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Coronavirus update

We're pleased to announce that from the 4th August Gloucestershire Archives will re-open to the public.  We've had to make some changes to the way we work, and you can see more details about our new arrangements on our Covid recovery page.

You will need to book your documents in advance.

At the moment Gloucestershire Family History Society remains closed.

If you're not able to make it in, have a look at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub for ideas and links to help you #ExploreYourArchiveAtHome.

60 seconds with...contributions

Welcome to our page of 60 seconds with...

As new contributions come in, we'll upload them to this page so keep checking in! Click on the names to access the contributions and an image.

 

 

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

I came to Archives for the first time as their Sculptor in residence.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

I found it a fantastic, inspiring place to work as a sculptor as the staff were incredibly passionate and excited by the work they do at Archives.

What have you most recently researched?

I found it absolutely fascinating looking at old ordnance survey maps and their benchmarks.

What would you say to encourage others to use Gloucestershire Archives?

I would say how lucky Gloucestershire is to have the Archives in their county and what a fantastic resource it is.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

A post second world war map of Gloucestershire showing all the unexploded bombs.

Why are you interested in history?

As an artist you are naturally interested in history and for each and every project I begin by doing some form of historical research, which then helps inform and inspire the development of your ideas.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Amelia Earhart for her incredible flying records, because I am both terrified and amazed by flight.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which would you choose?

I would like to live in a Tudor built house, I love the shape with all those beautiful oak beams.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

A piece of red rock from the Red Mountain Volcano in Playa Blanca.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Mont Saint-Michel because of its incredible location surrounded by sea.

Which decade of the 20th century would you have liked to live in?

 

Perhaps I could have another go at the 1970s, as I was too busy studying the first time round to notice what an interesting decade I was living through.

 

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

 

My current favourite is definitely Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy.  I’ve recently re-read the first two followed by The Mirror and the Light – superb and utterly convincing! I’m also a fan of Peter Tremayne’s historical detective novels, set in the seventh century (his detective Fidelma is an Irish lawyer).

 

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

 

A Lutyens house with a Gertrude Jekyll garden;  I’m happy for both to be quite modest in size. The house would be elegant but comfortable at the same time, and the garden will have warm brick paths and cottagy planting.

 

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

 

It’s a very long time ago, but possibly visiting the Essex Record Office for the first time, at the suggestion of my history teacher, when I was 16 and knew nothing about archives; that visit made me decide to become an archivist. Not only did that choice result in a very satisfying career, but nearly everything in my life since has been influenced by my career, including my friends and the places where I have lived and worked, and those factors have in turn provided me with an amazing range of unexpected opportunities and experiences, in and out of work.

 

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

 

It must be something in my slightly haphazard collection of rocks picked up on geology field trips, perhaps a piece of schist from the Outer Hebrides which could be a thousand million years old. Working with archives makes me feel part of a continuous stream of people who just like us lived in their own ‘present day’, and studying geology gives me the same sense of awe and continuity on a much longer timescale

 

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

 

One of Vermeer’s domestic interiors. I know they are completely artificial, with each object precisely placed to tell a story, but Vermeer’s genius always convinces me that I am looking at a genuine lived experience frozen in time, and that if I stare for only a minute longer I will find myself standing inside the painting, within an authentic seventeenth century Dutch merchant’s house.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Work

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

The new Heritage Hub building

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

Early Middle Ages

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Oooooh, tricky. Not quite ‘historical’ but Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time’. Or a childhood favourite, Rosemary Sutcliffe’s ‘Song for a Dark Queen’

Why is history important?

‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ – George Santayana

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

I think there will always be a future for archives – just look at the International Council on Archives campaign #AnArchiveIs

What lessons have we learned from history?

Sometimes I’m not sure we’ve learned any.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

Tricky - Dr Janina Ramirez (because she’s my period!) But I also really enjoy listening to Dr Annie Gray on The Kitchen Cabinet (BBC R4), she’s very funny, and so enthusiastic about cooking recipes that are very different to our modern tastes.

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

Also tricky – might have to be The Anglo Saxon Chronicle. Because it is so sparse and yet full of detail.

https://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2016/02/anglo-saxon-chronicles-now-online.html

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

Vaccination

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives? (Ellie)

I suppose it's unsurprising of me to say the garden. But it's true, I love it, it's an oasis.

Why are you interested in history? (Ellie)

I feel like we can relate many historical events to present day events. It's interesting to see how we socially evolve, yet the phrase 'history repeats itself' always seems relevant.

Imagine you were a talented artist – whose portrait from the past would you paint, and why? (Ellie)

Elizabeth 1st, in all of her unbridled glory.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose? (Ellie)

I was born and raised in Bristol and always really felt the magic of the old parts of the city. Especially the remaining medieval parts, and the Georgian architecture. Corn Street in Bristol is one of my favourite places in the world! I'm always drawn to the aesthetic of medieval architecture.. though I can't say I would enjoy the practicality of living in a medieval house. A Georgian terraced house will have to be my answer!

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why? (Ellie)

Any one of Vincent van Gogh's paintings that feature his beautiful skies filled with twinkling stars.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why? (George)

Yes! I think the more we move away from our hometowns the more we want to know about our roots, or find out more about the new towns we are in to make new roots. Humans like to belong and I think feeling a connection to history, be it our own or the history of the road we live on, helps achieve that. 

If you could write a letter to any historical figure, what would you write and who would you write to? (George)

Stormé DeLarverie. They only died in 2014, so I could have done this, and it upsets me that I didn't. But many believe she started the stonewall uprising and I would like to write a letter of thanks, and so much love.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it? (George)

My wife inherited a clock from her great aunt, it was purchased in Bristol in 1899 and still has the receipt with her signature on it inside! We can't figure out how to work it and don't want to risk winding the alarm instead of the normal clock because it sounds like an old school bell, only much much much louder. I love thinking about how many people have seen it. One of my favourite questions to ask is "when was this object last used by its original owner for its original purpose?" and I guess we will never know!

If the UK introduced a new Bank Holiday, like Columbus Day in America, who should it be in honour of? (George)

I know you want this answer to be a historical figure, but honestly all I can think of is Paddington Bear. There could be orange flavoured things in all the supermarkets. 

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why? (George)

I love Hampton court. I think it's partly nostalgia because I visited A LOT as a kid, and partly the beautiful gardens.

What do you plan to research next?

Not until I retire obviously, but then I want to go back to the subject of my MA thesis, the Great Game between Britain & Russia in Central Asia, and work through all the documents GA holds generated by British officers and other people in India & Afghanistan in the 19th & early 20th Centuries.  We seem to have a particularly good collection of these, so expect to see me on the other side of the counter in years to come!

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

The most exciting thing is how interesting the lives of ordinary people are, something I hadn’t particularly thought about until getting involved in our community projects.  I’ve really enjoyed listening to, collecting and making accessible people’s memories and developing skills around this.  I enjoy sharing this material with others and get satisfaction from seeing them also taking pleasure from listening to the memories.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

Difficult to narrow down to one period or even place.  I’ve been interested in the history of the American West during the 19th C since boyhood; a general layman’s interest in Chinese history followed soon after, and during my time at University I also developed interests in the Great Game in Central Asia, and in Japanese history, particularly pre-20th C.  The fantastic English language documentaries on the NHK World channel I particularly enjoy now for insights into aspects of the latter.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Define historical.  The person I’d most like to meet is my Grandfather, Sergeant Richard Frank Evans of the RAF, who was killed, aged 30, in December 1942, and who is remembered on the Gibraltar memorial.  I’d like to thank him for his sacrifice, and to ask him to tell me about his life, so I can have a better understanding of him.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

I’d recommend three novels by the Caithness author Neil M. Gunn, which weren’t written as a trilogy, but function in effect as one, telling the history of the North East Scotland area (Caithness & Sutherland) from the 18th C. Highland Clearances (Butcher’s Broom), the development of the herring industry in the early 19th C. (The Silver Darlings), and the effect on the community of the end of that industry in the early 20th C. (The Grey Coast).

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

Simple – what’s the truth behind the Robin Hood legend.  Who was the person or people who inspired the earliest Medieval ballads, and how much do they reflect the actual activities of a real person or persons?

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

I wouldn’t.  Depressingly we never seem to learn from history’s lessons, but every Star Trek fan knows that changing one even seemingly insignificant event can completely alter future time lines.  Quentin Tarentino I’m not….  If forced to change something though, I’d try to prevent the militarists gaining power in Japan in the late 1920s and 1930s….

