October edition of the Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage
Infant Welfare Shield


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

There is a lot to pack in this month. There is positive news about funding for the new History Centre, two new study days and  some unusual documents associated with the Diocese of Lichfield. 

In addition we take a peak at public reaction to the Moon Landings and explore the fascinating story behind the shield (pictured).  


Collections Montage

Round two National Lottery funding bid for history centre to be submitted

Staffordshire could be home to a brand new £3.9m modern history centre, if a new round two bid for funding submitted to The National Lottery Heritage Fund is successful. The project has been given initial support* and has been awarded £36,000 development funding to develop the project plans and apply for a full National Lottery grant of £3,964,000 at a later date.

The proposals for the Staffordshire History Centre project would see an extension to the existing Staffordshire Record Office on Eastgate Street in Stafford incorporating the William Salt Library. The new centre would bring together the county’s extensive archives collections in one modern centre with additional strong rooms, reading areas, and research labs. Rare archives, books and museum pieces would all be displayed in a dedicated exhibition space, with activities and collections taken out into local communities. Staffordshire County Council expects to make the application for funding in 2020.

Gill Heath, Cabinet Member for Communities at Staffordshire County Council explained that the team were delighted with the opportunity to make a round two application. Gill said: “We’re incredibly proud of our fascinating history here in Staffordshire with some amazing collections, and we want to share them and be able to protect them for future generations to enjoy. Not only will the new centre create an exciting visitor experience for everyone in Staffordshire but it will transform the way people interact with our services. Our schedule of activities and exhibitions will also allow us to take more of our collections out to local communities and schools which will help get many more people excited about our history.”

Gill added: “Only last month we were allocated the archives for the Pagets family, Marquesses of Anglesey which is great news. This is a fascinating collection of archives and includes important medieval manuscripts and the estate papers of the family."

The Staffordshire History Centre project is being delivered by Staffordshire County Council’s Archives and Heritage Service in partnership with the William Salt Library Trust.

Mithra Tonking, Chairman of the trust, said: “We’re delighted to be able to develop this project which will preserve both the unique William Salt Library collection and ensure the long term future of the grade II* listed building. We’re looking forward to working with Staffordshire County Council on this exciting project”.

The total cost of the project is £5.9m with an application for £3.9m being made to The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Match funding of £2m is also being raised by the partnership including grants, donations from local organisations and Friends, and in-kind contributions from volunteers. Further details on the project are available at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/Heritage-and-archives/Staffordshire-History-Centre.aspx

Study Day Elizabeth Hervey

Study Day Saturday 30 November 2019 : The Poor Law in Staffordshire and Beyond

Staffordshire Record Office, Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LZ

The Poor Laws operated continuously in England from 1601 until they were overhauled in 1834. This study day looks at the consequences of that law both for the poor people the laws tried to support and the parish officials, tradesmen, and others who applied the law.
It draws on new research, made possible by an archival volunteer group at Stafford, based on the ephemeral documents or ‘vouchers’ used to track payments and other goods and services bought by the poor law authorities. It features talks about the project’s findings, and a workshop session on using archives to create biographies of people connected to the Poor Law in Staffordshire.
Tickets £10.00. Telephone 01785 278379 for bookings. Bookings in advance only. Staffordshire Record Office offers this study day in collaboration with Keele University and the Arts and Humanities Funding Council.

Researching exhibitions

Volunteer Eleanor looking at an image of Greengate Street Stafford

Behind the Scenes at the Museum - Researching Collections 

Staff and volunteers in the museum team have been researching objects for a new exhibition which opens at the Ancient High House, Stafford at the end of October. 

Once an exhibition theme has been decided work starts to find out more about the individual objects and their stories. Sometimes we have a wealth of information already, but often we have very little to work with. Gradually we build a picture using primary and secondary sources, oral history testimony, publications and other examples of similar objects in our collection or in other museums. The research is then used as the basis for written interpretation including exhibition panels and object labels. The information we gather enhances our understanding of the collections we hold and helps to build a picture of the history of our county.  

Lichfield Diocese Collection

B-C-14-21 caveat 1770

We continue our look at obscure but interesting documents from the Lichfield Diocese collection.

There is a small series in the Diocesan collection called Caveats (B/C/14). Caveats are cautions or warnings. Most of these relate to probate (called caveats in bonis) and are a warning not to prove a will or administer an estate without reference to someone else, usually a family member or a creditor. The family cases may relate to a debt, or a family dispute, perhaps a suspicion that a will had been made under someone’s adverse influence. Other cases refer to business debts or bankruptcies. For instance a caveat of 1832 states that no will should be proved or administration granted of the estate and effects of Joseph Perry of Coventry, silk merchant, without notice being given to John Carr and Benjamin Walton the lawful creditors. Our series dates from 1723 to 1841.

