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session and booking is essential.

There is so much going in Birmingham Heritage Week this year! Find out more by going to the Birmingham Heritage Week website.