Westminster City Archives

Westminster City Archives Archives Centre and Local Studies Library for City of Westminster We're the premier destination for exploring the social, economic and cultural history of City of Westminster.
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Nestled in a quiet street, just a stone's throw from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament, City of Westminster Archives Centre houses a host of manuscript sources, historic photographs, prints, books, maps, and much more, unlocking the door to the past of our fascinating city. Our special Art and Design Collection has been recognised as being of national importance, and our extensive Theatre Collection is one of the most extensive public collections on the history of the West End stage. Our page is a great way to stay in touch with everything going on at the Archives Centre, from brand new exhibitions, walks and talks, to on-line projects and the latest additions to our collections.

Today, we continue with some more of Tim’s photographs.  The three rather unprepossessing photographs of greenery we are...
08/08/2020

Today, we continue with some more of Tim’s photographs.



The three rather unprepossessing photographs of greenery we are sharing today actually show the only place in London where the conditions are right, that is wet all year, for sphagnum moss, horsetail, and water pepper to survive. It is a fenced-in gully in the West Meadow on the Kenwood Estate on Hampstead Heath.

Like the many muddy patches and springs in the area, this gully lies part way down a slope where porous sandy soil above gives way to virtually impermeable clay below, so that water seeping downwards underground will suddenly find it has to run horizontally, surface, and may then cause / be trapped in a depression like this.

This clay dominates the geology of the whole of the London area and much of the southeast of England. Many London buildings are constructed of London clay bricks with their yellow-brown colouring, although many of these buildings also have red brick street frontages, as can be seen in the other photograph we are sharing. This is probably a prestige issue, as these red bricks will not have been produced as locally and therefore were probably more expensive.

An important announcement for all our visitors
07/08/2020

An important announcement for all our visitors

An important update from us -

Following the Government’s recent decision, from Saturday 8 August library visitors will be required to wear a face covering on entering our libraries and Westminster City Archives

All visitors, apart from children under 11 and those who have reasonable cause should wear a face mask, scarf or other covering. Not all exemptions are visible, so please be understanding of other library visitors.

Please do share, especially with friends, family and neighbours who aren't online.

Last week we announced that the Baptism, Marriage and Burial records of the Westminster churches are now available to vi...
06/08/2020
www.ancestry.co.uk

Last week we announced that the Baptism, Marriage and Burial records of the Westminster churches are now available to view exclusively on Ancestry.

The registers are packed full of historically important events, such as the baptism of Charles II, the marriage of American President Theodore Roosevelt, and the marriage of author George Eliot.

Family historians around the world will be able to access records of their Westminster ancestors, tracing back to the mid-1500s, long before the government began the registration of births, marriages and deaths.

The records provide access to over 4 million names which are fully searchable through the Ancestry website. These collections are a treasure trove for all genealogists, and will be soon followed by some of our never before published collections.

Ancestry have kindly granted those without an account free access to search the indexes of the Westminster collections for the month of August. Just follow this link to get started!

Full access to Ancestry is available in all our libraries or at the Archives Centre through our PCs or via your own device using our free Wifi. Please check our website for current opening hours and access arrangements as the current offer at each site is slightly different at the moment.

http://www.ancestry.co.uk/s109542/t44144/rd.ashx

05/08/2020

Today’s video is an animation created to introduce children to one of the most famous and brilliant London residents to ever visit a barber shop in Soho, Charles Darwin.

Here is the eminent scientist as you have never seen him before, getting his hair cut and deep in conversation with William Wills, the dog breeding barber of Great Marlborough Street. Together they delve into such weighty subjects as the theory of evolution by natural selection and the prospect of matrimony!

This film was made with the Linnean Society and is based on the true story of Darwin’s friendship with his barber. It was scripted by Peter Daniel from Westminster City Archives and animated by Tom Hillenbrand with the artistic input of children from local schools.

We hope our viewers, young and old will enjoy it.

Starting today, and over the next few weeks, Tim will be sharing some photographs that he has taken recently in his area...
03/08/2020

Starting today, and over the next few weeks, Tim will be sharing some photographs that he has taken recently in his area of London, which, while not taken in Westminster, nevertheless have some relevance to the history of Westminster or of London more generally.

