Wednesday, 13 April 2016

‘Till death us do part’?: marriage, love and wills in the Archbishops' Registers

When David Cressy examined aspects of marriage in Tudor and Stuart times, he asked whether or not love played a part in courtship and marriage then (1). Unlike other historians, such as Laurence  Stone, he considered that love was fundamental to marriage in that era and in support of his argument cited one Stuart source which stated that ‘to the end that marriages may be perpetual, loving and delightful betwixt the parties, there must and ought to be knitting of hearts before striking of hands’(2).

So is it possible to discover the affection in which an Elizabethan testator held his wife from the wording of his will? Perhaps, judging from wills being examined in the ‘York’s Archbishops’ Registers Revealed’ project. A project generously supported by the Marc Fitch Fund is currently indexing the Archbishops' Registers for the period 1576-1650, and much of the content for this period consists of probate records, largely for beneficed clergy.

Take, for instance, the will of Charles Daintith (1557-1595), vicar of Kirk Ella, 1591-5, made shortly before his death (3). He mentioned his wife Isabel several times in strikingly loving terms, which do not seem to be merely formulaic, as ‘Isabell Jepson my beloved freind and my true and lawfull wief now by the lawes of this Realme established’ and ‘Isabell Jepson my welbeloved wief’.

'my beloved freind'
He left the residue of his estate to his ‘beloved wief’ and made her his executrix on one condition, which was ‘desiring as there was ever true love betwixt her and me ... that she will not forgett at hir ending if she keep hir so long unmaried my brother Gabriell and his children and my sisters children’.

Was this the same experience for all? Perhaps not, and the will of Barnabie Shepherd (d. 1588) may be a case in point (4) This was a nuncupative will, spoken before witnesses who recalled:
‘Memorandum that the Fyftenthe day of Februarie in the yeare of our Lorde God one thowsande, fyve hundrethe eightie seven, accordinge to the course and computacioun of the churche of Englande Barnabie Shepperde, bachelour of devynytye and parson of Bulmer, of the dyoces of Yorke being of perfecte mynde and memorye, and being asked and desyred to knowe to whome he woulde dispose or gyve his goodes, whether to his Wyfe, (meanynge Brygett Shepperde then his Wyfe) or not Annswered and sayd, yea to his wyfe, or the like wordes in effecte, in the presence of Fraunces Layton and Josias Fawether.’
So was he in pain or just bad-tempered or were relations between him and his wife less than loving?

'yea to his wyfe'
We will never know!

Are these just two examples at either end of the spectrum of marital affection or are there many others waiting to be discovered as work progresses? Watch this space!

Helen Watt
Marc Fitch Project Archivist


(1) David Cressy, Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford, 1997), pp. 260-3.

(2) Ibid., p. 262, citing from John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Godly Forme of Houshold Government (1630).

(3) BIA, Register 31, fol. 132 v, entry 2, Will of Charles Daintith, vicar of Kirk Ella, made 24 June 1595, proved 3  October 1595; Alumni Oxonienses; Clergy of the Church of England database (CCEd), available at

(4) BIA, Register 31, fol. 105 v, entry 1, Will of Barnaby Shepherd, Rector of Bulmer, made 15 February 1588, proved 14 March 1588; Alumni Cantabrigienses; CCEd.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Introducing the Borthwick Catalogue

In April 2015 we launched Project Genesis, an ambitious two year project to create the Institute’s first online catalogue using AtoM, or Access to Memory, a web-based, open-source application for archival description and access.  One year on, we are proud to announce that the Borthwick Catalogue (or Borthcat as we’ve begun to call it!) is now live.

You can find the catalogue here (need some tips on searching? Try our help page or check out our Frequently Asked Questions)

The catalogue will continue to grow over the next year, and in years to come, but already it contains descriptions of 376 of our archival collections, spanning 28 countries and 825 years of world history.  The subject matter is impressively broad; church and parish, family and estate, manorial, health, television and theatrical, business and political records demonstrating changing attitudes to religion, morality, education, industrial welfare, health and human and civil rights from the medieval to the modern age.  

