It’s all about the analogue…

During our recent stock take, we uncovered a forgotten slide show presentation mounted in a carousel. After a quick inspection, we realised that we also had a script, dated 1990, filed away in a cabinet which just might offer information on the slides. Indeed, the script described, in great detail, the listed buildings and conservation areas of Knowsley as they were in 1990, compiled by T.W. Scragg. Tom was for many years the Library Service’s greatly respected Principal Reference Librarian, who during his career had taken a great interest in local history and was something of an expert in the field.

 

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This view of Market Place, Prescot in 1809 is from a painting presented by F W Halsall Esq. and is one of the slides in the presentation

Fortunately, Mr Scragg had left a complete list of the slides alongside the script and we found, to our great delight, that the images matched perfectly – to a point. The carousel was full, but according to the printed material, there were still a further 11 slides, representing the townships of Tarbock and Halewood, missing from the sequence. What to do? There are many slides in the archive, a number of which are unlisted. In time, we will catalogue all of the slides, but in that moment, it seemed to be an almost insurmountable task to identify and retrieve the missing images.

So began the process of reviewing the collection, starting with a box of miscellaneous items curiously entitled ‘Somebody’s Holiday Snaps.’ Within the box was a folder of obviously library focused material and a small slide box which was unlabelled, but contained individual slides bearing Library Service reference numbers. Could these be the missing slides from Mr Scragg’s tour of Knowsley? An inspection of the slides revealed that they were indeed the elusive 11, and we promptly set about reuniting the collection.

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Not all of the listed sites in Knowsley are buildings: the Stocks at Cronton, pictured in 1906, are Grade II listed and feature in the presentation

It is fascinating to compare the properties singled out for consideration 27 years ago with Historic England’s National Heritage List for England, the current register of nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England. In Knowsley, there are some 121 listed buildings and monuments, ranging from the Grade II listed Dovecote – known locally as the Pigeon House – on Whitefield Drive in Kirkby and the grand family seat of the Earls of Derby, Knowsley Hall (Grade 2*) to the only Grade I building in the borough, the Church of St Mary on Church Street, Prescot. To break the numbers down, there is 1 Grade I building (St Mary’s, Prescot); 4 Grade II* (Church of St Michael, Huyton; St Chad’s Church, Kirkby; St Mary’s Church, Knowsley and Knowsley Hall) and the remaining 116 listed at Grade II. Some of the buildings noted by Mr Scragg have since been demolished or re-purposed whereas others, such as St Chad’s, have seen their heritage status enhanced. The presentation gives us an opportunity to reflect on how the borough’s building stock has evolved through the intervening years and how our historic buildings add value to our understanding of the past and offer a real,tangible link to our heritage.

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Another image from the slide show: the Norman font, St Chad’s Church, Kirkby

So: we aim to recreate the presentation in the ARK to share with local historians, using the original script, slides and slide projector, as part of Local History Month. The 1990 Pop-Up Slide Show will take place on Wednesday 19th April 2017, starting at 10:30am until 12:30pm. The session will run for up to 2 hours, with light refreshments available and an opportunity to discuss comparisons with today’s landscape and to explore original archive materials.

The event is free of charge, but as space is limited in the ARK search room, you can avoid disappointment by booking a place in advance. Contact the ARK, 1st Floor, The Kirkby Centre, Norwich Way, Kirkby L32 8XYon 0151 443 4291 or email infoheritage@knowsley.gov.uk.

 

Family History Help Desks 2017

As previous blogs have described, Knowsley Archives provide a series of Family History Help Desks in libraries across the borough every month. If you are new to family history research, or are trying to find your way through the maze of information and resources, expert advice and guidance is available to help you on your way.

If you would like support with your family history research, staff at the ARK – Knowsley Archives’ base in Kirkby Library – are available to help during our opening hours (see sidebar on the right), but the Family History Help Desks are an opportunity to get support at a time and location that may be more convenient for you.

Sessions are run on a drop-in basis. We will do our best to answer your questions on the day, but more complicated queries may need to be followed up after your visit or require an additional appointment.

