“Unite, persevere, and be free.”

The consequences of the Napoleonic Wars (1815) and the effects of the Corn Laws (tariffs and trade restrictions designed to keep grain prices high) were keenly felt in the north of England: there was famine and chronic unemployment. Furthermore, despite its large and dense populations, the north had poor political representation. There were substantial numbers of industrial workers that did not have a vote and, at that time, some sizable towns had no MP whilst ‘rotten boroughs’ (boroughs that no longer existed) did. Dissatisfaction manifested itself in the form of riots in towns including Newcastle.

One working class man, Henry Hunt, distinguished himself as an orator (a skilled public speaker). Hunt believed in equal rights, universal suffrage, parliamentary reform and an end to child labour. Hunt was to address a demonstration organised by the Manchester Patriotic Union at St. Peter’s Field, Manchester on 16th August 1819. That demonstration came to be known as the ‘Peterloo Massacre’ and is considered to be one of the most seminal events in radical British history. Magistrates summoned the Yeomanry who charged into the crowd, knocking down a woman and killing a child. The 15th Hussars were then summoned. They also charged, with sabres drawn, killing 15 people and injuring an estimated 400-700 more.

Page from Image: ‘These are the Manchester Sparrows, Who kill’d Poor Robins, with Bows and Arrows’. From: Who Killed Cock Robin? A Satirical Tragedy, or Hieroglyphic Prophecy on the Manchester Blot!!! (London: John Cahuac, 1819) Cowen Tracts v.136, n.1

‘These are the Manchester Sparrows, Who kill’d Poor Robins, with Bows and Arrows’. From: Who Killed Cock Robin? A Satirical Tragedy, or Hieroglyphic Prophecy on the Manchester Blot!!! (London: John Cahuac, 1819) Cowen Tracts v.136, n.1

Henry Hunt was arrested and jailed, in Ilchester, for two years. (In March 1822, reformers in Newcastle petitioned the House of Commons to liberate Hunt. The petition was presented by J. G. Lambton but was rejected.) Journalist, James Wroe, coined the name ‘Peterloo Massacre’ – a pun on the Battle of Waterloo. His newspaper, the Manchester Observer, was shut down and Wroe was imprisoned for seditious libel. John Tyas, a reporter with the Times, was on the hustings and was also arrested.

‘The North West View of his Majesty’s Jail at Ilchester’. From: Memoirs of Henry Hunt, Esq. Written by Himself, in His Majesty’s Jail at Ilchester, in the County of Somerset (London: T. Dolby, 1820) 19th Century Collection 942.073 HUN

‘The North West View of his Majesty’s Jail at Ilchester’. From: Memoirs of Henry Hunt, Esq. Written by Himself, in His Majesty’s Jail at Ilchester, in the County of Somerset (London: T. Dolby, 1820) 19th Century Collection 942.073 HUN

Peterloo precipitated a movement of protest that swept across the country. Indeed, a demonstration held in Newcastle, 11th October 1819, was possibly the largest such event. At the same time, the government cracked down on reform. People could already be arrested without a trial (the suspension of Habeas Corpus) and new legislation, the Six Acts, legitimised house searches and the punishment of any writer that criticised the Government. First and foremost, the Government went after the press: cheap periodicals were suppressed under the Six Acts, which forced publishers to pay a bond to the Government of £300 in London (worth approximately £17,229 today) and £200 in the provinces (worth approximately £11,486 today). A 4d duty (approximately 96p in today’s worth) applied to periodicals that were published more frequently than every 26 days, sold for less than 6d and contained public news.

‘These are the Magistrate Ravens, Who saw Cock Robin die’. From: Who Killed Cock Robin? A Satirical Tragedy, or Hieroglyphic Prophecy on the Manchester Blot!!! (London: John Cahuac, 1819) Cowen Tracts v.136, n.1.

‘These are the Magistrate Ravens, Who saw Cock Robin die’. From: Who Killed Cock Robin? A Satirical Tragedy, or Hieroglyphic Prophecy on the Manchester Blot!!! (London: John Cahuac, 1819) Cowen Tracts v.136, n.1.

That didn’t stop Newcastle printer and bookseller, John Marshall, from publishing The Northern Reformer’s Monthly Magazine and Political Register, for Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland (1823-1824). It comprised a series of articles on working class radical political reform in the Northern Counties, principally calling for greater democratic representation and focusing on Newcastle in particular. The first issue contains an account by Eneas Mackenzie of John Marshall himself speaking at a meeting in Newcastle to celebrate the release from prison of Henry Hunt. Marshall supported several radical causes including the victims of the Peterloo Massacre, and had earlier published Radical Monday. A letter from Bob in Gotham to his Cousin Bob in the Country, containing an account of that glorious day!! which describes that open air meeting held in Newcastle on 11th October 1819.

