Category Archives: Our Collections

Where we showcase material from our excellent collections.

The Ockenden Venture ‘Westholme’

Sometimes when cataloguing an archive collection you come across an item which has no obvious link to the other papers it is with and clues to help you identify the links are few and far between. Such was the case with a small pamphlet with the title ‘Ockenden Venture ‘Westholme’ training and education for refugee boys’ which caught my attention in the records of Bull Street Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. As this week is Refugee Week, when the contributions of refugees to the UK are celebrated and greater understanding about why refugees seek sanctuary is promoted, it seemed fitting that the story of Westholme should be retold.

The Ockenden Venture was established in 1951 by three school teachers in Woking, Surrey. They were concerned about the conditions in which displaced East European teenagers were living and recognised that the educational provision in the camps was insufficient after a group came on holiday from a displaced persons camp in Germany at Ockenden House where Joyce Pearce (1915-1985) ran a sixth form. Pearce, together with Ruth Hicks (1900 – 1986) and Margaret Dixon (1907-2001) housed small numbers of East European teenagers from the camps at Ockenden House and later in houses at Haslemere, Surrey and Donington Hall near Derby and provided for them so that they could complete their secondary education.

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National Vegetarian Week 15th – 21st May 2017

As it is National Vegetarian Week, I’ve ‘tucked into’ our collections and uncovered some recipes to present you with a delicious veggie friendly menu.

I’m going to put the chive in archives! (I’ll never make it as a comedian.)

For starters (adopts her best waitress voice) we have some mushroom patties. Dear diners, these are seasoned with a little salt and pepper and are served over some beautifully crusty pastry.  No soggy bottoms here.

Mushroom Patties

This recipe is taken from one of a number of cookery books collected by an Emily S. Thomas and Miss Walker. [MS 4082 (Acc 2011/149)]  It comes in particular from The Home Mission Book of Recipes, Vol II, 1909. I like that the recipe is clearly marked up as vegetarian, and the patties sure seem tasty, although, I am unsure about the teaspoon of sugar. Perhaps it’s that old balance of sweetness to salt which will make these savoury delights zing!

Onto mains (readopting her waitressing voice) *coughs* your entrée; I couldn’t resist a nice ‘dole or dholl’ curry. (I tend to spell it dal.) This one originates from a recipe and knitting pattern book collected/written by an unknown person, dated as 19C in our catalogue. [MS 1158/1]

Dole curry

The volume has a number of enclosures and this particular recipe is included in a section based around curries. It also gives instructions on how to boil rice, and, as the below shows, make pillaw [pilaf?] rice – the perfect accompaniments.

Perfect rice

For afters, I’ve chosen something that looks simple enough to bake (no electronic mixing bowls here!) and that would be equally as nice the day after with a cup of tea. The recipe comes from another orphaned book (but one with a fine inscription: ‘Nora with Love from Both, 12 Willow Avenue, Christmas 1937′.) [MS 1170] Anyone have room for a slice of tasty date and walnut cake? Continue reading

From small beginnings: the early days of Severn Street Adult School

Joseph Sturge, author unknown, 1859 (Birmingham Portraits Collection)

On 14th May it is the anniversary of the death of one of Birmingham’s prominent citizens, Joseph Sturge, who died in 1859. A successful Quaker businessman, a generous philanthropist and an active campaigner, he is perhaps best known for his work in the anti-slavery movement and the establishment of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society (now known as Anti-slavery International). However, he was a man of many interests and it is his role in beginning the adult education movement in Birmingham which is the subject of this blog post.

On 12th August 1845, concerned by the behaviour of the men and teenage boys he saw in the city’s streets on Sundays, Sturge invited some of Birmingham’s younger Quakers to his house in Wheeley’s Road, Edgbaston to discuss whether they could establish an adult school for them.  It was to be another 25 years before compulsory primary education would be introduced and many adults at this time had started work as young children so levels of literacy among the working classes remained low.  Sturge had been impressed by a visit in 1842 to what is now seen as being the earliest of the adult schools, established in Nottingham in 1798, and he wanted to set up a similar school in Birmingham. The Nottingham school was run by a Methodist, William Singleton and subsequently taken over by a Quaker, Samuel Fox. Non-denominational classes took place on Sundays, teaching men and women reading and writing classes based on the Bible.

The group of Birmingham Quakers agreed that such a school should be established  for,

‘…those who are not & have not been in the way of receiving any instruction in other schools.’

(Severn Street First Day School minute, 12th August 1845, SF (2016/043) 1524 part 1 of 2).

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Fitting in and Getting Along

Booklet produced as part of the Fitting in and Getting Along project [MS 4831 ]

‘Fitting in and Getting Along’ (MS 4831) is one of the many community archives held at the Library of Birmingham. The archive documents the outcomes of a Heritage Lottery funded project focusing on the personal histories of second generation British Poles growing up in Birmingham in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. These British Poles were brought up in traditional Polish families and involved in Polish cultural organisations in the city, but many did not visit Poland until their early 20s.