Each archive has a detailed ‘top level’ description in the catalogue, recording its unique reference code, the dates it covers and an overview of its contents, together with key information regarding access and links to related archives at the Borthwick and elsewhere.  Why not browse our archives alphabetically, or try our subject or place lists to find out what’s available.

Information about the creator of each archive is also available in a separate authority record, linked in the archival description.  You can browse these here.

In certain cases, full archival catalogues are included with these top level descriptions.  These include the catalogue for The Retreat psychiatric hospital, the British Music Society of York, and the papers of Sir Charles Wood, Secretary of State for India.  

For others, such as our popular parish record collections, we have made the paper finding aids available on the catalogue as a clickable PDF, enabling online users to browse these lists or search their contents via the catalogue search function for the first time.  Please note that these lists do not include parish register indexes which will continue to be available in our search room and on Findmypast. More complete catalogues will be added as we continue to develop Borthcat, opening up our holdings to international audiences and improving our online accessibility.

As Project Archivist, it has been very exciting to see the catalogue taking shape and there have been more than a few surprises along the way.  Personal highlights have included the log books of a 17th century admiral, Robert Fairfax, the discovery of a female Sexton at Holy Trinity Goodramgate in the 19th century and a school book with a link to Railway Children author Edith Nesbit, not to mention a 1956 letter from Harry Corbett and Sooty!  

Look out for new content over the coming months but in the meantime, we hope you enjoy using the Borthwick Catalogue to explore some of our holdings and if you have any thoughts or feedback, we’d love to hear them.

Happy searching!

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Project

A robin, after bathing, at Askham Bog. (BIA/YWT/A177)
The Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) is one of the largest Wildlife Trusts in Britain and its 97 reserves cover some of the most varied landscapes in the UK. It works to protect and conserve Yorkshire's wild places and wildlife, with reserves including Spurn National Nature Reserve, Flamborough Cliffs, Potteric Carr, and my local reserve of Askham Bog. The Trust was established in 1946 and in the year it celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is very exciting to have launched a 12 month project to catalogue and promote the Trust’s extensive archive.

Working in partnership with YWT and supported by funding from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, by 2017 we will have described the archive to file level and to have made this accessible through the Borthwick’s online catalogue. The archive of YWT, like their reserves, is of national and international importance. It documents the establishment of the Trust and its development through to the modern day, as well as the bio-recording of internationally scarce habitats, relationships with landowners and the precedent-making legal cases led by the Trust in the 1970s. The archive highlights the UK’s unique role in the development of nature conservation and is the largest body (both in volume and subject coverage) of such material as yet deposited in any public institution. It includes paper, photographs and digital material and covers 3.5m3.

As well as cataloguing the archive, thereby releasing its research potential to new and existing audiences, the project will also include the running of workshops on archival appraisal and conservation. We'll also be using new and traditional media to continue to promote the archive throughout the year.

The archive as it looks today!

Over the next few weeks, I will be starting some preliminary survey work on the boxes which will help me develop a structure for the catalogue. I’ll also be familiarising myself with Access to Memory (AtoM) the open-source, web-based application we're using to host our online catalogue. Personally and professionally, I am very excited to be working as the archivist on this project. It really will be a fascinating (not to mention busy!) twelve months and I look forward to keeping you all up-to-date as it develops. In the meantime, if there’s anything in particular you’d like to know about the project or how we’re approaching it do feel free to comment below or to get in touch through our Twitter or Facebook.

Lydia Dean
Project Archivist

Box count: 2/200 surveyed...

Friday, 26 February 2016

York County Hospital and World War One

York County Hospital was established in 1740 and until 1977, when the current hospital opened, was the main hospital in York. The hospital was originally run as a charity, supported by wealthy subscribers. It continued to be run in this way right up to the 20th century when the income from subscriptions and investments was supplemented by patient fees and insurance schemes.  It joined the NHS in 1948 and treated its last patients in 1980. The original County Hospital buildings are still standing and can be seen just off Monkgate.