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Yes, but future ones aren’t going to be as we have historically known them, and will potentially offer challenges into the future (and not only around storage – the history of an American Presidency chronicled through tweets??).  History books tell us about significant individuals and events, but Archives give “ordinary” people and communities a voice.  We can’t let those voices be lost, as we’d lose touch with who we’ve been to become who we are.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

I grew up with Michael Wood who, tight fitting trousers and all, took the presentation of history on television to a whole new level, enthusiastically making it relevant (even when discussing the Dark Ages) in a way that the stage bound presentations previously hadn’t.  Everyone who’s come since owes him a great debt.  Is it heretical to say that he’s better on the telly than “live” though?

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

Two offers here.  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown, the tragic story of relations between the Native Americans and encroaching white settlers in the 2nd half of the 19th C.  Revisionist historians now suggest that his account is to heavily pro-Native American, but it’s extremely powerful stuff, as is John Hersey’s Hiroshima, written only a year after that tragedy, and containing the eye-witness accounts of 6 survivors of the atomic blast.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

A simple question of ”Where do we come from?” started more than 20 years of Family History, Gloucester Local History and Barnwood Local History research.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

A pleasant environment to research in, especially now with the new facilities, and the helpful staff.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

Whilst working on something for The Commonwealth War Graves Commission I discovered that its founder, Sir Fabian Ware, did not die, as his biography states, at his house in Amberley but at Barnwood House Hospital. He had been taken there suffering from a stroke, the symptoms of which had been misdiagnosed as a mental illness. My research has been accepted by CWGC and now forms part of their historical collection.

Why are you interested in history?

The amazing things that have happened in the past and the huge developments that have made.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

My great great grandfather, John Beard. Born Leonard Stanley 1796. Served in India with the 53rd Regiment of Foot. Married an Indian Princess in Madras in 1822. Later transferred to the 20th Regiment of Foot who transported Napoleon to St Helena and was the last surviving member of Napoleon’s guard there.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Pompeii by Robert Harris. “Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction”.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

Georgian. Wonderful, perfect proportions.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

Fossil from the Jurassic period that I look at every day as they form the centre piece of our dining table. Walking on Lyme Regis beach some years ago my wife and I started talking to a professional fossil hunter. We spent some time with him and he helped us break open rocks to expose fossils. The appeal is that we were the first people EVER to see these hidden treasures from millions of years ago.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Beauty is such a personal opinion, but I vote for Gloucester Cathedral. Every time I visit I marvel at a structure that was built with tools that we now consider very basic yet produced such wonderful craftsmanship.

How can we ever know that the historical record is, in fact, accurate?

In many ways we can’t but that, for future generations, is the great value of archives, archives staff and those who make donations, for those who follow us to see the proof.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

I love medieval history. As a period, it’s been romanticised and stereotyped in all sorts of ways (especially by the Victorians…). However, when you look at the reality of the period, it’s fascinating to explore intellectual and cultural developments which have a lasting impact to this day. Some many aspects are so different from modern life, yet others seemed to have lasted.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Joan of Arc. I can’t imagine what life would have been like for a teenage peasant girl who ended up riding into battle at the Siege of Orléans. History from that time is so often limited to the perspectives of educated men, so I’d love to hear what she’d have to say about her experiences.

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

It would be amazing to solve the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass incident. In 1959, a group of Russian teenagers hiking in the Ural mountains were found to have died in some very strange circumstances, which the government seemed keen to hide. It was recent enough that it could still be solved and doing so would give the teenagers’ families more of an answer.

Who do you think is the most loved Briton from the past, and why?

I’d say King Arthur is a very well-loved Briton. He was incredibly popular in medieval romance literature, the inspiration behind the name of Henry VII’s first son to unite a kingdom torn by the Wars and the Roses, a beloved figure in romanticism and a popular character in the modern day. He’s pretty successful for a figure of collective imagination!

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

I think a medieval astrolabe would be great! Maybe a pocket-sized one to go on my key. They’re beautiful, intricate little tools which show how some of the scientific methods of the past were really more sophisticated than people give them credit for.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

I would love to live in one of Edward I’s 13th century castles, nestled in the mountains and coasts of North Wales. I wouldn’t be too keen about all the stairs, but it would be worth it for the views.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

An English-Welsh dictionary from the 1850s! I don’t speak Welsh and it’s only one volume of a whole set, but it’s a beautifully bound book and has that wonderful old-book smell that I love.

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

The Five by Hallie Ruebenhold is a fascinating book! It takes the women who were murdered by Jack the Ripper and gives a real insight into their lives and experiences in Victorian England, making them much more than just victims of a horrible crime.

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

I wish I could have worked in mission control at NASA for the Apollo 11 moon landing. To be a part of the team putting the first people in all of human history on the moon must have been exhausting, exhilarating and utterly fantastic. It’s amazing to that the computers used to do it were less complex than our phones are now – and that the average age of mission control staff at the time was 26!

Why is history important?

History provides us with context for everything; our culture, beliefs and identities are intrinsically linked to those in history. Only with history can we begin to understand the world as it is now, and why it is this way.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

William Shakespeare, to ask him who the Dark Lady really was.

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

The death of William Rufus in the New Forest to discover if it was murder or an accident.

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

The Lindisfarne Gospels because of their stunning beauty.

Which figure in history would you like to be for 24 hours, and why?

Elizabeth Cromwell, wife of Oliver. It would be fascinating to have a glimpse into what made him tick.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

An up-market Roman villa with a quality hypocaust.

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

The 7th Earl of Shaftesbury for his leadership in Parliament in reforming conditions for workers through the Factory & Mines Acts.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

My grandmother’s Victorian table, a wedding present from her father-in-law who worked for a large furniture company. It carries the marks of daily use during her life until she gave it to me in the 1970s.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

David Olusoga because he has a lovely voice, investigates interesting subjects and is definitely the best-looking!

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

‘When I was a Child’ by Charles Shaw, a brilliant account of his working life in the Potteries during the Victorian era.

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

The vote in Parliament to abolish the slave trade. It began the process of acknowledging the rights of all to live in freedom.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

My job – I became an Assistant Keeper at Cheltenham Museum in 1975, with a local history remit, and the Record Office (as it was then called) was an obvious ‘early port of call’. I recall that the Search Room was one large room in Shire Hall – and the Archives’ transformation over the past 45 years reflects the considerable investment in the Service and the huge increase of interest in family and local history.

What have you most recently researched?

The career of a lady named the Hon. Katherine Monson, who built a number of houses in Cheltenham during the early 19th century and ended up bankrupt – a very unusual example of a woman being involved in the building industry. The story of her life is now available for all to read in the latest volume of the Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society.

What do you plan to research next?

I’m a member of the Pittville History Works group, which is researching and making available on line (pittvillehistory.org.uk) the history of Cheltenham’s early 19th-century Pittville Estate and its surrounding area. My current project is to research the building history of the 30 houses that were built within the Estate between 1860 and 1890, for which there will certainly be documents at the Archives.  

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

A torn fragment of printed plan, in the bottom of a box of uncatalogued Estate Agent’s papers, that turned out to be part of the (at that time) only known plan for a never-realised zoo at Pittville. A Cheltenham Local History Society colleague, Stuart Manton, then took on the task of researching the zoo, discovered a complete copy of the plan in the Royal Collection and published an article on the zoo’s history.

Why are you interested in history?

Growing up in London, there was so much history ‘on my doorstep’ and the ‘romance of the past’ took hold of me at an early age. I love uncovering – and sharing with others – the lives of (often long-forgotten) people in history, and learning about the built environment around me.

If you could meet any historical figure, who would this be, and why?

It would certainly have to be one of the people whose lives I am currently researching, so I could ask them all those questions that I can’t find answers to! Top of my list would be a 19th-century, Gloucestershire-born, travelling showman named John Bellamy: I have a copy of his unpublished memoirs, and I’d love to ask him why he chose to include what he did, and why he left out so many significant things about his life.

Why is history important?

Although I fear it rarely happens, I do think we can learn from the past as far as ‘great issues’ are concerned – but, equally, I think local history is important in giving people a sense of place and belonging – and the growth in the number of the county’s local history groups and societies from 9 in 1974 to more than 50 now is a sure sign that others agree.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

I’m tempted to say Gloucester Cathedral – but I might be accused of being too parochial! So looking further afield, I think I’ll go for the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, for its simple, austere beauty, something that is shared by so many Islamic monuments.

Which historical event would you have liked to have played a part in, and why?

I’ve always been fascinated by the French Revolution of 1789-94, which is certainly one of the most tumultuous events in Europe’s history, so I think I’d settle for that – as long as I didn’t end up in a tumbril on my way to the guillotine!

 What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

I think Hieronymus Bosch’s apocalyptic ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ would go nicely in my front room – I was ‘blown away’ by it when I first saw it in Madrid in the early 70s, but I suspect I’ll have to make do with a postcard on my mantelpiece!