The Northern Reformer’s Monthly Magazine, and Political Register, for Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland (Newcastle upon Tyne: J. Marshall, 1823) Rare Books 941.074 NOR

The Northern Reformer’s Monthly Magazine, and Political Register, for Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Westmoreland and Cumberland (Newcastle upon Tyne: J. Marshall, 1823) Rare Books 941.074 NOR

13 years would pass before the 1832 Reform Act abolished rotten boroughs, created new boroughs in towns and gave 200,000 more men the vote. It was not until the Representation of the People Act (1918) that all men aged 21 and above were enfranchised. Women waited until 1928 to be given the right to vote on the same terms as men.

50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing

Two pages from Peter Bennet's notebook showing two different drafts of the poem 'Moons at Cleethorpes'.

Pages from Peter Bennet’s notebook containing draft poems of ‘Moons at Cleethorpes’ (Bennet (Peter) Archive, PB/1/5/2)

On the 20th July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to walk on the moon after the successful landing of spacecraft ‘Eagle’ on the surface of the moon a few hours earlier. The landing ended the ‘Space Race’ between the USSR and the USA, and was a breakthrough moment in space exploration.

To celebrate, this month’s treasure is part of poet Peter Bennet’s notebooks containing a draft of his poem ‘Moons at Cleethorpes’ from 1985. Whilst the moon landing of 1969 was a significant moment in the history of space exploration and the development of scientific understanding of outer space, the moon has long held a significant place in culture, particularly in works of art and literature such as Bennet’s poem.

Bennet initially studied Art and Design with ambitions to be a painter but turned to poetry when he began working as a teacher of redundant steelworkers in Consett. The connection to visual imagery can be seen in this poem through the language used to evoke the real moon and the pleasure park rides, and the sense of interplay between the natural dark and artificial lights of the park. The notebook provides a fascinating insight into the working processes behind Bennet’s poetry. It is possible to see where he has amended lines, scribbling over phrases, and rewritten over the poem in coloured pen to try out alternative words and phrases. Comparison with the published version of the poem can show which part of the poem Bennet chose to use as the ‘finished’ version, but these drafts can also demonstrate the development of ideas. In this case, the red annotations to the poem suggest Bennet was interested in how to convey a sense of light and movement as he tries out alternative phrases of ‘garish’ and ‘brashly lit-up’, ‘floats high’ and ‘soars back’.

You can hear more about Bennet’s life and work and his hopes for the future of his notebooks held here in Special Collections through our Collected Voices resource. More of his drafts and pages from the notebooks are also available to view online through the Collections Captured resource.

Contemporary Poetry Collections: Poets and their Archives

To coincide with ‘Transformations: Newcastle Poetry Festival 2019‘, which ran from 1st-4th May 2019, Special Collections and Archives showcased Contemporary Poetry Collections: Poets and their Archives, using material from our recently acquired and catalogued contemporary poetry archives. Material from the archives of poets Sean O’Brien, Jack Mapanje, Selima Hill, Peter Bennet and Moniza Alvi were on display to provide an insight into the varied voices of contemporary poetry and literary archives held by Newcastle University Special Collections. Contemporary Poetry Collections exhibition poster

Poets from the exhibition are highlighted below;

Moniza Alvi

Moniza Alvi was born in Lahore, Pakistan, and came to England when she was a few months old.  She grew up in Hertfordshire and studied at the Universities of York and London.  After working for many years as a secondary school teacher, she is now a freelance writer and tutor.

Alvi’s poetical career was launched after winning the Poetry Business Prize in 1991, a prize she won jointly with fellow poet Peter Daniels.  Her first independent collection, The Country at My Shoulder (1993), was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and the Whitbread Poetry Award. She has since published seven further collections of poetry with Oxford University Press and subsequently Bloodaxe Books.  Alvi received a prestigious Cholmondeley Award in 2002.

The themes of Alvi’s work are often those of duality, division, identity and feminism.

An Unsafe Subject.  Trauma is the central theme of ‘Europa’, Alvi’s 2008 collection, in particular the trauma of rape.

This is explored in Alvi’s re-imagining of the Greek myth of the rape of the beautiful Europa by Zeus (chief of gods).

Following the publication, Alvi was asked to write the foreword to Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives.  Here, Alvi considers how rape is still often considered a taboo subject and explores whether this is a result of rape being primarily considered a women’s issue.

