Friday 9 December 2016

Discovering Deeds...and the Magic of PowerPoint for animation!

Miranda Lennon is working on a one year traineeship as part of The National Archives Transforming Archives scheme. In this blog she gives an update of her experience so far.

For the past few weeks I have been working on Cheshire Archives and Local Studies’ ‘Explore Your Archive’ campaign…my labour of love!

This project has been a big learning curve for me. It has been a real pleasure to have the creative freedom to express my ideas, and I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to utilise and develop my existing skills in art, design and I.T.  

The project brief was to create a campaign to promote Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, with a focus on the medieval deeds collection. The campaign needed to appeal to a wide audience and its purpose was to ‘Bring archives alive, inspire others’. One particular sentence in the brief stood out to me; ‘Build a story or a picture in their mind, evoke a sense of journey’.  When reading this my immediate thoughts were that there was potential to make a creative visual impact. I wanted to contribute my creative design skills to create something unique and inspiring.

The next step in the project was to gather my thoughts and to come up with some possible outcomes for the campaign. After much deliberation I decided to run with the idea of making a creative animation (at this point I hadn’t the faintest idea how to create an animation!).  I wanted to relish the opportunity to learn as much as I could, whilst making the most of the creative freedom which I had been granted!

I began by creating a rough idea for a story and then breaking this down into a storyboard for each scene. 

Storyboard showing rough slide ideas, created on PowerPoint

I pondered methods I could use for creating the animation. I was thinking that I would quite like to do something with old fashioned charm, inspired by the enchanting charm captured in many of the original stop motion animations; by pioneers like Lotte Reiniger (many of her animations are available on YouTube and the BFI Player).

I decided I would use PowerPoint due to the limited software available to me, and I ascertained that using PowerPoint software would be less time consuming than the more traditional stop motion methods involving using a camera.

I began the process by hand drawing images for my animation. I scanned the images and edited them in Photoshop to ensure the lines were visible and defined. I also used some existing images, which I edited in Photoshop.

Scan of original sketch

I used the ‘Quick Selection Tool’ followed by ‘Refine Edge’ in Photoshop to cut out the images. I then saved the images into a ‘Save for Web’ format which deletes any white background by isolating the image. 

I inserted the images into PowerPoint slides and added animation effects to each image. I experimented with the selection of animation effects available, including ‘Entrance’, ‘Exit’, ‘Emphasis’ and ‘Motion’ effects. It is all about experimentation and timing when working in PowerPoint! You can also layer up different effects; for example I layered a slow ‘Teeter’ and ‘Fly In’ to make the characters ‘wobble’ into each scene. I used the ‘Brush Colour’ effect at a slow speed to make the text appear gradually, as if the hand was writing it. 

PowerPoint work in progress showing 'Animation Pane'

The PowerPoint possibilities are endless..!

My animation ‘Discovering Deeds’ is now available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure!

I sincerely hope it fulfills its purpose by educating, entertaining and inspiring! 

Thursday 27 October 2016

Herons and Heronries (and a deceased Marten)

As I was walking to work alongside the canal in Chester earlier this year, just about parallel with the Shot Tower, I was surprised to see a Heron staring indifferently at me from the canal edge and this exceptional encounter made me wonder whereabouts it might normally reside? Not being a local, the only Heronry I know personally is the large one at the RSPB reserve Burton Mere on the Wirral, which now seems to house almost as many Little Egrets as it does Herons, a sign perhaps of things to come.

I thought I’d take a look and see what I could find on the birds in the Archives & Local Studies collections.  A look at the catalogue shows only three items catalogued under ‘Heronries’ (there are others, but the problem with searching for ‘Heron’ is that one also brings up all the records for individuals with that surname), but they are very interesting nonetheless.  The oldest, and definitely most fascinating, is a bound copy of a talk given by R. Newstead (the founder of the Grosvenor Museum in Chester) in 1890 and then published three years later in the Proceedings of the Chester Society of Natural Science and Literature.  It is entitled The Heron & Heronries of Cheshire and North Wales (Ref. 200315).  This idiosyncratic little book covers everything from the anatomy of the Heron’s gullet (with illustrations) to tales of Mr Stretch of Ledsham who (we never quite get to understand why, unfortunately) had a pet bird, originally procured from the Hooton Heronry, which was well on its way to swallowing a second ‘Russian Kitten’ before it was stopped.  Sadly this bird had a heavy price to pay as it was eventually killed by two of Mr Stretch’s dogs in the midst of an interrupted rat chase (I’m not making this up).  

