Thursday, 29 November 2018

World Digital Preservation Day - some reflections

I am currently working on a reflective report capturing the experiences and lessons learnt in creating an archive of Hull City ofCulture 2017. By its very nature this has involved looking back at things we said and did along the way, so to mark World Digital Preservation Day 2018 I thought I would reflect on Hull university archives digital preservation journey over the last eight years. 

2010-2012 AIMS Project
Our first forensic workstation in 2011
It is fair to say that in 2010 as far as digital preservation was concerned it was something that other archives did but we did not. The opportunity to collaborate with colleagues at the Universities of Stanford, Yale and Virginia was not something we hesitated over. The project allowed me to be seconded as Digital Archivist and to immerse myself into all things digital preservation. There was a steep learning curve with a lot of activity to keep abreast with. 

Things really began to make sense when we started to practice what we were learning – capturing our learning in the AIMS White Paper. It gave us the confidence to initiate discussions with depositors, admittedly with mixed and sometimes unexpected results (no because of Wikileaks being one that springs to mind) but learning is an important part of the process. At the end of the secondment I returned to my substantive role and tried to maintain the interest and momentum the project had created.

2012-2016
During this period we continued to talk to other archivists and more depositors and our holdings increased gradually, but we were very aware that we had no technical infrastructure inplace and the files were stored on our non-networked forensic workstations. 

Between March 2015 and September 2016 colleagues at the Universities of Hull and York collaborated on a JISC funded Filling the Digital Preservation Gap project to look at Archivematica and its appropriateness for research data management. I took the opportunity to join the conversations to consider how different the scenarios and situations were compared to born-digital archives and while there were some differences there were far more aspects we had in common.

2016-2018 City of Culture archive project 

Hull was announced as UK City of Culture 2017 on 20 November 2013 and ideas about “archiving the City of Culture” emerged shortly after. We had no real idea of what to expect - which turned out to be both a hindrance and an opportunity.

Ideas were developed and crucially funding secured to appoint a Digital Archivist (Laura Giles) to collect records (primarily digital in format) and Laura has been sharing her experiences in this - speaking at the British Museum conference and DCDC18 to name just two. 

We have collected c150,000 files so far and a parallel piece of activity working with CoSector has been to join-up the dots including Box (digital storage); Archivematica (digital preservation activities); CALM (collections management software); Samvera (digital repository) and Blacklight (discovery layer) to ensure we have a robust solution for storing, preserving and sharing digital records. We will be talking about and demonstrating this joined-up solution in 2019...

Reflections
NDSA levels in Feb 2017 - to be revisited Feb 2019
In reflective mode this journey appears to be a natural progression but the reality is far from that - more akin to a series of steps than a straight line. There have been many other aspects along the way including NDSA levels of digital preservation, Archives Accreditation, hosting Transforming Archives and now Bridgingthe Digital Gap trainees. These personal reflections are mine but the achievements and progress has only been possible because of other people's time and support along the way - for which I continue to be grateful.  

If you are just starting your own journey my biggest tip - is do something practical - whether identifying what born-digital materials you have, setting-up a forensic workstation or playing with DROID on some sample files. It may seem a daunting journey but you are not alone and help is out there.  

Simon Wilson
University Archivist

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Basecamp at The National Archives

We are delighted to announce a new member of staff, Jack Quinlan has joined the university team as part of The National Archives’ new Bridging the Digital Gap traineeship. Jack’s first blog for us delves into his experiences of travelling down to the National Archives for a three day intensive introduction to the world of archives:

Before I started working at Hull History Centre, I had no real idea how an archive operated. I knew they kept records, an odd photo or two, or maybe a map, but that was it. But now I have a much firmer grasp on the scope of archives and some of the challenges they face. Bridging the Digital Gap, an incentive to broaden the pool of talent available to the sector, has just started training their eight new trainees last week in a course held at The National Archives. The three day training event was an introduction to the traineeship and digital archiving as a whole.

Basecamp, as we called the training event, was a brilliant experience. I’ve never been to The National Archives before - an all too unassuming building nestled away among quiet houses, no tall buildings to mark its location over the city landscape, it just appears.

Entrance to TNA

I got to know my fellow trainees over a coffee icebreaker. We were encouraged to introduce ourselves, which host organization we were representing, and a little known fact about it. What became apparent over the day was just how diverse our individual skill sets are, though all following a similar line of “aptitude for technology”. Each trainee has worked with computers, data sets, or data processing in some official capacity - for myself I have a background in media production, video editing, and some experience in scientific data handling. Suffice to say we all had a lot to talk about.

The rest of the day included a contextual overview of the course, including module breakdown and what is expected of us on a bi-monthly rotation, speakers from different archive and digital departments on how the digital landscape is changing their position, and then an actual breakdown of what a digital archivist is expected to be able to do, and the roles they can fill. The first day can be best summarised as “Digital Archiving, what is it?”. For the second and third day we were a lot more active; we were given tours of the archive and repositories, delving into the history of The National Archives, how far back the archives go and just how the building came to be. We secured reading passes and had our first instance of requesting a specific piece of archived information, and had a look at the more hands on side of archives: the conservator.

Fabric patent book

“Restoring the past” is how conservation was first described to me, and was something we explored first hand at TNA; converging over a large open book, this was my first experience with something so old. A several centuries old patent record, filled to the seams with blackened fabric, faded sketches and diagrams. The cover, once tightly strapped in leather and metal stripes, was now slack, and falling apart, the leather flayed and metal rusted, the processes of preserving it would certainly be very long.

