Parchment to Petabytes: Born Digital Records at Hampshire Archives (Part 2)


Figures taken from Ofcom, The Communications Market: Broadband: Digital Progress Report, 2007,<broadband_rpt.pdf (> and BBC, UK average broadband speeds up despite lockdown wobble, 13 May 2020, <UK average broadband speeds up despite lockdown wobble – BBC News>.

Internet speeds have also played a significant role in the increase of digital record use. This, coupled with the introduction of new storage media and management software such as Microsoft SharePoint and Flash Drives in 2001, Microsoft OneDrive in 2007, iCloud in 2011 and Google Drive in 2012, have helped change the digital landscape.  
Another issue facing us in the born-digital realm is maintaining records’ authenticity and reliability. The importance of this cannot be understated as authentic reliable records are the ‘pillars of accountability and transparency’8 in society.  

Technology, however, renders records susceptible to editing, copying, deleting and reformatting which can affect both their authenticity and content, whereas paper records are much harder to manipulate without leaving traces of any alterations. The structure (appearance and arrangement) of records can also be distorted or unclear when software updates render file formats unreadable or unclear. Finally, the context of records, that is the provenance, and the metadata are not easily discernible in born-digital records. For instance, understanding who an email is from/to, dates, and content are all hidden until they can be read by a computer, whereas a letter can be opened and the information is readily available. Specific software is needed to extract this information from digital records.  

Here at Hampshire Archives and Local Studies we use DROID, a file format identification tool, to extract metadata such as file formats, size, software versions and date of last modification from records. This metadata is also added to our Microsoft Access database which contains all the digital archive metadata together for reference, making it easy to search and locate different types of file format.  

Image: Example use of DROID on Southampton Photos. Top: Droid Front Page, with file ready to be extracted. Bottom: Results of file extraction, opened in Excel.

DROID draws on more than 1,300 different digital file formats, but with such a large number of formats available the challenge of being able to access and open them all is constant, especially considering that obsolescence of file formats is an ongoing issue. In a study on file format endangerment levels, it was found that within the next 11-20 years several file formats will become inaccessible such as PowerPoint (ppt) and Windows Media Video File (wmv).9 Archives must either begin converting and migrating records or hoarding software and equipment that can ensure records remain usable and accessible over time. 

Another major issue is the archival description of born-digital records. If you look at the folders on your computer now, many of you will have files named with all sorts of different titles that make no sense to anyone but you. There will also be file names that you do not remember, either what is in them, or what they are, because they are not labelled in any meaningful way. This happens at both an individual as well as at larger commercial and business levels. Records like these are often referred to as the second generation of born-digital records, the ‘digital heap’ where ‘basic record-keeping and information management practices have not been applied’,10  making it very difficult to process records in the traditional way.  

Archival description is, however, a major part of the cataloguing process, but simply changing the file names to something more representative of the contents, though an obvious choice, is not good practice as it would constitute tampering with the original record. Some examples from TNA’s catalogue are: ‘Next week (2).msg’, ‘RE 2 random thoughts.msg’, ‘ClseUp Extra swg slip[A204460].jpg’ or even ‘561,B4 OvVw Lwr Rat eaten[A206843].jpg’.11  

This means that the description fields for these records must contain more detailed information that explains what lies within the record, thereby increasing the time spent on cataloguing and describing for archivists at a time when born-digital record accumulations are increasing daily.  

The future preservation of and access to born-digital records, whether it be family photos, emails, novels or artwork may be uncertain, but its success lies in partnerships with IT organisations. For many outside the profession, however, archives will still be seen as dusty, dark places where seemingly little is organized and piles of manuscripts, paper, books and volumes are hoarded for an unknown use. 

Kyle Thomason, HALS staff

[8] P. Svärd, Enterprise Content Management, Records Management and Information Culture Amidst e-Government Development, 2017 <>.

[9] H. Ryan, ‘Who’s afraid of file format obsolescence? Evaluating file format endangerment levels and factors for the creation of a file format endangerment index’ (unpublished dissertation thesis, University of North Carolina, 2014) <>  

[10] TNA, Digital Catalouging Practices, 2017 < Digital Cataloguing Practices at The National Archives>.

[11] J. Garmendia, ‘Digital Description and Metadata at the National Archives. Digital Strategy’ <>.


The National Archives (UK), CC BY 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons, <>.

Parchment to Petabytes: Born Digital Records at Hampshire Archives (Part 1)

Images: HRO: 150M87/25 – Lease for life of house, in Stratfield Turgis, 1411 (Left) & The National Archives Server Room, 2011 (Right)

Archives have existed in one form or another for thousands of years and over this period the medium of archival material has changed. Archivists no longer deal in clay tablets (for the most part) but everything from papyrus, parchment, paper, photographic material, analogue audio-visual materials such as tapes or film, and much more from across the historical spectrum are accessioned and catalogued daily. Added to this is the more recent establishment of born-digital records, which has created a dramatic shift from the physical record to a completely digital format.  For instance: 

  • Email 
  • Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc.  
  • Google Docs 
  • PDFs
  • Photos 
  • Videos 

‘The digital realm is now a place where history happens: a president’s Tweets, an email commissioning a composer to write a symphony, the Word document comprising the manuscript of a novel…’,1 all are events that at one time may have occurred on paper but today provide new challenges for archives. 

Born-digital records have grown over the last three decades since Tim Berners-Lee created the first website. In 2010 it was estimated that 1.2 million petabytes of data existed globally2 but by 2025 this number would be reached in just over 2 days; these numbers are hard to comprehend but it is the equivalent of more than 212 million DVDs worth of data per day.3 Granted all this data will not end up in an archive but some of it will. At present Hampshire Archives and Local Studies has accepted 160GB of born-digital material.  

