Using census records to trace the owner of a birthday book… with an unexpected twist!

This guest post comes from Dr Lauren O’Hagan, sociolinguistic researcher of Edwardian material culture and class conflict.


In 1798, statistician John Rickman wrote an article stressing the need to conduct a census in Britain. He argued that “the intimate knowledge of any country must form the rational basis of legislation and diplomacy” and “an industrious population is the basic power and resource of any nation, and therefore its size needs to be known.” Two years later, the Census Act was passed in Parliament and in 1801, the first ever detailed, national survey was carried out. Since this date, a census has been conducted in Britain every ten years.

While the census can help the Government to develop policies, plan public services and allocate funding, for researchers, historians and genealogists, it is an incredibly valuable tool for discovering the lifestyles and characteristics of past generations. Census records provide official evidence that enables stories of individuals to be pieced together, retold and preserved for the future. When working with book inscriptions, these records are particularly useful in solving provenance mysteries. Indeed, I have the census to thank (partially) for unravelling a mystery I encountered in the Janet Powney Collection last week.

The mystery concerns a beautiful pocketbook, bound in brown cloth boards and published by Ernest Nister in the late nineteenth century. The book was entitled The Poetical Birthday Book and as the title suggests, it features a short poem per day by such popular poets as Tennyson, Longfellow and Wordsworth, with a blank space alongside where family, friends and acquaintances of the book owner could mark their birthdays.

Birthday books were a Victorian invention, which grew in popularity in the 1860s as a result of increased popular interest in graphology, personalisation and celebrity culture. For the increasingly literate population, they were seen as status symbols and were particularly used by middle-class men and women to map their expanding social circles.

Throughout my research, I have come across many birthday books and the owner’s name is usually inscribed somewhere on the front endpapers. However, the endpapers of this book were surprisingly bare. Always enthusiastic about a provenance challenge, I decided to track down the owner by researching the other names inscribed in the volume… all with the help of the trusty census, of course!

I began by making a list of all the names in the book. There were twenty-three in total, of which seventeen were women and six men. Given the social taboos of the time about women socialising with men, I started with the assumption that the book’s owner was likely to be a woman.

Next, I grouped the names together according to surnames. This resulted in nine Murrays, two Goldsmiths, two Taylors, two Watts, one Grange, one Sewell, one Collings, one Hallam, one Humphrey, one Dickinson, one Armstrong and one Pakeman. The large number of Murrays suggested that the book’s owner may also be a member of the Murray family.

Without any knowledge of the address or location of these individuals, I decided the best way to start researching would be to look up the people who had included their middle name when inscribing their birthdays in the book. The inclusion of a middle name drastically narrows down results and can make all the difference when trying to pinpoint the correct person in a record. Of course, in this case, having the specific day and month of their births was also incredibly useful.

I started by inputting the name George Cameron Murray (January 19th 1892-1978). Luckily, this only brought up one result. Bingo! The 1911 census confirmed that I had the right George when I learnt that his sister was Winifred Hannah (December 23rd 1885-1935), his brother was Norman Ramsay (July 29th 1882-1945), his father was Patrick (September 14th 1849-1919) and his mother was Hannah (April 18th 1851-1925). All of these names and birthdays were also inscribed in the birthday book. This evidence gave me my first possible clue that either Winifred or Hannah may be the owner.

The census records informed me that Patrick Ramsay was a bank manager who was born in Rothbury, Northumberland, but had moved to Cambridge as a young man and then later to London. From 1891 onwards, he and his family lived in Chiswick – an area on the outskirts of the city that became popular amongst the upper-middle classes in the late nineteenth century. His daughter Winifred was a physiotherapist, his son George was a bank clerk, while his son Norman was a solicitor. Norman was an interesting character; immigration records show that he settled in Australia in 1908 and became involved in various cases of fraud and bigamy. He appears regularly in the Adelaide police gazettes throughout the 1910s and 1920s and even served four years in prison for his crimes.

Next, I turned to Sarah Hall Murray (March 7th 1880-1974). I decided to limit my searches to either Rothbury, Northumberland (Patrick Murray’s place of birth) or Chiswick, London (Patrick’s current address). This proved fruitful. I immediately found her in Rothbury and confirmed that she was the daughter of Patrick’s younger brother, George. I was also able to establish that the other Murrays in the book (Ada, Thomas, Evelyn and A [Anne]) were other nieces and nephews of Patrick. Again, this indicated that either Hannah or Winifred was the book’s owner.

As I began to research the other names in the book, I quickly established a trend. Like Patrick and his family, most lived in Chiswick and were linked to the banking trade. Matilda Humphrey (May 9th 1865-?) and Katie Goldsworth (July 7th 1864-1933) were wives of bank managers, while Kate Pakeman (June 21st 1863-1911) was the wife of the manager of a financial firm. These facts now started to make me lean more towards Hannah Murray as the book’s owner. Perhaps the wives of these bankers socialised regularly with one another?

Then, I found the name Duncan ‘Dodo’ Goldsmith (July 4th 1895-1915), the son of the aforementioned Katie Goldsworth, also recorded in the book. Being of a similar age to Hannah’s own children, Duncan may have socialised with them or attended the same school. The affectionate nickname ‘Dodo’ certainly suggests some level of intimacy with the family. Equally, Beatrice Madeline Grange (October 30th 1885-1969), recorded as ‘Madeline’, was found to have been a schoolfriend of Winifred, as were Birdie Dickinson [née Cooper] (May 21st 1885-?) and Louisa Hallam [née Halt] (May 27th 1885-?). Seeing the amount of young girls the same age as Winifred in the book, I now began to think that she was the book’s owner and not her mother.

Of the remaining names, most were found to be located in the Chiswick area. Hilda S. Armstrong (August 17th 1884-?), Julia Taylor (July 12th 1899-?) and her sister Ann E.F. Taylor (July 24th 1818-1896), as well as Elizabeth A. Watts (May 24th 1856-?) and her daughter Emma Watts (March 1st 1882-?) all lived in the same street as the Murrays at one time or another. Unfortunately, Harry Collings (August 25th) was too common a name to be traced with certainty in the records, while A.F. Sewell (October 18th) was too vague.

So, after five hours of extensive research, I had narrowed the owner down to two possible candidates: Hannah or Winifred.

I decided to take a break from researching to photograph the little volume. As I set the book up on the supportive cushion, I noticed that its two front pages were stubbornly stuck together. I carefully pulled them apart and you would not believe what I found underneath… an inscription hand-written in black ink: “To dear little Wynnie Murray as a well-earned prize June 1893.” Argh! So, after all that effort, the book had contained an inscription all along; it was just buried under years of stiff pages from non-use. Despite this frustration, I still felt pleased with my Holmesque detective work and that the book’s owner had finally been determined. However, I also vowed to myself never to make such a simple mistake again!

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Guest post: Behind the Night-light: A Forgotten Bestseller

This guest post comes from Dr Lauren O’Hagan, sociolinguistic researcher of Edwardian material culture and class conflict.


“He is not quite a cow, but a little green bull
He lives in a large field where there is no up and no down
He always wears beautiful trousers
You may like him at first, but you will soon get tired of him
He is very pretty, but oh, so good!
He collects nothing”

Read the above lines and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they came from one of Quentin Blake’s nonsense verses or a lost Dr Seuss book (minus the rhymes!). In fact, they are taken from Behind the Night-light, a 1912 book that captures the poetic musings of a three-year-old girl, Joan Maude. Back in December of last year, I shone a spotlight on another Edwardian child star: Daisy Ashford and her successful novel The Young Visiters. Like The Young Visiters, Behind the Night-light was also a bestseller in its day, only to have faded into obscurity over time. I’d like take the blog space this week to acquaint unfamiliar readers with this delightful and forgotten book.