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

A fascination with things past and how they shape our future

What have you most recently researched?

The Trades Union movement in Gloucester

What would you say to encourage others to use Gloucestershire Archives?

History is written from memories and the Archives are the key to unlocking those memories

Why are you interested in history?

History is about where we have been and gives a pointer to how we will deal with the future

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Karl Marx: his vision was based on an agricultural society; I would like to know how he would have advanced his ideas in an industrial society.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

The Ragged Trouser Philanthropist by Robert Tressell

Why is history important?

It gives lessons to be learnt about human behaviour and a reference for what we do today for example without the experience of the epidemic in 1919 we may no have had isolation in 2020 epidemic.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

The future of archives lies in being able to preserve original documents and transcribing them into technology so remote access to the information is more easily available.

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

I would like to see Robert Owen on a £50 as recognition of his work to bring education to children and the reduction of children’s hours of work

If the UK introduced a new Bank Holiday, like Columbus Day in America, who should it be in honour of?

I believe we should turn November the 11th into a bank holiday to remind the population that our freedom is paid for by others giving their lives.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Meeting an Archives volunteer on a community garden digging session.

What have you most recently researched?

I have had an initial session with help from a volunteer looking at my immediate maternal side of the family. It was quite a challenge to find them as their used names were often not their recorded ones.

What do you plan to research next?

My mum’s childhood memories of a close friend of the family. She does not know what happened to them.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Bernard Cornwell’s 1356 – in one sense it highly romanticises the archers’ role in the army at the time but it is an easy read and brings to life the training and expectations of this branch of the military.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

The most interesting family thread (in a total search time of only a couple of hours) was the ships manifest recording my aunt’s Windrush arrival in the country and her subsequent midwifery career.

Why is history important?

‘There is nothing new under the sun’ (Ecclesiastes).

This has always been true and means we can always learn from the past.

What lessons have we learned from history?

Not enough!

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

The folding table from my nans house. It was burgled from her and subsequently regained by my uncle who gave it to me as it was apparently in danger of being stolen again. He never did tell me the story of its return but the table obviously held value to him and it holds that additional mystery that I will now never know.

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

Foley, the spy who saved 10,000 Jews: Michael Smith

This is a story of an incredible person who used his own position of influence to do the right thing using his own initiative and at great personal risk. It also is the best description I have read of the slow legal steps that were brought in throughout the thirties that eventually denied Jews a place in the Third Reich and eventually for many of them cost their lives.

Imagine you are writing a letter to someone who will open it in 100 years’ time, what would you tell them about?

I agree with Kate O’Keefe about the greed and waste in our western culture in the 21st century. I do, in fact, expect that in a generation or two the history lessons of the day will be referring to our time now as the most resource wasteful in history. I would like to write to say that we didn’t all want it that way but say how hard it is to swim against what appears to be a strong tide.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Family history research.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

Death of my grandfather in 1929, aged just 23, when Dad was a baby. It changed the course of history in many ways, and I probably wouldn’t be here otherwise.

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

Hopefully nothing. It might have unintended consequences, however well-intentioned. That said, we all have the power to change future history, by our actions in the present.

Why is history important?

It’s full of life’s experience, and offers us the chance to learn, develop, grow, and do better things for the world.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Absolutely. Archives preserve for us the records of the past, the changes we’ve made and why, and we can learn from this if we choose to do so.

What lessons have we learned from history?

Not sure we have, the same mistakes often seem to be repeated. Hence the importance of learning history.

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

Aneurin Bevan, for creating the National Health Service.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

Probably my great grandmother’s marriage certificate to her first husband, who she married in Cork in 1883. It’s very fragile but is wonderful to have survived and made its way down the generations. 

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

The Palace of Westminster. Beautiful set of buildings, full of history and awe-inspiring architecture.

How can we ever know that the historical record is, in fact, accurate?

We can’t. We can only look at the evidence and the reliability of the sources and draw our own conclusions.

What have you most recently researched?

I am a volunteer cataloguer. I am currently working on boxes of documents passed to the County Borough of Gloucester when it compulsory purchased properties for City centre development in the late 60s and early 70s.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

A vellum religious declaration from the 1600s.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

I’m a huge fan of the C S Forrester Hornblower Series and the Patrick O’Brien Aubrey–Maturin series. They provide an idea of the Royal Navy in Napoleonic times and the perils of the sea.

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

The Standard of Ur A beautiful object in laid with lapis lazuli that tells a story still comprehensible today,

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

I would like to be a sea trader in the Mediterranean from about 499 BCE to 450 BCE. You could witness the war between Persia and Greece and visit the great ancient cities and exotic trading posts.

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

Strong, independent, pious Æthelflæd who was key in forming nascent England and Gloucester. And Rosalind Franklin.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

Possibly a sugar bowl that belonged to my wife’s grandmother, a simple mass produced, transferred printed, glass bowl that would have brightened up thousands of Sunday teatime tables.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

I’m going to cheat. Go to Manchester look up and see civic and corporate pride writ large in the language of John Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice.

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City by Tristram Hunt, a fascinating account of how powerful all encompassing municipalities, driven by civic pride and philanthropy, grew in the Victorian Era.

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

Rain, Steam and Speed –The Great Western Railway by William Turner.  Moving away from bucolic landscapes and portraits of the wealthy, Turner captures a moment when the great force of industrialisation bursts into the English landscape.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Family history research in the late 1970s and then expanding into local history research.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

The sense of adventure when exploring the records — you could be in for a surprise!

What have you most recently researched?

The records of the Gloucestershire Court of Sewers 1583-1642 (these relate to sea defence and land drainage).

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

Manuscript records and maps — they make history come alive.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

1600-1660 — so much happened.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

William Sheppard, a Gloucestershire man who advised Oliver Cromwell on law reform 1654-7. His proposed overhaul of the English legal system was not enacted until over 200 years later. He was a prodigious talent.

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

A news pamphlet about the 1607 tidal flood that inundated the Somerset, Gwent and Gloucestershire Levels. I have seen originals at the Bodleian Library and elsewhere and would like to own one myself.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

Early seventeenth century to witness the 1607 flood which I am researching for my PhD at the University of Bristol. The local manuscript records tell a different story to the news pamphlets published in London.

What lessons have we learned from history?

It repeats itself. In the early seventeenth century the plague was more greatly feared than floods. In 2020 news of the Severn floods quickly gave way to intense media coverage of Covid-19.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

Devil's toenails (Gryphaea arcuata) found in my garden. They are 170-180 million years old..

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

An interest in business history.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

The welcoming attitude and knowledgeable staff.

What have you most recently researched?

Drakes’ department store in Cheltenham in preparation for the Cheltenham Local History Society’s Local History Afternoon which should have taken place in June this year and has now been postponed to summer 2021.

What would you say to encourage others to use Gloucestershire Archives?

Ever wondered why a building is where it is, what it was used for, who worked/lived there? Come to Gloucestershire Archives and unlock the door to a treasure trove of interesting facts and ideas. Enough to satisfy even the most curious of minds.

Why are you interested in history?

Who wouldn’t be? Through our shared history we get to know and understand our personal and communal identities and the physical environment in which we live. It enables us to put these into a wider context and broaden our horizons whilst at the same time looking at issues and events in great detail.  

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Not a well-known figure, but Joane Beale who appeared before the Gloucester Quarter Sessions in 1645 for ‘using the trade’ of glover. What tales she could tell of the lives of women in early modern Gloucester.

Why is history important?

Ignoring the consequences of historical actions leads to the same or similar mistakes being repeated. It also gives people a sense of shared identity, after all no man is an island.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Definitely. So long as people are curious about other people and their backgrounds there will always be a future for archives.

How can we ever know that the historical record is, in fact, accurate?

No. All events are viewed through the prism of the observer’s and the historian’s bias.

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

The steam engine.

What have you most recently researched?

I get very obsessed with different bits of history and my current passion is for prehistory. I’ve been following some fab Facebook groups on prehistoric sites. I’m putting together a list of those I plan to see once the lockdown is over.

What do you plan to research next?

I would love to do a PhD in Ancient History. Specifically I am interested in Herodotus’ The Histories - perhaps best known as the book in the film The English Patient. I love the way his storytelling meanders from the more factual Persian Wars to tall tales about man-sized ants and Amazonians and back again. Unfortunately, and very like Herodotus, I’m finding it difficult to focus on one specific area to research! 

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

Good stuff pops up all the time but the one which sticks in my head is a beautifully decorative document from Henry VIII that a Customer was looking at last year. I used to be a History Teacher and for years taught the Tudors - so seeing such an item from the Big Man himself was really quite exciting. 