A good example of the sheer volume of records that need to be processed: when cataloguing the work of poet Stephen Gallagher, Hull University Archives received the first external hard drive and the file transfer was 13.6GB, containing some 14,320 files.4 In the past an archive would receive physical records which would then be accessioned, appraised, catalogued and made available. Today these steps are still required but new methods are needed to be able to access, read and achieve the same outcomes on a much larger scale.  

A born digital record for example, received in the archive today, is only readable ‘if the appropriate hardware and software are available to turn the…0s and 1s into human readable form’.5 This software and hardware may be obsolete after a few years meaning digital records require consistent attention over time, unlike printed material which can be conserved and held in climate-controlled conditions, lasting for decades without interaction. 

Here at Hampshire Archives and Local Studies, we hold 3 copies of any born-digital material that we receive. One copy is stored on HCC servers which are managed by IT, one in NAS (Network Attached Storage) storage on-site and the third is an access copy, currently we have to use CDs for this unfortunately.

The current rate of technological change, however, means our desire for ‘long-term, stable access to authentic, unchanging information’6 will be a ‘challenge to satisfy…using a set of tools which will change even as we are considering how to employ them’.7 In another thirty years the modern storage and preservation solutions of today will likely be just as archaic as floppy disks and VHS tapes are to many of us now. 

To be continued tomorrow….

[1] TNA, Plugged In, Powered Up: A digital capacity building strategy for archives, 2019-2022, <>.

[2] R. Wray, ‘Goodbye petabytes, hello zettabytes’, The Guardian, 03 May 2010 <>.

[3] J. Desjardins, ‘How Much Data is Generated Each Day?’, The Virtual Capitalist, 15 Apr 2019, <>.

[4] Digital Preservation Coalition, Hull University, AIMS Project and Approach, 2011 < What does success look like? – negotiating the deposit of born-digital archives (>. 

[5] J. Mcleod and C. Hare, How to Manage Records in the e-Environment, London, 2010, p. 25.

[6] ICA, ‘Electronic Records: A Workbook for Archivists’, Studies 16, 2005, p. 47.

[7] Ibid.

After Jane Austen: the Harris Bigg-Wither Story

The acceptance and subsequent refusal of Harris Bigg-Wither’s proposal of marriage is a much discussed fact in biographies of Jane Austen. It was a turning point in her life, and if she had not reconsidered overnight on the 2nd December 1802, we may never have had the pleasure of reading some of her novels.

Manydown House, home of Haris Bigg-Wither (Select illustrations of Hampshire comprising picturesque views of the seats of the nobility and gentry, 1833) (728.8)

Marriage to Bigg-Wither would probably have denied Jane the time to devote to her writing, and her rejection of him is something we should all be thankful for, but how much do we actually know about Harris Bigg-Wither , the man who might have become Jane Austen’s husband? He has over the years had rather a bad press, described by Caroline Austen as:

‘very plain in person, awkward and even uncouth in manner’1

A crucial factor about Harris Bigg-Wither is, a few months after being turned down by Jane Austen he joined the North Hants Militia. We do not know his reason for doing this, he may have been planning it for a while, but we can speculate. It is possible he was full of patriotic zeal and military enthusiasm wanting to do his bit for his country at a time when war had recently been declared again between England and France. On the other hand it is also possible that a rebuffing of his proposal was considered by him as a humiliation which necessitated a removal, at least for a period, from his current society. The joining of a militia regiment would enable him to do this without loss of standing and at comparatively little expense to himself. Having failed with Jane he may also have felt he had a better chance of procuring a wife from outside of his immediate circle. Being an officer in the militia offered ample opportunities for balls and socialising in new areas and new societies:

‘For the officers, regimental life could with luck become an agreeable holiday, attendance at drill occupied the morning and some afternoons, but they could make and receive calls and mix in good society…. the officers give balls where ever the regiment went and local gentry entertained officers lavishly’2

Expenses of a ball and supper for the North Hants Militia at Lymington, May 1799 (44M69/G6/2/4/1)

In Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen makes it clear that the arrival of the militia in a community such as Meryton was seen as a good opportunity for girls to find husbands:

‘they could talk of nothing but officers; and Mr Bingleys large fortune the mention of which gave animation to their mother was worthless in their eyes when opposed to the regimentals of an ensign’3

Winchester barracks (TOP343/2/92)

Harris did appear to be slightly anxious about entering militia life, as can be seen by this letter to Colonel Jervoise of 29th June 1803, when he worries about when he should make an appearance and how he should tie his hair

After Harris became Captain of his Company he removed to Lewes where the North Hants Militia were quartered. It was from Lewes that Lieutenant Colonel Frith (who was accompanied by his wife and daughter), wrote to Colonel Jervoise on 21st December 1803:

‘We have been rather gay here of late with balls, concerts, oyster clubs and regimental dinners’4

Harris must have presumably entered into these society functions, for on 15th January 1804, Frith informs Jervoise that his daughter is engaged to Harris Bigg-Wither

Letter from Frith to Jervoise (44M69/G6/2/1/14)

From this we can see that Harris was very keen to be married and did not want to wait. Merely thirteen months after being rejected by Jane Austen and six months after joining the militia he was again engaged. Harris must have won his father round, as on 24nd April 1804 Frith wrote again to Jervoise:

‘I find it will be necessary for me and Mr Wither to have a conference to finally arrange family matters, for which purpose he has politely requested that Mrs Frith, my daughter and myself should pay him a visit at Manydown’5

Matters must have been arranged satisfactorily, for on 2nd November 1804, Harris Bigg-Wither married Anne Howe Frith at East Dean, Sussex.

