Our second session with research volunteers took place at the Wells Way old library on 31st August 2017 and introduced us to the Cuming Collection. It was led by Judy Aitken, curator of the Cuming Museum. Judy introduced us particularly to the WW1 items in the Collection. During WW1, the Cuming curator, Richard Mould, responded to a Ministry of War directive to collect items to commemorate the war from Walworth residents – to reflect all aspects of the war. Quite an enlightened request when one considers it. Continuing after the war, through the 1920s and 1930s, items such as letters, photos, diaries, flags, recruitment records and many other items were collected, together with lots of ammunition (some live!), such as hand grenades, stick bombs and items collected from battlefields. The collection includes parts of Zeppelin shrapnel including from 1917 raid.
As a taster of the Cuming’s photograph collection, we saw some slides including fantastic images from the era.
We had great fun investigating some objects up close, which was a wonderful opportunity for all. Items included things made from bullets, letter openers made from bayonets (?), postcards with elaborate hand stitching.
Judy also mentioned Edward Lovett, a collector of unusual items from WW1 at the front.
Consequently the Cuming has a wealth of objects from the era – which is fantastic news for Zeppelin1917!
In terms of the Home front – this is also well represented – for example, War flags – which were sold as fundraising drives. It is important to note that Bermondsey Council was the 1st Council to institute Air Raid signals. The actual methods were decided by local Committees (Susan Crisp wondered if Dr Salter was involved as he was a prominent Bermondsey councillor of the era and a massive figure in local history etc).
You can find many items in Cuming Collection online here.
Last week, local south London paper Southwark News published our story on plans to remember the raid in October. On page 5, in the Walworth section, they previewed our story of the Boyce-Balls family, who had to be rescued from 101 Albany Road after the bomb hit, and lost two young sons. Members of the family hope to be at our events in October.
Sonny (standing) and Eddie (on his mother’s lap) both died in the attack, and Leslie (on his father’s knee) was permanently affected.
A very fascinating introduction to researching archives took place on 22nd August at the Theatre Delicatessen space in the old Wells Way Library. This was the first of several get-togethers for anyone who wants to help research the story of the Zeppelin raid over Burgess Park in October 2017.
Led by Alan Crookham, head of Library and Archives at the National Gallery and Jane Ruddell, historian/archivist from the Mercers’ Company archives, we had a wide-ranging discussion on what type of material is held by different archives, and how to access it. As a complete beginner myself, it was great!
We learnt about the different types of archives around the UK, and the sort of material they may have connected to the Zeppelin raid:
The National Archives (TNA) – all government departments, plus loads more – use Discovery to search the catalogue, which also includes other UK archives
University archives – many universities hold specialist material in their own archives – for instance, the TUC collection at the Univerity of Warwick. See Archives Hub, or their combined catalogue for published material, or AIM25 for institutions inside the M25 London area
National and smaller museums usually have large archive collections, for example the Imperial War Museum, National Gallery and Tate. The IWM is of particular interest to us
AIM25 is a portal giving access to various London archives, including the London Metropolitan Archives, which covers the whole of the London region formerly governed by the London County Council and the GLC.
Many private collections exist, such as London Livery Companies (including the Mercers’ Company), historic houses, etc.
Business archives, useful for information about products and inventions, but the smaller ones may have little or no online presence, or arrangements for access
Apparently, many archives have very little that is digitised and easily available online, but many of them have catalogues which can be looked on their websites, so you know where to go to find out the detail. The TNA Discovery site is a great place to start to uncover many of these archives, together with Archives Hub.
Understanding the way different archives classify their material is important in getting to grips with what they contain. Page 11 of the powerpoint from the night (see link below) has a useful example from the National Gallery. These archival classification systems are designed to preserve the context of the item in the collection, as well as the item itself, so you can see its relationship to other items.
The catalogue numbers or ‘shelfmarks’ referring to particular documents in a collection are vital to record during a visit, so you can go back and ask for the document again, or you can pass on details to other researchers. It’s really important to record the catalogue reference for everything you find useful, and even for things which may not seem so useful at the time.
Top Tips for getting the most out of your visit:
Define your topic clearly before you start
Find out which are the relevant archives, and what sort of documents you could expect to find
Check the description of their holdings or collections
Search the catalogues online as far as possible before visiting – even order the items to be viewed in the archive online before visiting
Check what documents are needed in order to register for a reader pass and take them along on your first visit
Phone ahead for clarification, if need be
Plan your visit – opening times, document delivery times (may be up to several days after ordering!), restrictions on access, photography/photocopying arrangements and cost
Take a camera (most archives now allow photos for own research purposes)
Take a pencil (no rubber!) not a pen, magnifying glass, laptop
Consider and ask the archivist about copyright, before publishing any item by whichever means.
We’re still looking for volunteers, so check the contact details here and come along to the next session on 31st August 2017!
To celebrate the completion of our project we invited everyone who had been involved to come along for the grand “reveal” of the underpass installation and the launch of the heritage trail.
We had stalls and activities aimed at children as well as the promenade walk along the heritage trail.
We were delighted that children who had taken part in the schools story-telling project and the Art in the Park workshops came along as well as people who had helped to make the heritage trail.
We estimate about 300 came along and took part in the launch activities: children’s races, flag making, brick making, popcorn and lemonade stall and heritage stall displaying more materials. Plus, there were more people who stopped to examine our pop-up map exhibition hanging in the trees.
Thank you so much to everyone who took part. We couldn’t have completed this project without your enthusiasm, energy and expertise. Well done to all.
The Bridge to Nowhere heritage project is about to conclude after a hectic year. Lots has been happening, loads of people have learnt lots more about the history and heritage of Burgess Park. We’ll be inaugurating the new underpass artwork – a reminder of the main feature of the area which lead to the creation of the park – the Grand Surrey Canal. And we’ll be launching the new Burgess Park Heritage Trail.
Lots of surprises are in store for the day – people from the past will spring back into life, to give a flavour of the businesses which took place in the area, both legitimate and criminal! War time suffering and cinema entertainment will jostle with ice, lime and lemonade for your attention, as we take you on a journey through the past. Meet Jessie Burgess and find out why she really did deserve a park named after her. Don’t forget your smart phone either, so you can see how we’ve blended the old and the new to help you find out more about your local area.
Saturday, 7 June 2014, meet near the Lime Kiln by Wells Way any time from 1 pm, for fun and facts all afternoon.
Local children took part in researching the industrial history that took place in and around the Grand Surrey Canal which once ran through what is now part of Burgess Park. Their ideas and endeavours will result in an art installation in the underpass in the park with the help of local artists’ group ‘Art in the Park’.
Year 5 pupils from Michael Faraday School and Gloucester Primary explored Burgess Park to learn about its history with local storyteller Vanessa Wolf.
The storytelling walk helped the children discover what the park would have been like before and after the war. They had to imagine the park as it would have been – full of houses, shops, factories and a canal. The storytelling sessions involved lots of role play, singing, creative writing, tasting and smells!
The traditional craft workshops run by Friends of Burgess Park as part of their history project Bridge to Nowhere were greeted with enthusiasm and a desire to learn craft skills – especially knitting. The word got about and well over 30 people took part on the last day, with 100 participants over the three days. Local people got the chance to try out traditional hand sewing, embroidery and knitting, and canal style art. Most of the people taking part were born long after the canal closed, but were interested to learn more about it. The local residents are definitely keen to develop their craft skills to show and sell their work in the future.
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