Find Out More About Knowsley’s Incredible History!

Photo credit: John Wakefield

It’s that special time of year again! No, not quite Christmas, but it is coming up to the Explore Your Archives Launch Week (18-26 November 2017).

Explore Your Archives is a campaign coordinated jointly by the National Archives and the Archives and Records Association to promote awareness of the fantastic treasures and remarkable histories housed within archives across the UK. Many archives take the opportunity to promote different aspects of their collections and encourage people to come and find out more about their local repositories – and we’re no exception!

This year, visitors can find out more about Knowsley Archives and some of the amazing things we look after by coming along to a few different activities at our base, the ARK, in Kirkby and across the Knowsley borough. See below for a list of what’s on offer, with times and locations.

  • Our popular Family History Help Desks will be visiting each of Knowsley’s Libraries. No appointment is necessary, you can just call in during the times and venues below and get some expert advice on exploring your family tree. Whether you’re just starting out, have reached a particularly tricky point in your research, or want to talk over your findings, our expert, Rob, will be able to help you out!

Tuesday 21st November: 

10am-1pm – PRESCOT LIBRARY                2pm-5pm – STOCKBRIDGE LIBRARY

Thursday 23rd November:

10am-1pm – KIRKBY LIBRARY                2pm-5pm – HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Friday 24th November:

2pm-5pm – HALEWOOD LIBRARY

Saturday 25th November:

10am-1pm – HUYTON LIBRARY

  • If you’d like to find out more about the ARK and the wonderful archive collections we hold there, why not come along to a guided introduction, where you will have the chance to explore some of our most interesting items!

Tuesday 21st November:

10am-1pm or 2pm-4pm at the ARK, KIRKBY LIBRARY in the Kirkby Centre

  • If sitting down and watching films is more your thing, we’ll be showing a selection of Knowsley-themed films from our collections, including some of the films made as part of our Heritage Lottery funded community projects that explore our borough’s rich and varied history with local communities. We’ll also be sharing some rarely-seen archive footage from across the borough.

Friday 24th November:

10am-1pm or 2pm-4pm at the ARK, KIRKBY LIBRARY in the Kirkby Centre

We hope you’ll be able to join us at some point during the week, but if you can’t make it and want to come and visit the ARK another time, just get in touch! If you’re not local to the ARK and are wondering what is going on for Explore Your Archives closer to home, take a look at the Explore Your Archive website.

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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 21st 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

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.

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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.