Behind the Night-light was published by John Murray in June 1912 and went through four reprints in its first six months. It is its fourth reprint from January 1913 that graces the shelves of the Janet Powney Collection in Special Collections. Considering the way that most children’s books of the period were decorated, the book has decidedly bland black cloth covers. However, tucked within, page after page is filled with intriguing and humorous tales about an original world that little Joan Maude created from the comfort of her childhood playroom.

According to the title page, every story and poem in the book has been “described by Joan Maude and faithfully recorded by Nancy Price” (her mother). As Price explains in the preface:

“These quaint beasts who roam that delightful country ‘behind the night-light’ are the exclusive discovery of a child of three. Their names, their habits, etc., are entirely hers. My task has merely been to record them in language as near the original as possible.”

And this originality is certainly apparent in the contents page alone as we are introduced to such unique characters as the Kiddikee, Boo-Choo and Fat-Tack to the Mossip, Hitchy-Penny and Jonket. Through Joan Maude’s imagination, we learn about Bomblemass, an animal who “grows no teeth, carries a stick, wears a green plush coat and ties on his legs with black silk ribbon” or the Gott family “who all lost their ears because they wouldn’t listen.” We meet the Stickle-Jag “who has a coat made of hundreds and thousands, so that he can eat bits off of it when he can’t find the sugar basin” and the Lowdge who “collects dust and lives in the middle of it.” And so on and so forth across its fifty pages of creativity.

A key factor that influenced book sales was the fact that Joan Maude wasn’t just any little girl; she was the daughter of Nancy Price (1880-1970), a huge star of the Edwardian stage. Price had been part of F.R. Benson’s theatre company for many years, touring extensively in the provinces performing Shakespeare plays. In 1902, she caught the attention of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree who cast her as Calypso in Stephen Phillips’ production Ulysses at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. She later went on to play Hilda Gunning in Letty (1904), Mrs D’Aquila in The Whip (1909), one of the Pioneer Players in The First Actress (1911) and India in The Crown of India (1912). This meant that at the time of the book’s publication, she was perhaps as famous and recognisable as any of the big Hollywood stars today. Price would go on to establish the People’s National Theatre in 1930, as well as the English School Theatre Movement, which toured productions of Shakespeare plays to working-class children. She was awarded a CBE for services to the stage in 1950.

Upon release, Behind the Night-light was met with tremendous praise by the newspapers. The Era (8 March 1913) described it as “a collection of quaint and original animal fancies” and the Norwood News (12 December 1913) called it “a revelation of wonderful things, while The Pall Mall Gazette (8 June 1912) claimed that the monsters would have found a friend in Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.

One year after the book’s publication, Nancy Price enlisted the services of Joan Maude’s godmother, Liza Lehmann, also an English operatic soprano and composer, to turn the book into a stage show. By summer 1913, Behind the Night-light was playing all across England from the Manchester Theatre Royal and Bedford Town Hall to Torquay Pavilion and Ilkley King’s Hall. Reciting the rhymes were such big stage names as Jeannette Sherwin and Guide M. Chambers, and even Nancy Price herself at one special performance in London.

Up until the late 1920s, Behind the Night-light was also a favourite musical for schools to perform. Local newspapers raved about how pupils in Sevenoaks performed the songs at the Royal Crown Hotel (Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser, 30 November 1917), as well as how children at Steyne School in Worthing put on a show for an enthusiastic audience at Connaught Hall (Worthing Gazette, 7 November 1923). It is also claimed by Nancy Price that many of the expressions from the book went into common use and could be heard amongst such varied people as a professor of history and a pavement artist. “Don’t be a gott” was used to describe someone with a bad temper who wouldn’t listen and “a lowdge” became a term for somebody who ran very quickly.

Being the daughter of a famous actress and finding fame herself at such an early age meant that Joan Maude was always destined for stardom. In 1921, at the age of 13, she made her stage debut in Cairo at His Majesty’s Theatre in London. By the time she hit adulthood, Joan Maude had already starred in more than twenty stage productions all across the West End. As the ‘talkies’ became popular in the 1930s and 1940s, Joan Maude made her move from the stage to the screen, starring in a wide range of comedies, dramas and romances. Perhaps her most famous role was in Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946).

After some fifteen years of popularity, Behind the Night-light stopped touring, schools ended their performances of the musical and sales of the book decreased. Whether the novelty of the book had simply wore off now that Joan Maude was all grown up or whether she herself wanted to distance herself from the book that had first made her famous remains unclear. Nowadays, Behind the Night-light is practically unknown; a cursory Google search brings up just 33 results.

Looking at Behind the Night-light today, perhaps the most surprising observation is the book’s complete absence of images. With such rich descriptions of a world conjured up by Joan Maude, it is a real oversight not to have accompanied the text with vivid illustrations. This may have also secured the book’s longevity as children grew attached to such characters, remembered them more distinctly and then passed them onto their own children. 2020 will mark fifty years since the death of Nancy Price. To me, this seems like a glaring opportunity for a publisher to pick this book back up, update it, populate it with colourful imagery and introduce these charming characters to the children of today.

Guest post: Illustrating King Arthur

This guest post is from Dr Juliette Wood, School of Welsh. In it, she provides some fascinating background to an item she recently donated to Special Collections and Archives: Mary Alice Hadfield’s King Arthur and the Round Table, with illustrations by Donald Seton Cammell, Dent and Co. 1955.


Illustrated re-tellings of Thomas Malory’s Morte D’Arthur aimed at young readers, but also marketed to a wider reading public, have been popular since the modern revival of the Arthurian legend. Alice Mary Hadfield, born in Cirencester in 1908, educated at Oxford and in the United States, was a long-time friend and correspondent of Charles Williams. An editor, writer, and librarian at Amen House, the London Offices of Oxford University Press, she wrote a biography of the poet, and with her second husband, the historian Charles Hadfield, founded the Charles Williams Society in 1976. Among her many publications is a popular re-telling of Malory published in 1953 by Dent and Co as part of their Classic Series. The book has been republished several times, and the copy now in Special Collections and Archives dates to 1955.

Hadfield’s re-telling has some unusual features. Her sources, according to the publisher’s front matter, include Eugene Vinaver’s edition of Malory, the Jones and Jones translation of the Mabinogion, Sebastian Evans The High History of the Holy Grail, and quotations taken from Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. However, she injects some interesting additions to this very respectable list of sources. Incidents from Tennyson, such as finding the baby Arthur on the seashore, are integrated into Malory’s story, but the most striking addition is an entire chapter on the legend of Taliesin (spelled here Taliessin) whom she refers to as Arthur’s chief bard. None of her listed sources contain this material.

It is based on Welsh texts edited by Iolo Morganwg, and appears in Charlotte Guest’s influential nineteenth-century edition, although it was never part of the medieval Mabinogion. The adventures of Taliesin are central to Charles Williams’ poetic world, and the source of the mistranslated, but evocative, title of one of his Arthurian poems, The Region of the Summer Stars (1944). A better reading of this phrase based on a wider selection of manuscripts would be ‘Priffard kyffredin wyf J i Elffin/ am bro gynneuin yw gwlad shieruwbin’ (‘Elphin’s customary chief bard am I / My original country is the land of the Cherubim.’)