Sessions remaining for the rest of 2017 are as follows:

PRESCOT LIBRARY

Tuesday

10am-1pm

STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY

Tuesday

2pm-5pm

KIRKBY LIBRARY

Thursday

10am-1pm

HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Friday

2pm-5pm

HUYTON LIBRARY

Saturday

10am-1pm

14th March 14th March 16th March 17th March 18th March
11th April 11th April 13th April 14th April 15th April
9th May 9th May 11th May 12th May 13th May
6th June 6th June 8th June 9th June 10th June
4th July 4th July 6th July 7th July 8th July
1st August 1st August 3rd August 4th August 5th August
29th August 29th August 31st August 1st September 26th August
26th September 26th September 28th September 29th September 30th September
24th October 24th October 26th October 27th October 28th October
21st November 21st November 23rd November 24th November 25th November
12th December 12th December 14th December 15th December 16th December

Family History Help Desk Week

Each month, Knowsley Archives run a series of Family History Help Desks in libraries across the borough. If you are new to family history research, or are trying to find your way through the maze of information and resources, expert advice and guidance is available to help you on your way.

If you would like support with your family history research, staff at the ARK – Knowsley Archives’ base in Kirkby Library – are available to help during our opening hours (see sidebar on the right), but the Family History Help Desks are an opportunity to get support at a time and location that may be more convenient for you.

Sessions are run on a drop-in basis. We will do our best to answer your questions on the day, but more complicated queries may need to be followed up after your visit or require an additional appointment.

Sessions remaining for the rest of 2016 are as follows:

PRESCOT LIBRARY Tuesday      10am-1pm STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY Tuesday        2pm-5pm KIRKBY LIBRARY Thursday    10am-1pm HALEWOOD LIBRARY    Friday           2pm-5pm HUYTON LIBRARY Saturday     10am-1pm
18th October 2016 18th October 2016 20th October 2016 21st October 2016 22nd October 2016
15th November 2016 15th November 2016 17th November 2016 18th November 2016 19th November 2016
13th December 2016 13th December 2016 15th December 2016 16th December 2016 17th December 2016

Roll Out The Barrell: Discovering the Huyton Cricket Club

Anyone who has been following our Twitter (@knowsleyarchive) posts over the past few months may have been bowled over by a sudden surge of cricket related tweets and images popping up on our timeline. As you may have spotted, the reason for them is because, thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding, I have been cataloguing and digitising the wonderful records of the Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club. Despite having always been stumped by cricket and my Dad failing to hand over his love of the game to me, this is a collection that’s really hit me for six (okay, okay, I promise that will be the last cricket pun).

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Huyton Cricket Club First XI, c. 1886

Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club was formed at a meeting on 7 May 1860, with their first match taking place just a few weeks later against Bootle Cricket Club and they would go on to become a successful club in the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition (as it would become known). Nicknamed ‘the Villagers’, they were moderately successful at different points in their history, with the early 1920s an especially triumphant period. The club was established as a ‘gentlemen’s’ club and during the majority of its history the membership would have been regarded as of a higher social status than some of the other Huyton cricket clubs, such as the Huyton and Roby Working Men’s Cricket and Bowling Club or Huyton Recs.

The records in the collection include committee minutes, some very colourfully decorated scrapbooks (see slideshow below), photographs from across the history of the club, fixture books, and correspondence. The minutes, particularly from the first eighty or so years of the club, are filled with tantalising glimpses of some of the intriguing characters involved in the club, on and off the field. They also offer fascinating insights into how the club reacted to major events, both close to and far away from Huyton, including the First and Second World Wars. It is during the First World War that we have the first mention of a man who would become a central part of the cricket club’s most successful playing period and remain with the club, in various roles, until his retirement: Ben Barrell.

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Barrell was signed up as a cricket professional at some point close to the outbreak of the First World War and he is referenced in the committee minutes of June 10th, 1915:

“the secretary mentioned that he had received complaints about the club employing two men of military age. The recruiting sergeant had visited the two men in question and urged them to join. It was decided that Mr. H. Eccles [the Chair] should quietly tell the men it was their duty to join, but that no pressure would be put upon them.”

Barrell was one of those two men and he did indeed soon leave to fight in the war. Both men survived the war and Barrell would return to Huyton Cricket Club. It is easy to see from the club’s committee minutes and crammed scrapbooks of newspaper cuttings that Barrell was a very talented player and an essential part of the club’s greatest successes. He was often the only professional player at the club and was an asset they were proud of. It is rare to find a page in the scrapbooks of the 1920s and 1930s that doesn’t feature a headline or article proclaiming this all-rounder’s name, typically in the matter-of-fact and understated tones of sports journalism in this period: “Barrell Bowls and Bats Well” or “Barrell in Bright Batting Display.”

