Monday, 13 February 2017

Made in Hull: A 'Sensational' Hull Romance

It's the month of love with Valentines Day happening on the 14th February, so what better reason is there to look at the history of chocolate and sweet making in our city!

Needler's letterhead paper

For those of you who didn’t already know, Needler's was a Hull-based sweet manufacturer. It was founded in 1886 by 18 year old Frederick Needler when he bought a small confectionery business near Paragon Station. He would later move the business to Anne Street, where he employed two staff - a sugar boiler and a boy named Watson. 

By 1900, the business had grown and the now 10 female and 23 male employees could make around ten tons of confectionery per week, resulting in a turnover for Needler of £15,000. Over two hundred different products, mainly boiled sweets and toffees, were being made. This meant that by 1906 larger premises were required, and a new building was erected on Bournemouth Street, off Sculcoates Lane. This is the factory that many people will remember and associate with Needlers. It was demolished in the early 2000’s and the land redeveloped as a housing estate. A nod to the land's previous status can be found in the estate's name, 'Needler's Way'.

Ariel photograph of the Bournemouth Street factory, 1920s

By 1912 Needler’s were producing 576 lines, 74 of which were chocolate, and by 1920 the company was making 650 tons of chocolate and 1,500 tons of sweets per year resulting in a turnover of £664,000. Sweet wrappers were introduced in the early 1920s and, interestingly, this process was undertaken by hand until the first wrapping machines were introduced in 1928.

By 1920, there were 1,700 permanent employees, most of whom were female. The company had a reputation for treating employees well. The staff dining room was often the scene of wedding gift presentations to former and current employees about to get married. In the summer 1936 issue of a journal published by Needler's, ‘Quality’, Percival Needler emphasized what a loss to the firm it was when 'valued servants’ left to set up their own homes and families. He also stated that he believed their Needler's training would ‘stand them in good stead in their home life' and that 'running a home was no easy matter', but that 'habits of punctuality, tidiness, cleanliness and the general discipline' gained whilst employed at Needler's should prove an excellent foundation on which to build [L.664.1]. On 29 July 1922 the Hull Times ran an article titled ‘A Romance of Local Industry’ which focused on the ‘sweet’ girls of Hull’, and which observed the excellent welfare and social provisions for workers. Profit sharing had been introduced as early as 1911, the company provided good social and sports facilities, as well as a sick and benefit society, and a full time attendant nurse was employed for the use of staff.

Needler's Van, 1918

Unfortunately, Needler's was badly hit by the economic depression of the 1930s, with turnover being nearly half what it had been just a decade earlier. At the same time, Frederick Needler's health was deteriorating, and he died on 30 September 1932 aged 67. He was immediately succeeded by his son, A. Percival Needler. Interestingly, the son was a published poet of some local repute. In 1958, he published a book of poems called ‘The Chiming Hours’ [L. 821]. It contains two love poems, ‘Love was a Rose’ and ‘Amberieux Revisited’...

Advertisement for Needler's products

Amberieux Revisited

And if two lovers sometimes meet
At blue of evening near my tree,
A corpse most happy I shall be
Their youth and grace to greet;

Holding hands I see them come,
Wrapped in dreams that need no speech,
Smiling softly each to each,
And pause beside my tomb.

“Dear poet who no malice bore,”
I hear them say in voices low,
“Here he rests were flowers blow
And wanders now no more.”

And in their innocence and bliss,
Beneath the stars that watch and wait
I hope that they will celebrate
My memory with a kiss.

The advancement of supermarkets in the 1970s and 1980s led to the eventual decline of small, privately owned sweet shops that no longer placed orders with Needlers to any great volume and so in 1986, the company was bought out. Anyone with a ‘hunger’ to find out more about Needlers after this ‘sweetener’ is welcome to come into Hull History Centre or search our online catalogue (Link)

Elspeth, Archivist and Librarian

Friday, 10 February 2017

Religion and Heritage on Display

Last week I had the chance to attend the “Religion and Heritage on Display” conference held at the Institute of Archaeology at the UCL in London. How do people practice religion? The term “religion” covers a wide range of thoughts and beliefs, and museums are places where religious artefacts become lifeless objects. That was the main subject behind this conference which gathered a wide range of speakers and professionals from the Heritage and Religion sector.