In another room, an experiment with light and parchment was underway, showing the degradation of different inks within certain conditions, and using a very high intensity light to speed up the process. In the same room, we got a demonstration of 3D printing, the uses of which became apparent, as while the demonstration was going on, a replica of certain rat was produced. Both of interest of digital archiving in some respects, and learning about them now will allow for an easier introductory period further down the road.

I joined the Hull History Centre team on October the 29th and only a week later I was hurtling my way down to London to visit the UK’s largest archive. Things were moving fast and even now each day I am presented with new challenges that I did not see myself undertaking a year ago. I don’t see this pace slowing down either, and I am thankful; looking forward to each week, learning new skills and even interesting subject matter, there are few positions which offer this.

Parchment estate plan

My expectations are high, there’s opportunity here and I want to make the most of it. I have taken an interest in digital archiving at a very interesting time, the landscape is changing and I am been trained at the forefront. By the end of my traineeship I imagine my perspective will have changed, but my determination will be just as strong as when I started.

Jack Quinlan, Bridging the Digital Gap Trainee

Monday, 19 November 2018

Explore Your Archives 2018

This week we are celebrating ‘Explore Your Archive 2018’. This national campaign is designed to raise awareness of archives and to encourage everyone to use them.

You don’t have to be an academic or a professional researcher to use archives. People come to us every day to look into an endless number of different questions they might have.

We’ve had it all: ‘Can I find out where my grandfather was buried?’; ‘When was my house built and who used to live there?’; ‘What businesses were there on Holderness Road in the 1920s’?; ‘What did the old town walls look like?’; ‘What was it like in Hull during the Blitz?’; along with any number of other questions.

Recipe for medicine against the plague, 1665 [C DIAM/1]

Whatever aspect of local history you might be interested in, archives can help you explore it. So to help you get started, this installment of the blog will guide you through the process of searching for archives. We hope it is helpful.

How can I explore archives?

The best place to start is with our online catalogue. You can access the catalogue from the comfort of your own home (or phone) and it can be used to search descriptions of what we have. If you find something that looks interesting and you want to see it, make a note of the reference number as we will need this information to find it for you when you visit us.

If you can’t find anything on the online catalogue, or you are having trouble getting started, the best thing to do is pop in to see us. Staff can advise you on the resources available to help you answer whatever your research question might be. Before you come, have some specific questions in mind and allow yourself a good amount of time to get lost in what you might find.

What’s in the library area?

Library area containing part of the local studies collection

You can of course just wander around the library area and see what you can find. There are loads of interesting book titles amongst the open access collection on everything from architecture to zepplins. We have microfilmed copies of the local newspapers going back to the late 18th century, which can be browsed at leisure or used to look up a specific date. OS maps are available for various dates from the mid-19th century through to the 1960s and these can show you how the town has changed over the decades. Monumental inscriptions can be consulted for the municipal cemeteries, and burial records can be searched on microfilm, allowing you to look for deaths of ancestors. There are also electoral registers for the town and other family history resources such as FindMyPast and Ancestry, which can be accessed for free.

What’s in the searchroom?

Using archives in the searchroom

Whilst you need a ticket to use our searchroom, this ticket is free and it opens up a world of historical records to you. We have court papers including testimonies from witnesses and statements made by the accused, which can help you discover whether there are any black sheep in the family. There are personal diaries which document every-day life during some of the most significant moments of history including WWI and WWII. The letters of local personalities such as Philip Larkin, Winifred Holtby, and Stevie Smith can be read by anyone, and give insight into the inner thoughts of these figures. Photographs document the changing look of the town since the late 19th century, you might even be able to find old images of your own house or street. We also have building plans which allow you to see how individual buildings have changed over time, is your childhood home amongst them? Of course, this is just a very small selection of the over 2800 collections.

Section of a map of Hull showing German bomb drop locations during an air-raid in 1942

As well as all of the above, don’t forget the annual trade directories dating from the late 18th century which can tell you who was living at a particular address in Hull; or the historic maps dating back to the 1580s which show the old town walls and fortifications. These can be browsed in the searchroom without having to request us to get them out of storage for you.

Is there any further information?

The History Centre’s website contains further guides to collections held at the History Centre, which comprises the University of Hull Archives and Hull City Archives and Local Studies. There are also further thematically arranged guides available on Hull University Archives’ Libguides pages. And don’t forget the History Centre’s own online catalogue.

So now you are all experts, why not come down to the History Centre to see what you can find…

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (Hull University Archives)

Monday, 12 November 2018

We shall remember them

As we reach the centenary of the 1918 Armistice we have seen a renewed interest in records about WWI and those who experienced it. Here at the History Centre there are many sources for anyone wanting to research this period of our history.

If you have a general interest in local events then we hold a selection of books such as ‘Hull In the Great War’ by David Bilton [L.9.7083] and ‘The Zepplin Raids on Hull’ by Arthur Credland [L.9.7083]. There are books on local regiments such as ‘The Hull Pals’ [L.356] by David Bilton. We also have copies of an edited collection of regimental diaries published by the National Archives. The volume contains reproduced images of dairies kept by commanding officers on a day-to-day basis throughout the war. All these titles are available for loan from us.