In photographs, Barrell has remarkable, intense eyes that could suggest he was an intimidating opponent and teammate, but the picture of him created by the records in our collection instead show him to be a popular and well-liked presence both on and off the pitch. According to P.N. Walker’s book The Liverpool Competition, Barrell was made “a life member of the Club, became 1st XI umpire and played bowls there until his death at the age of 80” and was also groundsman and a coach. Alongside these duties and being the club’s professional (and best?) player, Barrell’s other responsibilities included preparing and cleaning the team’s kits and packing their bags before matches.1

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Ben Barrell, 1926

Ben Barrell, and other professionals who were signed up by Huyton, may have had relatively humble beginnings, but most of the amateurs who played for the team (at least during its first 100 years or so) were solidly middle or upper-middle class. In many of the photographs we have from the club’s early days and most successful periods, players appear relaxed and confident, with an air of leisurely comfort; a cigarette may be hanging casually between the fingers of one or two, or they lounge at the side of a road on the way to a match, a beautiful motor car in the background. A selection of these photographs are in the slideshow below.

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When trying to get an idea of Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club at different points in its history, the many scrapbooks in this collection are excellent resources. Alongside the match reports, articles, fixture books, and photographs, there are a number of delightful newspaper caricatures of Huyton’s cricket players: a frequent feature of sports columns in local papers at the time. As well as being amusing to look at, they also offer an insight into which of the players were catching the eyes of the local sports reporters and, presumably, the spectators. Some of the cartoons make use of curious illustrations that may be references that would have made more sense to the readers of that period, or could be references to cricketing terminology that goes over my head! The donkey and teddy bear in the Bootle v Huyton cartoon in the slideshow below, for example, could be references to the players’ performances or something else entirely! And what of the white mice in the Wallasey v Huyton cartoon?

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The Huyton Cricket and Bowling Club collection is a wonderful and evocative set of documents. At some point during the next year or so, one of our Heritage Lottery funded community projects will be focused on Knowsley’s sporting heritage, so I am sure we will be making use of the collection and hopefully giving people the chance to see more of the treasures within it. To not make use of it when such an opportunity presents itself would be…well, it just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?

1Walker, P.N. 1988. The Liverpool Competition: A Study of the Development of Cricket on Merseyside. Birkenhead: Countyvise Limited, p. 77

Calling St. Gregory’s School for Girls, Kirkby…

Earlier this year, we were very fortunate to receive an interesting donation which recalled the work of Miss Mary Thomas, the former Head of the House Craft Department at St. Gregory’s Roman Catholic Comprehensive School for Girls in Kirkby. Born in 1925, she was a dedicated teacher and later, founder in 1987 of the older peoples’ charity, Dark Horse Venture. She spent many years at St. Gregory’s and this collection recalls her work there.

Invitation to attend the 'A Right Handful' exhibition, 1979

Invitation to attend the ‘A Right Handful’ exhibition, 1979

After gaining her teaching qualification, Miss Thomas began her career at the Bovington Secondary Modern School in Dorset, followed by a spell in Tunbridge Wells and then a stint at a rural school in Sussex. St. Gregory’s Girls’ School opened in September 1958 on the same site as St. Laurence’s School, which had previously opened as a mixed establishment for boys and girls in the newly developed town of Kirkby in 1956. The two came together in 1963, when Miss Thomas was offered and accepted the post of Head of the Housecraft Department at St. Gregory’s, where she was responsible for 12 housecraft rooms, 6 needlework rooms and a team of 14 teaching staff. She introduced ‘Mothercraft’ as a taught subject, educating the pupils in all aspects of parenthood, from conception within marriage to all aspects of caring for a child – often using the girls’ baby brothers and sisters to demonstrate the practical skills required. An exhibition – ‘A Right Handful’ – organised by Miss Thomas at the Kirkby Civic Buildings (now the Kirkby Centre, home of The ARK) celebrated the International Year of the Child, 1979 and highlighted the students’ achievements.

Volunteering with Meals on Wheels

Year Four pupils volunteering with the W.R.V.S. Meals on Wheels Service

Miss Thomas also made sure that the pupils were involved in their own community. She organised the Fourth Year girls in volunteering with the W.R.V.S. Meals on Wheels Service in Kirkby, helping to deliver hot meals to older people and also fundraising for the cause: it was reported that the students raised £33.00 and purchased a large aluminium food container and dishes which were presented to the W.R.V.S. by Miss Thomas and a group of pupils.

She eventually retired from  the school in 1983, but not before she had established a vibrant, forward thinking department which prepared the students for real life. Many will remember her saying: ‘If you want to make something of yourself you can. Take command of your life.’

