Tag Archives: Children

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.

Continue reading


The shadow of war

World War One affected everyone living in Birmingham whether at home or serving on the front line.  Our new exhibition Voices of War looks at the impact the war had on the lives of people from all walks of life, age and background.

Birmingham in the early twentieth century was a booming industrial centre.  It attracted people from many countries for the opportunities for work.  Birmingham had a small but significant Black community which we can see glimpses of in the archives.  We know that in there were groups of African American entertainers who would regularly tour the UK.  Some entertainers made their permanent home in Birmingham where there were plenty of employment opportunities available.

Gaiety Theatre playbill for Monday 28th August 1916

Gaiety Theatre playbill for Monday 28th August 1916

More details about the black community can be frustratingly hard to discover however.  Can you help us add any more information about lives of black people in Birmingham in the early twentieth century or before?

Frederick Johnson and the Small Heath Home Defence Corps, 1917

Frederick Johnson of the Small Heath Home Defence Corps, 1917

Men such as Frederick Johnson of Small Heath would be expected to “do their bit”.  Frederick Johnson served in the Small Heath Home Defence Corps who would be the first line of defence in the event of a German invasion.  Unfortunately we do not know anything else about Frederick other than his name and two photographs of him as part of the Corps.

The First World War brought about great changes in the lives of many women who lived in Birmingham.  opportunities to for paid and voluntary employment opened up as many of the jobs previously held by men were taken on by women.  The workforce of the industrial giants mushroomed: BSA employed around 3,000 workers in 1914 and by 1918 they had 13,000 on the books.  The Austin works at Longbridge employed 2,000 at the outset of the war which went up to an astonishing 20,000 by 1918.  Kynoch, another well-known Birmingham firm, also employed a large workforce – many of whom were women – to feed the demand for armaments.

Birmingham Win The War Day 1918

Birmingham Win The War Day 1918

This image shows a black woman on a Kynoch carnival float taking part in victory celebrations.  Perhaps she was one of the many women who did their bit making munitions for the soldiers at the front.

Birmingham Weekly Mercury 31st October 1914

The contribution of troops from all parts of the Empire was recognised by everyone and reported in the local press.  Over a million Indian troops were involved in the First World War effort – many giving their lives for a country that was not their own.

Birmingham Weekly Mercury 23rd October 1915

The press often relied on stereotypes in their reporting of these contributions.

Children too were a key part of the war effort.  Every child would probably know a family member or teacher who went to fight.  Schools were at the forefront of campaigns to raise funds for the war effort and children were actively encouraged to think about how they could play their part.

This class at Nelson Street School in Ladywood, pictured here in 1913, would have been expected to play a part in raising funds.


Brick League Album, Nelson Street School (MS 2219/2)











These little girls, including the girl on the second to back row who was part of Birmingham’s small but growing black community, would have helped raise money and knit “comforts” (socks, scarves, balaclavas etc) for men at the front.

The Voices of War exhibition looks at a whole variety of experiences of Birmingham’s people in World War One – why not come to the Library of Birmingham Gallery to explore more.  The exhibition runs until the end of December 2014.

Rachel MacGregor, Collections Curator

Guest blogger: Archive DIY – The Paganel Story

Everyone in year 5 went to the archive in town. We had to put on gloves when we were holding things (because things were very old and easily broken).  Now we have our own archive of the school and our local area and all the people here.

  Young Archivist at Paganel Primary School

Yr5 discovering archives at Library of Birmingham Archives

Yr5 discovering archives at Library of Birmingham Archives

This tells the story of the creation of Paganel Primary School Archive, the first ARCHON registered repository archives in a UK state primary school.

Over the past two years we have been working with Library of Birmingham Outreach and Archive service to collect, record, archive and catalogue the history of our school and our community and to make it accessible for this community. Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund this is a two year partnership project, working with Weoley Castle Ruins, BMAG, Library of Birmingham, Sellywood House Residential Home and Weoley Castle Community Library.

Oral testimonies have been crucial to bring to life heritage, and we have completed over 100 interviews on a range of local related topics.  These oral testimonies and the value we place on them by documenting, cataloguing and referencing to existing heritage sources, validates the contribution of people in Weoley Castle and inspires learning in the school.

