Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas at Burton Agnes Hall

Cute woodland critters
As it’s almost Christmas I thought we should end the year with a festive themed blog (sort of)…
A colleague at work recently told me I had to visit Burton Agnes Hall at Christmas as the family that live there always decorate for the occasion. So last Saturday I roped a friend into making the trip and we weren't disappointed. It was a magical world of lights, snowmen and woodland critters be-glittered for the occasion (not real ones I hasten to add!).

Secretly though I had a second reason for going – I've wanted to see the Long Gallery, restored by FJ, since beginning this project back in January. So before we set out I had a look over the Burton Agnes files (not a crime novel but the actual files from the archive!) to remind myself of what work had been done by FJ for the owner Marcus Wickham-Boynton.

View of the Gardens taken from the Long Gallery
This is what I discovered

The firm’s connection with Burton Agnes Hall goes back to FJ’s early years as an architect when he was just establishing his practice. Some of the earliest work carried out at the Hall included designs for door furniture and bookcases in 1947-1948. It also included the beginning of the restoration of the Long Gallery with the initial restoration of the Old Picture Gallery in 1950-1951. The firm also undertook design work in the grounds in 1951 and renovation of staff quarters and kitchen in 1969. Commissions continued in the early 1970s when FJ was asked to oversee the renovation of the West Lodge Gatehouse, installation of an ornamental pool, the design and construction of a summer house in the grounds, and the conversion of the old kitchens into a staff flat.


Unfortunately I haven’t found a file relating to the Long Gallery restoration (yet…) but this was the firm’s next major work at the Hall and was completed in 1974. As with all things, FJs attention to detail and authentic design lies at the heart of the finished room, and this project actually won the firm a Civic Trust award during European Architectural Heritage Year 1975.

The Long Gallery
Commissions kept coming and during the 1980s work was undertaken to repair various statues, stonework, and paving. Great faith was obviously placed in FJs ability as evidenced by the repeat commissions, and in 1977 Wickham-Boynton invited FJ to be involved in the establishment of a governing board for a Burton Agnes Hall Preservation Trust to ensure the conservation of the Hall for future generations of the family and the general public to enjoy.


When we got to the Long Gallery it was just as impressive as I had imagined from various descriptions I’ve read – and not just because of the garland and tinsel strewn bay trees decorating the room for Christmas. The window arrangement was perfectly placed to light the large space throughout and the plasterwork and decorative details were simple but elegant. 


It was a lovely space to perambulate through just as a Georgian lady might have done back in the late 18th century – we were only missing the dresses and the dashing escorts!


Claire Weatherall
Project Archivist

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Visit to The National Archives

I am very lucky to have just spent five days working at The National Archives in Kew as part of the ‘Transforming Archives’ programme with seventeen other trainees from archives across the UK. 

The National Archives buildings are impressive and surrounded by a lovely swan inhabited pond.

During our visit we were given a behind the scenes tour of the archives. We saw how material from one building to the next were transferred via motorised trikes and lifts when they were requested for viewing by the public. It was interesting to see the process of when someone requests a document, and how it is electronically tracked through every stage of its movement through the building quite like an airport system.

The storerooms are full of archival treasures from 1000 years of history, and there was one room which particularly sparked my curiosity. We were shown only the door as its contents were so valuable and secretive just very few in the whole organisation had the key. You could only imagine what was inside! 

Archivists are very skilled!
The staff were all very welcoming and experts in their fields. There is a lot of skill involved with being an archivist. We learned about the importance of archives, what makes an archive valuable and the potential barriers to public access. As archivists are now embracing the digital age, new skills need to be learned and standards need to be developed, for example with social media and 'born digital' records.

We spent each day working on a variety of skills and exercises that are important in the archives profession, such as pitching for funding and evaluating the success of outreach projects, as well as traditional skills such as preservation standards, accessioning (documenting the receipt of archives in your repository) and appraisal (selecting documents for permanent preservation in the archive).

We also had a session on blogging and created our own VoxPop videos (link to come later!) about ourselves and what we were doing in each of our traineeships, and looked at the use of virtual classrooms with the education team.

Digitisation on a Large Scale
As I am working on several digitisation projects this year, such as the Francis Johnson Grand Tour Diary, I spent an afternoon with the Commercial Delivery team. Each member of staff was part of a group that had a different but equally important role in the digitisation process. I spoke to staff beginning in the commission and acquisition of jobs, then to image capture on the overhead cameras, to quality checking each image and then the final transfer of the files to the customer.

