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Read All About It!

I do love historic newspapers and I’m always amazed just how many of my ancestors (or anyone’s ancestors for that matter) get into them! They are such a wonderful resource and so many are now online that it is just too tempting to get side-tracked by the wealth of stories and trivia that they supply.

For example, when searching the British Newspaper Archive my friend and genealogical partner in crime, Jill, recently found a wonderful article from 1891 relating to the street where she lived, which detailed a tragic death of a woman who succumbed to a heart attack after a slightly ill-judged feat on an American Trapeze (the American Trapeze appears to have been more like a Zip Wire than a circus trapeze). The lady in question, who appeared to have been more amply proportioned than might have been advisable for this rather hazardous entertainment, had been slightly injured, a fact which came out of the coroner’s inquest. This inquest was reported in great detail in the newspaper – right down to the “He Said, She Said” minutiae of the court in ascertaining whether the injury was a contributing factor to her death. It was a fascinating, if somewhat bizarre, account.

It’s easy to forget in this age of social media and instant news that in addition to headlines and reportage, newspapers were once a local repository for gossip and scandal. The smallest events were reported and names listed for a variety of reasons. For example, let’s look at agricultural labourers.

I’ve a great fondness for our ag lab ancestors but appreciate that it can be difficult to trace them sometimes. However, after a number of years studying the movement of agricultural workers from a village on the Hampshire/Surrey border, I’ve discovered that many of them appeared in local newspapers for a variety of reasons.

Considering that agricultural labourers worked exhausting jobs for horrendously long hours and earned little money, it is not surprising that they kicked back at the weekend, which could often involve a fair amount of drinking and possibly a little good natured (ahem!) gambling. Beer was relatively cheap and easy to obtain and therefore it was fairly inevitable that drunkenness fuelled a lot of disagreements until fights broke out or horseplay turned to something more serious. Newspaper reports suggest that quite a number of rural workers cut loose at the weekends to indulge in drinking and occasionally fighting.

Headley is a Hampshire village which borders Surrey. It was (and still is) a primarily agricultural area and the majority of its 19th century workforce were involved in agriculture in some form or fashion. However, newspaper reports show us that despite its tranquil, rural appearance, its inhabitants were not above kicking over the traces after a hard day at work. For example, publican James Marshall was fined for not just being drunk but allowing drunkenness on his licensed premises. James Burrows had his leg broken in a drunken row in October 1884; in the same year George Fullick was fined for drunken behaviour with several companions; Richard Birmingham a labourer, was charged with being drunk and creating a disturbance at Headley in 1887. Again, in the same year, William Bone of Headley charged with being drunk while in charge of a horse.

Possibly one of my favourite Headley incidents was a report in 1887 when Frederick Coombes, alias Heather was charged with being drunk and incapable (and I quote):

Defendant: I was not drunk. You said I was and I said “Well, then, I can’t help it”. He was fined 6d and 6s costs.

It’s an interesting line of defence, albeit not a terribly successful one!

Our ag lab ancestors didn’t just spend their time drinking too much and fighting, they were often reported in the newspapers for good things too! The Hampshire Chronicle of Saturday 9 November 1861 reported that the 2nd prize for the under 18 ploughmen was taken by a George Brown, ploughman for Mr J R Neate of Northington Farm, using a Tasker’s Plough, and that John Holley, G Tiddy and C Knott all walked away with prizes in the “Four Sorts of Vegetables grown by Farm Labourers Only” category in the Eastleigh and Bishopstoke Horticultural Society Annual Exhibition (Hampshire Chronicle 20 August 1887).

In addition to the British Newspaper Archive, 19th century newspapers and Welsh newspapers can also be searched online (don’t panic, some are in English!). You can also search a variety of Australian and American newspapers through the Trove website and the Chronicling America website at the National Library of Congress, respectively.

Searching the newspapers can be very rewarding and it is wonderful to use online newspapers in that you can search for people and events by name. However a word of caution!

The reason we can search newspapers, etc by word is that the system uses something called Optical Character Recognition (or OCR). Now, OCR is a pretty amazing thing BUT it is not infallible. OCR doesn’t READ the documents; it simply looks for images or patterns and shapes of words. For this reason, it doesn’t always pick up on text which is in italics or if the quality of the original is poor. Newspapers (generally) are printed on cheap, recycled paper and deteriorate quite quickly. Newsprint fades over time and if the originals were not kept well, the ink eats into the paper causing ‘bleeding’. Some newspaper offices kept their bound ‘back copies’ in damp cellars, which caused even more problems.

Coupled with this, some of the datasets used previously microfilmed images, which again distorts the image slightly. It’s not a great cocktail and OCR is not great on picking up on fuzzy images!

Also, some OCR doesn’t always pick up words written in capitals or italics. Given that the names of many petty criminals and witnesses are often written in italics, this can be a problem. Try searching for the village or area your ancestor came from, or browse specific newspapers from specific dates. Who knows, you may find a trapeze artist of your very own!

Happy Researching!

PS: Don’t forget, you can search the British Newspaper Archive free of charge here at Surrey History Centre. We also hold a variety of Surrey newspapers on microfilm for you to explore.

Farewell Rosie

“Where has the time gone?”… This seems to be my most frequently asked question this month as my time working on ‘The March of the Women: Surrey’s Road to the Vote’ project at Surrey History Centre draws to a close. I have been involved with the project for just under 18 months but I have much to reflect on in that short time as I think back to the many things we have accomplished.