In another section, Mr Newstead gives us some folk names of the bird including “Varn or more often Yarn” from Cheshire.  Another local, Welsh, name is given by two local (one Cheshire, one Welsh) correspondents – “Crydd Glas, or Grey Shoemaker” as the book states (This is a little odd, as I’m fairly certain ‘Glas’ is actually ‘Blue’ in Welsh?).  The reason given by one correspondent is “that the bird lost its money for a pair of boots in the brook, and has been looking for it ever since”, whilst the other states that this name arises “from the loud smacking noise that these birds make with their beaks at feeding time, which is produced by bringing together the two mandibles with terrific force – similar to that of the owl – and which closely resembles the cobbler at work with his lapstone.”
Towards the end of the book, Mr Newstead produces (from another paper delivered to the same society, this time in 1887) “A Preliminary List of the Mammals of Cheshire and North Wales.”  This includes Otter (“Common on the banks of the Dee.”), Polecat, and even a Marten (described as a ‘British Marten’ or ‘Marten Cat’).  One of these, presented by His Grace The Duke of Westminster in 1891 was shot at Eaton.  Mr Garland (Head Keeper) writes “I send you a Marten Cat which was killed here yesterday morning, coming to the Pheasants’ Field.  It is the first I have seen in Cheshire.”
There are also two rather nice Cheshire Life articles about Heronries, the bound volumes of which are available in the search room.  In the first of these, from 1942 (Ref: 012427) Sydney Moorhouse talks about some of the largest heronries in the County.  His very readable and enjoyable account also includes a description of the sounds that can emanate from the nesting Herons – “I have heard sounds like the mewing of a cat, the bark of a dog, the grunt of an old sow, and the squeal of a young porker all coming from those platforms of twigs in the trees of a heronry”.   In a discussion of the heron’s diet, A. W. Boyd – later author of A Country Parish and, incidentally, subject of an earlier blog – is quoted as reporting the Combermere herons as living mainly on “frogs, coarse fish, and newts” whilst “in the same year a young bird was seen at Eaton Hall with an eel of 21 inches, partly digested, sticking out of its beak.”  No clue is given as to how this measurement was verified. 

In the other article, from 1957, Norman F. Ellison writes about the Heron in his Naturalist’s Notebook series (Ref: 013710).  This is particularly interesting as it illustrates the enormous cost of the harsh winter of early 1947 to the breed. Two large local Heronries had the number of nests almost exactly halved between the breeding seasons of 1946 and 1947 (Tabley 57 to 29, and Eaton Hall 59 to 27).

If one is wanting more up to date ornithological data, don’t despair…the Local Studies collection holds many local items including local Annual Bird Reports and the excellent Birds in Cheshire and Wirral: A Breeding and Wintering Atlas by David Norman (Ref: 222309) from 2008.  So, the next time you see an unlikely looking creature as you wander around the County, and you fancy finding out a bit more about it, please don’t forget to check us out – you never know what we might hold here in the Record Office.  Which reminds me, I must try and find out why Heron’s Way, in Chester Business Park is so named…

Images by Charles Tunnicliffe reproduced in Tunnicliffe’s Countryside by Ian Niall (Ref: 218908)

Addendum (May 2017) Just to let you know that the Chester canal Heron is back for the 2017 season.  It was spotted on Saturday evening at about 19:00 just 100m or so down from Waitrose on the other side of the canal, and luckily I had my camera with me.  I have to report that there were definitely ducklings hiding in those reeds - and the heron looked particularly patient.

Monday 24 October 2016

Deeds Indeed

Miranda Lennon is working on a one year traineeship as part of The National Archives Transforming Archives scheme. In this blog she gives an update of her experience so far.

As my third week draws to a close I can reflect that the past five days have been very productive indeed.

I have adopted the role of ‘deeds detective’ by beginning work on my first project, to explore and digitise medieval deeds, including helping to trace a number of deeds back to their original locations. I have been discovering and learning more information about the deeds collection, focusing specifically on a number of deeds concerning the village of Bunbury, Cheshire. I find I am enticed by the mystery and antiquity of the documents and it fascinates me to consider the journey that they have endured over eight centuries, prior to being deposited at Cheshire Archives and Local studies. 

The deeds are indeed things of great beauty. They are inscribed with intricate Latin and French calligraphy on delicate parchment, and often have attached a splendid wax seal with a unique imprint. A number of deeds have a wavy or zag-zag indenture edge, which adds to the aesthetic appeal of these historic artifacts. 

Example of a medieval deed from the collection 
Example of one of the larger wax seals from the collection 
A lot of my week was spent familiarising myself with the reprographics equipment by photographing, editing and uploading the first selection of deeds. This has helped me to understand some of the practical and technical methods for digitising archival material, as well as giving me more of an insight into the project specifics.  I feel my previous IT and photography skills in Fashion Communication have come in handy during this first digitisation task, and I have so far enjoyed utilizing these skills within a new context. 

Another of my tasks was to link the medieval deeds project to ‘Explore Your Archive’, an annual campaign to promote archives across the UK. I have been wracking my brains to come up with an innovative and creative idea to promote the project to a wider audience, and ways in which I can use my creative background in design and fashion to contribute something fresh and different. I had a few inspirational eureka moments and all shall be revealed for the Explore Your Archives campaign launch in late November (I fear I have given myself a lot work to do!), but for the moment it is a secret I intend to keep! 