It was interesting to see how a large scale organisation manages the files from each aspect of the process and how there is a procedure for rectifying errors such as missing pages or poor scans. I came away from that afternoon with a better knowledge of digitisation both as a commercial and preservation activity. It can increase accessibility to material that are at risk of being lost by no longer creating damage through handling, particularly to fragile documents.  In the wider world of heritage, digitisation as a service can also support not only archives services, but museums, historic sites and libraries too.

The Domesday book on an interactive touchscreen
Interactive Virtual Books
There was one use of technology within the public space of the archives which I thought was particularly useful for heritage interpretation. I was able to explore William the Conqueror’s Domesday Book on an interactive touchscreen within The National Archives ‘Keeper’s Gallery’ exhibition space. The touchscreen uses the ‘Turn the Page’ software to allow the user to leaf through pages and interact with the book using magnify and rotate features. I will be using similar software for the Francis Johnson Grand Tour diary project, and it was interesting to see an example of the technology being used and to experiment with its features.

This past week I have particularly enjoyed meeting the other trainees from services across the UK and learning from a range of perspectives and experiences. We will be meeting each other again for visits at each other’s archives to discuss each other’s services and learn from each other’s experiences which I think will be highly beneficial. I will be blogging about these in the near future! We have also been using the Twitter hashtag #TransformingArchives if you would like to keep up with the latest news from myself and the rest of the trainees as there will be much more to come.

Overall, I have learned over the course of my week is that archives need to be creative to survive. We need to engage with new methods of archives interaction and outreach to new audiences to make archives more accessible. But we also need to carefully reflect on our engagement methods by considering funding, audiences and how it will ultimately affect the archive in the long term.

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee
H.Rice@hull.ac.uk

Monday, 10 November 2014

From Digitisation to Minecraft: My First Month in the Archives

I have been working as the Transforming Archives trainee at the Hull History Centre for just over a month now and I have lots to tell!

Digitising Francis Johnson's Diary 
As mentioned in my previous post I am digitising the diary of Bridlington architect Francis Johnson using an overhead camera.

The handwritten diary details Johnson’s Grand Tour across Europe in 1931, complete with sketches and photographs, and is bound in leather. 
The diary is being digitised so you will be able to view the work in a digital format where it will be easy to browse through the pages and magnify the detail.


Protecting the object you're digitising is an important part of preservation. It is a very big diary at over 360 pages and could not be opened fully flat, therefore creating a suitable angle for the scans was a challenge. To protect the binding of the pages I used a combination of a book rest and wooden plates.

I also experimented with room lighting, and backing papers to obtain the best quality image possible. I placed black sheets of paper behind the page I wanted to scan as this made the images and text more defined, diffusing any text showing through the page. Whilst the scanning is in progress I am also creating a filing system for the digital files, keeping each name to a set standard. I have learned that digitisation involves patience, care, experimentation and a need for standards to keep images organised and at a consistent quality and size. 


Minecraft & the Archives 
The Hull History Centre’s Minecraft project, HullCraft, is now well under way. The aim of HullCraft is to engage young people with archive material by allowing them to create, individually or collaboratively, a virtual world of architecture and artefacts from the archives at Hull History Centre using Minecraft.

For the past month I have been meeting with Joel Mills and Aaron Harter to plan our HullCraft server, the map design and how we can protect and showcase our gamer’s fantastic builds. 

Who would have thought that archives involved building?
Creeper and Steve works in progress for Platform Expo 2014.
In the server we are creating a virtual Minecraft experience of using archives by rebuilding the Hull History Centre and using it as the spawn point. 

We were keen to have the HHC as the focus of the server as it acts as a reminder of what HullCraft is about: the journey of visiting the archives, obtaining your architectural plan, going away to research and build (and having fun!). 

We are also designing a showcase world where you can travel back in time from the HHC and explore Hull from past periods. Screenshots coming soon!

We are looking forward to being at the Platform Expo event at Hull College on the 14th November, so come and say hello! We are even bringing along our life-size Creeper and Steve recycled from old archive boxes.

And that's not all! 
This month I will be spending a week working at The National Archives in Kew with the other  Transforming Archives trainees. I am looking forward to meeting the other trainees, seeing all the different departments at TNA and how they differ from the Hull History Centre. I will be blogging about my visit in the very near future!

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee
H.Rice@hull.ac.uk

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A new interface for our online catalogue

A previous post sought feedback on our on-line catalogue and we are delighted to announce that it now has a new interface with new features and a new address.