Marion Browman -
Museum of World Religions project, Birmingham
After the usual coffee and biscuits session, the conference opened up with a magisterial introduction from  Marion Bowman - Museum of World Religions project, Birmingham. She spoke about the importance of religious objects and how these can engage with audiences and faith groups. Marion is also one of the investigators on the “Pilgrimage and England's cathedrals”, a project which studies the interaction between the cathedrals in England and the people who visit them.

Lucy Trench – V&A and Science Museum
Lucy Trench – V&A and Science Museum spoke about the challenges to display religious objects in a very small exhibition space. She had to confront this problem in “Europe 1600 – 1815”, an exhibition which comprises works from 17th to 18th centuries of European art and design.

Another real challenge was to show the diversity of faiths across Europe during those years, for example, how can you mention the Ottoman Empire and Constantinople if the V&A lacks objects from that period?

How a museum should approach religion when museums are not places of worship and veneration. In her new project, she is working with the Welcome Collection and the Science Museum for an exhibition that is going to compare the similarities between how people display faith in religion and science.

I think all the speakers made a good understanding of how we should use religious objects in museums and how we can find new ways to engage with new audiences and religious groups.

I am looking forward to learning more about displaying religious objects in future projects!

Francisco Castanon, 
Transforming Archives trainee

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

What I Wish I Knew Before I Started...

Senate House Library, the venue for the day
Last month we attended What I Wish I Knew Before I Started: The DPC Student Conference in London. This event is held annually by the Digital Preservation Coalition to give archive students and new professionals advice about working in digital preservation, the art of storing computer files to the same quality as we would with paper documents in an archive. 

Digital preservation is a fairly new area of archival studies but an increasingly vital one, as more and more “born digital” content starts to be collected by archives around the world.

The day consisted of two sessions of talks by sector experts. The first session was advice on getting started with digital preservation projects from the perspective of the information managers and technologists responsible for delivering the schemes. The talks covered various subjects, such as how to set up preservation projects, the best places to look for advice, beginners courses and how to keep up to date with the latest developments in the field.

Technologists perspective - Matthew Addis
Matthew Addis - Arkivum told us about the importance to keep the content active and how essential is to managing data overtime and even more how software preservation can preserve an original experience.

The second session was given by practising digital archivists who discussed what their day-to-day job entails, what kinds of challenges they face on a regular basis and what are the most important lessons they could give to anyone starting out in the field.

Open data was another discussion topic touched by Adrian Brown, Director of the Parliamentary Archives. In his presentation, he spoke about the importance of having a simple metadata and filing system and how significant is preserving the accessibility of useful information in a record office, which holds several million historical records relating to Parliament.

But every archive or museum is different, Glenn Cumiskey - The British Museum left a question for the audience: What does digital mean in the context of your organisation? There is a unique meaning for every organisation. He also recommend us few titles to take a look: Practical Digital Preservation by Adrian Brown, Personal Digital Archiving by Gabriela Redwine.

The DCC Lifecycle model - this was
recommended by one of the speakers
The last speaker of the afternoon was Dave Thompson - Digital Curator of the Wellcome Collection. He emphasised that preservation is about access and how understanding our users and can help us to preserve our archives and libraries.

The final session was a roundtable session with all the speakers answering questions from the audience. One important subject that was discussed here was the state of digital preservation in ten years’ time. Many of the experts felt that as more and more digital content begins to move into archives then the idea of digital preservation will become embedded into the concept of curation and records management.

At end of the conference we got the idea that the digital preservation community is open to help people working on similar projects. So, don’t be afraid to ask around for advice, because there’s probably someone out there who’s had exactly the same problem as you have!

Francisco Castanon and Tom Dealey, Transforming Archives trainees

Monday, 30 January 2017

Made in Hull: Born and Bred

Over the years Hull has produced some famous names, like Amy Johnson, Maureen Lipman, Tom Courtney, Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder. Others, like Philip Larkin, whilst not born here, have nonetheless made the city their home. In this issue of the History Centre’s ‘City of Culture’ blog we look at relatively unknown Hull people who, whilst not famous, still have interesting stories to tell.

The Brave Sailor…Captain Joseph Kendrick

First we meet Joseph Kendrick, born 1847 in Liverpool. Kendrick was a sailor who came to adopt Hull as his home after joining the Wilson Line shipping company in 1869 as a Second Mate. He was a talented sailor and was soon promoted to First Mate in 1872, then Master in the following year. As Master he served on-board various Wilson Line ships, including the Borodino, ARGO, Otto, Toledo, Hero and Rialto. But for our story we are interested in his time as master of the SS Apollo, a steam passenger and cargo ship built in 1865 by Earles Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd of Hull for the Wilson Line.

