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.
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.
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.
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.