Rosie looking at historical documents with male and female students

Rosie with students from Winston Churchill School, Woking (click images to enlarge)

At the beginning of the project I worked with playwright Grant Watson to run a series of school workshops with students from three local secondary schools to produce a radio play podcast about the suffrage movement in Surrey. In the first session the students visited us for a behind-the-scenes tour of Surrey History Centre and a first-hand look at the records we hold relating to the women’s suffrage campaign. As I explained to their astonishment just how different life was for women, not so very long ago, in terms of education, pay, opportunities, expectations and voting rights, the importance of this project truly began to resonate with me. Passing on these stories to the next generation became incredibly important.

Grant and I then visited each school individually where the students reimagined debates around votes for women in the classroom involving characters from a broad range of viewpoints and backgrounds. The final piece was captured at a recording studio in Woking where some students took speaking parts and others enjoyed making the sound effects.

Fittingly, the play was launched at Epsom racecourse where we were able to lay flowers at the plaque which commemorates the spot where suffragette Emily Wilding Davison famously stepped out onto the race course at the 1913 Derby and was knocked down by the King’s horse, Anmer, leading to fatal injuries. I had never visited this significant location before so I was moved to see it in person and share that experience with the students.

Rosie and Grant stood next to the plaque whilst students kneal with flowers

Students at the Emily Wilding Davison plaque with Rosie and Grant, Epsom Racecourse, 8 May 2018

Shortly afterwards I was invited to attend the Vote 100 reception at the Houses of Parliament where I began to get a flavour of the level of interest and passion people had for the topic. I knew I wanted to do the suffragettes and suffragists of Surrey justice by sharing their stories through the project and I was delighted to discover that there would be an audience eager to hear them.

With this in mind I set about cataloguing some of the important records held at Surrey History Centre. One of my favourite things about being an archivist is that you never stop learning and this project has been particularly enlightening. Through enhancing the catalogue of the papers of Haslemere suffragist Dorothy Hunter (1881-1977) I discovered what it must have been like to stand up for what you believe in as a young women in the early twentieth century.

Miss Dorothy Hunter, nd [c.1890] (SHC ref 1260/84)

Dorothy Hunter was the daughter of Sir Robert Hunter, co-founder of the National Trust, who had a highly successful career as a ‘girl orator’ (public speaker) between 1904 and 1910. By the tender age of twenty three, Dorothy had gained a reputation as an authoritative speaker on free trade and the enfranchisement of women who ‘could not fail to throw light on any subject’. Her papers include newspaper cuttings which give us an insight into her talents as a speaker (SHC ref 1260/33). One even went so far as to describe her as ‘what the Americans would call “a spellbinder”’. I was disheartened to see that some other newspapers chose to dedicate their column inches to her feminine appearance. In 1906 the Daily Express observed, ‘it was not only that she spoke well but she looked so young and charming. Her figure is girlish, and her hair is fair and pretty. She wore a simple white blouse, and no jewellery of any kind, and seemed almost like a schoolgirl’. This child-like description felt so unjust when she was tackling issues of such importance but indicative of the time. Nonetheless, her determination is inspiring.

On 22 July 1913 she spoke at a public meeting held in North Street, Guildford, to celebrate the arrival of suffragists travelling through the county to Hyde Park on the Women’s Suffrage Pilgrimage. It was thought to be the largest public meeting ever held in Guildford with a crowd numbering 8,000 people. Dorothy gave a half hour address but the mood of the audience very quickly took a rowdy turn with some men loudly singing “Oh, you beautiful doll” over her speech. Before long the police closed the meeting for fear of riot as there had been much heckling and the speakers’ wagonette had nearly been overturned. This important moment in Guildford’s history was reimagined by the students in the radio play which really brought to life the challenges that suffragist women faced – often mistaken for militant suffragettes or simply disregarded for their femininity.

I will be leaving the project to return to my former employer Berkshire Record Office in Reading where I have accepted a permanent role as Archivist. I will very much miss working with the team at Surrey History Centre and I certainly won’t forget the inspiring campaigners in Surrey that I have learnt about during my time here. I will have to make sure I visit the site where Dorothy Hunter addressed the crowd at the Reading Women’s Suffrage Society in 1907 whilst I’m exploring the area.

As I pass the University of Reading I will also think of the intriguing letter Dorothy received from fellow suffragist Katharine L Hart Davis of University College, Reading, in 1907. Katherine wrote, ‘Alas! My little “suffragette” lived about 2 wks happily in the Laboratory & then suddenly & totally disappeared – I missed her sadly!’. We can only assume ‘suffragette’ was a name for a lab rat or pet but it caused amusement in the office nonetheless! I have found in my career that archivists carry all sorts of unusual stories or anecdotes with them, collected from the various papers that they’ve worked on, and I certainly won’t forget some of the tales I have picked up here.

Project Archivist Rosie at the Houses of Parliament

Rosie at the Houses of Parliament

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues Di, Juliet, Robert and Mike for their support and encouragement from day one of the project. Working at Surrey History Centre has provided me with fascinating insight into how archives can engage with the local community in new and innovative ways through projects such as this and long may it continue!

Although I will be leaving there are many elements to the project that will continue on. Holly will be returning to her role as Project Officer for the final stretch so please do contact Surrey History Centre at [email protected] or 01483 518737 with your enquiries or if you have any information about the women’s suffrage movement in Surrey that you would like to contribute to the project.

The Mystery of Oatlands Park Gates Part 2

The following has been written by a guest blogger, Chris Reynolds, who started at SCC as Historic Buildings Assistant last year. Chris advises SCC on what makes historic buildings important and how works may affect their significance. The below case was generated as a result of work funded by the residents of Lakeside Grange with a contribution offered by the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust and Elmbridge Borough Council.