It appears that Lt Colonel Frith was happy with the prospect of his new son in law, if maybe a little hesitant about his manner: a letter from him to Colonel Jervoise, dated 19th November 1804 echoes the sentiments expressed by Caroline Austen:

Letter from Frith to Jervoise (44M69/G6/2/1/15)

Little time was wasted by the couple in starting a family: on 19th September 1805, 11 months after the marriage, Frith tells Jervoise:

‘Captain Wither I understand has informed you that his wife has brought him a fine boy, I have just heard from them, they are all well and the Captain this day for the first time has missed his ague’6

It seems at this point, having obtained a wife and started a family there was no reason for Harris to remain in the militia. He appears to have resigned sometime in 1806, though no letter of resignation has been found. A mention of Wither’s resignation appears in a letter from a fellow officer, Stephen Terry, on 21st Mar 1806, which talks of his own desire to resign, but should he defer resigning for a period he would get six months’ pay as did his colleagues Thistlethwaite and Wither. Terry continues in his letter to relate his reason for resigning, which were that he did not want to leave his wife and family claiming that militia life was not conducive to family life. Harris, now with a young family, probably felt the same.

Harris Bigg-Wither and Anne had ten children and appear to have led a contented married life together. Would he have been as happy with Jane? We will never know. She was not attracted to or in love with him, but perhaps if she had seen him in his uniform, things might have been different.

‘This was exactly as it should be; for the young man wanted only regimentals to make him completely charming’ 7

Officers in red coats (44M69/G6/3/3/20)

Sarah Farley, archivist

This blog is an abridged version of an article which first appeared in the Spring 2017 HAT Newsletter


Manuscript sources

Hampshire Record Office, Jervoise of Herriard Collection, 44M69

Printed sources

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice (Penguin: Clays Ltd, 1995)

Honan, Park: Jane Austen: Her Life (Phoenix: The Bath Press, 1997)

Weston JR: The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1965)


1 Holograph by Caroline Austen, quoted in Jane Austen, Her Life, p190

2 The English Militia in the Eighteenth Century, p397

3 Pride and Prejudice, chapter 7

4 44M69/G6/2/1/12: Frith to Jervoise, 21 Dec 1803

5 44M69/G6/2/1/14: Frith to Jervoise, 24 Apr 1804

6 44M69/G6/2/1/19: Frith to Jervoise, 19 Sep 1805

7 Pride and Prejudice, chapter 15

Any Old Iron: Medieval Arms and Armour (once) at Farnham Castle

The Archives have two fascinating documents in their care (11M59/B1/53 and 11M59/B1/56). They are long pieces of parchment known as ‘pipe rolls’. The first was written in 1296-7, the second in 1299-1300. They record the contents of Farnham Castle. The castle (just a few miles from Aldershot) was held by the bishops of Winchester (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Stained Glass of the See of Winchester (45.143)

Like any castle, the owner had to provide soldiers and their equipment. The short section on arms in the first roll lists:

ten targes (round shields), 12 crossbows – one vice-drawn and one a two-footer (i.e. for two-foot-long bolts), ten chapel de fers (open-faced helmets), ten aketons (padded fabric body defences), 40 lances, 50 large quarrels (crossbow bolts), 200 small quarrels, three pairs of trappers (fabric horse covers), four pairs of plates (torso defences made of metal plates), three iron basinets (helmets), two arming saddles, two pairs of plates with bracers (arm defences), four plate gorgets (neck defences), five pairs of plate gauntlets, two iron basinets, five pairs of iron jambers with iron poleyns and cuisses of plate (leg defences with metal plates for the knees and thighs), one pair of trappers, four aketons, and two arming saddles.

Very little arms and armour from this period survives. We can get a really good insight into what it would have looked like from artwork and later examples. In this beautiful English stained glass Saint George – the warrior saint – bears a slightly more advanced kind of plate armour than that in our pipe rolls (Fig. 2). In an exquisite Parisian ivory the warrior-saint is in armour and his horse has a trapper emblazoned with the cross (Fig. 3). There are crossbows and basinets that survive from later in the fourteenth century (Fig. 4 and Fig. 5). Many more treasures of this sort will, no doubt, be dug up or happened upon in museum stores and private collections in the future.

Figure 2. St George Stained Glass (45.86)

Where is all the arms and armour such as that recorded at Farnham Castle now? A canny knight advised Edward II to make a long truce with the Scots, so that “thair armyng sall worth ald / And be rottyn, distroyit, or sald.” (Barbour’s Bruce, ed A. A. M. Duncan (Edinburgh, 1997), p. 347) Materials and metals could be upcycled in various ways. Metal plates could be cut up and sewn into fabric to form flexible torso defences. Glasgow Museums has a helmet that has had its face opening crudely sheared back at some point, probably to give a better view to an archer (Fig. 6). Until the Gothic Revival of the eighteenth century stirred up much of society’s fascination with all things medieval, arms and armour was indeed ‘any old iron’.

Figure 6. Sallet or Barbute (

The bishop’s men at Farnham were clearly very diligent in looking after their equipment as the second roll of 1299-1300 records all the same items. There is even one extra crossbow quarrel. In contrast, inventories of many other castles describe much fighting gear as rotten, worn out, of no value – and even eaten by rats!

Documents such as these pipe rolls are incredibly precious, for they offer us a glimpse into a lost world of medieval arms and armour. The physical objects listed are so incredibly rare to us now but would once have been a regular sight in any castle.


Figure 1. Stained Glass of the See of Winchester (45.143);id=40276;type=101

Figure 2. St George Stained Glass (45.86);_t1108=45.86;dtype=d

Figure 3.  St George Ivory (21.9);_t1108=21.9;dtype=d

Figure 4. Crossbow (;;dtype=d

Figure 5. Basinet (E.1939.65.aj);_t1108=e.1939.65.aj;dtype=d

Figure 6. Sallet or Barbute (;id=242588;type=101

Dr Ralph Moffat, FSA Scot.

