Shipping issues

It’s amazing what a variety of goods were moved by sea in the 18th century.

John Watt (1739 – 1762) the younger brother of James Watt, studied book-keeping and helped in his father’s business of ships’ chandlery in Greenock. According to his father, James Watt of Greenock, his son was ‘ready in learning with a mahanicall [mechanical] turn and soon aplayed [applied] himself to trade and business and for completing his knolage [knowledge] in the cost [coast]’. In 1761 a ship, the Fortune, was built for him and he started a trading enterprise, as a partner with his father and others, shipping goods between Glasgow and Bristol. Between 1760 and 1761 his father records a least 32 harbours he visited, for cargoes such as coal, ballast, slate, timber, salt, herrings, tallow, tobacco, etc. [MS 3219/3/125]

Composite Account Book [MS 3219/5/1]

Composite Account Book, Bristol 1761
[MS 3219/5/1]

John Watt’s accounts reveal a wealth of items, most of which had been specifically ordered by individuals in the Glasgow area from Bristol. In no particular order, these included:

Strong sweet ‘sydar’ [cider]
Bristol beer
‘Holewell water’ [Holywell was a mineral spring area of Bristol]
White wine vinegar
Bottles
Lanterns
Lamp black ‘in pound papers’
Paint; vermilion, Prussian blue, French verdegris, stone umber, spruce ochre etc.
Paintbrushes
Turpentine
Barometers
Jugs of linseed oil
A chest of ‘Florence Oil’
Bunting: broad & narrow; red, white & blue
Gingerbread
Pewter spoons & metal ‘soop’ dishes
Double Gloucester cheese
Blue peas
White peas
Nutmeg graters
Ivory teeth
Watch glasses
Compasses
Writing slates
Paper
Red lead
White lead
Thin sheet lead
Silk handkerchiefs
Flour
Marling needles
‘Very fine cotton cards’
Musket bullets
Locks & hinges
Tools: saws, adzes, chisels, axes, shovels
Barrel hoops
Jugs of putty
Window glass
Decanters, tumblers, ‘Flowered glasses’
Paper

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Easter Hope

When researching our blog for Easter, the obvious collection to look in was the records of the Cadbury Family. Easter and Cadbury now go hand in hand but this is no new phenomena. Before the Second World War, Cadbury were making and decorating some splendid Easter Eggs and photographs in the collection not only show the production line machinery that was used, but also staff adorning the eggs with intricate decoration by hand.

Machinery used to create Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/81]

 

The mechanical techniques used to make the eggs were clearly advanced as the annotation on the photographs convey:  

‘Can it be that these fabulous Easter Eggs were issued as a production line? Such would seem to the case, and it is an indication of the high quality of Grade 1 products before the 1939 war brought the end to these expensive lines. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Bournville in 1939, one of the show pieces was the decoration by hand of even larger eggs. Sic transit Gloria mundi.’

Decorating Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/83]

Also in the Cadbury Family papers is an uplifting sentiment that Easter is full of hope. Published in Women’s Leader and Common Cause on 10th April, 1925, Mrs. George Cadbury wrote: Continue reading

An invitation

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage, it was announced that a small purchase had been made and donated to Archives & Collections, Library of Birmingham and this blog is to inform people about the item.

MS 4869 (Acc 2017/007)

It is an invitation ticket to an exhibition of paintings at Everitt and Hill, art dealers, on New Street, on 18 August [c.1860], (reference number MS 4869     Accession 2017/ 007). The invitation was to James Baldwin and the paintings he was invited to view were:

James Watt and his First Steam Engine by Lauder R.S.A.
Shakespeare and Milton by John Faed
The Wanderer’s Return by Henry O’Neill
Broken Vows by Philip Calderon

It was, of course, the first item which attracted the attention of the FoBAH Committee.

James Eckford Lauder RSA (1811-1869) was a notable mid-Victorian Scottish artist, famous for both portraits and historical pictures.

A younger brother of artist Robert Scott Lauder, he was born at Silvermills, Edinburgh, the fifth and youngest son of John Lauder of Silvermills (proprietor of the great tannery there) by his spouse Helen Tait. Under the guidance and encouragement of his elder brother Robert, he rapidly developed an early love of art.

He attended Edinburgh Academy from 1824 to 1828. He joined Robert in Italy in 1834, and remained there nearly four years. Upon his return to Edinburgh he became an annual contributor to the Exhibitions of the Royal Scottish Academy, and exhibited occasionally at the Royal Academy in London, where his works attracted much attention.