Please follow the links below to enjoy browsing Explore Your Archives and Cheshire Archives and Local Study’s Twitter and website to find out more and to keep updated about the launch week!

Thursday 20 October 2016

A Warm Welcome

Miranda Lennon is working on a one year traineeship as part of The National Archives Transforming Archives scheme. In this blog she gives an update of her experience so far.

I will begin firstly by introducing myself! My name is Miranda Lennon and I am the new Transforming Archives Trainee at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies. I will be taking over from Jessica Minshull’s great work, and I will also be working on some brand new projects during my year’s traineeship. I will be posting regular blog accounts of my exciting experiences and learning throughout the year, which I will upload here on the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies Blog. 

I have now completed the first week in my new role, and I have enjoyed my time gaining an overview of the services and meeting the team.  I received a warm welcome from my first project mentor, Archivist Adam Shaw, and at the monthly meeting on Monday morning, where I was introduced to staff working in different roles within Archives and Local Studies. 

During the week I was given an overview of the different departments within the building. I met with Local Studies Advisor Linda Clarke, who provided me with a wonderful insight into the service, and showed me some of the fascinating material held within the building, ranging from rare books and pamphlets, to lithograph prints and photographs. She kindly showed me a selection of original early 19th century sketches of people, which I found to be very inspiring! The sketches were beautifully preserved, the colours remained eye-catching, and the line work showed intricacy and technique. I was particularly in awe of the attention to detail showing the figure’s clothing, mannerisms and physiognomy; to me they resembled Dicken’s characters, full of character and idiosyncrasy!

Portrait from Local Studies Burt Portraits collection 
I received handling training from conservator Angela Suegreen, which I found fascinating and enjoyable. She gave a brief overview about the differences between paper and parchment, and about inks. We covered the handling techniques used for different materials including parchment documents, photographs, books and maps. I partook in a couple of handling exercises including manual techniques to retrieve a book from the shelf in order to minimise damage, and  setting up a parchment document using the appropriate weights and rests. 

I received Reprographics training from Archive Assistant Joy Laverty, who showed me the equipment and procedures. I had an introduction to photographing, scanning and editing material. I am very much looking forward to learning more about the equipment and about digitisation techniques, as I feel this is incredibly important when considering the future of the archive and heritage sector. 

I had an introduction to family history from Research Consultant Brett Langston, who showed me techniques for tracing ancestry using online resources. I had the pleasure of observing Brett research my own family history, which uncovered a few previously unknown details including an elopement at Gretna Green! 

I have greatly enjoyed my first week here and I am looking forward to starting work on the first major project involving digitising Medieval deeds, coinciding with the ‘Explore Your Archives’ campaign, which I am due to begin working on during my second week.  

Wednesday 28 September 2016

Final Remarks as a Trainee

Trainees just starting out at DCDC15. Image courtesy of Emma Stagg.
I have been working at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies for the past year as a Transforming Archives Trainee and have learnt a huge amount about archives and digitisation. Unfortunately, my time here is coming to a close.

A number of Transforming Archives Trainees have begun their traineeships this year (Cohort 2 of 3); with a smaller amount in Scotland as part of Opening up Scotland’s Archives. With two official trainee meetups throughout the year and a lot more impromptu ones, we have all supported one another while early on in our careers.
Transport used inside The National Archives' building to transport documents.

Everyone undertaking the traineeship is enrolled onto a module at the University of Dundee. This module was undertaken via distance learning and I studied an Introduction to Digitisation and Digital Preservation. In fact, Transforming Archives/Opening Up Scotland’s Archives have been so successful in ensuring the new workforce is up to speed with digital preservation, that they have been shortlisted for the Award for Teaching and Communications in the Digital Preservation Awards 2016!

With a training fund available to me throughout the year, I have been able to go to a large number of conferences and courses of my choice. Naturally, the Digital Preservation Coalition’s Student Conference, was one of my first choices as it supported my distance learning course. Other courses completed include the Care of Paper and Photographic Collections and Photographing Museum Objects: both of which otherwise I would be unable to afford.
Possible hazards to consider at the Archives as part of the Care of Paper and Photographic Collections course.

The funding has also allowed me to purchase books relating to digital preservation and preventive conservation of photographs, to improve my knowledge in these areas and support my archival career.

I have become a member of the Archives and Records Association and Institute of Conservation over the course of my traineeship post; attending both of their conferences. Additionally, I am now a member of the Association for Historical and Fine Art Photography with plans to go to their conference in November after my traineeship has concluded. A number of the trainees from all three years will also be attending DCDC16 in Salford from 10th-12th October 2016. 