In 1914, when World War One broke out, the hospital allocated 50 beds for military patients. By the end of that year it had treated 102 sick and wounded soldiers. The percentage of military patients treated at the hospital increased throughout the war and, to accommodate them, two additional hutted wards were built at the back of the main hospital building. 

Photograph of sick and wounded soldiers,
Annual Report 1916 (BIA YCH 1/2/9)

Analysis of military cases
Annual Report 1916 (BIA YCH 1/2/9)
The hospital treated both medical and surgical patients. During 1916, amongst other medical cases, staff dealt with 7 cases of gas poisoning and 13 cases of trench fever. This extract of the surgical treatments carried out on military patients includes numerous bayonet, bullet and shrapnel wounds, as well as several shell shock patients.

During the First World War, around 10% of British casualties were classified as suffering from shell-shock. At the start of the conflict, it was believed that shell-shock was caused by physical head injuries resulting from bombardment. In 1915, a paper in the medical journal The Lancet put forward an alternative, psychological, explanation for the disorder noting that many soldiers that were suffering the symptoms of shell-shock had not received a head injury. By 1917, the British military authorities tried to limit the use of the diagnosis and continuing debates over causes and treatments created further controversy. By World War Two, to diagnose shell-shock was forbidden.   

List of gifts donated for wounded soldiers
Annual Report 1916 (BIA YCH 1/2/9)
Photograph of the night staff, 1914 (BIA YCH 1/6)
The coming of war meant that the County Hospital faced huge financial strain. With an existing debt of £3,800 and the price of commodities rising, the hospital’s 1916 annual report noted an increased expenditure of 24%. A special appeal in 1915-16 sought to raise funds and the generosity of hospital supporters is documented in the lists of gifts donated to the military patients. An extract of this list is included above, showing a range of the gifts given: from eggs, tobacco and newspapers to concert tickets, gramophone records and car rides.

By May 1919, the County Hospital had treated over 2000 military patients. As the hospital slowly returned to its peace-time operations, the wards built for the soldiers were converted into new treatment spaces. One space formed an orthopaedic department for discharged servicemen and other patients who required ongoing therapy. The continuing treatment of veterans was something at the forefront of the minds of those running the hospital, succinctly displayed in this quite from their annual report (BIA YCH 1/2/9):

"It is, of course, essential that those who have been disabled or broken in health in the service of the Country should receive the best possible treatment, and it seems obvious that such treatment is not most readily available at the general hospitals...Pending the satisfactory arrangement of conditions, the Committee, with the complete agreement of the Medical Staff have decided that the full resources of the Hospital shall be placed at the disposal of all discharged men who are recommended for treatment."

Lydia Dean
Archives Assistant

This blog is in part based on a forthcoming exhibition at York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.



Ben Shephard 'Pitiless psychology’: the role of prevention in British military psychiatry in the Second World War' in History of Psychiatry October 1999 10: 491-524

Edgar Jones, Ph.D., D.Phil. Nicola T. Fear, D.Phil. Simon Wessely, M.D. 'Shell Shock and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: A Historical Review' in Am J Psychiatry 2007; 164:1641–1645

K.A. Webb From County Hospital to NHS Trust, The History and Archives of NHS hospitals, services and management in York 1740-2000 (Vol 1: History) Borthwick Texts and Calendars 27, UoY 2002

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Holocaust Memorial Day

'We had a boy of 17 with us in the holidays, one of the dearest people I've ever known.  He was asked to write the enclosed for someone in Canada, & did it in the hope that it might help people to understand that the persecution is not made up of isolated pogroms, but of a fear that is continual & unremitting.  I am sending it because perhaps it will give some idea of the background from which Mr Feller will have come.' 
 - Letter to the Dean of the Society of the Sacred Mission from Marjorie Milne, 1939. 
A full transcript of the following account is available below.

The account of Otto T. is included among the papers of the Society of the Sacred Mission, an Anglican religious order whose archive is deposited here at the Borthwick.  In 1938-9 the Society worked with Miss Marjorie Milne of Scarborough, and others, to arrange safe haven to England for the Fellers, a Jewish family from Vienna.



By O.T. a Viennese boy of 17.