The vividly striking illustrations are by the Scottish-born artist, Donald Seton Cammell. Cammell grew up in a very Bohemian environment. His father was apparently acquainted with Aleister Crowley, and the artist’s somewhat chaotic life led to an early death in 1996. Cammell was also a filmmaker, and one of his films, Demon Seed (1977), based on a Dean Koontz novel, is a science fiction reworking of Merlin’s demonic paternity. In the film, a supercomputer eludes its creator’s attempts to shut it down and plots to provide itself with a human incarnation, which it does by trapping and ultimately impregnating the scientist’s wife.

Hadfield’s book opens with ‘The Coming of Merlin’. This includes the introduction of Christianity, its threatened loss through the coming of the Saxons, and the hubris of Vortiger’s tower. Merlin’s character conforms more closely to the image in Malory and Tennyson – but not quite. Christianity is established early in Hadfield’s depiction of Britain, and Merlin’s actions are seen in this light. The failure of Camelot is ultimately the failure of a romantic harmonious Christian world of which Charles Williams was a keen advocate. This rupturing of the social, personal and ecological interrelationships through which society and the natural world function gives this re-telling a somewhat darker quality than many of the versions of Arthurian tradition presented to readers at this time.

Guest post: Deciphering the indecipherable in the Janet Powney Collection

This guest post comes from Dr Lauren O’Hagan, sociolinguistic researcher of Edwardian material culture and class conflict.


As a scholar of book inscriptions, what really frustrates me is when a mark of ownership has been thoughtlessly removed from a book. Often, all that is left is a jagged tear line acting as evidence of the bookplate or prize sticker that once was affixed to the endpapers. This careless act of erasure silences voices of past generations and with them, a wide range of social networks, thoughts and feelings that offer new perspectives on life in a particular time period and sociocultural context.

Yet what angers me even more is when an inscription is left in the book but has been scribbled through, almost taunting the reader with its partially obscured information. This is often the work of a later owner who deliberately seeks to stake their own claim to the book, giving no thought for people like me who spend their days researching them! Nonetheless, with a little time and patience, the indecipherable can become decipherable, as I found out last week when working on the Janet Powney Collection.

Towards the end of the day, I picked up a beautiful 1873 edition of Aesop’s Fables. It was custom-bound in dark green full calf leather boards with raised bands on its spine and embossed with a gilt armorial typical of non-state school prize books in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. The armorial on the book’s cover was framed by the abbreviation ‘SCHOL: DIG: SOC: BRAS’ and ‘JACOBO HICKSON FUND’ with the date ‘A.D. MDCLXXXVII’ underneath.

Unlike the working-class prize books of board schools, which were bound and decorated in-house by publishers, prize books for middle- and upper-class children typically arrived at a local bindery unbound and were subsequently custom-bound according to each school’s requirements. In contrast to working-class prize books, far greater attention was also paid to their internal properties. As can be seen in this copy of Aesop’s Fables, the paper is of a higher quality and endpapers are marbled. As grammar and boarding schools considered it important to uphold tradition, it was no coincidence that books such as this one were made to resemble the fine bindings of the eighteenth century.

 

 

Turning to the front endpapers to consult the prize sticker and discover which school awarded the book, I was horrified to find that it had been completely defaced. An attempt had been made to remove the sticker and when the resistant glue had put up a fight, the previous owner had resorted to scribbling through all the information in black ink, totally obscuring the writing below. I had a challenge on my hands that I was determined to overcome!

Using my rudimentary Latin knowledge, I was able to make an educated guess that the abbreviated ‘SCHOL’ was school (schola), while the ‘SOC’ was society or association (societatus). The other two abbreviations posed more of a problem. Although the full name of the awarding institution was printed on the prize sticker, the act of vandalism had made the words almost indistinguishable. Using a magnifying glass, I was able to identify ‘DIG’ as ‘dignif[?]’, which was enough information to help me roughly translate the word as ‘dignified’ or ‘worshipful’. The last word was more difficult. It looked like it read ‘Brasiatorium’. However, the only translation of this word that could be found in Latin dictionaries was ‘brewery’ or ‘malthouse’.  Curioser and curioser…

After feeding various combinations of words into Google, I came across the Worshipful Company of Brewers (WCB). The WCB is one of the oldest Livery Companies of the City of London and received its first charter from King Henry VI in 1438. Could this be our ‘societatus’ and if so, what did the school part mean?

The next clue I decided to chase was the ‘Jacobo Hickson’ behind the fund that was presumably used to purchase the book and award it to its recipient. Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it was not uncommon for rich entrepreneurs to leave money in their will to fund books for children. Could Jacobo Hickson be one of them?

After a number of unsuccessful searches for Jacob Hickson, rare books cataloguer Christine Megowan had the clever idea of translating ‘Jacobo’ into its English equivalent: ‘James’. Immediately, this brought up a wide range of results, all of which confirmed that James Hickson was indeed a brewer. Born in 1607 in Melton Mowbray, Hickson moved to London as a young man, became a brewer and was later elected an alderman of the City of London. He was one of the three main benefactors of the WCB, along with Richard Platt and Dame Alice Owen.

Hickson used his fortune to carry out philanthropic work. He built and endowed almhouses in South Mymms and bequeathed money in his will to Dame Alice Owen’s School in Potters Bar and Aldenham School in Elstree. Both schools still exist and to this day, they receive Beer Money, in the form of a commemorative coin, from the Master of the WCB. Was it possible then that the ‘schola’ mentioned in the prize sticker was either Dame Alice Owen’s or Aldenham?

Before investigating this thread further, I wanted to get to the bottom of the coat of arms. It clearly did not match that of the WCB (three kilderkins between three pairs of barley garbs). Could it belong to Hickson? Avidly flicking through an online version of an old heraldic dictionary for the surname Hickson, I was thrilled to find that the Hickson coat of arms was described as “two eagles’ legs, erased à la quize, sa., in saltire sable, the dexter surmounted of the sinister, or and sable” or in plain English, two eagles’ legs, upper-part shown only, crossed over, right on top of left, gold and black. Bingo!

As if all of this information was not enough to prove that the book was given by the WCB using money allocated in the bequest of James Hickson, a name at the bottom of the prize sticker confirmed this. Underneath the scribble, the name E.N. Buxton could be roughly made out with the title ‘Soc Bras [?]’ next to it. Consulting the records of the WCB, I found that an Edward North Buxton was the Master at the time that this book was awarded. Edward North Buxton (1840-1924) was a conservationist and Liberal Party politician. He was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge and became a partner in the London brewing firm of Truman, Hanbury, & Co. It was through his work with this brewery that he obtained the position of Master of the WCB in 1875.

To determine once and for all the school with which the WCB was linked, I turned to the other name underneath the scribble at the bottom of the prize sticker: Herbert Williams, schola magister (school master). Scanning through census records, I found that Herbert Williams (1826-1903) was a Church of England clergyman who went on to become the “headmaster of a brewer’s company school” in 1871. Aldenham School being for boys and Dame Alice Owen’s School being for girls, I was able to state with confidence that Aesop’s Fables was awarded to a pupil of Aldenham School by its headteacher, Herbert Williams. Aldenham School was founded in 1597 by Richard Platt, Master of the WBC. The WBC were its appointed governors and remain its trustees today.

The final piece in the puzzle was the pupil himself: R.W. Russell. This inscription was the perfect example of yet another pet peeve of mine – inscribers who only use initials for first names! This can make it incredibly challenging to track down the person. After several hours of trawling through census forms and consulting school records, I found a Robert William Russell who was born in St Alban’s, Hertfordshire and attended Aldenham School from 1871-1877. He then went on to study at Oxford University. Unfortunately, no census records have been found for Russell after this date, which may suggest that he moved abroad.

