Staffordshire Archives & Heritage Update 12 November 2020

Staffordshire Archives and Heritage

Welcome to the Staffordshire Archives and Heritage Service Newsletter. If you would like to explore your creative side take a look at our Lockdown Memories project, for those interested in Arnold Bennett there are some new productions of his work and for anyone interested the team that makes the Service tick read on to find out about Archivist Rebecca Jackson. 


Update on Opening

Staffordshire Records Office Sign

All of our service points are currently closed to the public, following government guidance. Please sign up for our e-newsletter to get timely updates on changes to our services. If you are thinking of visiting us, please see our Planning a Visit and Social Distancing pages for further vital information.

Staffordshire Record Office, the William Salt Library, Stoke on Trent City Archives and the Lichfield History Access Point will remain closed to the public until further notice. Planned events, exhibitions and on-site volunteering also remain suspended.

Staffing - On-site staffing is being kept to a minimum, which may at times lead to a delay in the fulfilment of requests for information, research and the digitisation of documents.

Enquiries - In addition to answering written enquiries (by email or letter), we are responding positively to requests for research and scanning and photography orders. Enquiries for the William Salt Library and the County Museum should be sent to Staffordshire Record Office. We are also able to fulfil some customer orders for images.

Post: Staffordshire Record Office, Eastgate Street, Stafford ST16 2LZ
Post: William Salt Library, 19 Eastgate Street, Stafford ST16 2LZ

Post: Stoke on Trent City Archives, City Central Library, Bethesda Street, Hanley ST1 3RS

Volunteering - On-site volunteering remains suspended.  We will continue to support our regular volunteers in working from home.

Online services - Alternative access to some collections is available by:

Can you help us to decide?

Spring Exhibition - left grandfather with grandchild, right family group outside their home

Left: Holbrook Gaskell with his grandson, Ernest, 1908, Codsall. Right: Police Constable Joe Eastley with his family and pet dog outside the village Police House in Newborough, 1927

Our Spring exhibition in 2021 will take place online. This means we will be sharing objects, documents and stories on a website. We have two possible themes for the exhibition and we would really like to hear which idea you like the most!  

Option 1: The Home and Family Life 
What does home mean to you? We are asking what makes a home and how does this change during a lifetime. This could include looking family traditions and rituals, food and mealtimes, interior decoration or even hobbies and pastimes.

Option 2:  Your Grandparents’ Grandparents
This is an intergenerational project where we encourage grandchildren to ask their grandparents about their childhoods and to recall their memories of their own grandparents. The generations will get a chance to share their experiences; their favourite toys, what life was like at school, who were their friends, who was the 'superstar' of the day?

Please email our Collections Assistant with your preference by no later than Monday 16 November or if you prefer you can comment on our Facebook page here

Discover your Inner Poet

Lockdown Memories Rainbow Logo

We have received an amazing response to our “Lockdown Memories” project. We have been delighted that so many people from across Staffordshire have taken the time to share their experiences of living through lockdown in 2020.this placeholder text.

We would like to invite you to take part in a series of poetry workshops being run by Staffordshire Poet Laurette Mel Wardle-Woodend. 

The workshops are free and will add to the stories and experiences we have already collected. Mel will run 4 workshops as part of our “Lockdown Memories” project exploring individual feelings about the Covid-19 pandemic. She will look at how words and poems can be used to shape and reflect our experiences of lockdown. The workshops will explore how poetry can be used to reflect experiences. There will be plenty of opportunities to get creative, to write some poems and to have time for quiet thought and reflection. Mel will bring the ideas and responses from the workshops together in a poem which will be used in the “Lockdown Memories” exhibition which the Archives and Heritage Service is planning during 2021, creating a permanent record for the archives.

Where possible participants are encouraged to attend all 4 workshops.

The workshops will run on Zoom on the following dates:

Tuesday 17th November 10am – 12pm

Tuesday 24th  November 10am – 12pm

Tuesday 1st December 10am – 12pm

Tuesday 8th December 10am – 12pm

Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. 

If you would like to take part in the workshops please email no later than Sunday 15th November

Bennett of the Five Towns

Arnold Bennett

Arnold Bennett - Five Illustrated Audio Programmes

“Bennett of the Five Towns” is an insight into Arnold Bennett's relationship with the Potteries and his writing career up to his final “Five Towns” book in 1916 - all told in his own words. It was devised - and is presented by Ray Johnson, speaking as Arnold Bennett, with readings from his works by David Bowen.