The collection of materials looks at her time teaching at the school, including a scrapbook, colour and black and white photographs and negatives, newspaper cuttings and examples of posters for a child care exhibition involving pupils from St. Gregory’s as part of the Year of the ChilMary Thomas collection, Kirkbyd in 1979. Miss Thomas has also deposited a copy of her autobiography, ‘So there you are…’ published through the Small Wonders Community Programme. Thanks are due to Mike Ravey, who deposited the collection on behalf of Miss Thomas.

We are currently holding an an exhibition of items from the collection which can be viewed at Kirkby Library during normal opening hours – and with Mike’s assistance, we’ll be hosting an open afternoon for ex-pupils which will be attended by Miss Thomas herself. This will take place on Thursday 9th June 2016 – do get in touch if you’d like more information.

Mr. Clark’s Wonderful Album

If I tell people that we have Victorian family photographs in the ARK, many imagine they know what to expect: stiff collars, stiff backs, stiff upper-lips and stiff poses. Whilst there are indeed photographs in our archives that show Victorians staring firmly at the camera or looking as though they would rather be anywhere but in front of a camera; we are also lucky enough to have some wonderful 19th and early 20th century photos that gleefully disregard their period’s reputation for dour frowns and rigid stances. One such collection is Mr. J.R.J. Clark’s photograph album, containing pictures taken between 1899 and 1900, which has recently been catalogued and digitised thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding. To highlight the work done during the digitisation process of the album, a small exhibition of images from the album has been put together in Kirkby Library.

Mr. Clark’s group portraits are almost always of people laughing and enjoying themselves

Mr. Clark and his young family lived in Huyton during this period and were clearly a wealthy family. Mr. Clark’s father had been the proprietor of the Lancashire Gazette newspaper and his son, it seems, had trained and worked in law before retiring from the profession at a relatively young age. As our photograph album demonstrates, Mr. Clark used much of his free time to take holidays, enjoy sporting and leisure activities, and pursue an interest in photography. It should be noted that at least some of the pictures are likely to have been taken by other photographers, particularly as Mr. Clark features in some of the images.

CLAR-1-1 p38 a

This photograph shows three children with two adults who we assume to be household servants. Mr. Clark’s album unfortunately provides no information as to who they were or what their household roles were.

Mr. Clark’s photographs are all exterior shots (where the light, of course, was better) and so all of the images of his Huyton home are outside and usually in the garden. Judging by the fruit and vegetables growing in pots – not to mention the types of clothing people are wearing – these garden photos were taken on warm spring or summer days. As well as family members and friends, household servants weren’t safe from Mr. Clark’s roving camera. Amongst the photographs in the album, there are shots of servants on their own and some where they are shown alongside family members, especially the children. The handwritten captions within the album are unfortunately very erratic, with very few details provided beyond the odd date and location, so we cannot easily identify all of the individuals in the pictures, including the servants and their specific roles.

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Holidays, both overseas and in the UK, were clearly something of a regular occurrence for the Clark family. The majority of the photographs have been taken whilst on holiday although, as mentioned above, it isn’t always easy to identify locations because most of the pictures don’t have captions. Confirmed locations for holidays include: the Isle of Man; South Devon (Dartmouth, Dawlish, Teignmouth and Exeter were all photographed); York; Fountains Abbey, Ripon; and Paris. Holiday photography provided Mr. Clark (and any other unidentified photographers) with the opportunity to try their hand at landscape images and many of these are very interesting as compositions in their own right and for the wealth of historical information they convey. Despite this, however, the camera’s gaze is still normally focussed on the family and friends’ enjoyment of their time together and the varied activities they involved themselves in.

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This photograph was probably taken somewhere in South Devon, c. 1899

An enthusiasm for sport and other leisure activities, including hunting, is evident from Mr. Clark’s photographs. There are pictures that have been taken of friends and family taking part in sports and images of sporting events, such as show jumping and cricket matches at Aigburth Cricket Club, Liverpool (including a match between Liverpool and District and an Australian team). In other pictures, people pose with golf clubs or croquet mallets, and there is a whole series of photos of people with their hunting guns.

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Children in Paris, c. 1899-1900

One of the other notable things about many of the photographs is their spontaneity and creativity. The photographer[s] tried to capture events and moments as they saw them, often resulting in some dynamic and impressive images, such as the photo (right) of children running along a street in Paris. Experimentation is also evident in some of the photographs. In particular, there is a photograph (below) that is a double-exposed image of Norwegian naval cadets in Dartmouth combined with a picture of a lifeboat in Teignmouth.

