Christmas Delights!

Christmas trees are being decorated, cards are being sent, and the sales of Baileys are suddenly soaring. Not wanting to be the humbugs hiding in the archive, we’ve decided to put together a small display in Kirkby Library of Christmas related documents from our collections.

christmas robins postcard front

Some uncomfortable looking Christmas robins

Included in the exhibition are four Christmas cards, all from during, or shortly after, the First World War. The earliest of these is a card sent by a man serving in the Royal Flying Corps to his daughter back home in Huyton. The straight-forward monochrome design of the card, featuring an image of fighter planes circling that must have intrigued the young girl when she opened the card, contrasts with a more saccharine image of three robins sent shortly after the end of the war in 1918; although the fact that the robins appear to be stuck within a parcel filled with jagged holly leaves does add a peculiar note to the picture. The third card is one that incorporates a strangely blurred image of a cottage surrounded by a decidedly un-Christmassy summer garden. The nature of the blurring is reminiscent of 3D pictures, but could be the result of some kind of production error. Either way, a father at some point, probably in the 1920s, selected the card to send to one of his children. The fourth card is a Christmas message sent from the Huyton Vicarage in 1949 with the “heartiest” greetings from the Rev. W.H. Lewis and his wife and would probably have been received by many Huyton residents at the time.

Huyton’s Parish Magazine was keen to share some household tips with its female readers in 1959. Alongside recipes (Chunky Cake, anyone?) on the page we have scanned for display, readers could also learn how to remove soot fall from carpets (presumably after Father Christmas had dropped down a tight chimney); solve the “problem” of toddler’s shoe laces; and discover how to stop pans boiling over (smear the top edges with butter apparently*). There were also some “Christmas Specials;” and if you’ve ever wanted to add “glamour” to your Christmas parcels then you need to read this!**

cross typed xmas message crop

A high-tech Christmas message from Cross International

The offices and factory of Cross International in Kirkby were very keen on Christmas in the 1970s and our exhibition features three documents telling the story of their Christmas celebrations in 1971. As well as a photograph showing the children of staff members working their way through mountains of cake and wearing novelty hats at a party, we’ve offered a taste of what their parents were up to with the menu for their impressive looking Christmas Dinner Dance (if anyone’s ever had Cranberry Peach Boats, we’d love to know more). Cross International were a cutting edge company and they knew how to show off to colleagues and fellow companies across the globe. Why send a boring old Christmas card (that was so 1960s) when you can send a state of the art message where the very letters of the words are made up entirely of the word ‘Cross’? It’s a wonderful document that hints at the excitement that new, rapidly-evolving electronic technology offered, as well as the confidence of an international business.

School logbooks can make fascinating reading, providing a revealing insight into the daily troubles, successes and challenges of school life. For this Christmas themed exhibition, we’ve included copies of two pages from the logbook of Whiston County Infants School. The first is from the Christmas period of 1938-39 and, as well as notes on the impact of snow fall (“attendance 52%”) in the New Year, it records that children were sent home for the Christmas break with milk vouchers. The second page, from 1953-54, features, alongside an alarming number of staff illnesses, an entry regarding the Christmas party to which, we can all be reassured to know, “Father Christmas arrived in good time.” Knowing Santa’s usual method of arrival, we’ll have to hope that school staff were already aware of how to remove soot fall from carpets, as it would be another few years before the Huyton magazine published that gem.

The exhibition will remain up at Kirkby Library until at least the 8th of January 2016. The library’s opening hours are Monday, Tuesday, Friday: 10am-5pm; Thursday and Saturday: 10am-1pm. The library is closed all day on Wednesdays. During the Christmas period, the Library is closed from the 23rd December 2015 until the 4th January 2016, with the exception of Tuesday 29th December, when it is open as normal.

*If someone gets the chance to test this, please report back with results!