3903/1 Photograph of the Oatlands Park Gates c1890. Copyright: Surrey History Centre

In the last blog we looked at the case of the Oatlands Park Gates, a Grade II listed set of gates described as dating from the early 19th century. Following paint analysis carried out on the railings, it was established that the gates were relocated from the end of Oatlands Drive to their current location when the Oatlands Park Hotel opened in 1858. At this time the gates were raised in height and decorative scrollwork inserted into each arch. However, while the blog identified why the gates were relocated and altered, it did not explain the other mystery revealed as part of the paint analysis report: The railings had layers of beige and grey paint, more typical of the mid to late 18th century; not in keeping with the information in the list description. The aim of this blog will be to try and establish when the gates were erected and who designed them.

SHC PX155/52 Engraving by Letitia Byrne of Oatlands Park Gates. Copyright: Surrey History Centre.

The earliest image we have for the gates dates from 1822 and was engraved by Letitia Byrne. Finding information earlier than this date is challenging and relies more heavily on archival research. This is particularly case with maps which become more sketchy prior to Tithe Maps of the 1840s. Estate maps are often a useful source, and in this case one exists showing Oatlands in 1788 when it was purchased by the Duke of York (SHC 2784/51/4/18). The road layout is similar to that on the Tithe Map and sale plans of the 1840s, suggesting the gates were in place by that point.

The only map earlier than the 1788 estate map is Rocque’s map of Surrey published in 1768. Again, this has the same layout as the estate map, suggesting the gates were in place. Furthermore, there are a couple of small black dots on the map either side of Oatlands Drive which could be the gate piers, but concluding this is the case is a dubious assertion at best. Instead, it is necessary to look at the various landscape architects who worked on Oatlands Park during the 18th and 19th centuries to see if their design can give us any clues to their origin.

Rocque’s Map of 1768 showing two small black dots either side of Oatlands Drive, possibly the gates although it is highly unlikely. Copyright: Surrey Historic Environment Record

In his review of the park, Nikolaus Pevsner noted that the gates most likely dated from the late 18th century when Henry Holland rebuilt parts of the house following a fire in 1794. However, there does not appear to be any evidence that Holland did any work aside from rebuilding the house. Other examples of Holland’s gates and lodges, such as the lodges at Claremont House nearby or Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire, differ radically in their design, suggesting that Holland could not have been responsible for the work.

Lodges for Claremont House designed by architect Henry Holland have very little similarity with the Oatlands Park Gates. Copyright: C Reynolds

A more likely architect would be the notable landscape designer William Kent. Kent had strong links with Henry Pelham-Clinton, the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, who commissioned work at Oatlands Park from the 1740s. Some of the most notable examples of Kent’s work were carried out at Stowe during the 1730s where he built a range of structures including the Oxford Gate, an image of which appeared in a collection of his work published by John Vardy in 1744. Notably, the design of the gate is almost exactly the same as that engraved by Letitia Byrne in 1822. Therefore, it would not be surprising if Kent designed the gate, particularly as he wrote to the Duke of Newcastle’s wife in 1745 stating that he was ‘glad to contribute anything that may be a pleasure in assisting adorne your place’ (Newcastle Collection Ne C 3111).

Image of ‘A Gateway with it’s [sic] Plan for Lord Cobham’ of Stowe from ‘Some Designs of Mr Inigo Jones and Mr William Kent’ by John Vardy (1744). No Copyright

So does the publication by Vardy mean the gates were designed by Kent? Well… no. Work on Oatlands Park started around 1747 and Kent died in April 1748 so his involvement is highly unlikely. Instead research by garden historian Michael Symes suggests that much of the work at Oatlands Park was carried out by Kent’s assistant Stephen Wright. Wright worked as a measurer from 1741 and took over Kent’s work following his death in 1748. He was perfectly placed to take over the work on Oatlands: he was Clerk of Works at Hampton Court Palace from 1746, had the same post at Richmond New Park Lodge from 1754, and worked at Claremont for the 1st Duke of Newcastle from 1750.
Symes notes in his research that Wright appears in the Newcastle family financial accounts in relation to Oatlands from 1757 and also designed the grotto at the estate (demolished in 1947). Significantly, Wright copied features from Stowe designed by Kent and rebuilt them at Oatlands, including the Temples of Venus and Ancient Virtue. On this basis it would seem most likely that Wright copied the design from the Oxford Gate at Stowe.

The central piers at Stowe School are the same as those at Oatlands Park. The Copyright: Entrance to Stowe School by Steve Daniels

Much of the original Oxford Gates at Stowe was lost when they were relocated and now only the main piers survive. One could argue that the drawing was mislabelled as Stowe and was actually of the gates at Oatlands. However, this argument is dashed by evidence at another estate owned by the Duke of Newcastle: Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. Less detailed accounts for this estate survive, but it is clear that Wright was involved by 1769, sometime after Kent had died, and notably during the period when the Drayton Gate at the estate was constructed. The gate is yet another copy of the original Oxford Gate by Kent featuring the same vermiculated banding, voussoirs and finials. This demonstrates that Wright had a history of re-creating Kent’s work and it would not be unusual for him to have constructed the gates at Oatlands Park. On this basis there is enough evidence to conclude Wright constructed the gates based on a design by William Kent.

