Author Archives: elenka1

Simple Directions in Needle-work and Cutting Out

Browsing our Early and Fine Printing Collections is always interesting, especially when something which goes beyond the simplicity of the basic page turns up—such is the focus of this blog. The volume in question is snappily entitled: Simple Directions in Needle-work and Cutting Out; Intended for the Use of the National Female Schools of Ireland, to which are Added Specimens of Work, Executed by the Pupils of The Female National Model School [G 746.4] (1858)The text was published in 1858, in Dublin by Alex Thom & Sons, through the direction of the Commissioners of National Education in Ireland.

Introduction from ‘Simple directions in needlework and cutting out’ [Ref G746.4] (1858)

The Model Schools were formed to aid in the education and thus employment of the impoverished in Ireland. This volume concerning needle work helped to teach female students by not only giving text based direction, but also through the pasted-in physical examples of the work expected to be produced.

Instructions for folding down a hem and hemming paper from ‘Simple directions in needlework and cutting out’ [Ref G746.4] (1858)

The book details the order in which the lessons should progress, beginning with hemming, sewing and stitching; advancing on to darning, marking, knitting, platting, and overcasting.

Handmade buttons from ‘Simple directions in needlework and cutting out’ [Ref G746.4] (1858)

The volume also details how to work with various fabrics and yard goods such as lace and muslin, through to decorative thread-work. It also covers instructions on how to cut-out patterns for different types of garment. At the rear of the volume are the examples of the work—it is these examples which make the volume so attractive.

Embroidery from ‘Simple directions in needlework and cutting out’ [Ref G746.4] (1858)

I admit to being very taken by this tiny little shirt (it only measures about 150mm in length.)  If my sewing skills were up to the task, I’d have a go. Sadly though, even having read through the volume, I’m pretty sure my skills remain at the sewing handkerchiefs level.

Shirt pattern from ‘Simple directions in needlework and cutting out’ [Ref G746.4] (1858)

The volume can be seen by appointment within the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research by emailing the address at the bottom of this page.

Rachel Clare, Senior Archives Assistant


A visit to Ireland by William Adlington Cadbury

Map of Ireland, 1900s, annotated with areas visited by William Adlington Cadbury [Ref. MS 466/G/6/1/1]

On Saturday 17 March 2018 the Friends of Birmingham Archives and Heritage are holding their AGM at the Library of Birmingham, Heritage Learning Space, 4th floor, at 12 o’clock.

The meeting will be followed by a talk by Jim Ranahan at 1pm titled “What’s the fuss about? Understanding Birmingham’s Irish Community”.

With this in mind, and since it will also be St Patrick’s Day, a blog with an Irish theme follows:

A visit to Ireland by William Adlington Cadbury

William Adlington Cadbury (1867-1957) was the second son of Richard Cadbury and elder brother of George (founder of Bournville). He started work at Cadbury’s in 1887 and the ‘Cadbury’ name logo is based on his signature. He was Lord Mayor of Birmingham 1919-1921, and afterwards established his Charitable Trust to assist the causes in which he was interested. These included the building of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (first one!) to unite many of the medical facilities from smaller hospitals in the city. He was also extremely generous to both the Birmingham Reference Library, to which a very fine set of historical atlases were donated by him, and to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. His Trust also gave grants to causes in West Africa and Ireland, two places he visited often.

His archives, deposited in Archives and Collections at the Library of Birmingham, include an account of a three week holiday he made, with friends, to Galway and Mayo in 1893.

[Ref. no. MS466G/6/1/2]

Towards the end of May last, three friends, say X,Y,Z, decided to follow the distinguished example of the Marquis of Salisbury and perform what will soon be becoming positively fashionable, namely an Irish pilgrimage…………..X and Z are ornithologists, Y is merely an Englishman out for a holiday.

Their visit began on Athlone Station, then after a brief visit to Galway, they went to Roundstone, where they stayed three days.

The little town of Roundstone looked very well just sheltered from the Atlantic by a low headland on which stands the monastery, the church and barracks, coastguard and schoolhouse and in fact the whole length of the one street is perfectly white and the quiet bay deserted………

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Women’s Lives in the Archives: Women’s journeys from Mirpur to Birmingham

MS 4760/35 project booklet

The Home Away from Home project archive (MS 4760) documents the personal experiences of women who moved from Mirpur in Pakistan to the Saltley and Washwood Heath areas of Birmingham in the 1960s and 1970s.