Back at Cheshire Archives, I have catalogued and re-packaged over 15,000 Local Studies items. These range from 35mm slides, to prints, glass plate negatives and original illustrations. A selection of those catalogued were digitised and uploaded onto the Cheshire image bank and I have spoken about a series of these in a previous blog post.
Selection of Local Studies slides from the 80s, showing views of Cheshire and North Wales.

After working with Local Studies, Medieval Deeds was my next project. Over 350 Medieval Deeds were digitised and are all accessible remotely for our volunteers to transcribe them from their original Latin. The goal is ultimately to add both image and transcription to our cataloguing system. This will make the whole series searchable and increase the value and knowledge which can be gained from these manuscripts. This project has just been released to volunteers and will continue under the management of the new trainee.

To tie in with the Medieval Deed transcription, I organised two days of Horrible Handwriting courses to assist the public in deciphering and making sense of the English writing on old documents. This was a successful event and also helped me to improve my palaeographical skills alongside assisting those attending.

In between these main projects, smaller ad-hoc duties have cropped up. Early in the year, I produced a blog post promoting The National Archives' Explore your Archives week which runs again this year, 19-27th November. At Christmas I photographed Chester’s Christmas Markets, which was the perfect time to capture that area of Chester. Town Hall Square will soon look a lot different with the progression of the new Northgate shopping development.

More recently, I have scanned glass negatives for Twitter and even produced a variety of visuals to be displayed at Cheshire’s Tour of Britain. The sheer range of work I have undertaken here has made it a very informative year for me!
Eastgate Clock, Chester. Glowing pink just after its refurbishment. 

You can follow the work of next year’s trainees (and take a look back at this year) via the following Twitter accounts:
And you can read a bit more about my work, and how I got here on the National Archive’s blog.

For now, I hand over to my successor Miranda Lennon and wish her and the rest of the new cohort the best of luck with the year ahead. 

Thursday 25 August 2016

The Folk-Speech of South Cheshire

Following on from an earlier blog ( I wrote about books and articles relating to local dialect in the Local Studies Collection here at the Record Office in Chester, I stumbled upon Thomas Darlington’s The Folk-Speech of South Cheshire (Ref: 200293) which was published for the English Dialect Society (EDS) in 1887 just two years after Robert Holland’s 'A Glossary of Words' used in the County of Chester was issued, also by the EDS.  Darlington is rather apologetic about this, but because Holland specifically stated in his preface that he had little opportunity to become acquainted with the dialect in the Southern part of the county, an area he defines as ‘that part of Cheshire lying South of a line drawn from west to east across the county, and passing through Handley (six miles S.E. of Chester) and Crewe), it was felt by Darlington, and the EDS, that this new work was warranted.  And at 450 pages in length it clearly was.

The book contains a fascinating introduction talking about the influence of neighbouring dialects and language on that of South Cheshire.  Not all though – the “paucity of Welsh words in the folk-speech can only be explained as the result of the singular antipathy which the men of Cheshire have always shown towards their Welsh neighbours.”

What follows is a detailed Pronunciation and Grammar guide (of the kind that used to terrify me when studying languages in Secondary School), and then a rather interesting dialect version of the Book of Ruth (see image below)

The main bulk of the book (nearly 350pp) is a glossary of words as collected by Darlington and used in the defined geographical area.  It is a fascinating collection, and arguably his descriptions are a little more readable than Holland’s. Here’s a small selection of entries that caught my eye:

Apperntle, s. an apronful: from appern, an apron.  “A apperntle o’ ‘tatoe-pillin’s for th’ pigs”
Chommer, v.a. to masticate, chew. “Whey, if that young foxhaind hanna chommered my slipper aw to bits”
Cuckoo-wuts, oats sown after the cuckoo has come.  Oats sown so late are not expected to turn out well.
Fecks, or Good Fecks!, interj. an exclamation of surprise.
Goblin, s. a gooseberry.
Hoozy-poozy, adj. wasting time. “Has Dick gone after that missin’ heifer?  Whey, one o’ the little lads mit ha’ fatcht her.  It is so hoozy-poozy to be doin’ a-that-ns, when hey mit ha’ bin getting on wi’ the milkin’ “
Johnny Raw, s. an ignorant, uncouth person.  “Yo bin a pratty Johnny Raw, to be turnt ait by yursel, an’ dunna know a B from a bull’s foot”
Kindle, v.a. to bring forth, bear.  Used of all small animals except cats, which are said to kittle.
Lithermon’s Looad, s. a lazy man’s load; a load piled up to save the trouble of a double journey.  “An’ nai, ye can go an’ fatch the rest o’ th’ hee; there’ll be rather moor t’n a jag left; bu’ dunna bring lithermon’s looad, else ye’n meebe have a waut “
Smellers, a cat’s whiskers.  “If I know’d hooa’d cut that cat’s smellers off, I’d tickle their toby”
Three-cornered, adj. irritable.  “Yo mun mind what you sen to th’ mester; he’s in a very three-corned wee this mornin’, he welly snapped my yed off when I spoke to him just nai”
As someone born in Sheffield, I also rather enjoyed Yorkshire, s. cajolery, blarney, attempt to hoodwink or deceive.  “Let’s ha’ none o’ yur Yorkshire”
And finally (actually that honour falls to Zowkers – an exclamation of surprise)…the letter Z itself: “Elderly people have told me this letter used to be called uzzard; and persons now hardly past their prime were taught in their school days to call it zod.”

