Category Archives: Events

Sharing information on relevant exhibitions, lectures, and other events, etc.

An Accident Waiting to Happen? The Whittall Street Explosion of 1859

Memorial Card to the victims of the Whittal Street Explosion, 1859 [Ephemera Collection LE/Cards/1]

Come and hear Liz Palmer share the account of the explosion at the Percussion Cap Manufactory, which tragically which took the lives of eighteen young women and one young man.

Birmingham has long been associated with the gun trade, with the gun quarter being focused on the area on the Weaman Estate around Whittall Street. Innovations in the industry in the early mid-19th Century saw the establishment of several percussion cap manufactories as percussion cap weapons replaced flintlocks. The manufactories employed mainly girls and young women whose nimble fingers were suited to the many processes involved in the production of these tiny items.  But the work was extremely dangerous involving several explosive substances including fulminating mercury. Explosions involving loss of life were not uncommon; one of the worst of these was in 1859 at the Pursall & Phillips  Manufactory on Whittall Street itself which resulted in the death of 20 young people – all but one of them female.

From the starting point of an intricate Victorian Memorial card to the victims, most of whom were interred at St Mary Whittall Street, Liz Palmer has used material in Archives, Heritage and Collections together with contemporary newspaper coverage to uncover the events surrounding the catastrophe, the lives of many of the individuals involved and to examine whether this really was ‘an accident waiting to happen’.

This free talk will take place on 19th May 2018, 2pm – 3pm in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research, Floor 4, Library of Birmingham.

Spaces are limited to 20 people. To make a reservation, please contact FOBAH by emailing fobah@outlook.com.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Heritage Research Area familiarisation session

Following on from the great success of our previous three events, Archives & Collections are now offering another chance to get to know the sources available in our Heritage Research Area. Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

At this free event, staff will guide you through our resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a member of staff on level 4 to make a reservation.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Our Heritage Research Familiarisation Session is now fully booked. If you haven’t managed to book on the session this time, we are planning to offer another one later in the year. Please check out the blog, the Lob website and twitter as well as posters located in the library nearer the time for confirmation of the date. 

Learn more about our Heritage Research Area

Familiarisation session in the Heritage Research Area

Following on from the great success of our previous two events, Archives & Collections are now offering another chance to get to know the sources available in our Heritage Research Area. Would you like to learn how the Heritage Research Area on level 4 could benefit your genealogical research?

At this free event, staff will guide you through our resources such as maps, electoral and parish registers as well as digital resources on Ancestry Institution and software for reading local newspapers.

Spaces are limited to 12 people per session. Please email archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk or speak with a member of staff on level 4 to make a reservation.

Saturday 6th January 2018

11 am – 1 pm

Please note this session is not aimed at answering specific genealogical enquiries.

Our Heritage Research Familiarisation Session is now fully booked. If you haven’t managed to book on the session this time, we are planning to offer another one in March, date yet to be confirmed. Please check out the blog, the Lob website and twitter as well as posters located in the library nearer the time for confirmation of the date. 

Coroner’s Court Roll

You may have seen yesterday’s post getting Explore Your Archives Week off to a great start with an account of an event we held in Archives & Collections on Saturday. One of the items out on display was one of our newest acquisitions – the Coroner’s Court Roll, which was actually conserved by Birmingham Archives staff in the 1970s.

Conservator, Lucy, showing off the Coroner’s Court Roll

Although it looks like parchment at first glance, the court roll is actually made of paper. The wooden case it is housed in is not ideal, as wood emits volatile organic compounds which can damage the document. However the casing forms part of the item and so it will be kept in it and stored in suitable environmental conditions to preserve it long-term.

The role of coroner has existed from around the 12th century. The position of Birmingham Coroner is a relatively new one, having been in existence from around 1838, when the newly created Birmingham Corporation sought to establish their own Quarter Sessions and as a result of this, the position of Coroner. Note that prior to around 1838, inquests for deaths in Birmingham would have been held in Warwickshire, as Birmingham reported to the Warwickshire Quarter Sessions. The role of the Coroner’s Court is:

  1. to investigate sudden or suspicious deaths which are reported to him/her,
  2. to deal with applications to transport a body to another country for burial or cremation
  3. to investigate cases of Treasure Trove (the discovery of buried coin or other valuables)

Archives & Collections are lucky in having an almost complete holding of the inquests held in Birmingham over the whole period there has been a Birmingham Coroner. The Coroner’s Office has recently deposited the original “roll of the inquests” covering 1838 – 1875, a microfilm copy of which is available to view in the Heritage Research Area. The roll records very little detail on the cases, giving names, address, cause of death and verdict. There are no further details relating to the death and on the whole, the entries do not tell you any more than you would find on a death certificate.

