Category Archives: Our Collections

Where we showcase material from our excellent collections.

Interesting discoveries

As you may have seen in a previous post, cataloguing is a part of our role within archives; we do this in order to make clear what we have in our collections and to make documents accessible to members of the public for use in research and family history. Once in a while, however, something within the archive being catalogued can surprise you. The document below is one such surprise!

Copy inspeximus of Roger de Northbrook concerning the endowment of the vicarage of Aston, 1327 [Finding Number: [DV 362] 394018]

 The document comes from the Ecclesiastical Parish Records of St Peter and Paul in Aston (EP 41) and it is interesting in that it is a 19th century transcript of a 14th century copy of a 13th century original document, pertaining to the Vicarage of Aston. It comprises a short introduction from the incumbent Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, followed by the Transcript of the 1254 original and below that the Bishop writes again that he puts his seal to the original document after he has looked through it. He has dated the inspection 1327.

Copy inspeximus of Roger de Northbrook concerning the endowment of the vicarage of Aston, 1327 [Finding Number: [DV 362] 394018]

Endowment of the Vicarage of Aston, Birmingham – 1254

To all the sons of the Holy Mother Church to whom these present Letters shall come Roger by Divine permission Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield health to him who is a true health to all Know ye all that we have inspected certain Letters of Roger sometime Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield of faithful memory our predecessor upon the ordination of the Vicarage of Aston in our Diocese made and sealed with his seal in these Words […]

To all the sons of the Holy Mother church to whom in their present writing shall come We Roger by Divine Mercy Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield send health Everlasting in the Lord to all of you Because our beloved in Christ the Prior Convent of Newport Pagnel in the Diocese of Lincoln have freely submitted the church of Aston in our Diocese with the Chapel of Bromwich and all other their appertenances /the right of Patronage is acknowledged to belong to them/ to our ordination by their letters patent as well of the Prior as the Convent under their seal promising that they would ratify and confirm whatever we should think fit to ordain concerning the church and chapel aforesaid with their appertenances the as well for the Honor of Religion as Hospitality attending to the charity which the said Prior and Convent say they are able to perform and likewise to the poverty of those who have suffered much in the cause of Religion and we desireing with great earnestness an increase in Divine Worship in our Church of Lichfield with this consideration that the said church of Aston with its appertenances ought not to be defrauded of its rights with the convent of our beloved in Christ Ralph Dean and the Chapter of Lichfield having God before our eyes have thus thought fit to decree concerning the same viz- that upon the departed or death of Mr Wm. Kelkennye Rector of same church the aforesaid Prior and Convent and their successors shall have for Ever to their own use the Church of Aston with the Chapel of Bromwich and all their appurtenances saving to the vicar in the same church the under written portions consisting viz- in the whole alterage with the Tithe of Hay, of mills principal Leganes, Tithe of Wool and Lamb, Sheaves increasing in and gardens tilled with the foot and in all other obventions and small tithes arising within the whole Parish with the House which Mr Ralph De Crophill sometime vicar of the said church of Aston possessed. Moreover the Prior and Convent aforesaid and their successor shall pay annually at Lichfield Twenty Marks viz, on the feast of the ascension of our Lord Ten Marks, and  on the feast of Saint Andrew the apostle Ten Marks and they shall procure and present a proper person to the archdeacon and to the said vicarage when it shall become vacant but the vicar of the said Church for the time being  shall personally minister in the same church and shall sustain of his own charges one Chaplain and on Deacon honest and fit in the said church and one chaplain and one clerk honest and minister in the chapel of Bromwich and he shall pay the Synodals but the in Chancil Books and Ornaments of the Church shall be provided and that sufficiently as well by the aforesaid Prior and Convent as by the Vicar aforesaid shall contribute to the Extraordinary burthens in equal portions. In Testimony and in confirmation of this our ordination we have put our seal to the present writing reserving to ourselves and our successors in the Church, the Pontifical and Parochial right and the Dignity of our Churches of Coventry and Lichfield. Dated at Breivode on the eve of Saint Cecilia the Virgin [21 November] Anno Dui 1254 in the presence of our Beloved sons in Christ Mr Ralph, Dean, Ralph, Treasurer, Mr R de Lakots, Walter de Perton, Alexander Blound, William de Eccleshall Nicholas de Lega, Canons of Lichfield.

Copy inspeximus of Roger de Northbrook concerning the endowment of the vicarage of Aston, 1327 [Finding Number: [DV 362] 394018]

Inspected by Roger De Northbrook (Northburgh) afterwards Bishop 1327In testimony of our inspection we Roger aforesaid have put our seal to the presents – Dated at Sallow 4th Mones of May Anno Dui 1327.