Wednesday 10 August 2016

From Audlem to New York

Photographs can give amazing insight into the lives of the people of the past. At Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, cataloguing part of the glass plate negative collection unearthed a number of such images. These images are glass plate negatives depicting American life in the early 1880s. The only question was, why had we accepted items relating to an area so outside our collection policy? A theory arose that perhaps these people had links to Cheshire but had left to discover a new life in America. 

New York Garden- c11607 on Cheshire Image Bank

Upon inspection of the various boxes, it was found that some in fact were of areas around Audlem in Cheshire. The same hand had written the captions for both New York and Audlem; creating a link between the images and reinforcing the glass plates’ original grouping as a set.

We decided to research some of the names shown in the captions. Our Local Studies manager started on the trail of Brettel Gullen. She found out that his place of birth was listed as Brooklyn, America in October of 1884.

After some further research, we came up with a discovery. Brettel’s parents had married in the Parish of Audlem the year before his birth (1883), and the newly married couple travelled to Brooklyn, USA where they began their lives together. Later records show that by 1894 three daughters had been added to the family- Margaret Emily; Agnes May and Edith Fernley Gullen.

1883 Marriage certificate of William Gullen and Emily Fernley from Find My Past

Jesse Fernley

Jesse Fernley is Brettel’s maternal grandfather and is listed on his daughter’s marriage certificate. In 1883 he is a school master, and Brettel’s mother (Emily Willoughby) plus two of her sisters followed in Jesse’s footsteps, becoming school mistresses.

“At this time,[1870-80s] Jessie Fearnley [sic] was the interesting headmaster of the C. of E. School, who lived at Moss Villa...” Marjorie Burton, Nineteenth Century Audlem.

Jesse stayed at Moss Villa until his death in 1924.

Moss Hall- copy from original by Jesse Fernley- c11618 on Cheshire Image Bank

The images we hold of Audlem in this collection are attributed to J.F (presumably Jesse Fernley) in 1875, copied onto glass plates by his son-in-law 17 years later.

William Frederich Gullen (Brettel’s father) had copied these plates of Audlem, possibly to help him and his wife stave off homesickness. However, a mere two years afterwards she would be making her way back to the UK with her four children. The ship passenger list states that she is now a ‘widow’. Her husband had died close to his 40th birthday. Brettel was now the head of the family, aged 9.

1894 Passenger List Montreal to Liverpool from Ancestry

Later Life

Regardless of this setback, the remaining family’s fortune seemed to remain good over the next few years.

As Brettel grew up, he studied in both Leeds and London as a railway carriage draftsman and continued in his work with the railway throughout his life. Multiple passenger lists show him going between Southampton and Buenos Aires repeatedly. A lot of British companies were buying up Argentinian rail networks around this time which could explain Brettel’s presence there.

1933 Passenger list Buenos Aires to Southampton from Ancestry

All the family except Brettel show up in the 1911 Wales census, with an address in Cardiff. It shows us that the daughters have all followed in their mother’s and grandfather’s footsteps and become teachers. The address here and the address found 22 years later on Brettel’s passenger list (above) are under a 45 minute walk from each other. We don’t know if Brettel moved away or they all moved and continued to live together not far down the road.

1911 Wales Census from Ancestry

Despite Brettel and his siblings losing their father at a young age, they got to meet their Cheshire Grandfather for the first time and had the chance to experience two different ways of life and we have some amazing photographs to show for it.

The whole Gullen family (inc. a 5th child who died in infancy) with pet bird- c11613 on Cheshire Image Bank

If you want to see more about this family and their life in America, the whole set of images have been digitised and are available on Cheshire Image Bank now.

N.B Previously we had said Mr Gullen was from America but he was in fact from Walsall, later moving to Liverpool and then to America before his marriage.

Tuesday 31 May 2016

100 years of remembering HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland

Chester has not forgotten its link with HMS Chester and the men who served on her at the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. If you visit Chester Town Hall this week you will find a small and touching exhibition relating to John Travers Cornwell VC prepared by Chester History and Heritage.

Correspondence between Albert E Horne of Cheltenham, who served on HMS Chester, and the Mayor of Chester indicates that he made regular visits to civic events from the 1950s onwards. In June 1970 he presented the city with a photograph of the 'Boy Cornwell' that is still held in our collections.

