Tag Archives: Business records

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is the time for giving chocolates and flowers and to illustrate that we have an image from the Cadbury Album of chocolate box covers which is part of the extensive collection of records held here in Birmingham from the Cadbury business archive.

Chocolate Box Covers  MS 466/ 785924

Chocolate Box Covers
MS 466/ 785924

John Cadbury started his one man grocery business in the 1820s in Birmingham selling tea and branching out into the luxury market of preparing drinking chocolate and cocoas. His business flourished, there was endorsement from royalty and the chocolate became refined and eatable. However, the firm did begin to fail along with the health of John and eventually, in 1860 John passed the business over to his two sons Richard and George.  The artistically inclined Richard concentrated on sales and George concentrated on the manufacturing side.  The two young men in their early twenties faced bankruptcy on a daily basis but, determination fostered by the work ethic and Quaker beliefs instilled in their characters drove the business forward. The business flourished again and eventually expanded to new premises 4 miles south of Birmingham in 1879. Richard had employed his considerable artistic talents to promote the eating chocolate market by creating the first British chocolate boxes and enhancing them with his own designs and paintings, using his children as models and scenes and landscapes from his travels.

Chocolate Box Covers  MS 466/ 785924

Chocolate Box Covers
MS 466/ 785924

Mother’s day is traditionally a celebration of mothers and motherhood and the place of mothers in society. The commercial celebration began in the United States in the early 20th century, but the tradition has its roots in Greek and Roman society and before. The Christian mothering Sunday was originally a celebration of the mother church. Now, around the world,  the day is usually fixed to an existing Spring holiday; for example in the UK we celebrate Mother’s Day on the fourth Sunday of Lent before Easter, whilst socialist countries tend to honour motherhood on International Women’s Day in March. The extent of celebration varies greatly from country to country, from a little celebrated event to places where it is positively offensive to one’s mother not to mark the occasion (that is the case in my place I would have to say!)

However you celebrated, let’s have a high five for your mom and here’s to chocolates all round!

Judy Dennison     March 2014


House Now Under Water

Postcard 'House now under water' [MS 944]

Postcard ‘House now under water’
[MS 944]

The greetings card shown here was discovered in an album from the Severn Trent collection. Small and bearing its printed message of wishes for the New Year, slipped between pages full of large glossy albumen prints, it would perhaps not appear particularly remarkable if not for that pencilled caption at the top of the card: ‘House now under water’. Not even ‘This house is now under water’, just ‘house’. Apart from that, it doesn’t give much away.

There is nothing on the reverse. The photographer is unknown. It is not recorded who sent it or who received it. It’s not even known for certain which New Year is being celebrated.

The album in which the card was placed is quite workmanlike in its presentation, in spite of the embossed cover, with large printed captions pasted down under each print. It is apparent from these that the prints in the album show places soon to be submerged. The captions inform you of how far below the waterline certain features will be. Lines have been drawn in at the edges of each page to show how high the water will reach. How curious then to find a greetings card wishing you a ‘Happy New Year’ tucked between its pages.

The printed caption on the flyleaf of the album refers to an Act of Parliament passed in 1892. This was the Birmingham Corporation Water Act. It allowed the building of a series of reservoirs in the Elan Valley in Wales, flooding the Rhayader watershed to provide the city of Birmingham with a much needed supply of fresh clean water. The site was chosen for several reasons. The valleys were narrow and would be easier to dam. The rainfall had been recorded for many decades and was reliably high. Perhaps most significantly, however, pumping would not be required as the reservoirs created would be higher than the Birmingham cisterns which they would supply with water.

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Trade catalogue collection

Three trade cataloge covers

Trade catalogue covers – Ensign Lamps, 1934 (Ref: LS 10/E/312/1), Butterfields Limited – Levis 1926 Motor Cycles (Ref: LS 10/B/634/1) and The Burman Sheep Shearer trade pamphlet, dated 1917 (Ref: LS 10/B/569/1)

This blog post is concerned with the trade catalogue collection held in the Archives & Heritage section of Birmingham Central Library. The collection reflects the wide and varied industrial heritage of the city and surrounding periphery.

 We have trade catalogues, brochures, pamphlets and ephemera spanning from the 19th – 21st century; early local patents from 1722 – 1866; local trade business cards from the 18th century and local company reports from the mid 20th century.

Our huge collection typically consists of material from well known established local companies such as B.S.A, G.K.N, G.E.C, W.T Avery, Cadburys, Chance Brothers, Dunlop, Webley and Scott, Lucas Clapshaw & Cleeve Limited, Tonks (Birmingham) Limited, Ingall, Parsons, Clive & Co, Robert Mansell & Son, Bullpitt & Son (Swan Houseware), Belliss & Morcom, Benton & Stone, British Resisting Heat Glass Company, Burman and Sons, Huxley Barton & Sons, Levis Motorcycles, Dale Forty & Co. W.T French & Son Ltd, Eley Brothers, Thomas Fattorini, Fisher & Ludlow, Lee Longlands, Austin Motors, Barrows Stores Limited, Jones & Willis, Clement Heeley, Hockley Chemical Company. Ltd, Hoskins, James Neale & Sons, Charles Obsorne, Parker Winder & Achurch, Rudge Cycle Co. Limited, William Cooper & Son, Samuel Booth plus many more.

