In Remembrance

Daily Mail Wednesday November 7th 1917

This week saw the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele, the Third Battle of Ypres.

Also known as the ‘battle of mud’, over three months, there had been 325,000 Allied and 260,000 German casualties ‘to do little more than make the bump of the Ypres salient somewhat larger’.

As with many battles on the Western Front in the First World War, the decision to not withdraw was controversial. Victory was claimed after British and Canadian forces took control of the village of Passchendaele, only 5 miles from where the offensive had started.

We will remember them.

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The War Poetry Collection in the Library of Birmingham

Book Plate from the Catalogue of the War Poetry Collection. 1921. L52.31.

 

The War Poetry Collection was presented to the Birmingham Reference Library in 1921 by an anonymous donor, in memory of William John Billington, 2/24 London Regiment, (Queen’s Hussars), 60th Division, formerly 2/2 South Midlands Field Ambulance, who was killed in action at Abu Tellul Ridge in Palestine  on 9 March 1918.

 

 

The donor was William Cross of Rubery, who had assembled an unrivalled collection of 1,233 books and pamphlets of poetry relating to the First World War, written by both soldiers and civilians.

Included are poems in English, Breton, Czech, Danish, French, Gaelic, German (Swiss), Italian, and Latin, by members of the British and Allied Nations. There is poetry which was published in Britain, Canada, Australia, America and Barbados.

Many additions were made to the Collection by the Reference Library, notably in 1938 when a fine collection of over 40 volumes of newscuttings of poetry and verse from newspapers and periodicals of the 1914-1918 period was acquired, which represents many different social attitudes to war from the patriotic to the despairing.

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Something a little macabre?

‘Records of the old families and meeting houses belonging to Birmingham Meeting’, compiled by Charles D. Sturge with drawings by William Moseley Baker
Finding no. SF/1038 (alt ref: BN 5K9)

When one of our archivists came across a curious description of a visit by Charles Dickenson Sturge to Monmouth Street (Bull Lane) graveyard, this just screamed Halloween at us! (You can find out more about the cemetery in our blog post The Old Meeting House)

In 1851 Charles Sturge observed…

I also saw a composition one Mary or Eliz, Whitehead the only one of this material legible [.] In the lowest of the three tiers of remains in the part of the graveyard only used before 1750 the skull of a young lady was found with the hair curled all round in a way that it was thought to have been curled after or just before death which in any case must have been sudden as it would have been cut off Tho’ from the position of the grave it must have been buried a century + a quarter the hair, except a little brittleness was just as if fresh cut.

A lock of hair was taken from the graveyard and attached to the page describing the visit to the cemetery.

Lock of hair found in the Burial Ground

 

Whatever activities await you this All Hallows’ Eve, do be careful in those graveyards in case the owner might come back to claim their hair….

If you dare, click here for some more scary graveyard characters you might encounter (but be warned, you do so at your own risk!).

New accession: Shades of Black Community Family Project

In September 2017 we were delighted to receive over 40 boxes of material in to the Library’s collections from the Shades of Black Community Project led by Mrs Eunice McGhie-Belgrave. This was to add to a smaller body of material already in the archive from Shades of Black.

Shades of Black began in February 1989 as a response to the Handsworth Riots when five local women met together to discuss what could be done to rebuild the community and take positive action. From this initial meeting to the present day, Shades of Black has carried out a range of successful projects at the grassroots level with the aim of bringing people together and helping community members develop new skills which in turn increases their self-esteem. The newly acquired material is a record of almost 30 years of dedicated community work.

One example of this is the H.E.L.P. Allotments project. Based in Handsworth and established in 1999. It enabled school pupils to get involved in gardening, donating some of their produce to the elderly to celebrate Harvest. The project gained coverage from BBC Gardener’s World and local radio stations as well as immersing many children in the pleasures of growing their own fruit and vegetables.

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Happy Apple Day!

Pomme D’Api from Pomona Britannica. George Brookshaw. AF 096/1817.

 

 

It’s easy to celebrate Apple Day today (October 21st) by plucking a fruit from the James Watt and Family papers as both father and son of that name were serious fruit growers with extensive orchards.