Curator of European Arms and Armour, Glasgow Museums

Louis Ourry: A French Protestant in the English Army

Today, we often think of Louis XIV of France as ‘The Sun King’, famous for his lavish parties and for building an extravagant palace at Versailles. But his reign was rocked by war and political tensions, and, in the 1680s, the restrictions he placed on religious diversity in the country began to get harsher and harsher. In 1685, Louis XIV banned Protestantism outright with the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and hundreds of thousands of French Protestants, or ‘Huguenots’, as they are also known, left to practise their religion elsewhere. Many settled in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States, but a great number also came to England. Hampshire in particular became a haven for these refugees, as a French Reformed community had already been established in Southampton following the bloody Wars of Religion in the 16th century.

A number of Huguenot refugees wrote memoirs detailing their experiences of persecution in, and escape from, France. A transcription of one of these memoirs can be found in Hampshire Record Office, among the archives of the Lempriere family of Pelham Place, Newton Valence (4M52/1). The story belongs to Louis Ourry. In 1699, Ourry left his hometown of Blois, aged just 17, out of fear that he could be forcibly taken from his parents and sent to be re-educated in a Catholic convent.

The cover of 4M52/1 translates as: ‘Journal of Monsieur Lieut. Louis Ourry – Father of Madame Beuzeville’. It would appear to be a transcription of an earlier manuscript – the notebook within which the Journal is contained dates from the early 19th century and contains a description of an English court case from this period at the back. The last page of Ourry’s story features an abrupt end to the transcription: after the letters ‘Po’ (presumably ‘pour’, ‘for’ in French), someone has written ‘Here the manuscript is so damaged that we cannot properly continue the journal’.

When Ourry leaves his parents’ home at age 17, he leaves a note for his father, and dramatically describes how he started on his journey with just ‘a piece of bread in [his] pocket, a baton stick in [his] hand, and, for expenses along the way, [he] had around three gold doubloons.’

After a stay with an aunt in Paris, Ourry travelled south, and ended up joining the British army to fight in the War of the Spanish Succession. Following military activities in Spain, Ourry was deployed to Italy, and travelled up through the country to the Tirol region, and then to Germany. He encountered some difficulties crossing through different towns and regions on account of his nationality and commission, and writes that, when a governor gave him a German passport, he was placed in a more comfortable position. He worked his way from Frankfort to Cologne, and then eventually to Holland, where he was forced to stay for a while due to freezing weather.

Finally, the ice in the port where he was staying in Holland melted enough for the ship for his passage to England to be able to come through. The cold continued to cause issues for the trip, but, Ourry tells us, after 16 hours at sea, his group managed to dock at Harwich. From there he took a carriage to London, arriving on 3 March 1707, after having left Barcelona with the army around 14 or 15 December 1706.

Due to the dangerous warfare and weather encountered on the way there, Ourry considered his safe arrival in England ‘a miracle of Providence.’ However, after just six weeks, he was given a new army commission to travel to Portugal. The transcribed manuscript ends with a description of the beauties of Lisbon, following his arrival there. But there is also a further note from the person who has commented on the fact that the manuscript is damaged. This gives a brief overview of the later phases of Ourry’s life. After getting married, he went to live on Jersey with his family. Eventually he managed to pay a visit back to his family in Blois, 29 years after he had first left the city. The note ends by stating that Ourry died at Bethnal Green on 4 January 1771 – exactly 250 years ago last month – and is buried there. This date is corroborated by two copies of the epitaph for Ourry erected by his daughter, Elizabeth Beuzeville, also found in the archives (4M52/6).

Nora Baker, DPhil student, Jesus College, Oxford

Nora is researching memoir writings by French Protestant refugees in the wake of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.

Lily Taylor – WFSA placement

I have thoroughly enjoyed my placement at the Wessex Film and Sound Archive. Despite the fact that the pandemic meant the placement had to be carried out virtually, I have still learned so much about what the WFSA does, how important their work is in keeping local and national history alive. It was particularly cool to see footage of where I live! 

One of the highlights of the experience was working on the social media copy and curating a playlist for ‘Archives Explored Week’. I enjoyed the process of developing a theme, curating videos, and then writing the copy to be put out to our audience. Another highlight was the consultancy we did with the charity, IntoFilm. This experience opened my eyes to how archive film is used beyond just the archive itself and how it can be used as a tool for education. 

But perhaps the biggest highlight of the placement was overhauling the WFSA YouTube channel. I had commented to Zoe at the beginning of the placement that I felt the channel had much more potential and I was subsequently given the task of overseeing the changes: I developed a style sheet, which sought to standardise videos titles and descriptions in order to make them more user friendly and appealing to our audience, and I led a small team of volunteers, who helped implement these changes. In addition to this, I loved the creative freedom I was given which meant I was able to create a new banner for the channel which better reflected the content on the channel and made it more visually cohesive. 

Overall, it has been a great experience that I am glad I got to take part in. It has taught me new skills, such as copy writing, marketing and the power of social media. It has also increased the respect I have for the people who work at the archives do, as there is so much that goes into keeping these archives running. 

Find out more about WFSA at our YouTube channel:

Lily Taylor, volunteer

A 16th Century Draper and his Shop, part 2

Colour was so important at this time that the Sumptuary Laws dictated which colours and cloths could be worn by whom, dependent on class and income. This was often reflected in the dye used to create the colours. The more expensive the dye the higher up the social ladder you needed to be to wear it (See table below).

The most common and inexpensive colours at this time were red, blue, green, yellow, brown and grey which were created using natural dyes from easy to obtain organic material, these were the colours of the lower classes. Blues and Tawney were the colours of servitude and liveries which were often dyed with woad, a smelly dying substance that the Queen declared should not be sown or processed within 8 miles of any royal residence. Green was worn by all classes but ‘poppinjay’ was often used for sleeves. Red’s that were dyed with Cochineal (insect shells) made crimson and were only worn by the upper classes. While ‘True black’ was only worn by the nobility and royalty due to the complicated dying process involved in achieving the darkest colours, other shades of black were common with all classes but faded with time. Violet or Purple fabric that were dyed using crushed seashells to make Tyrian Purple, was a colour that could only be worn by royalty. However, violet made with madder and woad giving different shades of purple was worn by all classes. 