—–

Despite the numerous challenges posed by inscriptions such as these, with a bit of perseverance, it is possible to decipher them. Thanks to a combination of digital and traditional methods, I have been able to unlock the history of the WCB, one of its benefactors (Jacob Hickson), masters (E.N. Buxton), brewer’s school (Aldenham School) and pupils (Robert William Russell).

How, after Russell’s death in 1934, the book passed to a female grocer’s assistant in Penarth, Wales – Dorothy Davies of 16 Hastings Avenue (according to the defaced inscription at the top of the prize sticker) – is perhaps a mystery worth unravelling some other day…

Guest Post: Lest We Forget: In Search of the Forgotten Voices of World War One

Yet another fascinating post from recent PhD graduate Lauren O’Hagan on her poignant discoveries in the Janet Powney Collection of Children’s Literature.

Thursdays have become my new favourite day of the week. Why? Because I get to spend the day in Special Collections and help catalogue the Janet Powney Collection – the fantastic assortment of Victorian and Edwardian children’s literature. Every week, the Collection brings a new surprise or delight. In recent weeks, I have come across such unique treasures as a copy of What Katy Did Next mysteriously inscribed two years before its actual publication date and a beautiful 1871 edition of Hetty’s Resolve hand-bound and gilded by a devoted husband to his wife. I may have also accidentally uncovered a nineteenth-century insurance scam involving the arson of a pub (but more about that another time!). But something that has remained a bittersweet constant over the past few months has been the fact that, hidden in most of these books, are some of the forgotten voices of World War One.

John's adventures

John’s Adventures by Thomas Miller, London, c. 1897. Prize awarded to young Albert Stopher.

The Swan's Egg

The Swan’s Egg by S. C. Hall, London, c. 1895. Awarded to a very young George Stopher in 1905.

Behind the beautiful pictorial covers of these treasured Sunday school prize books lie the tragic tales of many of the working-class men who marched off to war to fight the Germans just a few years later. Beguiled by the notion of adventure or the ‘Great Game’, as Kipling put it, many would never return. I would like to use the blog space this week to share the story of two incredible brothers. In doing so, I hope to show how book inscriptions may offer a new way to explore and explain the War, keeping alive the stories of soldiers for future generations now that the conflict only exists outside of human memory.

George Stopher and Albert Stopher
When the Stopher brothers, George and Albert, received The Swan’s Egg and John’s Adventure from St John’s Church of England Sunday School for attendance, good conduct and progress in 1905, little did they know that some years later, they would be dressed in military uniforms and sent off to battle in France.

George and Albert came from a working-class family in Saxmundham, Suffolk. Born just one year apart in 1896 and 1897, respectively, the boys grew up at White House Farm Cottages, with their parents, Herbert (a farm labourer) and Lydia, and six other siblings.

When George and Albert left school, they quickly found work as gardeners. However, the job was precarious and poorly paid. As a result, both boys enlisted quickly in the Suffolk Regiment of the army upon the outbreak of World War One in 1914. George served in the 8th Battalion and Albert in the 11th Battalion. After completing training in Ripon, Yorkshire and Salisbury Plain, George landed in France in July 1915, while Albert arrived in January 1916 – both ready for action on the Western Front. Shortly after his arrival, George became wounded and spent some weeks recuperating in hospital before returning to action.

George Stopher inscription

Inscription recording the award of The Swan’s Egg to George in 1905.

During their time in France, George and Albert regularly corresponded with their families and sweethearts. There is a wonderful surviving archive of their letters hosted at Suffolk Record Office in Ipswich. The letters vividly describe their experiences of war. In August 1916, George was hospitalised once again for shellshock. A surviving letter to his mother poignantly states that sending him back to the front line would be like “sending a rat to catch a dog.” It is surprising that it got past the censor.

On 9th April 1917, the Battalions began the Arras offensive, advancing slowly to attack German defences near the city of Arras. The next day, both George and Albert took place in the First Battle of the Scarpe, which involved a series of attacks that pushed the Germans back north and south of the Scarpe river. Tragically, Albert was shot by an enemy and died immediately. He was just 19 years old. His body was never recovered. Today, he is remembered on the Arras Memorial at the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery.

George continued on in what must have been harrowing circumstances. He successfully took part in the Second Battle of the Scarpe (April 1917), helping to capture part of the Hindenburg position and push the Germans to the Drocourt-Quéant line south of the River Scarpe. However, during the Third Battle of the Scarpe (May 1917), which involved a general offensive by all three armies astride the Scarpe to secure better defensive positions, he was badly wounded. George held out for nine days in a field hospital before succumbing to his wounds and dying on May 19th 1917 at 21 years old. He was buried in the Warlincourt Halte British Cemetery at Saulty.

Tragically, Herbert and Lydia Stopher had to deal with the loss of two sons, just over one month apart from each other.

Today, George and Albert’s medals are on show at the Suffolk Regiment Museum. Their names are also commemorated on a War Memorial in Saxmundham Parish Church. In recent years, Rachel Duffett, a lecturer at the University of Essex and a member of the Everyday Lives in War Centre, has painstakingly attempted to retell their stories using the letters held at Suffolk Record Office. She plans to write a book on the subject and work with local seamstresses to recreate some of the local landscapes where the Stopher brothers grew up.

Albert Stopher inscription

Inscription recording the award of John’s Adventures to Albert in 1905.

With its unique range of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century prize books, I already found the Janet Powney Collection to be exceptional. Now knowing some of the stories that are lingering like shadows between the colourful covers of these volumes, I feel even more appreciation for the Collection. While buildings no longer stand, communities have passed on and grass on the bloody battlefields grows once more, these books keep alive the memories of many of the brave men and women who gave their Today for our Tomorrow. They stand as a testimony of the unsettling victory of material objects over the temporality of the people that once owned them and the places in which they formerly dwelled.

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them.”

Guest Post: The Inscriptions of Herbert Scylla Mallalieu

Today’s guest post comes from Lauren O’Hagan, who has been diligently cataloguing the Janet Powney Collection of Children’s Literature.

When asked why I have dedicated the last ten years of my life to investigating book inscriptions, I always answer with the same response. No, it is not because I am an admirer of old handwriting (although I am!) or even that I am nosy (well, maybe there is an element of that!); rather, it is I am fascinated by the fact that they act as thousands of threads which, together, weave the tapestries of life. Book inscriptions have an ability to stop time, to bring an emotional immediacy to the people who once walked this earth, to transform the book from a commercial object into a personalised item that forms the life soul of families…

Those of you who have been following my guest blog posts will know that for the past four years, I have been researching and helping to catalogue the Janet Powney Collection – a wonderful assortment of Victorian and Edwardian children’s books in Cardiff University’s Special Collections. While each book stands out for its beautiful covers and stunning illustrations, it is the inscriptions inside that most intrigue me. And last Thursday, I came across a real gem.

Cover

Publisher’s binding of The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans.

After a long session of cataloguing, I picked up the final book of the day: an 1894 edition of The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans. As I turned to the front endpapers, I came across a lovely inscription in black ink stating, “Herbert Mallalieu A birthday gift from his loving sister Pollie.” “September 1896” had been added in pencil below. The unusual surname immediately struck me. That would surely be easy to track down in census records! And indeed, it was! But what I didn’t expect was the sheer amount of ‘hidden history’ that it would unlock about Herbert and his family.

Herbert Scylla Mallalieu was born in 1879 in Coventry, England. He was the son of William Mallalieu (1845-1927) and Margaret Smith (1846-1919). Herbert had two older brothers, George (1873-1948) and William (1884-1937), and a younger sister Pollie (née Mary, 1880-1944). Herbert came from a family of professional actors and comedians. His parents were famous stars of the Victorian music hall. They also brought up their younger children to perform with them. For a reason that is sadly now lost to time, Herbert was the only member of his family not to join them on the stage. Census records show that he was not “deaf, dumb, blind, lunatic, imbecile or idiot,” so we can only assume that it was a personal choice on his part.