There is also a smaller series sent to Bishops by the Archbishop warning them against appointing certain men as clergymen or schoolmasters. Some do not give any details but others are very informative, citing fraud or some other offence. For example "an ingenious plausible attorney", pretending to be in deacon's orders, was found to have a forged letter of priest's orders and was dismissed from a school “for some notorious swindling actions”. Some have come from overseas, as on this illustration from America, a man pretending to be ordained and since charged with immorality. These have the dates 1758-1793.

Memories of the Moon Landings

Memories of the Moon Landing

Following a recent exhibition at the History Access Point in St. Mary’s, Lichfield, on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, visiting members of the public were asked to fill in postcards to share their memories of the event. The postcards (one for adults asking for their memories of the moon landing and one for children who were not born at the time asking what they thought about the event) yielded a variety of comments. Most adults (who were old enough to remember!) thought the event was a milestone that marked a significant moment in their life but there were a few who thought, if it really did happen at all, it was a waste of money! Apparently according to one individual they chose Neil Armstrong because Neil A. spelt backwards reads “Alien”!
Interestingly the most positive comments came from the children who generally wished they could have been alive at the time to witness the event. “Really cool” seemed to sum up the overriding comments from most youngsters!

Infant Welfare Centre shield

A Competition with a Difference

Recently we had an enquiry about one of the objects that came to us from Stafford Museum. Very little documentation from Stafford Museum survives so whenever we use one of these objects in an exhibition or for an enquiry, we have little information to work with. However, when Steve Turner got in touch with us about a shield that he believed was in the museum we were pleasantly surprised.
He mentioned that his Mum, Mavis remembers she won a competition as a baby in 1930, and she thought that the winner’s shield was at our museum. The shield was an engraved silver plaque for Stafford Infant Welfare Centre's Annual Competition for infants during their first year. This began in 1920 and ended in 1948, (the year the NHS was created). Mothers who won were presented with one small shield which they could keep, a silver medal and the large 'Mothercraft Shield' which they kept for 12 months. They also pushed the baby in a pram along Stafford's main street at Stafford Pageant.
The reason Steve contacted us was because, his Mum would soon be turning 90 which is an incredible achievement, but even more so when we heard Mavis’ story. Mavis Bowers was born prematurely on 26th September 1929, at home in Stafford. She had a twin brother David who only lived for a short while. Mavis was smaller than a bag of sugar when she was born and for the first weeks of her life had to be washed in olive oil, dressed in doll’s clothes and a small drawer was used as a cot. Her birth wasn’t registered for two months because without the medical care that we have today, it was likely that Mavis wouldn’t survive.
After winning the competition, a photograph was taken of Mavis and the shield when she was eight months’ old, & still not able to sit up for herself. It was noted in the Staffordshire Newsletter as part of the annual Baby Day celebrations organised by the Maternity and Child Welfare Committee of the Town Council and part of Stafford Carnival. Mavis and her mother, Frances were presented with the shield by Dr. Grace Sherwood who; “congratulated each of the mothers she saw (and the one grandmother) on their success, in spite of the special difficulties confronting these babies… she could say every penny of… money that went to the Maternity and Child Welfare work was a sound investment. The work of the Welfare Centre itself was absolutely first rate, and without a doubt it was the well- fed, well- trained infant that made the sane and happy citizen. She hoped that even more mothers would take their babies regularly to the Centre.”
Mavis’s mother Frances Bowers brought up her three daughters on her own as her husband William was admitted to St George’s hospital suffering with post-traumatic stress from the First World War, he spent the rest of his life there. Mavis can remember visiting him in the hospital as a young child, she described how there were many doors to unlock and how kind the attendants were to her and her mother. The family lived in Prospect Road, Coton Fields, Stafford.
After leaving school at 14 Mavis started training as a seamstress and later worked at Lotus. She married Jim Turner a chartered electrical engineer, who worked at English Electric, and went on to have two sons, Steve and Nick. Mavis enjoyed sewing and, after the children left, worked from home as a seamstress. Mavis and Jim enjoyed travel and visited Europe often when they were older. At the age of 70 Mavis also went to Australia on her own and had the holiday of a lifetime travelling from Melbourne to Townsville in north Queensland. Sadly after 59 years of marriage Jim died in 2016.
Mavis now lives in Rugby and turned 90 on 26th September. To celebrate her birthday, her two sons surprised her with a replica of the Mothercraft Shield that she had won with her mother all those years ago.

Mavis celebrates her 90th birthday

Mavis celebrates her 90th birthday with a reproduction of the shield c. S Turner

Staffordshire Record Office – Opening Hours

The new opening hours at the Staffordshire Record Office have now taken effect. 
• Tuesday: 10.00 – 4.00 
• Wednesday: 10.00 – 4.00 
• Thursday: 10.00 – 4.00
• Friday: 10.00 – 4.00 
• Saturday: 9.00 – 1.00 (third Saturday in the month)

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