More stones…

Following the fun Workshop on Newspapers and Stone, I have been commissioned to do a lovely bit of archive research for the Herefordshire & Worcestershire Earth Heritage Trust.
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St Nicholas, The Cross, Worcester

If you come along to the Archive Searchroom in the Hive on alternate Wednesday afternoons between now and the end of the year, you will find me, up to my eyes in builders’ specifications, parish records, old copies of The Builder and any other useful source that I can get my hands on…

The main focus of Trust’s work at the moment is A Thousand Years of Building with Stone, an enormous research project that now has its own brand new, freely searchable website and a growing database of more than 3000 buildings and quarries

As part of the team, I am helping to record, catalogue and untangle the history of stone use in heritage buildings across Herefordshire and Worcestershire.  We are trying to identify not only the stone from which some of our most significant buildings are constructed, but also, the quarry it came from.  Yes!  We are nothing if not ambitious!!!

It’s great to get back into the archives again and to do some focussed research.  I have been finding some fabulous stuff – too much to post here.

My thorniest problem at the moment is to identify the stone from which the ‘new’ church of St Nicholas was built in 1730. Worcester people will know the church, as it stands on The Cross and is now a Slug & Lettuce bar.  I have fond memories of this church – when I was small they used to put a nativity tableau on the steps at Christmas time.  If you put a coin in the tin, it lit up and played a carol.  I leave it to you to work out how long ago that was…

So I am slowly working through box after box of churchwardens’ accounts, trying not to get distracted by the fascinating invoices for school materials in the 1860s, or descriptions of the workhouse prior to 1836…  If anyone has a clue, do let me know

Helping the Earth Heritage Trust to do this are a wonderful and ever expanding group of dedicated volunteers. If you are interested in learning new skills and discovering more about your local area read more or contact the EHT team.

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The Workshop on Newspapers & Stone

Bit of an unusual request this one, and no, it is not the academic prequel to GRR Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire sequence.

Instead, it’s an interesting commission from the Earth Heritage Trust, whose volunteers are busy researching sources for A Thousand Years of Building with Stone.  Given the tremendous number of documentary sources out there, my workshop will focus on how to structure database searches and how to make the best use of any basic clues to lead you to the answers.

So far, one of the best clues to use are the foundation stones laid with great enthusiasm by our forebears – where there’s a stone, there’s a news article, and behind that article can be a wealth of information concerning architect, building contractors, design purpose and nature of stone used.  Take, for example, Worcester’s own City Library:

Worcester Library collage_web

Searches on INFOTRAC News Vault (available for free to Worcestershire Libraries members) for the Worcester Library opening event were no use, as it turns out that when the building was erected it was known entirely as the Victoria Institute.  Therefore, by changing the search parameters to use the known data (‘Worcester’, ‘Lygon’ and a restricted date search), I was able to find both the report of the Opening Ceremony in the Times Newspaper Archive, and a series of commemorative articles about the event in the Worcester Journal (using the British Newspaper Archive).  For the Times article, see SUCCESSFUL SEARCH_Worcs Victoria Inst 1896-10-01.

There are a large number of newspaper and periodical resources available online, some for free and others which charge a fee.  This is where library membership comes up trumps as most county services subscribe to at least one of these archives.  For details, look for your library service’s 24 Hour Library or e-Resources page.  In Worcestershire, library members who visit the Hive can also access a range of additional academic journals through the University subscriptions service including the British & Irish Archaeological Bibliography and JStor.

For a quick overview of online news & periodical resources see this guide from the National Archives: TNA_Guide to newspapers_2014-10-20

For a guide to Herefordshire Libraries e-Resources see: e-resources_Herefordshire Libraries 2014-10-20

For a guide to Worcestershire Libraries e-Resources, including those at the Hive, see: eResources_Worcs Libraries 2014-10-20 and e-resources_The Hive 2014-10-20

For an introduction to using the British Newspaper Archive, see: Intro to British Newspaper Archive