The information panel at this viewpoint, near Kenwood House on Hampstead Heath, lays out some clear connections between Kenwood and Westminster.

Towards the right of the distant view, most Londoners will be able to identify the distinctive shape of the Post Office / BT Tower. Just to its left in this view, lie Westminster School, the Palace of Westminster, and Westminster Abbey. Lord Mansfield, who owned Kenwood from 1754 to 1793, was educated at the School, was an MP, and was buried in the Abbey.

We are delighted to announce that some of our records have gone live on Ancestry!Stay tuned for more details next week!
01/08/2020

We are delighted to announce that some of our records have gone live on Ancestry!

Stay tuned for more details next week!

Westminster Parish records are now available exclusively on Ancestry®. The borough includes many well-known London churches which have been the scene of baptisms, marriages and burials to some of London’s rich and famous. These records are an invaluable resource for local historians and key to tracing your family history in the capital.

Explore this extensive new collection which includes 2,594,612 new records to search, we'd love to hear who you​ discover! https://bit.ly/30iR931​

01/08/2020

Following yesterday's power outage we are pleased to confirm that we are open again this morning for PC access and non-archival study space.

Westminster Libraries & Archives

On this day in 1970, the Royal Navy stopped issuing to sailors their daily ration of rum (the daily tot), a practice dat...
31/07/2020

On this day in 1970, the Royal Navy stopped issuing to sailors their daily ration of rum (the daily tot), a practice dating back to 1655. 31 July has been known ever since as Black Tot Day. We are sharing today an undated print by Hinchcliff of Admiral Sir George Collier, 1738 – 1795, who therefore falls well within the period when the daily tot was issued.



Ref. Ashbridge B/COL Acc 1645

30/07/2020
Virtual VCH: An Online Mini-Conference

Today we have asked one of our researchers and speakers Dr Francis Boorman to talk about his part in a new video produced by the Victoria County History.



You can watch the video from this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tlxOA0NsW8M



The Victoria County History (VCH) was founded in 1899 as a national project to write the history of every county in England. At its inception, the project was dedicated to Queen Victoria, which is how it derives its name. Virtual VCH was a fantastic mini-conference held to share the latest VCH research while the UK remained in lockdown. There were three short presentations of works in progress from VCH projects around England, followed by two fascinating lectures with essential information for all local historians, on diversifying local history and research during lockdown.



My own contribution was about work in progress on the parish of St George Hanover Square in Westminster, and specifically the small area of Shepherd’s Market near Hyde Park Corner. I tried to explain what makes it so different from the grander parts of Mayfair to the north. Its position in London, quirks of landownership and the presence of the rowdy May Fair all combined to give the area a unique character which is still evident today. I hope the video is of interest and inspires people to seek out some of the incredible resources the VCH has to offer on the history of Westminster and beyond.



Dr Francis Boorman

Brought to you by the Victoria County History at the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community in the Institute of Historical Research, this conf...

Today’s book review from Tim is only indirectly of a book.   Twice in the last twelve years I have visited Copenhagen. O...
29/07/2020

Today’s book review from Tim is only indirectly of a book.



Twice in the last twelve years I have visited Copenhagen. On the first occasion I stumbled across the then newly redisplayed, very extensive, and stunning Danish Prehistory Galleries in the National Museum of Denmark.



Obviously, part of the fascination was seeing another part of Northern Europe’s prehistory, simultaneously different from, and similar to, what we are familiar with from the British Isles, and the sheer unexpected stunningness of some of the individual objects. But the galleries are also by far the best presented prehistoric galleries I have seen anywhere.



Each room was clearly and explicitly themed and stunningly well lit and visually designed, usually with a large graphic panel of appropriate contextualising landscape covering one wall. Star items were in cases in the centre of the room. Other items were in cases around the walls. A systematic set of information panels for each room, ranging from a summary of the theme of the room down to individual object labels, brought the whole together. It was absolutely clear what the range of options were between looking at everything, and a superficial but nevertheless comprehensive approach, if you were pressed for time. But me being me, I felt compelled to spend more or less a whole day reading every piece of text and looking at every object.