Interviewing a parent for the archives

Interviewing a parent for the archives

Cataloguing and labeling in Paganel Archives

Cataloguing and labeling in Paganel Archives

Weoley Castle, in which Paganel Primary School is located, is a unique interwar housing estate built to enable slum clearance in Birmingham, built within a rural community and around a medieval castle.  The lives of people in the school and community represents the social and cultural changes of our times and have not been well documented.  Schools have a very particular and important role within our community and are in a unique position to both document social life and engage children, parents and local community in our rich heritage, across all generations.

Over the past two years we have worked with the whole school to create and develop the archive and Yr 5 children have had a special role in designing the archive room in conjunction with set designers from the Rep. With the support from Library of Birmingham, Archives and Heritage, we have also established an Archives After-School Club – a unique after-school club of pupils which meets every week to interview people, catalogue, and organise and manage the Archives and will continue after our project has finished.

After nearly two years of hard work, on 28th June 2013 2:00 Paganel Archives will be officially opened.  It is quite an achievement, but the real achievement of Paganel Archives, is putting heritage at the heart of it’s community.

Marcus Belben
Project Coordinator

Useful links:

The Warwickshire Photographic Survey project update

The Warwickshire Photographic Survey project is now into its third year since work began in November 2010 and continues to make good progress. Staff and volunteers have now digitised and catalogued over half of the collection, accounting for 17,000 of an estimated total of 30,000 prints.

Black and white photograph showing a general  view with locals stood in village street near the Holly Bush Inn.

WK/K3/53 Outside the Holly Bush Inn, Hurley, near Kingsbury, Warwickshire. Taken by J.H. Pickard for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey c1895

The Survey Collection has always been one of our most popular visual archives from both the perspective of our users and staff engaged in outreach work with schools, community organisations and local history groups. The main impetus for the project has been to improve access to the collection by presenting the digital content in a way that will make the collection more accessible to users both within Birmingham and outside of the city.

Continue reading

Pagalympics Exhibition

Our Outreach & Education team have just put up an exhibition on Floor 1 of Birmingham Central Library as part of their work with Paganel Primary School. The exhibition is of photos taken by the children to document their week of Olympic activities. This is part of a Heritage Lottery funded project to create their own archive of the school and its community.

If you are in visiting us over the next few weeks the photographs are well worth a look. For more information on their work on the archive including some great photos and taster oral history interviews see www.paganelschool.com/blog.

Our Next Lunchtime Lecture…

Cartes de Visites

Studio Family Portraits (Birmingham Archives & Heritage)

The next in our regular series of lunchtime lectures is on Tuesday 8th May – Children’s Lives:  from the eighteenth century to the present day with Dr Sian Roberts, head of collections here at Birmingham Archives & Heritage,  which coincides with our current exhibition on Children’s Lives at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Find out more about the history of children’s lives in the city from the eighteenth century to the present day, drawing on resources from the collections at Birmingham Archives and Heritage Collections and also from the collections at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

The lecture is at 1pm in the Birmingham Central Library Theatre. This event is free and there is no need to book. We look forward to seeing you there…

Children’s Lives Exhibition – now open!

Hand-made ticket

Hand-made ticket by Arthur Wallis, age 15, 1889 (Ref: MS 2628/5)

A new exhibition on Children’s Lives is now open in the Gas Hall. Running until 10 June 2012, it features a variety of archives from our collections.

Photographs, archive documents, costumes, artwork and objects will bring to life more than 300 years of history, with collections drawn from Designated and nationally acclaimed collections held by Birmingham Archives & Heritage, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, and the Media Archive of Central England.

The exhibition provides a fascinating insight into Birmingham’s history, as well as a key resource for understanding the changing nature of childhood locally, nationally and internationally. It reveals both how the experience of childhood has changed and how it has been understood and constructed by adults over time. It brings the voice of the child to life and draws connections between the past and the present into sharper focus.

Children’s Lives will include a creative programme of events and spark debate about the lives of children in today’s Britain. Find out more on the Children’s Lives website, where you can also see some of the exhibits as well as galleries of additional material relating to childhood from the archives.

For information on visiting the exhibition, see Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery’s website.

Brigitte Winsor
Digitisation and Outreach