The new interface uses Blacklight (the same software used for the university's library catalogue). We started by looking at our current catalogue, the aspects we wanted to retain and those we wanted to improve, we also looked at other on-line catalogues for ideas and inspiration. The quickest way to see what we have done is to go and have a look but before you do so here are a few highlights from the journey we have taken.

The homepage for our new on-line catalogue
Data analysis
A key requirement was the better integration of the local studies book material. Much of the data analysis of the information our library and archive systems created was undertaken for us by Data Curation Experts - they handed back an infrastructure and solution and colleagues in the university worked on the interface so it works on a phone, tablet or PC.

Local studies books

One problem we had previously experienced was presenting the library data through an archive catalogue. The new interface has fixed this and also allowed us to expose the author and subject indexes for the first time and we hope this will encourage users to browse around and discover more useful titles and resources.

Archive collection

For each archive collection we hold we produce an overview describing the context of the material including a biography of the individual or the organisation that created the material and a broad overview of its contents. Restricting a search to archive collection is a very effective way to identify collections that we hold that are relevant to a particular topic or subject – eg search the entire catalogue for Philip Larkin and you get over 9000 results - restrict this by format to Archive Collection - you get 66 - which is far more manageable!

We have also added a link (from the Archive Collection Summary screen) to allow users to download a PDF version of the catalogue as many users find this an easier way to find the information they are looking for.
Our groovy new date slider 

Date slider
Being able to browse and filter a search result was always important and the new interface allows users to filter by repository, in addition the local studies books can also be filtered by format type, subject keywords and by author. 

The date slider (see right) adds a touch of fun to filtering by date (hopefully users will be familiar with this type of tool from on-line retail websites). It also gives a representation of the number of items in the catalogue across that period.

Icons
One of the most visible elements of the new interface are the colourful icons to distinguish between different types of material (including CD/DVD, microfilms, maps etc). To keep this simple all items for the archives are either archive items or archve collections - so if you are looking for a map in the archve collections use map as a search item and restrict format to archive item.

New address
The new interface can be found at http://catalogue.hullhistorycentre.org.uk 

There might be a few gremlins - if you come across a broken link or something isn't quite right please use the feedback button on every page to contact us.

Simon Wilson
Senior Archivist

Friday, 10 October 2014

Transforming Archives Trainee: Saying hello!

Hello, I'm Hannah and I'm the new archives trainee at the Hull History Centre (HHC). I am one of several HLF-funded trainees working at archives across the country as part of The National Archives Transforming Archives programme aimed at developing practical skills.


My role is to work in digitisation, outreach and community engagement. I will be learning about the general services the HHC provides, and also using social media and the HHC website to engage users with our services. One key digitisation project I will be working on is the digitisation of the photographs and letters of Philip Larkin, and I will also be digitising the Grand Tour diary of Bridlington architect Francis Johnson. I will post more about these projects later! If you want to find out more about Francis Johnson check out these previous posts tagged under the architect's name.

My background and passion is in heritage and IT having graduated from the University of York with a BA in History of Art & Architecture, and an MSc in Digital Heritage. One of my main interests is in the use of digital technologies, in particular computer games, 3D modelling, social media and interactive storytelling, to engage with the past.

I wrote my MSc dissertation on gaming as an educational tool for architectural history therefore a particular HHC project I am keen to get involved with is HullCraft, re-building the architecture of Francis Johnson in Minecraft. If you love computer games (doesn't matter what age you are!) then this is a perfect way to delve in our archives and re-visualise part of Hull’s rich history. Take a look at the HullCraft website for more information.

Working within archives is a brand new venture for me and I am excited to be working alongside the skilled staff at HHC and The National Archives. I will be visiting The National Archives very soon so I will be posting about my experiences there.

If you have any questions about my work feel free to contact me on H.Rice@hull.ac.uk. 
I will frequently be blogging on here, tweeting and facebooking my discoveries in the world of archives... so watch this space!

Hannah Rice
Transforming Archives Trainee
Hull History Centre


Friday, 19 September 2014

Online catalogue

A key element of the History Centre from the outset was that our on-line catalogue offered the ability to search our collections via a single search box. 

