We had great news on 30th September 2018! The Mary Boast Prize, which is organised by the Camberwell Society, has been won by an essay from some of the Friends of Burgess Park ‘Zeppelin 1917’ team. A big thank you to all the volunteer authors including the essay editing team of Judith Barratt, Joan Ashworth and Susan Crisp.
The prizewinning essay, which you can read here, tells the story of the 1917 Zeppelin raid on the park, covered on this website, and also the events organised by the Friends of Burgess Park to commemorate the terrible occasion. The winner was announced at the end of a fascinating local history walk around Burgess Park and the surroundings, also covering some of the planned new developments to the area.
The essay is based on work done in 2017 by many volunteer researchers who joined with members of the Friends to investigate the events of 1917 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant. All kinds of information was uncovered with the help of nearby archives such as the Southwark Local History Archive, the Imperial War Museum and the Cuming Museum collection. At the special events organised to commemorate the centenary in October, we were honoured by the presence of several close members of the two families who lost the biggest number of relatives in the bombing. We were able to add their information to the essay.
The Camberwell Society’s annual prize is named after Mary Boast, who was a popular local historian and the archivist at the Southwark Local History Library and Archives. She wrote the excellent, but now difficult to obtain, history booklet – The Story of Camberwell, and has a street named after her.
You’ll be able to read the essay in full in the Camberwell Quarterly magazine, to be published by Christmas 2018. Order your copy now! Or join the Camberwell Society and have it sent to your house for free! Or buy it in any local shop, if you’re in the area. Or read it now!
21st October – Four unique acts capture the spirit of WWI
Scratch Night at Theatre Delicatessen is an evening of variety, ideas and fun; a chance to see artists present brave, new work at the first stages of development.
The four performances brought a real insight into the impact of WWI and how it affected the lives of people at home.
A new spoken-word performance – Anonymous Is A Woman – kicked off the evening. Reflecting on the life of a young women who could have known the families from Calmington Road, the poem by Koko Brown, in collaboration with director Tania Azevedo, compared local domestic life with the extraordinary news about Mata Hari who was shot as a spy on 15th October 1917.
Two of the scratch theatre pieces performed material written during the war. The Way To Win, from 1915, was a recruiting piece which toured through music halls across the country. It pulls all the patriotic strings to encourage young men to sign-up, to gain respect and love from family and friends. The second, God’s Outcast, a sombre piece from 1918, shows a heartbroken father and a young wife who have each lost a young man to the war. Meeting in a railway station waiting room they confide how much the loss means and how they cannot bear to continue to live. The contrast between the two plays is stark.
On a brighter note, We Have Been Gloriously Happy, written and performed by Beth Watson and Sadie Clark, presented a series of dialogues showing the new roles that women were taking on: suffragettes setting up local committees to support the war effort; women taking on the medical profession and establishing field hospitals; and munitions workers wondering what the future would hold once the men returned and took back the jobs after the war.
The performers had access to all our research about WWI and the lives of local people in south east London, especially Camberwell, where the Zeppelin air raid took place in October 1917. Theatre Delicatessen’s knowledge of new writers and performers brought these stories to life, showing the social impact of WWI to a new audience.
It was fantastic to see more new faces at the volunteer session on Saturday, hosted by Southwark Local History Library & Archive (tucked at the back of the John Harvard Library on Borough High Street). It’s my favourite of these places. It manages to pack a real concentration of material into a pretty modest space, but always feels welcoming and inclusive.
It seems there’s a good strong volunteer team on board Zeppelin 1917 now – a nice mix of experts, history fans, & folk who are just plain interested or fancied getting involved out of curiosity. That should help make the October activities all the richer.
Archivist Dr Patricia Dark gave us a great orientation, pointing out what was where, and what wasn’t (eg. county level stuff like hospitals and schools, held at LMA). Sometimes it’s handy knowing what not to look for. So a great steer on how to make the best of the place. We appreciated the pointers targeting our particular era and subjects too. I’m now intrigued by what “the Pat Brown Papers” may hold – apparently a Peckham walker/writer/photographer whose work was donated to SLHLA.
Lots of Zeppelin discussions and sharing of knowledge going on. And on the wider social history side, strong interest in the suffragettes (and mention of fearless suffragist Miss Muriel Matters – leafletting the House of Commons in a “VOTES FOR WOMEN” emblazoned airship, pre-WW1). I’m delighted someone’s covering Music Halls & pop culture too.
The photo collection at SLHLA is undigitised, but meticulously hand captioned, mounted & referenced. Quite a labour of love, and I understand the late and much missed Stephen Humphries was instrumental in its creation. For me, it’s old-fashioned quirkiness is what makes it enjoyable to use. You look up one photo and 5 other connections or ideas jump out at you. It really does feel like unravelling a detective case, and almost every image is haunting or evocative.
The microfilm newspaper archive scares me slightly though – I’m definitely going to need to get better at speed-scanning! Came across some bygone local paper titles that I’m hoping may give us a slightly different take on the events of October 1917. Remember Southwark & Bermondsey Recorder, anyone?
There’s drop-in sessions on Saturdays in September (2017). The idea is they’re informal, a chance to meet up over a coffee and/or share research, or help each other out with writing. Everyone’s chosen their topics, so now just remains to get cracking with the actual research… Happy hunting everyone.
What a wonderful time we are having exploring the history and heritage of WW1 and the Zeppelin Raid on Calmington Rd in 1917! Our third volunteer session was late afternoon on Monday 4th September. The team at the IWM (Imperial War Museum) have been so supportive of the project, they have helped and encouraged us every step of the way. It was an amazing session that really animated the history and showed so many ways we could use the resources and talents of this wonderful Museum.
The session began with a fantastic overview by Alan on the history of both the Zeppelins and the raid. Often with projects like this there is so much information out there that you can get lost in it, but he really simplified the narrative of the raid and the Zeppelins into a precise 20-minute picture of this interesting part of our local history.
Next, Catherine explained the interactive Lives of the First World War website, with elements of collected history gathered from their collections and elsewhere. The team had already set up files on the victims of the Camberwell raid on the site to help our project. Our aim with this HLF funded project is to deposit anything we can with them for future researchers like ourselves. This will include the audio recorded versions of the animated tour which will link to their research. It is a great way of showing how we are using this project to interpret historical research in a new and inventive ways.
Then we moved on to the Explore History centre which is a great space where people can use the collection and all of the digital assets they have to bring to life projects such as Zeppelin 1917. Sarah welcomed the volunteers into this fantastic space and shared many interesting bits of advice on how to use the materials. So many people including myself did not realise this resource exists for the community!
On a personal level it was amazing to see how everyone is growing in confidence and how the group is getting excited about history and archives. We are really enjoying the way we are finding new skills and knowledge through this project. The newspapers of the time were also amazing which were facilitated by Vrusksheela, and it was interesting to see how the press at the time reported the raid through the prism of censorship. It was great that we had the newspapers in the lead up and after the raid in October 1917!
On the way out, we saw the Research Room, where you can book to consult the archives and see the collection for real. We’ll be back!
Really looking forward to seeing how these fantastic sessions translate into the exhibition content and the materials for the actors and the animated tour on Saturday 21st of October.
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.
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!
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