Author Archives: kathryn

A Project we like

I love finding out about interesting projects that reinterpret and bring archives to light in imaginative ways. One local project that I am enjoying following is the work of Sarah Moss the artist in residence at Winterbourne House and Gardens.


Sarah is currently working on a series of linocuts depicting moments from the life of the Nettlefold family who built Winterbourne and lived there in the early twentieth century. John Sutton Nettlefold was a member of the prominent local manufacturers Nettlefold and Co. (later Guest, Keen and Nettlefold) as well as being the managing director of the ammunition manufacturer Kynoch Ltd for many years. He was also a local councillor concerned with social reform and urban planning; in his role as first chairman of the local housing committee he extended the slum clearance programme and established the Moor Pool Estate in Harborne. John and his wife Margaret (nee Chamberlain) were part of the interconnected group of Unitarian families in Birmingham at the time. The family archive which is housed at Winterbourne is a rich resource for understanding domestic and personal experiences of life in a middle class Edwardian family.


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Voices of War and Peace

Voices of War and Peace

Voices of War and Peace

Voices of War and Peace: the Great War and its legacy is one of five new First World War Engagement centres funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council in partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund. A University of Birmingham-led initiative, the Centre also involves academics from Birmingham City University, Newman University, the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Worcester. The Engagement Centre is based in the Library of Birmingham and will support a wide range of community engagement activities, connecting academic and public histories of the First World War as part of the commemoration of the War’s centenary which begins this year. The Centre is led by Professor Ian Grosvenor, Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Cultural Engagement at the University of Birmingham, and co-ordinated by Dr Nicola Gauld, a freelance curator and experienced project outreach worker.

WW1 poster [Library of Birmingham]

There are seven Co-Investigators from the five partner institutions who will work in collaboration with community groups researching the First World War: Professor Maggie Andrews, Professor of Cultural History at the University of Worcester; Dr Spencer Jones, Research Fellow in War Studies at the University of Wolverhampton; Professor Chris O’Neil, Executive Dean of Birmingham Institute of Art and Design; Dr Siân Roberts, Collection Curator at the Library of Birmingham and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham; Dr Joanne Sayner, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Theory and German Studies at the University of Birmingham;Dr Michael Snape, Reader in Religion, War and Society at the University of Birmingham; and Dr Chris Upton, Reader in Public History at Newman University Birmingham. There is also a research network attached to the Centre, which consists of academics drawn from a variety of disciplines and with direct links to a range of research centres. Collectively they bring both relevant knowledge and experience to enable the Centre to effectively support community research. In addition there are over 30 cultural partners including Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, Sampad, the Cheltenham Festivals, the BBC and YMCA England.

Tank Week

Tank Week Hoarding on Birmingham Town Hall, 1918 [Library of Birmingham]

As well as exploring the impact of the Great War on communities in Birmingham and the Midlands, the Centre will focus on themes of national importance. These include Gender and the Home Front, led by Professor Maggie Andrews, Belief and the Great War, led by Dr Michael Snape, and Commemoration, led by Dr Joanne Sayner. Among the other questions the Centre will explore are questions around the legacy of the War – not only what happened between 1914 and 1918 but also the impact that the War continued to have during subsequent years, for example, by 1916 training programmes for soldiers with disabilities were being held in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter and by 1930 child guidance clinics had been set up – almost certainly the result of the emotional turmoil caused to youngsters during the War.

The Centre was launched at the Library of Birmingham in March. The event brought together over 200 delegates who represented a wide variety of community, cultural and academic organisations from across the Midlands and further afield. The programme featured readings of archive material by local schoolchildren, speeches from Councillor Phil Davis, Birmingham City Council’s City Heritage Champion, and from Councillor Anita Ward, Birmingham’s Armed Forces Champion and Chair of Birmingham County Royal British Legion. The event also involved poetry performances from Stoke-based community group DJ School, who have received support from the Heritage Lottery Fund for their project ‘Remembrance Poets’, and a debate with members of the Centre on why we are commemorating the First World War. The event also saw the unveiling of the Centre’s website, The site already includes a wide range of articles, resource material and event listings and will be the main point of contact for community groups interested in working with the Centre. The Centre will also use social media, primarily Twitter, to extend its reach, advertise events and share research and resources.