Front cover of 'Europa'. Bloodaxe Books Collection, 821.914 ALV

Front cover of ‘Europa’. Bloodaxe Books Collection, 821.914 ALV

Poetry in Progress.  Pages from Alvi’s notebook and draft typescript provide an insight into Alvi’s writing process of ‘At the Time of Partition’ (2013). This was Alvi’s first new poetry book since her T.S. Elliot Prize shortlisted collection ‘Europa’ (2008).

Pages from notebook containing notes, poetical sketches and drafts, poetical ideas and suggestions for the creative process. Alvi (Moniza) Alvi, ALV/5/1

Page from a manuscript draft of ‘At the Time of the Partition’ including comments. Alvi (Moniza) Archive, ALV/1/1/1/2

Peter Bennet

Peter Bennet was born in Staffordshire in 1942. He won a scholarship to King’s School Macclesfield before attending Manchester College of Art and Design where he studied art.  He then went on to teach art in secondary schools.

Later, Bennet worked with around 1000 redundant steelworkers following the closure of Consett Steel Works.  The job was to teach basic English, which evolved into exploring literature. This exploration and experience was to kick start Bennet’s writing career.

Bennet has published poetry collections with Bloodaxe Books and Flambard Press. He has received major awards from New Writing North and Arts Council England, and has won numerous poetry competitions.

Bennet’s themes include folklore, legend and transformation – inspired by living off-grid in the ‘Wilds of Wanney’, Northumberland, for thirty-three years. Below are some items from the Bennet (Peter) Archive.

Inspired by the Landscape.
Much of Bennet’s work was inspired by his surroundings. “Snow at Fourlawshill Top” references the Wanney Hills, which was Bennet’s home for many years.

Hareshaw Linn is one of Northumberland’s most spectacular waterfalls.  It is also a Site of Scientific Interest for its rare ferns and lichens.

Notebook containing Drafts of Poems, 1985 Bennet (Peter) Archive, PB/1/5-3

Pages from notebook containing Drafts of Poems, including drafts of Hareshaw Linn, 1985. Bennet (Peter) Archive, PB/1/5/1

‘Sir John Fenwick’s Skull’ – Award Winning Poem.
Early versions of ‘Sir John Fenwick’s Skull’ poem give a snapshot of how it evolved into the winner of the Basil Bunting prize.

Sir John Fenwick’s skull and helmet, the inspiration for the poem, were returned to Hexham Abbey following his death at the Battle of Marston Moor (1644).  The skull is currently on display at Hexham Old Gaol.

'Sir John Fenwick's Skull' - Final version, 1987. Bennet (Peter) Archive, PB/6

‘Sir John Fenwick’s Skull’ – Final version, 1987. Bennet (Peter) Archive, PB/6

Jack Mapanje

Jack Mapanje was born in Malawi in 1944.  He worked as a secondary school teacher before moving to the University of Malawi, first as a lecturer and then as Head of English.

Mapanje began writing poetry out of despair at the political situation in his homeland, an authoritarian one-party state.  His first poetry collection, Of Chameleons and Gods, was published in the UK in 1981, winning critical acclaim around the world.  It was ‘withdrawn from circulation’ in Malawi by the governing dictatorship in 1985.

He was arrested in 1987 and detained without charge or trial. During his incarceration, Mapanje continued to compose poetry, but denied access to pen and paper, he crafted most of these poems in his head.  On occasion, Mapanje was able to write poems on toilet roll, soap packets or similar scraps – which were then smuggled out of prison.  After numerous international campaigns, Mapanje was finally released after 3 years, 7 months and 16 days with no explanation.

His next two volumes of work, The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison (1993) and Skipping without Ropes (1998), were largely composed during his time in prison.

Poems from Prison.  The majority of poems in the Mapanje (Jack) Archive were composed during his incarceration.  As pen and paper were forbidden, these poems were mainly created and crafted in Mapanje’s head, often coming back into his consciousness after his release. Letters and poems were often also written on toilet paper, such as the below letter from Jack Mapanje to David Kerr.

Letter written on toilet paper tissue by Jack Mapanje to David Kerr whilst a prisoner in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi

Extract from a letter written by Jack Mapanje to David Kerr whilst a prisoner in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi. Mapanje (Jack) Archive, MAP/6/3/43

During his time in prison, Mapanje wrote his second collection of poetry, ‘The Chattery Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison’ (1993), and much of his third, ‘Skipping without Rope’ (1998).