The archive is a visual and audio record of these women’s experiences which include happy memories and recollections as well as some of the challenges they faced. It contains oral history interviews recorded with the women, copies of photographs from their own personal collections and a summary booklet giving a useful overview of the project and the interviews.

A number of common themes emerge through the stories and experiences shared in the recordings. One of these is the sense of community the women experienced when they first arrived in the UK which they felt was better in those days than it is now. Life was much more difficult, however, in practical ways such as heating and lighting of houses.

The ladies had some shared experiences, for example several mentioned that they would have liked to learn English when they moved to the UK, but that there were no suitable opportunities or classes for them to go to. A number of the women were also scared of going to hospitals but found that when they did go the staff were kind and helpful and they were able to communicate with each other through gestures.

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Women’s Lives in the Archives

To celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th March, I am delving in to the archives to discover some of the ways women’s lives are documented.

MS 1509/5/8, Personal Papers of Rachel Albright

Rachel Albright was a Quaker woman living in Edgbaston in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Her personal papers are held within a collection of records relating to the wider Albright Family.

Originally from Tottenham in north London, she married Arthur Albright in 1848 and they had eight children one of whom died young in 1872. Of interest to an archivist is the way that Rachel documented her life and the records that have survived. The archive includes travel journals, sketches, commonplace books, photographs and poetry which allow us an insight into her life and how it differs from those of women in Birmingham today.

Travel journals

Before Rachel was married, she kept a journal of a four month trip to Falmouth in 1836. Luckily this survived and is one of the items in the archive (MS 1509/5/8/1). In her journal she documents the occupations and pastimes she engaged in on a daily basis.

MS 1509/5/8/1

Here are a few extracts:

5th mo 8th (May 8th) Had my French lesson. In the afternoon went for a nice long walk with Aunt and cousins to Penzance. The rocks I think are very fine and beautiful, the sea dashing beneath them.

5th mo 10th (May 10th)

A very lovely day. Sat out in the garden this morning and prepared some of my French. Went into the town with Aunt and in the afternoon went for a nice walk with Aunt and cousins to Bar Beach where we found a great many shells.

MS 1509/5/8/1

5th mo 20th (May 20th)

Went in to the town after breakfast with Aunt and cousins and afterwards finished our paintings and worked out in the garden and read some of Campbell’s poems- admire them very much. In the evening had a game of chess with Uncle.

Sketching, letter writing and knitting are other pastimes mentioned in the journal and Rachel also records her attendance at Quaker meetings. Continue reading

The Navigation Boarding School GR:SP053872

John Snape’s 1779 Plan of the Parish of Birmingham (left) and John Pigott Smith’s map of 1824-1825 (right) (Ref MAP/45209) 3

On 27 September 1769 Richard Hawkins leased approximately one acre of land, land that had formerly been part of Rotton Park fronting to Ladywood Lane, to William Round, a Birmingham toymaker, with an agreement that he would build upon it a ‘dwelling house’ for a public house or inn.

When William Round, in return for a loan of £400, assigned the lease of the same property to the executors of the will of Elizabeth Burton on 7 November 1770 Round had built a public house called the Navigation Coffee House with outbuildings, a bowling green and ale gardens.

Although no mention of the Birmingham canal, which opened on 6 November 1769, is made in any of the deeds associated with this property it was obviously the reason for William Round’s choice of the site and for the choice of name for his public house.

In various property transactions relating to the same property on 31 January 1775, 23 February 1775, 25 March 1778, 3 & 5 October 1778 and 5 September 1782 the building is referred to as the Navigation Coffee House.1

 The Birmingham Poor Rate Levy Book entries for the poor law year 1771-1772 until the year 1776-1777 have the entries Cooper & Jones, Navigation Coffee House. (There is no entry for the year 1770-1771). In 1777-1778 the rates are paid by Jones alone, in 1778-1779 no name is entered and in 1779-1780 & 1780-1781 they are paid by Edward Kelly or Kenny.2