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Double-exposed image, Dartmouth and Teignmouth, Devon, October 1899

The people in almost all the images in Mr. Clark’s photograph album always seem to be enjoying themselves, often laughing at some unknown joke or antic. Perhaps Mr. Clark, or whoever else was taking the picture, has said something to make everyone laugh or pulled a funny face. Whilst we will never know, I believe that seeing faces from the past showing their enjoyment of their environments and each others company is somehow more powerful and resonant than a formal photograph taken in a studio. It reminds us that whilst our surroundings, haircuts and clothes may have changed, when we’re snapping pictures of family, friends and holidays on our smart phones and digital cameras, we’re not really all that different from the people taking photographs over 100 years ago.

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The exhibition of images from Mr. Clark’s photograph album is currently on display at Kirkby Library during its normal opening hours.

Listening to Postcards

As detailed in an earlier blog, one of the collections that is being digitised and catalogued thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding is the personal collection of a family who used to live in Huyton and was deposited by a member of the family who had been born in 1914, shortly before the outbreak of war. Luckily for us, she was an habitual hoarder – keeping correspondence between herself, family members and friends, as well as various other family-related items. Included amongst the family’s business and personal documents are some fantastic postcards sent and received from the First World War through to the Second World War. My earlier post on this collection described how powerful and insightful these are and how they provide a fascinating glimpse into the relationships family members had with each other and their wider friendship and community networks. The combination of image and words that postcards bring together has a wonderful way of evoking voices, allowing us a rare opportunity to listen to the past.

Now that the digitisation and cataloguing of the postcards have been completed, we decided to put up a small display of duplicates, with labels providing interesting contextual information.

girl holding dog postcard 1918

Postcard from 1918 showing a young girl holding a dog

Four of the postcards are part of a chain between a father who was serving in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War and his young daughter (whose personal collection all of the items in the display come from). As described in an earlier post (‘Postcards from the Past’), the pair used to enjoy trying to outdo each other with cards that made them laugh or they found particularly cute – usually meaning pictures of little girls or sweet animals or, even more ideal, animals and children together!

Also from the First World War period, we have two cards that portray the devastation wrought by battle in Europe. Postcards with images of bombed ruins in France were popular towards the end of the First World War with British soldiers sending word home or to be purchased as a souvenir of the war. The postcard of Peronne we have selected (below, top) is one of several in this collection that was not sent to anyone, but brought back to England as, presumably, a memento. As ever, humorous cards were very popular to send home and our other card of war damage (below, bottom) provides a brilliantly incongruous image of a British soldier taking a nap on a bed amongst the ruins.

the little house postcard 1917

‘The Little House,’ Peronne, 1917

Tommy sleeping in the ruins postcard 1917

‘A Tommy Does A Sleep Amongst the Ruins,’ 1917

The postcards we have selected from the inter-war years reflect the social life of our depositor as she became a young woman who was lucky enough to travel across the country and visit parts of mainland Europe. From 1928, her elder sister, sends a beautiful image of the Blackpool Illuminations back home to her then-teenage sister, a reminder of both the long history of the Illuminations and the popularity of Blackpool as a short break destination for residents of Merseyside and the surrounding areas.

blackpool illuminations front

The Blackpool Illuminations, 1928

Our young woman’s correspondents during the 1930s include a German man who would send her postcards in English, French and German. Amongst these are two postcards of great historical significance. The first (below, top), from April 1938 and written in English with an image of Semmering, Austria, was sent from Vienna, Austria, shortly after Adolf Hitler had annexed the country and paraded triumphantly through the city. The sender uses apostrophes when writing how ‘happy’ his friends are to see Hitler there, possibly indicating that they were exactly the opposite. The second (below, bottom) has an image of the Rheinhotel Dreesen in Bad Godesberg, Germany, and was sent on 22nd September 1938. The German text contains references to Hitler and the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, as it was written and sent whilst historic meetings were taking place at the hotel between the pair that would, with hindsight, bring the Second World War one step closer.

postcard Semmering Polleroswand 1938

Semmering, Austria, 1938

bad godesberg front

Rheinhotel Dreesen, Bad Godesberg, 1938

The mini-exhibition of postcards can be viewed at Kirkby Library, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays: 10am – 5pm; Thursdays and Saturdays: 10am – 1pm. For any more information about the collection or to view the originals, please contact Knowsley Archives.