A selection of our WWI related local studies books

Over the last four years there has been a national drive to digitised records from the war period, and these can assist you if you are looking for individuals. Hull History Centre offers free access to Ancestry and FindMyPast, both of which sites contain information about service personnel. Army attestation records are one group of records that can be accessed in this way. These records were created by the War Office during recruitment of personnel and contain such useful information as age, place of birth, next of kin and some details of service. Unfortunately, it is estimated that two thirds of the collection was destroyed by enemy action in World War II, but it is always worth looking. Other records available on both sites include Medal Roll Cards which list medals awarded and give details of regiment and service number. A proportion of British Armed Services Soldiers medical records and the Silver War Badge Roll (listing servicemen who were invalided out) are available on Find My Past. Royal Airmen’s Records, Victoria Cross medal listings, and listings of campaign medals awarded to World War I Merchant Seamen, are all available on Ancestry. These are a selection of available records and it is worth looking at the card catalogue on Ancestry or the A-Z index on Find My Past to see what else may help in your search.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is another helpful site, and this is free to access. If a person died during the war then they should be listed on site. The listing will give name, rank, service number, when they died and where they are commemorated. Sometimes family details will be given such as parents’ names and address. Find My Past has a list of British Army Railwaymen who died in the Great War, whilst Ancestry features the British Army Register of Soldier’s Effects. This lists what the army owed to the soldier at the time of their death and next of kin. It can be useful as a way of double-checking that you have the correct person.

The Hull Daily Mail and other local papers can be a rich source of information, and articles can be accompanied by photographs. The HDM can be accessed online via the British Library Newspaper Archive Online. Whilst this is a subscription service, you can access it for free whilst at the History Centre. You can also access images of the papers by using our microfilm collection in the library area of the History Centre. Some years ago, a researcher, Mr Malcolm Mann, indexed all the soldiers mentioned in the HDM. The indexes are available in the library and provide the soldier’s name, edition of the paper, and page number on which the soldier in question features. Mann also collected information about street shrines and rolls of honour, and compiled a volume on the subject. This volume, available in the search room, includes some information on individual servicemen as well as the lists which featured on the memorials. The History Centre has further information on local memorials which was collated by Jack Allerston, and which can be accessed by asking at the History Centre’s enquiry desk in the library area.

Page from the Mann Index

This overview gives just a sample of the material available to researchers looking at WWI, and hasn’t even touched on the rich archival material that is held at the History Centre. So if you are interested, why not come down and get researching. If you get stuck then try our Family History Helpdesk which is held 10am-12pm on the first and third Thursdays of the month. There’s only one session left this year, to be held on the 15th November, but there will be new dates starting in January 2019. 

As an added incentive to visit, we currently have an exhibition about WWII which will be on until the 16th November. You never know what you might discover...

Elaine Moll, Archivist/Librarian (Hull City Archives and Local Studies Library)

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Hull at War 1914-1918

To mark the centenary of Armistice at the end of WWI in 1918, we’ve compiled a small exhibition which can be seen until the 16th November 2018. Now, we know that not everyone can make it to the History Centre, some of you work, some of you live too far away, but we didn’t want you to miss out. So this instalment of the blog is for our extended audience, and gives you a sense of what the exhibition is about. Sorry it’s a bit longer than our usual blogs, good lunchtime reading though!

Hull at War

At the outset of the First World War, Britain felt a wave of enthusiasm and patriotism which led to a great surge in voluntary enlistment into the armed forces. In Hull, there were so many willing volunteers that a second recruiting office had to be opened in the City Hall. To encourage men to volunteer, the army created so-called ‘Pals’ battalions formed of men who enlisted together and knew each other as neighbours, friends and colleagues. There were four Hull Pals battalions and one reserve battalion. About a third of the men who joined the Hull Pals never returned.

One of the Hull Pals battalions [C DIHE/2/1]

On the home front, civilians in Hull experienced many significant changes to daily life. The fishing fleet, so central to life in Hull, was almost entirely commandeered by the navy. Hundreds of trawlers were requisitioned to act as minesweepers and to search for submarines, with many being lost whilst on active service. Only 93 of about 300 trawlers were left to continue fishing.

Several hospitals and social centres were established in Hull during the war, including Brooklands Officers’ Hospital on Cottingham Road and the Rest Station and Canteen located at Paragon Station. The Voluntary Aid Service headquarters was located on Spring Bank and helped to organise fundraisers, co-ordinate the sending of care parcels to prisoners of war, and train nurses.

The women of Hull embraced the working opportunities provided by the war. The number of female foundry workers at Rose, Downs & Thompson increased dramatically to over a third of the workforce, whilst other women took up roles as tram conductors and in agriculture. Some women also volunteered for non-combatant roles in the armed forces, for instance as nurses and cooks.

Zeppelin Raids

During the First World War there were over fifty Zeppelin raids on the United Kingdom. Between 6 June 1916 and 6 August 1918 eight raids took place over Hull. The casualty list shows at least 57 people were killed and over 100 injured.

The first raid of the 6 June 1915 was carried out by Zeppelin L-9 commanded by Kapitanleutnant Heinrich Mathy. Having flown from its base in northern Germany the airship arrived over Hull around 11.30 p.m. The first bombs were dropped on the eastern docks, but the mixture of high explosive and incendiary bombs did little damage other than destroying a short length of railway track. Continuing in a westerly direction, the airship dropped more bombs, destroying a number of buildings, killing about 20 people and injuring more than 40. The raid lasted about 45 minutes, during which time at least 10 high explosive bombs and up to 50 incendiary bombs were dropped.

