13 November 2015

Death & Demons season at Nottinghamshire Archives

Nottinghamshire Archives is running a series of talks this month under the banner of 'Death & Demons Season'. They promise 'stories of murder and dastardly deeds from letters and diaries held at [the] Archives, with tales of the macabre inspired by the county’s history.' The next talk is at 2.30pm on the 17 November and the third in the season is about John Darrell, the Mansfield-born 16th century exorcist and takes place on 25 November.

Further details are here: www.exploreyourarchive.org/category/east-midlands/

6 October 2015

New book: Secret Newark by Jillian Campbell and Mike Cox

The authors are members of Newark Archaeological and Local History Society which offers guided tours of the town for a wide range of groups: the book is based on information assembled for these tours. The book is 'is an attempt to set down and explain many of the little-known aspects' of  the town, is illustrated with many good colour photographs of its built heritage and is structured around several walks of Newark's interesting streets.

I grew up near Newark and know it well but I have learnt much from this book. I particularly liked the story about the stone ledge in a side passage next to a pub that was probably added to deter customers from urinating against the neighbour's wall! It was also interesting to read that a North American Phippeway Indian is buried in the parish church graveyard but no one knows why!

There are a couple of errors (the architect Fothergill Watson was born in Mansfield so can't be described as a native of Nottingham; the Moot Hall in the Market Square was completely rebuilt in the late 1960s rather than 'heavily restored') and I was surprised how little reference was made to Newark's brewing heritage and the lack of a mention of the large Anglo-Saxon cemetery in Millgate. I also think that a few maps showing the layout of the town and location of major landmarks would help visitors follow the walks.

Minor criticisms aside this is a useful and entertaining book and should help people appreciate the heritage of one of our most historic and attractive towns.

18 September 2015

Local History Seminars at Nottingham University

The Department of History has organised another series of local history seminars which will be held on the second Saturday of each month between October 2015 and March 2016, at Lenton Grove on the Nottingham University campus.

The first seminar on the 10 October includes two sessions: the first will discuss the £24m Heritage Lottery Fund redevelopment of Nottingham Castle; in the second session Dr Judith Mills will reflect on her recent research into Robin Hood.

Download the flier for further information.

25 August 2015

Heritage Open Days in Nottinghamshire, 10-13 September 2015

There's just over a fortnight until the launch of this year's Heritage Open Days.

As the website explains: "Heritage Open Days is England's biggest heritage festival involving 40,000 volunteers. It celebrates our fantastic history, architecture and culture; offering people the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences - all of which are FREE to explore."

There is a wide range of things to see in Nottinghamshire from St Anns Allotments (apparently 'the oldest and largest detached town gardens in Britain, possibly the world'!) to the Majestic Theatre in Retford.

Full details are available on the Heritage Open Days website.

13 August 2015

Sherwood Forest Historic Bus Tours

Mercian Archaeological Services CIC have added further heritage tours of Sherwood Forest Historic Bus Tours for September:

Nottingham: 4th September
Mansfield and Worksop: 24th September
Nottingham: 2nd October
Nottingham: 30th October

The tour includes Rufford Abbey, Sherwood Forest Nature Reserve, the Major Oak, King John's Palace and Newstead Abbey.

According to the press release the tour 'combines unrivalled local knowledge of historic Sherwood Forest with an opportunity to ride on board a vintage RouteMaster bus.'

Further information is available at www.sherwoodbustours.com

19 June 2015

New magazine launched: 'East Midlands History and Heritage'

A new magazine called East Midlands History and Heritage (EMHH) has been launched. It aims to 'uncover and publicise the wealth of interesting stories that lie untold about the region’s past, its people and places.'

See below for a press release from Nottingham Trent University giving further details.
Led by Nottingham Trent University, the magazine is aimed at anyone with an interest in history, whether through local history societies, schools and colleges, museums or simply as individuals or families.  The magazine will also welcome contributions from people who would like to write about their own history.

The first issue, available online now, focuses on the English Civil War.*  This coincides with the opening of the new National Civil War Centre at Newark. The Civil War was a brutal affair and the East Midlands played a critical role.  The region had strategic importance: it was a crossroad between north and south; armies marched across it back and forth.  It also endured several destructive sieges, which brought death and disease (and treachery and heroism).  The costs were high, and the long-term consequences profound in terms of disability and social and religious disruption.

