Tag Archives: Social History

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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‘Developing our own gifts and those of others’: the educational role of the Warwickshire North Women’s Conferences, 1895-1960

SF/2/1/1/2/1/8

Among the large collection of records of Central England Quakers are the minutes of the Warwickshire North Women’s Monthly Meeting beginning in 1729. They provide a fascinating insight into the mental and emotional worlds of Quaker women in Birmingham over several generations, and illustrate the concerns that were foremost in their minds.

The nature of the Women’s meetings and the records that relate to them changed in the late nineteenth century. In May 1889, a proposal from the men’s monthly meeting was put to the women, suggesting that they should hold joint monthly meetings in advance of their separate meetings. Women Friends agreed to trial this for twelve months. In October 1890, as most business was now done in the joint meeting they decided to hold women’s meetings four times a year, rather than monthly, and the role of the meeting changed. From 1897 three women’s Monthly Meeting ‘Conferences’ were held each year – in the spring to prepare for Yearly Meeting, in the summer to review and read papers from Yearly Meeting, and in November ‘to consider some General subject of interest to women’. In this piece I will be concentrating on this last conference in the period from the 1890s to the 1950s.

Notice of a Conference on 'The Child's Point of View', 1908 (ref SF/2/1/1/2/1/9)

Notice of a conference on ‘The Child’s Point of View’, 1908 (ref SF/2/1/1/2/1/9)

The subjects deemed to be of interest by the women ranged widely, from theological questions, women’s ministry and Quaker history, to the social and political issues of the day. Women Friends presented papers followed by a discussion, and external speakers were occasionally invited to present on particular subjects. The Conferences were well attended, and could attract anything from 50 to 150 women depending on the popularity of the theme. Many of the subjects, particularly in the early years, are those that we might consider to be traditional women’s subjects and we see the Conference functioning as a space of formal and informal education in very practical knowledge that was relevant to middle class wives and mothers.

There is a considerable interest, for example, in motherhood and the upbringing of children and in particular how children and young people should be nurtured in Quaker ways and beliefs. On 12 February 1895 when 70 women were present, the session focused on ‘Woman’s influence over Children and Young People in the Home’. Catharine Wilson spoke of the influence of Christian nurses and governesses working with the mother for the good of the children, a reflection of the class and socio-economic circumstances of many of the more prominent women in the meeting. Caroline Gibbins read ‘a valuable paper’ on the ‘Discipline of Younger Children’ which emphasised ‘moral suasion’ rather than ‘physical force’ and the wise mother’s role in avoiding conflict.

The People's Free Kindergarten, Greet, 1904 (ref MS 4095)

The People’s Free Kindergarten, Greet, 1904 (ref MS 4095)

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‘…in honour to our scholars’

Moseley Rd. Friends’ Institute memorial service sheet, 1917, showing members of the Institute with the caption ‘In the hope of a better life’ [LF18.6]

On 11th November 1919, a year after the signing of the Armistice had brought an end to the hostilities between the Allies and Germany, a two minute silence was observed across the country. While this marked the anniversary of the end of the war and became the first national day of remembrance for those who had died, support and remembrance for the troops on a more local and community level had been taking place throughout the war years.

This can be seen in the records of Moseley Road Friends’ Institute, which opened in 1897 and was one of a number of Quaker initiated centres across the city of Birmingham, run by volunteers and established to provide adult education, missionary and social work activities for the benefit of the local community. Moseley Road Men’s Early Morning School, along with other adult schools, had fostered a strong sense of community and fellowship since its opening, not only through education but also via numerous social, musical, horticultural, sporting and other activities. It is not surprising then, that members of the school remaining in Birmingham during the war wanted to demonstrate their support and friendship to those who were fighting. Continue reading

Black History Collection

Archives & Collections has many hidden facets amongst the panoply of resources and materials retained by the section. One such collection is the Black History Collection which is a repository of secondary printed texts relating to the experiences of Asian and Black communities. Follow this link for a more thorough account of the intentions for the collection.

You may initially presume libraries and archives are primarily locations for the storage of dusty and antiquated tomes which are lovely in their own right but this is only one face of our raison d’etre. The following two books published in 2016 have recently been purchased for addition to the Black History Collection and hopefully provide fresh and insightful input to the dialogue and discussion surrounding ethnic identity in modern British culture and society –

london-is-the-place-for-me

 

London Is The Place for Me. Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race.
Kennetta Hammond Perry.
2016, Oxford University Press.
ISBN : 9780190240202.
Black History Collection, level 4. 305.896042.

 

 

This text, the title of which tips a nod to the calypso song of the same name by Lord Kitchener who was a passenger on the Empire Windrush explores different themes in relation to the formation of a sense of Black British identity and the issues of migration and subsequent immigration controls plus the nascent campaign against racial discrimination. The text utilises a wide range of sources in its discourse such as photography, personal accounts and extracts from popular culture such as song.

blackness-in-britain

 

Blackness in Britain. 
Edited by Kehinde Andrews and Lisa Amanda Palmer.
Routledge.
ISBN : 9781138840638.
Black History Collection, level 5. A 305.896041.
(Please bring your Birmingham Library card as ID should you wish to view this item).