Obviously, a book cannot convey the experience of visiting a set of galleries or the full nature of the objects in them, but it gives a flavour. Although the galleries were opened in 2008, I had to wait until 2013 for the accompanying book to come out, which I heartily recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in the prehistory of Europe. This prehistory collection is among the oldest in the world, and it was while it was in his charge that Christian Thomsen (1788 – 1865) first suggested the division of prehistory into three broad periods - Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. The collection is thus, in a way, the prehistory of our conceptualisation of prehistory.

28/07/2020

Fifty years ago today, on the 28th of July 1970, the Westway Flyover was officially opened.

The construction of the flyover motorway marked a drastic change to the cityscape of central London. During the 1960’s Londoners had witnessed demolition and construction on a gigantic scale - streets, buildings and entire communities disappeared to make way for soaring pillars supporting the new sky way.
Much has already been written about the flyover on The Library Time Machine blog. Isabel Hernandez, of Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies department, shares memories of North Paddington before the Flyover: https://tinyurl.com/yy7r3fut. Her colleague Dave Walker displays a photographic journal showing stark images of vast swathes of urban wasteland where sites had been demolished, lying desolate and littered with discarded junk: https://tinyurl.com/y2qt9vuh .

Today, 50 years on, we present you with footage of Paddington on the brink of redevelopment. It was filmed by the Paddington Society to record for posterity scenes that would soon be lost. Some of the streets and landmarks may be familiar; others have gone forever.

We hope you enjoy the film.

Today we have another book review from Tim.  Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton is subtitled ‘A History of the Ritual ...
24/07/2020

Today we have another book review from Tim.



Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton is subtitled ‘A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.’ It is a serious study of the origins and history of all the activities great, small, Christian, Pagan, and secular, attached to major dates in the year, that various people all over the British Isles have engaged in. The book is arranged in chapters chronological through the year, beginning at Christmas, and ending with Fireworks Night, but is also indexed and has good notes. Tentative conclusions are also drawn at the end from its varied materials. It is steeped in deep scholarship and calls into question many traditional views in this area, such as the notion of there having been four great seasonal feasts across the linguistically defined Celtic world in Antiquity (that is on the Continent, as well as in the British Isles), which, it appears, is very likely a confection of ill-founded eighteenth and nineteenth century scholarship that has been repeated ever since. A cabinet of well-researched curiosity.

22/07/2020
Interview with Melanie Backe-Hansen

Archivist Gillian Staples interviews Melanie Backe-Hansen, co-author of 'A House Through Time'.

This interview was recorded in July 2020 for City of Westminster Archives Centre

Mozart at Ranelagh Gardens 29 June 1764   Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his family were resident in Westminster from April...
19/07/2020

Mozart at Ranelagh Gardens 29 June 1764



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his family were resident in Westminster from April 1764 to July 1765. They lived at several addresses, including Cecil Court off Charing Cross Road, in Five Fields Row (then in semi-rural Pimlico, now 180 Ebury Street), and lastly at 20 Frith Street, Soho. During his stay in London he performed at several public and private venues, notably Ranelagh Gardens, a fashionable pleasure garden on the Thames. This print of 1770 is entitled: “The Canal, Chinese Building, Rotundo, etc. in Ranelagh Gardens, with the Masquerade”. The grounds are now part of the Chelsea Royal Hospital gardens.



The portrait of Mozart bears the legend: “J.C.W.T Mozart. Compositeur et Maitre de Musique. Age de 7 ans”. It dates from 1823.



Refs: Gardner Box 60 No 51c (Ranelagh Gardens), Gardner Box 70 No 33 (Portrait)

On this day 50 years ago, the Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, declared a state of emergency by royal proclamation, af...
16/07/2020

On this day 50 years ago, the Home Secretary, Reginald Maudling, declared a state of emergency by royal proclamation, after dockers went on strike over pay.



Troops were put on standby. Many dockers decided to continue to move perishable goods, so troops were less used than initially thought necessary to ensure the supply of basic supplies during the strike, which ended peaceably by the end of the month.



For more information, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/july/16/newsid_2504000/2504223.stm.



Our photograph of Reginald Maudling is from 1964 and shows him addressing a Young Conservatives meeting. Ref. 1267/34

15/07/2020
The Cato Street Conspiracy

Peter Daniel, our education officer talks about the Cato Street Conspiracy and introduces a new song, specially commissioned by Westminster Archives and inspired by the last words of condemned conspirator James Ings ‘Death or Liberty’.