The Drayton Gate at Clumber Park is another copy of the original Oxford Gate. Copyright: Entrance to Clumber Park by Graham Hogg

The mystery of the Oatlands Park Gates is an excellent example of how a small piece of analysis can lead to a fundamental re-evaluation of a heritage asset’s significance. Prior to having paint analysis carried out, it was assumed that the Oatlands Park Gates were early 19th century gates in their original location. As these blog posts have shown, this is far from the case. Not only were the gates moved, but their form was also changed to accommodate their increase in height. The railings also date from much earlier than expected and are rare examples of Georgian ironwork, installed during the landscaping of the Oatlands Park Estate in the 1750s and 1760s. Perhaps most exciting of all is that the Oatlands Park Gates were built to the designs of notable landscape architect William Kent and overseen by his assistant Stephen Wright. This provides us with valuable information about the history of the Oatlands Estate but also relationship between architects and their assistants. Hopefully, examples such as the Oatlands Park Gates will encourage other owners to have paint analysis carried out and reveal information about the history of their properties.

The Mystery of Oatlands Park Gates Part 1

The following has been written by a guest blogger, Chris Reynolds, who started at SCC as Historic Buildings Assistant last year. Chris advises SCC on what makes historic buildings important and how works may affect their significance. The below case was generated as a result of work funded by the residents of Lakeside Grange with a contribution offered by the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust and Elmbridge Borough Council.

It is sometimes the case that an unusual or scarcely- employed analytical technique can reveal hidden information about Surrey’s heritage assets and lead us to completely re-evaluate their significance. In this blog post we look at the case of the Grade II listed Oatlands Park Gates and what paint analysis revealed about their history.

The Grade II listed Oatlands Park Gates are located in front of the Oatlands Park Hotel. Copyright: C Reynolds

Earlier this year the residents of Lakeside Grange funded paint analysis on the railings of the Oatlands Park Gates with support from the Surrey Historic Buildings Trust and Elmbridge Borough Council.The use of paint analysis offered an opportunity to find out whether any of the railings were original and how they had been altered over time.

Layer of paint fragments under high magnification. The green, grey and beige (stone) colours are at the bottom. The first layer of green for the gates in their current form is seven layers from the bottom. Copyright: C Hassall Paint Analysis

Paint analysis is a scientific technique which examines fragments of paint under high magnification with a polarising light microscope to identify paint layers. This information is often lost when railings are sandblasted before being primed for a new coat of paint. Such analysis provides vital information about the colour schemes used by Georgian and Victorian architects, and challenges the assumption that all railings were historically painted black. In this instance the report showed a range of colours had been used since the railings were erected, and that the first colour scheme of the gates in their current form was dark green.

To our surprise, the results showed something unexpected: ; the railings with the gilded finials had earlier paint layers than the overthrow scrollwork (the decorated iron work above each gateway). These included green, beige (stone coloured) and grey layers of paint. This suggested two things: first, the overthrow scrollwork in each arch was later than the rest of the railings, and secondly that the railings with the gilded finials could date from the mid to late 18th century, as beige and grey paint is a key dating feature from this period. This was particularly surprising as the Historic England list description for the gates said they were from the early 19th century ( Further research was needed to clarify when the gates were constructed.

In the first instance we turned to historic maps to see if they could provide any information about the age of the gates. While the gates appeared in their current location on Edward Ryde’s 1864-65 survey of Walton and Weybridge (SHC 602/Roll 6), there was no sign of them, or the road they are located on, on the 1843 Tithe Map. So where did they come from?

This part of the mystery was solved by a chance discovery. The owner of Oatlands at this time, Edward Hughes Ball Hughes, fled to France in 1829 to avoid his creditors and instructed his agents to sell off parcels of land. One of the maps showing land sales, dated 1846, included the positioning of the gates near Weybridge at the modern- day end to Oatlands Drive. Other contemporary reports also provided evidence that the gates were in this location at least until the early 1850s, including references in Felix Summerly’s Pleasure Excursions: Walton and Weybridge (1847) and William Keane’s Beauties of Surrey (1849). It would therefore seem likely the gates were relocated when the house opened as a hotel in 1858 and the overthrow scrollwork was inserted at this time.

EM 2.1949 Sale plan of Oatlands Estate, showing lots into which estate was divided by Messrs Driver (1846) showing the location of gates in Weybridge. Copyright: Elmbridge Museum

Further evidence for this was found in research carried out by local historian M E Blackman, who transcribed a tender from a J A Willans [sic] dated 22nd July 1830 for works to the gates at the park. This was for:
‘Cleaning down the Portico at Jones’ Gate, repairing the stonework to [the same] and five other gates, rehanging the gates and repairing the [same] and the locks. Painting over the palisades and the gates and wings of the [same]. Three oils and finished green. £18. 0s. 0d.’

This layer of green paint can be seen in the paint analysis report and is the last layer of paint before the scrollwork was inserted, confirming the scrollwork could not pre-date 1830. However, what the report does not tell us is why the scrollwork was inserted in the first place.

SHC PX155/52 Engraving by Letitia Byrne of Oatlands Park Gates dated 1822. Copyright: Surrey History Centre.

SHC 6516/2/173 Chertsyana Volume 2: Drawing Showing the Entrance from Weybridge to Oatlands Park. Copyright: Surrey History Centre

The answer became clear from drawings held in the Surrey History Centre. In 1822 the Duke of York opened Oatlands Park to members of the public and produced a guide of features to see, including the Entrance from Weybridge (SHC 6516/2/173). Another image engraved by Letitia Byrne from the same date (SHC PX/155/52) shows the gates in more detail.

On the whole these drawings are largely the same as the gates in their current form, the key difference being that an extra plinth has been added to the gates to make them appear grander. This change in height meant the railings with the gilded finials at the sides would have been too small to fill each arch. For this reason it was necessary to insert the scrollwork which can still be seen today.

