January edition of the Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage
Influenza treatment


Welcome to the January edition of the  Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service e-newsletter. 

This edition is packed with news about the new History Access Point at Lichfield, the new Asylums project and the 140th anniversary of the Anglo-Zulu war. Find out about life behind the scenes at the museum and how we look after our collections while they are in store. There is also an end of year review of recent accessions - highlights are on display in the Reading Room at the CRO, Stafford. 


The new HAP at St Marys, Lichfield

Settling in at St Mary’s

We have now had a chance to settle in to our beautiful new home in St Mary’s on the Square in Lichfield. A steady flow of visitors have been using the computers for family history research; browsing the local and family history books; using the Lichfield Mercury newspaper microfilm and the microfiche parish records; and taking in the stained glass windows, soaring ceilings and fantastic historical surroundings.

We have a selection of targeted guides to help researchers using FindmyPast and the equipment in the History Access Point. We have also been offering Family History help sessions where staff have been supporting users to undertake their family history research on the computers.

Our regular Staffordshire Place Names Project volunteer group has settled in to continue their work on extracting information from the photocopies of Glebe Terriers. We have also begun to welcome in new Local Studies Volunteers who will be in the History Access Point to support members of the public in their personal family and local history journeys.
A recent visitor came in to search the Mercury to show his son an article about himself winning a school sports award. His son was more amused to discover that in the same year his father had got in trouble with the law and was charged with riding his bike without lights, something that had escaped his memory. Join us to start your own journey into the past – You never know what you might find out.

Lieutenant Nevill Coghill, who was killed at the battle of Isandlwana trying to save the Queen’s Colours

Lieutenant Nevill Coghill, who was killed at the battle of Isandlwana whilst trying to protect the Queen’s Colours

Anglo-Zulu War Anniversary

This year marks the 140th anniversary of the Anglo-Zulu War in South Africa. For many this will perhaps be better known as the setting for the classic 1964 movie 'Zulu' starring Michael Caine. Staffordshire Record Office is fortunate enough to hold a unique photograph album relating to this conflict compiled by the Honourable William Francis Littleton.

Will Littleton was the fourth son of Lord Hatherton of Teddesley (near Penkridge) and was served as private secretary to Sir Henry Bartle Frere, the British High Commissioner in South Africa between 1877 and 1880. It was Frere who started the war against the Zulu king, Cetshwayo kaMpande in January 1879 and Will Littleton knew many of the key characters on the British side of the conflict. He would also get to meet Cetshwayo during the Zulu king’s time in captivity at Cape Town later that same year.

The Littleton photograph album contains photographs of various British officers who served (including a number who fell) in Zululand, as well as images of notable Zulu leaders and chiefs of other local African peoples at the time. There are also various landscape views, including Cape Town as it looked in 1877 and the battlefield of Isandlwana (scene of a disastrous battle for the British) in 1879.

To mark the anniversary of this historic conflict, we have colorized some of the original photographs from the album to bring some of the sepia-tinted faces back to life.

Textile collection store

Behind the Scenes at the Museum - Why is it so dark in here? 

This is the first in a series of articles which looks at some of the work that goes on behind the scenes to look after the Museum Collections. This month we are looking at why light can be a problem to collections. 

Visitors to museums often comment on the fact that lighting levels in some exhibition spaces are low. This is to protect vulnerable items on display such as watercolours, photographs, textiles and some documents. The same rules apply to museum collection stores. The media often describe museum stores as 'dark and dusty' - they are right about the 'dark' but not the 'dusty'!

Direct exposure to visible light (the part of light that allows humans to see) can cause fading, bleaching, discolouration and weakening of objects. Ultra violet light (UV) is not needed for human vision. It has a shorter wavelength than visible light which means it has more energy and can cause more damage, more quickly. The practical upshot of this is that when museum objects are on display we try to limit the amount of light they are exposed to. We exclude UV using window film, blinds and filters. When the objects are in the collection stores we try to keep them as dark as possible and only expose items to light when we need to. 

The new museum collection store includes two vaults which house the most sensitive areas of the collection; textiles and artwork. The objects in these areas spend most of their time in complete darkness. Sensor lights have been fitted so that staff can work comfortably but which turn themselves off after a set time, so there is no risk of leaving the lights on all night!  

End of year review display at the Staffordshire Record Office

A Year in Review

An end of year review of recent accessions from 2018 can be seen at Staffordshire Record Office. Highlighted documents featured include village hall plans, extracts from school log books for Leek and Eccleshall, items from Standon Hall Orthopaedic Hospital, a labour account book from the Chillington estate, a charity account book from Stanley near Leek, items from the Baswich Home Guard, under-age marriage permissions from Walsall, letters about the Stafford shoe trade overseas, and photographs from the local National Farmers’ Union in the 1970s. An agreement not to hire servants for not longer than 51 weeks illustrates a determination to minimise poor law payments to outsiders in the late 18th century. Original documents also on display are an account book for the Grindon overseers of the poor, and fragments of overseers and constables’ accounts for Stretton near Burton.

Jo and Anita starting work on the Asylums Project

County Asylums Project

We are delighted to announce that Anita Caithness and Joanne Peck were appointed in November as project archivists for our County Asylums project, which is generously funded by the Wellcome Trust. Jo and Anita, whom many of you will know from Lichfield Record Office, began work in January and are busy getting to grips with the early patient case records from Stafford, Burntwood and Cheddleton hospitals. They have 2 years to catalogue the individual patient case records from 1818 up to the early 20th century and they have a month to work out their methodology prior to our first project meeting. We will be joined by Prof Jonathan Reinarz, Dr Len Smith and Dr Rebecca Wynter from Birmingham University and Prof Alannah Tomkins from Keele University, who will offer their advice to help ensure that our cataloguing work will meet research needs. So no pressure! There is so much information in the detailed case notes that making decisions about what to include in the catalogue is no easy task. They include information about care prior to admission to hospital, description of illness and causes, diagnosis, treatment and progress. Family historians as well as social historians will find the wealth of detail about family backgrounds fascinating. Jo and Anita will keep you informed about progress through the newsletter and social media. Keep a lookout for events and talks later in the year.

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