An example of some of the colours William sold in his shop

Inventory of William Jackson. HRO Ref: 158AD/28

From Williams inventory we can see that:

  • He sold material ranging in price from 7 pence to 12 shillings, between £6 and £123 per yard of cloth in today’s money.
  • The most abundant items in his inventory are Russets and Kerseys which generally ranged in price from 2-3shillings, both were common everyday items at the time.
  • The more expensive items were listed far less frequently and included colours such as, ‘vyolett’, ‘puke’ and ‘peache’, all ranging above 10 shillings a yard each (£102 per yard today).
  • The average cost of cloth per yard in William’s shop was about 4 shillings 7 pence, equivalent of £47 per yard today.

William would have sold to both individuals and wholesalers. The cheapest item William sold, 1 yard of White Welsh Cotton (7 pence) would have cost a day’s wage for the majority of England’s population and more than a week’s wage for just 1 yard of cloth on average. When the average women’s kirtle at this time could be made from between 3-8 yds of cloth, a gown between 6-18 yds and doublet 1.5-3 yds it is easy to see how costly clothing could be. 

Even if the cost of cloth was more affordable the Sumptuary Laws still dictated who could wear certain materials and colours. Servants, shepherds and common labourers for instance who earned less than £10 a year were only permitted to wear broad cloth worth 2 shillings per yard and hose worth up to 10 pence per yard. Punishment for not adhering to this was 3 days in the stocks.  

Considering the above evidence, William’s drapery did not cater to the lower classes, but nor did it cater to the very upper classes of society. His inventory mentions no expensive silks such as satin and damask and no expensive colours, such as, Tyrian Purple, Indigo and Crimson.  

Finally, we know from his inventory that William owed depts up to £188. Though, he must have been a good businessman because his goods were worth a total of £485, 6s, 8d, a total of almost £223,000 today (including inflation). In 1580 this could buy 9,700 days of work from a skilled tradesman, 260 cows or 58 horses. 

Kyle Thomason, member of HALS staff


Bank of England, Inflation Calculator, (2020) <>. 

Beltgens Gibbins, H., The Industrial History of England, (London: Methuen & Co, 1920), p. 102-103. 

de Banke, C., Shakespearean Stage Production: Then and Now, (London: Hutchinson, 1954), p147-194. With additions. 

Mikhaila, N., Malcolm-Davies, J., The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing Sixteenth-Century Dress, (London: Batsford, 2006), p. 36-37. 

Reed, S., How Much Is Enough?: Yardages Used in Late 16th Century Women’s Clothing, (1994) <>. 

Secara, M., A Compendium of  Common Knowledge, 1558-1603; Elizabethan Commonplaces for Writers, Actors and Re-enactors (Los Angeles: Popinjay Press, 2008), p. 7. 

Sharpe, J. A. “England, 1560–1650.” The Cambridge Guide to the Worlds of Shakespeare, edited by Bruce R. Smith, by Katherine Rowe et al., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2016, pp. 607–680. 

Struder, P., Oak Book, vol.1, p. 121: Ancient Laws, no. 20/ Modern Laws, no. 14. 

TNA, Currency Converter: 1270-2017 (2017) <>. 

Youngs Jr, F. A., Proclamations of the Tudor Queens, (UK: Cambridge University Press, 1976), p. 151. 


Bayes – Pegs & Tails’, Baize and Bay(e)s, 11 Feb 2012.

Broadcloth – Red coats & Revolutionaries, Reproduction materials, 2020.

Cotton, Frieze, Frizado, Kersey/2/2/twill, Russet – Etsy, The Tudor Tailor: Fabrics, 2020

Tailor/Draper Measuring Cloth – Web Gallery of Art, Tailor’s and fabric shop, fresco, Castello Challant, Issogne (Valle d’Aosta),

A 16th Century Draper and his Shop, part 1

Hampshire Archives & Local Studies holds thousands of fascinating wills and inventories from across the county. One of which, the inventory of William Jackesonne (Jackson) provides an interesting insight into the workings of an Elizabethan draper’s shop.  

William Jackson was born in Southampton to parents John Jackson and Elizabeth Fletcher, formerly Stoner. He was descended from a successful family on his mother’s side, including, an attorney, apothecary/grocer and 2 mayors.  

William himself was a draper, like his father, and as draper would have dealt in wholesale cloth and ready-made garments. 

Image of a Tailor/Draper measuring cloth, 1489-1502

William’s father resided in the parish of Holy Rood in Southampton and was very successful. He became a burgess in 1557, bailiff in 1569-80, sheriff in 1572, mayor in 1578-79, 1590-1 and deputy to the mayor in 1593-4.  

We don’t know as much about William, but he did hail from the parish of St. Lawrence and lived during the reign of Elizabeth I. We know this from the inventory to his will, which is dated 12th July 1580. The inventory reveals that his shop was based in Southampton Town, his house was leased from Winchester College and his garden was indirectly leased from her queen majesties lands. The map below gives an indication of what Southampton looked like not too long after William’s death. 

HRO ref: 15M84/P3/1372. Map of Southampton in 1610

Drapery was a craft trade and so heavily monitored, and only burgesses ‘could sell cloth by retail, except on a market or fair day’. William however was a burgess and became one in 1577. Four years later he was made ‘overseer of the common’. The Common lay a few miles north of the city walls and was a place where local townsfolk could obtain wood and clay, and graze their animals.  