Edited photograph showing which elements of the gates were inserted (red) when they were relocated c1858. Photograph edited by A Dearlove

The paint analysis carried out on the Oatlands Park Gates revealed information about their history which had been hitherto unknown. Not only were the gates not in their original location, but they had also be been altered to make them appear grander. This information would not have been obvious without the paint analysis report which highlighted that some sections of railings had more paint than others. However, at this point in the research it was still unclear why the railings had layers of beige and grey paint as these were more typical of the mid to late 18th century. This required more archival research and will be the subject of the next blog post.

Working Women

Working Women

Portrait taken at Langdale Studio, Westway, Caterham. Standing woman wearing nurse’s uniform (labelled ‘Lane’), 1903 (SHC Ref 4209_3_134_35)

My friend is taking an online course with through Royal Holloway, University of London on the History of Women’s Rights. It looks fascinating and, of course, very topical just now. As she was telling me about the course, and as we are both ridiculously obsessed family historians, we got to chatting about the women in our own family trees and their place in a very male dominated society.

Among my friend’s 18th and 19th century female antecedents are a pawnbroker, a publican, a nurse, a milliner and one ran a Ragged School. In my own family, my great-grandmother ran a theatrical boarding house and my grandmother danced in a chorus line.

We are often guilty of assuming that women played a fairly minor role in the workplace but that isn’t always the case.

Just for fun (yes, I know, I’ve an odd notion of what is ‘fun’!) I started to play around with a few statistics gleaned from the census on  The 1911 census is good to look at because people were describing their own occupations. Some of these have been amended by the enumerator but by and large, we get a far better picture of what people actually did than previous census returns. Out of a sample of 39,523 working women living in Surrey, I found the following:

Not surprisingly, most of the women are working in service but there are some other occupations which indicate that women are playing a pretty important role as breadwinners. Now, please don’t take these figures as anything but a bit of playing around on as I’ve been very broad with some of my searching and not checked every single entry, but it does rather make you realise that there are some interesting women out there!

(Incidentally, before everyone writes to tell me that ‘Dressmaker’ was a euphemism for a ‘lady of the night’ I have assumed that they are mostly telling the truth!)

It’s hard to garner any similar statistics from the other census returns but I did make a search for female servants in other years with the following results:

It’s interesting that there is a sharp rise in domestic servants in the latter part of the 19th century. There was a severe agricultural depression in the second half of the 19th century which may well have prompted women who would have normally worked on the land to seek employment elsewhere. It is worth remembering that even fairly low income families would strive to employ a servant so the market for female workers in this respect would have been fairly good.

The social historian Pamela Horn has written several books on servants and their place in 19th century society and I thoroughly recommend raiding your local library for them as they make fascinating reading!

Prior to the 1911 census, women were at the mercy of the enumerators and much the same as ‘Ag Labs’ their precise occupations tended to be largely ignored. I suspect that unless they were widowed or single, their contribution to the household economy was glossed over and thus we probably have any number of married women who simply don’t show up as workers.

However, women have always worked in one capacity or another. I suspect that many 19th century married women, despite the conventions of the time suggesting otherwise, were involved in many other occupations and certainly many took in washing, minded children and went out char-ring.
The further back we go the more difficult it is to find any evidence of women’s occupations but wills can be a good source.

When Ann Burgen, widow of John Burgen of Bermondsey [Pawnbroker] died in 1730 she left “…to my sister Mary Adams wife of Cornelius Adams of Bermondsey, mariner all money and all my goods to be managed by her in business of lending money on pledges which I now follow…”. You can see a full transcription of this will here at the History Centre or online at The will doesn’t mention sums but seems probably that Ann was leaving a fairly respectable amount.

These are the documented instances of women working but, as I have outlined above, I think it is safe to say that women were doing a lot more than dusting off cobwebs and raising children in their lives. It’s just a shame that it’s a difficult one to prove!

Has anyone found any interesting women’s occupations in their research? I’d love to hear about them.

Happy Researching!


PS:  Thank you to everyone who braved the icy weather to join us on the Researching Your Family History Online workshop last Saturday!  I had a great time (despite the frosty conditions) and hope you did too!  Don’t forget that there are lots more family history workshops on offer on the Surrey History Centre website!

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) History Month 2019

History II – Peace, Reconciliation and Activism

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) History Month takes place every year in February and celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. This is an opportunity to learn more about the histories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Surrey and elsewhere.

The national theme for 2019 is ‘History II: Peace, Reconciliation, and Activism’ marking the 100th anniversary of the official end of the First World War. Our display looks at homosexuality during the First and Second World Wars and features Surrey’s famous LGBT men and women who supported the war effort at home and abroad, including Dame Ethel Smyth, Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, JR Ackerley, Robert Graves, Harry Daley, Noel Coward, Dirk Bogarde, Alan Turing, Terence Rattigan, and EM Forster.

At Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, GU21 6ND during normal opening hours in the foyer at Surrey History Centre.

Click the image to download a pdf copy of the poster.

Free display in foyer from Wednesday 6 February to Thursday 28 February.

Contact Surrey History Centre for more details:
130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND
01483 518737 (Tues-Sat)
Email: [email protected]

See our latest newsletter for details

Click here to see Surrey Libraries LGBT History Month iCloud collection

Read more about Surrey’s LGBT icons during the First World War.

The Cross and the Great Camp

Situated within the remains of an 19th century artillery redoubt is a memorial cross (SHER 10986) erected to the memory of Queen Victoria following her death on the 22nd January 1901. The memorial also commemorates the time The Queen reviewed her troops on the common on the 21st June 1853 at what was known as the Great Camp.