As I’m sure you will appreciate, this is not an item that will be served in the Wolfson Centre – for conservation reasons!

Explore Your Archive 2017


 

Explore Your Archive week is here!

Each year, here at Archives & Collections, we like to get involved with the Explore Your Archives campaign to raise awareness of the work that the archives does. You may remember the past couple of years, we opened up our collections to visitors through pop-up exhibitions.

This year, the theme is conservation and preservation and on Saturday, we welcomed members of the public on a tour of the archives. Starting in the Wolfson Centre, our Conservator, Lucy, talked about the items we had out on display and explained a little about the types of material they were made of. The turn out was fantastic and everyone really enjoyed having the chance to look behind the scenes in our archives storage areas.

Members of the public enjoying their visit to Archives & Collections as part of Explore Your Archives 2017

We are running the event again on Friday (which is now fully booked) and so SPOILER ALERT as throughout this week, we will be featuring some of the items that were on display. We hope you enjoy!

For other events happening around the country, please visit the Explore Your Archive website.

Chris Upton Memorial Lecture

On Monday 6th November 2017, the Library of Birmingham will be hosting the second annual Chris Upton Memorial Lecture.

Our speaker this year is George Demidowicz who will be speaking about Eureka Moments. Here is a preview of George’s own Eureka moments that you will be hearing about…

“For me researching and writing about the past is an extremely creative process. My interests are in landscape history, building history and archaeology and much of this involves reconstructing what has been lost, forgotten, misunderstood or distorted by myth and legend. To do what I do most effectively, I have combined work in the field with many visits to the archives. The motivation for the many hours spent in record offices is the reward of discovery – recovering something new or unknown about the past.

I am sure that Chris Upton was inspired by the same urge to discover and recreate the past.

 The process of discovery can be a long and drawn out one, but sometimes there are those moments when everything comes together and the last piece of the jigsaw snaps into place. Using another well-worn cliché, it’s comparable to a light suddenly being switched on, illuminating the darkness in which you had been stumbling, often for some time.

These moments can happen in the archives, when a document that you hoped existed is removed from its packaging or box, or a map or drawing is unrolled and laid out flat on the desk   – and suddenly the hunt is over. I am particularly interested in old maps and plans, as they can immediately provide the information you were seeking, information that would need to fill the equivalent of many, many manuscript pages.

The eureka moment can take place later at home or in the office; you pour over the material  laboriously copied or photographed in the archives, sifting and sorting, and suddenly something clicks into place. Sharing research with colleagues or fellow researchers can have the same result.

Despite these moments of discovery, the obscuring mist is not always lifted from the past and as many questions can be raised as answered. All our history is not recorded in the archives.

I have chosen here a sample of my most exciting breakthroughs in forty years of research and, with a few others, I hope to convey the thrill of the chase…

Lifford Hall, King’s Norton

Lifford Hall, King’s Norton. A gentleman’s residence of the 17th century? Why are there tunnels under the front lawn?

 

The Coin Cutting Out Room at the Soho Mint 1825

Why was locating this room the key to reconstructing the Mint at this time?

 

The Saracen’s Head.

How was the lost history of the Saracen’s Head retrieved?

 

Medieval Rental Rolls

How were the Birmingham medieval rentals discovered? This fragment records ‘in novo vico’,  (in New Street) 1296, its earliest reference.”

George Demidowicz

 

The memorial lecture will take place at 5:30pm on the 6th November 2017, Room 101, Level 1, at the Library of Birmingham. To book your place at the lecture, please e-mail archives.heritage@birmingham.gov.uk.