This we did when the History Centre opened in January 2010 but with mixed results - the local studies library data in particular was difficult to integrate as they used different fields and different conventions. Presenting the archive reference number and the library shelfmark in the same "Reference No" field removed the ability for this field to be sorted - but we thought that this was a far better option that keeping the data separate and having lots of empty fields on the results page.
Current advanced search page for our on-line catlaogue
We were also aware that when looking at the results many people clicked on 'view' hoping to get an image of the archive and not just further information about that item - again a compromise as we sought to keep things as simple as possible. 

We are now conducting some consultation as we look to move to a new look and feel for our online catalogue. We are keen to keep things as easy to use as we can but also aware that by offering better searching facilities our users will have a better chance of finding items relevant to their specific enquiry especially as we now have descriptions of over 330,000 items on-line and more added on a daily basis. 

We welcome comments and feedback by the end of September on the current system.

Do you find it easy to use - if so why, if not why not? 
Do you usually find the information you are looking for?  
Are there things you would like to do but can’t? 
How does it compare with other archive catalogues you use?

Simon Wilson
Senior Archivist
Email s.wilson@hull.ac.uk 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Lunch Time Club Talk and Exhibition

Well the family activity events have finished for the summer. Over the 4 sessions 334 people dropped in and good times were had by all! If you want to see what we got up to have a peak at the image galleries on our website. 

But the fun isn’t over! 

As the events have been so successful we will be running 3 more before the end of the year – so keep an eye on our events pages.

We also have the Lunch Time Club talk coming up on 9th September. We will be talking about the FJ project and our progress to date in more detail, there will be illustrative slides, and Simon and I will be there to chat to after the talk. As an added incentive, to mark the occasion, we will be showing a mini exhibition of Francis Johnson & Partners material. 

A highlight will be an illustrated journal recording a Grand Tour of Europe made by Francis Johnson in 1931. The pages are full of entries recording places he visited and illustrations of architectural details and buildings he saw on his travels. The journal is in private ownership and has been kindly loaned to us for the occasion. When the project launches next August there will be a digitised copy available for research use, but this is a unique opportunity to see the original in all its beauty!

'Diary of My Journey with the Leeds Travelling Scholarship for Architecture 1931'
The exhibition will run for two weeks from the 9th September so don’t miss out. We hope to see you there!

Claire Weatherall, Project Archivist

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

It all began with a giant shoe…

The shoe in question was in the Swindon outlet shopping centre and made out of lots and lots of Lego (an estimated 80,000 bricks according to the video of it being buillt by Bright Bricks).

This sparked the idea to use Lego for our family sessions this summer have centred on the archive of architects Francis Johnson and Partners. 

With the help of a couple of enthusiastic adult lego builders we have already demonstrated that in a couple of hours it is possible to recreate the fa├žade of a particular building (see Blaydes house, right)

What can (or should) we do for 2017 when Hull celebrates City of Culture??

We purchased some new Lego via Lego Education but at the same time we also appealed for any donations as we knew that the more we had the more we could build.  We have been very fortunate to have received a number of generous donations already. 

One such appeal to members of staff at the University led us in an expected direction

“…just wondering if you had considered setting up a Minecraft server to extend the building activities that go on in the physical world to the virtual world?”

The question from Joel Mills (from the LEAP team) led to a meeting – I had heard of Minecraft but never seen it and Joel showed me a walkthough of his childhood home and I was convinced.

Over the space of a few weeks the idea quickly germinated into a proposal and then a fully blown website! 

Joel worked on the general website design and implemented the open badges element whilst Claire (project archivist working on the Francis Johnson collection) and I digitised a selection of plans from the archive and added this to the HullCraft website

The site was given a soft launch at the first of our family event days on 6th August and with only a few bits of promotion has already started to attract minecrafters to build things.

Simon Wilson
Senior Archivist

Friday, 8 August 2014

Summer fun celebrating architecture and buildings in Hull with, wait for it… Lego!!!!

Well it’s August which means school holidays and fun activities at the History Centre. Last year we had our summer of music and kids activity sessions which went down so well we wanted to do something again. 

So a few months ago we sat down in a project meeting to thrash out some ideas. The Francis Johnson project seemed ideal to create activities around. With the firm’s restoration and new build work, it’s local focus and many commissions in the East Riding, and with FJ’s interest in Georgian architecture, the collection provided us with the chance to explore Hull’s architectural heritage and Georgian influences.

Did we mention the Lego...!
Working with Fifty6Ninety6, we came up with lots of ideas (most of which involved using Lego!!) After many weeks of brainstorming and planning we came up with 4 sessions to be run throughout August on Wednesday mornings. 

