The approximate position of ‘C’ Company, 2/18 London Regiment on 1-2 May 1918. Detail from a sketch map within the unit war diary. (Reference: WO 95/4670)
Frederick William Beament, my great grandmother’s younger brother, fought in the British Army during the First World War. He died on 2 May 1918, aged just 21.
Frederick in his army uniform, with his mother, Elizabeth. (Private collection)
In researching this blog post for our My Tommy’s War series, I had two major advantages. Firstly, I already knew some information about Frederick. Much of this knowledge had been passed down through successive generations of the family and other details had been researched by relatives on my father’s side more recently. Secondly, I already knew about some sources at The National Archives that would be likely to help me find out more about Frederick, because advising people about records held here is part of my job.
Who was Frederick?
Frederick was born on 23 June 1896 in Holborn, in central London, the youngest of at least eight children. His father, George, died when he was very young and his widowed mother, Elizabeth, brought up the younger children alone. Like his father and many of his siblings, Frederick started work in the printing industry when he left school. In the 1911 census, when he was 14 years old, his occupation is stated as ‘reading boy’ for a printing firm.
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Plan of the Café de Paris, showing the effects of the bombing (reference: HO 193/68). The plan is shown laid out with weights to keep it flat.
Seventy-two years ago, on Saturday 8 March 1941, the Café de Paris, a London nightclub and restaurant was bombed during the Blitz. A 50 kg high-explosive bomb hit the building, on Coventry Street, at about 21.45. At least 34 people died and dozens more were seriously injured. Continue reading »
Mr Johnston's 'fantasy' map of Africa, showing his proposed British territorial claims in red (reference: FO 84/1750 f 54)
Some of The National Archives’ most interesting maps are not kept as separate flat, rolled or folded sheets, or even as part of atlases. Instead, they are to be found within boxes, files or volumes of official correspondence and other mainly textual records. Most such maps are not yet described individually in our online catalogue. Today’s blog post is about one of them.
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Kew and environs, as seen on BombSight.org
The title of today’s blog post comes from the first stanza of the poem Slough, by John Betjeman.
Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now,
There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!
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One of the many legacies of the United Kingdom’s colonial past is the number of British-sounding place names to be found in various parts of the world. From Birmingham in Alabama to Canterbury in New Zealand, and from New York to New South Wales, these names reflect the English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish heritage of many of the people who settled in those places.
Even before the UK’s capital hosted this year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games, the most famous British place name of all was undoubtedly London. For today’s blog post, I’ve decided to use a small selection of our maps to illustrate some of the world’s other Londons.
Clockwise from top left: London, Upper Canada (detail from MF 1/30/2); New London, Connecticut, USA (detail from MR 1/1789/26); London, Christmas Island (detail from MFQ 1/1049); East London, Southern Africa (detail from MPG 1/931)
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Detail from an embossed 'tactile' map printed at the Glasgow Asylum for the Blind, 1839, showing London (reference: MPI 1/63)
Like my colleague Jenni Orme, I’ve taken a lot of interest in the Paralympics and I was fortunate to get tickets for a few of the events, including my new favourite sport of goalball. Continue reading »
Forty Hall, Enfield: a very fine house indeed
I wish this was my house but, sadly, it isn’t. It’s Forty Hall, a Grade I listed manor house now owned by the London Borough of Enfield. It was originally built in the early 17th century for Sir Nicholas Rainton, a leading haberdasher who later served as Lord Mayor of London. The house has been a museum since 1951 and recently re-opened following a complete renovation and refurbishment.
I thought it would be interesting to find something about Forty Hall among our records so I decided to look it up in the Valuation Office survey. This survey was carried out in the years leading up to the First World War to assess the base rate for a new property tax called increment value duty, which had been introduced under the Finance (1909-10) Act 1910. Although increment value duty proved controversial and the legislation was repealed in 1920, the surviving records of the survey now have a second ‘life’ in the archives. They are now one of the most popular sources for house history and local history, and are often used by family historians and professional researchers too.
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Collection Care is often about finding solutions to difficult problems and I addressed this theme in my last post when I talked about a project currently underway treating a particular series of photographs. Well, this problem-solving approach applies not only to our conservation treatments of the collection, but also to how we deal with things on a large scale – how we manage our collection.
What is in all the boxes?
One of the big questions we’ve grappled with as part of this project has been: what do we have? Oh, we know we have 11 million entries on Discovery, 13,000 series of records, etc. But to effectively manage the risks to our physical collection we need to know what types of materials we’re dealing with and how many of each we have. Tackling this question required extensive data gathering and some visual ingenuity.
Detail of Ordnance Survey 1:1,056 sheet London VII 33 (1922 edition), annotated in 1947-1948 to show the London Underground Metropolitan Line. (Document reference OS 7/5)
Some colleagues and I recently visited the Mind the Map exhibition currently on at the London Transport Museum. This exhibition explores the role of transport maps in art and everyday life, and it inspired me to choose a set of maps related to the London Underground as the subject of this blog post. Continue reading »
- The home front in black and white: a survivor of an air raid receives first aid, Aldwych, central London, 30 June 1944. (From a photograph album with the document reference AIR 20/6185)
Luxury is not a word that naturally springs to mind when we think about the Second World War, but last month I went to a fascinating lecture that connected these two topics. Design historian Neil Taylor’s talk, which formed part of the Archives for London seminar series, offered a thought-provoking insight into the place of luxury goods in the UK’s wartime economy.
I was struck by Neil’s observation that the black and white photographs of the period encourage us to think of the ‘home front’ as drab and grey, when the truth was rather more complicated. For many of the economic and social elite, life remained rather colourful. The onset of war actually opened up new luxury markets. (My favourite example was a crocodile-skin gas mask box!) In later years, rationing and the ‘make-do and mend’ spirit encouraged a brisk trade in high-quality second-hand furniture and clothing. A little luxury certainly helped to boost the morale of those who could afford it.
Although most wartime industry was given over to munitions or essential goods, a small trade in manufacturing and selling luxury items, such as silk scarves, continued throughout the war. Most of these were intended for the export market, particularly to the USA. The government encouraged this small-scale export of luxury items because it made wealthy Americans more likely to think of Britain and use their influence support its cause.