The first two issues of EMHH will be available as hard copies in outlets such as local libraries, archives and the National Civil War Centre itself, as well as being downloadable from the website: eastmidlandshistory.org.uk/. The magazine will also be distributed to schools in the region.

Dr Nick Hayes, EMHH editor and reader in urban history at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Arts and Humanities, said: “There are so many interesting stories to tell about the history of this region. We want to make it a real community magazine, so we’re looking for stories from everyone with something to say – from family histories, to events, to school or community research projects. And we’re happy to help with this and to help you reach new, bigger audiences.”

The EMHH magazine is supported by universities, academic historians, archivists and museums specialists across the region. Hard copies of first issue will be available week commencing 15 June 2015.

* The magazine includes several articles on aspects of the Civil Wars in Nottinghamshire.

1 June 2015

Nottinghamshire History and Archaeology Day, Saturday 27 June 2015

The University of Nottingham Museum is holding the second Nottinghamshire History and Archaeology Day on Saturday 27th June.

The event is designed to display the wide and varied work taking place throughout Nottinghamshire by local history and archaeology societies, archaeological units, museums and other regional archaeological organisations. It will also include displays, handling of original material and talks.

The day is suitable for everyone including those with a general interest, people taking part in historical and archaeological work and those wanting to get involved.

Further details can be found on the Nottingham Lakeside Arts website.

9 May 2015

'Nottingham: a history' by Jill Armitage

'Nottingham: a history' by Jill Armitage is the latest Nottinghamshire history book to be published by Amberley. The author is a photo-journalist based near Derby and has previously produced a number of titles on aspects of Derbyshire history.
The book is nicely produced and well organised with clearly titled sections within each chapter. It also covers a very wide range of subjects. The chapters are a mixture of historical periods (e.g., 'Nottingham in the Twelfth Century') and themes (e.g., Crime and Punishment') which makes it fairly easy to find areas of interest, despite there being no index. There is also a good selection of illustrations.
My main reservation is that, while accepting that this is clearly intended to be a popular history rather than an academic work, there are very few mentions of the sources she has used and there is not even a page listing further reading.
More worrying is a use of out-of-date history books; for instance, the chapter on Roman Nottingham (which also covers the Anglo-Saxon period) cites James Orange's 1840 book on Nottingham as an authority. It surely would have been preferable to have used more recent source, like 'A Centenary History of Nottingham' (1997)?
A map of the key places and streets of the pre-1960s city would also have been useful.
Criticism aside it is clear the author has put a lot of work into the book and it does contains a wealth of information. It is a good book to dip into!

22 April 2015

Welbeck Abbey Tours, August 2015

Tours of the state rooms at Welbeck Abbey are being run again this year (in August) and tickets are now on sale.

The press release reads:
'Welbeck Abbey has been home of the Cavendish-Bentinck’s since 1607 and has evolved over the centuries. The tours take in the Abbey’s State Rooms, which were remodelled by Ernest George for Winifred, Duchess of Portland. The 6th Duke of Portland and Duchess Winifred  created a house fit for Edwardian high society, entertaining royalty, diplomats and statesmen.  
The tour is not only an opportunity to see these interiors, but also to see objects from Welbeck’s historic Portland Collection of art which decorate the State Rooms. Works on show in Welbeck Abbey’s State Rooms include pieces by Sir Peter Lely, John Wootton and Sir Joshua Reynolds. We will be opening a new Gallery to exhibit works from this astonishing collection next Spring.'
I took the tour a couple of years ago and would recommend taking the opportunity to see inside one of the least known stately homes in the county.

Further information and booking details are available here:

8 April 2015

Archaeological excavations at Nottingham Castle, Southwell and Kings Clipstone

There are a number of archaeological excavations taking place in Nottinghamshire this summer:
  • York Archaeological Trust's 'Archaeology Live!' training excavation from 27 July to 14 August will be examining the outer bailey of Nottingham Castle (more information from the Archaeology Live! website) and
  • Researching Roman Southwell ('an exciting, community-led project that aims ... to investigate the town’s Roman past while providing training and hands-on experience, and help local people to become involved in their local heritage') will be running a community excavation on Harvey's Field to the south-east of the minster (see the DigVentures website for more details)
  • Mercian Archaeological Services CIC are running a free community excavation at King John's Palace in Kings Clipstone in July and a Training Field School at the site in August (see the Mercian Archaeological Services CIC website for further details)