Aftermath of a Zeppelin raid at Holy Trinity, 1915 

The second raid on Hull took place on 5-6 March 1916 with similar results to the earlier attack. Although an air raid warning system of ‘buzzers’ had been put in place, there were no anti-aircraft defences until after the second raid. The introduction of anti-aircraft guns and the use of incendiary bullets began to blunt the Zeppelin menace. At the end of 1916 Major General von Donop took over command of the city’s defence. The integrated defence system he introduced further reduced the Zeppelins’ effectiveness. The casualty figures for the last four raids show one person killed and a further six injured.

The raids undoubtedly had an effect on the civilian population. Large numbers ‘trekked’ into the surrounding countryside at the sound of the buzzers. They also led to an increase in anti-German sentiment and attacks on the local German community. From the German perspective the raids also succeeded by keeping much needed troops, guns and aeroplanes tied up on home defence duties rather than being deployed on the battlefields.

Street Shrines

During and after World War I there was a great need and desire to remember those who had served or died for their country. Consequently, it was common for names to be listed on memorial boards, posters and plaques at various locations around villages, towns and cities. They were paid for by the companies where they had worked, churches, schools or by voluntary donations.

‘Street Shrines’, also often referred to as ‘Rolls of Honour’, did differ. They were not simply a focal point for remembering the dead, but for praying for the living who were away on active service. Shrines listed all those in service including women whereas official military monuments only named those lost or killed in action. A shrine was typically made of wooden boards with the names of those serving from the street or local area, a crucifix in the centre and a shelf below for flowers. However, they could take many different forms and streets competed against one another with ornate designs.

Roll of honour, Fountain Road terraces, 1916

The opening ceremonies were often treated as elaborate affairs, regularly involving the clergy, choir boys, bands and boy scouts. The shrines, themselves, would be decked with flags, bunting and flowers. Street shrines provided a means of expression, mobilising collective emotions and values, and could be used to recruit support for the Church and the war effort.

There was also opposition to the idea of the shrines, some feeling the money should have been sent to the troops, others complaining that names had been left out or ignored. Owing to heavy losses and the continued call up of men as the war progressed the lists were often out of date the moment they were erected. The movement did carry on, but it was generally recognised that rolls were not practical and very few shrines appeared after 1916. Over time many shrines have disappeared as a result of neglect, disrepair, redevelopment, and damage during the Second World War.

The Hohenrein Family

The Hohenreins were a local family of German descent. George Friedrich Hohenrein moved to Hull from Germany in 1848 aged just 16, and opened a butchers shop at 7 Waterworks Street only two years later. The business prospered and a second shop was opened at 22 Princes Avenue. George became a naturalised British citizen and with his wife, had two sons, Charles and George. On his death his eldest son, George William, took over the business. However George’s wife became very ill and he agreed to return with her to her native Germany. Thus, in 1907, the business passed to his younger brother Charles.

Waterworks Street butchers shop [L DBHR/1/2/37]

At the outbreak of the First World War Charles Hohenrein was keen to do his bit for Britain. However, having been declared unfit for military service he served as a sergeant in the East Riding Motor Volunteer Corps and lent his vehicles to the government to support the war effort. As the war progressed, however, public opinion began to turn against people who were perceived as having links with Germany. Hull was no exception and anti-German feeling increased following the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania by a German U-boat, and the Zeppelin raids on the city.

The Hohenreins suffered numerous threats of injury to themselves and their property. Remembering the kindness shown to him as a child by the Hohenreins one individual sent a letter warning Charles of a planned attack on the shops. Owing to the continued threats, Charles Hohenrein decided to change his surname to the more British sounding ‘Ross’ and to close his shops until the end of the war.

After the war the shops re-opened and continued to prosper. Charles Ross became an important businessman in the area and became a director of the ‘Royalty’ cinemas in Hull in the 1930s. In 1946 Charles Ross retired and the shop was closed and sold. It was subsequently knocked-down as part of the post-war rebuilding of Waterworks Street and was incorporated into Paragon Street.

By the time the armistice came into force on 11 November 1918, approximately 7000 men and women from Hull had died in the war.

Hull History Centre

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Witches of Hull


Halloween is a time for ghosts and ghouls, monsters and witches. Today these are happy, fictional characters but 400 years ago witchcraft was seen as real. In an age when little about the natural world was understood by science, so much that was uncertain or unknowable was explained with magic. If you, or your child, or your cow fell sick and died, that was as likely as not due to the malign acts of a local witch.

In the summer of 1604 Hull was experiencing another plague epidemic. In what must have been an atmosphere of panic and suspicion, many people thought that the infection could only be explained by black magic.

We know this from a brief account in one of the Bench Books – the minute books of the town’s governing Bench of Aldermen (C BRB/2). A transcription of the account by historian of Elizabethan Hull Helen Good is available.

Extract from the Hull Bench Book, Sep 1604 [C BRB/2]

In September 1604 a judge, Baron John Savile, arrived in Hull to hold a Session of Gaol Delivery, a trial of serious criminal cases. Baron Savile found that many (“divers”) people, men and women, were to be tried for witchcraft. Unfortunately we don’t know any specifics of the cases but it is likely that fear of the plague had prompted neighbour to turn on neighbour, and long festering disputes and resentments had broken out in wild accusations of witchcraft.