Queen Victoria Memorial Cross, Chobham Common Photo Copyright A.Dearlove

What Was the Chobham Common Great Camp?

By the middle of the 19th Century, within Britain, there was a growing concern and growing tension with Russia, which would ultimately result in the Crimean War in 1854. During the preceding year to the outbreak, there were discussions regarding the prospect of Britain having to field an army in Europe. These highlighted a concern about the uncoordinated state of training among the different branches of the army since the Napoleonic war (Stevens 2003). Therefore, following the suggestion of a coordinated training camp by the Prince Consort, it was decided that Chobham Common would host the first large scale manoeuvres conducted by the army in Britain since the Napoleonic war, with a precedent for this camp being the Bagshot camp of 1792 (Stevens 2003).

Between June and August 1853 over 8000 men, 1500 horses and 24 guns mustered on the common for a programme of drill, field operations and parades. The great camp had two forces training for a month each and consisted of four Regiments of cavalry, three Battalions of Foot Guards, three Batteries of Artillery, Royal Horse Artillery Troop, Company of Sappers and Miners and a pontoon train (Stevens 2003).

James Wyld 1863 Map of entrenchments (Wyld 1583)

The units involved were:

1st Division
Encamped 14th Encamped 14th June until 14th July 1853

1st Regiment of Life Guards.
6th Regt. Of Dragoon Guards (Carbineers).
13th Light Dragoons.
17th Regt of Light Dragoons (Lancers).

Rifle Brigade
2nd Battalion.

Foot Guards
1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.
1st Battalion Scots Fusilier Guards.
1st Battalion Coldstream Guards.

38th Foot Regt (1st Staffordshire).
42nd Royal Highland Regiment.
50th Regt Queens Own.
93rd Royal Highlanders.
95th Foot Regt (Derbyshire).

Royal Artillery
Troop of Royal Horse Artillery.
9 Pounder field Batteries.
6 Pounder field Batteries.

Royal Engineers
Sappers & Miners.

2nd Division
Encamped 14th July to the 14th August 1853

Royal Horse Guards (Blue).
2nd Royal North British Dragoons (Scots Greys).
4th Queens Own Light Dragoons.
8th Kings Royal Irish Light Dragoons (Hussars).

Foot Guards
2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards.
2nd Battalion Scots Fusilier Guards.
2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards.

7th Royal Fusiliers
19th Foot Regt (1st Yorkshire North Riding).
35th Foot Regt (Royal Sussex).
79th Highlanders 88th Foot Regt(Connaught Rangers.

Royal Artillery
Troop of Royal Horse Artillery.
9 Pounder field Batteries.
6 Pounder field Batteries.

Royal Engineers
Sappers & Miners.
(Stevens 2003,Wyld 1853)

The manoeuvres would overall improve discipline and prepare the army for operation in the field for the first time in 40 years. Due to the size of the manoeuvres this attracted a large crowd with special excursions to watch the spectacle, alongside a number of local business being utilised by the Army Quarter Master General to supply the troops (Stevens 2003). A number of local stalls selling refreshment were also set up to cater for the spectators (Stevens 2003).

The Queen’s visit

On the 21st June Queen Victoria and the royal party arrived to review her troops. It is estimated some 100,000 people came from all over to spectate. The Queen’s journey was by train to Staines, where she then travelled by open carriage to the Camp. By 9 o’clock that morning the troops on the common were at their allotted place and at 11 o’clock the Royal Standard was hoisted, signalling the arrival of Her Majesty. The Queen then proceeded with the review of her troops, having mounted a dark bay horse with rich gold trappings. The entire royal procession passed each regiment in turn, all presenting arms, with the bands saluting with the national anthem (Stevens 2003). Following the end of the inspection, the Queen and the royal party retired to their viewing position to watch the manoeuvres and the battle. Following the conclusion of the fight, the entire force with their bands formed up, marched past the Queen back to their camps. In total the review and the battle took 2 hours and at 3 o clock the royal party left for Staines (Stevens 2003).

Following the Great Camp

The Great Camp would prove to be a success with lessons and camp craft skills being developed by the soldiers, as well as testing the logistical capability of supplying and manoeuvring an army of this size in the field (NAM 2019). Experience gained here would be used the following year in the Crimea. The legacy of the success of the Great Camp was that further large scale manoeuvres were conducted with Chobham common being utilised in this way in 1871.

1871 Manoeuvres Plan of entrenchments (ILN 1871)

The training camp involved the construction of fortifications in the form of redoubts with connecting trench systems and rifle pits, extending across much of the Great Camp. These considerable earthworks can still be encountered today, with the Chobham memorial cross erected within the site of one of the redoubts.


A number of earthworks are still present and can be seen on aerial photographs of the common but can be difficult to see on the ground due to vegetation. With the increase in the use of a technique called Light Infrared Detection and Ranging or LiDAR the earthworks become far more visible. The video below shows a map of encampment overlaid onto the LiDAR survey. The artillery redoubt can clearly be seen where the cross is situated. The line of craters to the north are Second World War bomb craters from a stick dropped by a Luftwaffe bomber, with First World War Practice Trenches just visible next to these (Webster 2017). Due to the temporary nature of the predominantly tented Great Camp, little appears to survive today. With the memorial erected in memory of Queen Victoria we have a lasting monument to a grand event that performed a significant role in the history of the British Army during the 19th century, and that had an impact on the landscape and history of this part of Surrey.