Page from a typescript draft of 'The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison', which includes drafts of two poems included in the collection. Mapanje (Jack) Archive, MAP/2/8/3

Page from a typescript draft of ‘The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison’, which includes drafts of two poems included in the collection. Mapanje (Jack) Archive, MAP/2/8/3

Selima Hill

Selima Hill was born into a family of painters in 1945 and grew up in rural England and Wales.  She later attended boarding school before winning a scholarship to study Moral Sciences at Cambridge.  After marrying and starting a family, Hill published her first collection of poetry, Saying Hello at the Station (1984).

She has won the Cholmondeley Award and the Arvon International Poetry Competition.  Her collection Violet (1997) was shortlisted for three British poetry awards, and Bunny (2001) won her the Whitbread Poetry Award.

As well as writing poetry, Hill has worked on a variety of multimedia projects including collaborations with the Royal Ballet, Welsh National Opera, Science Museum and Imperial War Museum.

Hill has also taught creative writing in hospitals and prisons, and was Writer in Residence at the Royal Festival Hall.

Hill’s themes include mental health issues, sexual abuse and family conflicts, often written in a surrealist style.

The Hill Method (Hill (Selima) Archive, SH/8/4). This was a creative way Hill invented to write a poem – it’s definitely worth a try! Her notebooks, like many of the poets featured here in this post, give an insight into Hill’s creative process – often including notes, drawings, collages and personal reflections.

Page from a notebook containing poems, notes, drawings and personal reflections. Hill (Selima) Archive, SH/4/10

Page from a notebook containing poems, notes, drawings and personal reflections. Hill (Selima) Archive, SH/4/10

Pages from notebook containing notes relating to draft poems. Hill (Selima) Archive, SH/4/91

Pages from notebook containing notes relating to draft poems. Hill (Selima) Archive, SH/4/91

Sean O’Brien

Sean O’Brien was born in 1952 in London.  He grew up in Hull and was educated at the University of Cambridge.

O’Brien is a poet, critic, anthologist, broadcaster and short fiction writer.  He has also written for television and radio.

He has won numerous poetry awards including the Eric Gregory Award (1979), the Somerset Maugham Award (1984) and the Cholmondeley Award (1988).  O’Brien is only one of two poets to have won both the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Poetry Prize for the same collection of poems – The Drowned Book. (2007)

He was Writer in Residence at Newcastle Live Theatre between 2001 and 2003 (which he held jointly with the late novelist and poet, Julia Darling) and was Vice President of the Poetry Society.  He is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.

O’Brien’s themes include social history, politics and class – written with a mix of detailed realism and dark surrealism.

The Frighteners was published in the aftermath of one of Britain’s most divisive events, the year-long miners’ strike of 1984-85.  Not only was there a North–South divide, communities all over the country were torn apart.  In this interview, O’Brien discusses his thoughts and experiences of the time and how it influenced The Frighteners.

Front cover of 'The Frighteners'. Bloodaxe Books Collection, 821.914 OBR

Front cover of ‘The Frighteners’. Bloodaxe Books Collection, 821.914 OBR

Development of poems in ‘The Frighteners’These hand written and annotated versions of the poem Cousin Coat, gives a small insight into O’Brien’s thought process.  The words come and go, crossings out made and annotations drawn, highlighting how the poem evolved into the final published version for inclusion in ‘The Frighteners’.

Page from a draft of Cousin Coat, a poem by Sean O'Brien - a hand written manuscript draft of a poem for inclusion in Sean O'Brien's poetry collection 'The Frighteners'. O'Brien (Sean) Archive, OBR/1/1/2/4

Page from a draft of Cousin Coat, a poem by Sean O’Brien – a hand written manuscript draft of a poem for inclusion in Sean O’Brien’s poetry collection ‘The Frighteners’. O’Brien (Sean) Archive, OBR/1/1/2/4

Page from a draft of Cousin Coat, a poem by Sean O'Brien - a hand written manuscript draft of a poem for inclusion in Sean O'Brien's poetry collection 'The Frighteners'. O'Brien (Sean) Archive, OBR/1/1/2/4

Page from a draft of Cousin Coat, a poem by Sean O’Brien – a hand written manuscript draft of a poem for inclusion in Sean O’Brien’s poetry collection ‘The Frighteners’. O’Brien (Sean) Archive, OBR/1/1/2/4

The exhibition was planned, designed and curated by an MA Art Museum and Gallery Studies placement student.

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Find other Literary Archive collections available online on our Collections Guide.