With help from Lego Education and some very generous donations from individuals (you can't have too much Lego can you?). Staff have spent several days sorting the bricks, by colour with distinct piles for base plates, building bits (doors, windows and roof tiles) and figures (lots of Stormtroopers!).

On Wednesday (6th August) we held the first of these sessions and learnt about the design process of an architect. Budding architects got the chance to design their own dream home in pencil, paint or Lego. Have a peak at our gallery to see some of the amazing creations.

Lucy with her design, drawing and model house

The next session will feature a ‘Georgian Gent’ telling people all about his exciting new house on the 13th August. We will then be designing a Georgian style house just like his, or maybe re-creating some of FJ’s own work in Lego. We will also be making masks inspired by FJ’s love of the Georgian Society and their Masquerade Balls.
Claire Weatherall

On the 20th August young craftsmen and women will be able to create their very own stained glass window design. This is to celebrate the ecclesiastical architecture that FJ worked so extensively on. And finally, on the 27th August, little city planners will get the chance to show us what a future Hull might look like by using pencil, paint or Lego to create a city scape.

Throughout all, we will be using photographs of buildings worked on by FJ, as well as digitised images of his drawings and sketches to help inspire some fantastic designs. If the weather is nice the History Centre is a perfect picnic spot so people should feel free to bring their lunch boxes with them! All ages are welcome from 2 to 102, we only ask that children under 16 bring a responsible adult with them!

The sessions run 10am-1pm on Wednesday mornings throughout August. So come along and see what’s going on! We will be adding more photographs to the gallery pages after each session.

Project Archivist
Claire Weatherall

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Digital Heritage 2014 conference

On Saturday I attended the Digital Heritage 2014 conference organised by the Centre for Digital Heritage at York with an eye to both current and possible future projects in mind. I was struck by the multi-disciplinary nature of the Centre and hope that the current initiatives at Hull based around the Creative Economy can be as effective.

My personal take on some of the 15 papers presented: 

Catherine Clarke (University of Southampton) delivered an excellent keynote highlighting her experiences in recreating medieval Chester and her current project on medieval Swansea bringing together a host of original sources to create engaging multi-media websites with elements for academic and public audiences. Both were funded through the AHRC (now why can't we do something like this for City of Culture in 2017!!).


Laura King and Jamie Stark (University of Leeds) asked us to consider the cultural value of digital engagement and whether the use of digital technology enhances or obscures access to the past.


Sanna Wicks (University of Birmingham) looked at the value of mobile apps and the preliminary results from her research won't surprise many - that the apps did lead to new information to be discovered, that most did generate a sense of engagement and enjoyment, that interactive maps were really popular and the over-riding conclusion that mobile interpretation can't be ignored.


Douglas Cawthorne (De Montford University) from the Digital Building Heritage Group demonstrated recent work with 3D scanning, using animation to bring to life reconstructions of buildings including the use of plans and drawings of buildings that were never physically built. (again very relevant to us given the thousands of plans and drawings held in the History Centre collections).


Mark Gibbs from Tullie House museum, Carlisle shared his experiences of gaming in museums and with working with the artist Adam Clarke to use Minecraft (something we are starting to explore using the Francis Johnson architectural collection - more on this hopefully in a few weeks!). (See an article on the Tullie house event)


Relive the conference via its Twitter feed  @CDHYork

Simon Wilson
Senior Archivist

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Preserving FJ’s Files

If you have ever used archives will know that when you request an item to look at it will usually be delivered conveniently packaged and labelled. As you can imagine, most collections don’t come to us like this. In the past we have had files deposited with us that have been tied together with string, elastic bands, ribbon, and (weirdly) ladies tights (hopefully clean!). We have had files covered with scrap paper, reused folders, manila envelopes, and even plastic fruit and vegetable bags (not always clean!)

The process of transferring them from their original coverings to archival quality packaging designed for long term storage is a very important stage in processing collections. This is part of our preservation work and is usually undertaken by the archivist whilst they are cataloguing individual records.
Conservator’s Corner... ‘We use archival quality folders to protect the documents, as they are acid and lignin free. They are also chemically inert and they have an alkaline buffer which protects documents from pollutants in the air.’
Generally this is a fairly standard process of removing potentially damaging coverings, recording any information on the original wrappings in the catalogue description, and repackaging into nice new acid-free folders.

