February News from the Archives

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February 2021

Accessions news, digital collections and the photographs of Clare Consuelo Sheridan

Covid-19 - closure update

photograph of The Keep, exterior view

Following Government guidelines, The Keep remains closed to the public, and most staff continue to work from home on a variety of projects. Despite limited access to original archives, our research and reprographics services are still available and we're responding to email queries as promptly we can. If you need some help, do contact us at thekeep@eastsussex.gov.uk. We'd like to thank all our customers for their patience, and look forward to welcoming you back to the archive as soon as it is safe to do so.

New accessions to the archive for 2020

Photograph of Charles Patrick as Major General Stanley (AMS 7369/2/1) in the Lewes Operatic Society production of the Pirates of Penzance, 1912

Each year we update The National Archives with our accessions for the year – all the items we’ve accepted into the archive. Compilation of this has shown that we took in 140 accessions during 2020. As well our intake from the usual local sources, we have continued to monitor salerooms, and Ian Hilder of the Friends of The Keep Archives has diligently checked eBay on our behalf. Although the total was down on previous years, it is very good considering that we were in lockdown for much of the time. Covid-19 restrictions have meant that we can only take accessions by appointment, and documents must be quarantined for a week.

The year had started off well with the deposit of the archive of the Lewes Operatic Society, established in 1912. Cataloguing was progressing with help from a volunteer, then the pandemic intervened. Let’s hope that normality can soon be restored, business can continue as normal, and volunteers can be welcomed back to the building.


Pictured above: Charles Patrick as Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance, Lewes Operatic Society's first production in 1912  (AMS 7369/2/1) 

Archive of the Month: the photographs of Clare Consuelo Sheridan (1885-1970)

A family photograph with Winston and Clementine Churchill, Clare Sheridan is sitting on Churchill’s right, ACC 8884/6/17/37

In 1915, Clare Sheridan (nee Frewen) was a middle-class wife and mother living in a Tudor hall in Surrey. She had two daughters and was pregnant with a third child. Her husband William (known as Wilfrid) Frederick Temple Sheridan had recently joined the City of London Territorials and in May, he sailed to France. By the end of September, he had died, leaving his wife with an undreamed-of existence to carve out for herself. She trained as an artist in Ireland, travelled to the Soviet Union, spent months with Native Americans in the US and lived in Germany and Algiers. An avid photographer, she ensured there was a record of each new journey or experience.


She finally settled in Constantinople, a guest of the Russian legation, and worked there at spreading anti-British propaganda. The British establishment and her cousin Winston Churchill were unimpressed by her commitment to 'bolshevism and free love', and ensured she was kept under regular surveillance by MI5. The photographs, which form part of the Frewen Archive held at The Keep (ACC 8884), cover the years 1915 to 1940. Initially focusing on her children (particularly her daughter Margaret) and domestic life in Surrey, they include her travels in Ireland, France, Algiers, Rome and the US. We’ll be posting photographs from this extensive collection on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook over the coming month, so if you don't follow us already on social media, now is a good time to start!


Pictured above: a family photograph with Winston and Clementine Churchill, Clare Sheridan is sitting on Churchill’s right, 1938 (ACC 8884/6/17/37) 

New digital collections from the University of Sussex, plus Mass Observation news

Scanned copy of 'girls in ‘male’ jobs?: a research report 1987 from the Young Women’s Christian Association of Great Britain

We are always looking for new ways to provide access to the collections archived at The Keep, so it's great news that some wonderful material held by the University of Sussex Special Collections can now be viewed remotely via digital library JSTOR. These digital collections include poetry by German Jewish teacher and writer Ludwig Marx (1891-1964), and ephemera from Mass Observation's Observing the 1980s collection. To find out more, check out Special Collections Supervisor Rose Lock's recent blog, which highlights some of her favourites.


In other news, the Mass Observation team look forward to welcoming Chloe Daniel in February. Chloe is joining the team on a 7-month contract to catalogue the 12th May 2020 diaries. Over 5,000 diaries were sent to Mass Observation last year, so Chloe is going to be busy! Mass Observation runs the 12th May diary project annually and last year's diary project was particularly unusual as it fell during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chloe’s role will open up the collection for research and teaching, and the diaries will provide a unique insight into how people in the UK experienced the first UK lockdown.  


Pictured above: Girls in ‘male’ jobs?: a research report 1987 from the Young Women’s Christian Association of Great Britain, part of Mass Observation's 'Observing the 1980s' collection

Borough Engineer and Surveyor's plans - lockdown listing project continues

Plan for proposed garages in Moulsecoomb, 1946

We've reported before, here and on our blog, on the Brighton Borough Engineer and Surveyor's plans (DB/D/84), covering the period 1936 – 1967. The plans are listed in registers in chronological order, rather than alphabetically or thematically, so it can be very difficult to locate a specific plan without knowing the relevant dates. Lockdown has given us a chance to list these plans in detail, and work on this project has continued in recent weeks.


Many of the earlier plans show Brighton Corporation’s preparations for war, such as Civil Defence posts and air raid shelters. In comparison, much of the post-war material relates to civil engineering projects, slum clearance and traffic control. A recurring theme is the sale and purchase of property – not something we think of as regular council business in 2021. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, however, Brighton Borough Council was buying a large number of properties under Compulsory Purchase Orders as part of their slum clearance programme. At the same time, it was selling off significant numbers of council houses – an activity we tend to associate more with the 1980s.


The series also draws attention to projects which never came to be: in 1960, for example, plans were submitted for a yacht harbour at the Banjo Groyne. It would be interesting to see how much it resembles the marina that was built to the east of that site a decade later, but until we’re allowed back into The Keep, we’ll just have to use our imaginations!


Pictured above: plan for proposed garages in Moulsecoomb, 18 October 1946 (DB/D/84/11/8560)