Being a port city on the coast, Southampton had well established trading connections with much of northern Europe. William would have obtained some material from abroad already finished, indicated by the ‘Frenche’ fabric’s in his inventory. The largest portion of the local drapers’ stock would have come from the rural villages and towns in the surrounding countryside. The dyers, spinners and weavers who transformed the raw wool into cloth were paid very little, but the draper or cloth merchant could make significant profits from selling on the finished material. Romsey for instance was an important centre for dyestuffs and the cloth trade generally at the time. 

Many of these cloths could also be used in different combinations, for instance, ‘brode stamel frizado’ and ‘brode fryse’. Stammel could also refer to the colour of the cloth, as well as the material and the same is said for Russet. Though it was not only material type that affected cost but the colour. 

The 16th century brought forward many new names for colours in order to conjure fantastical and picturesque images. William’s inventory mentions, ‘bridgewater Red’, ‘my ladys blus[h]e’, ‘poppinjay Grene’, ‘buckeshorne Grene’, ‘Ratts Color’ and ‘Puke’. Other common Elizabethan names include Gooseturd Green, Lustie-Gallant and Dead Spaniard.  

To be continued tomorrow….

Revisiting documents: raising more questions than answers

During Black History Month, Hampshire Archives and Local Studies and Wessex Film and Sound Archive (WFSA) began a process of revisiting documents within their collections with a view to exploring some of the more personal and unexplored stories that they hold. 

In October we shared 39A01/1 a mortgage deed , and it brought into focus some of the harrowing aspects of the slave trade – the details of which can be hard to read. 

In the 1828 document we observed how no child on the schedule is connected in a traceable way to their father, or adult male relatives; their sole connection is with their mother, whose name appears next to their own. We also considered the challenges of interpreting the document – in attempting to understand who each child was in relation to which adult and what this could reveal. 

The enslaved individuals listed are described in terms of ‘Colour’ and ‘African or Creole’, which provide clues to their parentage but also raises questions about how women and children fitted into the slavers’ thinking. 

Eliza is recorded as being Quadroon – one quarter black by descent. Mary is described as ‘Mullatto thought to mean mixed descent. The two sisters are both indicated to be ‘creole’, in this context taken to mean that they were born in the Caribbean or mainland Americas. Indeed, their mother, Judy, at time of writing was aged 30 and herself described as ‘Mullato’, and ‘creole’. 

Intrigued by the ambiguity of this document, Lily Taylor, a Winchester University graduate on placement with WFSA, blogs about her own wider research into some of the gender centric issues that this document suggests. 

Estimates suggest that over 12 million African people were transported during the Transatlantic slave trade.1 Initially, enslaved men outnumbered enslaved women – Diana Paton says that ‘roughly one African woman was carried across the Atlantic for every two men.’2 This was due to the fact that, as Trevor Burnard states, slave traders ‘thought men more valuable than women and indicated their gender preferences in slave valuations.’3 Male slaves were thus more profitable as they were projected to be more capable of producing revenue which outweighed the cost of their maintenance (e.g. housing, clothing, feeding, etc). 

Female slaves, on the other hand, were more costly to own due to the fact that they were perceived as being physically smaller and weaker, and therefore would not produce the same amount of labour as their male counterparts – despite the fact, as Burnard also notes, ‘they […] work[ed] in the occupations that historians have shown were the most physically demanding and the most sapping of health.’4 

In addition to this, there was also the possibility that they could get pregnant (it is worth noting here, that there are lots of examples of rape, unconsensual sex and coercive relationships with slaves of all genders), which slave traders believed would accrue additional maintenance costs and decrease productivity, thus reducing their profits. The result of this meant that ‘slave owners were at best indifferent and usually hostile to women producing children,’ explains Trevor Burnard.5 This is ‘despite the fact,’ as Paton points out, ‘any children born to enslaved women would also be the slaveowners’ property and would thus increase their wealth.’6  

Moreover, it was also commonplace for slave traders to intentionally split up mothers and fathers from their children upon their capture and subsequent kidnapping. As Barbara Bush writes, ‘British and French traders allegedly regarded the capture of slave women with children as undesirable as the babies and children took up extra room on ships. Mothers could thus be forcefully separated from their children. Husbands lost their wives.’7 This destruction of the family unit points to the European notions of civility which did not deem African familial structures as having any sort of significance, as a key factor in the dehumanisation process that occurred during the Transatlantic slave trade. 

Women’s Changing Reproductive Roles 

As time went on and public opinion of slavery began to change, an increasing number of people no longer supported the slave trade and arguments for its abolition were increasing. As a result, slave masters/plantation owners decided to create a self-producing slave population by breeding their female slaves. ‘Slave women,’ Kenneth Morgan explains, ‘became central to the viability of plantation slavery,’ and thus, the ability to bear children became another aspect of labour that could be exploited.8 

However, these plans for a self-producing slave population were not as successful as the slave masters would have hoped. Inadequate diet and nutrition, excessive labour, the effects of physical punishment, illness and disease were all factors which led to a low natality rate amongst the female slave population.9 This eventually became one of the key arguments used by abolitionists to denounce the viability of slavery. As Katherine Paugh writes, ‘abolitionists seized on the failure of slave populations to thrive as a sign that slavery was immoral.’10  

What all of this points to, is the complete lack of humanity slave traders and their supporters had for enslaved people and how they viewed them purely as commodities within a system.

Lily Taylor, Volunteer


Burnard, Trevor. “Toiling in the Fields: Valuing Female Slaves in Jamaica, 1674-1788.” In Sexuality and Slavery: Reclaiming Intimate Histories in the Americas, edited by Daina Ramey Berry and Leslie Maria Harris, 33-48. Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 2018. 

Bush, Barbara. “‘Daughters of injur’d Africk’: African Women and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.” Women’s History Review 15.5 (2008): 673-698. Accessed 26 October 2020. DOI: 10.1080/09612020802316157   

Hampshire Record Office. “The Transatlantic Slave Trade and Abolition” (Hampshire: Archive Education Service).  

