Tag Archives: Birmingham History

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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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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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

LGBT History Month 2017

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February 2017 marks LGBT History Month. The archive of the project Gay Birmingham Remembered (MS 2788) held here at the Library of Birmingham contains material relating to the history of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people in the city. The focus of the project was to collect material and memories from Birmingham citizens about gay life. The project culminated in the transfer of the records to the Library so that gay people’s lives in the city could be documented for the future and made available.

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Badges from the Gay Birmingham Remembered collection. [MS 2788]

As well as the colourful campaign badges featured in the photograph above, a number of LGBT newspapers and newsletters circulated in the West Midlands in the 1980s and 1990s feature in the archive. In the Pink: West Midlands free Lesbian and Gay newspaper is one of these and we hold copies dating from late 1980s. The newsletters are important because they record developments in the history of LGBT rights and are a reminder that legislation and attitudes taken for granted now were by no means commonplace in the 1980s.

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In the Pink from the collection of Gay Birmingham Remembered [MS 2788]

Here are some snapshots from the newsletters:

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New Year, New Additions

We haven’t updated you all for a while but we have some new additions to our Birmingham Collection printed bookstock. We hope you enjoy them!

New additions to our Birmingham Collection

New additions to our Birmingham Collection

BIRMINGHAM COLLECTION

1.Arthur, Valerie.
A History of Selly Oak Hospital. (2015).
BCOL 46.324 SEL, Level 4 & L 46.324 SEL, Level 5.

2.Cawood, Ian & Upton, Chris. (Ed.)
Joseph Chamberlain, International Statesman, National leader, Local Icon. (2016).
BCOL 78.1 CHA, Level 4 & L 78.1 CHA, Level 5.

3.Chinn, Carl & Dick, Malcolm.
Birmingham, The Workshop of the World. (2016).
BCOL 71 CHI, Level 4 & L 71 CHI, Level 5.

4.Coleman, Peter. (Ed.)
George Walton, 1796 – 1874. The Journal & Diary of a Rifleman of the 95th who fought at Waterloo. (2016).
BCOL 78.1 WAL, Level 4 & L 78.1 WAL, Level 5.

5.Gazey, Glynis.
Dear Wife ….. yours ‘til the end, Frank xxx. A Letter Journey Through World War 1. (2015).
L 78 HEF, Level 5

6.Hallam, David.
Challenging the Patriarchs : Women Candidates in the West Midlands for the 1918 General Election. (2015).
LF 76.8 HAL, Level 5.

7.Horizon Midlands.
Travel brochures and miscellaneous materials, c 1968 – c 1993.
Birmingham Trade Catalogue Collection

8.James, Pete.
Reference Works : The Library of Birmingham Photography Project. (2013).
BCOL 25.69, Level 4 & LF 25.69, Level 5.

9.Myers, Kevin.
Struggles for a Past. Irish and Afro – Caribbean Histories in England, 1951 – 2000. (2015).
L 21.85 MYE, Level 5.

10.Reekes, Andrew.
Speeches that Changed Britain : Oratory in Birmingham. (2016).
L 76.9 REE, Level 5.

11.Satre, Lowell, J.
Chocolate on Trial : Slavery, Politics & the Ethics of Business. (2005).
L 66.53 SAT, Level 5.

12.Sharp, Robert.
The Hoard and its History : Staffordshire’s Secrets Revealed. (2016).
BCOL 70.6 SHA, Level 4 & L 70.6 SHA, Level 5.

13.Thomas, Denise. (Ed.)
The Autobiography and Library of Thomas Hall B.D. (1610 – 1655). (2015).
L 78.1 HAL, Level 5.

BLACK HISTORY COLLECTION Continue reading

Wish you were there?

Horizons Midlands holiday brochure winter 1975-6

Horizon Midlands holiday brochure, winter 1975-6

Now the weather turns chillier, why not cushion yourself in the eventide glow of a Mediterranean clime? How much will this cost me I hear you chime, not a penny dear reader when you experience all that the more climatically forgiving realms of this continent have to offer by perusing a copy of a Horizon Midlands brochure.

The Archives & Collections service recently received a donation of historic brochures and literature from an employee of Horizon Midlands which was an independent travel agents based in Birmingham from the late 1960s through to the early 1990s. The donation, which has been added to our Birmingham trade catalogue collection, also includes a series of annual reports and accounts for the company covering the period from 1975 – 1986 along with paperwork detailing a proposed joint venture with Bass PLC in 1985 amongst other documents. The company appears to have been based originally at 214 Broad Street and ended its days not too far away at 4 Broadway, Five Ways.

Horizons Midlands

Horizon Midlands map of holiday destinations

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It’s nearly time to Explore Your Archives

Orange ExploredExplore Your Archive week 2016 is nearly upon us! A joint campaign run by the National Archives and the Archives and Records Association, Explore Your Archive runs from 19 – 27 November and aims to promote and encourage the use of local archive services across the UK. For events across the country, why not visit www.exploreyourarchive.org to learn what’s going on near you.

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Part of an engine from Boulton and Watt – see the full item on display at our exhibition.

Here at Archives and Collections at the Library of Birmingham, we are having another pop-up exhibition following the great success of last year! This year we are Making an Exhibition out of our Researchers and we have had a great response with items already nominated including a letter from Winston Churchill and a drawing of a Boulton and Watt Engine! There is still time (just about!) to nominate an item and you can download the nomination form here.

So why not come along to our exhibition on Saturday, 19th November in the Wolfson Centre on Level 4. The exhibition will be open 1pm – 4pm and you can find details online on the Library of Birmingham events page.

We will look forward to seeing you!