Witchcraft was in everybody’s mind. The new King James I had arrived from Scotland the year before with experience and a morbid interest in witchcraft. A new law was about to come into force at Michaelmas (29 September) 1604 tightening up an existing law of 1563. Under both laws witches who were found guilty of harming people were to be put to death.

On 4 September Baron Savile found five men and women guilty of witchcraft: Roger Beadney; John Willerby; Mary Holland; Janet Wressell, alias Beamont; and Janet Butler. All five were sentenced to be hanged. Helen Good makes the point that the surnames of the witches were not Hull names, but were to be found in the three parishes of Hullshire – Hessle, Ferriby and Kirkella – which came under the authority of the town. These people were outsiders, literally and figuratively.

Baron Savile is unlikely to have been a gullible man; he was intelligent, well educated, and a hugely experienced lawyer. But he may have had a point to prove to the new King – that the Common Law could deal with witchcraft – and he was also a committed Puritan, a group of Christians traditionally unsympathetic to accusations of witchcraft.

So Beadney, Willerby, Holland, Wressell and Butler were hanged on Saturday 6 September, on the gallows where Adelaide Street now stands, then in the royal manor of Myton, where a field was once called Gallows close. Hull didn’t run to employing a fulltime hangman. According to the Bench Book, Baron Savile reprieved a horse thief, Henry Oliver, tried and convicted before him, on condition that he hang the witches. As a horse thief Oliver will have known his way around ropes and halters.

Illustration of witches being hanged, 1655

Before Oliver’s noose went round his neck, John Willerby confessed “many
Thing[s] and at his deathe accus[ed] divers for witchcraft”. We can imagine the last desperate angry ranting of a man with nothing to lose, accusing former friends and neighbours in a scene reminiscent of The Crucible or The Name of the Rose.

We don’t know where the witches were buried. Soon after the trial, the Bench ordered various sanitary improvements which would have had a greater impact on the Hull’s public health than ridding it of witches.

But that, I’m afraid, would not have been the view of most people in Hull in 1604.

Happy Halloween everyone!


Martin Taylor (City Archivist)

Friday, 19 October 2018

Educating Cottingham: Mark Kirby's Lasting Legacy of the Mark Kirby Charity

22 October 2018 is the tercentenary of the death of Hull merchant, Mark Kirby. Born in Cottingham in 1638, Kirby imported and exported a variety of goods and was an extremely wealthy man. Hull History Centre holds a record of port transactions known as the ‘Wool House Book’, which records that in just one day in 1716 Kirby exported 78 tons of lead, 188 tons of red lead and 1,000 dozen men’s stockings [C WW].

Wool House Book recording Kirby's accounts, 1693-1703 [C WW]

Papers held at Hull History Centre include a pedigree showing Kirby family members [U DDSY/105/9], a book said to belong to Kirby [U DDSY4/7/1], and his will [U DDSY/110/8] which shows that he owned properties all over the East Riding. The will also records various bequests, including one to the vicar of the ‘high church in Hull’ who received 2 guineas and a pulpit cloth for preaching the sermon at Mark’s funeral. But his most generous bequest, now known as ‘The Mark Kirby Charity’, was the gift of two pieces of land to the ‘Free School’ in Cottingham:

‘I give and devise…the yearly rents and profits…shall be paid to the schoolmaster…and to his successors forever for teaching 10 poor children whose parents are not of the ability to pay for their learning’

Mark Kirby's signature and seal at the foot of his will [U DDSY/110/8]

Kirby’s bequest was not responsible for establishing the school as it was already in existence, however, his generosity led to the school becoming known as ‘the Mark Kirby Free School’ and it survived as such until 1876. By 1860 a new school had been erected at the side of the churchyard in Church Passage, which was later taken over by St Mary’s Church and is now the church’s coffee shop. The original school building was situated in the churchyard and can be seen in an engraving which appeared in the ‘Gentlemen’s Magazine’ in 1797.

When the school ceased to function, the charity continued to exist. The trustees took several years to decide upon a new scheme which would be true to the spirit of the original bequest. Kirby had made his bequest to support pupils in the parish of Cottingham. In 1897 Reverend Malet Lambert was appointed Chairman of the trustees, and under his leadership the decision was taken to use the proceeds for scholarships. There were to be 6 general scholarships and 2 for pupil teachers.

By the 1920s these had become scholarships to high schools. By the 1960s grants were being awarded for school uniforms and today grants are given for musical instruments, school trips and children’s activities. The bequest has become a lasting legacy from a man who was well known in his day, and whose family went on to play an important part in the history of the East Riding.

Mark Kirby's notebook [U DDSY4/7/1]

Kirby’s son, another Mark, must have inherited his father’s business acumen as he was known locally as ‘the Merchant Prince’. Kirby Jr’s financial success allowed him to purchase the Sledmere estate. On his death, the estate passed to the children of his sister Mary who had married Richard Sykes, and thus Sledmere passed into the hands of the Sykes family. Their descendants still own the estate today and the house is a significant part of the local East Yorkshire landscape.

Elaine Moll, Archivist/Librarian (Hull City Archives and Local Studies)

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

This Month in Hull: October

After a month’s hiatus, (because we forgot about September!) our This Month in Hull blog is back to give you some more historical facts. So here they are, some interesting things you may or may not know happened in Hull during the month of October.