Listen to oral histories with depositors behind our Special Collections and Archives via Collected Voices. These recordings give a privileged insight into creators, collectors and significant figures with close links to the personal and professional activities, borne out through these unique research resources.

Also, explore the Bloodaxe Books Archive and creative responses to it in a variety of innovative ways, online here.

Letting in the Light: The Leonard Evetts Archive

Our summer exhibition at the Marjorie Robinson Library showcases the archive of world renowned artist and designer Leonard  Evetts (1909 – 1997), whose archive has been donated to Newcastle University Library Special Collections.  A designer, painter, calligrapher, author, and teacher, Evetts is perhaps best known as a master in the design of stained glass windows.  The most prolific English church window designer of the 20th Century, he created over 400 works of stained glass in his lifetime.

Our exhibition features works which span his range of expertise.  From some of the beautiful windows we can find locally here in Newcastle to examples of his work overseas, and including glass work, textile work, watercolours and letters from his time as Head of Design here at Newcastle University.

The exhibition was designed by Cathleen Burton and Paul Campbell, who for the past year have been undertaking a placement in Special Collections as part of Newcastle University’s Career Development Module.  Working on the recently acquired Leonard Evetts archive, they have catalogued, re-packaged, and researched this fascinating collection.

Archivist Ruth Sheret will now be pulling all of Paul and Cathleen’s hard work together and will be finishing work on the final catalogue, which is scheduled to be open to the public later in 2019.  Meanwhile the exhibition is on display in the Marjory Robinson Library from the 19 July 2019.

Window design, Church of Our Lady and Saint Oswain, Tynemouth, 1994.

Proposed design for a memorial window to Lieut. Hugh Walton-Wilson, Church of St John, Snod’s Edge, Northumberland, circa 1939.

Proposed Alter Frontal, Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1989.

Design for Newcastle General Hospital Chapel, 1979.

Birth of Queen Victoria

24th May 2019 marks 200 years since the birth of Queen Victoria. Until 9th September 2015 she was the U.K’s longest reigning monarch.

During her reign many advancements were made in many areas of everyday life, industry, transport and communication, and medicine. She made several visits to Newcastle to inaugurate landmarks which are still very much in use today.

High Level Bridge

This was opened by Queen Victoria on 28th August 1849, as she crossed the bridge by train, however the first passenger train used the bridge on 15th August 1849.

With the advent of the railway the first act to propose a rail crossing of the Tyne was passed in 1835. At that time railways were regional, however GNER (Great North of England Railway) obtained Acts authorising the building of rail link to connect to London, and eventually Scotland. Initial plans were not adopted. Finally the Act authorising the building or a road and rail bridge across the Tyne was passed in July 1845.

The bridge was designed by Robert Stephenson and T.E. Harrison with a double desk configuration and took four years to complete.

The above image depicts the crowds gathering to view the Queen coming across the bridge before the inauguration. ILL/11/7

Due to increased rail services across the Tyne, The King Edward Bridge was opened in 1906 to carry main line services. Local rail services are now transported over the High Level Bridge and the road bridge carries one way traffic.

Newcastle Central Station

The present site of the Central Station was settled on after much debate. The Newcastle and Carlisle railway initially proposed a site on the South Bank of the river, near to the Redhaugh terminus. They eventually agreed with George Hudson to a general station north of the Tyne.

In 1846, a local architect, John Dobson was appointed by George Hudson with assistance from T. E. Harrison and George Stephenson. The design was a broad curve so that trains approaching from East and West could be accommodated.

The station was opened by Queen Victoria on 29th August 1850 when she visited the station by train and the day was declared a public holiday in Newcastle.

The above image depicts the exterior of the Central station ILL/11/239

The above image depicts the interior of the Central station ILL/11/240

Royal Victoria Infirmary

In 1896, the Mayor of Newcastle suggested a new infirmary be built as a fitting memorial to celebrate Queen Victoria’s reign. Contributions flooded in, one of the contributions one hundred thousand pounds, from Mr John Hall was on condition that the new infirmary is built on or near the Leazes. A site was then obtained from the Freemen and the Corporation. The Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone on 20th June 1900, and as King he opened the Royal Victoria Infirmary in 1906.

Royal Victoria Infirmary, from Leazes Park with Armstrong College in the background.
Hume, G. H., History of the Newcastle Infirmary (1906) Clarke 1524

The new hospital was two storeys and owing to the sloping parts of the hospital had a lower ground floor. It had a main corridor with the wards passing off both sides of the passageway and connected by secondary corridors. Each ward contained 24 beds and there was accommodation for 400 patients.

