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Discovering Photography with Wiltshire People First

on Tuesday, 18 November 2014. Posted in Archives, Photography

October saw a wonderful new project associated with Lacock Unlocked, and the chance for some of our staff and volunteers to work with Wiltshire People First, a group for adults with learning disabilities, and a professional photographer Jamie, to understand about photography; how to use a high-quality digital SLR camera and take good quality photographs. The three workshops followed different patterns and allowed the members to learn about different aspects of photography, experiment with picture taking and be creative. The project will finish with an exhibition of three images taken and chosen by each member; those which they feel are the most successful photographs they took. The exhibition will take place on Friday 28th November in the Manger Barn at Lacock, and I would recommend anyone who is able to go and see what brilliant pictures have been taken and the improvements made throughout the three weeks of the workshops.

The project fitted with Lacock Unlocked perfectly as it allowed us to work with a wider community of people and having Lacock as the venue was great as we could all imagine ourselves in the shoes of William Henry Fox Talbot, a pioneer in photography who owned Lacock Abbey in the 19th century and developed the first negative image actually inside the abbey itself.

The first day of the project, held on a chilly autumnal day in early October, started with a “welcome” session where the group members got a chance to meet Rachael, the National Trust staff member helping lead the project, Terry and Ally from the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, David and Ronnie, our two volunteers, and Jamie McDine, the photographer. We also were able to meet Julie and Angie from Wiltshire People First. After some introductions, we went to the Fox Talbot Museum in Lacock, where Roger Watson, the curator, spent some time with the group explaining all about William Henry Fox Talbot and his early developments with photography. He showed us a replica of the camera obscura which Fox Talbot had invented, and explained how Fox Talbot’s hard work eventually led him to produce the negative image which became so important in the success of photography.

Useful Tips for Reading Old Handwriting

on Tuesday, 04 November 2014. Posted in Archives

The study of palaeography is something which is one of the most enjoyable aspects of an archivist’s training, but it is not something which is the exclusive preserve of the professional. Anyone can learn to read old handwriting – all it takes is patience, determination, and lots of practice!

Handwriting styles
Over the centuries there have been several major styles of handwriting and handwriting from the medieval period to the 18th century will (generally speaking) fall into one of those styles, going from Anglicana (medieval period) to bastard Secretary (15th century) to Secretary (16th-17th cent) and italic (overlapping with Secretary) to mixed hands (late 17th cent – 19th cent). From 19th century onwards we’ve seen the rise of personal handwriting which doesn’t conform to a set, taught style, and ironically 20th and 21st century writing can be more difficult to read than Tudor, depending on the writer! In addition there are specialist hands used only in certain central law courts. A comprehensive survey of both handwriting styles and the tools used for writing from medieval times to the 18th century can be found at: http://scriptorium.english.cam.ac.uk/handwriting/history/

Abbreviations
Regardless of era there have also been well-established conventions for abbreviating words – think for example of ‘Mr’ for ‘Master’ or the ampersand & for ‘and’. These abbreviations need to be learnt off by heart if you are going to become confident at transcription.
See: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/palaeography/where_to_start.htm#abbreviations

An Intriguing Bill... 18th Century Remedies in Lacock's Box 47

on Tuesday, 16 September 2014. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire People

Lacock Unlocked

Cataloguing box 47 is a slow process, it is packed with lots of ‘bundles’, mostly folded and rolled receipts and invoices for the second half of the eighteenth century, intricately put together in years. They are like abstract pieces of origami which when unfolded cannot be put back together in quite the same way. But this is not the real reason for taking so long to work through the documents; I am easily diverted. On the face of it bills are rather boring, but here are people going about their business on the estate, making trips to purchase goods and undertaking repairs to buildings, the Malthouse and Red Lion seem to appear quite regularly. Local history, family history, economic history, even costume history can be discovered here. Trips to Bath conjure up images of Jane Austen, while wages being paid three years late leave you pondering how people managed to feed themselves and their families. The distractions are plentiful.

But back to the title, some of the most intriguing bills found were those for medicines. For a week in September 1740 Thomas Honey was paid for a variety of herbal medicines, along with the ‘vomit’ was ‘cordial mixture’ and ‘a decoction of ye bark a quart’. I have not found any other references to Thomas so far, but he seems well named. Doctor, apothecary, quack, how to describe someone who supplied these remedies; he charged for ‘bleeding’ so a barber perhaps, or even a grocer? Apothecaries were originally part of the grocers’ trade. In January 1745 it was a Mr Ringston and William Busby who were supplying John Talbot with similar items, a ‘cooling emulsion a quart’ and ‘the opening electuary’ and then nothing until August when ‘rhubarb tinctures’ and ‘mercurial pills’ were supplied.

Researching the Home Front of the First World War in Wiltshire

on Tuesday, 02 September 2014. Posted in Archives, Events, Military

I don’t know about you, but when I think of the First World War the first thing which comes into my mind is barbed wire and mud – and all the associated horrors of trench warfare. This is probably the result of reading the War Poets at school, and watching the film ‘All Quiet on the Western Front’ at an impressionable age! As I have got older I’ve read more widely about the War and learned how it impacted on civilian life, as well as on the front line troops. I have been amazed by the scope of that impact, and by the way in which aspects of life on the Home Front (which I had previously assumed were introduced in the Second World War) such as rationing and evacuation, actually had their roots in the First World War. One blog cannot do justice to this topic so I’m just going to touch on a few aspects of the War’s impact on Wiltshire. We hope to uncover more stories of life on the Home Front through the Wiltshire at War: Community Stories project in collaboration with Wiltshire’s museums http://www.wshc.org.uk/blog/item/wiltshire-at-war-community-stories.html

Lacock Unlocked: On a Mission with Box 64

on Tuesday, 29 July 2014. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire People

My mission, if I chose to accept it, would be to attempt to read, understand and transcribe on to a computer, the documents contained in certain bundles of the Lacock Archives.  I accepted.

On Tuesday 8th October 2013 I arrived at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre and was assigned Box 64 which contained 61 bundles of documents.


 
Reading my first few items was quite demanding but once I was familiar with the different way different people wrote I began to recognise words and sentences and gained a sense of what they were communicating.

Box 64 is a mixed box of items covering the period between the mid 1800s to the beginning of the 1900s – private letters between members of the Fox Talbot family, business letters, letters of community interest, architectural interest letters, photographic processes discussed and enquired about, bills, receipts, pamphlets and booklets and various advertising leaflets about medicinal items.

Work experience students discover more at the History Centre

on Thursday, 17 July 2014. Posted in Archives, Wiltshire Places

For my Year 10 work experience I chose to come to the History Centre. It has been an insightful experience into what the Centre actually does. I was lucky enough to get to do some sub-numbering - it helps prevent documents becoming lost. I was sub numbering the Earls of Radnor archives – which are also done by volunteers. These documents vary in age from the 17th century to the 20th century.


I have been able to do some cataloguing – both online and offline. The documents that had to be catalogued were the agendas and minutes of the meetings of the local Wiltshire councils. I began by sorting the documents by place, and noting their dates in Microsoft Excel. Then we had to go into a strong room, and place the meeting records with all of the others. These files are now accessible to the public. However the files have only been catalogued in draft form.

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