Wyld’s 1853 Map overlaid onto 25cm Surrey Heath LiDAR survey (©Bluesky International Limited)

For Further Information

If you would like to know more about Chobham Common please visit Graham Webster work on mans influence on Chobham Common here:


Bluesky International Ltd, 2016, 25cm LiDAR Survey of Surrey Heath ©Bluesky International Limited

Illustrated London News , June to August 1853 and September 30th 1871 editions, Accessed 16/01/2019

National army Museum, 2019, accessed 22/01/19

Stevens, Phil, 2003, Great Camp Chobham Common 1853, Surrey Heat Local History Club.

Wyld, James 1853 Plan of the encampment at Chobham Common with surrounding area. Surrey Historic Centre Ref M/2

Webster, Graham, 2017, MAN’S INFLUENCE ON CHOBHAM COMMON. Accessed 16/01/19

A blue plaque commemorates the Dorking suffragette campaign

Coinciding to the day with the centenary of the first general election at which women were allowed to vote and to stand for election to Parliament, a blue plaque was unveiled on Friday 14 December 2018 on the wall of number 43 Howard Road, Dorking. This house was at the centre of one of the local campaigns of the suffragette movement over a century ago.

Kathy Atherton stands on the front steps of 43 Howard Road next to the blue plaque holding a purple, white and green cloth which covered it. Jackie Rance stands on her right.
Kathy Atherton unveils the blue plaque. Jackie Rance, who read a speech by Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence is on the right
(image: Surrey History Centre)

The plaque was unveiled by local historian Kathy Atherton, who has been researching the impact of the suffrage movement in the Surrey Hills for the past ten years and appropriately wore the suffragette colours. She told how the centenary of 2018 had prompted the resurrection of the blue plaque scheme by the Dorking Society in conjunction with Dorking Museum, with money for the plaques raised by crowdfunding. The first was unveiled in July to mark the Holmwood home of prominent local suffrage and peace campaigners Emmeline and Fred Pethick-Lawrence. The Dutch House, which the Pethick-Lawrences had renamed The Mascot, also became the country retreat of Mrs Pankhurst’s militant Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

Kathy welcomed the opportunity to celebrate two women who directly contributed to women being able to vote and told how this house in Howard Road featured in the events that led up to it.

In 1912, Fred and Emmeline were convicted, alongside Mrs Pankhurst, of conspiracy to commit criminal damage following a window-smashing campaign in London. After their imprisonment, the government sued the couple for the costs of their trial, put the bailiffs into their Holmwood house and sold the couple’s possessions at public auction.

To protest at this injustice, the WSPU ran a 6-week-long campaign in Dorking and the surrounding villages. The Dorking and Holmwood campaign was run from 43 Howard Road by Charlotte Marsh, a national WSPU activist and organiser, and Helen Gordon Liddle, a suffragette hunger-striker who wrote a fictionalised memoir of her time as a suffragette in prison, ‘The Prisoner’. From this house, local and national speakers were sent out into the town and villages over a six-week period in the run up to the auction sale at the Mascot, drumming up sympathy for the Pethick-Lawrences and outrage at the government’s actions, all reported in the press.

Blue plaque on a brick wall which reads 'The Dorking and Holmwood suffragette campaign of 1912 was run from this house by Charlotte Marsh (1887-1961) and Helen Gordon Liddle (1875-1956)'
The plaque at 43 Howard Road, Dorking (image: Surrey History Centre)

“This is the first blue plaque to a woman in Dorking,” said Kathy, unveiling the plaque. “I just hope it will be an inspiration to the rest of us, in whatever our area of activity, when we pass these plaques to feel that these women didn’t give up and succeeded by their determination.”

Dorking Museum’s Jackie Rance, dressed as Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, read extracts from Emmeline’s speech that had been delivered on the day of the auction, where she quoted Milton – “O Liberty thou choicest treasure”. The assembled company offered three cheers for Emmeline.

The Museum gave thanks to the present owner of 43 Howard Road, Veronique Pelissie Madsen, for her hospitality and the local businesses run by women who contributed to the celebration, with Dorking Deli providing the cakes, Too Many Cooks the tea, coffee and cups and the Vineyard the glasses.

Photograph of the house at 43 Howard Road with a small crowd gathered in the front courtyard behind a white gate. The blue plaque is visible to the left of the front door with purple, white and green bunting above it.
The crowd assembles (image: Royston Williamson)

To find out more about Charlotte Marsh (1887-1961) and Helen Gordon Liddle (1875-1956) visit the Dorking Museum website here.

To find out more about the Pethick-Lawrences you can watch a video produced by Dorking Museum in partnership with Royal Holloway, University of London and the Citizens 800 project called Suffragettes in the Surrey Hills: The Pethick Lawrences on YouTube here.

With thanks to Dorking Museum, Kathy Atherton, David Burton and Dorking Advertiser for providing the text

Coincidences and Communication!

Here’s an interesting coincidence; I have a colleague here at the History Centre who’s grandmother worked in the same factory as an ancestor of mine in Leigh in Lancashire.  What are the odds that two people meeting in a Record Office in Surrey might have that connection?

Similarly, I met another friend and colleague here at Surrey History Centre, who travelled with me to Yorkshire where we discovered we both had relatives living in the same village at round about the same time, just a couple of streets apart.  What are the odds of that?  Even more remote since she came from Essex and I was born in Greater Manchester!

We discovered yet another link.  My husband is related to the South African writer Olive Schreiner, who had a bit of a crush on the same friend’s great-grandfather’s half-brother, mathematician Karl Pearson.  Tenuous?  Maybe … but fun!

Has anyone else had similar experiences?