**For those of you too far away to visit Kirkby, its all to do with ribbons saved from chocolate boxes…

Postcards from the Past

Collections of correspondence can be a fascinating source of historical information and provide a wealth of cultural and social context. They can reveal forgotten friendships, romances and feuds; or offer the evidence needed to piece together a family’s history or business dealings. For me, this sense of a family’s world pulling into focus is made all the sharper when much of the correspondence is conducted via greetings cards and postcards.

park rd huyton image

Many of the postcards capture Huyton as our correspondent would have known it growing up, such as this one of Park Road.

Here in Knowsley Archives, we have a collection of personal documents, currently being digitised thanks to Heritage Lottery funding, that belonged to a woman brought up in Huyton. Born in 1914, just as the small community (as it was then) of Huyton and the wider world was about to be forcibly and irrevocably changed by the First World War, she grew up during the inter-war years and was able to travel extensively across Europe during the mid to late 1930s, making friends in the different nations she visited and then keeping in touch with postcards written in French, German and English. We also know from correspondence that she became actively involved with the Liverpool Women Police Patrols. In 1939, of course, her life was again dramatically affected by war. This time, her younger brother joined up and was killed in 1944. The surviving correspondence allows us to see the warm, gently teasing relationship the siblings had and the terrible devastation wrought by her brother’s death upon herself, her family and their friends in Huyton.

Clearly, the information detailed above survives because of the written word, but it is often given extra meaning and can offer further levels of understanding when the correspondence has been conducted using postcards and greeting cards. The writing itself can tell us about the correspondent’s state of mind; we may wonder why some would write so much, often resorting to filling every available space on the back of a postcard, and others would keep their note to a brief, sometimes terse couple of lines. During the Tommy sleeping in the ruins postcard 1917First World War, our young girl’s father (who was serving in the Royal Flying Corps) would send very brief postcards to his wife, often with the message “letter to follow,” but much more detailed postcards to his young daughter, telling her his reaction to news she (or her mother) had passed on and how much he looked forward to seeing her again soon. There is a marked difference in the types of images used to illustrate the cards he sends to his wife and his daughter. For his wife, he often selects postcards that portray the ravages of the war upon Europe: bomb-damaged streets and buildings torn apart. Occasionally these may have a hint of humour to them, such as the card shown above that captures a Tommy resting on a bed amongst the ruins.

The postcards and greeting cards the father would send to his daughter are often chosen
because he hopes she will find them pretty. Towards the end of the war, we can gather
that they were exchanging cards that made them smile; each trying to outdo the other with cuter or more farcical images. We are very lucky that cards written by both the father and the daughter have survived to be part of this collection, so we can wonder if the “comical” card her father expresses surprise at receiving is the one of the girl dressing in front of her dog below. When he sends the card showing the girl floating in the tub he suggests that his daughter is more mischievous than the girl in the illustration and would pull the fish’s tail.

dog and little girl postcard c 1918

The caption reads: “Donald, you should look the other way when a lady’s dressin’!”

'any subtureens mr fish' postcard 1919

The caption reads “Any Subtureens Mr. Fish?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Following the First World War (which her father survived), our correspondent enters into correspondence with people from across Europe. In particular, we have a number of postcards sent to her by a German man. These are interesting documents as pieces of correspondence (made all the more intriguing by the fact that we have no postcards from him following the outbreak of war, so do not know what happened to their relationship), and also offer a visual representation of the pre-Second World War Germany. It is a shame that we are not able to see the postcards that she was sending to Germany – what image of Britain did they present, I wonder?

postcard Bernkastel 1939

Postcard from Bernkastel-Kues, Germany, 1939

postcard from Goppingen 1937

Postcard from Goppingen, Germany, 1937

Unfortunately, our collection of correspondence peters out after the Second World War. Other family documents are included in the collection, but there is a special power to these postcards and greeting cards that give us a tantalising glimpse into the life of one family during the first of the twentieth century. A card that may have been selected randomly or with great care can be so much more than a simple exchange of words; it can help to present a far more detailed picture of the world these people lived in and the way that they, and others, perceived it.