Beginning in 1541, on the 2nd October, a visit by Henry VIII to Hull is recorded. The purpose of the visit was to inspect the town’s defences. As a result of his visit the following recommendations were made: Suffolk Palace, once standing on the site now occupied by The Deep, was to become a citadel surrounded by a moat which was to be scoured; ramparts, which had fallen into disrepair, were to be brought back into a fit state for defensive purposes; and the town’s gates were to be provided with guns.

Illustration of Beverley Gate in the 19th century, this would have formed part of the defensive walls under siege in 1643 [U DDMM/30/6]

In 1643, on the 11th October, a heavy siege of the town was broken. The town had been under siege from Royalist forces for weeks, putting the inhabitants under immense strain. After building up a strong force, the town’s governor, Lord Fairfax, ordered the Parliamentarian troops to advance out of the town and a battle ensued. The siege ended the following day and Fairfax declared the 11th October to be a public holiday of thanksgiving, which it remained until the restoration.

Illustration of the south blockhouse of the citadel, c.100 years after the defensive improvements ordered by Henry VIII [U DDMM/30/8]

In 1926, on the 13th October, Edward VIII (then Prince of Wales) visited Hull to lay the foundation stone of Ferens Art Gallery. The gallery was funded by MP, philanthropist and major figure in the History of Reckitt and Sons, Thomas Ferens. His philanthropy also included the donation of £250,000 in 1926/27 to found the Hull University College (now the University of Hull).

Ferens Art Gallery shortly after opening in 1927 [C DIMB/1/1/41]

In 1939, on the 16th October, Hull’s New Theatre opened in Kingston Square. The first ever production was a performance of ‘Me and My Girl’ by the Hull Repertory Company. Whilst, we don’t have a flyer for this particular performance, we do have many thousands of theatre play bills for various local theatres which have existed in Hull since the 18th century.

New Theatre after a performance in 1954 [Lp.792 NEW/2]

In 1985, on the 8th October, Clive Sullivan died in Hull aged 42. An internationally renowned rugby player, Sullivan played for both Hull KR and Hull FC Rugby League teams. He was so loved locally that a section of the A63 was renamed Clive Sullivan Way in honour of his memory.

Clive Sullivan playing for Hull FC [Local Studies]

As always, if you want to find out more, drop into Hull History Centre to see what records we have!

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (Hull University Archives)

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Museums and Digital Memory

On Monday 3rd September, Chris Awre and I travelled to the British Museum to contribute to a conference titled Museums and Digital Memory which was a jointly organised by the British Museum and the Digital Preservation Coalition

Over 300 people attended which shows the level of appetite within museums to start getting to grips with digital preservation. Julie Allinson (lead developer at CoSector) and I presented a keynote paper introducing the City of Culture digital archive and talking about our journey towards a digital archive system then Chris and Steph Taylor (senior consultant at CoSector) lead a packed workshop about identifying paths and options to choosing a digital solution. 

Despite there being obvious alignments of value between archives, libraries and museums I have to admit that I didn’t know a lot about the inner workings of the museums sector. I was surprised to learn then, that museums are generally quite far behind the curve when it comes to digital preservation. 

Surprised because I had assumed that the conversations my own profession is always engaged in around how we ensure that future generations are able to access what is being created today would be reflected in the museums world - which after all has similar aims in capturing the way we live.

Surprised also as it’s plain to see when you visit museums that many are doing sterling work in finding creative and intelligent ways to improve access to their existing collections through digital means. There are clearly a lot of incredibly digitally literate people working in the sector but it would seem their skills have not yet been turned to preservation.  

There was a lot of talk throughout the day about digitisation. Digitisation is the process of scanning or otherwise capturing an analogue object so that you end up with a surrogate digital object (e.g. scanning a photographic print so that you have a jpeg file, or converting a VHS into a digital format such as mp4). This is a good way to ensure that that analogue original is handled less (especially if it’s something you expect a lot of people to access) and is therefore liable to last longer; however, we have to make sure we are always asking the question: how do we make sure that digital surrogates have any kind of longevity?

It is a sad fact that in the last 20 or so years (essentially since digitisation technologies have become more affordable and accessible) museums and archives have invested a truly monumental amount of time and money into digitisation projects but often with little strategy when it comes to preserving their output. 

I had an illuminating conversation at lunchtime with someone who has just started working at an institution that has done a lot of digitisation projects over the years. Their job now is to track down what had become of the output of these projects and implement a digital preservation solution. They are finding that hard drives used in 10-15 year old digitisation projects are failing (as we would expect - hard drives do not last forever) and are having to commission costly data retrieval as the contents weren’t even backed up at the point of creation. You have to admit there is a certain irony in memory institutions being so short sighted!


Julie presenting about the City of Culture collaboration
The good news is that museums don’t have to start from nothing: libraries and archives have been developing the field of digital preservation for a significant amount of time now and so there is a wealth of research and experience to draw upon. Digital preservation systems, once only found in national institutions are becoming more affordable and user-friendly and there is an established community who are more than happy to share expertise and advice. 

We received some really good feedback from other attendees and the conference organisers who were especially pleased with how we managed to deliver a presentation that was interesting to digital preservation old hands and newbies alike. We’re really proud of the work that has gone into the City of Culture digital archive so it was a great opportunity to share our enthusiasm and talk to others about how they could potentially go about tackling their own digital collections.  