John Snape’s 1779 Plan of the Parish of Birmingham (see top left image) shows little evidence of the buildings (a comparison of plots with John Pigott Smith’s map of 1824-1825 (see top right image) suggest that the Navigation Coffee House lies in bottom right-hand corner of plot 130).3

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‘A Union of Adult Schools in the Midland Counties’

William White (at the podium) and Class I Severn Street Men’s Adult School (MS 703 2/2)

On the evening of 14th February 1884, Alderman William White of Birmingham and John Blackham, of Hill Top, West Bromwich, welcomed representatives of the Adult Schools in Birmingham and the neighbouring towns to a meeting at the Friends Severn Street Adult School. These schools provided reading and writing classes based on the Bible to adults on Sundays, and were non-denominational. Present were 14 representatives from Severn Street School and its branch schools, 19 representatives from 11 other Adult Schools in Birmingham, and 33 representatives from schools in neighbouring towns including Bilston, Bloxwhich, Brierley Hill, Coventry, Oldbury, Smethwick, Tipton, Walsall, West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Willenhall and Wolverhampton. In total, these schools had 11, 000 scholars between them. The purpose of the meeting was to form ‘a Union of Adult Schools in the Midland Counties’ (MS 272/I/1).

William White (MS 703 box 2/2)

White (1820 – 1900), a Quaker book seller and publisher, had been a Birmingham town councillor since 1873. He chaired several of Birmingham Corporation’s committees and was chair of the Birmingham Coffee House Company. He was also a magistrate, and in 1893 became Lord Mayor of Birmingham.  Involved in the Adult School Movement since 1848, when he became teacher of Class I at Severn Street (the first Adult School in the city, established by the Quaker, Joseph Sturge in 1845), White remained teacher of this class until his death in 1900. You can read more about Severn Street Adult School here. White was instrumental in the expansion of the Adult School Movement amongst Quakers both in Birmingham and across the country, and his work inspired Methodist, Congregationalist and Church of England leaders to establish their own Adult Schools.

John Blackham (1834 – 1930), a draper, book seller and publisher was Senior Deacon of Ebenezer Congregational Church, West Bromwich, and in 1870 had established the first Adult School in the region outside Birmingham. In 1875, he founded the ‘Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Movement’ a non-denominational Sunday afternoon meeting of religious instruction for adults, accompanied by a more popular form of religious service for those were not attracted by the Adult School movement.

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The Kings Norton Fifty Club

Leaflet advertising a meeting for new women voters, 1st May 1929 (MS 2371/2/2/1)

The Representation of the People Act finally received Royal Assent on 6 February 1918. This meant that women over thirty who were householders, wives of householders, occupiers of property of £5 or more annual value, or University graduates, could now vote. However, this meant a considerable number of women – and men- were still excluded, and had to wait until 1928 when all persons over 21 became entitled to vote.

In 1929, the Kings Norton Fifty Club (MS 2731) decided to hold a public meeting to make sure that women in particular were informed about their new right to vote, and the responsibilities that entailed.

What was the Kings Norton Fifty Club?

The following comes from the Minutes of the Club [MS 2731/2/2/1] (Acc.2009/068):

On December 14th and 21st 1922, a small committee, called together by Miss Viccars, met to discuss the possibility of forming a local club for the purpose of spreading information and getting discussion on affairs of public interest. Miss Jordan, Mrs H. Norman, Mrs Impey and Miss Viccars comprised the committee….

A tentative list of speakers included Miss Dewar (The Birmingham Settlement), Dame Ethel Shakespeare (Citizenship), Mr Woulston Lee (The W.E.A.), Miss Ethel Trent (Labour & Employment), Mr Horace Alexander (League of Nations), Mr Ted Bigland (Social Work amongst boys), Miss Backhouse (Camp Fire Girls), Mrs H. L. Wilson (Maternity), Miss Bennett (Cripples), Miss F. Barrow (Poland), Dr Shakespeare (Physics), Mr Totham (Jamaica – Population – Trade).

A number of names for the club were discussed, ‘The Forward Relief Workers’, ‘Hopeful’, ‘Excelsior’, ‘Drawing Room’,. ‘The Fifty Club was provisionally adopted in 1923, January 22nd.

Membership was limited to fifty persons, which would allow gatherings of the dimensions of a drawing room [in large houses, obviously!].

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