Files as they came to us - wrapped in 'scrap' paper!
With Francis Johnson we hit a bit of a stumbling block. When we took in the collection it looked like the majority of the files were wrapped in scrap drawing paper, held together with sticky tape. Whilst tape is not ideal, it was on the outside of a covering that would eventually be disposed of and which had no integral value as part of the file contained within.

However… once we got to the first file wrapped thus, it was found that the ‘scrap paper’ was actually a plan and elevation drawing relating to another project for which we also had a file. I hoped that this was a copy of a drawing already included in the relevant file but this was not the case. I checked a few more of the files and found a similar situation.

So we were then faced with a dilemma. We needed to unwrap the files without damaging the tape covered wrappings and also find a way of recording that there were additional plans, not part of the actual project files. Part of the solution to this seemed to be to note in the catalogue description that the file had originally been wrapped in a plan relating to another project and to give a cross reference to the relevant project file (and vice versa).

File wrapper before preservation treatment (plan and elevation
drawing of cottages at Langton, North Yorkshire, for Lord Barnard)
We also had to deal with the potential damage to the plans. To have our conservator open each file would have been impractical to the cataloguing process and time consuming. After discussion with the conservator we decided the best thing to do would be to carefully score the tape open so as not to damage the paper. This would allow us to open the wrappers without damaging them further. Once removed, the wrappers, as you can imagine, were creased, torn, had tape adhered to them, and were dirty from having been used as covers.

File wrapper after preservation treatment (plan and elevation
drawing of Greenacre Cottage, Rudston nr Bridlington)

So they needed conservation treatment to flatten, remove creases, clean surface dirt and remove tape where possible. This was a whole area of work that we had not planned for (pardon the pun!) and we didn’t really have the staff capacity to undertake such work. We decided we could only really do the bear minimum to make them accessible, so over the last few weeks we have started to flatten and surface clean the plans.

Conservator’s Corner… ‘We flatten creased paper by firstly putting them between papermakers’ felts and applying gentle weight. For badly creased papers this process is insufficient. In this case we apply gentle humidity to relax the paper before putting them under weights.’

And the effort has already been worth it. We have found plan and elevation drawings relating to the Earl of Halifax’s estates at Hanging Grimston, the Thornton Dale development for the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust, and Somersby House for Lady Maitland. With this rudimentary work we will be able to make these unexpected archives available to researchers when the main project files become accessible at the end of the project.

Claire Weatherall 
Project Archivist

Christine Brown
Conservation and Preservation Manager

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Our Wonderful Volunteers

If you have read previous blogs about this project you will know that we have been appealing for volunteers to help us. Well, after a successful appeal earlier this year, our enthusiastic volunteers have finally started work on various aspects of the project. Volunteer packs were sent out at the beginning of May and work began shortly thereafter. Over the course of the month almost 50 hours of volunteer time was logged by our busy beavers.

So, as a change from my yammering, in recognition of it being National Volunteers Week, I thought I would let them tell you about what they have been doing...

Stuart Leadley, SMR Reference Recording:
I’m Stuart and I work for the NHS, I’m also a former student of St Chad’s College, Durham, and I’m interested in ecclesiastical architecture. Although I had heard of Francis Johnson before I saw the call for volunteers I had no idea of the volume and variety of work undertaken by the practice. Since April I’ve been cross-referencing files held at the Humber Sites and Monuments Record with files from the FJ archive. Having looked at the relevant SMR file and double-checked it refers to FJ file as expected, I then note down the national grid reference and the type of material present. This information is added to a spreadsheet and will be incorporated into the archive catalogue. I’m enjoying working on this project as it gives me chance to learn more about buildings I’m interested in. I also know that my work is helping to make links between the FJ archive and other relevant research material.

Maureen Noddings and Anne Eastwood, Scanning:
Ann (left) and Maureen looking through the files
ahead of some selective digitisation
Hi, we’re Maureen and Anne and we are both semi-retired and enjoy volunteering on various different projects. We volunteer for two hours a week during which time we are going through the FJ files and identifying anything interesting, mainly drawings or plans, to be scanned for eventual use in promoting the collection. The work is fascinating and often amusing, and we get to see the development of projects that Johnson worked on. We find this volunteering project really interesting and our two hours pass very quickly. We are pleased to be helping to make this material available to others and enjoy being volunteers.

Clare Howard, Property Details Research:
Hello, I'm Clare and I research historic buildings as part of my job. I am enjoying volunteering for the FJ Project and have so far looked at the 16th century Old and New Hall at Hardwick and the Old Manor House and New Hall at Burton Agnes. I am currently researching Belton House. I am really enjoying working on the project because it is an opportunity to learn about fascinating places and I feel like I am helping the archives to in turn help researchers of the future.