In 1839 he was elected an associate, and in 1846 became full member, of the Royal Scottish Academy. The painting of James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, 1855, is said to be one of his principal works.

The painting is now held in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh. Continue reading

Wolfson Centre for Archival Research: closed weeks

It’s another practicalities blog from me I’m afraid. One day I will write one about something interesting in the Archives, or perhaps from our Early & Fine Printing Collection… But, for now it will have to be a blog about closed weeks for the Wolfson Centre (the Archives & Collections reading room).

Here at Birmingham Archives & Collections in the Library of Birmingham, we care for over 6,000 collections dating from the 12th to the 21st century, as well as significant photography collections, the Shakespeare Collection, and a fantastic Early and Fine Printing collection, which we store on more than 12 miles of shelving.

Inside our archive storage areas

Our collections continue to grow and we acquire up to 250 new collections each year. In order to do the collections justice and make them as accessible as we possibly can for you, we occasionally need to be able to focus our staff and resources on collections tasks which can’t happen during our normal open weeks.

Collections work

Our small team operates two busy public counters over six days per week offering a variety of services to our customers, as well as answering over 250 formal enquiries per month, preparing and delivering engagement activities, whilst also ensuring that our collections remain safe and well cared for.

Many archive services across the country use closed weeks to undertake pieces of work that they are unable to accomplish whilst they are open, and we are going to try this too.  We already close during the week between Christmas and New Year, but as of 2017 we will be closing a further two weeks each year.

During this time, staff from across the team will be working together on collections development and preservation activities. This will improve the documentation and access to the collections we look after for you. As such, we hope to keep you updated about what we are up to during these weeks via our blogs so that you can see what we’re up to and how we’re doing!

 

What weeks will we be closed?

We have used our visitor statistics kept since the opening of the Library of Birmingham in September 2013 to choose the quietest weeks to minimise disruption to our service. The closed weeks then for 2017/18 will be as follows:

w/b 24th April, reopening on Tuesday 2nd May 2017

w/b 4th September, reopening on Tuesday 12th September 2017

w/b 25th December, reopening on Tuesday 2nd January 2018

 

During these weeks the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research will close, but the Heritage Research Area counter will remain open.  You will still be able to talk to knowledgeable staff about the collections we hold, identify material you wish to consult and make appointments to consult that material.

All the team at Archives & Collections are proud that we are able to continue to collect and make accessible cultural and heritage collections that are representative and reflective of our city and its population. We are excited about the opportunities that having this extra time will afford us and the ways we can use it to continue to care for and make these collections more open and available to everyone who wishes to use them.

Thanks as always for your continued support and understanding.

 

Corinna Rayner
Archives & Collections Manager
Library of Birmingham

William Hutton: The Birmingham Man From Derby who succeeded in Life Solely Through The Love Of Books And Books Alone.

Much has been written about William Hutton, including a range of works by William Hutton himself. My aim is to highlight a few of his inspiring achievements and a little more.

I first stumbled upon a quote from William Hutton on a plaque on Central Library, which read;

‘Descending a hill of eminence, I had a full view, under a bright sun, of Cader Idris. If I was asked what length would be a line drawn from the eye to the summit? I should answer, “To the best of my judgement one mile.” I believe the space is more than five; so fallacious is the vision when it takes in only one object and that elevated. William Hutton 1803’.

This quote was taken from his book called “Remarks Upon North Wales”. The text following this quote was something more understandable. It read;

Dolgelly

From the hill which I was now descending is a delightful view of a large valley, consisting of meadows, water, bridges and the town in the centre, which had an agreeable effect, and all this surrounded with rocks, woods and mountains.

There was an accompanying artwork on the adjacent wall but I was so struck by the statement by William Hutton that I cannot remember the colourful image of the metal artwork. The plaque is, I believe, now in the Collections Centre of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. So back in 2002 when I started work in the Central Library, I encountered this written quote but it wasn’t until I started working in Archives and Collections, that I discovered more about him. Here is what I have learnt so far:

William Hutton’s House    [WK/W6/5A]

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The Old Meeting House

MS 1061-2-5-1

Copy of a sketch of Bull St. Quaker Meeting House (3rd building from the left) in 1702, n.d. [Ref MS 1061/2/5/1]

It is thought that a small Quaker community established in Birmingham in the 1650s. Initially meetings for worship were held in private houses but in 1661 a house and garden were bought in New Hall Lane for use as a meeting house and burial ground. New Hall Lane became known as Bull Lane (and later Monmouth Street) and was located at the end of what is now Colmore Row. The meeting house was located roughly where the entrance to the Great Western Arcade is today. Unfortunately, no plan of the meeting house has survived in the Central Area Meeting Archives deposited here, but there is a plan of the graveyard, drawn by the banker Charles Lloyd (1748 – 1828), with a key containing a list of names of those buried there.

