Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Humphrey Repton (1752 – 1818)

Detail from the title page of ‘The Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the late Humphrey Repton, Esq.’ by J.L.C. Loudon, 1840, [Ref JL22]

24 March, 2018 marks the bicentenary of the death of Humphrey Repton, the first person to use the title of ‘Landscape Gardener.’

Matthew Boulton wrote ‘Landskip Gardener’ on the docket of a letter from Repton dated 21 September 1789 [Ref. no. MS 3782/12/34/17/1].

Portrait of Repton in ‘The Landscape Gardening and Landscape Architecture of the late Humphrey Repton, Esq.’ by J.L.C. Loudon, 1840, [Ref JL22]

Repton had visited Boulton’s estate at Soho, Birmingham, and seen how the steam engine of the Soho Manufactory was being employed to raise water to flood areas to create pools and to water trees in Boulton’s gardens. He asks Boulton for information on the quantity of water which could be delivered by a steam engine at any given height from 10 to 20 yards, and the probable expense of erecting such a machine:

This sort of general idea is very necessary for me to be acquainted with as Great Men are very apt to ask what it will cost?

There are a couple of other letters from Repton to Matthew Robinson Boulton in 1795. On 6 December 1795, he wrote from his home at Hare Street by Romford, explaining that he had been absent from home for some weeks so had not been available to receive the copying press which had obviously been reserved for him: Continue reading


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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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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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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A partial victory: Catherine Osler and Votes for Women

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. In March 1918 the Women Workers, Quarterly Magazine of the Birmingham Branch of the National Union of Women Workers included an article by Catherine Osler, President of the Birmingham Women’s Suffrage Society (BWSS).[1] Titled ‘At Last!’, Catherine reflected on the campaign to secure votes for women, something she had been closely involved with since her parents formed the BWSS in 1868. Catherine became President of the organisation in 1901. While it was certainly an achievement to be celebrated, the conditions of qualifying were ‘not all that could be desired – far from it! They do not fulfil the original and unaltered demand of suffragists for “the vote on the same terms as it is or may be granted to men”. It leaves still unrepresented classes of women who are among the worthiest, most indispensable workers for their country and for their fellows’.

Catherine Courtauld Osler (1854–1924) by Edward Steel Harper II, 1917-18 © Birmingham Museums Trust

Catherine also considered the wider campaign and the sacrifices that many women had made; ‘some, indeed, have dared infinitely more than this – have courted and endured gross insult, maltreatment, torture, death itself, in the determination to draw the world’s attention to women’s wrongs… the startling campaign of the militant section… has now become as a nightmare memory, but one which will survive in history’.

Birmingham had seen some very serious militant incidents carried out by suffragettes from 1909 onwards, including arson (most notably the destruction of Northfield Library), church disturbances, window smashing and the slashing of a painting. It was also where the first cases of forcible feeding of suffragettes took place, at Winson Green Gaol in September 1909 after a number of women were arrested for their protest during a visit to the city by Prime Minister Asquith. In the article, Catherine also acknowledged the campaign’s well-established roots, going back to the 1860s, stating that ‘it was not because on grounds of reason and common sense suffrage was “bound to come” but because the nation had for 50 years been patiently and unceasingly educated to the conviction of its justice and righteousness, that the conditions of war enabled its advocates to make the final effort which brought victory… a great dividing barrier has disappeared from the ranks of women themselves, and that henceforth we may go forward shoulder to shoulder’.[2]

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Jethro Anstice Cossins

On 5 December 2017 I attended a fascinating talk by Stephen Price, retired museum curator and author, with George Demidowicz, of Kings Norton: a History (2009). The subject of the talk was the tale of four of the leading lights of the Birmingham Archaeological Association, founded at the Birmingham and Midland Institute in 1870, at the instigation of Samuel Timmins.

St. Martin’s Church from Notes on Warwickshire Churches by Cossins
[MS 3414/5]

One hundred years previously, on 5 December 1917, one of these men had collapsed and died, aged 87, on his way to a meeting of the Society. His name was Jethro Anstice Cossins and he was by profession an architect. The other ‘lights’ discussed were brothers Oliver and Harold Baker, sons of the artist Samuel T. Baker, and Allen Edward Everitt, artist and art dealer, based on New Street.

These four men have left a wealth of watercolours, engravings, drawings, notebooks, correspondence and photographs which provide a rich archive for the investigation of buildings and churches in Birmingham and Warwickshire, often captured just before major structural alteration, or even as they were actually being demolished or rebuilt, in the last decades of the 19th century. Oliver Baker was an artist and antiques dealer who eventually moved to Stratford-upon-Avon to settle; his brother Harold was a woodcarver and a major photographer in Birmingham, with his ‘Electric Light Studio’.

Ansley Church
[MS 3414/1]

Images from the wonderful collection of watercolours by Everitt, now held at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, the notebooks of J. A. Cossins held at Archives and Collections, Library of Birmingham, which include many sketches of buildings, and the correspondence and illustrated notebooks of the Baker family, now at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, provided a rich visual accompaniment to the talk.

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Catalogues and curiosity

Paris quadrifolia. Illustration from Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz, 1885, Gera, Germany

There are many ways to explore Archives. Sometimes you set out with a destination in mind and a carefully planned research route. Sometimes that works well and the desired information is found; sometimes you meet with difficulties – missing records, indecipherable scripts, records too fragile or damaged to consult – so the route and destination have to change.

Then there are the ‘lucky dip’ explorations where you’re not quite sure what to expect! Here follow a few examples –

Using the Archives and Collections, Library of Birmingham online catalogue, I tried some random words in the search box, just to see what appeared. In alphabetical order:

Campanile: 1 reference, to a will of Anna Brown of Campanile Cottage, Canonbury Road, London, 1872. [MS 857/11]

Duckling: 2 references to ‘Ugly Duckling’ in the John English Archive, a playscript and a theatre programme, 1958 [MS 2790/1/17/1 and MS 2790/2/2/14/1]

1 reference to ‘Duckling brand bedding brochure, 1948’ in Hoskins and Sewell records. [MS 1088/4/4/2]

Emerald: 2 references, both to jewellery of Mary Anne Boulton (Matthew Robinson Boulton’s wife), 1819 and 1826. The 1826 one was to ‘a gold serpent ring with emerald eyes’ [MS 3782/15/25/56]

Parrot: all references but one were to this as a surname. The one as a pet, owned by Fred Jordan of Shropshire, was in the Charles Parker Archive. [MS 4000/5/3/5/5/11]

Shell: 46 references, from spectacle frames to shell boilers in Boulton & Watt, chocolate shell eggs to ammunition shells, tortoise- shell and pearl shell – for buttons, boxes etc., and an advert for Babcock Power Ltd., Shell boiler division.

Whisky: 11 references appeared – all from the Charles Parker Archive [MS 4000]. Interesting to note the connection between whisky and folk song!

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