Just to say thank you to everyone who responded to our appeal for help – we wouldn’t be doing this work without you. To all of you potential volunteers, it’s not too late! There are still spaces on the ‘Property Details Research’ project.

If anyone is interested please do get in touch with me
Claire Weatherall
Project Archivist

Friday, 23 May 2014

What a Riot!

Nearly every week the NADFAS volunteers working on the Quarter Session Court Records come across something interesting that arouses their curiosity and this week is no exception. 

The session for Michaelmas 1830 (C CQP/155) contains requests by the court officials for a number of residents in the town of Kingston upon Hull to come before the court and give evidence on the events that led to many glass windows and shutters on business properties and houses being broken. Our first thoughts were that it had been caused by the Swing Riots which were a widespread uprising by agricultural workers that spread across towns and cities throughout the country at this time, but we could not understand why this may have occurred in Hull. One of the volunteers decided that this warranted further investigation and so she decided to look through the local newspapers and soon discovered the cause.

In July 1830 a general election took place which included the election of two new members of Parliament for Hull, and the voting process at this time involved two days of polling and campaigning. The first day of polling started on the morning of Thursday the 29th July at a quarter to twelve following speeches from the candidates, and closed at eight o’clock in the evening. The three candidates were Mr George Schonswar, Mr William Battye Wrightson and Mr Thomas Gisborne Burke. The votes were counted at regular intervals and at the end of the day Mr Schonswar had 781 votes, Mr Wrightson had 590 and Mr Burke had 361. Despite the late hour of the day all three candidates continued their campaigning in Whitefriargate, each giving a speech in front of crowds of people which stretched as far back as Lowgate. Some of the crowd had been causing trouble throughout the day and were reported as being supporters of Mr Burke who had declared that he was representing the ‘working people’. 

Article from the Hull Packet reporting the events of 29 July 1830
The Hull Packet newspaper from the 3rd August records what happened when the speeches had ended. The report says that the damage to properties was caused by ‘some little skirmishing’ which implies that little damage occurred, but the court papers offer a different picture.  Windows and shutters were broken on buildings on several streets, including High Street, Market Place, Brooks Street, Lowgate, Whitefriargate, Salthouse Lane, and Silver Street. 

Witnesses were called to attend the next court session ‘after the apprehension of all or any of the parties who on the twenty ninth day of July last did riotously and tumultuously assemble together in the public streets’. The details show damage to many business and domestic properties, one house having over fifty broken panes of glass, and  ‘twenty two squares of broken glass in the dwelling house of George Schonswar Esquire situate in Salthouse Lane and used as a branch of the Bank of England’. 

Research into the electoral process shows that prior to the 1830s they were neither representative, fair, or balanced, and a range of factors determined who was eligible to vote, and it was usually restricted to land and property owning men over the age of twenty-one.  The French Revolution of 1789 had started inspiring people across Britain to start demanding a more open and democratic system for elections, and the increasing population, especially in the towns and cities meant there was more chance of new political ideas spreading, especially with the development of the railways and national newspapers.
The pressure for greater democracy gained greater momentum during the early part of the nineteenth century and eventually led to the creation of the Reform Act of 1832 which gave voting rights to more people and removed some of the differences in electoral systems that existed across the regions to make it fairer.  In reality the Act created little change and working class people were still not eligible to vote, and so reformers continued to campaign and little altered until the Reform Act of 1867 which was the beginning of greater and more rapid changes to the electoral process, leading us to where we are today. It is against this backdrop  that events in Hull took place on the night of the 29th July 1830, no doubt inflamed by bribes of money and alcohol on offer. 
And the result of the election? 
The following day after further polling Mr George Schonswar and Mr William Battye Wrightson were both elected as serving MPs for the town of Kingston upon Hull. Mr Schonswar was carried around the town for three hours on the Saturday as part of the Chairing Ceremony, but Mr Wrightson had to wait for another four days before his ceremony could take place, as he had been accused of bribery, and following threats from Mr Burke’s supporters over five hundred special constables were sworn in for the occasion, but this did not prevent him from being attacked and struck by several stones.
Hopefully it will not be too long before the volunteers discover if any of the ‘mob’ were brought to court and found guilty of their crime.
Christine Brown
Preservation and Conservation Manager

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Transforming Archives

In April this year we announced on our Twitter feed that The National Archives has received a grant of nearly £1m from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) under its Skills for the Future programme, which gives people the skills they need for careers in heritage and opens up heritage to wider audiences.

