Thursday, 8 March 2018

The Bayeux Tapestry

Well I may as well get in on the act. It's taken a long, long time, but it looks as if we nearly got here a couple of times before:
  • MEPO 2/9484: police protection for transporting the Bayeux Tapestry - exhibition subsequently cancelled 1953
  • FO 924/1628: commemoration of the Norman Conquest - possible exhibition of Bayeux Tapestry in London 1966
Obviously it didn't work out, but we've always been worried about the Tapestry:

  • FO 371/40995/18: parliamentary question by Lady Apsley about the whereabouts of the Bayeux Tapestry, which was reported to have been removed by the Germans. In response, Sir J. Grigg answered that it was likely that the tapestry was in a store in the south of France with other objects from French National Museums July 1944.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Winston's growl

Whatever his failings as a politician (and there are far too many to list here), he's seldom out of the news, and here's my minor contribution to the myth.

Recently found in CAB 3/383/15, a note from Winston Churchill to the Minister of War Transport, dated 13 February 1943 and concluding with this startling adjuration:

  • 'Prepare then your paper, and let us go into it in the coming week.'

Churchillian or what! You can almost hear that growl of his.

Monday, 4 December 2017

The best days of your life... what my grandmother used to say about your schooldays, and to judge from the following further extracts from the elementary school reports at TNA that I've been looking at, I may have been too dismissive; she may have been on to something:

ED 21/23419: Ballaugh Supplementary Class, 14 May 1913 (Mr J. W. Veysey)
  • 'Nature study is taken with considerable success and the children are keenly interested in this branch of their studies. Another year they might be encouraged to collect and classify the wild flowers in which the district is unusually rich.'
ED 21/23419: Ballaugh Supplementary Class, 8 June 1914 (Mr H. Ward)
  • 'They display a special interest in Nature Study of all kinds and have an intimate knowledge of both the plants and birds of the locality.'
An interesting contrast to the previous extracts I made, and it's difficult to imagine a better evocation of the last gasp of golden Edwardian nostalgia without resorting to fiction - might be time to reread Laurie Lee's Cider with Rosie, although that was slightly later of course.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Further wanderings

The following brief extracts from Isle of Man elementary school inspection reports at TNA paint a particularly vivid picture:

ED 21/47210: Maughold New Central Board School, 9 July 1920

  • 'Children should not be allowed to render songs in violently discordant fashion & slackness, hesitancy, indifference should not characterise physical exercises.'
ED 21/47211: Michael Parochial Board School, 13 July 1921

  • 'The children recite well & sing sweetly; sight singing from both notations is well taught & with considerable success. Drawing presents pleasing features, appreciation of form, colour & finish seem to be well marked.'
ED 21/47213: Dalby Board School, 28 May and 2 June 1919

  • '... the older children have recently made creditable progress, though they are still backward for their age.'
ED 21/47218: St Maughold's RC School, 6 and 18 July 1921

  • '... energy in general is low, so they read silently & study in a vague, otiose way, not without enjoyment, but without scrutiny or criticism.'
Now that's the sort of bracing stuff that would knock our young people into shape! 

Friday, 3 November 2017

Further wanderings...

The loss of the London pub: now that is an ongoing tragedy that will surely be of great interest to economic and social historians in the future. And as a measure of how bad things have got in my part of east London what better place to start than Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, where we find a gem of a document in a somewhat unlikely setting:

L/BGM/A/12/1/13: Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green, Housing Committee: Minutes 1946-48 

  • See 8 April 1947 for a remarkable report that lists all of the licenced premises in the old metropolitan borough of Bethnal Green, giving name, exact location and brewery. A grand total of 175 premises for the discerning drinker to choose from: what, I dread to think, remains - a question of interest for CAMRA members and any other pub historians out there.  

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Wanderings (and wonderings) among the archives

First in a series of random and surprising items that may be of interest to someone somewhere, stumbled upon by chance and hurriedly noted while working in various London archives.

This week's offering from the London Metropolitan Archives, and the political powerhouse that was the Parks and Open Spaces Committee:

LCC/MIN/09014: London County Council, Parks and Open Spaces Committee: Presented Papers 1942-43

The POSC meeting of 26 February 1943 considered the following:

  • Letter from the Ministry of Information, dated 12 February 1943, re proposal to erect a plaque at 8 Gray's Inn Place to commemorate the fact that Sun Yat-Sen had lived there from 1896. The letter makes clear that this was a gesture to keep the Chinese sweet...

Monday, 25 September 2017

A wayward political journey

In spite of all of the evidence to the contrary, I still tend to think of individuals as staying fixed in a political sense, probably because I am myself and most of the the people I know personally are too. But of course such steadfastness/stupidity (delete according to choice) does not apply to many people, and some time ago I came across a striking example in the League of Nations Union papers at the London School of Economics of just how far an individual can travel politically. The Union was the type of rather well-meaning (but, with the benefit of hindsight, hapless) inter-war organisation that is likely to have attracted some acerbic comment from George Orwell: who should be listed as a rather generous donor in the 1922 Annual Report but Oswald Mosley - 'put me down for £50', he probably didn't say. That rather eccentric individual's political journey has been well researched, but this does show just how far people can shift.

There are two ways of looking at these political journeys: either people are so ideologically confused that they themselves don't know and understand what they profess to believe; or they are brave and original thinkers who nimbly react to changing political conditions and refuse to be contained by any orthodoxies. A tough one to decide: it could be the latter, except that the political journey always seems to be one way - rather a sign of simply having given up I fear.