 

This book explores via a series of essays the attempt to place Black Studies more prominently on the academic agenda and in the public consciousness by collating a series of scholarly voices on the topic of Blackness in Britain. Topics covered in the text include discussions regards the marginalisation of black people, the appropriation of a sense of black identity via writings, issues surrounding black identity and the teaching of Black Studies in education and the position of black female identity in the UK.

You can view resources from the Black History Collection at any point during the library’s core opening hours of 11 am – 7 pm Monday & Tuesday and 11 am – 5 pm Wednesday to Saturday.

Paul Taylor

The Friends of Charles Parker

The Friends of the Charles Parker Trust will hold their annual general meeting on Thursday 20 October 2016 in the Heritage Learning Space, Floor 4, Library of Birmingham,    3.30pm – 5.00pm.

Phil Maguire, a new Trustee of the Charles Parker Trust will speak about his work as founding chief executive of the Prison Radio Association (PRA). The PRA is a charity set up in 2006 following pilot project based at BBC Birmingham and HMP Birmingham (better known locally as Winson Green prison). In a feature on literacy and publishing in prisons on 17 Feb 2008, the Independent reported that the Prison Radio Association had been launched at Winson Green in July 2006, with the aim of providing training to prisoners to help with communications and literacy within prisons.

H.M. Prisons, Winson Green, Prison Library [WK/W16/123]

H.M. Prison, Winson Green, Prison Library.
[WK/W16/123]

The Prison Radio Association aims to contribute to a reduction in reoffending by using the power of radio. The National Prison Radio is the world’s first national radio station for prisoners; made by prisoners, for prisoners. The most important issues faced by prisoners are featured in daily programmes and social action campaigns which focus on issues of particular importance or urgency. Campaigns have included drug and alcohol awareness, smoking, learning to read. Partnership projects have included provision of information and advice on issues of domestic violence, housing, employability, keeping healthy, etc.

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‘Allotments for the unemployed’

WK-M6-49 Moorgreen allotments 1933

Moor Green allotments 1933 (WK/M6/49)

During the inter-war years, when unemployment was rising, one method of support to unemployed men and their families came from the Religious Society of Friends. The ‘allotments for the unemployed’ scheme was set up in South Wales in 1926 to allow unemployed miners to provide fresh vegetables for their families, as well as providing them with a sense of purpose and what Joan Mary Fry, clerk of the Central Friends Allotment Committee described as ‘useful creative interests’ (Report of some of the work of the Society of Friends in distressed areas in Great Britain, 1926-1932).

The scheme proved extremely popular, and supported by a government grant, spread throughout deprived areas of Great Britain. However, in 1931, the scheme came under threat when financial support from the government ceased. The Central Friends Allotments Committee issued an appeal for funds. In December 1931 in Birmingham, in response to the appeal, Hall Green Quaker meeting suggested to the regional Friends Warwickshire North Monthly Meeting that a local appeal could be made via a radio broadcast. The Monthly Meeting asked Florence Barrow (1876 – 1964), a Quaker relief worker who was involved in many social welfare activities in the city in this period, to arrange the radio appeal.

Hall Green PM minutes Dec 6 1931 re allotments

Hall Green Preparative Meeting minute concerning a radio broadcast appeal, 6 December 1931 (SF/3/12/1/1)

In the same month, Alderman Thomas Quinney, a member of the Society of Friends and also chair of Birmingham City Council’s Allotments Committee, proposed to that Committee that they discuss how the council could help unemployed men establish themselves as allotment gardeners. He put forward the idea that ‘an unemployed man should be assisted in connection with his rent for a period or that he might be helped with the provision of tools at a moderate cost’ (Birmingham City Council Allotments Committee minute 2594, 10th December 1931, BCC/1/CA/1/1/4). Continue reading

Fancy a piece of cake?

Image from the Baskerville Bible. [EFP 255458/1826]

Image from the Baskerville Bible.
[EFP 255458/1826]

Would you be able to decipher the following recipe? Scripture cakes are a bit like a crossword. You need to know what the lines of the Bible refer to in order to work out the ingredients. These cakes were popular in the 19th century in Britain and America and were used to teach young girls how to bake and learn the Bible at Sunday School. This recipe has the actual ingredients followed by the Bible references:

The Home Mission Book of recipes, Printed 1909 [MS 4082,]

The Home Mission Book of recipes, Printed 1909
[MS 4082]

One cupful of butter: Judges, Chapter 5, Verse 25;

3½ cupsful of flour: 1st of Kings, 4-22;

2 cupsful of sugar: Jeremiah, 6-20;

2 cupsful of raisins:  1st of Samuel, 30-12;

2 cupsful of figs: 1st of Samuel, 30-12;

1 cupful of dates: Genesis, 24–17;

1 cupful of almonds: Genesis, 43-11;

6 eggs: Isiah, 10-14;

1 tablespoonful of honey: Exodus, 16-31;

A pinch of salt: Leviticus, 2-13;

Spices to taste: 1st of Kings, 10-10;

2 tablespoonful of baking powder: 1st of Corinthians, 5-6;

Follow Solomon’s advice for making a good boy and you will make a good cake: Proverbs, chapter 23, Verse 14.

Method: proceed as in ordinary rules for cake making: fruits and nuts last of all; raisins should be seeded; figs chopped; almonds blanched and sliced; as well floured to prevent sinking to the bottom.

So if you are not too full of Christmas cake, why not give this a go?!