This archive is part of a larger Batten’s collection purchased by Somerset Heritage Centre. The smaller, Dorset element of the archive was in turn acquired thanks to DAT’s Emergency Purchase Fund. The collection which consists of several hundred documents contains some really interesting early items – written in Latin and dating back to the eras of Henry VI, Henry VII and Elizabeth. The archive is typical of some of the fascinating material that is sometimes contained within the archives of solicitors’ firms, of which Dorset History Centre has many. The Batten’s archive is now safely stored within DHC’s and has been assigned the reference D/BTT.
Two albums kept by a Mildred Baker of Lennox Street Weymouth dated “1899” and a note states “Age 8”. The second album has an address in Ashley Road Parkstone (near Poole) which has been crossed through and the Lennox Street Weymouth address added again, dated “March 27th 1900”.
The pages comprise a lovely mixture of nature notes, detailing the names of plants and from where they were obtained, a variety of plant specimens affixed (usually by glue, larger ones with tape) and the occasional watercolour drawing or photograph. There are numerous visits to South Dorset and in particular the coastal areas. Other trips further afield are noted including a visit to London, and in particular the Zoo with photographs and several parrot feathers which were picked up and carefully inserted. Many of the Dorset journeys were carried out on bicycles or on walks with her parents, both of whom also seem to have had a keen interest in botany. Tales of their journeys are also included. There is a note of taking tea with “Mr and Mrs Bowles Barrett he is a great botanist and is going to help me” [probably William Bowles Barrett, Lawyer & Botanist, 1833-1915].
A third album is similarly bound in green cloth, and a note inside states “Barbara Baker Witchampton Rectory April 15th 1912 aged 10”, which may give us a clue to the original owner as a Reverend E.W. Baker (assisted by Lord Alington) erected the first Village Hall in Witchampton in 1924, so Mildred and Barbara Baker may have been his children? The third book follows a similar pattern, and is about half full. It breaks at one point for several years (until 1917) when she notes that she had been away at school in Bristol as well as bemoaning the difficulty of walking the coastal path at Portland due to the war. Finally, the last few pages note a different name (“Belinda Parham 3 Arboretum Rd Edinburgh Age 9”) with similar specimens collected during Spring 1949. It is unknown what relation this contributor is to the Baker girls.
A photograph of a young girl is also included and may possibly be one of the Baker sisters. Also three associated letters comprising 1934 2pp from Gerald Allen, Bishop of Sherborne regarding “..your husband’s illness”, 1911 1pp from Frederick Ridgeway, Bishop of Kensington and 1913 2pp from Charles Robertson Honey.
The Dorset History Centre held a reception on 29th of March to celebrate the completion of the Poole Borough Project. This significant project catalogued over 1600 boxes of parchment and paper spanning 800 years. A tremendous effort which included the creation of a digital catalogue, conservation of documents where needed, and the repackaging of all the boxes for storage in the History Centre’s climate controlled strong rooms. This has ensured the preservation and accessibility of Poole Borough’s archival history.
I was very privileged to join these celebrations representing the Dorset Archives Trust (DAT). DAT are proud to be one of the organisations along with The National Archives, which provided funds for this project. Other attendees included the Mayor of Poole, Councilors from Poole Borough, Poole historians, volunteers from the project and staff from the History Centre.
The event showcased a selection of items from the archive, including the founding Longespee Charter dating from 1248 down the timeline to a letter to the Mayor in the early 1960s. Also on display was the full archive catalogue which can now accessed over the Internet. The project archivist Katherine Kinrade gave a fascinating presentation on the work of the project and anecdotes on the 15,000 items held in the archive. A delightful afternoon enjoyed by all, the only sad part was saying goodbye to Katherine who has done such a sterling job as Project Archivist. We wish her all the best for the future!
Dorset Archives Trust
Colin Divall, former Professor of Railway Studies at York University, now resident again in his native Dorset, gave a fascinating overview of the background to and impact of Dr Richard Beeching’s (now eponymous) 1963 report The Reshaping of British Railways. Colin grew up within sight of the Wimborne line and witnessed the last trains to run along that branch of the Southampton and Dorchester railway before its closure in 1974. The keen interest in railway history was evidenced by a full house at Dorset History Centre with an audience of 70.
Colin has researched the background the closures in Dorset, with particular emphasis on the lines in the east of the county serving Wimborne, Blandford and the conurbation of Bournemouth and Poole. He has analysed archives from the period including financial reports, newspapers and even correspondence from members of the public to build up a picture of the times – and of the hard-headed economics which drove the cuts to the railway system. Contrary to Beeching’s modern reputation as the wrecker of the railways, Colin demonstrated that there was little actual contemporary protest against the closures, although the quote from his talk’s title was taken from a letter from a Dorset woman written directly to the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples. Colin also pointed out that although many of the railways which were closed were shut on the basis of hard economics, the actual case for closure in some cases was actually far more marginal.
He left us with a series of ‘what if?’ scenarios relating to the railways. With the benefits of hindsight it is entirely possible that the Wimborne line in particular, but other Dorset railways too, would be in service today – given the expansion of the conurbation and east Dorset and the preference many of us have for taking the train over driving. Sadly, the reinstatement of this line seems very unlikely with railway bed having been built on.
On display during the evening were several of Dorset History Centre’s large collection of historic railway plans.
