Special Edition 4 June 2020 Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage

Welcome to this special edition of the Staffordshire Archives and Heritage newsletter featuring prisoners, baking, tips for removing 'stopples', and a special skill from a member of the Archives Team!


A big "Thank you" to all our volunteers

Volunteers working at the LARC

Volunteers Leslie Jones and Diana Hill working on the Quarter Session Rolls before lockdown

This week the UK is celebrating Volunteers' Week 2020. Staff from across the Archives and Heritage Service would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all our volunteers who help us in so many ways. At the moment many of you are volunteering from home on a wide range of tasks including; working remotely on research, transcribing oral history interviews, adding content to our blogs and uploading images to Staffordshire Pasttrack. All this work helps us to uncover the stories within our collections and to interpret and share the history of our county with as wide an audience as possible. We are looking forward to welcoming you back as soon as we are safely able to do so. 

From the Collection

Archivist Liz Street has been unearthing some of the stories from recent acquisitions to the Archive collections.

Statement from prisoner

7731-1 Page 34

“I’m innocent, Gov”

We were very pleased last year to be given two stray volumes from Stafford Gaol (7773). We knew that there were missing admission registers and photograph albums but we didn’t know records such as these existed. They are two minute books of the Official Visitors, which sound dull but are actually full of life because they include verbatim reports from the prisoners’ own mouths. The Visitors were responsible for disciplining the prisoners and responding to requests or complaints. The requests included permissions to write letters, extended visits, special diets, or change of recorded religion. Sometimes visitors or correspondents were deemed to be unsatisfactory, particularly women who were “bad company”. Bad behaviour ranged from swearing or talking in chapel to trashing cells or causing other damage.

Michael Gilmore was found guilty of removing door screws and several bricks from his cell wall, and was given seven days close confinement, a number 2 diet, and a special forfeiture of 168 remission marks. James Eardley was charged with saying “Shut your bloody mouth” to an officer. Eardley claimed the officer wanted him to walk faster in the line but he was too close to the man in front. Prisoner Baggott appealed against a sentence of two days’ confinement and a number 1 diet for talking in chapel (see image above). He claimed two other prisoners were talking about three brothers who had come in with “fifteen years for the policeman” but that he had not spoken. His appeal was dismissed.

These two volumes cover the years 1902 to 1916, and end with the prison being handed over for a military detention barracks.

Please don't try this at home!

Another extract from the Young Man's Best Companion (D570) which contains intriguing advice to young gentlemen. 

Advice for Young Gentlemen

Vintage Bakeoff 

Baking has been a popular lockdown activity for many people. This week we are turning to an edition of Mrs Beeton's Everyday Cookery (1923). 

Auntie's Cakes

6oz cornflour                      6oz butter                      
1/4 lb plain flour                 1 egg                        
1tsp baking powder           3 fl.oz cream 
Rind of 1 small lemon        Pinch of salt   
1/4 lb castor sugar

Chop the lemon rind very finely; well mix the flour and baking-powder together on a sheet of paper; put the butter into a clean basin and beat it up to a cream with a large wooden spoon, then add the sugar, and beat the ingredients until they are light and white, add the egg, and when it has been well beaten in add the flour and peel, and wet into rather a soft batter with a little milk. Grease the patty pans and drop 1 dessert spoonful of the batter into each. Bake in a warm oven for about 5 minutes. Sufficient to make about 2 dozen cakes.

Let us know how they turn out - send us a message on our Facebook page!

Matthew Blake Participation and Engagement Officer

Matthew in the Reading Room at the Record Office

The Team in Lockdown

This week we meet another member of the Archives and Heritage Team. Matthew Blake, Participation and Engagement Officer, is based at the Staffordshire Record Office in Stafford. We asked him about his role and discovered something about his sock throwing abilities. 

What does your role involve?

Put simply it is to encourage or enable people to work with our collections. This might be through one of our many volunteer projects, working with partner organisations such as Keele University, the Victoria County History or recently Liverpool University working with two PhD students researching ‘Flood and Drought’. I also support the talks and events programme such as the Staffordshire History Day and our exhibitions as well as the university and schools placement scheme. We also have schools, college and university visits to look at specific sessions tailored to their teaching, these can be great fun. My colleagues run all sorts of interesting projects and I support them where I can.   

When did you start working with Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Service?

No idea? Seems like only yesterday…….

What made you choose this career?

There can be a real and tangible sense of magic, a thrill, when you read a document from the past. Once you have cracked the handwriting you can start to unpick some of the mysteries that the past holds, and with the right sort of imagination you can even begin to hear the voices of people from hundreds of years ago. The collections that we hold can help people in understanding the past, but they can also give local people and communities a sense of their place in the world. This can be through family history or local history about the places we now live in. The recent WWI commemorations have seen a great swelling in interest from people wanting to research their local towns and villages and the people that lived there. It has been really interesting to see this flourishing of local history across the county and I have really enjoyed supporting people in their research.

What is your favourite object, document or photograph from the collection?

It will be something I haven’t seen before, more often than not something one the volunteers who work with us will have found and wants to discuss. I find I learn an awful lot by talking to people about what they are working on. They are usually the experts and if they are not, it is just as much fun trying to solve a particular riddle together.

What is your most memorable moment about working for the Service?  

I would say it is each time you get to help someone who feels uncertain about the next step in their research, be it what documents to look at, or how to interpret the information or even someone just stuck on a particular word, those are the moments I really enjoy.  If it was my favourite project then I think it would be ‘Criminal Quilts’. This entailed working with a skilled quilt maker, Ruth Singer. Ruth researched, alongside a team of volunteers, the photographs that we hold of female prisoners in Stafford gaol. The project was a delight from start to finish, which was a touring exhibition of quilts and fabrics.

Away from work, do you have a hidden talent or special skill?

Certainly not. I am as dull as I appear, although I once threw a pair of socks straight across the landing and directly into the washing basket

Share Your Thoughts on Our Future

Take part in our survey: Share your thoughts and help to shape the new Staffordshire History Centre 

Staffordshire Archives & Heritage and the William Salt Library are working in partnership to create and deliver the new Staffordshire History Centre. The project will transform the way the public engage with our services, our collections and create an exciting new visitor experience.

We are interested in learning more about your personal experiences of Staffordshire Archives & Heritage (both in person and/or online), as well as some more information about how you spend your leisure time in general. Any information you can provide through this survey would help to inform the developments of Staffordshire History Centre and would be very much appreciated. Take part in the survey here




Friends of the William Salt Library Wordsearch
Can you solve this wordsearch. Words can be horizontal, vertical or diagonal and run forwards or backwards. Good luck - the solution will be revealed next week. 

Records                                   Newspapers 
Staffordshire                            Engravings Articles                 
Pedigrees                                Illustrations   
Royal proclamations                Original collection
Ephemera                                Transcripts        
Victoria County History

Brainteaser Solutions


William Salt Library Crossword Solution


1 Black Book
3 A Proper Little Town
4 Shire Hall
6 Hopton Heath
8 The Infirmary
12 Recusants
14 Baswich
16 Cheese


1 Burh
2 Lyceum Theatre
5 Tipping Street
7 Hobby Horse
9 House of Correction
10 St Bertelin
11 The Picture House
13 Gaolgate Street
15 Thomas Worswicke
17 Brinebaths  

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