Lisa, one of our intrepid research team members, has written this account of the day she spent researching Abberley’s history at The Hive, and also includes some previous experiences…
Some short months ago when the days were much warmer and longer, I arranged for 3 of us to visit the medieval library of Worcester Cathedral, to help gather evidence of the Castle and water mill of medieval Abberley. My 11 year old son George had regaled us about his visits there, when he had been allowed to hold Elgar’s baton and also been shown King Johns withered thumb. His Father had also visited the very thumb at the same age when it was on display in the Cathedral. Many years later when we moved to Abberley we had gone on a pilgrimage to see the thumb my husband Stephen so vividly recalled from his childhood visit. Unfortunately the person we approached at the cathedral did not know that King Johns thumb was not with the rest of him, lying in an elaborate tomb in the quire near to the altar! Why or how he was separated from his thumb I still do not know. It was however with a sense of pride and affirmation that George had now also seen the thumb.
I digress; we were met by the librarian in the cloisters and lead back into the South Aisle where a very small door was hidden, positioned approximately a foot up the stone wall. I certainly on many visits to the Cathedral had never noticed it before and wondered if it might simply vanish away from others eyes as we entered it. We tentatively followed the librarian up a narrow stone spiral staircase. I felt like I was entering Hogwarts . This feeling was compounded when we finally climbed out of the stone spiral and found ourselves, breathless, in an incredible long vaulted, ancient book lined room. Centuries of continued use had given it a sprinkle of magic .The high vaulted ceilings, stone mullioned windows and long oak trestle tables created a room like no other (although I am told that the college libraries in Oxford and Cambridge are as enchanting) It was bliss, I felt as if I was in a film and if an open fire and a hot chocolate had been thrown in too I might never have emerged again. Even the graffiti carefully etched and carved into the sand stone walls had me mesmerised (surely not the work of novice monks?)
The age and beauty of this ancient secret place was spellbinding, it really was a privilege to be there. Whilst not generally open to the public you can arrange visits or go on a Heritage day when the library is open. I can only encourage you to do so.
Fast forward to just a few weeks ago, a number of us travelled into Worcester to visit another library, the polar opposite of the first. This time our destination was something altogether more contemporary; the golden structure that is The Hive. The cutting edge of design for library use in the 21st century, computers, microfiche readers, coffee bars (excellent chocolate brownie) and security passes. We were trained by Jo Roche to access all sorts of records and archives stored on the 13 miles of shelving there. Some of our group researched specific buildings others looked at family trees. After filling in a request form you awaited the delivery of your brown boxes and parcels wrapped in pink document tape. The librarian would carefully weigh the contents before handing you your “present” to unwrap; it was like Christmas, all of us delightedly opening up the boxes to see what lay inside. All of it was fascinating, in particular my friend worked through an incredible box of indentures (not medieval false teeth but legal documents) which were written in beautiful calligraphy on vellum! You could clearly see the calf’s skin. Whilst the surroundings were modern, bright and minimalistic the documents were of similar ages to those we had looked at in the medieval library. It was a great day that flew by.
If you would like to join our research team (the more the merrier!), then please contact us.