It contains, local adverts, lists of club officials and members, a ‘bird’s-eye map of Dorsetshire’ printed in blue on back wrap together with a printed letter, Sept. 30th, 1914, from the Club referring to a suggested ‘Motor Patrol’ of principal Dorset roads in order to safeguard telegraph and telephone lines for which volunteers were sought. A further letter one month later postpones the motor patrols due to a dearth of volunteers and ‘certain legal questions’.
Martin Andrews gave a spirited and affectionate talk about Rena Gardiner. A modest and private lady living and working in Tarrant Monkton who he had met and interviewed. He was very generous passing round the guide books to Corfe Castle and the Tarrant Valley, now rare and difficult to get hold of. His talk was beautifully illustrated with many slides showing work she did for the National Trust. Her first love had been architecture and she sketched all over Europe, particularly in Italy. Her chosen method of printing her work,lithography, was very labour intensive and Martin described her cottage as a veritable warren with stacks of paper everywhere and antiquated machinery which only she could get to work. He showed us some of her lino cuts which she went back to towards the end of her life. She remained active and hard working right till her death aged 70 in 1999.
We are currently seeking to recruit two new trustees to the board of the charity. The roles are:
- Membership Secretary
- Events Coordinator
DAT is a friendly organisation and we look forward to welcoming new recruits to assist in our work.
For more information, see the job descriptions (membership co-ordinator or events co-ordinator). If you would like to discuss either role further or have any questions relating to DAT and its operations, please email or ring Sam Johnston, Hon Secretary on: firstname.lastname@example.org or 01305-228929.
The unpredictable summer weather stayed dry for the second Dorset Archives Trust Summer Gala event at Kingston Lacy hosted in association with The National Trust, owners of the superb Bankes family archive. Around 70 guests gathered on the rolling lawns to enjoy their picnics before gathering on the terrace to enjoy a glass of fizz with strawberries and cream. There was also live music to entertain guests provided by Bonnie Schwartz. Everyone then entered the house to the fantastically decorated Saloon where they were entertained by an exclellent illustrated talk by Judith Teasdale, the Project Officer engaged on the Bankes Archive Project. Judith galloped through the history of the Bankes family both at Corfe Castle and Kingston Lacy illuminated by tales from the archives that have just started to be referenced and catalogued to be made available to all. She used a wide and varied set of examples, including one that illustrated Sir John Bankes’s work to recover part of the Crown Jewels of Elizabeth I which had been mortgaged. Another document was one detailing the bail conditions set for the flamboyant William Bankes, arrested twice for homosexual acts, something punishable at the time by capital punishment. 5,000 documents belonging to the archive have so far been catalogued. With staff and volunteers working hard to make the collection available, it is exciting to ponder on the stories yet to be discovered. Funds raised by the event will go towards the project which is being managed by Dorset History Centre. For further information or to learn about how to get involved see here: https://news.dorsetforyou.gov.uk/unlocking-the-bankes-archive/about/
The Dorset Archives Trust Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday 12 May 2016. At the meeting the Chairman gave a full comprehensive report on the activities of the Trust in the past year which had been a successful and productive one, the full report is available here (Chairmans report 2016). Following this various items were raised including a minor amendment to the constitution, the reappointment of trustees ( Debbie Shaw (Treasurer), Pam Donnellan, Pam Seaton and Jacqui Halewood) and the approval of the accounts which were all unanimously approved by the members attending the event.
Following the AGM, members and other guests, were entertained by a fascinating talk by Anna Pavord, well known gardening writer and author of the recently published book ‘Landskipping’. Anna first talked about her passion for the landscape and how the landscape and been viewed and shaped in the past both by painters and by farmers and agricultural improvers. Following that she described how her interest in her local Dorset landscape had led to her involvement with the archives held at the History Centre. She discussed her use of tithe maps and census information which had helped her to gain an understanding of the landscape of Powerstock had evolved from past to present and how the lives of individuals effected it. She focused on one ‘Absalom Guppy’ who she had identified in the records and traced through a career as a ‘haggler’ (an itinerant dealer) to his demise in Beaminster workhouse. Following the presentation there was a lively debate from the floor.
Poole Flying Boats – a lecture by Jeremy Waters, 4 February 2016
Dorset Archives Trust members and paying guests enjoyed a fascinating lecture from Jeremy Waters, a long-time resident of Poole, key supporter of Poole Flying Boats Celebration and author of Parkstone-on-Sea – Salterns, Sandbanks and Seaplanes. Jeremy narrated the story of Poole harbour’s key role as a transport hub both before and after World War Two, and its vital role as a communications hub during the war years. Long before the development of Heathrow and other major airports, it was Poole harbour and its flying boats (of which only a handful survive) that provided Britain’s principal international air link. The flying boats connected Britain to its empire with routes across Africa and via Asia to Australia. During the war such notable visitors as General de Gaulle entered and exited the country via Poole. Jeremy responded to a series of questions after his talk. A highlight of the evening was the contribution of one audience member – a 94-year old veteran flying boat navigator, now resident in Bristol, who recalled his time in the flying boats. Jeremy and colleagues are hoping to be able to record an oral history interview him to capture these memories for posterity.
DAT would like to thank Jeremy and to all the audience members who made this such a memorable evening.