 

In addition this year, The National Archives are coming to present Archives & Collections with our Accreditation certificate. Achieving Accredited status shows that Birmingham Archives and Collections has met clearly defined national standards relating to the care of its unique collections, and the service it offers to its entire range of users. We are really proud of achieving Accredited status and in recognition, the presentation will be from 5pm – with the public lecture starting at 5:30pm.

 

 

Sporting Heritage Day 2017

Saturday 30th September is Sporting Heritage Day. It aims to celebrate the UK’s sporting heritage and the Sporting Heritage website brings together a list of all the sporting collections held across the country.

In honour of Sporting Heritage Day, we though we would highlight a very popular source which not everyone may be aware of – the Sports Argus.

Sports Argus, First Edition 6 February 1897

The first edition was published in February 1897 and was a Saturday paper that was available not long after the afternoon football games had been played. Sadly the newspaper ceased publication in 2006. The Sports Argus is available to view on microfilm without an appointment in our Heritage Research Area, and is definitely worth a look if you are researching not only local, but national sporting events. It’s certainly a very popular source in our department!

We also searched to see what archive collections we hold on a sporting theme…

MS 2458 Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Club (various papers)

MS 4757  Records of Thomas Padmore & Sons, Billiard Table Makers (various papers)

MS 1786 Harborne Lawn Tennis Club:

The club was apparently founded in or shortly before 1883, and at first rented land for courts at the corner of Harborne Park Road and St. Mary’s Road from Sir Henry Wiggin. It later moved to Tennal Road, where an enthusiastic member, Dr. F. W. Aston FRS, provided a site. The club closed in the early 1960s when Dr. Aston’s descendents sold the site for developement.

MS 2569 Anstey College and Anstey Association:

Anstey College of Physical Training was founded by Rhoda Anstey in 1897. It was the second women’s physical training college to be established after Hampstead Training College (later Dartford College) which was founded by the Swedish physical educationalist Madame Bergman Osterberg and was where Rhoda Anstey herself trained in 1893-1895. Anstey’s first location was at the Leasowes, a house in Halesowen, formerly the home of the poet and landscape gardener William Shenstone (1714-1763). In 1907 Rhoda Anstey moved the college to Yew Tree House on the Chester Road in Erdington, where it remained until 1981.

MS 1468 Birmingham Athletics Institute:

The Birmingham Athletic Institute [B.A.I.] was formed in 1889 with the object of promoting physical education and recreation in Birmingham and the surrounding district. A purpose-built building in John Bright Street opened in 1891 and provided the Institute with a gymnasium, lecture room, refreshment room, library and a council room for the use of the Birmingham Athletic Club.

MS 1862 Midland Sailing Club:

The Midland Sailing Club was founded in 1894 and is based at Edgbaston Reservoir (formerly known as Rotton Park Reservoir). Its main object as stated in the first set of rules of 1895 was to ‘encourage and promote racing and cruising by amateurs, in yachts, boats and canoes’ by means of holding lectures, arranging meetings for social purposes and organising races and cruises.

The Club continues to arrange races at Edgbaston and has hosted national yachting competitions, including the Royal Yachting Association/Dunhill Team Championship National Final in October 1977. Social events are still a regular feature of the Club’s activities.

MS 2056 Severn Street Swimming Club:

The Severn Street Swimming Club was founded in 1892 from the Class 17 Adult Division of the First Day School in Severn Street. By 1895 the club had 85 members and included a ladies division. By 1895 the club had also moved to Kent Street baths, moving again in 1977 to those in Monument Road. The Monument Road baths closed in 1992 and the club moved to the Tiverton Road baths. The club itself closed soon afterwards, in 1995.

MS 4835 Let’s Play, a Community Sports Heritage Project [badminton]:

The sport of Badminton has been played in communities over the last 40 years and this project captures people’s life stories and interactions through Badminton at a community level – demonstrating how Badminton has been used in communities where individuals have organised tournaments, clubs, and participated in Badminton related activities. Included is a collection of oral histories which highlight people’s stories of playing Badminton, making friends, and how the sport has been socially empowering individuals, communities and groups.

If any of these collections peak your interest, please do contact us via archives.appointments@birmingham.gov.uk to find out more.

The Sporting Heritage website also has a page listing where sporting collections are held: https://www.sportingheritage.org.uk/content/collections/england-directory/west-midlands.