Inscription1

Mallalieu’s ownership inscription on the front fly-leaf.

This meant that Herbert spent most of his childhood on his own lodging throughout the UK with a wide range of strangers, while the rest of his family constantly moved around and performed. The 1891 census records him as living with the Wall family in Wells, Somerset and attending the local cathedral school. It was during his time in Wells on the occasion of his 17th birthday that he received The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans from his sister Pollie. Meanwhile, his family were based in Bath where they regularly took the stage at the Theatre Royal. Reviews in the Western Daily Press praise the Mallalieus’ talent, particularly young Pollie who stood out as a child star.

Pollie caught the eye of Lewis Carroll after seeing her perform in The Silver King in Brighton in October 1891. From this date on, he struck up a regular correspondence with Pollie’s parents. A surviving letter dated June 22nd 1892 that recently sold at auction asks Pollie’s mother whether he can take Pollie to the New Gallery, luncheon at a friend’s house and German Reed’s entertainment. We know from Carroll’s diary records that he did indeed take Pollie out and that he thought she was “a lovable child, ladylike and speaking good English.” Pollie also stayed at Carroll’s house in Eastbourne on several occasions and he even paid for a custom-made pair of boots for her.

By the time of the 1901 census, William Mallalieu had set up his own acting company in Leicester. The company was incredibly successful and brought much fame and fortune to the family. The company’s location may explain why Herbert is also based in Leicester on the 1901 census, although he is living alone in a boarding house run by Elizabeth Fox and working as a “land agent clerk.” Herbert’s brother George, on the other hand, known by the stage name Aubrey Mallalieu, had now found success on the stage in Australia and New Zealand. He would later go on to appear in hundreds of films throughout the 1930s usually as a respectable elderly gentleman of the establishment. He was described as having a “Dickensian appearance” with combed-over white hair and spectacles. Herbert’s other brother, William, left acting in 1901 and joined the Cheshire Regiment. He saw active service in the Anglo-Boer War and the First World War.

While Herbert’s parents and sister are recorded as living in Heston, London on the 1911 census, Herbert cannot be found with them. An inspection of emigration records shows that he moved to New York in the early 1900s for business purposes before returning to the UK where he married Elsie Blythe, a dairy maid, in 1913. The newly-weds then moved back to the USA, this time to Orange, New Jersey, where she gave birth to a son, Herbert Blythe Mallalieu (1914-1988). Herbert Blythe Mallalieu went on to serve in the Second World War and gained renown as a war poet. Julian Symons described him as “one of the best known of the younger British poets before the Second World War.” He published several poetry collections in his lifetime, including Letter in Wartime (1940) and On the Berlin Lakes (1988).

Inscription2

A second enigmatic inscription, dated 33 years after the first.

Unfortunately, Herbert and Edith’s marriage did not work out. Just a few years later, Herbert returned to the UK with his son and filed for a divorce. In 1923, he got remarried to Edith F. Curteis, a grocer’s cashier. On July 5th 1929, Edith gave birth to a little girl, Paula. Sadly, Paula was stillborn. In a remarkable yet sad twist of fate, the event is recorded in Herbert’s poetry volume. As I flicked through the pages, I was astounded to come across an inscription tucked away on the flyleaf clearly added by Herbert 33 years on from his sister’s original message: “He never smiled again pg. 128 July v/29.” Turning avidly to page 128, I discovered that it was a direct quote from a poem in the collection about King Henry I’s grief over his son William’s death. Clearly, Herbert had remembered the quote and drew parallels with his own tragic situation. Feeling so upset about the premature death of his only daughter, he recorded the date in his poetry book alongside this quote. The book he had kept since he was given it as a young boy by his estranged younger sister had now become embedded with a new inscription that marked this important event in Herbert’s life.

Herbert and Edith never had any further children. They lived a quiet life together in Croydon, Surrey until his death in 1957. Herbert outlived all of his other family members.

——

Behind the two seemingly insignificant inscriptions in The Poetical Works of Mrs Felicia Hemans lies the untold story of Herbert Mallalieu and his family. In just a few written words, we can learn so much about his life, his loves, his losses. It is stories like this that make me so thankful for the work I do and the opportunity I have to keep these memories alive for future generations.

Dathlu 50 mlynedd o Innovate Trust: Cartref Cefnogol cyntaf y DU

Mae Innovate Trust yn dathlu eu pen blwydd yn 50 eleni. Mae’r elusen annibynnol hon wedi newid bywydau nifer o bobl anabl ar draws y byd – a dechreuodd y cwbl yma, ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd. Eleni, mae gwirfoddolwyr sy’n anabl wedi bod yn chwilota yn hanesion cynnar y sefydliad, i’w rhannu mewn arddangosfa newydd.

Swyddogaeth Innovate Trust yw i gefnogi oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu, anableddau corfforol, nam ar synnwyr neu gyflwr iechyd meddwl. Mae’n nhw’n cyflenwi gwasanaethau cartrefi cefnogol, yn ogystal â hyfforddiant, cyfleoedd gwaith a chyfleoedd i gymdeithasu.

Dechrau’r daith ar gyfer yr elusen oedd fel prosiect o’r enw ‘Cardiff Universities Social Services’, ac ers ei sefydlu, mae wedi datblygu i fod yn gorff yn hynod o ddylanwadol, sydd wedi brwydro dros hawliau ac urddas pobl anabl.

 

Dyddiau Cynnar 1967 – 1973

Ym 1967, penderfynodd grwp o fyfyrwyr o Gaerdydd herio’r drefn. Roedd ganddyn nhw ddamcaniaeth, y gallai pobl anabl ffynnu a byw’n annibynnol, petaent yn cael cefnogaeth addas.

Roedd cyfyngu pobl ag anableddau dysgu i ysbytai yn gyffredin iawn yn y cyfnod hwn. Roedd ‘sgandal Ysbyty Trelai’ yn y 1960au wedi datguddio bod gofal pobl anabl yng Nghaerdydd yn wael, ac yn gallu bod yn greulon. Damcaniaeth y myfyrwyr oedd y gallem ni, fel cymdeithas, wneud yn llawer gwell – a gyda hynny, ganed prosiect C.U.S.S..

Gweithiodd gwirfoddolwyr C.U.S.S. gyda 25 o oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu oedd yn byw yn Ysbyty Trelai. Darparodd y prosiect dripiau dydd, cyfleon hyfforddi, a chyfleon i gymdeithasu.

Llun du a gwyn o ddau ddyn, eu dwylo'n cyffwrdd. Mae'n nhw'n gwenu ac yn edrych yn hapus

Prof Jim Mansell, CBE, un o hoelion wyth y prosiect, gyda John O’Brien (1953-2011). John oedd un o’r bobl gynta i ymuno â chartref cefnogol CUSS. Yn Ysbyty Trelai, roedd ganddo enw drwg fel dyn ifanc byr-ei-dymer, a fyddai’n ‘creu trwbwl’. Mae ei ffrindiau a’i gyd-weithwyr yn Innovate Trust yn ei gofio fel dyn addfwyn ac amyneddgar, oedd yn meddu ar synnwyr digrifwch hoffus.

 

“Creu Trwbwl” – neu ddysgu sgiliau newydd?