Why are you interested in history?

It has everything, doesn’t it? Extraordinary human beings, tragedies, romance, thrills, amazing battles, humour. And when life is tough, history is a great place to hide. 

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?  

I’d have to say my Nanny, Teresa, though she’s be unimpressed at being called historical.She was quiet and gentle, as soft as an otter’s pocket. But she was also a rebel in her own way: wearing trousers, smoking and drinking in pubs, living with a man who wasn’t her husband for 30 years. All at a time when ‘proper’ women did not act like that. She wouldn’t have seen herself as a trailblazer but for me and my siblings that’s exactly what she was. She died three years ago and the world is a little bit less without her. 

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

I should probably say my wedding, shouldn’t I? And it was awesome. But I have a feeling that the whole Coronavirus thing is going to prove hard to surpass. I suspect we shall be feeling the psychological and economical damage for many years to come. 

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

Oh crikey, so many. I’m like a magpie scooping up anything shiny. I remember being taken to see the Crown Jewels when I was six and being genuinely worried that I would be overcome by desire and try to make off with them! But for the moment, let’s say that I would love to own a full set of armour belonging to a Greek Hoplite. And I’d definitely try it on! 

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

I own an Alexander the Great coin, roughly 2300 years old. It’s made of silver and pretty heavy, it feels great to hold in your hand. I love it because it’s a very early piece of propaganda: on the one side, Alexander is shown wearing the same headdress as Hercules. On the reverse we see Zeus, King of the Gods. Through these images, Alexander is telling us that he is divine. I always thought Alexander was a bit of a big head. But he was clever too. 

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

I like the fountain pen. Even in this technological world, there’s a place for something as special as writing with a really nice pen. 

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

In 1825, John Soane, English Architect and antiquities collector, purchased the alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I. When it arrived at his London residence, which was already stuffed with antiquities, he threw a lavish three-day party, the house filled with lamps and candles to highlight his remarkable collection. That sounds like my kind of party! 

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

A love of history and heritage and a desire to have a career relating either to the arts, literature or history. Although I actually first visited aged 17 to complete an A Level history project.

Why are you interested in history?

We are here today because of the past; from key national events to chance decisions made by our ancestors. We are but the latest chapter in a much greater story and I find understanding each chapter of that story fascinating. I am also intrigued by how similar people are despite being from wildly different eras and societies.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

I find it difficult to pick a period. I would just love to visit Gloucester in different times, Roman Gloucester, Anglo-Saxon Gloucester, Medieval Gloucester. There are certain things I’d have loved to witness such as the building of the Cathedral, the crowning of Henry III, Gloucester Docks at its height…

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Leonardo da Vinci. I have had a lifelong obsession with him, mostly his notebooks and drawings and skills in so many areas such as science, design and the arts. I would love to talk to him about flight and his flying machines (especially having tried skydiving, paragliding, hang gliding and flying a glider myself).

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

I would want to go back to many times for many reasons, it’s hard to pick. I’d return to the 14th century and drink with Chaucer and listen to his tales; to c1600 to watch the first production of Hamlet; to Victorian London to hang about with the pre-Raphaelites; to the early 20th century to hear Debussy’s Clair de Lune. I’d have liked to have been there at the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. I could go on…

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

Bess of Hardwick. She was an important figure in society but was not conventionally famous. However, she achieved more than was possible for most women of her time and her legacy survives today.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

A stone hand axe that is believed to be at least 6000 years old. That I can clasp it in my hand and feel directly linked to the person who clasped it thousands of years ago, in the very same area.

Which historical figure would you most identify with and why?

Mary Anning in that a palaeontologist is a career I considered when I was young and palaeontology still fascinates me and I love fossil hunting along the Jurassic coast.

How can we ever know that the historical record is, in fact, accurate?

I don’t believe we can ever be certain. However, by thorough investigation into archives more pieces of evidence and personal accounts of events can be found and assessed in terms of bias and value and can bring us a greater insight into any given event.

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

Writing and reading

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

The desire to develop my family history beyond its skeleton.

What have you most recently researched?

The shop at 24 Westgate Street.

What do you plan to research next?

Probably back to the Gwinnett family but coffee houses are also of interest.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

A settlement certificate that provided a major link in my family history.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

1550 – 1900, the period covered by the Gwinnett family in Gloucestershire

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Button Gwinnett, Signatory of the Declaration of Independence.  He is such an elusive character to research – I want to fill in all the gaps in my knowledge about his early life.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

‘Hamnet’ by Maggie O’Farrell, published this year.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

To Gloucester in the 18th century, to see how my ancestors lived at that time and to walk round my city.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

Urrist, a moated house in Little Shurdington in the 17th century.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

A mourning brooch, believed to be from 1790, given to Sarah Curran on the death of her sister, Gertrude.  It represents a whole chapter of my late husband’s Irish ancestry and an Irish tale told for centuries.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

Lucy Worsley because she really brings things to life.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

I like the opportunity to just concentrate on the fascinating trails that appear in primary material. And tapping the archivists for knowledge of course.

What would you say to encourage others to use Gloucestershire archives?

Archives are like the most rewarding jigsaw puzzle ever: it’s real stuff, and piecing the bits together could change the way you or somebody else interprets history. And it’s fun.

What new skills have you learned from your visits?

Organisational ones definitely… I’m famous for jotting stuff down and then losing it. Or researching the same thing twice. Basic good organisation is definitely needed!

Why are you interested in history?

Because emergent true stories are so often more eye-opening than imagined ones. So, in a nutshell, it opens eyes. Joseph Conrad once said of his writing ‘my job is to make you see’. I think that is the job of the historian too … to make you see the present in a new light, and maybe to imagine the future differently too.

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

I would like to know why Elizabeth 1 never married. It was such an extraordinary thing for a woman of her time, and had such an impact on her country.

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

I would prevent the carving up of the Ottoman Empire after WW1 between the British and the French, and all of the misguided suppression of various Arab Muslim interests that followed. I’m not an expert, but there were voices such as Gertrude Bell’s founded on deep understanding of the Arabs that were totally ignored in favour of cheap colonialism and self interest. And how we paid for this after 1945. I think the Middle East has always been complicated, but the British made things so much worse …

Which figure in history would you like to be for 24 hours, and why?

I’d love to be Samuel Pepys … he had a whale of a time

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

If we don’t have archives we cannot preserve and access primary materials. And so we cannot reinterpret history in the interests of our own enlightenment and understanding

If the UK introduced a new Bank Holiday, like Columbus Day in America, who should it be in honour of?

If we are talking about people who have shaped our history should probably be a Victoria Day. We are in thrall to the Victorian Era – it’s the high point of British empire and ingenuity, and its influence is all around us. Strangely, they have a Victoria Day in British Columbia, but not in the UK

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

Alan Turing. Just saying sorry isn’t enough.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

From your on line catalogue I discovered that you had a box of documents relating to Iles Mill in Chalford which I have been researching for a number of years.
What have you most recently researched?
Archive documents relating to the Iles, Tranter and Walbank families of the Stroud and Minchinhampton area of Gloucestershire.
What do you plan to research next?
More documents relating to the Iles family in Gloucestershire
What new skills have you learned from your visits?
Understanding the intricacies of the 18th and 19th century law and interpretation of the legal and language used in documents of that period.
If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?
I would like to meet my five times great grandmother Martha Iles senior and ask her what her maiden name was and which Iles she was married to.
What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?
Who was the father of my three times great grandmother Maria Iles (I have my suspicions!)
Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?
The computer. It has changed the world for better or for worse. It has made information available to the masses
If you could write a letter to any historical figure, what would you write and who would you write to?
I would write to Dylan Thomas and warn him about his last trip to America and enclose some money so that he could have a drink on me.
What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?
A Roman brooch from circa 3rd century. The thought that it was made and handled by someone 1700 years ago.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?
Dr Janina Ramirez, she has a lovely personality and narrates her programmes without any pretence or condescension

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

I would choose Leonardo Da Vinci, the man was so ahead of his time and a polymath. To not only have so many skills, but to also excel at all of them is phenomenal. Spending a day with him and being able to ask so many questions would be a privilege and an honour.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

The Tudor period was a time of great change, discovery and architecture, although tumultuous I think it would have been a fascinating time to live. Two of our greatest monarchs lived in this period Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, although you would have to have lived to nearly 100 to see both of them come and go, it would have been interesting to say the least!

Which decade of the 20th century would you have liked to live in?

1900-1910. Radio waves, powered flight, the birth of the car industry, it must have felt amazing, like the dawn of a new world, and at a time when the consequences were not apparent.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Yes I do, the past keeps us grounded, teaches us lessons that others have learned, gives us a sense of who we are and what we have achieved, inspires us by showing what our ancestors went through, how they adapted and progressed. Archives are our collective knowledge and History. They are the documented evidence of US.

Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?

Solar panels – with the potential for cheap renewable energy, and a way of providing power to remote areas in third world countries. OR the LED – bringing with it massive savings in power consumption over previous lighting methods and energy saving for the whole world over existing TV technology.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

A Roman Villa – a tangible, physical document of style, class, innovation and craftsmanship – running water, sanitation, heating and beauty.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

A collection of Roman oil lamps and coins. To be able to touch something a Roman has touched – fantastic!

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany – Beautiful castle both inside and out, perfect setting (it is the one featured in Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang!)

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

The telephone, it has shrunk the world, and wherever you are in the world – you can speak to another human anywhere on the planet – as if they were sitting next to you – how cool is that?

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

One of the Elizabeth the 1st ‘Armada’ paintings – incredible work and very detailed & full of hidden meanings / symbolism.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

I came for an interview in the Conservation Department, (so long ago I forget the year – was it 2002?), happily was offered a position, and have been here pretty much ever since. 

Why are you interested in history?

How is it that life does not feel like history when you are living it, yet it becomes fascinating and intriguing to other people after the passage of time? 

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Sir Allan Napier MacNab, because he was my “boss” for seven wonderful years, when I worked at Dundurn Castle in Hamilton, Ontario.   

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.  Archives AND vampires – what’s not to like? 

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

What was the original intention behind the construction of Stonehenge? 

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

Something nice in brick from the 1830’s would do me fine – it’s likely to have generously-proportioned rooms and good natural light, and would have “character” without being too awkward for modern living.  I’d also love to live in Fallingwater, the house in Pennsylvania designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. 

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

I have a tiny Roman coin, from the reign of one of the Constantines, which I dug up from my suburban Ross-on-Wye garden, when hunting for worms with which to amuse my small son (as he was at the time). 

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Not a building, but a monument – the Vimy Ridge monument to Canadian soldiers killed in the First World War.  The most beautiful and moving war memorial in the world.  By the way, the architectural plans and drawings for it are kept in the Archives of Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. 

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy, by Hannah Glasse, first published in 1747.  Interesting to dip in and out of, for anyone interested in food, and 18th century social history. And how many women had books published at that time? 

If you could choose one of the following to have dinner with, who would you choose – Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf or Horatio Nelson – and what would you ask him/her?

None of the above – sorry – please could I have J S Bach?  I’d love to meet him over a lengthy dinner, to try and get a sense of his personality.  And maybe he’d play something after the cheese course?

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – I thought it would be boring, a friend lent it me and it grips you like a thriller – as does the sequel – I literally couldn’t put it down!

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

The Princes in the Tower – was Richard III innocent as another of my favourite historical novels by Josephine Tey asserts???  Alternatively, the history of the medieval stained glass at Birtsmorton Church, which I WILL research one day!

Why is history important?

It gives us context, it provides a texture and a depth to our understanding of ourselves as a nation and a world and it roots and grounds us as individuals.  Often its only when we look back at our past that we truly understand our present and that’s as true of individuals as it is of nations.

Do you think there is a future for archives, and why?

Yes, because it’s the sign of a civilized society that it takes care of precious documents and artefacts from the past and archives are a big part of that, plus it gives many, many people a whole new interest in researching into their past, and that often widens out into social history which is so vital for our understanding of who we are.

If the UK introduced a new Bank Holiday, like Columbus Day in America, who should it be in honour of?

Shakespeare – so influential on so many levels, yet we know so little about him.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Durham Cathedral.  Partly because you walk straight in and there is the tomb of the Venerable Bede which for a historian is like greeting an old friend.  But the space is awe inspiring as it is designed to be, the modern stained glass is stunning, but the peace of the sacred space, particularly around Cuthbert’s tomb give the beauty of this building a whole other dimension.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

Janina Ramirez because she really knows her stuff, can put it across with such enthusiasm and verve and she is authentically herself, goth outfits and all.  Love Roy Strong for very similar reasons too!

How can we ever know that the historical record is accurate?

It never is in one sense of the word.  There’s a famous quote – history is written by the winners, which is to a large extent true, and feminist historians would say it should be herstory not history.  Every historical record has to be evaluated in context, who wrote it, when was it written, why was it written – only then can you judge its “accuracy” but you’ll never get a 100% accurate account because history is written by human beings and we all bring our own views and biases with us, even unconscious ones!

Which historical figure would you have dinner with and what would you ask?

Virginia Woolf.  What was Vita Sackville-West really like?  How did you manage to get that precious room of your own to write in?  How did you manage to overcome your mental health issues to write your great novels?  How did you manage to put up with the rest of the Bloomsbury Group??

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

The pen or pencil because they enable us to express ourselves in so many ways – writing/drawing, writing history, poetry, plays, history – it enables us to create great art and that’s vital to our mental health.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Like Helen, a job interview! I was the graduate trainee at Gloucestershire Record Office (as it then was) for a year in the late 90s, and then after I had qualified as an archivist I came back for a one-year contract to begin converting the typescript catalogues into a database. 20 years later I’m still here, and still wrangling the database, which is, of course, now the online catalogue which holds descriptions of all of our holdings!

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

Working in the Collections Management team, and having catalogued many collections and worked with the catalogues of most of the others, I have a list as long as my arm (or I would if I could remember them all!). For example, a letter from Grace Darling (she of lifeboat fame), a cache of late Victorian Christmas cards, letters home by a member of a county family on safari describing her adventures, a class photo from the 1920s which our longest-standing researcher pointed out to me included himself aged 9, an entry in a school admissions register proving that a member of the Windrush generation was educated in Gloucester and therefore entitled to remain here (that one was a team effort!), and the very first one I made, practically on my first day, that Gloucestershire’s first female police officer came from the same tiny village in Suffolk that I do…the list goes on and on.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Anything by Sharon Penman. Her research is meticulous and her characters are incredibly realistic – she really brings the medieval period to life. Particular recommendations: The Sunne in Splendour about the Wars of the Roses, with Richard III as the main protagonist (so he gets a more sympathetic hearing than usual), and the trilogy about the last days of independent Wales Here be Dragons, Falls the Shadow and The Reckoning.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

If we’re talking global events, it has to be the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, symbolising the end of the Cold War and the liberation of the people in the former Eastern Bloc states. The reunification of Germany has been controversial and not necessarily as beneficial for people living in the former East Germany as it could have been, which has led to its own issues, but freedom of speech and expression, and the freedom to live as one pleases, are vital human rights and the fact that these rights were not available to half of Europe within living memory should act as a reminder to us all that we must defend them wherever they are threatened.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

I am quite happy in the 21st century! I have equal rights, am able to work, own my own home, have access to plentiful food, medical care and sanitation, and am free not to conform to society’s expectations. Even 20 or 30 years ago I would not have some of the rights I have now.

If you had the power to change history, what would you do?

I’d make sure that the principles of equality were introduced early and retained throughout all societies, for all time.

Why is history important?

History offers us endless opportunities, guidance and examples to learn from in dealing with our everyday lives as well as events more generally. As the famous saying goes, those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Also, if we look closely enough, it lets us hear the voices of people who weren’t listened to or considered important at the time: archive collections are particularly good for this, because they contain a much broader range of stories than published accounts, whose contents will have been chosen for how they illustrate the points the author is trying to make.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Archives are (and should continue to be) permanent institutions: we hold the evidence of what happened. Just look at the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse for an example of why archive material is vital. Besides, what happens today will be history tomorrow, and who better to preserve it and make sure it’s accessible in the future?

How can we ever know that the historical record is, in fact, accurate?

By looking at as many available sources as we possibly can, and trying not to allow our own assumptions and prejudices to affect our interpretation of events. For example, Sandi Toksvig’s anecdote about her history professor, who showed the group a stick with 28 grooves in it and pointed out that rather than being the first calendar created by ‘man’, it was more likely created by a woman, because why would a man in a prehistoric society need to track the passage of a cycle of 28 days? Our interpretation of history has been coloured by the assumptions of generations of mostly male historians and in many cases those assumptions are now being proved to be inaccurate.

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

Writing. It enables knowledge to be transmitted across space and time for every imaginable purpose.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire archives?

My university dissertation on Gloucestershire first police women in 1990. I then had a bit of a gap until returning to work for Gloucestershire Constabulary in 2016.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

You never know where your research will take you next. Every day is a school day.

What new skills have you learned from your visits?

Question everything, check and double check as there is so much misinformation out there especially on websites.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be and why?