Bennett was born in a pawnbroker’s shop in Hope Street, Hanley, in 1867. He left to live in London when he was 21, where he worked as a solicitor’s clerk then in magazine publishing. But he was determined to earn a living as a writer and achieved his first popular book “Anna of the Five Towns” in 1902. He then moved to Paris for a decade, where he continued to bring out his “Five Towns” novels and short stories, and where he wrote his most popular works “The Old Wives’ Tale” and “The Card” - books that brought him international fame.

London and Paris nurtured him, but his roots lay in the smoky air and cobbled streets of the pottery towns he immortalised, and which provided the background for his formative years: “Without the Potteries, I would be nothing”. It is because he created a bond of fellow-feeling between his readers and his creations that he has survived. He celebrated the life of the townsman at a time when Thomas Hardy celebrated that of the countryman - two great writers achieving universality in a regional setting. 

This collection of his writings is set at a period just after his new-found fame with “The Old Wives’ Tale”, and when the Federation of the Potteries was still a recent achievement in 1910. We get an insight into both his relationship with the Potteries and his writing career from contemporary essays, letters, journals and his novels and short stories. Federation is seen as a culmination of all aspects of Potteries life as seen through Bennett’s eyes and he sums up the Potteries character and characters brilliantly in the concluding programme.

The five episodes are now available on YouTube - each episode is approximately 15 minutes. You can search “Bennett of the Five Towns” on YouTube - or just click on the links below. 

Part 1 - ‘Five Towns? Understanding Us'

Part 2 - Early Days and Education  

Part 3 - Writing and the struggle for Anna

Part 4 - Paris - The Old Wives' Tale and The Card

Part 5 - Federation and The Greater Identity

Meet the Team

Rebecca Jackson

Rebecca at one of the Staffordshire History Day events

This week we meet Archivist Rebecca Jackson.

What does your role involve?
My role embraces 4 distinct areas of work. Firstly, answering public enquiries by email and in the public reading room. I love that part of the role because you never know what you’ll be asked next, so it’s always fresh and challenging. Secondly, cataloguing: currently the Bawdy Courts of Lichfield collection ( You have to become an expert very quickly and this project has involved learning about church law and Latin legal terminology. Luckily all the interesting, scurrilous information of the court cases is in English.  I also manage projects and apply for external funding for cataloguing, so at the moment I’m working with the brilliant Asylums project team ( To get these projects off the ground I work with colleagues with external partners, which is very rewarding. My favourite part of the role is working with volunteers and students. We have limited time for cataloguing; so for collections that really merit detailed description we rely on our amazingly knowledgeable volunteers. They have tackled all sorts of records, from family correspondence, diaries, receipts, Quarter Sessions rolls, rights of way files, hospital case books and wills, to title deeds with challenging Welsh place names.  I’ve learnt much more about the collections from the detail uncovered by our volunteers than I would ever have done alone.

When did you start working with the Archives and Heritage Service? 


What made you choose this career?   

Well I didn’t initially, I started out as a teacher and spent 7 years teaching History in Stoke. I’d come across archives at University, so I knew where to turn when researching a local history module. I made my first visit to Staffordshire Record Office and a memorable visit to the hospital library at Hartshill, which still had the patient case books for the old North Staffs Infirmary. One of the things I most loved was bringing actual documents into lessons, including my great-uncle’s last letter home from the Somme in 1916, the telegram telling his family he was wounded and then a letter from the field hospital nurse describing his death. I found it very touching that the students treated the fragile bits of paper with great respect and I saw the power of original documents to bring the past to life, like touching history. It’s just as well I changed careers because despite best efforts the letters were beginning to show signs of wear -  I needed the advice of a conservator. In 2000 we spent 6 months in Jerusalem and while there I volunteered at local archives - I was hooked. On our return I did some voluntary work with Liz at Stafford and enjoyed it so much it confirmed me in my decision for a career change. And now its great to be working with Liz as a colleague!

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

 Everything! I’m enthusiastic (probably annoyingly so) about whatever collection I’m working on. I do like the Staffordshire Police disciplinary register, though. Like so many documents it’s a window on social history. Staffordshire policemen are disciplined for drunkenness , abetting deserting soldiers, racketeering, expressing Fenian sympathies, and there’s the intriguing case of an officer dismissed for ‘reading Aristotle to his landlady’. See for explanation!

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

There are so many ……….. One thing that sticks in my mind is being shown into the coal-encrusted boiler room at Eastgate House (it’s not a glamourous job) and finding long forgotten bundles of war-time aliens’ registration cards.

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

Away from work, do you have a hidden talent or special skill? No, I’ve lots of hidden ambitions but not discovered a hidden talent yet - still hoping.

The Learning Room Header image - desks in a library setting

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