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Pageant of Birmingham 1938: Costumes

The Pageant of Birmingham 1938, held in July, was planned to mark the centenary of Birmingham’s Borough Charter and the intended Royal visit of George VI and Queen Elizabeth to the city.

The Iron Room Blog has covered the Pageant of Birmingham before. Egbert, the giant smoke breathing dinosaur, plus his smaller companions, Ogbert and Little Sidney, have become the most memorable (perhaps as the largest) of the characters included in the event held 80 years ago.

With such spectacles in mind, it must have been easy to forget the sheer number of costumes created for the multitude of other characters which appeared over the course of the event.

In Archives & Collections we have four volumes of costume designs, designed under the direction of Jean Campbell, who was Mistress of the Robes. The designs include basic sketches, ideas which do not appear to have made the final selection, designs painted in great detail, plus fabric swatches of material intended to be used on the final garments.

Episode I: Prologue

William the Conqueror, Pageant of Birmingham 1938 Costume Designs, Vol 1 SE 7

This episode began with the ‘strange monsters’ (e.g. Egbert,) of the prehistoric times, and passed through eras, to William the Conqueror. Above is the image of his robes – nice cape!

Episode II: The Granting of the Market Charter of Birmingham, 1156

Pageant of Birmingham, Illustrated Souvenir Booklet, shelf ref: BCOL 22.41

The illustrated booklet to the event sets out the scene when King Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine visit to confirm the charter. Eleanor of Aquitaine’s outfit and make-up in the design are beautiful – very Disney!

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Pageant of Birmingham 1938 Costume Designs, Vol 1 SE 7

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A glimpse into the history of the Indian Subcontinent

Photograph of Gandhi and title page in Mahatma: Life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi by Dinanath Gopal Tendulkar (Ref 954.03 GAN)

The Library of Birmingham has a large collection of books in the Black History Collection relating to the history of the Indian Subcontinent, including the South Asian countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The majority of the materials are held in Archives & Collections. An initial open access area for this collection is near the map cabinets within the Heritage Research Area, where customers can read the books as reference material. Further books from this collection can be requested for reference from the “stacks”.

The collections policy underpinning the purpose of the Black History Collection can be found by clicking here. Built up over a number of years, the collection consists of many rare books, covering a broad range of subjects such as the births of nations, the Bengal Province, the Kashmir struggles, the separation of Pakistan, Bombay “The City of Gold” and Calcutta “The City of Joy”, the Maratha Empire, the Maharajas, major official gazetteers, travel memoirs, royal memoirs, the history of Bengal, royal visits to India, Akbar the Great Mogul and many more. It will be of interest to researchers, degree students, organisations and others with an interest in Indian history and the Indian Subcontinent.

With a colleague from the Archives & Collections team, I am currently busy with the checking, updating and uploading of entries from this collection into the library’s online catalogue. This update will make it possible for customers to view more listings online and the project also enables us to learn more about this fascinating collection.  As I am progressing with this project, I am drawn to the many titles by writers with a unique connection to India. Here are few examples: Continue reading

Messages from the Ocean Floor

A recent accession to the archives which has piqued interest amongst colleagues and public alike is the Trans – Atlantic Cable Chart  (MS 2680 Acc. 2017/079) from the records of Webster & Horsfall Ltd., now Webster, Horsfall, Latch and Batchelor, the oldest continuously running Birmingham company, manufacturers of spring steel wire who won the contract to supply the telegraph cable in the 1860s.

Background to the laying of the cable

Prior to the 1860s, communication between the UK and the USA was largely made by letter. The popularity of telegrams in the nineteenth century led to developments in laying underwater cables. In the 1850s, the Telegraph Construction & Maintenance  Company was formed by an American businessman, Cyrus Field and a Manchester cotton manufacturer, John Pender in an attempt to lay a cable across the Atlantic. In 1866 after several failed bids, a successful attempt was made with Horsfall & Webster supplying the cable.

Trans – Atlantic Cable Chart, ref MS 2689 (Acc 2017/079)

The Trans  – Atlantic Cable Chart

The chart was published by the Hydrographic Office of the British Admiralty of Deep Sounding and shows the bed of the Atlantic overlaid with daily written accounts of messages sent from the Great Eastern, the vessel responsible for laying the cable, back to Greenwich providing news of progress on completing this perilous task. The chart is believed to be the only one in the UK, the only other copy is held in the papers of Cyrus Field at the Smithsonian Institute in America.

