We had a most fascinating visit to the Hive on Wednesday night to see Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service.
Su Vale blew our minds as she showed us a whole host of resources and taught how to use the microform readers, the indexes, and the various useful guides and finding aids that volunteers and staff have produced over the years. Emma Hancox showed us the Historic Environment Record – a record of the county’s archaological history with frustratingly few entries for Abberley. It’s time we put that right!
Some of the most immediately useful resources Su showed us were the run of Kelly’s Commercial Directories which date fro the mid 19th century to the early 1950s, the electoral registers and the microfilm copies of the Kidderminster Shuttle and Berrow’s Journal.
I suggest that we start by using the 1911 Census, Electoral Registers and Kelly’s Directories, Through these documents, we will be able to build a good picture of the population of the village: its relative prosperity and the range of trades practiced by residents. It will be interesting to see how many women qualified for the vote before 1928 for example, or take part in local government at all.
The expansion of local government and extension of voting rights during the 19th century meant that women could sit on local Health, Education and Poor Law boards from 1870 onwards and could serve on urban and rural district council from 1894. An Act of 1907 made sure that widows and unmarried women could serve on county and borough district councils as well, making it possible for them to stand to stand anywhere in local government.
As part of its remit to empower and enable women, from an early date, the National Federation of Womens’ Institutes encouraged and educated women to stand for office.
Cherry is definitely on the case already – she told us about Sarah Elizabeth Woodward, England’s first woman councillor, who was elected in Bewdley in 1907. It’s a topic that has captured our imagination and I’m sure we shall blog about this again!
We discovered that the archives hold a large amount of documents relating to the County War Emergency Committee from World War One. These records includes reports from the Women’s Agricultural Committee which we shall examine at a later date to see what contribution local women made here.
We had a good look at the parish maps for 1903 and were astonished to see how many orchards were shown – so many have now been rooted up and forgotten. Combining study of the maps with examination of photographs of village views that form part of the Worcestershire Photographic Survey, we shall be able to track the physical growth and development of the village and its industries.
As a final treat before we left, Su showed us two beautifully illustrated scrapbooks created by Callow End WI in the 1960s and 2000 for the WI Golden Anniversary and Millennium Celebrations respectively. It was fascinating to see the elegant illustrations and the way in which the WI chose to record a snapshot of village life and history at two significant periods of their own.
After such a full visit, we left with our heads full of ideas. In a couple of days, Jenni, the project facilitator, will revise the Golden Threads workplan and we shall all get underway at last with our research.