SF (2014-213) 1262 e

Plan of the Friends’ graveyard in Bull Lane drawn by Charles Lloyd, n.d. [Ref SF (2014-213) 1262]

SF (2014-213) 1262 d

Key to the plan of the Friends’ graveyard in Bull Lane, compiled by Charles Lloyd, n.d. [Ref SF (2014-213) 1262]

The meeting house on Monmouth St. needed frequent repairs, so in 1702, it was decided to build a new meeting house, paid for by members of the meeting. This was on Bull St., on the site of where the current meeting house entrance gates now stand. Land behind the meeting house was used as a burial ground.  Continue reading

St Mary’s Convent: A Historic Aspect of Irish Handsworth

St Patrick’s Day will be celebrated in Handsworth, as it is across Birmingham, on 17th March 2017.  Indeed, celebrations commenced last weekend and many Irish from Handsworth joined in or watched Birmingham’s St Patrick’s Parade in Digbeth on 12th March.  Amongst those enjoying the Parade were Religious Sisters from St Mary’s Convent, Handsworth and they represent an ongoing Irish connection with this part of north Birmingham.

Handsworth today is rightly famous for its diverse communities and rich religious mix and it has long had a strong Irish element, not least in the post-war period as represented by Clare Short, a daughter of Irish parents who grew up in Handsworth and became Member of Parliament for the adjacent Ladywood Constituency (1983-2010).  Clare Short also represents a connection with an older Irish tradition in Handsworth, centred on St Mary’s Convent, Hunter’s Road.  Like so many second generation Irish in the area, Clare attended St Mary’s Catholic School (later called St Francis’ School), which was next to and supported by St Mary’s Convent.  From 1841 this convent has served the local Catholic and wider communities and has always had an Irish dimension, even in its early days when Handsworth was a semi-rural location with no distinctly Irish presence.

Catherine McAuley. Taken from Commemorating the Past, Commitment to the Future. [MS 4627]

St Mary’s Convent was established from Dublin by the Sisters of Mercy, who had been invited to Birmingham by Thomas Walsh, Catholic Vicar Apostolic for the Midlands.  Walsh wanted to harness the devotion and energy of the Sisters of Mercy in order to alleviate the suffering of Birmingham’s burgeoning poor.  Many of these were Irish, crammed into slums in central Birmingham such as John Street, as described by Thomas Finigan in his journal, now kept at the Library of Birmingham [MS 3255].  Originally founded in 1831 by Catherine McAuley, the Sisters of Mercy were a new departure for female Religions.  They led an active life in service to the poor and needy and attracted women who wanted to serve God in a practical way. In just ten years, the Sisters of Mercy spread across Ireland, were introduced to England and had laid the foundations of what would become a global ministry.

Journal of Thomas Finigan: Missionary – Birmingham Town Mission 1837 – 1838 [MS 3255]

Whilst Bishop Walsh’s focus was on inner Birmingham, practical considerations resulted in the Sisters of Mercy being established some distance away in leafy Handsworth, then on the outskirts of the town.  Funds were tight and a site was provided in fields opposite the home of the principal benefactor John Hardman [whose business records are held at the Library of Birmingham at MS 175].  St Mary’s Convent was designed for this site by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin, leading light in the Gothic Revival.  However, when the Sisters arrived from Dublin, they did not represent a Catholic return to medieval notions of service and worship.  From the outset, they visited the poor and destitute in their homes and places of work.  176 years later, it may be difficult to envisage how radical this was.  The sight of overtly religious women, robed in the distinctive habit of the Sisters of Mercy and walking the streets was both novel and a dramatic visual representation of solidarity with the poor.  The practical need to walk from outlying Handsworth to the slums, combined with the social shock of (in the language of the time) ‘respectable’ women working with marginalised people ensured that the Sisters of Mercy were noticed.  Their high visibility was also unsettling to many at a time when Catholics were still largely discreet about their religious affiliations.

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