It was a dark and stormy night…

‘Is it my imagination, or is the side of the house moving?’

I don’t think I’ll forget my father’s words, re-told to me down the phone by my mother. It was 26 January 1990, the day after the (second) Great Storm had struck the UK, and I was away at university, removed from the worst of the weather. Continue reading “It was a dark and stormy night…”


End of the war, home to Winchester at last!

As the 11th of November draws near, the time for reflection as to what the 4 years of the First World War meant is summed up by Victor Shawyer in his diary (Reference 170A12W/D/2375). For those of you who have read previous blogs with extracts from Victor’s diary, this will be the last one as he sheds light on the 11th November 1918 and his journey home.

Before Victor’s story starts, the following is an extract taken from The King’s Royal Rifle Corps Chronicle entry for the 11th November which states for the 1st Battalion:

“At 9am., November 11th, the Brigadier telephoned to say that Germany had signed the Armistice terms, and that hostilities would cease at 11 a.m. that morning.

It is strange to record that this momentous announcement was received very quietly by the men of the Battalion. There was no interruption of the morning’s work, which consisted in clearing up the salvage in the village and removing manure”

So let us start Victor’s journey…

Sawyer brothers

Victor Shawyer and his brothers, ref 170A12W/D/2375. Continue reading “End of the war, home to Winchester at last!”

Letters from The Front: Love and Heartbreak

Hampshire Record Office contains over a thousand years of history relating to Hampshire’s people, communities and places. Within the eight miles of archives are hundreds, if not thousands, of items relating to the First World War. These range from letters and reports mentioning the Christmas Truce of 1914 and games of football in No Man’s Land, to diaries concerning action from various fronts, film footage, postcards of soldiers recuperating at Netley Hospital and posters recruiting for the Women’s Land Army. Among these are letters written between soldiers serving abroad and their families back at home.


Continue reading “Letters from The Front: Love and Heartbreak”

And Their Name Liveth for Evermore: Researching your Local War Memorial

War memorials can be researched from various angles: military, social, and family history, and also as artistic objects. The memorials can take the form of the traditional cross in the churchyard or town square, a commemorative plaque or window, or a more practical memorial, and Andover has examples of all of these.

Newspapers are useful sources for those researching war memorials, but it is helpful to have a date to avoid a long search. Local newspapers will probably give details of dedication and unveiling ceremonies, perhaps with lists of names of those on the memorial and possibly those attending the ceremony, sometimes with photographs of the fallen.


 The Andover Advertiser, 7th May 1920, describes the unveiling of the cenotaph at its original site in the High Street. Continue reading “And Their Name Liveth for Evermore: Researching your Local War Memorial”

Commemorating Winchester Cathedral’s diver

Why is there a statue of a diver inside Winchester Cathedral? Why is there a pub named The William Walker facing the Cathedral? The answer to both these questions lies in the extraordinary assignment undertaken between 1906 and 1911 by a man who died one hundred years ago this month – an assignment which is particularly well recorded in the Winchester Cathedral Archive, held at Hampshire Record Office, and which is featured in a display now on show in the Cathedral (until 31st October 2018).

000 HPP5-1-32

William Walker in his diving suit, Hampshire Record Office: HPP5/1/32. Continue reading “Commemorating Winchester Cathedral’s diver”

The Forest of Halla Haroldi and Churlwood

In the 13th century Hampshire had the highest concentration of Royal Forests in England. Whilst the New Forest is well covered by historians; the others are not. I have been researching these at Hampshire Record Office (HRO) and my particular interest is the Forest of East Bere. One particular mystery with respect of the later is the Forest of Halla Haroldi. Nothing has been published on this important topic and documents at the HRO have provided an important insight.


Roger Clooney inspecting a map at Hampshire Record Office. Continue reading “The Forest of Halla Haroldi and Churlwood”

Out of the Shadows: A Spitfire story

Working with the collection at Wessex Film & Sound Archive (WFSA) is a joy. I spend my days watching archive film across a wide spectrum of topics. As a Hampshire resident, I have always had a vain hope of spotting a relative on film. Sadly, in reality, unless you have a clear idea that a relative you know features in a film that we hold there is little chance that you will spot them…

That said, almost all of the films within the collection feature people – we are a very human archive capturing people at work, rest and play. We have over 38,000 items and people are at the very centre of these. Whilst we hold some information about the faces who grace the screens in most cases, these faces remain nameless individuals going about their daily lives. Just imagine the number of people whose image we hold for posterity.

