March edition of the Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage
Easter Card D1287 unlisted 19-6


Welcome to the March edition of the Staffordshire Archives and Heritage newsletter. 

Once again there is a lot going on across the Service. March has seen the start of the new 2 year cataloguing project on the Lichfield Bawdy Courts. The Reading Room at the Staffordshire Record Office is smelling of fresh paint and is hosting a new exhibition exploring the shops in Stafford's town centre. 

The museum team have been checking out the darker corners of the collection stores for any signs of tiny invaders and our volunteers have been hard at work supporting us across the Service. 

Don't forget that the Staffordshire History Day takes place on Saturday 11th May - there is still time to book. 


Bawdy Courts Project

Plans and papers from the Bawdy Court B/C/5 Collection

Lichfield Bawdy Courts Project: Sharing Scandals of the Past

Have you ever wondered what your ancestors might have been up to? Did you imagine their dull lives and dreary existence? Think again! Court records from hundreds of years ago are shedding light on the everyday lives of people, giving us a glimpse of their lives through their own words, recorded so long ago.

This month sees the start of an exciting new 2 year cataloguing project on the Lichfield Bawdy Courts to make these fascinating documents easier to access. Funded by an Archives Revealed grant, we will be exploring the records of these eye-opening court cases to get a glimpse into the activities of our ancestors and to provide a searchable database that can be accessed by all.

The church consistory courts dealt with a wide variety of cases from the more conventional to the audacious; from tithe and probate disputes to moral matters, defamation and cases of sexual impropriety. They are so rich in salacious stories that they earned the nickname 'bawdy courts'.

The range of case types provide an interesting snapshot of people and places through time. Some of the cases were more administrative such as applying for faculties, whereas others had a much more moral basis with accusations of ill deeds and immoral behaviour. Faculties provide extensive information about the changing shapes of the churches of our diocese, including plans, and illustrations. However, defamation cases such as those brought by Ann Hill who had been accused by George Rowley of bewitching his son, could be the subject of a 17th century soap opera. It was reported that in a violent altercation George Rowley cried “go out of the house thou witch … or else I will burne thee; whereupon the said George did take by a payre of fyre tonges and in them a greate fyre coale or fyre brand and … flung it at the said Anne”

Over the course of the 2 years we will be keeping you informed of the progress of the project and we will be launching a blog in the near future. So, keep your eyes open for more accounts from the past.

Woodworm damage to puppet collection

Damage caused by adult furniture beetle (woodworm) emerging from this wooden Griffin puppet

Behind the Scenes at the Museum - What's Eating Our Collection? 

As the weather starts to warm up the museum team have to become ever more vigilant and on the alert for signs of some of our least welcome visitors to the collections.

The greatest threat of damage to objects comes from the smallest source - insects. The key to protecting our collections from the threat of infestation is good housekeeping and careful monitoring. Insects like to live near a food source, in dark concealed places away from predators. They will rarely be seen on the surface of objects but are more likely to be found underneath the item, tucked into the seam or pocket of a garment or (as in the case of our poor puppet in the picture) living inside the object itself. They prefer damp conditions which is why we are careful about maintaining a stable temperature in our stores, reducing the risk of humidity building up.  

Knowing the conditions that insects prefer and noting which objects might be more vulnerable to attack makes finding them straightforward. We use sticky 'blunder' traps to catch any insects that might be moving around the stores and inspect items regularly for signs of damage. Damage is usually caused by the larvae rather than the adult. Larvae can be harder to spot as they are often no more than 2-3mm in length. Furniture beetle (anobium punctatum) can live in wood for 2 or 3 years before they emerge. Carpet beetle (anthrenus verbasci) and species of clothes moth (tinea pellionella or tinela bisselliella) can damage textiles, and silverfish (lepisma saccharina) are very partial to damp paper, animal based adhesives and sometimes object labels! 

Volunteer Projects

Val and Jean researching the Retail Revisited exhibition

Val and Jean working on the Retail Revisited exhibition

Retail Therapy? 

Two of the museum team volunteers have been helping with the process of putting the new 'Retail Revisited' exhibition together for the Reading Room at the Staffordshire Record Office. The exhibition uses a series of detailed drawings created by Herbert George Jackson in the 1960s of the shop fronts along Greengate Street and Gaolgate Street as the basis for the display. Jean and Val have been researching the shops and sourcing objects from the collections. They also came up with the idea of contacting local company Jenkinson's which used to run a café on Greengate Street. This resulted in the loan of some items from the company. Val said, "I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process. It had a bit of everything for me! Sourcing material and meeting with Nigel Chaplin at Jenkinson's, research, seeing how the bones of the exhibition come together and a few artistic endeavours with the arrangement of the items in the cases." The drawings were donated to the William Salt Library in 1997 (WSL 212/97). 

Jean and Val will continue to work on researching the retail theme over the next few months in preparation for the exhibition's move to the Ancient High House at the end of October. 


Retail Revisited Exhibition c. Tony Boydon

New Exhibition at the Staffordshire Record Office, Stafford

The new exhibition ‘Retail Revisited: The Changing Face of Stafford’s High Street’ is now open in the Reading Room at the Staffordshire Record Office, Eastgate Street, Stafford. The exhibition uses objects and documents from across the Archive and Heritage Service collection to explore some of the key shops on Greengate Street and Gaolgate Street in the mid 20th century.

Admission is free and the exhibition is open during Reading Room opening times. Visitors may need to make an appointment at busy times. 


Staffordshire History Day - Saturday 11th May

Join us at Entrust HQ, Riverway Centre, Stafford on Saturday 11 May to hear our keynote speakers Dr Nigel Tringham (VCH Staffordshire, Keele University) 'A History of Tamworth' and Ruth Singer 'Criminal Quilts'. The day also features updates on a range of research projects and the latest news from the County Archaeologist and Archives and Heritage Service. Refreshments and lunch are included. Tickets cost £25 and must be booked in advance. For booking details and to find out how to get the full programme for the day visit our website.

Sinai Hall

FoSSA Visit to Sinai Hall, Burton on Trent - Wednesday 10 April, 2.30pm

Sinai Park is the destination for the next FoSSA event. The visit will include a tour of the latest area of building to undergo restoration and see plans for future restoration work. Refreshments will be provided. Members £8. Non-members £9.50. To book a place please send your name, email contact, address and telephone number together with the number of tickets you require and a checque payable tp FoSSA to Richard Totty Rock Cottage Redhill Rugeley WS15 4LL including a SAE for receipt.

Our aim is to keep you updated with the latest developments and events. If you do not wish to receive this newsletter please use the 'unsubscribe' button at the bottom of this page. 

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