Munition Workers

Mills Munitions Factory, Newtown [Library of Birmingham: WK/LV]

The Centre is now planning a series of workshop events for community groups and members of the public. These will cover a wide range of topics around the First World War and its commemoration and we welcome ideas for future events. We’re looking forward to meeting with groups that are already working on First World War-related projects and also with groups that may have ideas for projects but would like guidance and support.



Twitter: @Voices_WW1



A marvellous medicine?

Wartime bus poster with a picture of a  text on poster "The Ministry of Heath says coughs and sneezes spread diseases, help keep the nation fighting fit!!

Reference: LE/WW2 Posters

When looking at a recent accession, I came across the following recipe for cough mixture…

4 1/2 oz of Salts of Tartar
4 1/2 oz of Liquorice
85 drops of Oil of Aniseed
250 drops of Oil of Peppermint
1 gallon of Water

Chop liquorice up and dissolve it in the boiling water then add the other ingredients. mix all well together and bottle. Dose: a wineglassful to be taken twice a day (p.s. it is very strong of peppermint should use less for myself) C. V.

This handwritten recipe dates from the 1920s and is part of “Recommended Recipes” a collection made by Mrs T.A. Hamilton-Baynes in aid of the funds of St. George’s Church, Edgbaston (MS 4082).  Each recipe is credited to a different individual usually just with an initial like the “C.V.” above.  They are mainly food recipes such as dinners, snacks, cakes and deserts.  This one stood out to me as a little more useful in January when people are recovering from Christmas excess and suffering the usual coughs and colds that seem to linger this time of year.

Of course we can not take any responsibility if anyone fancies abandoning the usual Lemsip or Strepsils* in favour of making up a gallon of this concoction, but we would love to hear from you if you have any success!

Kathryn Hall

*other cold remedies are available

A Century of Stories

Regular readers of our blog may remember that we have had archivist Gary Collins working with us  on the archive of the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in preparation for their centenary celebrations. Now that the Rep has reopened after their refurbishment this work has transformed into a great exhibition in the Rep Foyer.

REP100 004Hidden in a series of intriguing cases are several drawers housing some of the treasures of the Rep archive including a miniature stage set, programmes and early costume designs. These tell the story of the company over the last 100 years.

You can also start an audio trail which will take you around the city whilst hearing founder Barry Jackson talk.


REP100 006My favourite exhibit is the amazing tree sculpture which you cannot miss. It has faces of many of the people who have been part of the success of the Rep  over its life so far. It is quite fun spotting some of the more familiar faces.

Now that we share a foyer it is easy to visit the exhibition and I would recommend popping along if you are visiting us. Or if the weather is making you feel like staying in you can see a lot of online here .

If you would like to know more about the Rep and it’s archive you can hear Collections Curator Sian Roberts talking at the Library next Tuesday 12.30 – 1.30. Places are free but we recommend you reserve a space through the Box Office.

REP100 007

Kathryn Hall Events & Marketing Assistant

A peek inside the Golden Box


After years of preparation and planning, the move to the new Library of Birmingham has finally begun! The new building includes two floors of state-of-the-art storage for the city’s priceless collections of archives, photography and rare books – these are indicated on the outside of the building by the gold panelling from which our ‘Golden Box’ takes its name. Once installed, our collections will be stored in closely controlled temperature and humidity environments, with low temperature areas reserved for our sensitive photographic collections. A freezer store is also included, designed to hold the most vulnerable materials until they can be conserved and repaired by our specialist Conservation team.

The storage areas are filled with mobile shelving units, designed to maximise capacity and provide the Library with expansion space for the future. During the move itself, over 5,000 cubic metres of material will be moved into these stores. To put this in perspective,the average 3-bedroom house move will typically include 40-55 cubic metres of furniture, clothing, appliances and other items – so up until the end of July, the equivalent of 90-125 house moves will be taking place between the old Central Library and the Library of Birmingham. And that’s without all of the other books, CDs DVDs and other resources which the Library holds – no small task indeed!