In November he writes again to the Mayor enclosing photographs taken at the opening of the 'Victoria Cross' pub on Jack Cornwell Street in his home borough of Newham on 15 September 1970. They appear here with Mr Horne's captions as a tribute to the shipmates and 100 years of remembering.

The six shipmates with two Ind Coope directors, Mr Green, Librarian and Chef

A chat over old times

Six Chester shipmates with Mrs Alice Payne, 80, Cornwell's sister

Thursday 26 May 2016

Thinking Local - Toot Hill and Forest Chapel

This blog began with a visit to some friends who have recently moved to the delightful (and tiny – literally a handful of houses and a small church) hamlet of Forest Chapel near Macclesfield.  I’ve had family living in Buxton and have previously walked around Wildboarsclough and up Shutlingsloe (arguably more correctly, Shutlingslowe) – ‘the Matterhorn of Cheshire’, but this hamlet was entirely new to me.  It’s an immediately interesting and very picturesque hamlet, and, despite being only 5 minutes away from the main Macclesfield to Buxton ‘Cat and Fiddle’ Road it feels pleasingly away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.  As I went out for a nice walk in the chilly March sunshine I was also shown the Toot Hill (or Toothill, depending on your source) earthworks up above the hamlet.  I wondered aloud about the naming of this ‘Roman fort’, and indeed what material we might hold with regards to Forest Chapel as a whole?  When I returned to work in the week I endeavoured to have look, and now (a couple of months on) I have finally done just that.
View from Forest Chapel 2016
I started by picking up Dodgson’s The Place-Names of Cheshire (published in 5 parts, but actually 7 volumes – and available on the open shelves in the Record Office search room - Ref 500189).  This explains the origin of the ‘Toot Hill’ name:

[Incidentally, and relating to an earlier blog on Cheshire Dialect, locally at the dawn of the 20th Century, corn just shooting above the ground, was said to ‘toot’.]

It is not entirely clear exactly how these earthworks became ‘Roman’.   J.P Earwaker in his Roman Remains in the Eastern Part of Cheshire (Ref 213934) does some careful measurements of the area, and talks about them being a ‘small camp’ and with a slightly raised ridge nearby that ‘may have been a Roman road’ but he provides not the slightest genuine evidence of such a connection.
A more extensive archaeological excavation is undertaken by F.A. Bruton and A.C.B. Brown in 1906 and published in a Classical Association of England and Wales publication Excavations at Toothill and Melandra published in 1909 (Ref 200763).  This contains some interesting plates and very detailed measurings and yet, sadly, “The result of the excavations may be summarised in a few words.  They yielded nothing in the way of finds – as regards traces of human occupation they are negative – and except in so far as a careful examination and measurement of the earthwork may assist, they throw no light on the date of the structure.”

F. Thomas undertook A Fresh Survey of the Earthwork on Toothill in 1960 (Ref 207875) and concludes that “Toothill was never a fort in any period..” and “the site as a whole appeared typical of medieval park and forest sites”.  He also adds, perhaps a little pointedly,  that “Excavation of the ditch and rampart might, with the aid of pollen analysis, possibly combined with radio-carbon dating, give some idea as to date, but unfortunately, the central rectangle was almost completely excavated in 1906, and any evidence, which more scientific methods might have found useful, may have been destroyed.”

In addition to these items, there are some good maps - the early Ordnance Survey 25-inch scale maps (We hold the 1st and 3rd Edition sheets for this area), the Tithe Map from 1849 (Ref EDT 255/2 - also available online) as well as Registers from the church itself (St Stephen, Forest Chapel - Ref P88) which is particularly well known for its annual rushbearing ceremony, and several either items

In total, typing ‘Forest Chapel Macclesfield’ into the catalogue produces nearly 50 responses, the majority of them from our excellent local studies collection. 
The point, if indeed this blog is trying to make one, however is not meant to be specific, but general.  Literally nowhere is too small (or indeed, too large) to have some records of some description be held by us.  Why not take a look at what we hold on your town, village, hamlet, street, even your house?  You will never know unless you look.

Wednesday 30 March 2016

Digital Restoration

It is said that at interview, would-be Kodak employees had to put their hands onto a small piece of metal. The oils in some people’s hands would dramatically eat through the metal, whilst others wouldn’t. People with especially acidic hands would not get the job. I am unsure if this is true but it goes without saying- if your hands can dissolve metal, they shouldn’t be touching valuable photographs! 

Railway Junction Before and After
Railway Junction
Even without handling, photographs can become brittle, dog-eared and damaged over the course of their lives. Often, such items make their way into our archives where our conservators can try to repair and extend the life of the object.