I was once working here in our Search Room and realised that two different people were researching the same family in the same area.  I cautiously asked them both (separately) if they would be interested in meeting the other and they both agreed.  It turned out that although they had never met, they shared the same great-great grandmother.

It’s all about communication.  Family Historians are generally fairly gregarious people who love to chat, tell stories and dig out bits of information.  This love of sharing information, along with generous access to the internet means that we can reach out to people across the world, many distantly related, and swap stories, photographs and family trees.  I’ve received numerous research ideas and suggestions from other people’s stories and I suppose that’s a bit why I write this blog – to pass on any ideas or resources that I think others might find useful.

But what happens when it all goes wrong?  How many times do we see things on other people’s family trees on or FamilySearch, and see mistakes – often compounded from tree to tree.  This happens when people simply ‘hoover’ up information and add it to their trees without checking to see if it even has relevance to their own research.  It is very irritating (and I think rather rude) particularly if you want to be generous and share your information with fellow genealogists.  It smacks of being taken for granted.

My mother once gave me a piece of sage advice: she said that you cannot expect everyone to think the same way you do.  Often their standards might not come up to yours but on the other hand, you might not come up to theirs.  She was right (of course; mothers usually are!!) and if we apply this to our techniques of sharing, we might be a little more forgiving.

In the meantime, you can take certain precautions to ensure that if you are wanting to share information, you don’t simply throw everything out onto the internet and then grumble when people take advantage or misuse it.  For example:

  • If you are uploading a family tree onto any site (mine is on do take time to read the Ts&Cs. Often by uploading information you are making it the property of the website concerned but there might be ways to make this less so.
  • You can upload a tree onto and make it private. People can still see that you have something on Eric Scrunge and all the little Scrunges but they need to contact you in order to obtain any further information.  They can’t just whoosh it into their own tree.
  • You can just upload part of your family tree. This means that you only share what you want to

I’ve found some amazing stuff on the internet!  Really fantastic stuff and I do feel that it’s nice to put back something too.  Uploading family trees, perhaps contributing to Find A or even going onto RootsChat and offering advice is a nice way to do this.

So by sharing and collaborating we can hope to produce some more coincidences.  I would particularly like to find that coincidentally I am related to a multi-millionaire who just happens to be looking for a beneficiary.  Well, we can all dream!

Happy New Year and Happy researching!

PS:  Don’t forget there are lots of family history courses starting at Surrey History Centre this spring.  Visit our website for more information, indexes and lots more!

Struggling to say Goodbye to Suffrage!

Rosie, Di and Holly at The March of the Women Community Day.

Hello again and a Happy New Year to all our readers. It has been a while since I last wrote a blog but felt it was important to give you all a bit of an update on what Rosie and I have been up to over the last couple of months.

Well November was very busy with the final preparations for our March of the Women Community Day. That week our team stayed late, had event related dreams and prepped as much as we could in the run up to the big day. Somehow, in the end, everything came together, the Suffrage Selfie booth was a hit, the Suffragette flag cake was devoured with just enough left for one piece each at the end of the day and the day was a healthy mix of talks from authors Elizabeth Crawford and Tessa Boase and local historians Kathy Atherton and Carol Brown, with an excellent extract of ‘While the Cat’s Away – The Ragtime Suffragette’ from LynchPin Productions to revive us all post-lunch. We received only positive comments from the speakers and attendees of the event and would once again like to thank all those who came and worked with us to make the day such a brilliant success.

At the beginning of December Rosie and I were back on the road again with our portable project boards to the University of Kent for their symposium ‘100 years+ of the women’s movement in Kent, Sussex and Surrey’. We have presented at a number of conferences this year but Kent was voted one of our favourites during a rather rainy drive back to Surrey. There was a small attendance to the conference but the friendly and welcoming atmosphere was unmistakable and made for an excellent day of discussion and debate.

Staff and Volunteers of The March of the Women project.

In the run up to the 100th anniversary of the first women voting on 14 December, Surrey History Centre had their volunteers Christmas Mingle. This was a perfect opportunity to say thank you for all the hard work our volunteers have done researching and indexing the suffrage movement and the first time we had been able to get a number of our volunteers in one place since our trip to the London School of Economics (LSE) Women’s Library back in August.

The following day we had been invited to do a ten minute talk at LSE’s final suffrage event ‘Suffrage Stand-Up’, where we were on the bill next to historian Dr Naomi Paxton and Ros Ball of the UK Government Equalities Office. I gave the talk on six notable women we have been representing during the project, including some of the anti-suffrage campaigners, as despite their opposition to the vote they were still strong, powerful women.

Holly presenting at Suffrage Stand Up, LSE.

And so that was our last two months of the year for The March of the Women project, but it was also my last two months as Project Officer as I will be finishing in January 2019. This year has gone by so quickly it is hard to believe that it has actually been a year, yet so much has changed. On a serious note I have developed so many transferable skills, that now as I am job hunting, I feel I can meet the required experience needed for a new challenge. Outside of work I have continued this development passing a practical driving test in July, shortly followed by buying a purple car which could only have one name, Ethel, after Ethel Smyth who has been at the centre of the project from the beginning!

The thing I will miss most, has to be the excellent contacts I have made from such a friendly community of other suffrage projects and researchers. From attending so many conferences, events and digitally through Twitter, there are faces and names that kept appearing so that it was like meeting up with old friends and did not feel like work.

I can honestly say I could not have had more fun this year, travelling around Surrey and beyond representing those brave women and men who stood up for democracy so that 100 years later I could have the right to vote. And so at least until 2028 for the centenary of the Equal Franchise Act, this suffragette is hanging up her sash.