Tag Archives: Library history

At the going down of the sun

Poppy Red Remembered

This morning at 11am a wreath will be laid to commemorate the lives of members of Birmingham Libraries staff who died in the First World War.  The outbreak of war in July 1914 had a profound effect on the library and its staff. Thirty six men from the library service signed up to fight in the Great War of whom 6 were killed in or just after the war. Their names and faces of Birmingham Libraries staff are commemorated in a photograph album which comes from the archives of the Birmingham Libraries. This photograph was taken in 1915 in Sutton Park – only three of these men survived the war.

Library staff from the Royal Warwickshire City Battalion

Library staff from the Royal Warwickshire 1st Birmingham City Battalion




Library staff caption

Library staff from the Royal Warwickshire 1st Birmingham City Battalion







Percy Garner and Thomas Riley were both killed on 22nd July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme at the attack on Delville Wood. They were both serving in the 14th Royal Warwickshire Regiment (1st Battalion of the Birmingham City Battalion). Garner was 24 and Riley 25.

Henry Checketts was also in the 1st Birmingham City Battalion and survived the battle in which his comrades Garner and Riley were killed. He was promoted to Corporal and then Acting Sergeant. However Checketts died on 3rd September 1916 during the attack on Falfemont Farm along with 800 other Birmingham Pals. He was 30 years old.

Frank Izard worked at the Central Library, Birchfield Library and Handsworth Library. He was also in the 1st Birmingham City Battalion and died aged 27 at the Battle of Passchendaele on October 1917.

The deaths of Henry Checketts, Percy Garner (and Frank Izard) were reported in the Library Committee minutes:

Free Library Committee Minutes 1913-17 (BCC/1/AT/1/1/11)

Free Library Committee Minutes 1913-17 (BCC/1/AT/1/1/11)


Two members of staff also died after the conflict as a result of the injuries they sustained:William Reeves and Charles Wells. They served with the Army Service Corps and the Worcester Regiment respectively. They were both in their 40’s when they died.The minutes of the Free Libraries Committee records the deaths of all of these men.

“Mr Reeves was a member of the staff for 20 years and performed his duties in a thoroughly satisfactory manner. A few days before his death, he was granted an increased pension dating back to October. As notification was received after the salary accounts had been paid, the difference between his old and new pension is due to the corporation. The sub committee recommends that no application be made for the return of this sum.”

William Reeves, Royal Army Medical Corps

William Reeves, Royal Army Medical Corps

We do not have a photograph of Charles Wells.

Library War Memorial

Birmingham Libraries War Memorial









“They have no lot in our labour of the day-time”

Rachel MacGregor


History of Our Outreach and Community Engagement

Material from Outreach projects

Photograph from a Connecting Histories community exhibition and a collage created by the Kingstanding Youth Inclusion Programme

An Introduction:

The social and cultural transformation of the city offers a great deal of opportunities. Some of these opportunities are easily observable in the daily lived lives and experiences of the different groups, and the many ways in which groups of all kinds interact. This is indeed a strength and makes Birmingham the progressive city it is today.

Importantly, this transformation leaves us with a number of challenges to think about. These issues affect or concern many of us, right from local and grassroots level through to society at large. The challenge for us as a service is how we respond to an ever-changing world. How we might consider our place in the picture of a growing and even diversifying city – a city in which there is still much work to do in terms of social inclusion. We know that no matter what the time, decade or moment, there will always be such challenges to overcome.

Birmingham Archives & Heritage has been engaging with these issues with a view to understanding how the service can play its part in the progressive development and empowerment of different groups in the city, to work to engender practical responses to social justice issues, and ultimately, become more reflective of the world in which it is immediately located.

The need to be more reflective has a very real and direct relevance to issues of integration (which may be understood as social exclusion and inclusion), cross-community awareness, understanding and even participation (often cited as community or social cohesion). Put another way, we might say that what we see in our collections – as they stand – helps us to understand the degree to which we have progressed as a society and as a city towards better, broader representation.

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