Carl Faberge, I would love to watch him at work creating those marvellous Imperial Easter Eggs.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

The Shardlake series by CJ Sansom, you feel like you are living in Tudor England amongst all the intrigue.

If you could own any historical object what would be and why?

The ruins of a roman villa so that I could see archaeological digs and get my hands dirty!

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

A lovely square Georgian house.

What is the oldest thing that you have in your house and what appeals to you about it?

Apart from my husband, it’s is a Georgian silver pepper pot that is a beautiful shape but needs a lot of polishing.

Which non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

Les Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. The art work is jaw droppingly beautiful.

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in and why?

I would have liked to have been a spitfire delivery pilot in the second world war, the feeling of doing something towards the war effort that was also exhilarating and out of the ordinary.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

Proof that one of the Windrush immigrants had schooled at Gloucester which was the evidence halting the Government’s decision to deport her from the country!

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Pytheas the Greek – to talk to him about his voyage of exploration to northwestern Europe in about 325 BC and see if he really circumnavigated the British Isles. 

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

The Marie Celeste.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

The moment that life began on Earth to see if it was ‘accidental’ or whether it was something else…. 

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

Remove religion from the human psyche – it has caused nothing but strife, war, death and destruction to the human race and without it we might all get along rather better.

Which figure in history would you like to be for 24 hours, and why?

Neil Armstrong as Apollo 11 went into orbit around the moon. The next 24 hours changed mankind forever.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

I love fossils and this fossil coral from Hobb’s Quarry in Gloucestershire from the Silurian period is one of my favourites.  It’s about 427-431 million years old.  It reminds me that some things in nature are constant (corals are still doing the same things in the same way today) but also that some things are in constant change (This piece of Gloucestershire was once a warm, shallow tropical sea and plate tectonics might well make it again in the future.)

If you could choose one of the following to have dinner with, who would you choose – Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf or Horatio Nelson – and what would you ask him/her?

Churchill – I’d ask two questions: firstly why did you let Admiral Kit Craddock’s Squadron sail to destruction at the Battle of Coronel when you could have prevented it and secondly, why did you sanction the area bombing of Germany when a far more effective way of bringing WW2 to an early conclusion would have been to stand up to the Allied bombing chiefs (notably Harris) and give Coastal Command the aircraft it needed to defeat the U-boats and win the Battle of the Atlantic much earlier.

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

Electricity – it is at the heart of almost everything that has benefited mankind.

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

A) Gloucestershire: The Siege of Gloucester; I’d have loved to stand & fight for the people and bring down the monarchy….France has proved that we don’t need them so why have them. Up the Commonwealth!

B) Non-Gloucestershire: The Apollo Programme – this demonstrated that when we put our minds to it, we can do anything. We forget that too easily due to ‘considerations’.

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Academic research (Master’s degree).

What have you most recently researched?

Theodora Mills – a Cheltenham suffragist.

What do you plan to research next?

Peace campaigners in the 1920s and 30s.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Any of the Rougon-Macquart series by Zola.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

Being born – it kind of got things started.

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

Isn’t this the kind of thing Dr Who warns us not to attempt?

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Yes – we need to preserve a collective memory but I have grave concerns about dumbing things down with the notion of “heritage” – it is divisive and too easily manipulated.

What lessons have we learned from history?

Absolutely nothing – clearly people want to own their own mistakes.

How can we ever know that the historical record is, in fact, accurate?

The only person who I ever met who was convinced that historical truth exists was a nun. For the rest of us it is opinion, speculation and guesswork.

If you could choose one of the following to have dinner with, who would you choose – Florence Nightingale, Winston Churchill, Virginia Woolf or Horatio Nelson – and what would you ask him/her?

None – I would prefer to socially isolate.

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why? 

All private ownership of great art is theft – I would like to see all masterpieces freely available in public museums

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

I have always been interested in the 19th century. This started as a genuine liking for novels of the period – but I am also fascinated by the amount of invention that took place in this century that really paved the way for what we are able to do now, and there is fantastic evidence of this in buildings, bridges, railways and other feats of engineering.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

My favourite author, and general favourite person – Wilkie Collins. I’d love to sit with him and a nice glass of wine and chat about his novels and the people he knew. I think he’d be a lot of fun.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

I would have to say that my favourite historical novel is Les Miserables. It’s historical fiction that helps you learn about a period of time in France. And if you want to know about the Parisian sewer system in detail, this is the book to turn to! (There are 60 pages devoted to it).

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

I’d love to go back to the Roman era in Britain and elsewhere in Europe, and see them actually build their wonderful aqueducts, bridges and villas.

Which decade of the 20th century would you have liked to live in?

The 20s – mainly for the dresses!

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

Yes, although they may not be in the form people understand at the moment. People are always going to want to learn from the past (whether through formal education or not) and archives are, directly or indirectly, a way to help this.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

I’ve always wanted to live in a gatehouse to a big estate – one of those really old ones that look like mini castles. They look like such exquisite places.

If you could write a letter to any historical figure, what would you write and who would you write to?

I’d write to Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I don’t know what I’d write – probably something similar to a mad fan-girl comment that we’d do today with celebrities – but it would definitely gush over his wonderful bridges and other designs. I’d also ask him to say hi to my great great grandfather, who was also an engineer and worked alongside him at times.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

It may not be the very oldest, but last year I was given a crucifix by a relative of mine, who had inherited it from a mutual ancestor, my great grandfather, who was a priest in Gloucestershire and is buried in Barnwood, and was probably given it around 1870. Another relative searching for his grave via Gloucestershire Archives brought me back in touch with both, and the cross is a constant reminder of them.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

I visited Brussels for the first time about 8 years ago, and was completely taken with the Palais du Justice. I’m sure as a building it is very similar to others of its time, but the grandeur and magnificence of it struck a chord with me. I visited again last year and was very sad to see it closed and covered in scaffolding!

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Wanting a career change, The Archives are giving me the ongoing knowledge and experience to help me achieve it.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

It is my oasis of calm. I can immerse myself in documents which always have an interest or a surprise in them.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

After studying it in my History degree course ‘The Enlightenment’ period.  It really felt like the population was emerging from the darkness of the early modern period into the light of forward thinking.

If you could meet any historical figure who would it be, and why?

Queen Elizabeth I, so many questions to ask!  Was she happy being ‘The Virgin Queen’? What did she really think of her father? 

What non-fiction historical book would you recommend and why?

Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self by Claire Tomalin – brilliantly written about a fascinating but quite a complicated man who through his diaries we learn so much social history.

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

A little, embossed leather bound book which belonged to one of the crew of The Mary Rose (now in The Mary Rose Museum), so personal. A throwaway object today but an extremely valuable item to the person then.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

The surprise attacks on the Twin Towers in 2001. I remember sitting at work watching a television with everyone else completely silent and not believing what was happening.  It changed the world in so many ways

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

Lucy Worsley, not only does she have my dream job, but she presents history in an easy to understand way and doesn’t take herself too seriously!

What painting from the past would you like to own and why?

Any painting by Canaletto – the detail, the colour and the scenes of human life are beautiful.

Why is history important?

“History is for human self-knowledge… the only clue to what man can do is what man has done.  The value of history, then, is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is”.

R.G. Collingwood (1889-1943), English Philosopher.

What do you like best about coming to Gloucestershire Archives?

As cheesy as it is the people, although I only started in December 2019 the amazing people at Gloucestershire Archive made me welcome and included. Which is always nice when you move to a new city knowing nobody!

Why are you interested in history?

Because I’m interested in people and how they worked, played and lived. I think history gives us a great insight into the lives of many different people, and it is fascinating to see how they lived can compare to people today.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

A Night Divided by Jennifer A Nielsen is a great book that I have read recently and tell the story of a family in Berlin and how their lives were changed the night the Berlin wall was erected. 

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

I think what is happening right now is going to be the most significant thing, historian of the future are going to look back on this time and make comment on how we fought this virus but also hopefully learn from this time and recognise the amazing people involved in fighting the virus, caring for the sick, and ensuring people still have access to the essential items they need to live.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

Although there are so many amazing events in history which would be fascinating to visit I think I would honestly just want to go back to the 1980s and attend a queen concert maybe Live Aid, as the fact that I will never have the chance to see Freddie Mercury live is very sad!

Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?

As someone who has worn glasses since I was 9 months old, I can’t imagine how I would have lived before they were invented. So I would like to have invented glasses as it would mean my invention is helping so many people around the world. Also if I invented them does it mean I get free glasses? Cause they can be very expensive!

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

The suffragette movement, because if it wasn’t for those amazing women fighting for the vote a lot of progress we have made in equality for women today wouldn’t have been possible. It would also just be amazing to meet the strong women behind the suffragettes.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

A cute Tudor style cottage, because they are just so pretty and aesthetically pleasing.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Not technically a building but The Shambles in York have always been very beautiful and kind of magical, and I love all overhanging timber-framed buildings.