Len Gooch at the works

Len Gooch (third from the left) at the Works with visiting Americans.Image credit: author’s own.   Continue reading “Out of the Shadows: A Spitfire story”

In pursuit of the Mayflower

My name is Hannah and I have been interning with Hampshire Record Office for the summer in between my first and second year of my M.A in the United States. My degree is in American Studies so I was thrilled to be able to volunteer at Hampshire Archives and Local Studies on the Mayflower400 project. In preparation for the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing from Southampton over to Plymouth Massachusetts, Hampshire Archives and Local Studies is looking to host an event to commemorate Stephen Hopkins – one of the Mayflower passengers who hailed from Upper Clatford, Hampshire. Making the most of the search room, and all the lovely ALSCAs (Archives, Local Studies, Certificate Assistants) I have seen all of the amazing things that Hampshire Archives and Local Studies has to offer.

Stephen Hopkins 2

Baptism entry for Stephen Hopkins, ref 11M69/PR1. Continue reading “In pursuit of the Mayflower”

Charlotte Bonham-Carter – a remarkable woman


Charlotte Ogilvy (Bonham Carter), ref 38M49/F9/119.

Charlotte Ogilvy, later to become Charlotte Bonham-Carter, led a varied and fascinating life, which is reflected in the correspondence she retained and now deposited with the archive here. Although Charlotte was not born in Hampshire, she spent a large part of her life here in the county, in particular Alton and Binsted.

However the correspondence she retained and now deposited here gives only a very small glimpse of her very active life. Continue reading “Charlotte Bonham-Carter – a remarkable woman”

Women’s suffrage: petitions, protests and pilgrimages

26M70_Z1_33-2 (2)

‘In the suffrage cause there were several names which would live for ever; on the other hand there were those who had undergone a great deal of personal fatigue, and who had given part of their health- a great many thousands in fact- who would never be heard of, and yet they were working from day to day in the cause.’ Miss Fielden addressing a crowd in Winchester, 1913, as part of the Great Pilgrimage. Recorded in the Hampshire Chronicle.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of The Representation of the People Act, which gave women over 30 and ‘of property’ the right to vote. The campaign to gain women the vote often brings to mind Emmeline Pankhurst, the death of Emily Davison at The Derby in 1913 and the often militant actions of The Women’s Social and Political Union, such as setting fire to post boxes and the bombing of David Lloyd George’s house.   However, it is important to note that many other organisations and individuals fought for women’s suffrage and many did this through non-violent means, such as petitions, publications and peaceful protests. We saw in a previous blog how Lady Laura Ridding supported the suffrage movement, for example by writing a response to Lord Curzon’s ‘fifteen good reasons against the grant of female suffrage’.  How did other women in Hampshire, and the surrounding area, seek to push forward the rights of women? Continue reading “Women’s suffrage: petitions, protests and pilgrimages”

History and the Home: The Bates Family of Manydown Park, Basingstoke

The emblem of the English countryside idyll, the country house is one of the enduring cornerstones of England’s Romantic yesteryear. It is an integral part of our rural mythology; the silent, enduring custodian of the lands that fan from its walls. These houses, scattered across this green and pleasant land, have been privy to some of the country’s greatest hours and have raised many of the actors in those dramas. They have also been sewn into our literary consciousness, their often-ancient structures informing the creative decisions of some of our greatest writers. Wycoller Hall in Lancashire is one such place, believed to have been the inspiration for Ferndean Manor in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. These houses are simultaneously many things and often, amidst their grandeur, it is easy to forget that, above all other considerations, these were people’s homes.


Still image from Manydown films, ref AV1153/6. Continue reading “History and the Home: The Bates Family of Manydown Park, Basingstoke”

From Combination Acts to the closed shop – history of the labour movement at Hampshire Record Office

 Society of woodworkers

        Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers records (Ref: 171M88/14)

In the late eighteenth and early 19th century, the rapid pace of industrialisation in England altered the very nature of society.  Concerns were expressed by the establishment that power was shifting towards the working man.  This was considered to be a worrying development that should be stopped at all costs.  On 16 Aug 1788, a letter from Thomas Warner [a solicitor and at some time Town Clerk of Romsey] warns Moses Comley, John Carden and Joseph Hewlett, paper makers, of the dangers involved in trying to organise a strike at the paper mills of Mr Sharp at Romsey.