Below are 35mm slides with a range of damages to them. The most prominent damage on these small images is fingerprints. Due to the small size, a single fingerprint can effectively obscure the whole image, and can be even more noticeable when enlarged.
Train Crash
Train Crash

Touching photographic materials with your hands transfers oils to the photograph, which will effectively etch onto the image over time. Digitising the image allows the use of image manipulation software such as Adobe Photoshop, and for most of the damage to be digitally removed. This is a relatively quick process- the longest time I spent editing one of these images was 15 minutes, the shortest only about 5 minutes! 
Crewe Station Before and After
Crewe Station

Photoshop can also enable fixes to take place after conservation has been completed. The image below is from a conserved glass plate negative which had been broken into a number of pieces and fixed back together. Upon digitising, black lines can be seen where the plate had previously been broken. Removing these is a quick job in Photoshop. This is a less invasive task than removing the large scale fingerprints and requires adding in fewer ‘new’ pixels to the affected area.
Glass Plate Before and After Photoshop
Glass Plate Image
Close up of repair
Close up of repair

It would be interesting to know people’s thoughts on this subject. Should we digitally restore our digitised images or keep them true to their current state?

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Putting the record straight ...

From time to time we are asked to confirm or deny a rumour about the safety of the Welsh in Chester - in honour of St David's Day we publish below the text of our longstanding stock reply ...

"Anyone who has lived in Chester for more than a couple of years will have heard the story that there is a law which allows anyone to use a bow and arrow to kill any Welshman found within the City after dark. As with all such tales, it is largely myth, but equally typically, there is a kernel of truth lurking at its heart.

At the beginning of the 15th century Cheshire and the Welsh borders were in ferment. In the year following Henry IV’s seizure of the throne in 1399, the Welsh rose in a rebellion which continued for several years. The situation was made much worse in the summer of 1403 when Henry Percy, up until then a loyal servant of the new king, joined the revolt and advanced south from Yorkshire, reaching Chester on 9 July. The rebels’ ranks were swollen by those loyal to the deposed King Richard II – rumours were rife that he was still alive – and an army of probably at least 14,000 men advanced towards Shrewsbury. Just north of the town they met the royal army on 21 July. The battle was long and savage but the royal army ultimately triumphed; Percy was among the dead. The work of pacification was not so easily achieved ...

On 4 September, just six weeks later, Henry Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester issued an order for the Mayor, Sheriffs and Alderman of the City to reduce the risk of trouble from dissident Welshman in Chester. Its provisions included the expulsion of all Welsh people – or people of Welsh extraction or sympathies – from within the walls and a ban on their entry before sunrise or their staying after sunset, “under pain of decapitation”, a ban on the carrying of arms by any Welshman, “apart from a knife to cut his dinner”, no Welsh person was to enter a tavern, and any gathering of three or more Welshmen was illegal.

So there was a ban on Welshmen staying in Chester, and severe restrictions on what they could do while in the City. But there is no suggestion of carte blanche for any citizen to take the law into their own hands, and certainly no reference to bows and arrows. As to the idea that the order is still in force, it is probably not the sort of edict which was formally repealed; more likely it was simply left to fall into disuse. Certainly, at the time of Perkin Warbeck’s rebellion in 1489 a similar order was issued to expel Welshmen and there was no suggestion that the earlier order was still “on the books”.

Whatever the case, the order as issued was part of the Palatinate jurisdiction of the Earldom of Chester, the last vestiges of which were abolished in 1830. So for at least the last 185 years, Welsh people have been able to sleep easy in their beds within the City!"

Wednesday 27 January 2016

First World War Conscription: our Cheshire records

The Military Service Act introduced conscription to, and the right of exemption from, military service on 27 January 1916. Local tribunals were established to hear requests for exemptions. Local authorities were advised to destroy records in the years following the First World War – two sets of records were kept nationally and the Middlesex documents can be searched by name, place and profession and viewed on The National Archives catalogue Discovery for free.

What if the instruction to destroy the records was overlooked? For Cheshire this was the case in Macclesfield and Hale – the only two local authorities that we hold tribunal records for. A University of Chester student volunteer has extracted the details that follow to give us an idea of workings of the tribunal and the lives its decisions touched.

In Macclesfield minutes, case numbers rather than names are used to reference the requests for exemption so we cannot identify individuals granted conditional exemption, six month’s temporary exemption, three month’s temporary exemption or in certified occupations. Letter books, so copies of the tribunal’s correspondence, also survive allowing further insight into the role of the tribunal.

In advance of conscription ‘German guns that were captured in the war were to be exhibited in some Cheshire and Lancashire towns. Captain Gossett requested that they be shown in Macclesfield in order to place pressure on men into recruiting for the war.’ 13 November 2015

Replies to businesses and individuals place men in groups for postponement ‘not exceeding 10 groups from the number of group the attested man is originally placed in.’

The Hale tribunal minutes include names and details as to how this worked in practice and expand on the decision-making process with some fascinating insights.

22 February 1916 A dissented case - Mr Hendry, 21, from Hale, who had previously been postponed to group 11 and who appeared to claim the longest further postponement, was denied further exemption.

29 February 1916 John Steele appeared in support of his claim to have his son John Cecil Steele employed by him as a window cleaner and was given one month to find a replacement.