Why is history important?

I think it is important to see where we have come from and the changes we have made, be them for the better or not. I also think it is important to try and learn from events in history and see how we can tackle similar things today.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

The day I decided to help my dad research the family’s history.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

(1) my wife;  (2) my career;  and (3) the music book of Rowland Berkeley of Ripple, 1793-1829 [GMS 294]

Why are you interested in history?

I’m fascinated by the interplay between the familiar and the strange, the remembered and the forgotten, and by the process of constantly finding things out.

If you could write a letter to any historical figure, what would you write and who would you write to?

Eric Maschwitz, lyricist of A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, to thank him for nearly single-handedly preserving the pronunciation of our name and, through his contribution to the American Songbook repertoire, creating a bulwark against universal mispronunciation in the future.

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

Edgbaston-born Albert Eric Maschwitz – for writing A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.

What historical mystery would you like to solve, and why?

The unexplained disappearance of dressmaker Charlotte Berkeley of Cheltenham b.1832, last recorded in London in 1871, simply because it’s a mystery.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

The lifetime of my 8x great-grandfather Thomas Berkeley 1632-1716, to see what he witnessed and because his earlier years were lived through such a poorly recorded era, genealogically.

Why is history important?

It makes sense of us.

What would you say to encourage others to use Gloucestershire Archives?

Find out something that nobody else knows.

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why?

There will always be archives of some form or another.  It’s more important that we will always have a public archives service, free at the point of use (equivalent to a National Health Service).  The sanity, security and future hope of any country depends on it.

Imagine you are writing a letter to someone who will open it in 100 years’ time, what would you tell them about?

I would try and describe to them the excess and greed which characterised the first part of the 21st century. I imagine it will sound to them like Louis 16’s court sounded to me when I learned about it as a child.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

My mum’s unhappy childhood which had such an impact on the way I was brought up, which in turn influenced how I raised my own daughters. I’m always fascinated by the ways in which the past informs the present.

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

I’ve always had a strange fascination with periwigs and think I would enjoy strutting about in a very tall and elaborate one.

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

I would make sure that it was understood and enshrined in legislation that fossil fuels come with a health warning for the planet, and for us. I wouldn’t try to prevent the industrial revolution; just make it more of an industrial evolution.

Which figure in history would you like to be for 24 hours, and why?

Catherine the Great, as played by Helen Mirren. What larks! Quite good wigs as well.

Which decade of the 20th century would you have liked to live in?

One I did live in! The 1970s. The music, the clothes, the cuisine…..

Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?

The duvet. Those Scandinavians know a thing or two. One thing that wasn’t great about the 1970s was bedlinen – until the duvet arrived and changed my life.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

I’m not very well-travelled and I’m painfully aware that there are so many I don’t know about and will never see. One I have been to is the Blue Mosque in Istanbul: impossibly beautiful.

Which TV or radio historian do you like the most, and why?

It’s no secret that I am in love with art-historian Andrew Graham-Dixon. But he never returns my calls. He’s a proper enthusiast, which I love, and a terrific communicator to boot.

Which historical figure would you most identify with and why?

It would have to be St Augustine, who prayed to be made pure – but not yet! Like him I want to live a better, more dignified life – but not yet!

What historical invention, in your opinion, has most benefitted humankind?

Contraception, especially the pill: I think being able to control our fertility and decide for ourselves about whether or not to reproduce is a huge benefit, especially to the women of the world.

 

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

I first came to the Archive or Record Office to look at school record books and buildings information while I was editing my father, Frank Peters, autobiography, A Boy in Tetbury, twenty or so years ago.

Why are you interested in history?

I started on historical fiction cartoon strips in the Childrens Newspaper almost as soon as I could read and went on to any books I could find that belonged to my mother, who liked historical romances. I think the first full-length historical book I read through to the end was Jim Davis by John Masefield, when I was stuck in bed with chronic asthma at the age of six or seven. About that time my teacher, Mr Gardener, at Tetbury National School, thought and taught us that history was important. We built a model Saxon village and his room was illustrated with this own drawings. I learned more real history in two years in his class  than at any other time during my education. We moved away in 1947 and I had to go to another elementary school where I was horrified at the lack of knowledge in my new teacher and the hopeless inadequacy and incorrectness of our history textbook. I decided I ought to do something about it. Unfortunately I failed ‘O’ level History twice and have had to join various history groups in order to keep going.

What new skills have you learned from your visits?

The most important thing I learned was to bring two sharp pencils with me. That was especially important when I had to come all the way from London.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

My favourite period covers the late C18 and the early C19, so near and yet so far. I know the names of my great great grandparents from the period, for instance, though I do not know what any of them looked like because it was before the day of photographs. I am not particularly interested  in family history. I have come to love the period because it was a time of so much change in peoples lives and for the first time we have documents concerning the lives of people without property, eg the 1839 Blue Book on the weavers, and soldiers diaries.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Anything by Hilary Mantel will do as excellent modern historical fiction; but Walter Scott virtually invented the genre and not everything he wrote is unreadable. Charles Dickens wrote Barnaby Rudge and A tale of Two Cities; my own C19 favourite is The Trumpet Major by Thomas Hardy.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

An important and in a way archival memory is being pulled out of bed by my father, wrapped in blankets and carried to my bunk in the air raid shelter while some people known as Jerries were trying to kill me. About the same time I learned that Germs were wicked and for some time confused the two words.

Why is history important?

Once your immediate needs for food and shelter are satisfied you need to have some idea of where you have come from and where you are going if you intend to be human. Only looking back is sterile or romantic, but you cannot prepare the future without some grasp of past time.

What lessons have we learned from history?

Some of us think or hope that we have learned a lot. It is unfortunate that very few in Parliament think that history is more than nostalgia. Of course they are wrong.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

I live in a house that was built in C15, though it was largely rebuilt in C17 and has continued to be altered up to C21.There may be nothing left of the original but the footprint, but I like it.

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

I would like to own the painting called Windsor Castle that my grandfather bought very cheaply at auction and which my father foolishly gave to Del Boy when the house was cleared, mainly because the painting was always part of my life but partly because it just might be the missing 1802 Constable. I wonder where it is now?              

 

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

An interview for the role of county archivist in 2005.  I was not expecting to succeed but wanted to give it a go as it represented my dream job.  

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

A silver teapot from 1881.   I am greatly amused by the inscription noting its presentation to my great-grandfather for winning first prize for “Yellow Turnips - landlords class”! 

What would you say to encourage others to use Gloucestershire Archives?

There’s a wealth of interesting information for the curious, and a friendly welcome.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve discovered at Gloucestershire Archives?

Granville Sharp’s transcription of an 18th century Barbadian slave song (now inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World register).

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why? 

Medieval British history. I love the perspective of looking a long way back when life was very different.  Then as an archivist looking a long way forward to ensure key records being created now are available for future generations and wondering what they will make of life today.  

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why? 

The Lindisfarne Gospels - a remarkable Anglo-Saxon manuscript with exquisite illustrations.  But since the gospels are definitely not up for sale, I shall continue to treasure the specially minted Maundy money I received in Canterbury in 2002.  

Why is history important? 

To provide context and help understand the present.  Also to learn from what worked, and just as importantly, what didn’t.

Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?

The bicycle – an environmentally friendly means of transport, and good for keeping fit too. 

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Gloucester Cathedral cloisters- magnificent early medieval fan-vaulting, enhanced by natural light steaming in from the cloister garth, and memories of happy times there.   

Do you think there’s a future for archives, and why? 

Definitely.  Society will always need a trusted, authentic record of what went on.

 

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

Family History Research, I remember travelling down from London and eagerly and methodically searching through microfiche and ordering up parish church record books and asylum records, searching for that often elusive but once found priceless nugget of information.

What have you most recently researched?

I have recently been researching my maternal great, great, grandmother’s youngest brother, William John Williams born 1863 in Kingsholm; he left Gloucester and from Liverpool departed aboard steamship for Canada in 1911 with his wife and two young children. With help from the provincial Archives of Alberta after ordering documents from their archive and some diligent wider record searching I am thrilled to now be in touch with living descendants in Canada.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

I am interested in the late modern period, the age of revolution, Invention, advancement, empire, medical and scientific breakthroughs, the abolition of slavery; migration, industrialisation, the houses of Hanover and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Georgians Victorians and Edwardian’s, photography and film, the birth of Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis, so much to marvel at and admire.