Morgan, Kenneth. “Slave Women and Reproduction in Jamaica, c.1776–1834.” 91.203 (2006): 231-253. Accessed 27 October 2020.  

Paton, Diana. “Enslaved Women and Slavery Before and After 1807.” Accessed 26 October 2020.  

Paugh, Katherine. The Politics of Reproduction: Race, Medicine and Fertility in the Age of Abolition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 

The Winchester Bishopric Pipe Rolls

A dragon guards the entry for Bishops Waltham manor, 1334-5. 11M59/B1/87

In autumn 1302, Nicholas de Ychen, bailiff of the Bishop of Winchester’s manor of East Meon, or possibly one of the reeves (overseers) there, picked up a quill and, on a piece of parchment – the stretched skin of a sheep, possibly from this manor – started compiling the manor’s annual accounts.

Line drawing of a scribe (Old England: a Pictorial Museum, 1845). 941

Quarterly rents totalled just over £97; some tenants were excused for ploughing, shepherding, swineherding or serving as reeve. Some paid in kind – William ate Bere and Andrew de Holeweye in cumin, and William Gilberd’ in a pair of gloves. Nearly £3 came from pannage – payments for turning pigs out for fodder, usually in the woods – but there was no pannage in the park because of a lack of mast. There was income from pasturage (but none from the meadow below Godshull because it was mown), cheese, butter and cider – but not from coarse wool and lambswool because it had been sent to Wolvesey, presumably for use in the bishop’s household or elsewhere. Sales of livestock included 100 ewes (£5), and 19 pigs (3s 6d each). Wheat, barley and oats produced nearly £112.

Payments from tenants for inheritance or marriage included £2 10s from Nicholas, son of Nicholas de Langrish, on inheriting his late father’s property, and 1s from Agnes Fermyn for marrying her daughter outside the manor. Fines included 3s from Adam Kay ‘for having his pigs at the barn door’. Receipts totalled £270 1s 11½d.

Expenditure, totalling £39 5s 7½d, is listed equally carefully: ploughing expenses totalled over £15, including 1s for hiring men to plough after dinner. 4d was spent on doctoring horses. Building work cost 12s 4d, including repairing a collapsed barn. Harvesting work was an obligation on tenants, but the estate gave each ¼d of bread and two herrings or one cheese.

An account of the crops produced – wheat, barley, oats, etc – shows amounts used locally for animal fodder (the plough-horses too received extra for ploughing after dinner). A detailed account of the livestock shows 35 adult pigs remaining from the previous year; 28 which had then been counted as hoggets – pigs in their first or second year – were now redefined as pigs, 19 were sold, and 4 were sick – balance 50. There had been 50 hoggets: 10 were sick, 2 had been redefined as sows and 38 as male pigs. 45 piglets had been born from the sows that year. Horses, cattle, sheep, etc are similarly recorded.

Droxford manor stock account, 1301-2. 11M59/B1/58 m 25

Seven centuries later, the accounts give insights into the history of farming, buildings, and even the weather. They survive in the fair-copy audited accounts of the whole Bishopric estate, known as Pipe Rolls – each about thirty membranes of parchment, with about eighty long lines of writing in Latin on each side, stitched together at the top and rolled for storage. Occasionally the scribes decorated them with dragons and other animals, such as a hare – or fox – shown playing a harp in 1337.

The Pipe Rolls cover 331 years between 1208-09 and 1710-11. The medieval Bishops of Winchester held the richest English episcopal estate – about sixty manors, half in Hampshire, and others stretching from Buckinghamshire and Surrey to Somerset. There are English translations of three rolls, for 1208-9, 1301-2 and 1409-10, providing an introduction to the format.

Manors of the Winchester Bishopric Estate

The Pipe Rolls, arguably the finest medieval estate accounts in Europe, were among 20 artefacts from UK archives awarded a place in 2011 on the UK Memory of the World Register run by UNESCO, the UN’s cultural branch, which is 75 years old this year.

I hope I’ve inspired you to explore the Pipe Rolls and glimpse the daily lives of the villagers as they ploughed and harrowed the Bishop’s fields, worked their own strips of land, and faced disease, storms, droughts – and those officials who kept writing everything down.

You can see a longer version of this article at:

David Rymill, archivist

Mayor Making in November – part 2


As Mayor, life became much busier for William, his diary records Council meetings at the Guildhall most days, with his ordinary work compressed into the rest of the day. Christmas day must have brought a welcome day of rest from the numerous committees ‘To church in the morning, a full congregation, little ones all enjoying themselves and delighted with the decorations and their xmas cards’.

Winchester Guildhall: detail from a photograph in Salmon’s Series (HRO 4M94/C1)

Evening and social events do not seem to be as frequent, compared to today, but there were a few exceptions such as on the 23rd Jan ‘To Lord Northbrook at Stratton Park to dine with his Lordship, all the members of the Corporation there… spent a most enjoyable evening, left there at half past 10’.

Entries in the diary become less frequent in 1883, probably due to the volume of his Mayoral work, but also because of ill health. He had mentioned the previous year, on 20th Aug having to consult Dr England ‘for asthma’ and on the 7th Feb he becomes ill with a cold, and confined to the house for over a week.On the 15th March he notes ‘A public Meeting was held at the Guildhall  on Emigration, Sir Gordon, Dr Redding and others there, I could not get out (to take the Chair) as asthma was troublesome and weather bad’.

Further misfortune was to occur in his Mayoral year, on the 3rd April, ‘Accident at 10.45, horse fell and thrown from carriage in the High Street’.