Roedd y prosiect yn llwyddiant, a roedd nifer o drigolion yr ysbyty yn teimlo’n fwy hyderus ac annibynnol. Un diwrnod, penderfynodd dau ddyn ifanc oedd wedi bod yn rhan o’r prosiect, eu bod am fynd i nofio – a gadael yr ysbyty gyda’i gilydd i ymweld â’r pwll lleol.

Fe welodd nyrs nad oedd ar ddyletswydd nhw yn cerdded, a dychwelodd nhw i’r ysbyty, ble cawson nhw bryd o dafod. Yn dawel bach, roedd gwirfoddolwyr prosiect C.U.S.S. yn falch iawn o glywed bod y ddau ohonynt wedi cyrraedd mor bell ar eu pennau’u hunain.

 

Cartref Cefnogol Cyntaf Prydain – 1974

Wrth astudio effeithiau’r fenter gyntaf, teimlai’r myfyrwyr y gallent wneud mwy i wella ansawdd bywyd pobl ag anableddau dysgu.

Wedi cryn baratoi, lansiwyd y Cartref Cefnogol cyntaf yn y DU, gyda chefnogaeth gan Gyngor Caerdydd ac Ysbyty Trelai. Symudodd pump o oedolion ag anableddau dysgu o Ysbyty Trelai a thri o wirfoddolwyr oedd yn astudio ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd i gartref yng Ngerddi Rhuthun yng Nghathays. Yn ystod y dydd, byddai’r tenantiaid yn mynychu canolfan hyfforddiant yn Nhrelai a byddai’r myfyrwyr yn mynychu eu darlithoedd.

Gan eu bod wedi eu cyfyngu i ysbyty am flynyddoedd, roedd angen cefnogaeth gychwynnol ar yr oedolion anabl, i’w galluogi i fyw yn annibynnol. Yn Ysbyty Trelai, doedden nhw byth yn cael cyfle i ddewis beth i fwyta, neu beth i wisgo – ond ar ôl cyfnod o addasu, dechreuodd yr oedolion arwain bywydau hapus, llawn, fel aelodau o gymuned.

Llun du a gwyn o ddyn ifanc gyda Syndrom Down's yn gwenu.

Alan oedd un o drigolion cyntaf y cartref cefnogol yng Ngerddi Rhuthun. Cafodd ei gyfyngu i ysbyty pan oedd yn fachgen bach. Trwy ei gyfraniad ef at y prosiect cartref cefnogol, fe dorrodd gwys newydd ar gyfer cymaint o bobl anabl, gan alluogi iddynt fyw bywydau llawn, hapus.

 

Y Stori yn Parhau – o Ysbytai i Gartrefi

Camau nesaf y prosiect oedd i’r myfyrwyr godi ymwybyddiaeth o lwyddiant y Cartref Cefnogol, trwy gyhoeddi adroddiadau ac ymchwil, a rhannu eu gwaith gydag awdurdodau lleol, ysbytai a phrifysgolion. Wrth i’r elusen dyfu yn ei maint a’i henw da, symudwyd y Cartref Cefnogol i leoliad sefydlog ar Ffordd y Brenin yn Nhreganna, ac agorwyd rhagor o gartrefi tebyg, wedi’u hariannu gan y Swyddfa Gymreig.

Ym 1977, agorodd yr elusen Ganolfan Gofal Seibiant i oedolion gydag anableddau dysgu oedd yn byw gyda’u rhieni. Roedd y ganolfan yn darparu seibiant i bobl anabl a gofalwyr, a mae dal ar agor heddiw.

Ym 1981, agorodd Gyngor Caerdydd adran newydd, er mwyn dyblygu ac ehangu y model ‘Cartref Cefnogol’, gan agor nifer o gartrefi tebyg. Erbyn 1983, lansiodd y Swyddfa Gymreig ‘Strategaeth datblygu gwasanaethau i bobl gyda handicap meddyliol ar gyfer Cymru gyfan’. Roedd yn ymateb i’r adroddiadau am gam-drin yn Ysbyty Trelai yn y 1960au – a’r adroddiad yn cymell awdurdodau lleol i atal rhag cyfyngu pobl anabl i ysbytai, ac i ddefnyddio model Cartref Cefnogol C.U.S.S. yn ei le.

 

Arloesi Gofal Lles

Dros y blynyddoedd, gweithiodd C.U.S.S. gydag awdurdodau lleol dros Gymru, i’w cefnogi wrth iddynt agor Cartrefi Cefnogol – gan roi cyngor ar sut i osod gwasanaethau newydd yn eu lle, a fyddai’n annog annibyniaeth ac urddas pobl anabl.

Newidiodd yr elusen ei henw i ‘Innovate Trust’ yn 2001, a mae’n parhau i arloesi heddiw: gan ddatblygu asiantaeth recriwtio arbennig i bobl anabl, creu busnes arlwyo i greu cyfleon gwaith i bobl anabl, a rhaglenni hyfforddiant ar gyfer pobl anabl sy’n diddori mewn gwaith amgylcheddol a threulio amser yn yr awyr agored.

Yn 2017, gweithiodd yr elusen ar y cyd â NESTA, i archwilio sut y gallai technolegau clyfar gael eu defnyddio i gefnogi pobl ag anableddau dysgu. Gwobrwywyd y prosiect, ac arweiniodd yr ymchwil at ddarparu technoleg clyfar i 197 o unigolion sy’n derbyn cefnogaeth gan yr elusen ar draws de Cymru.

Ffotograff o arddangosfa gyda phaneli a gwrthrychau mewn cesys

Mae 50 Mlynedd o Innovate Trust yn archwilio hanes cudd gofal lles. Mae’n olrhain stori grwp bychan o bobl anabl a myfyrwyr yn y 1960, a symbylodd newid byd, yn sut y mae’r sector feddygol a chymdeithas yn trin pobl anabl.

Diolch i gefnogaeth Cronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri Genedlaethol, gweithiodd gwirfoddolwyr gydag amrywiaeth o anableddau dysgu i archwilio hanes anhygoel yr elusen – gan ymchwilio dogfennau, recordio cyfweliadau a sefydlu cofnodion parhaol mewn archifdai lleol. I gydnabod gwreiddiau’r prosiect ym Mhrifysgol Caerdydd, rhoddwyd archif gynnar ac adroddiadau’r prosiect i Gasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, ble gall unrhyw un ddod i’w darllen.

Mae’r arddangosfa ’50 mlynedd o’r Innovate Trust’ i’w gweld yng Nghasgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau Prifysgol Caerdydd, Llyfrgell y Celfyddydau a’r Gwyddorau Cymdeithasol, Rhodfa Colum, CF10 3EU. Os hoffech chi siarad yn uniongyrchol ag aelod o Innovate Trust, cysylltwch â Kieran Vass.

Diolch i Innovate Trust am gyflenwi lluniau ac ymchwil i greu’r blog hwn.

Celebrating 50 years of Innovate Trust: the amazing history of the UK’s first supported living home

Innovate Trust celebrates its 50th birthday this year. This independent charity, which has changed the lives of disabled people across the world, started right here, at Cardiff University. This year, volunteers with disabilities have delved into the charity’s humble beginnings, and are sharing its story through a new exhibition.

Innovate Trust – which started its life as ‘Cardiff Universities Social Services’ – works with adults with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, physical disabilities or sensory impairments in South Wales. They provide supported living services, as well as careers training, opportunities for work and socialising.

Starting as a trailblazing student project known as ‘C.U.S.S.’, it has since become one of the most influential charities of its kind – setting the standard world-wide for providing dignity and agency to people with learning disabilities.

 

Early Days 1967 – 1973

In 1967, a group of students at Cardiff University decided to challenge the status quo. They believed that, with the right support, people with learning disabilities could lead independent lives.