A couple of reminders for researchers: You may be interested to know that the Victoria County History website has just p...
14/07/2020
St George's Hanover Square

A couple of reminders for researchers:

You may be interested to know that the Victoria County History website has just posted some draft chapters of the St George's (Hanover Sq) book online and are inviting comments.

You can access the pages from this link:

https://www.history.ac.uk/research/victoria-county-history/county-histories-progress/middlesex-and-london/st-georges-hannover-square



Also, a reminder that the offer on the Kindle version of St Clement Danes, 1660-1900 (Victoria County History, Shorts) is due to expire on the 20th of July. So get it while you can!

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07PDJ6K56?pf_rd_r=1EX3V9M69HEG7369Q9WM&pf_rd_p=e632fea2-678f-4848-9a97-bcecda59cb4e

The parish of St George's Hanover Square encompasses Mayfair and Belgravia, of which large areas were built by the Grosvenor Estate. This VCH Short will relate the history of the parish, from its inception in 1725, to the establishment of the London County Council in 1900. Following the outline of t...

Today we have another contribution from Alison, our retired archivist, on art galleries.   Westminster has some of the m...
13/07/2020

Today we have another contribution from Alison, our retired archivist, on art galleries.



Westminster has some of the most internationally significant art collections.



The Wilton Diptych in the National Gallery has always been a favourite of mine, showing Richard II and the white hart, his personal symbol. The Courtauld is renowned for its French Impressionists, many of whom owed a debt to our great James William Mallord Turner (1775-1851), whose paintings are in the specially constructed Clore Gallery at Tate Britain. This incidentally stands on the site of the old Millbank Penitentiary where many prisoners were transported to Australia for relatively minor transgressions in the early nineteenth century.



Our images today are

(1) a photograph of three of Alison’s art gallery guidebooks, courtesy of Alison

(2) a view of Trafalgar Square from our collections, showing the National Gallery, engraved by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd (1855)

(3) a bird’s-eye view of Millbank penitentiary (copied from a model by the Clerk of Works), nineteenth century.

Book review by Tim.  History in Quotations by M. J. Cohen and John Major does exactly what it says on the cover. It pres...
10/07/2020

Book review by Tim.



History in Quotations by M. J. Cohen and John Major does exactly what it says on the cover. It presents the full sweep of 5000 years of world history through contextualised quotations from actors in, and commentators on, events.



Random example: Robert Burns on the execution of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, ‘What is there in the delivering over a perjured Blockhead & an unprincipled Prostitute to the hands of the hangman?’ This was written a little over a year after the fact; within another two years, Burns had become a strong opponent of the Revolution.



The book is arranged in ‘chapters’ according to periods/geography, but there is also an index. As a two-inch thick hardback, this has been found useful both as a doorstop to prop the door open when it is not in use, and as reading material when it is.

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Comments

LMA (Lisboa Metropolitan Area) and the Lioz Limestone Selection Environment Influence, by Laurindo Amorim This manuscript covers a lot of ground, delving into the history, archaeology, and even chemistry of Lioz limestone with the selection environment influence and other types of stones in Portugal. Describes the countless utilities that can be used with stone. As well as making known the role of some places in the Lisboa Metropolitan Area in the distribution of the stone in various places around the world. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087L2YX5J?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860
Does anyone remember the Grand Slam Club? It ceased trading around the mid 1960s. Jimmy Stone owned it. We are researching family history and trying to find out more.
The adventure starts here, with a picture from the Westminter Archives...
I've used the Westminster City Archives for decades. It's first-rate research facility. Its people are reliably helpful & pleasant. Thank You.
This is one of my favourite places to do research.
Am big enthusiast of the Westminster Archive - Happy New Year to all there.
About the value of libraries!
Dear Westminster City Archives This week the Lost Cousins newsletter (https://www.lostcousins.com/newsletters2/midjul17news.htm) reports on an exciting collection of 1915 National Registration - 9 boxes containing over 13000 forms. When I consulted the online catalogue I found just 2 items matching the search terms 'national registration'. So diappointing! The newsletter contributor has made a good start on a description of this collection, so please update the catalogue with some alacrity.
Searching for the removal records of bodies removed from St. Martin in the Fields.