The project used oral history interviews with twenty-six volunteers to explore themes such as how British Poles were shaped by their exposure to both Polish and British culture and the extent to which Polish national identity survived in them. A project exhibition was held in 2015 in the Community Gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Flyer for the exhibition held at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, November 2015. [MS 4831]

The archive features an information booklet, exhibition flyer and recordings of oral history interviews.  The booklet gives information on the project background and themes. It also includes a profile of each of the interviewees summarising the content of their conversations.

The booklet would be an excellent place to start for anyone interested in the archive. I particularly enjoyed the rich visual content of the booklet which includes copies of participants’ personal photographs. The photographs commemorate significant life events such as participation in performances of traditional dance and meetings with Pope John Paul II as well as family portraits.

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Easter Hope

When researching our blog for Easter, the obvious collection to look in was the records of the Cadbury Family. Easter and Cadbury now go hand in hand but this is no new phenomena. Before the Second World War, Cadbury were making and decorating some splendid Easter Eggs and photographs in the collection not only show the production line machinery that was used, but also staff adorning the eggs with intricate decoration by hand.

Machinery used to create Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/81]

 

The mechanical techniques used to make the eggs were clearly advanced as the annotation on the photographs convey:  

‘Can it be that these fabulous Easter Eggs were issued as a production line? Such would seem to the case, and it is an indication of the high quality of Grade 1 products before the 1939 war brought the end to these expensive lines. When King George VI and Queen Elizabeth came to Bournville in 1939, one of the show pieces was the decoration by hand of even larger eggs. Sic transit Gloria mundi.’

Decorating Easter Eggs, 1939
©Cadbury/Mondelez International [MS 466/41/Box 4A/83]

Also in the Cadbury Family papers is an uplifting sentiment that Easter is full of hope. Published in Women’s Leader and Common Cause on 10th April, 1925, Mrs. George Cadbury wrote: Continue reading

William Hutton: The Birmingham Man From Derby who succeeded in Life Solely Through The Love Of Books And Books Alone.

Much has been written about William Hutton, including a range of works by William Hutton himself. My aim is to highlight a few of his inspiring achievements and a little more.

I first stumbled upon a quote from William Hutton on a plaque on Central Library, which read;

‘Descending a hill of eminence, I had a full view, under a bright sun, of Cader Idris. If I was asked what length would be a line drawn from the eye to the summit? I should answer, “To the best of my judgement one mile.” I believe the space is more than five; so fallacious is the vision when it takes in only one object and that elevated. William Hutton 1803’.

This quote was taken from his book called “Remarks Upon North Wales”. The text following this quote was something more understandable. It read;

Dolgelly

From the hill which I was now descending is a delightful view of a large valley, consisting of meadows, water, bridges and the town in the centre, which had an agreeable effect, and all this surrounded with rocks, woods and mountains.

There was an accompanying artwork on the adjacent wall but I was so struck by the statement by William Hutton that I cannot remember the colourful image of the metal artwork. The plaque is, I believe, now in the Collections Centre of Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. So back in 2002 when I started work in the Central Library, I encountered this written quote but it wasn’t until I started working in Archives and Collections, that I discovered more about him. Here is what I have learnt so far:

William Hutton’s House    [WK/W6/5A]

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The Old Meeting House

MS 1061-2-5-1

Copy of a sketch of Bull St. Quaker Meeting House (3rd building from the left) in 1702, n.d. [Ref MS 1061/2/5/1]

It is thought that a small Quaker community established in Birmingham in the 1650s. Initially meetings for worship were held in private houses but in 1661 a house and garden were bought in New Hall Lane for use as a meeting house and burial ground. New Hall Lane became known as Bull Lane (and later Monmouth Street) and was located at the end of what is now Colmore Row. The meeting house was located roughly where the entrance to the Great Western Arcade is today. Unfortunately, no plan of the meeting house has survived in the Central Area Meeting Archives deposited here, but there is a plan of the graveyard, drawn by the banker Charles Lloyd (1748 – 1828), with a key containing a list of names of those buried there.

SF (2014-213) 1262 e

Plan of the Friends’ graveyard in Bull Lane drawn by Charles Lloyd, n.d. [Ref SF (2014-213) 1262]

SF (2014-213) 1262 d

Key to the plan of the Friends’ graveyard in Bull Lane, compiled by Charles Lloyd, n.d. [Ref SF (2014-213) 1262]

The meeting house on Monmouth St. needed frequent repairs, so in 1702, it was decided to build a new meeting house, paid for by members of the meeting. This was on Bull St., on the site of where the current meeting house entrance gates now stand. Land behind the meeting house was used as a burial ground.  Continue reading