I write this because I see how few people can know what happens in
Germany now.  I know very well what the unemployed have to suffer but I was in
Germany and know that it is not to compare with the sufferings of the German
Jews.  What I tell here I have seen with my own eyes.

The German Jew has not the chance to get even a little occasional work,
they have not the possibility to go elsewhere because all money is taken from
them, and they are no minute sure they will not be imprisoned without the least
reason just because they are Jews.  The Jew without friends or relations in
other countries is practically condemned to die.  Have you realised this till
now? Can you as Christ watch this?

I was living for a long time from the Jewish poor kitchen; sometimes the
Nazis enjoyed to ruin all this kitchen; then all many thousand people had
nothing to eat for a few days.  You can say also an unemployed can have nothing
to eat for a few days, but can this happen to him? At 11 o’clock night, 10
S.S. men come into a Jew’s flat, awaken him and force him to come with them.
He is brought to a cellar with other Jews.  Here S.S. men take out their
revolver, the Jews have to face the wall.  After a minute one shoots into the
air, and then the Jews half-dead of his horror can go again.

On the day that Rath was killed 15,000 Jews, only in Vienna, were imprisoned.
Anybody who was seen without a swastika was imprisoned on this day.  After
being beaten awfully they were imprisoned.  First in schools and other official
buildings.  The prisons were all full.  They were so many in one room that they
could not move one step.  (I say not more than absolutely happened).  8 hours
they stood like this, then about the half was sent to a concentration camp, the
other were falling on the floor to sleep on the wood but they could not because


the S.S. came and forced them to pray Jewish prayers,  5 days they get nothing
to eat and slept on the floor.  A few died.  One killed himself springing out
of a window.  The S.S. officer said “If anyone try to escape like this man,
every tenth will be shot.”  On the 7th day came the Gestapo.  In all cross-
questionings the Jew had to face the wall not knowing what happened behind him.
(All this has no sense and happens only to make the Jew nearly mad with nervous-
ness).  The half went also to concentration camps, the other were imprisoned
2-8 weeks.  In concentration camps people are kept 3-18 months.  One third
never come back.  There was no family of my many Jewish friends in which some
person had not been arrested.  Many got a letter “If you want the coffin of your
son, send 700 marks to concentration camp. Dachan [sic].”  The coffin came sealed and
no one could see of what he died.

Imagine a 70 years old man jumping over a chair, 50 times, 100 times so
long as laughing Nazis enjoy it.

Imagine a 70 years old man loading old iron (which Goering collected for guns)
on a car while the jeering Nazis throw it down on the other side.

Imagine the mentality of the human being who can say after 50 strokes with
a riding-whip – “It could have been worse.”

What shall I tell more?  I could tell for hours only what I have seen.
Horror, horror, horror.  I do not want to bring hate between the Germans and
the English, the most Germans have no idea of all this.  The only people who
know it are the Jews and the S.S. men and the others of Hitler’s troops who get
the salary of an officer of the army only for beating Jews.

However large the need for help is here in England, strong and soon the
help is not less necessary there.  The unemployed themselves realise this and
collect money for refugees.  I know people who spent two-thirds of their
possession for refugees.


This boy’s uncle was let out of a concentration camp because someone had
procured him a ticket for Shanghai where he is going with Otto’s parents.  They
have no prospects whatever there; are allowed to take no money, and not even
the knitting-machine with which latterly they had earned a little.  They may
not be allowed to land at Shanghai where there have been boat-loads of them
landed already.  God help them.

Strangely enough Otto has no bitterness about it all, and says Hitler’s
policy is understandable.  He also says of the tormentors – “They are only
boys.  They do not realise how terrible are the things they do.” I wish I
could believe that.   But it can’t be only the young.  We couldn’t find a
guarantor for a man some months ago and he was sent back to a concentration camp
and was at last let out to have his feet cut off as they’d been so mutilated
in the camp.  And there are too many like this for it all to be done by the
hard, unimaginative young.