Plan of the ground floor of the Infirmary in 1906. Hume, W. E., The Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne 1751 – 1951 (1951?) Clarke 1553

The Royal Victoria Infirmary is still on its present site and has expanded over the years, although much of the original building has been rebuilt. Peacock Hall is the only original building left with the statue of Queen Victoria standing in the foreground.  With the University’s Medical School now adjacent to it, the R.V.I. has established itself as a major teaching hospital and research centre in the north-east and United Kingdom.

Death of Queen Victoria

The Queen died at Osborne House on 22th January 1901, however her family, politicians and the country were unprepared for it and also her wishes of a full military funeral.

Lady Caroline Trevelyan, in a letter to her son Charles Philips Trevelyan mentions the Queen’s death and Edward’s succession to the throne.

Letter dated 24th January 1901 on the Queen’s death CPT/1/9/12/2. “We were much pleased to hear from you. I fear the Queen’s death will have upset your plans, and that your engagements whatever they may have been, will be off. What a sudden and unexpected event! Parliament, it seems will meet at once and how curious all the old world ceremonies and customs will be!”

On the subject of Edward’s succession to the Throne. “Shall you go to the Queen’s funeral if the faithful commons are bidden? It seems impossible to get accustomed to a King but I suppose we shall very soon. I wonder what influence on affairs he will have! He has a great opportunity new if he could see it & ; use it!” CPT/1/9/12/2

 

Jack Mapanje – poet and prisoner of conscience

Extract from a letter written on toilet tissue paper by Jack Mapanje to David Kerr whilst a prisoner in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi

Extract from a letter written by Jack Mapanje to David Kerr whilst a prisoner in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi (Jack Mapanje Archive, MAP/6/3/43)

Within Special Collections and Archives we hold the papers of a number of contemporary poets. One of that number is Malawian poet Jack Mapanje. In 1987 he was imprisoned for 4 years for critical views of the Malawian government expressed in his first published collection of poems. Since then he has had several more works published alongside a career as an academic in Malawi and the UK. In the Mapanje (Jack) Archive we hold material relating to his poetic works, items relating to his academic career in both Malawi and the UK, and perhaps most interestingly, correspondence written during and after his time held as prisoner of conscience.

Jack Mapanje was born in 1944 in Malawi, where he was educated before he studied at universities in Malawi and the UK. He then went on to lecture in the Department of English at Chancellor College, University of Malawi. In 1983 he was awarded a PHD in linguistics after study at University College London, he then returned to work at the University of Malawi.

During this time Jack Mapanje witnessed at first hand the regime of Hastings Banda and began to write poetry, some of which reflected his despair at the political situation. His first collection, Of Chameleons and Gods, was published in the UK in 1981. In 1985 the Malawian government withdrew the book from circulation without reason, and in 1987 Mapanje was arrested and imprisoned without trial in Mikuyu Prison.

Whilst detained he wrote a series of letters to David Kerr, an English colleague and friend who also worked at the University of Malawi. Their content tells of the conditions inside the prison and Mapanje’s thoughts on the campaign to release him. The harshness of prison conditions meant that paper and letters had to be smuggled into and out of the prison. This included using clean toilet paper as a medium on which to write letters.

One letter written on toilet paper survives as part of our collection (MAP/6/3/43). This particular letter is dated the 10/1, in it he mentions prisoners released the previous day and discusses possible tactics and options open to his contacts fighting for his release.

Letter written on toilet paper tissue by Jack Mapanje to David Kerr whilst a prisoner in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi

Extract from a letter written by Jack Mapanje to David Kerr whilst a prisoner in Mikuyu Prison in Malawi (Jack Mapanje Archive, MAP/6/3/43)

Whilst he was in prison his first collection, Of Chameleons and Gods won the Rotterdam Poetry International Award and the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award. These helped to highlight his plight and political oppression in Malawi to an international audience. At the same time there was a campaign for his release coordinated by Amnesty International which involved several well-known writers and activists including Harold Pinter and Noam Chomsky.

He was eventually released in May 1991, after this he and his family moved to the UK. In the years since he has had a successful career as an academic with several universities and has carried on writing. The collection of poems he largely wrote whilst in Mikuyu Prison, ‘The Chattering Wagtails of Mikuyu Prison’, was published in 1993. More recent books include The ‘Last of the Sweet Bannanas: new and selected poems’ and ‘The Beasts of Nalunga’. He has edited other works and his memoir, ‘And Crocodiles are Hungry at Night’ was published in 2011.