7 April 2015

Nottinghamshire Archives re-opens on 28 April 2015

Nottinghamshire Archives, currently closed while it is extended and refurbished as part of a £2.5m project, will re-open on the 28 April. According to the county council press release the building now has
  • 'additional space to accommodate new archives for decades to come, including specialist storage for photographs and digital media
  • a computerised building management system
  • an additional new meeting room/multi-purpose learning space
  • improved computer suite for accessing digital heritage, with free public wi-fi throughout the building.
There will be an 'Archives Fun Open Day' on 2 May 'with entertainment and activities for all the family'. The programme for the day will include:
  • 9am onwards Explore the new building, with a display of archives
  • 10.30am Official opening ceremony
  • 11am – 3pm Family activities: seal making, design your own coat of arms, dress up in historical costumes
  • 11.45am onwards Tours of the new building, go behind the scenes to discover more of the changes
  • 1pm Talk about historical fiction by writer Judith Alnatt 

6 April 2015

Nottinghamshire county records of the 17th century

The latest addition to my Nottinghamshire History website is 'Nottinghamshire County Records: Notes and Extracts from the Nottinghamshire County Records of the 17th Century', compiled by H. Hampton Copnall and published in 1915.

The material is drawn from the rich archives of the Quarter Sessions and reflects the incredibly wide range of business dealt with by the Justices of the Peace: the maintenance of highways and bridges, licensing alehouses, cases of bastardy and sexual 'incontinence', the administration of prisons and 'houses of correction', taking religious oaths of allegiance and the registration of nonconformist places of worship, misbehaviour in church and mole catching!

Some examples:
On the 3rd October, 1687, it was ordered that Will Jackson of Kirkby-in-Ashfield, labourer, 'being an idle, loose, light-fingered pilfering ffellow be conveyed to the House of Correction at Southwell for one month and in ye interim to be well whipped 3 times in each week'.

In January, 1624-1625, Jacob Peary alias Pearson of North Collingham, clerk, and two gentlemen of North Collingham, named Samuel Sheppard and Benjamin Sheppard, were fined 10/- each "for riot in church."

On 3rd October, 1655, Elizabeth Banes, of Southwell, spinster, "standeth presented in this Court for a comon scold and the Court also further informed yt the sd Elizabeth by reason of her continuall brawling and extraordinary turbulent spirit doth soe dayly vex and disquiet her neighbours that they cannot follow their callings and occasions inquietness to their extreame troble and vexation." The woman was ordered "to be cuckt in the Cucking Stoole at Southwell."

All human life is here!

The Great Nottinghamshire Local History Fair at Mansfield Library, 10 May 2015

The third Great Nottinghamshire Local History Fair will be held at Mansfield Library on Sunday, 10 May, 11am-3pm. 
It promises 'fun for all the family with craft demonstrations, local history displays from across the county, screenings of bygone Mansfield film footage and children’s activities PLUS meet real owls.'
Further information is available on the Our Nottinghamshire website.

26 March 2015

Nottinghamshire material added to the Archaeology Data Service website

Two important resources relating to Nottingham and Nottinghamshire have been recently made available on the Archaeology Data Service website:
  • 'The origins of Nottingham: archaeological investigations in the Medieval town from 1969 to 1980' is a digitised archaeological archive of excavations undertaken in the lace market area of Nottingham during redevelopment in the late 1960s and 1970s. The sites included are Drury Hill, Woolpack Lane, Fisher Gate, Boots Garage, Goose Gate and Halifax Place. The archive includes site notebooks, sections, maps and plans, photographs and smallfinds and pottery drawings.
  • 'Nottinghamshire Extensive Urban Survey Archaeological Assessments': 18 towns in the county were surveyed 'to provide high quality data about the archaeological potential of the towns and their historical development for archaeologists and the local planning authorities.' The towns included are Beeston, Bingham, Blyth, Collingham, East Bridgford, Hucknall, Kirkby in Ashfield, Mansfield, Mansfield Woodhouse, Retford, Southwell, Stapleford, Sutton in Ashfield, Tuxford, Warsop, Wellow, West Stockwith, and Worksop. Newark was excluded from the assessment as a report on the town's archaeological resources was produced in 1989. 