Friday, 8 January 2016

Borthwick Publications: George Harris and the Marketing Revolution at Rowntree

BIA Rowntree Guardbook T5
Kit Kat advert, 1937

George Harris and the Marketing Revolution at Rowntree

Ralph A. Kaner

Borthwick Paper 125

BIA Rowntree Guardbook B11
Black Magic advert, 1933
  George Harris was a confectionery manufacturer who is generally credited with the renaissance of the York-based Rowntree business during the 1930s. This paper is an account of Harris’s life which begins by tracing his involvement in World War I through to to his marriage in 1923 to Frieda Rowntree.  Enrollment in his new wife’s family business followed and he rose through the company to the Group Board and then Chairman from 1941 to 1952. The volume continues chronologically through landmark launches of classic chocolate brands such as Black Magic (1933), Aero (1935), Kit Kat (1935), Dairy Box (1937) and Smarties (1938).  The development and marketing of these brands by Harris are placed within the context of shifting economic and national circumstances between the two wars.  

The paper’s author is Dr Ralph Kaner who is a former Director of Rowntree & Co. Ltd.  Kaner notes that whilst no formal building or dedications mark George Harris’s contribution to the City of York his transformation of Rowntree and the prosperous growth that took place during his time with the company was extremely important. His achievements as a pioneer of British marketing were undoubtedly influenced by a formative visit to the United States in 1925-26.  Hallmarks of Harris’s approach included a drive for product innovation, quantitative consumer research and creative advertising. A lasting legacy of all these efforts was the success of the high-quality brands that Harris developed and the fact that they remain well-known global brands to this day.

The volume is published by Borthwick Publications and copies are available through our online store priced at £5.00.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A Festive Conservation Run-down of the Archbishops’ Registers Project

As the Archbishops’ Registers Revealed project is drawing to a close along with the year 2015, I wanted to offer a brief overview of my involvement in the project. It can be quite tricky for a conservator to accurately convey exactly what it is they do in the workshop. This blog certainly isn’t as catchy as the 12 Days of Christmas - but I hope that it provides some advent calendar-sized tasters of the work I have been doing.

12 Limp parchment volumes
12 limp parchment volumes required no work in preparation for digitisation.

There are some things that conservators can do to improve the digitisation process – cleaning, unfolding, repairing, etc – but there are also some things that we cannot improve. We can clean a surface, which will lighten the areas around the ink and make the ink stand out better, but we cannot replace abraded or faded ink. Consequently we do need to assess archives before a digitisation work plan is put in place, so that we know what we will need to tackle and how long it might take.

Abp Reg 11 is the volume that required the greatest number of treatments.
Abp Reg 11 with the highest number of treatments recorded
Within the 37 volumes that were treated but not disbound 610 treatments were documented in total. 127 of these treatments were undertaken within Abp Reg 11. Treatments ranged from dry cleaning the surface of folios or unfolding the corners of a folio, to removing a previous repair that was obscuring text or repairing the edge of a folio that had suffered loss and damage. We would only undertake treatment where either text had been obscured (by dirt or folds) or the area was vulnerable to further deterioration during handling. Without this guideline in place it would not have been possible to complete the treatments in time for the digitisation to take place!

10 volumes contained paper in need of treatment
such as this document

10 volumes required paper repairs.

The majority of the folios in the Archbishops’ Registers are parchment, but there are occasional paper inserts and modern paper endleaves in the volumes too. 33 of the 610 treatments mentioned above were on paper, but almost all of the others were on parchment.

9 (give or take) descriptive phrases for the metadata
 that gave me a headache!

9 descriptive phrases for the metadata that created plenty of
This is a very subjective number, which would certainly fluctuate depending on who you spoke to! I first became involved with the metadata when it became apparent that not all of the images could take their image number from a folio number. The Archbishops’ Registers are nothing if not inconsistent, and there were various hiccoughs to accommodate, as well as the structural features of each volume (and those thrown in from previous bindings). A lot of my time was spent deciding what information to include, what to leave out, and which terms best reflected what the end user would see in the image.