 

 

 

In a letter by Watt, 30 November 1814, to James Davies in Kington, his solicitor for his Wyeside estates he writes:

“My son sending a waggon to Doldowlod, I have taken the liberty of sending you a few trees of good sorts from my nursery, which I am breaking up.
The trees are
2 Canada no. 2 Pomme de Neige
2 Canada no. 3 Bourasson
1 Ribstone
1 Egg Apple, good, great bearer, keeps
1 Eve Apple, baking, great bearer
1 Stoup Ledington, large, bears & keeps well
7 others, names unknown, my gardner having lost the labels, but are  very good sorts
2 pears, nameless

They are packed up in a mat addressed to you to be left at the Radnorshire Arms, Presteign.”

(MS 3219/4/248/49)

In a later letter, Watt mentions that the Canada trees were budded in Montreal. Other correspondence shows that they were shipped to him in 1809 by James Dunlop in Glasgow. Watt also received grafts of apple trees from Thomas Wilson in Cornwall and from relatives in Glasgow. He had an orchard at his house, Heathfield, in Handsworth, and Watt jr. has left notebooks with details of the fruit trees he planted at Aston Hall. They had both established orchards on their Wyeside estates.

Pippins from Pomona Britannica. George Brookshaw. Volume II. AF 096_1817

Fiona Tait

 

 

Explore Your Archives 2017: Behind the Scenes in Conservation

This year’s Explore Your Archives week runs from Saturday 18th November to Sunday 26th November. The mini-campaign is to highlight the vital and highly-specialised preservation and conservation work of archive conservators.

Behind the scenes at Archives & Collections

Unlike the past two years when we have opened up our archive collections through pop-up exhibitions, this year we are offering the chance to look behind the scenes…

Ever wanted to know what the Conservator gets up to in the archives? Ever wondered what is in the gold part of the Library of Birmingham building? You can find out by coming along to this workshop about how we look after Birmingham’s most treasured documents, with a behind the scenes tour of the stores and Conservation Studio.

Spaces are limited to 12 people – so book early by e-mail at archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk to avoid disappointment!

 

There are two workshops:

Saturday 18th November 1pm – 3pm

Friday 24th November, 2pm – 4pm.

 

Venue:

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

 

For details of how to get to the library, please see the Library of Birmingham website for details.

For more about the Explore Your Archive campaign, please visit http://www.exploreyourarchive.org/.

 

 

Beyond the Battlefields: Käthe Buchler’s Photographs of Germany in the Great War

Käthe Buchler, self-portrait, c. 1905

Beyond the Battlefields: Käthe Buchler’s Photographs of Germany in the Great War

20 October 2017 – 14 January 2018

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

University of Birmingham

 

The Voices of War & Peace WW1 Engagement Centre is currently organising an exhibition of photographs by German amateur photographer Käthe Buchler (1876-1930), whose work forms one of the featured collections of the Museum of Photography in Braunschweig, Lower Saxony. This is the first time that her work has been displayed outside Germany.

Käthe Buchler, ‘Nurse with patient and Christmas tree in the military hospital’, 1914-1918

Buchler photographed the German home front during the First World War. Her black & white images depict her family and community, children contributing to the war effort, women working in traditionally male roles, wounded soldiers returning from the frontline and the nursing staff who treated them. There will be two exhibitions in Birmingham, at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, focusing on Buchler’s images of women and children, and at the University of Birmingham, where her photographs of injured soldiers will be displayed alongside material relating to the University’s role as a hospital during the War. Both exhibitions draw extensively on the collections of the Library of Birmingham.

Käthe Buchler, Children from the A.V.G. (waste recycling company) with Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) in front of a puppet theatre on Hindenburg’s birthday, c. 1915

Käthe Buchler

Käthe Buchler was born in Braunschweig, Germany, in 1876. At age 19 she married Walther Buchler and by 1901 the couple had moved to an affluent area of the town. In 1905 they set up a foundation which awarded local grants in arts and culture. As well as supporting the arts, Käthe also belonged to many women’s organisations and to the Red Cross. In 1901 she had turned her attention to photography and Walther gave Käthe her first camera, a binocular Voigtländer. While she successfully taught herself to use the camera, she also sought advice from local professionals and attended courses in Berlin that were open to female students. She later developed and produced her own prints in the attic of the Buchler home.

Käthe Buchler died in 1930, aged 54. In 2003 the Buchler family donated their collection of over 1,000 black and white prints and 175 colour autochrome plates to the Museum of Photography in Braunschweig. Continue reading