There was appetite on the day for this conference to be repeated next year and I think it would be really interesting to find out what steps in implementing digital preservation attendees have taken by then.

Laura Giles
City of Culture Digital Archivist

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

This Month in Hull: August

For anyone who needs some good pub quiz facts, we present the August edition of 'This Month in Hull'.

In 1833, on the 12th, a public meeting was held to decide how to commemorate the Hull MP and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Two resolutions were passed: ‘That it is the opinion of this meeting that an obelisk or pillar will form the most striking and appropriate memorial’; and ‘That a subscription be entered into for the purpose of carrying the proposed object into effect.’

2 August 1833, Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, announcement of the death of William Wilberforce in his 74th year of age

List of subscribers to the fund for a memorial to William Wilberforce, Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette, 16 Aug 1833

In 1834, on the 1st, the foundation stone was laid for the Wilberforce monument at its original location at the corner of St John’s Street, close to where Beverley Gate once stood. It was laid by Richard Bethell MP of Rise, the Chairman of the Memorial Committee. The statue of Wilberforce was added after the building of the obelisk on 12 Nov 1835. The following is an image of the Wilberforce statue in its original location on the Queens Square side of the old bridge leading to Whitefriargate, before it was moved to its current location outside of Hull College.

Illustration showing the Wilberforce Monument in its original location, 1933 [Lp.731.73.WILB/6]

In 1834, on the 11th, the Hull and Selby Railway Company was formed. The History Centre holds plans and section drawings showing the line being 'A railway from Selby through Hemmingborough, Wressle, Howden, Eastrington, Blacktoft, South Cave, Brantingham, Elloughton with Brough, Welton with Melton, North Ferriby and Kirkella, Hessle and Newington to Humber Dock.' The plans are accompanied by a book of reference for engineers, and were created by Walker, Burgess and A. Comrie in 1834 [C CQP/2].

In 1840, on the 7th, renovation work was carried out on the clock in the tower of Holy Trinity Church. Originally built by Joseph Hindley of York with one face, the clock subsequently had four faces. Our Local Studies collections include an illustration of Holy Trinity in 1829, prior to the work being undertaken [Lp.796.5 HOL/15].

In 1845, on the 24th, Stoneferry Waterworks supplied its first water, processed from the River Hull, after the foundation stone was laid on 29 April 1844. Among the records relating to the waterworks is a postcard showing a view from across the river [C DMX/181/1].

In 1856, T.J. Smith bought a retail chemist shop at 61 Whitefriargate. This business would grow to become the global company of Smith & Nephew. The Whitefriargate premises was the business' first site before production was relocated to Neptune Street on Hessle Road.

Extract from a Hull Trade Directory showing occupiers of properties on Whitefriargate, 1857

As always, if you would like to find out more, come down to the History Centre to see what else we hold...

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (Hull University Archives)

Monday, 13 August 2018

Just popping down the allotment...

The 13th to the 19th of August 2018 is National Allotments Week. As an active 'allomenteer' I thought a quick look at the development of allotments in the area might make for an interesting blog, so I had a look to see what records we have here at Hull History Centre.

Most allotments today are owned or maintained by local authorities, although by no means all are, and the first municipal allotments in Hull can be traced back to 1895. In this year, two sites were established to support the unemployed in the town. One was located near to the depot on Sculcoates Lane, whilst the other was on land by the prison on Hedon Road. In 1909, the Small Holdings and Allotments Act was passed, and this led the Hull Council to establish a Smallholding and Allotments Committee. The purpose of the committee was draw up specific rules and regulations and to issue tenancy agreements regarding the letting of allotments.

c.1909 [C TCSM/1/1/1]

But it wasn't only Council run allotments that were available to aspiring 'allotmenteers'. The following tenancy agreement relates to a plot of land in Garton which formed part of the Sledmere Estate owned by the Sykes family of the East Riding. The pro-forma printing of tenancy agreements with the name 'Tatton', in conjunction with the manual replacement of that name with his successor's name 'Mark', demonstrates that the practice of renting private land was a well established one on the Sykes estate. This tenancy agreement also demonstrates the traditional measure used to define and allotment area, that of rods (also known as poles or perches) which was a length equating to approximately 5 ½ yards.

1915 [U DDSY/23/348]

A number of local associations were established which sort to bring like-minded gardeners together and to help manage individual allotments. The Golf Links Allotments on Hall Road in Hull had their own such association, the Golf Links Floral and Horticultural Society.

1934, [L DSGL/1]

The Hull and East Yorkshire Allotment Council was set up in 1949. This organisation wasn't linked to a specific allotment, but rather sought to offer advice to growers as well as to promote details of upcoming outings, events and general news from around the area through the publication of a quarterly journal. It offered practical tips for the coming months, and you will see from the following images that some of these tasks are familiar although methods have certainly changed. Notice, in particular, the heavy use of chemical products such as DDT, the devastating impact on the environment of which was yet to be recognized.


1955 [L.635]

The growth of allotment culture meant that more people could take part in flower and horticultural shows. These events had become very popular in the Victorian period, although entrants tended to be gardeners working on large estates for the landed gentry. With land for cultivation more readily available, the ordinary 'allotmenteer' could now take part. The following is a programme for the twenty-second Chrysanthemum Show held at Hull City Hall in 1913. Programmes for events such as these included advertisements for businesses selling seeds and plants and so help us to understand the commercial side of allotment keeping.