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

I would want to meet Thomas Peacey my 4th great-grandfather born 1774/5 in Bisley, Stroud, Gloucestershire, he died in Bisley in 1852, he has always been the one constant in my family history I wonder what he looked like, if any of his descendants looked like him? I would want to ask him more about who he was, his life and his own parents and grandparents, what his life was like and if he ever thought about his own origins and history.

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Brooklyn by Irish author Colm Tóibín, for anyone who has stepped out into the great unknown and definitely for those that have not.

If you could own any historical object what would it be and why?

I would want to own an Elephant-head vase,  Sèvres Porcelain,  Vase created by Jean-Claude Duplessis.  Why? Because it’s so achingly gaudy and over the top, yet somehow it’s form is pure genius.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

I would travel back to the mid to late 19th (nineteenth) century, as long as this included an opportunity to visit The Great Exhibition of 1851. I imagine how exciting it must have been to take in all the wonders of this modern age; I should also have liked to meet Joseph Carey (John) Merrick a figure who fascinated me from my mid to late teens.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

I would definitely live in a regency Georgian terraced town house, though I would like to live in it now rather than in the period it was built.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

A rather plain mantle clock that belonged to my 3rd great-grandfather, I think about all the ancestors who have polished, wound, adjusted and regarded it over the years and how it has been a mainstay for them as it is today for me.

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

‘Fishermen at Sea’, by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Aside from the light, It reminds me of a line from a hymn "Eternal Father, Strong to Save” I imagined a view of what ‘O hear us when we cry to Thee, for those in Peril on the sea’, might look like.

 

What first brought you to Gloucestershire Archives?

A job interview for my first post as a newly qualified archivist, in April 1999.  I had travelled down on the train from North Wales that morning, starting out in the early hours and was exhausted by the time I sat down for my interview. Only then did I realise that I’d not eaten anything since the previous evening either as I’d been too nervous!  However, my ‘tummy rumbles’ kept me awake during the interview and I got the job! The six month post has just carried on and on and on…

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov - Lenin and his wife Nadya Krupskaya.  I would like to attend a Bolshevik Party rally, listen to their speeches and judge for myself whether they really were as passionate about social change as history books claim.  Later, I would meet up with them and over a glass of absinthe, their favourite tipple, we’d chat about revolutionary plans, time in exile and discuss what really happened to the Russian Royal family.

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

I would have liked to have taken part in a Chartist rebellion campaigning for the very basic right to vote. However, I would have tried to discourage my fellow Chartists from burning down the last remaining part of Nottingham’s medieval castle in 1831.  I’ve always felt quite annoyed that Nottingham’s current castle is a Victorian folly and instead we have to rely so heavily on Robin Hood to attract tourists to my home city!

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

In 1991, I had the opportunity to spend almost two months in Russia - St Petersburg and Moscow before going to university.  The barricades were still in position from the failed coup d’etat in August which was the beginning of the end of Gorbachev. This trip had a major impact on me personally, changed my focus, place of study, chosen subject and general life direction.

 Which figure in history would you like to be for 24 hours, and why?

Queen Elizabeth I for her strength, power and influence, her dress and jewels but definitely not her bad teeth or chalky skin tones

Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?

Sash windows…it never fails to surprise and fascinate me that the whole mechanism relies on weights tied to rope hidden in the frames…so simple yet so effective, genius

If you could write a letter to any historical figure, what would you write and who would you write to?

I would write to D H Lawrence and ask him if he really did, at one time, own and sign my Mum’s battered copy of ‘The Three Musketeers’.  It is signed ‘Bert Lawrence’ - the H stands for Herbert and this is what his family and friends called him. Mum went to school in Eastwood, his home town, so it is plausible but it would be good to settle this Bartlett family mystery!

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

 A letter, written to my grandfather, then aged nine, by his Uncle who was serving on the Western Front in 1916. He died, 3 months later whilst pulling someone out of No Mans Land who also sadly died…a total waste of life. He was recommended for a bravery award by his Regiment’s Commander but at this stage in the War, medals weren’t given posthumously for his lowly rank.  However, as his service record has survived at the TNA, we do at least know how highly he was regarded by those around him and I’m very proud of him.

What historic building, anywhere in the world, do you think is the most beautiful, and why?

Beaumaris Castle on the Isle of Anglesey built in c. 1295 and technically incomplete.  Sand, sea, a back drop of Snowdonia National Park and extremely close to a pub serving excellent chocolate fudge cake …although this is not why Edward I built it here nor why he failed to get it finished! It is a perfect example of symmetric concentric design. Put simply, it is exactly as a child would draw a castle.

If you had the power to change history what would you do?

I’d stop Catherine of Aragon from marrying Henry VIII and his brother before him.  It would have saved a fortune on wedding expenses and executions and prevented so much personal suffering and religious upheaval but then again, British History would have been a little less colourful.

 

Can you recommend a good historical novel?

Dominion, by CJ Sansom. A dystopian novel about the Nazis winning WW2; the opening paragraph describes how Hitler is attending the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph, in November 1945. Winston Churchill has gone underground to lead the Resistance. A cracking read.

What is the oldest thing you have in your home, and what appeals to you about it?

An eighteenth century blue and red Chinese ceramic bowl. The fact that a previous owner, probably sometime during the nineteenth century, smashed it but stuck it back together with several wire rivets (a common repair at that time for valuable porcelain) appeals to me. As a result of the damage it’s practically worthless, yet beautiful and priceless to me.

What painting from the past would you like to own, and why?

Any portrait by Tamara de Lempicka, a Polish oil painter between the two World Wars, because they sum up the style and decadence of Art Deco. Most of her work is in private collections – Madonna holds the world’s biggest private collection of de Lempicka’s work.

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

A Georgian or Regency townhouse, with a mahogany long-case (grandfather) clock in the hall. Just because I love the sound of clocks chiming.

Is there one invention from the past that you wish you’d created?

The corkscrew – an object both beautiful and useful, and often mislaid. Classic design. And it would have made me very wealthy (possibly – don’t know when patents were introduced).

If you could meet any historical figure who would this be, and why?  

Lorena Hickock (known as Hick), an American journalist from South Dakota, and the last known lover of Eleanor Roosevelt. I want to know if she really did run away from home, as a teenager, and live with the travelling circus for a while. And I want to know what this particular FLOTUS was like.

What particular period of history are you interested in, and why?

The nineteenth century, because my four grandparents were all born in the 1880’s and 90’s. I never met them, but would like to find out more about them and their lives.

Which historical event would you have liked to play a part in, and why?

The suffragist movement, in Edwardian England – fighting for women to get the vote. Because I like the way they challenged, ridiculed, fought and overcame the Establishment.

What do you think has been the most significant thing in your personal life history so far, and why?

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. I was 30, that year, and had grown up with the Cold War – remember the UK Government pamphlets, “Protect and Survive” advising Britons to crawl under the kitchen table in the event of a nuclear attack? The fall of the wall marked the end of the Cold War, and young people of my generation in the west began to feel safe again.

What historical British figure should appear on any new £50 note, and why?

Emmeline Pankhurst; it’s over a century since she broke the law of the land. In the interests of 50% of the population. What a fitting tribute to have her image on one of our bank notes. It will probably take another century to even seriously consider awarding her this honour. Remember the fuss about Jane Austen?

 

Why are you interested in history?

Because I’m interested in people, be they alive or – in the case of most archives- dead!

If you could meet any person from history, who would it be and why?

Mexican artist Frida Kahlo to express my appreciation and admiration

What historical mystery would you like to solve and why?

I’d like to find the definitive and incontestable answer to “who was Jack the Ripper”.  Then maybe we could consign him to history.

If you could journey back in time to any period of history, what would this be and why?

Either the Edwardian period or the 1920s- I like the clothes! 

Why is history important?

Because it explains the present

If you could live in a house from any historical period which one would you choose?

Easy- a Georgian town house. I’d like a whole one though please, not just a flat!

What is the oldest thing you have in your home and why does it appeal to you?

The oldest thing I own personally is a small wooden box which belonged to my great, great grandmother. It has her name on the top, on a tiny metal plaque.  I like it because it’s a direct tangible link to one of my ancestors and it’s been handed down from mother to daughter.

If you could write a letter to any historical figure, what would you write and who would you write to?

I’d write to Charles Dickens in May 1858 to persuade him not to treat his wife so cruelly. He fell for someone else, fair enough, but he didn’t have to traduce her in the newspapers or prevent her from seeing her (10) children.  I would appeal to his better nature and -in case that failed- would say that posterity will judge it a stain on his character 

Imagine you were a talented artist – whose portrait from the past would you paint, and why?

Jane Austen- because we hardly have any- just a small sketch by her sister

What lessons have we learned from history?  

 I’m not sure there are any

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