14 March 1916 Phillip O’Hara, a bricklayer, was not awarded exemption based on the grounds that the case has not yet been established.

21 March 1916 Mr Arthur Leslie William appeared to support his claim for absolute exemption on conscientious objection. No exemption was given and he was placed in a non-combat group. Mr Robert Lees supported his case for total exemption on the ground of conscientious objection. No exemption was given and he was placed in a non-combat group. Mr Thomas Neild, appeared to support his claim on behalf of his son, Jos Neild. Absolute exemption was given on medical grounds.

May 23 1916 Donald Gillies was given temporary exemption till 23 September 1916 and was not allowed to make a claim on any other ground other than his wife’s health. He accepted this. Fredrick Broad Smith, a solicitor, supported his claim for exemption on ground (a) and the case was adjourned whilst waiting for instructions as to the allowances for married men.

11 July 1916 Charles Harold Matley supported his claim on conscientious objection and other grounds, which included submitting a certificate as to his wife’s health. Exemption was not granted and he was placed in a non-combat group. The applicant gave notice of appeal. John Yates, an agricultural wheelwright, was allowed temporary exemption till 11 September 1916, as long as he remained in similar employment and joined the local volunteers.

18 July 1916 Thomas Dolan supported his claim on ground (a) and with his rejection by the Army Medical Board, the claim was withdrawn.

November 1917 Joseph Swindle, a hairdresser, was allowed conditional exemption due to the man complying with the requirements of the Hale Red Cross hospital in hair cutting for the wounded soldiers.

24 September 1918 Mr Astbury, a gardener, was given temporary exemption due to continuing work on the farm and being relieved from service with the volunteers. Edward Dillon produces a Baptism record to show that he is outside the military age required under the military service act.

A separate Tribunal Register states the numbers and names of men who are exempt from military service for specific reasons and how long for. For each tribunal they give the name and reason for exemption. They are divided into adjourned cases and new cases.

The wartime records of Hale Urban District Council are included in our online catalogue where you can find the reference numbers to request if you would like to visit and view the original documents.

Friday 8 January 2016

From Sutton to Shorelands: The early school life of Charles Frederick Tunnicliffe

Just before Christmas I was lucky enough to stumble upon an excellent copy of Tunnicliffe’s lovely 1952 volume Shorelands Summer Diary in a charity shop in Chester. This is a wonderfully illustrated diary of the early Summers he and his wife spent at their house at Malltraeth on Anglesey after moving there in 1947. As a result of this I thought I’d have a look and see what I could find concerning Tunnicliffe here at Cheshire Archives and Local Studies. We stock a number of Tunnicliffe illustrated and authored works (including Shorelands Summer Diary) in the Local Studies collection (which can be accessed from the Searchroom in the same way as other material), as well as several sales catalogues, biographies and relevant articles. I also learnt that our colleagues in Macclesfield Library house an excellent Tunnicliffe collection containing over 130 items in their Local Studies department.

Reading that Tunnicliffe went to school at St James’ school in Sutton (a mile south of Macclesfield) and then went on to Macclesfield School of Art before eventually obtaining a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London, I thought I would investigate whether the Archives held any relevant school records. Thankfully we did.

The St James’ National School log book (SL 137/1/2) covers the period 1894 – 1927. As always with such logs there is a strange mixture of fascinating and very mundane (although in itself also very interesting) material included. This is no exception. If you want to see an inventory of school crockery in July 1914 (46 ‘sound’ green mugs, 7 ‘unsound’), or the details of the suppliers of garden manure to the school (Mr Bullock, believe it or not) then this is definitely the document to request. More importantly for our purposes we can also see that the 5 year old C F Tunnicliffe started school at the start of the new term on Aug 7th 1906. 

I then found the Macclesfield School of Art admission register (SL 262/3/3) which includes both an overall index and annual entries for Tunnicliffe from 1915/16 to 1920/21.

Of even more interest were the School of Art minutes (SL262/1/2) which contained several specific references including one resolving that Tunnicliffe was elected as an Associate of the School after already receiving a Local Scholarship of £20 p.a. from earlier the same year.

The artistic journey that would lead nearly three decades later to Shorelands, where he was to remain for a further 32 years until his death in 1979 was well under way.


Many Cheshire parish registers are housed here at the Record Office in Chester, but by no means all of them. After exhausting all possible local parishes that we do store, I made contact with St James' Church, Sutton Lane Ends who were very kindly able to undertake a search for me and locate the Baptism record. Please note that there is a charge for this service which is dictated to the Parish by the Church of England.

St. James’ Church were also able to provide some photos of a very youthful looking, yet instantly recognisable, fifteen year old Charles Tunnicliffe in the church choir (apologies for the quality – as these are behind glass it is a challenge to get an excellent image).

I shall continue to keep an eye out for anything else Tunnicliffe related we might have here at the Archives.