23 March 2015

Nottingham & Notts Illustrated : "Up-to-Date" Commercial Sketches : Industries and Manufactures Illustrated and Reviewed (1898)

The latest addition to my 'Nottinghamshire History' website is the full text of a fascinating and lavishly illustrated book on the leading commercial and industrial companies of Nottingham at the close of the 19th century. Included are Birkin (lace curtain manufacturer), Humber of Beeston (bicycles), Wollaton Colliery, Coombs Eureka Flour Company, and Thomas Danks and Co (ironmongers) ... A full list of those covered is here.

The text provides uncritical profiles of the companies, often with a brief history, and in many cases includes very detailed descriptions of industrial and manufacturing processes.

26 February 2015

The King's England: Nottinghamshire

I spent an industrious few weeks in December scanning a battered copy of The King's England volume on Nottinghamshire edited by Arthur Mee, converting the text to HTML, adding a large number of carefully chosen images (in addition to the ones in the book) and uploading the pages to my Nottinghamshire History website.

Mee's King's England series was an ambitious project to produce guides to the counties of England and 41 volumes were produced. Nottinghamshire: The Midland Stronghold appeared in 1938. Most of the research was undertaken by Mee's sister and her husband and Mee himself had a close connection with the county having been born in Stapleford in 1875.

There is an entry for virtually every town and village in the county and although the focus tends to be on the architecture of the parish church and local notable families or personalities it makes for a fairly interesting read. However, the content has been criticised by the author of the Suffolk Churches website for being 'verbose, sentimental. nationalistic and just plain old-fashioned inaccurate' and warns that if you read other volumes in the series 'after a while all England becomes a blur of romantic twaddle.'

See what you think!

16 February 2015

EVENT: 'A Medieval Miscellany' on 21 March 2015 at Ravenshead

The next day school organised by The Nottinghamshire Local History Association will be 'A Medieval Miscellany' on the 21 March at the Village Hall in Ravenshead.

Speakers include Claire Taylor on King John and Magna Carta, David Crook on the Robin Hood legend and Nottinghamshire, Michael Jones on the White Book of Southwell and David Marcombe on the Green Men of Southwell.

Further details on the event are available on the NLHA website.

28 January 2015

New book: Newstead Abbey : a Nottinghamshire Country House, its Owners and Architectural History 1540-1931

The Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire has just published a book on the architectural history of Newstead Abbey by Rosalys Coope and Pete Smith.

'The Augustinian priory of Newstead in Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest was founded in c.1163. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries it was acquired in 1540 by the Byron family who used it as a country house until it was sold in 1818 by Lord Byron the poet.  Under the name of Newstead Abbey it subsequently passed through the hands of the Wildman, Webb and Fraser families before being presented by Sir Julien Cahn to Nottingham City Council in 1931. Since then the Council have maintained the house and gardens together with important collections of furniture, paintings and Byron artefacts.

This volume gathers together in a single chronological narrative a series of articles on different phases of the Abbey’s architectural history written over a period of 35 years by architectural historian Dr Rosalys Coope and published in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society.  The opportunity has also been taken by Dr Coope - assisted by retired English Heritage officer Pete Smith - to revise and extend some of the original conclusions in the light of new research, particularly the evidence offered by newly identified drawings, paintings, and engravings (some even painted on Sevres dinner plates).

The book is a masterly piece of detective work incorporating evidence from written records, illustrations and the fabric of the building itself to unravel the complex architectural history of this remarkable country house.

The book is lavishly illustrated with 112 plates and diagrams, most in full colour.'

For more information see the Thoroton Society website

16 January 2015

Archaeology Day in Southwell, 17 January 2015

I've only just found out about an Archaeology Day at the Minster School in Southwell tomorrow. The event is being run by the Researching Roman Southwell team and confirmed speakers are:
  • Matt Beresford (MBArchaeology) - Roman Southwell
  • Andy Gaunt (Mercian Archaeological Services) - King John’s Palace, Clipstone
  • Rachael Hall (National Trust) - A Late Iron Age/Roman Coin Hoard from Derbyshire
  • Kevin Winter (Civil War Centre) - National Civil War Centre, Newark
The Archaeology Day is, in fact, an afternoon event and starts at 2.30pm. There is a charge of £5.

Further information is available on the Researching Roman Southwell website.