The grant will enable The National Archives to run a new project, Transforming Archives, offering trainees the opportunity to develop practical archiving skills and continue the vitally important role archives play in providing a gateway to our nation's rich and fascinating history. It will provide opportunities for people from a diverse range of backgrounds to explore the world of archives, learn about the important work that goes into preserving heritage, and play a significant role in sharing our history with the wider community.

Transforming Archives will run from 2014 to 2017 and will run in partnership with the Archives and Records Association and a network of partners who will host work placements at archive and heritage services. 

Hull University Archives was one of the services selected to host a trainee - and we will be hosting one trainee a year for the next three years. The trainee will get an understanding of how the service works, our collecting policies and the wide range of users we assist. They will take the lead in a project to digitise material relating to Philip Larkin that we hold and they will also be involved in our outreach and community engagement activities - by which we mean contributing to the History Centre website, this blog and our twitter feed. There will also be opportunities to get involved with aspects relating to the year long celebration in 2017 as Hull celebrates being UK City of Culture.

In addition to planning a couple of really interesting collections-based projects we have already started thinking about the staff development and careers support we can offer the successful trainee. The opportunities will be advertised nationally and we will post an update when this has been released.

Simon Wilson
Senior Archivist

Update 13th June - the jobs have now been advertised. There is some background information about the programme on The National Archives website, the advert also appears in a number of places including The Guardian and Jobs24.co.uk 

Information and details of the Hull History Centre opportunity are on The National Archives website. The closing date is Wednesday 9th July.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Francis Johnson and the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire

This month we have been rather on trend (unintentionally!) with our work tying in nicely with the BBC’s ‘Georgian Season’ programmes.

As part of the project we have been trying to identify what other collections we hold that might be relevant to buildings and architectural history. As well as many family and estate collections we also have a number of collections relating to societies with an interest in this area. One such society for which we hold papers is the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire started in 1937 by Rupert Alec-Smith. We recently received a small additional deposit of material for the society and this was in need of cataloguing. My task this month then was to undertake this work.

As well as being a nice break from the routine of cataloguing FJ files, working on this material allowed me to discover that the society had a much greater relevance to the project than we first thought. It became apparent that FJ was heavily involved in the society throughout his career and that he was personally sought out by Alec-Smith in 1938 because of his well known interest in the preservation of Bridlington’s ‘Old Town’ area.

FJ’s own personal reasons for getting involved can be traced in various ways: in his developing architectural style which was classical in nature; in his desire to take many of his influences from Georgian architectural details; and the fact that he was keen to preserve buildings of this style and the character of the areas in which they stood.

Francis Johnson (second form left) and Rupert Alec-Smith at the Georgian Society Ball held at York Assembly Rooms in 1951. [photo held by Francis Johnson & Partners]


During the Second World War, whilst waiting to be posted by the War Office, FJ and a few others continued the work of the society. He was personally responsible for campaigning against the destruction of metalwork of architectural and historical significance in the face of War Office requisition orders. Wrought ironwork was a significant feature of Georgian street furniture and was used a great deal in the construction of gateways and lamps at residential town and country houses. Whilst many of these features were lost in the East Riding, FJ was able to save significant items such as the wrought iron gates at Burton Agnes Hall.

After the war FJ continued to be involved in the society as a consulting architect and also as a campaigner. He was highly active in a 1960s campaign to improve Bridlington High Street and was the architect responsible for the restoration of Maister House at the request of the Society. He also involved himself in the social side of the society as the photograph of him in full Georgian costume (see above - complete with wig!) attending the Georgian Society Ball at York Assembly Rooms in 1951 features in Georgian Architecture & The Georgian Society for East Yorkshire by David Neave and Austen Redman published to mark the 75th anniversary of the society.

He was a regular contributor to the society’s Transactions of the Georgian Society for East Yorkshire after the war. When the first issue of the society’s newsletter was printed in 1975 FJ was one of two major contributors, and continued to be so throughout his working life. His importance to the society can be seen in tributes paid by the society following his death in 1996, and in the fact that two well-known members, David Neave and John Martin Robinson, wrote a detailed biography of his life published in 2001. 

If you want to consult the collection of material relating to the Society (Reference U DX/99) you can check our online catalogue.

Claire Weatherall
Project Archivist