A lifetime of hospitalisation was a common occurrence for people with learning disabilities at the time. The ‘Ely Hospital Scandal’ had revealed that adults with learning disabilities in Cardiff were subject to poor care and cruelty. The students set out to prove that, as a society, we could do better – and the C.U.S.S. project was born.

Cardiff Universities Social Services, or C.U.S.S., volunteers worked supporting 25 adults with learning disabilities at Ely Hospital. The project provided days out, opportunities to learn new skills, and acted as a social contact.

Two men sit side by side, their hands overlapping. They are both smiling and looking happy

Prof Jim Mansell CBE, founding member of CUSS, with John O’Brien (1953 – 2011). John was one of the first people to join the CUSS group home project. In Ely Hospital, he had a reputation as short-tempered ‘trouble-maker’. His friends and colleagues at Innovate Trust remember him as a ‘patient and charming man’ with a ‘first class sense of humour’.

 

A Daring Escape

Two of the participants, emboldened and encouraged by what they’d learned through the project, decided to leave the hospital grounds on their own, to go swimming in the local pool.

When they were spotted by an off-duty nurse, the two were immediately returned to the hospital – and given a telling off. The student volunteers, however, felt secretly proud that the hospital’s residents had managed to get so far on their own.

 

The UK’s First Group Home – 1974

Following the success of the early volunteering project, the students felt more could be done to improve the lives of those with learning disabilities.

After much planning and preparation, the students worked with Cardiff Council and Ely Hospital to open the UK’s first group home. Five adults with learning disabilities from the hospital and three student volunteers moved in to a home in Rhuthin Gardens, Cathays. During the day, the group home tenants would spend their time at Trelai adult training centre, and the students attended lectures.

Black and white photograph of a man called Alan, who has Down's Syndrome. He looks happy.

Alan was one of the first inhabitants of the supported living home in Rhuthin Gardens. He had been confined to hospital since he was a young boy, and his participation in the group home project paved the way for better care for countless disabled people, enabling them to live full, happy lives.

Having been hospitalised for a number of years, each of the adults with disabilities were provided with basic support in learning to live independently. At Ely Hospital, they had not been afforded the opportunity to cook for themselves, to choose their clothes – after a short period of adjustment, the project participants found themselves leading happy, full lives as members of a community.

 

Further Development – from Hospitals to Homes

After the success of the group home experiment, the students spent the next few years raising awareness of the Group Home model – publishing research and reports, and sharing their work with local authorities, hospitals and universities. As it grew in its scope and reputation, the charity was able to relocate to a more sustainable property on King’s Road in Cardiff, and to open more group homes, funded by the Welsh Office.

In 1977, the charity also opened a respite centre for adults with learning disabilities who lived with their families. This home was used to provide a break for carers and adults with learning disabilities, and remains open to this day.

In 1981 Cardiff Council opened a new department, aimed at replicating and extending the Group Home project, opening a number of supported living homes. By 1983, the Welsh Office launched an ‘All Wales strategy for the development of Services for mentally handicapped people’. Partly a response to the Ely Hospital scandal, the strategy required that local authorities move away from the mass institutionalisation of people with learning disabilities, and adopt the supported living model developed by C.U.S.S.

 

Innovation in Social Care

Over the next few years, C.U.S.S. worked to support local authorities across Wales to implement this plan, giving advice on how to set up new services, which would offer independence, agency and dignity to people with learning disabilities.

The charity changed its name to Innovate Trust in 2001, and continued to, well, innovate: developing a bespoke recruitment service, creating a business providing employment for people with learning disabilities, training programmes for disabled people interested in environmental work and spending time outdoors.

In 2017, Innovate Trust worked with NESTA to explore how smart technology might be used to support people with learning disabilities. The award-winning project resulted in the provision of smart devices to 197 individuals receiving support across south east Wales.

Photograph of small exhibition, with text panels, and objects in cases

50 Years of Innovate Trust explores the hidden history of social care. It tells the story of how a small group of disabled people and student volunteers in the 1960s paved the way for radical change in how disabled people are treated by the medical profession, and by society at large.

Thanks to support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, volunteers with a range of learning abilities spent a year researching the organisation’s amazing history – researching documents, filming stories and establishing permanent records in local archives. As recognition of the organisation’s origins at Cardiff University, its early archives and reports were donated to the University’s Special Collections and Archives, where they can be accessed by anyone who wishes to read them.

The exhibition ‘50 Years of Innovate Trust‘ is on display at Cardiff University Special Collections and Archives, Arts and Social Studies Library, Colum Drive, CF10 3EU. If you would like to speak to a member of Innovate Trust, please contact Kieran Vass.

Published with thanks to the Innovate Trust for providing the research for this post.

Guest Post: The Cataloguing Apprentice

Today’s guest post comes from Emily Jones, a student in the ENCAP Project Management module. For her project, Emily catalogued the several editions of Milton’s works in the Cardiff Rare Book Collection.

Cataloguing. A word, that I have to admit, I did not know the definition of. What started as a requirement for a university module, concluded with a new found appreciation of books and librarians alike. Back in November, I nervously entered the Special Collections Library anxiously awaiting my first ‘cataloguing for beginners’ session. In my naivety, I believed that cataloguing involved a paper and pen and a very extensive list of old books. Oh, how wrong was I. As soon as I was taken into the ‘stacks’ and inhaled the scent of deliciously old and rare books, I knew I was home.

After browsing the collection, we soon came to the conclusion that the John Milton section was ready to be catalogued, and I, for one, was more than excited to start cataloguing them.

Having now completed 50 hours of cataloguing, I can firmly say that cataloguing a book is so much more than taking note of its name and author. I know now that to be a cataloguer requires expertise and so much patience. But, luckily, for me, I had a cataloguing teacher that was an expert and Christine just so happened to be very patient – the cataloging journey had officially begun.

Book_cushion

This 1779 edition of Paradise Lost rests on a shaped pillow to protect the fragile binding and to hold the book at a comfortable viewing angle.

I arrived once again to the special collections library and awaited instruction. I was shown to a desk and a laptop. Christine then brought in a book that looked more fragile than broken glass. I was terrified to breathe near this book let alone touch it! I felt weirdly sorry for this little book with its worn pages and cracked spine. But, I digress. I was there to catalogue and not make emotional connections with the books. But best of all, I was given a book pillow to use. Yes reader(s), I was given a pillow for my book. A book pillow. Wild! However, before placing any book on it, there had to be a mandatory karate chop to the middle of the cushion to create a properly angled resting place for the spine of these veteran pages. My first task of the day, however, was to make note of the title, which was not as easy as one might think. You have to categorise the main part of the title (which in most cases is ‘Paradise Lost’) and then you take down the rest. Luckily for me, I love a strict system. There is a definite logic to cataloguing, and I am slowly getting it. On the rare occasion when I do get the format right it’s strangely satisfying. There is no denying that cataloguing is a skill – I just hope that one day it’s a skill that I can fully master.

When you get into the rhythm of cataloguing it is quite easy to become mechanic. Though I endeavoured to stay present, the continuous process of the cataloguing form made it easy to forget that these books have seen so much and in a way, lived a life. Until that is, I came across a lovely edition of Paradise Lost.

 

 Transcribed these pages read as:

John Fletcher second son of Joseph & Elizabeth born Friday 28th September 1759 at three O’clock in the afternoon or seven minutes after

Elizabeth Fletcher first daughter of the above Joseph & Elizabeth born on Tuesday morning the 4th August. 1761 at 6 Oclock

1802 February the 8th on Monday morning Mrs Vernon departed this life about 5 Oclock

John Fletcher died Friday the 13th July 1764 three quarters past four Oclock in the afternoon

This book then, had not only lived a life but, in it recorded the lives (and deaths) of its owners. I, for one, am glad that through the preservation and cataloguing work of Cardiff University this wonderful book, and the history that it holds, has been saved and is now searchable for generations to come. What a great thought.