There are no further entries in the diary until 12 April, ‘out for the first time for half an hour in the garden after accident, feeling very unwell’. Fortunately William did recover, and the diary entries restart on 1 May, with a happy event taking place on the 2nd May ‘Mrs C, little girl at 7 o’clock in the morn’ [Florence Alexandra Coles]. He is back carrying out civic functions by June as this entry for 5th June shows ‘to the Guildhall at 9.30, procession to the Cathedral to take part in the installation of Dean Kitchen, service over at 12, went into the Chapter room and told the new Dean I gave him a welcome on behalf of the citizens of Winchester’.

After this, the diary contains only a few entries for significant events, the most important being the visit to Winchester by the Prince and Princess of Wales on 27th June, an event which passed off successfully, as this entry shows.

Diary entry for 27th June 1883 (109A19/2)

The 26th July was another highlight, ‘to London to mansion house, dined with the Lord Mayor of London at provincial Mayor’s banquet. Lord Mayor in his speech alluded in a most generous way to the Mayor of Winchester as being a representative of a Municipality of over a thousand years and he said he was proud to welcome him here this evening’.

The Mayoral year draws to a close at the end of October, and on the 23rd, a Mayors banquet was held in William’s honour ‘banquet in the evening at 6 o’clock, about ninety sat down, Lord Northbrook, Lord Basing, the Dean, The Warden, Canon Butler, College Masters, Master of St Cross, Rev Moberley, corporation, magistrates and tradesmen. The Cathedral Glee singers sang during the evening, the Earl of Northbrook proposed my health and spoke in gracious terms of the way that I had carried out the Mayoralty and more especially with reference to the Prince and Princess visit’.

On the 5th Nov he ‘attended the City Club at 7 o’clock in the evening to receive a presentation of plate and an address from the Corporation to commemorate the birth of Florence Alexandra during my Mayoralty’.

Winchester Corporation in 1883 (85M88W/13, folio 27)

On the 9th November, his mayoral duties end with the election of a successor, ’to the Guildhall in the morning on City Business, Mr T Stopher elected as Mayor for the ensuing year’.

Alderman T Stopher, 1884 (85M88W/13, folio 3)

Knowing that today, Mayor Making takes place in May, I was intrigued as to why the change of date, and when the change took place. A search of lists of Winchester Mayors revealed that Doris Crompton was elected Mayor in Nov 1947 and held the office until May 1949, so was the last to be elected in November. The reason was the Representation of the People Act of 1948, when the law relating to local government elections was altered and the date for the ordinary election of Mayor was changed from November to May.

Sarah Farley, archivist

[This article was also published in the Autumn 2020 Newsletter of Hampshire Archives Trust]

Mayor Making in November – part 1

Today, the election of a new Mayor takes place in May, but until 1948, it took place in November. The reason for the change of date is revealed at the end of this blog. Hampshire Record Office was very fortunate last year to receive two diaries which cover the Winchester Mayoralty year 1882-1883, of William Woodward Coles. They give a unique and fascinating glimpse into the day to day life of late nineteenth century Winchester (109A19).

William Woodward Coles was born in Winchester in 1827, the son of William Coles, a builder and architect. He followed in his father’s footsteps, running a successful builder’s business from his home in Kingsgate Street, Winchester.

Photograph of William Coles (Winchester City Archives, HRO W/K5/17, p191, courtesy of Winchester City Council)

According to the 1881 census, William lived at 68 Kingsgate Street, a ‘surveyor and builder’, aged 53, with his wife and five young children (they eventually had eight). His two diaries cover the years 1882 and 1883, and throughout 1882 there are detailed entries for most days, but as they are business diaries, there is no space to record what he did on Sundays. His business work dominates the majority of the 1882 diary. Each day he records a summary of the main events, mostly visits to building sites and supervising his workers. As he lived in Kingsgate Street, most of his work was centered in this area and on some days, he records as many as eight separate visits to building work in progress. Projects included the Fives Court at Winchester College, St Cross church, Dean Bramston’s house, and his major commission at this time, the enlargement and refurbishment of St Michael’s church, which re-opened on 29 September 1882.

Account of the St Michael’s restoration committee with William Coles for building work in the church including the enlargement of Chancel (HRO 71M81W/PW116)
Exterior of St Michael’s church, Winchester, photographed in 1912 by J Herbert Fisher (Winchester Cathedral Archive: HRO, DC/L6/4/2/9, courtesy of the Dean and Chapter of Winchester)

After visiting his workmen, many diary entries conclude the day with him working back in his home office, doing accounts, preparing estimates and receiving people on business calls. As a member of Winchester Corporation he attended committee meetings a few days a month, in his case mostly drainage and sanitary committees, usually at 10.00am. On the 7th Sep 1882 he mentions a vote held at a Council meeting ‘ Council meeting at 10, a fair attendance, a debate as to men being paid for bank holidays, 11 voted for their being and 7 for them not being paid’.

He seems to have been generous towards his own workers, illustrated by the entry for Sat 26 Aug 1882 ‘men all gone for an outing to the Isle of Wight, gave them £2.00 towards their expenses’. He does not appear to have much free time himself, the only holiday entry is for 9 September 1882 ‘to Brighton by 10.15, spent day there, visited acquarium for two hours, strolled on the beach and on the Parade, drove past the Pavillion on our way back to the station, home by eight train, the little ones were delighted’.

It must have been a huge honour for William Coles to be elected Mayor, but the details are recorded as factually as the rest of the diary. He was selected at a Council meeting on 2 Nov 1882 and elected on 9th Nov, ‘Council meeting at 12.o clock, elected Mayor of the City for the ensuing year, received from all the citizens the warmest applause and congratulations including Lord Basing, Mr Moss, the Dean, Warden, Dr Ridding. Mayors banquet in evening, a capital attendance including a gallery of ladies. Everything went off well. Appointed the Council meetings for eleven o clock during the year’.

To be continued tomorrow…