Front cover of ‘Beast of Nalunga’, showing the head of a crocodile with its mouth open

Front cover of ‘Beast of Nalunga’, published by Bloodaxe Books in 2007 (Bloodaxe Books Collection, Bloodaxe 821.94 MAP)

A catalogue of Jack Mapanje’s papers held at Newcastle University Library can be found here on our Archives Hub pages and a small selection of digitised images from the archive can be found on Collections Captured.

200 years of John Ruskin

February 8th 2019 marks 200 years since the birth of art critic and social thinker John Ruskin (1819-1900).

In our collections, substantial letters from Ruskin appear in the Trevelyan (Walter Calverley) Archive (WCT). Sir Walter was a naturalist and landlord of both the Nettlecombe and Wallington estates. Ruskin’s link to Sir Walter came through a close friendship with his wife Paulina Trevelyan (Pauline). It is to Pauline that the majority of the letters from Ruskin are addressed.

The correspondence from Ruskin in the WCT Archive reflect the friendship between Trevelyan and Ruskin. He advises her on her own artistic practice, reflects on his own work as well as discussing art, society and family matters. In his autobiography, Ruskin described Trevelyan as ‘a monitress-friend in whom I totally trusted’. This trust appears to have been returned, as Trevelyan was one of the few to stand by Ruskin during the collapse and annulment of his marriage.

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, advising her on her own artistic practice

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, advising her on her own artistic practice (Walter Calverley Archive, WCT 39)

Both Trevelyan and Ruskin were supporters of the burgeoning Pre-Raphaelite movement. Trevelyan became an important patron of the movement, using the opportunity presented by roofing the courtyard at Wallington Hall, to showcase the style she enjoyed. The Great Hall at Wallington remains an important artistic monument, featuring eight large wall paintings by William Bell Scott. The floral designs which appear between the main panels were painted by Ruskin and Trevelyan themselves, among other figures from their social circle.

Their friendship came to an end when Trevelyan died in Switzerland, while she and her husband travelled with Ruskin. Both men were present at her death-bed.

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, which includes his signature

Extract from a letter from John Ruskin to Lady Pauline, which includes his signature (Walter Calverley Trevelyan Archive, WCT 39)

The Trevelyan (Walter Calverley) Archive is available for public consultation and contains around 20 files of letters from Ruskin to Trevelyan, dating from 1848 to Pauline’s death in 1866. Images in this article are from a letter from Ruskin to Trevelyan dated 5th March [1849] which appears in WCT 39. Collections Captured also features images of Ruskin’s personal bookplate and annotations which feature in a book he formerly owned: The tea-table miscellany or, Allan Ramsay’s collection of Scots Sangs (18th Century Collection, 821.04 RAM).

Page from ‘The tea-table miscellany or, Allan Ramsay's collection of Scots sangs’

Page from ‘The tea-table miscellany or, Allan Ramsay’s collection of Scots sangs’ (18th Century Collection, 18th C. Coll 821.04 RAM)

The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals

A sow is dressed in a jacket and trousers being executed in front of a large crows in a public square

The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals by E.P. Evans, 1906 (Clarke Miscellaneous 180)

From the Middle Ages until the mid-eighteenth century a wide array of animals were brought to trial in Europe, charged with a range of crimes committed against both humans and other animals. E.P. Evans’ book The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals documents nearly 200 cases of animal trials from this period.

The frontispiece of Evans’ book shows a sow dressed in a jacket and trousers being executed in a public square. The pig had been charged with the murder of a small child and, following its execution, it was dressed up in human clothes to be displayed in the town.

Not all cases ended in capital punishment, however. Evans also documents cases where ecclesiastical trials of insects and vermin resulted in excommunication. For example, he writes about a case of rats who were defended by Bartholemew Chassenée – a renowned sixteenth century lawyer. The rats were accused of having ‘feloniously eaten up and wantonly destroying the barley-crop’ and Chassenée successfully defended the rats, who were unable to appear before the court due to the ‘length and difficulty of the journey and the serious perils which attended it’ – the ‘serious perils’ being the ‘vigilance of their mortal enemies, the cats’.

It wasn’t just animals who were subject to human law, however. Evans also writes of cases where inanimate objects were brought before the court. In one instance, a statue of a famous athlete, Nikôn of Thasos, had fallen and crushed a man. The statue was subsequently brought before a tribunal and sentenced to be ‘cast into the sea’.

While many of the cases Evans discusses may seem ridiculous to us, Medieval and early-Modern Europeans recognised that animals were capable of suffering pain and death. With contemporary movements like PETA and WWF working to establish animal rights, by granting animals agency in a court of justice, perhaps our Medieval and early-Modern predecessors were not too far wrong.