Name That Tune…

In our last post, I mentioned Thomas Watkin’s music book. This 19th century manuscript contains hundreds of folk tunes, providing most with a title and writing out, in beautiful, clear script the music for each. Thanks to our Heritage Lottery funding, the whole manuscript has now been digitised and we’re very HMB crop_tunesexcited about the prospect of working with local musicians to bring the music to life at some point in 2016. Of course, if we’re going to perform a selection of the tunes, it would be useful to know which tunes are available to choose from. At some point in the manuscript’s life, one scribe has at least started to make the effort to index the contents. It could be that they only got so far before giving up on the task or that there are several pages missing from the book, but, either way, we now only have a two page index listing 69 of the tunes. Exactly how many tunes are in the manuscript is not yet known, but given that those 69 tunes only cover 16 of the document’s 152 pages, there is still a long way to go to complete the index!

HMB crop_indexOne of the tasks some of our fantastic volunteers will be getting on with is completing the index of tunes. However, this isn’t always such a straightforward undertaking, as the titles are written in a few different hands and how decipherable they are varies
massively. Add to this the fact that the ink has faded in some places and this is no simple transcription!

The legibility of the handwriting might not be the only thing that will slow our progress completing the index. Some of the language used in the titles can be surprisingly, erm, ‘choice’ to our modern sensibilities! Folk tune titles featuring swear-words is actually fairly common, but it can still be a little startling to be calmly transcribing a 19th century music book that contains titles such as “Pretty Betty” or “Love in a Village” and come HMB crop_tuneacross a four letter word that can still cause considerable offence if it is used in the media today. Perhaps the language used in the titles acts a clue to the kinds of environments and audiences many of the tunes were intended for. Then again, maybe we underestimate how common swearing was in the past or how the level of offence caused by certain words may have altered at different points in our history. Whatever the case, there’s definitely a lot more in these pages than some nice tunes…

And no, it doesn’t matter how hard you look, the pictures on this blog do not include the folk tunes with risque titles!

A Small Taste of the Archives

CPatwVMWgAAwDoYFollowing our previous exhibition of artworks and archive materials relating to our first two Heritage Lottery funded projects, we have used some of the exhibition space here at Kirkby Library to display a small selection of the archive documents that have been digitised as a result of our Heritage Lottery grant.

Our three year Heritage Lottery grant has allowed us to develop the community engagement side of our work: facilitating nine projects that relate to different aspects of our archive collections and will be planned and delivered in partnership with a diverse range of Knowsley’s communities. Alongside this, we are in the process of creating an online catalogue and digitising a large portion of our collections. The nine items currently on display are part of this digitisation programme.

The display highlights documents from the 14th to the 20th century, covering different aspects of Knowsley’s history and the people who have lived and worked here.

Included is a 1715 list of taxes collected from Tarbock land-owners that provides antax collection thumbnail
example of local Catholics (or ‘Papists’ as they are referred to) having to pay twice as much as other rate-payers. This includes the Catholic at the head of the list, the Right Honourable Lord Molyneux.

The little-known Kirkby Amateur Dramatics Society are represented with a scan from their home-made 1935-36 photo album, chronicling the construction of sets for their plays and the performances themselves. The members have added a charming touch to the album by selecting quotes from the plays they staged to caption the photographs.

As with so many repositories, Knowsley Archives has a significant number of Bastardy Bonds. On display is an order from 1734 identifying one Richard Quick of Halewood as the father of Tarbock resident Ann Wyke’s unborn child and ordering him to pay towards the upbringing of the child.

huyton reel thumbnailAnother less well-known item in our collection we are drawing attention to is a music book handwritten and compiled at some point in the mid-19th century by a surveyor in Huyton called Thomas Watkin. The book is a beautiful document put together with real love and care and provides a fascinating glimpse into the folk tunes that ordinary people living in the area may have been listening and dancing along to.

Whilst only a small display, we hope this temporary exhibition will give visitors a hint of the diversity of our collections and encourage people to come and ask us questions and view some of the original documents.