It was early morning on the 7 March 1882 and there was thick fog in the Bay of Biscay. The Apollo was seemingly alone sailing through the bay. All of a sudden, out of the fog loomed a French Steamer, the Precurseur. There was no time to take avoiding action and the two ships collided, with the French steamer hitting the Apollo mid-ship. The Apollo was destroyed, sinking into the sea, and many of the crew tragically lost their lives. Amazingly, Kendrick, who usually slept in the chart room which was located mid-ship, had decided to sleep in his own cabin, otherwise he would surely have perished with his fellow crew members. The Precurseur managed to remain afloat although it was badly damaged and, in a truly heroic manner, its crew rallied to rescue the surviving crew of the Apollo.

Account of Captain Kendrick pertaining to the wrecking of the SS Apollo [U DX275/1]

We know of this incident because Kendrick wrote an account of that day in 1882. It gives us a first-hand account of the tragedy. The incident was also reported in the newspapers including an article in the Hull Times on 11 Mar 1882. His story gives us an insight into the near misses and tragedies endured by Hull mariners in this period.

The Pacifist Campaigner… Ron Huzzard

From misty seas to campaigns against the fog of war now with the story of Ronald William Huzzard. Born in Hull on 29 February 1920, he studied engineering at Hull Technical College and became a member of the Mechanical Engineers Institute. He was a Quaker and a man of strong principle who believed that what was morally wrong could not be politically right. As such, he was a staunch pacifist, a member of the Labour Pacifist Fellowship (later Labour Action for Peace), and an active campaigner for peace in his work for the trade unions.

Civil Defence Warden Service, Fire Guard Section, Card for Ron Huzzard [C TYR/4/1/20610]

When WWII broke out Huzzard was working as a draughtsman, a reserved occupation, and the War Office attempted to recruit him. He refused to serve on moral grounds and was called before a tribunal to defend his conscientious objection to working for the War Office. Whilst morally unable to help the war effort, he nevertheless wished to help with social effects of war. He served as a Fire Guard under Air Raid Precaution provisions, he also served as a stretcher barer at Beverley Road hospital.

Huzzard’s commitment to peace was life-long. He counted as friends Philip Noel-Baker, Fenner Brockway and Gordon Schaffer, and shared their beliefs in the United Nations as a world body for peace. He was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, he wrote extensively on the United Nations and a range of other tops for Labour Action for Peace (of which he was appointed General Secretary in 1980). He was awarded the Frank Cousins Peace Award by the Transport and General Workers Union, and after his retirement in 1979 he spent five years working on the Quaker Commission for Peace.

The Botanist and Educator… Eva Crackles

From peace to peas, and a tenuous link to our final story of the botanist Florence Eva Crackles. Known as Eva, she was born in Hull on 23 January 1918. A strong lady, she was an early female student at University College Hull and graduated with a BSc in Botany, Zoology and Mathematics in 1940. She was passionate about her subject and enjoyed sharing this. She worked as a teacher at Malet Lambert High School throughout her career until her retirement in 1978. She also gave evening classes for the Workers Educational Association. In 1991 Eva was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Hull University in recognition of her extensive contribution to botany and teaching.

Photograph of Eva Crackles on the occassion of her recieving an honorary degree for services to botany and education [L DIEC]

Eva was also a great campaigner for her cause. She was a member of the Hull Scientific & Field Naturalists Club (from 1941), and the Yorkshire Naturalists Union (from 1943). She wrote a regular column in the Hull Daily Mail called ‘Crackles Country’, and she was an active champion at public enquiries for threatened sites of special scientific interest in East Yorkshire. In 1992 this work was recognized with the award of an MBE for services to Botany and its conservation.

Its thanks to Eva that we know so much about the flora of East Yorkshire through her collecting of wildflower samples at derelict bombsites in the aftermath of WWII, and through her decades of research which culminated in the publication of ‘The Flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire’ in 1990.

Find Out More...

Brave seafarers, pacifists working for a better world, and campaigners with real passion… these are just some of the characters our city has helped shape. If these stories have piqued your interest and you want to find out more about Hull and its people, you can visit us here at the History Centre.

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist HUA