I find that you have formed yourselves into an Association and determined not to return to your work at Mr Sharps Paper mills unless he will advance your wages six pence per week each and that you have bribed one of his workmen to leave the Town, and prevented others from coming into his Service. This being the case and fearing that you might not consider that all combinations are unlawful and too often attended with dangerous consequences, I think it a duty incumbent on me to warn you against continuing in your present unhappy disposition which I fear will not only tend to impoverish yourselves but disquiet your families – And that you may abandon your precipitate shame and be convinced of the folly and danger of it.  I refer you to the Act of Parliament on that head which Wm Sharp will read to you, in the penalties of which you are certainly involved.  I hope upon a due reflection on the impropriety of your conduct you will, like honest and peaceable men return to your master’s service and thereby prevent the justices and myself from having the trouble and disagreeable office of putting the laws in execution against you.

Your humble servant

Thomas Warner, Romsey 16th August 1788”

Letter by Thomas Warner

(Ref: 97M81/3/5)

The Combination Acts of 1799 and 1800, were passed during the government of William Pitt the Younger, and sought to prohibit the formation of unions and collective bargaining by working men. Although acts had been passed as early as the 13th century preventing men from ‘combining’ against their employer, these new acts effectively made most union activities illegal and punishable by a three month prison sentence.  The acts also made it easier to prosecute cases as they were now to be heard by Justices of the Peace rather than in front of a jury.  Working men combining together in a climate where prices were soaring and the French revolution was still fresh in the memory caused genuine fear that revolution would happen here.  A look through correspondence of the time will reveal numerous references to concern felt about the ‘Jacobin’ threat.  For example, a letter to Thomas Hall junior from C F Kerby on 7 Nov 1793 gives the news that “I have been informed that the Landlord of the Dog and Star at the lower end of Alresford entertains the French Prisoners & suffers a great deal of the Jacobin talk” (ref: 44M69/F14/1/27/1).

The Combination Acts were repealed in 1824, but replaced in 1825 by another Combination Act which also restricted union activities. The 1820s saw the formation of some of the earliest unions such as the Steam Engine Makers Society. These developments, together with the continued industrialisation of the country which saw working men living together side by side in large numbers, continued to make the establishment very wary of the pace of social and political change taking place.  Hampshire Record Office holds a wealth of correspondence that can be used to study the changing face of Britain during this period.  For example, on 3 Nov 1830, we can see concern expressed in a letter in the Carnarvon papers from Lady Emily Herbert/Pusey to the Hon. Edward Herbert, about the situation in Manchester, where “rebellion seems ready to burst.  The master manufacturers are dreadfully alarmed; some have been obliged to suspend altogether their operations.  Every now & then comes one of their workers & with a gloomy countenance demands for himself & co a considerable rise of wages.  The master who perhaps has 6 or 7 hundred to pay says that he cannot afford to give it.  The man replies ‘Very well then tomorrow at eleven o’clock we stop work and you will not be able to replace us for you will have no coals the colliers will strike at the same time.’  Which they do and the master is ruined therby (sic).  The workmen are supported by the funds of the Trade’s Union Society which is composed of all artificers & mechanics from one end of England to the other, for the sake of protecting themselves as they term it from the oppression of the master.  Each subscribes 2 sh a week to it & allows the defaulter when thrown out of work 10 sh a week.  The society encreases (sic) & becomes more formidable daily – all the north of England is ripe for revolt at Carlisle the Radicals are trained & drilled every night to the number of a thousand.  The King’s speech is not likely to allay the discontent I regret that neither a remission of taxes nor a moderate reform is mentioned. The time I fear is come when we must give largely or lose all.”

Lady Emily Herbert 1

Lady Emily Herbert 2

(Ref: 75M91/F4/1)

Landowners in the south of England were also alarmed and keen to avoid a repetition of the ‘Swing riots’ of 1830. They viewed attempts to form ‘friendly societies’ with great suspicion.  In 1834, six agricultural workers in Tolpuddle, Dorset, who had formed the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers, were arrested for taking ‘seditious oaths’ under the Mutiny Act.  The ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ were found guilty and transported to Australia.  There was an outpouring of public protest in the wake of the sentence, including a massive trade union demonstration in London.  Eventually, pressure to indict the King’s brother for administering secret oaths as Grand Master of the Orange Order forced the King to grant a pardon to the men.

In the late 1830s and 1840s trade unionism took a back seat and working men turned to the more overtly political aims of the call for reform by the Chartists. The movement took its name from the People’s Charter of 1838.  Although the government did not concede to any of the aims of the Chartists, the movement taught working men a lot about how to lead and inspire a movement that became useful to future trade union leaders.