What an experience this has been. From day one though, I have enjoyed every minute. I didn’t even know what ‘cataloguing’ meant when I started, but now I know, I have learned that it is oh so much more than making a boring old list. Each book had its own history, its own story, if you will. Each book also had an owner, that either subtly made it known or scribbled it on every page. Some books even had their own special stamp printed for the occasion.  Other owners even felt that the book was so important it became a location for their family history to reside – where births and deaths were recorded and passed down through the generations.

Nevertheless, my fifty hours are up, and my portfolio is full. This may be the end of this particular university module, but somehow, I don’t think that this is my last foray into the world of cataloguing as I am just not ready to leave it behind, just yet.

Cataloguer out.

Em.

Guest post: Daisy Ashford’s The Young Visiters: A Forgotten Bestseller

In today’s guest post, recent PhD graduate Lauren O’Hagan shares a recent discovery from the Janet Powney Collection of Children’s Literature.

For the past month, I have been helping to catalogue the Janet Powney Collection in Cardiff University’s Special Collections and Archives. Having worked extensively with the collection as part of my PhD research, I was very excited to have the opportunity to reacquaint myself with the wonderful Victorian and Edwardian children’s books that it comprises. As I sifted through the familiar colourful volumes with their decorative lettering and pictorial cloth covers, enjoying the pleasant scent unique to old books, I felt like I was reencountering old friends. That was until I came across an intruder, a strange trespasser that seemed out of place in a collection largely made up of religious novels that were given as prize books to the working-class children of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Britain.

The book stood at just 7” in height. It boasted quarter black cloth covers with marbled paper on its boards and a printed spine label: all characteristics of early publisher’s bindings (1820s-1840s) or temporary bindings. Inside, the text was printed on heavy wove paper with deckle edges, suggesting that the volume was, indeed, a product of the early nineteenth century. However, to my surprise, the front of the book clearly stated “Reset, 111th thousand Nov. 1919” meaning that 111,000 copies had been printed by November 1919. How could this be?

YV_Cover&Edges

The binding and paper are in a style reminiscent of early 19th century books.

With the appearance of machine-made paper in the nineteenth century, the deckle edge (which is only found on handmade paper) gradually came to be seen as a status symbol. This tradition carried forward into the twentieth century when many presses advertised two versions of the same book: one with smooth trimmed edges and a higher-priced deckle version. Could this desire for prestige explain the unusual pages of the book? Perhaps so.

YV_inscription

The only clue to the book’s provenance is this cryptic inscription.

But what about the binding itself? Now able to discount the fact that the book was an early publisher’s binding, the question arose that if the book was, indeed, a temporary binding, why did its owner never get it rebound? The longevity of temporary bindings was certainly underestimated, as attested by the survival of so many books with temporary bindings in special collections. Could the high quality of the temporary binding expound why the owner chose to keep it that way? Or perhaps they lacked the money to take the book to a binder and have it bound to match their own personal library. Unfortunately, the cryptic inscription on its front free endpaper – ‘Nora Xmas 1919 from “46”‘ – meant that no supporting information from census records about the socioeconomic status of the giver or recipient could be used to support this theory.

YV_dustjacket

Illustrated dust jacket, from a copy for sale by James Cummins Booksellers.

It was not until I carried out further research on book history and antiquarian booksellers’ websites that I was able to solve this conundrum. These websites revealed that the volume was, in fact, originally issued with a dustjacket bearing a decorative illustration in grey and red. The copy in Special Collections clearly lacks this dustjacket, which offers some suggestion as to why the covers beneath are so uncharacteristically plain in appearance. Priced at 3 shillings and 6 pence (roughly £7.64), the book sat at the lower end of the market. Therefore, it is possible that all its ‘antiquarian’ features served to attract potential buyers who viewed the book in shops by making it look more valuable than it actually was.

Having resolved the mystery of the book’s uncharacteristic appearance, its frontispiece presented me with a new puzzle. It showed a photograph of a little girl with the caption ‘the author’. “The author?” I thought to myself. “How can that be?” Yet, as I dug into the story behind the book, it became apparent that yes indeed, the author was just a little girl: Daisy Ashford wrote The Young Visiters, or Mister Salteena’s Plan when she was just nine years old.

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The author was just nine years old when she wrote The Young Visiters.

The Young Visiters is a society novel that parodies upper-class society in late Victorian England. It tells the story of Alfred Salteena, “an elderly man of 42”, who strives to become a gentleman in order to win the love of Ethel Monticue. Despite his best efforts, Ethel ends up marrying Bernard Clark, a real gentleman, thus breaking Alfred’s heart.

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A facsimile of the original manuscript.

The novel was written by nine-year-old Ashford in 1890 in a school exercise book. The book lay forgotten in a drawer for many years until 1917 when Ashford rediscovered it and lent it to her friend, Margaret Mackenzie, who was recovering from an illness. Mackenzie passed on the book to Frank Swinnerton who worked as a reader for the publishing house Chatto and Windus. Swinnerton was so enthusiastic about the book’s raw innocence and naiveté that the publishing house immediately agreed to publish it almost exactly as it had been written. After hearing about this child prodigy, J.M. Barrie put himself forward to write the book’s preface.

In early 1919, The Young Visiters was released, complete with its childish spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, single-paragraph chapters and, of course, a preface by the distinguished J.M. Barrie. All of these factors contributed to the book’s massive success. In no time at all, it became a bestseller, reprinted eighteen times in its first year alone. The New York Times described it as “one of the most humorous books in literature.”

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The novel was so successful that it was reprinted more than sixteen times and sold more than 111,000 copies in its first year.

In 1920, a stage play of the novel was written by Mrs George Norman and Margaret Mackenzie and first performed in London before transferring to New York shortly after. The play was praised strongly by critics, with Alexander Woolcott of The New York Times stating that “probably no novel was ever so reverently dramatized since the world began.” For some time, the book’s title even became a witty way in which to criticise other works of a naïve style. Edmund Wilson most famously referred to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise as “a classic in a class with The Young Visiters” in a bid to make fun of his childish writing style.

Over time, the book faded in popularity. This was largely due to a rumour that circulated, which claimed that it was an elaborate literary hoax and that J.M. Barrie himself was the real author. During the late 1960s, the book was rediscovered and a musical was produced by Michael Ashton and Ian Kellam. It resurfaced again in 1984 when a feature-length film starring Tracey Ullman and John Standing was released. In 2003, a television film version of the book starring Jim Broadbent, Lyndsey Marshal and Hugh Laurie was made by the BBC. However, The Young Visiters still remains widely unknown to even the most avid readers.

Shortly after the publication of The Young Visiters in 1919, a volume including some of Ashford’s other writings was released, the last of which, The Hangman’s Daughter, was written when she was fourteen. Ashford produced no other work in her lifetime. Instead, she led a quiet life in Reepham where she ran the King’s Arm Hotel with her husband James Devlin. Much speculation has taken place regarding why Ashford stopped writing. The most likely answer has been that she simply grew up.

Now largely forgotten, The Young Visiters was a record-breaking novel in its day, selling just as many copies as the better known My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse and The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham, also released in the same year. Behind those unassuming covers of the little volume held in Special Collections lies a tale of genius and marvel, surprise and wonder, innocence and amusement. It just goes to show: you can never judge a book by its cover.