1913 [C DSCH/1]

The adverts in this programme prompt a short aside: although the head office for the Fish and Manure Company was on the High Street, it’s main works were at one time on Maxwell Street, along with the Hull Hide, Skin and Fat Company, two cod oil manufacturers and two manure manufacturers as well the Milestones Chemical Works. This must surely have been one of Hull’s more aromatic areas!

If you are interested in the history of your allotment site, or allotment history in Hull more generally, then come and see us at the Hull History Centre. But for now I will leave all of you green fingered people with the following challenge; can you produce a display as impressive as this one taken found in the records of the Hull and East Riding Chrysanthemum Society?

c.1900s [C DSCH/3]

Paul Leaver, Archivist (Hull City Archives)

Monday, 30 July 2018

Yorkshire Day 2018

The 1st August is Yorkshire Day, which was founded in 1975 by the Yorkshire Ridings Society to celebrate and campaign to restore the ancient administrative divisions of the County of the Broad Acres, in the wake of the local government reorganisation which had seen their abolition. There were of course three Ridings historically, North, East and West – the word Riding is derived from a Danish word ‘thridding’, meaning a third. The East Riding of Yorkshire was revived as a unitary authority in 1996, albeit with slightly altered boundaries, in 1996.

However here at Hull History Centre we know that there was a Fourth Riding, created by novelist and feminist Winifred Holtby (1898–1935). The fictional South Riding of Yorkshire lends its name to and is the setting for Holtby’s great, posthumous novel published in 1936.

Photograph of Winifred Holtby [L WH/9.9.1.03.01g]

Holtby’s archive was given to the City after her early death by her literary executor and great friend Vera Brittain. Among the archive is a manuscript map of the South Riding. Even in rough outline it presents a familiar landscape; only the names are not what we expect.

Map of the South Riding [L WH/8.8.6.01a]

Holtby’s South Riding lies on the north bank of the great Leam Estuary. At the heart of the estuary is the City of Kingsport – “blank cliffs of warehouses, stores and offices…powdered from the fine white dust of flour-mills and cement works.” Beyond Kingsport stretches the “bare level plain” of the South Riding, miles of “patterned country, the corn ripening to gold, the arsenic green of turnip tops, the tawny dun-colour of the sun-baked grass” – not too different from what we see in Holderness this summer.

Apart from Kingsport being Hull there are other equivalencies: the county town of Flintonbridge is Beverley; Hardrascliffe is Bridlington; and the centre for much of the story, the insular seaside town of Kiplington, is Withernsea. Sunk Island inspired the bleak, decaying farming community Cold Harbour, and on the east coast of the South Riding sit the twin villages of Pidsea Buttock and Ledsea Buttock, with “ancient and honourable” names, whose inspiration were places like Hornsea and Skipsea.

Throughout the novel, the landscape of the real East Riding is reflected in the fictional South Riding. But it is not idealised; the South Riding isn’t a Shire or a Narnia. It feels like a real place, as it was in the 1930s and still recognisable today.

So if you want to mark Yorkshire Day with a good read or a good watch, you can borrow the novel and the DVD of the 1974 adaptation with Dorothy Tutin from the History Centre!

Martin Taylor, City Archivist

Monday, 23 July 2018

This Month in Hull: July

As people seemed to enjoy the format of June’s ‘This Month in Hull’ post, we have decided to go the same route for July. So, again, what follows is a random (though hopefully interesting) collection of historical facts about our city. This time our facts are inspired by Susanna O'Neill's 'The Hull Book of Days' (2014) [L.9.7], which is available to read and borrow from our Local Studies Library.

In 1836, on the 27th, Joseph Henry Fenner was christened at Brixton, Surrey. He would later become the founder of the Fenner Group in Hull.

Employment agreement and retirement bonus letter belonging to a long-term employee of Fenners [C DIFK]

In 1850, on the 3rd, Victoria Dock was formally opened by Mr T. Firbank, Chairman of Hull Dock Company, and was signalled to the town by the firing of a salute from a battery in the Citadel.

Postcard showing Victoria Dock, Late 18th cent. [L RH/2/68]

In 1908, on the 1st, Hull's Garden Village was officially opened. The building of Garden Village was a philanthropic venture devised by Sir James Reckitt for the benefit of his workers and retired workers. It was financed by Reckitt and another local philanthropist, Sir Thomas Ferens.

Postcard showing Garden Village, 1910 [L RH/2/344]

In 1915, on the 5th, a wooden dummy gun was installed on the roof of the premises that would later become Rose Downs and Thompson. It was intended to act as a deterrent to German zeppelins, and was manned from 8pm to 5am each night.

Copy tender for a wooden gun, c.1915 [C DBR/2509/118] 

In 1937, on the 25th, a trolleybus service opened to traffic two days after a ceremonial inauguration. The service replaced the existing tramway network, and used overhead electric wires but did not require tracks to run.

Trolleybus in operation in Victoria Square, 1939 [Lp.388.322.15]

In 1981, on the 17th, the Humber Bridge was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II, and was then the longest single span suspension bridge in the world.

Visit of civic dignitaries from Sierra Leone during construction of the Humber Bridge, 1979 [C TDP/2/7/9]

If you want to find out more about any of these facts, drop in to the History Centre and see what else we have.

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist (Hull University Archives)