Trade card from Edward Jones, chandelier manufacturer

Edward Jones – Manufacturer Of The Patent Safety Lamps & Lantern, etc, Trade Card no. 591

The Birmingham Collection, our principal printed bookstock collection providing an account of the cultural and historic development of the city, contains texts on specific local businesses plus histories of particular trades associated with the area.

The trade catalogue collection is a valuable cultural asset and to protect it from damage or loss, holdings are served via a controlled environment in our archival searchroom which adheres to conditions of access found at archival record offices.

Letters patent for Breech-lodaing Fire-arms, &c.

Early local patent from 1865 for Joseph Rock Cooper, Gun Manufacturer.

The trade catalogue collection still receives gifts and donations made chiefly by the public who contact us from far and wide across the globe, reinforcing Birmingham’s once proud status as ‘Workshop of the World’.

Staff are currently engaged in creating an online presence for the trade catalogue collection via our archival catalogue system, CalmView which can be located via the new Library of Birmingham website at and it is hoped some entries will be accessible in this format come the opening in September 2013.

page 17 from Yates and Sons, silver plate list of prices

Yates and Sons Silver Plate List of Prices trade catalogue, dated 1872

To accompany our trade catalogues , we retain local trade directories such as The Sketchley Birmingham Directory of 1767, which is one of the oldest surviving trade directories for the city. However, the Kelly’s trade directory series running from 1878 – 1974 is the most popular resource used by our service users. Other miscellaneous trade directories titles held in Archives & Heritage Service include: Pigot, Bisset, Grand National, Bailey Western And Midland, Holden’s  Triennial, Wrighton and Webb, Slater’s, Hulley’s, Morris and Co, Shadler’s, White’s, Post Office, Corporation, Harrison and Harrod and Co.

Thank you, Al Barrett.


Carolling in the collections

Continuing with the festive theme from last week, and inspired by singing in a local choir, I thought I would see what I could find in our collections relating to Christmas carols.

I saw three ships woodcut

“I Saw Three Ships” designed by Henry Payne (MS 2717/3/1 page 22)

I was surprised to discover carol singing in many different parts of our archive.  The activity can be found in hospital, school, photographic and individual  collections,  as well as in religious records such as this draft copy of a book of Christmas Carols for the use of the Old Meeting Church.  We  also have  many traditional carols available to listen to as part of the recordings made by Charles Parker.

Black and white woodcut illustration with title of book surrounded by a woodcut of a stylised floral border

Title page for “A Book of Pictured Carols” (MS 2717/3/1 page 15)

One of the most beautiful objects I found was in the records of Joseph Wainwright and Colbran J. Wainwright, manufacturing jewellers. “A Book of Pictured Carols designed by members of the Birmingham Art School” (MS 2717/3/1) is a slim hardback book of carols and illustrations created under the direction of Arthur J.Gaskin. The intricate woodcuts were each created by different artists, both male and female, and are all in the Arts and Crafts style. Some have strong floral and folk motifs such as the title page designed by Georgie E. Cave France. Others are inspired by themes of myth and legend such as the design at the top of this page by Henry Payne.

Contains a black and white woodcut illustration of a Nativity scence showing Mary and Jesus with a cow in the background

“The Golden Harp” (375224, LP 07.2 GUE )

The Local Studies collection contains several volumes of carols printed in Birmingham. This is the cover of a tiny booklet of carols printed by J. Guest of Bull Street in about 1850. The pages are very thin, and it feels like it has been well used. The carols it contains are not the familiar ones that are popular today. They include intriguing titles such as Melodious Sound, Twinkling Stars and Twelve Points. They often refer to death and sin as well as to joyful celebrations.

It has been interesting having a glimpse into how traditions change over the years and I have enjoyed finding some new carols. I hope this brief taster may inspire you to come and see us next Christmas in our new home.

Perhaps a nice way  to end this post is with the last verse of The Moon Shines Bright printed in “The Golden Harp”

 My song is done- I must be gone,
I can stay no longer here:
God bless you all, both great and small,
And send you a happy new year!

 Kathryn Hall
(Libraries and Archives Assistant)

Is it a bird, is it a plane?

As part of the team making sure our collections are correctly labelled and boxed for the move into the Library of Birmingham, I often have to spend long periods of time in our store rooms looking at rows of rather bland boxes. It is a treat when you have to look inside one of them and are reminded of the range of treasures sitting quietly on the rows of shelving.

The archive collection which I am most fond of certainly cheered me up when I came across it during our surveying. Opening a mysterious box containing photographs of a dare-devil woman apparently risking life and limb underneath a hot air balloon intrigued me.

MS 1575/3/6/2/7

After checking the catalogue back in the office I was delighted to find out her name was Kitty King and she that she worked for Lieutenant George Phillip Lempriére. Lempriére (born 26 February 1854) was a balloonist and aeronaut, who performed and exhibited at a wide variety of events including public, private, and scientific engagements at fetes, galas, shows, and lectures.  He travelled throughout England but lived much of his life in Handsworth, so it is fitting that many of the images are of the local area.

MS 1575/3/6/2/7

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