Aurelia Musso – The Exchange, Newcastle

One of the very special images we have within our ‘Local Illustrations’ collection is this picture: Exchange by Aurelia Musso.  Unusually for the prints that remain of this artist, it is a picture of a civic building, the Exchange on Newcastle Quayside (now known as the Guild Hall).

‘Exchange’, by Aurelia Musso and dedicated to David Landell, c. 1783 1793 (Local Illustrations, ILL/11/165). The Exchange is located along the Newcastle Quayside, now known as Guild Hall.

 

Aurelia Musso was a prolific artist, and highly regarded within Newcastle society in the late 18th Century.  Born in Piedmont in Italy in 1758, she moved to Newcastle in 1783 with her husband, fellow artist Boniface Musso, and their two children.  The early history of the Musso family is fairly scant, but Aurelia (nee Grezzini) appears to have had family links in Newcastle, with various members of the Grezzini family involved in wood carving trades and the making of high quality toys in the City.

Axwell Park by Aurelia Musso, commissioned by the Clavering family of Gateshead. Original held at Newcastle City Library and kindly reproduced with their permission.

Jesmond Mill by Aurelai Musso, commissioned by the Brown family of Benton. Original held at Newcastle City Library and kindly reproduced with their permission.

Aurelia Musso specialised in prints and her work was highly valued among the wealthy and powerful in Newcastle.  She was commissioned by several prominent families, including the Clavering family of Axwell Park, (Gateshead), John Bigge of Carville Hall (Wallsend), William Lamb of Ryton Hall (County Durham) and Ralph Carr of Dunston Hall (Gateshead), and often Musso’s images remain the earliest prints of these family estates and houses.  She appears to have been very much a part of this elite circle and was certainly a very fashionable artist during this period.

The image of the Exchange was presumably created whilst Aurelia lived in Newcastle, and can therefore be dated to between 1783 – 1893.  Not very long afterwards, in 1809, the frontage of the building was radically altered to the designs of architects William Newton and David Stephenson.  Whilst the interior and rear of the building remained intact, the old steeple and staircase were entirely taken down, and the present front was erected, with the clock placed in the front, largely obliterating the original Italian architectural style seen in Musso’s print.  The print below, dating from 1829, shows the building with its new facade, which remains to this day.

‘Guild Hall or Exchange’ 1829, William Westall (artist) and Edward Finden (engraver), held by Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The Musso family, although nowadays far less well know than during their lifetimes, play an important part in Newcastle’s history.  Aurelia’s husband Boniface was the tutor for a short time of architect John Dobson (link to profile), as well as the artist John Martin (link to profile).  John Martin moved to Newcastle initially in 1803 at the age of 14 to take up the post of apprentice to a coach-builder to learn heraldic painting.  Meeting the Musso family in 1804 however he was taken on by them, receiving classical art instruction.  After Aurelia’s death, Boniface moved with the family to London taking John Martin with him – although Martin proved to be a somewhat wayward apprentice and the apprenticeship was later terminated!

Aurelia died in 1793, only 35 years old, cause of death unknown.  She was buried on 17th September 1793 in St Andrew’s Churchyard, Newcastle.

Many thanks to Pat Halcro for her research for this piece.

WWI Home for Christmas – #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 24

#ChristmasCountdown
Door no. 24

The Newcastle University Special Collections team
would like to wish you all a very
MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital, 1915 (University Archives, NUA/014017-25)

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital, 1915 (University Archives, NUA/014017-26)

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital

Postcard depicting a ward in the First Northern General Hospital, 1915 (University Archives, NUA/014017-27)

These 3 postcards consist of images taken on the wards of the 1st Northern General and feature both patients in flannel suits and ties, Royal Army Medical Corps personnel in uniforms, nurses, and the matron.

During the First World War the building that now houses the Hatton Gallery was requisitioned to house the 1st Northern General Hospital. This was normal practice throughout the war years, as army hospitals were needed across the country and on a large scale. The Fine Art building in which you are now standing was then part of Armstrong College, Durham University.

A note on the back of all 3 tell us they were taken around Christmas 1915 on wards on the ground floor of the Armstrong Building and were sent by a ‘D. Robinson’ to an address in Corbridge, Northumberland.

Find out more about how the First World War impacted on Newcastle University 100 years on through using original photographs and documents from the University Archives in ‘A Higher Purpose: Newcastle University at War‘ online digital exhibition.