8 volumes requiring only minor treatments such as
 the dry cleaning shown here

8 volumes requiring minor work…

As opposed to 32 volumes requiring major work! In my initial assessments, ‘minor work’ refers to cleaning or small areas of flattening. ‘Major work’ includes larger areas to flatten and more invasive or time consuming treatments. A small local humidification with a non-aqueous solvent could be applied and dried within an hour or so, whereas the application of a repair would take a minimum of 3 days of treatment when drying time is taken into account. My workflow planning needed to take all of this information into account, so that I could ensure the photographer had a seamless flow of volumes to image and process.

7 spines over 10cm in width.

The Archbishops’ Registers vary in size, but the most
7 spines over 10cm in width
memorable volumes are the largest. 7 of the volumes have spines between 10 and 15cm wide. Several of these have also been bound with thick wooden boards, and consequently they are large, heavy and unwieldy to manoeuvre. This has made them challenging to handle safely during conservation and digitisation. In spite of this (or partly because of this?) these are some of my favourite Registers – most of the bindings still function well, and they have an undeniably weighty presence. I can’t help but think when I look at them that they must contain a formidable number of sheep!

6 hours of Conservation at the Summer Institute.

In the summer of 2015 we held a Summer Institute for 12 participants on the subject of the Archbishops’ Registers. Classes and workshops covered the history and context of the registers, reading and interpretation of the registers and the opportunity to develop a mini-research project. I was privileged to be asked to take the students for a whole day, and managed to pack in information and

6 hours of Conservation talks and activities with students
 at the Summer Institute
investigative tasks regarding the materials, tools and techniques with which the registers were created, as well as explaining and demonstrating the role that Conservation has played in this project and discussing some of the ethical implications and dilemmas we have been working with.

5 sheets of goldbeater’s skin

This is the material I have been using to support damaged and vulnerable areas of the parchment folios. Over the course of the project I have repaired over 100 parchment folios and each of these takes a minimum of 3 days to complete. When treating parchment it is important to keep moisture to a minimum; consequently the repairs are applied in stages so that they can dry in between applications of adhesive.

5 sheets of goldbeater’s skin used to repair damaged parchment such as the example above from Abp Reg 10 f.25 
             (left: before treatment; right: after treatment)

4.3 kg of magnetic restraint

4.3kg my favourite magnetic pull strength
I have been using magnets as a tool to restrain parchment when it is drying. I use a ferrosheet under the parchment folio, so that a magnet placed on top of the parchment will hold the parchment in place. I have experimented with various sizes and strengths of magnet, but my current favourite is a neodymium cylindrical magnet of 12mm diameter and 6mm height at a strength of N42 which gives a pull of 4.3kg!

3 volumes disbound

The decision to disbind any of the registers was not taken lightly. The process is very invasive and can risk damaging the register; loose leaves are more vulnerable to future deterioration than those in a binding; removing the binding alters the format of the register; and historical evidence can be lost during disbinding. On the other hand the bindings we were considering were not original bindings; they were very stiff, which obscured a significant proportion of text on the majority of folios; and the stiffness of the binding was also hindering the functionality of the volume. 3 registers have been disbound and digitised as loose leaves. A major concern for the New Year will be to discuss with the archivists whether these registers will be re-bound, and if so in what manner.

3 registers disbound
2 sheets of gelatine remaining, used for repairs
 and poultices such as the example above

2 sheets of gelatine remaining

I have been using gelatine as my main adhesive of choice for both paper and parchment repairs. I have also used gelatine to create poultices, which I have used for a number of treatments. Poultices allow a slow transfer of moisture. I have used them to soften the adhesive of previous repairs in order to remove them. I have also used poultices to remove paper guards from parchment inserts. Lastly, I have been using gelatine poultices to remove materials that have been adhered to the spines of the volumes I have disbound. Including the volumes that have been disbound, I have used poultices to treat 289 folios, and removed spine linings from 3 volumes. This has used 61 sheets of gelatine – with 2 sheets left over for the New Year.
1 happy conservator!

1 frazzled but very happy conservator
I have sincerely enjoyed working on this project. It has been a privilege to work on the Archbishop’s Registers, and a pleasure to work with such beautiful volumes. I look forward to seeing the images of all the registers available online in the not too distant future!

Catherine Dand, Project Conservator