The Amalgamated Society of Engineers was formed in 1851 and with it the first of the ‘new model unions’. These unions saw the merging of smaller bodies into one larger union that now had a centralised structure, with local branches needing approval from the national body for any action taken.  ‘New model unions’ had a national head quarters and full time union officials that transformed trade unionism and set a pattern for the future. Other key developments in the 1850s and 1860s were the founding of the Trade Union Congress and the growth in the formation of local trades councils.

Letter to ABF from Amalgamated Society of Engineers

(Ref: 19M62/47/21)

By the 1890s the rise of ‘New unionism’ saw a distinct shift in the labour movement from representation of skilled workers and artisans to these new unions that were there to represent the needs of unskilled workers. Union membership was no longer the exclusive preserve of highly skilled and relatively well off workers.

The years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 saw a great deal of turmoil and industrial unrest in the country. For example, the textile, transportation and coal mining industries all had serious disputes during this period.  Below we can see B Company of the Kings’ Royal Rifle Corps on duty with the police during the Hull rail strike of 1911.

Royal Green Jackets

(Ref: 170A12W/P/8046/09 – Captain George Rennie; P J R Currie)

Trade unions gave strong support to the war effort once war was declared in 1914, and scaled back on industrial disputes. The Trade Union Congress declared an ‘industrial truce’ for the duration of the war.  However, industrial unrest returned after the end of the war, culminating with the General Strike of 1926.  For more about the General Strike, see our separate blog linked below.

The first meeting of the Eastleigh Trades Council was held on 19 May 1936 at the Town Hall in Eastleigh. The minutes of this meeting provide a fascinating insight into the unions active in the area in the 1930s.  Unions represented are listed along with the names of representatives.  The National Society of Painters and Decorators, the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, the Boilermakers Society, National Union of Vehicle Makers, Amalgamated Engineering Union, National Union of Railwaymen (two branches represented for the NUR at Eastleigh), Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers, Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers and the Transport and General Workers Union all sent at least one representative

With the advent of the Second World War, union leaders were quick to show that trade unions were important allies in the fight against fascism. Hampshire Record Office holds a delightful union steward’s guide book published during the Second World War for workers in the key shipbuilding industry. The guide book is keen to advertise, “The proud record of solid achievement, which shop stewards have been able to win because of the active support of their fellow workers, has raised their status.  Universal recognition is now given to their sterling cause in the anti-Fascist cause of trade unionism” (Ref: 171M88/14/14).

Shop Steward 1

(Ref: 171M88/14/14)

This book makes interesting reading and has some great illustrations throughout.

Shop Steward 2

Shop Steward 3

This publication goes on to talk about the false opportunities provided to workers by management appointed ‘staff representatives’ as opposed to official union representatives.

“ The Works Council, so beloved of reactionary employers, is set up by them with the purpose of undermining trade unionism, or, hampering its coming into the factories. They do not proclaim this for to do so would defeat their purpose, but it is usually easy to distinguish this type of employer.  Their stock arguments are all very similar, something along the lines of ‘we are all one happy family…Any worker can come and see the management on his grievances.’ This ‘happy family’ theme is designed to cover up the dictatorial treatment of the rest of the family by the fatherly directors who do not want to consult the poor relations.  Nevertheless, they have to recognise the instinctive urge of the workers to collective bargaining and representation.”

(Ref: 171M88/14/14)

Contribution CardNational Amalgamated Society of Operative House and Ship Painters and Decorators contribution card from 1946 (Ref: 64A17/2)

An extract from the Daily Worker of 1940, contained within correspondence of Amalgamated Engineering Union (ref: 121A05/1), gives an interesting insight into the operation of the ‘closed shop’.

“Strikers boo employer:

Strikers at a Lymington, Hampshire factory engaged on Government work are back at work in an atmosphere of complete solidarity. When a man persisted in his refusal to join the Amalgamated Engineering Union last week workers went out on strike.  It was at this factory that the management circulated a leaflet declaring that ‘strikes are Hitlerism’”

The firm referred to in this extract was Messrs Wellworthy Piston Ring Co. This interesting correspondence includes legal advice on a steward being charged with a breach of the peace.  It also makes reference to alleged ‘Fifth Column’ activities of the union steward.

Hampshire Record Office can provide insights in to the long running causes fought for by labour movement too. For example, the Whiteley Committee Staff Side minute book of 1946-1970 tells us a great deal about the labour movements fight for safe working conditions, especially when moving staff to new premises as the extract below illustrates.