David Bishop
Customer Experience Manager, Archives & Heritage


Guest blogger: Fight for the Right: the Birmingham Suffragettes

film scene - the arrest of Hilda Burkitt

Film scene – the arrest of Hilda Burkitt

Fight for the Right: the Birmingham Suffragettes is a history project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Two groups of students from Kings Norton Girls’ School and Waverley School have looked at archive material about the different ways of campaigning and protesting by women who wanted to gain the vote. They then used that material as inspiration for a short film which focuses on the activities of the suffragettes and their more peaceful counterparts, the suffragists. While a few of the young people involved had some previous knowledge of the suffragettes, very little was known about activities that took place in Birmingham: Fight for the Right aims to change that. Although primarily a history project, these two diverse communities of young women have also explored voting, politics and women’s rights today.

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Trade catalogue collection

Three trade cataloge covers

Trade catalogue covers – Ensign Lamps, 1934 (Ref: LS 10/E/312/1), Butterfields Limited – Levis 1926 Motor Cycles (Ref: LS 10/B/634/1) and The Burman Sheep Shearer trade pamphlet, dated 1917 (Ref: LS 10/B/569/1)

This blog post is concerned with the trade catalogue collection held in the Archives & Heritage section of Birmingham Central Library. The collection reflects the wide and varied industrial heritage of the city and surrounding periphery.

 We have trade catalogues, brochures, pamphlets and ephemera spanning from the 19th – 21st century; early local patents from 1722 – 1866; local trade business cards from the 18th century and local company reports from the mid 20th century.

Our huge collection typically consists of material from well known established local companies such as B.S.A, G.K.N, G.E.C, W.T Avery, Cadburys, Chance Brothers, Dunlop, Webley and Scott, Lucas Clapshaw & Cleeve Limited, Tonks (Birmingham) Limited, Ingall, Parsons, Clive & Co, Robert Mansell & Son, Bullpitt & Son (Swan Houseware), Belliss & Morcom, Benton & Stone, British Resisting Heat Glass Company, Burman and Sons, Huxley Barton & Sons, Levis Motorcycles, Dale Forty & Co. W.T French & Son Ltd, Eley Brothers, Thomas Fattorini, Fisher & Ludlow, Lee Longlands, Austin Motors, Barrows Stores Limited, Jones & Willis, Clement Heeley, Hockley Chemical Company. Ltd, Hoskins, James Neale & Sons, Charles Obsorne, Parker Winder & Achurch, Rudge Cycle Co. Limited, William Cooper & Son, Samuel Booth plus many more.

Trade card from Edward Jones, chandelier manufacturer

Edward Jones – Manufacturer Of The Patent Safety Lamps & Lantern, etc, Trade Card no. 591

The Birmingham Collection, our principal printed bookstock collection providing an account of the cultural and historic development of the city, contains texts on specific local businesses plus histories of particular trades associated with the area.

The trade catalogue collection is a valuable cultural asset and to protect it from damage or loss, holdings are served via a controlled environment in our archival searchroom which adheres to conditions of access found at archival record offices.

Letters patent for Breech-lodaing Fire-arms, &c.

Early local patent from 1865 for Joseph Rock Cooper, Gun Manufacturer.

The trade catalogue collection still receives gifts and donations made chiefly by the public who contact us from far and wide across the globe, reinforcing Birmingham’s once proud status as ‘Workshop of the World’.

Staff are currently engaged in creating an online presence for the trade catalogue collection via our archival catalogue system, CalmView which can be located via the new Library of Birmingham website at and it is hoped some entries will be accessible in this format come the opening in September 2013.

page 17 from Yates and Sons, silver plate list of prices

Yates and Sons Silver Plate List of Prices trade catalogue, dated 1872

To accompany our trade catalogues , we retain local trade directories such as The Sketchley Birmingham Directory of 1767, which is one of the oldest surviving trade directories for the city. However, the Kelly’s trade directory series running from 1878 – 1974 is the most popular resource used by our service users. Other miscellaneous trade directories titles held in Archives & Heritage Service include: Pigot, Bisset, Grand National, Bailey Western And Midland, Holden’s  Triennial, Wrighton and Webb, Slater’s, Hulley’s, Morris and Co, Shadler’s, White’s, Post Office, Corporation, Harrison and Harrod and Co.

Thank you, Al Barrett.