Heritage

The chart is representative of the technological work taking place in the nineteenth century and the part played by Birmingham and other British cities in engaging with pioneering techniques. The chart also contains a far more human quality in the record of daily messages from the vessel back to Greenwich. One can only imagine how arduous a task it was for those working on the laying of the cable, on work which today has burgeoned into a world of global inter-connectivity.

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Birmingham Kynoch Press – Notebook & Diaries

Kynoch Press Notebook and Diaries 1951 – 1963. (Ref MS 1422/62/7/7/24)

Since joining the Library of Birmingham Archives and Collections team back in 2016, I have embraced the opportunity to gain the skills and knowledge of the inside workings of an Archives department, and the diverse range of unique collections held. Having used the services of archives throughout the completion of a Visual Communication degree, I have a particular interest in materials relating to early and fine printing, graphic design, illustration and all printed ephemera.

Kynoch Press NoteBook & Diary 1936
Octavo hardback diary for 1936, 2 pages per week. Additional information specific to printing, paper, editing and postage. Small woodcuts of natural life by Agnes Miller-Parker at head of each week; different illustration for each month. (Ref L07.2/KYN)

For my first contribution to the Iron Room, I decided to take a browse through the Local Studies, Birmingham Printed Books collection for inspiration, where I discovered a series of wonderfully illustrated and designed notebook and diaries, produced by Birmingham’s Kynoch Printing Press.

The Kynoch Press was a Birmingham printing press based in Witton, initially established as the in-house printing team for the large-scale industrial manufacturing group, ICI.  The press also produced printing for a range of external clients, with its high quality printing services gaining it the reputation as ‘one of the foremost British printing houses of the period’, throughout the 1930s and 50s.

Kynoch Press Notebook & Diary 1958, cover, page spread & detail. Illustrated by Robert Tavener, with scenes of Eastbourne Beach through the seasons. (Ref MS 1422/62/7/7/24)

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Celebrating 70 years of the NHS!

To celebrate 70 years of the NHS, we thought we’d do a bit of rundown of the wonderful health and caring-related collections we have here in Archives & Collections at the Library of Birmingham.

Below we cover some of the main archive sources for research in hospitals, health and poor relief. It is a starting point rather than an exhaustive list of collections and further sources will be found by checking the online catalogues, the Wolfson Centre paper catalogues and card indexes, and, you will be able to find printed sources (e.g. annual reports of institutions and charities) in the local studies catalogue.

It is worth remembering that many of these collections are incomplete and the survival of records for particular periods or particular institutions can be patchy – check the catalogues to individual collections for details of survival and access (naturally records of this nature are sensitive and do have access restrictions placed on those of a more recent date).

Guardians of the Poor collections

Six boys standing in Sutton Park, Birmingham, on summer outing provided for poor children by the Birmingham Cinderella Club [WK/B11/445]

Until the nineteenth century poor relief was a function of the parish and documents such as apprenticeship indentures and settlement certificates will be found in these collections – see our separate source guide for Faith and Religious Records here. Continue reading

The Birmingham Sandwich Club

Midland Adult School Union (MASU) Sandwich Club 21st birthday card in MASU Sandwich Club Record of Speakers and Meetings 1942 – 1968 (Ref MS 703 box 32/212)

If you work in Birmingham city centre, have you ever wondered how to spend your lunch break? On some days perhaps you like to go for a walk, or browse the shops and perhaps on others you prefer to do some errands or have lunch out in one of the city’s many cafes. For workers during the period 1940 to 1968, another option was to go to the Birmingham Sandwich Club. This informal club was run by members of the Midland Adult School Union (MASU) and provided the city’s workers with a space in which they could bring along their sandwiches, have a cup of tea and listen to talks on a wide variety of subjects, delivered by a range of speakers.

The idea for the Sandwich Club came from Charles Bristow, who as Secretary of MASU had always hoped to be able to hold such a club in the middle of the day. When MASU moved its offices to Priory Rooms, Bull Street in 1938, he was able to put the idea into practice. Together with Robert Woodhead, Bristow arranged the first meeting of 6 men and women on 22nd October 1940. The subject was a debate on ‘the living theatre v. the cinema’, with Woodhead and Bristow taking opposing sides. A further two meetings took place in November and December that year, with regular meetings starting from January 1941 and continuing until 1968.

Meetings were held on Tuesdays from 1-2.15 at the Priory Rooms and were open to anyone who was ‘interested in discussing the problems of the day’. There was no subscription or formal membership. Attendance varied from 20 – 40 people, who came from all walks of life but many worked in business. The Club was non-sectarian and non-political.  Speakers included members of the Church, Members of Parliament, City Councillors, and those involved in education and social work. Continue reading