“A special meeting solely to discuss the proposals for adaptations of Martin’s Building to house the Telegraph section. The Secretary drew attention to the fact that no mention was made on the plans for strengthening the floors and/or the walls of the building and he asked the member to agree that this should be the first question to be put to the Official Side and that an assurance be requested that the floors etc were structurally sound.  Agreed.” 18 Apr 1946 (Ref: 27M96/MN1)

Meetings could sometimes get quite heated. “The general view here was that the Official Side may or may not accept the terms of such a resolution without the staff side being unanimous.  At this juncture there was some disorder, followed by Mr Millard giving notice of withdrawal, there being no representative of his branch remaining, and Mr Ripley also withdrew.  The chairman brought the meeting to order by proclaiming that deadlock had been reached amongst the Staff Side, all resolutions had fallen, and no decisions had been made.” 1 May 1950 (Ref: 27M96/MN1)

Membership card

(Ref: 38A14/7)

Hampshire Record Office holds the minute book of the Petersfield Association of the National Union of Teachers for the period from 1961 to 1968 (Ref: 112M91/1). Some of the volume is devoted to an ongoing dispute between teachers and the Minister for Education in relation to a pay offer. For example the entry from 7 Nov 1961 states that “Sir Ronald Gould reported that the Authorities wanted us to accept the offer & in return would bring future negotiations forward a year & oppose discrimination against teachers in pay award.”

Petersfield National Union of Teachers minutes

(Ref: 112M91/1)

By 23 Jan 1962 the minutes record that “The Secretary pointed out that much of the earlier correspondence had arrived soon after strike action was called off, dealing with that subject and that it was no longer relevant.”

Petersfield National Union of Teachers minutes2

(Ref: 112M91/1)

Holdings at Hampshire Record Office also include papers concerning the privatisation of the electricity industry in the 1980s (Ref: 121M92/11), ultimately leading to the closure of Marchwood Engineering Laboratories in 1992.

Marchwood Engineering Laboratories 1

Marchwood Engineering Laboratories 2

(Ref: 121M92/11)

National Farmers' Union minutes

National Farmers’ Union (Hampshire Branch) minute book (Ref: 123A15)

You might think that being involved in the labour movement is all resolutions, strike committees and rule books! Being a member of a trade union guaranteed benefits to the union member in times of hardship.  However unions were often active organising in the community in order to gain social improvements for all working people.  For example, by campaigning for equal pay for women and the introduction of new laws protecting health and safety at work.  Union members often collected for charity.  Below you can see a photograph of members of the Student Union presenting a cheque to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, for money collected during RAG week at King Alfred’s College in 1994 (ref: 47M91W/S5/9/67 – copyright Hampshire Chronicle).


A number of HRO’s deposits of trade union records also reveal the social side of belonging to the labour movement. The minutes of the Eastleigh and District Hospitals Branch of the National Union of Public Employees (Ref: 77A10) give us a sense of the value of trade union membership to workers as a means of socialising.

The minutes from Aug 1954 record that, “A good deal of time was taken on the proposed rally to Southsea. It was agreed to obtain tickets at 12/6 each. This included coach, tea and a theatre show in the evening.  After some discussion a 32 seater coach was decided upon.  The secretary promised to undertake these arrangements.” (Ref: 77A10/1).  Some of the forms of entertainment provided would be frowned upon in the 21st century; however back in 1964 the minutes note that “tickets were sold to members who wished to travel to London to see the Black and White Minstrel Show at Victoria Palace”.  The minutes go on to mention skittle alley outings, trips to the Royal Tournament at Earls Court, scholarships to the TUC Training College in addition to looking after members who are unwell, “The Secretary informed members of visits to Bro. Goddard in hospital.  It was agreed by members present to send a box of fruit and card from the branch to the value of £1.50”, 9 Jul 1974 (Ref: 77A10/1)

Below we can see members of the National Union of Railwaymen enjoying a party together with their families in 1950.

National Union of Railwaymen party

(Ref: 139M86/212/1)

National Union of Railwaymen party 2

(Ref: 139M86/212)

Union members often went away together for an annual outing. Below we can see two photographs of the Fire Brigades Union on their annual outing to Tonbridge in 1909

National Fire brigades union outing

(Ref: 119M84W/3)

National Fire brigades union outing 2

(Ref: 119M84W/2)

So whether your interest is in the social history of the area, or you have an ancestor who was active in the labour movement in Hampshire, do come in and see the labour movement records we hold here at Hampshire Record Office.

Rhian Dolby

Searchroom team