Public Reading of a Christmas Carol #ChristmasCountdown Door no. 14

Illustration of the ghost of Christmas Past and Ebenezer Scrooge
Illustration of the ghost of Christmas past from A Christmas Carol: in prose, by Charles Dickens (19th Century Collection 823.83 DIC)

Although he is famed as a novelist and journalist, it is a fact perhaps less well-known that, during the last twelve years of his life, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) embarked on a new career for himself as a highly successful performer, touring Britain and America to deliver public readings from his novels and stories to thousands of people.

From 1853, Dickens had given successful public performances of his work for the benefit of charities, but from the late 1850s a feeling of restlessness combined with an inclination to accept invitations to read for money – perhaps owing to his recent purchase of a house, Gad’s Hill Place in Kent – and he began to give professional commercial public readings.

Dickens gave his first commercial reading in London on the evening of 29th April, 1858. Travelling with a manager, a valet and a technician, he used a simple stage-set of a small reading desk with a screen behind it to act as a sound-board for the projection of his voice, illuminated by gas-fittings hanging from a lighting rig above the stage. He rehearsed carefully and intensively so that he knew his texts by heart, and would improvise spontaneous variations in response to the reaction of a particular audience. As he read aloud he assumed the various roles and characters from his stories, imitating their accents and mannerisms to create a dramatic performance which was more than simply reading aloud from a book, and which delighted the crowds.

After his success in London Dickens went on to tour a number of provincial English cities, including Newcastle upon Tyne, and present in the audience there on 24th September 1858 for a reading of A Christmas Carol was the antiquarian Robert White. The White (Robert) Collection was presented to the then King’s College Library (now Newcastle University Library) by his family in 1942, and are now held in Special Collections. Contained in a journal amongst his papers is this vivid eye-witness account of his trip to hear Dickens read on that occasion.

Extract from Robert White's journal
Extract from Robert White’s journal

White begins, “In the evening went to hear Charles Dickens read his Christmas Carol – saw him at a distance of 10 yards.” He goes on to give a detailed physical description of Dickens, including his forehead which is “more broad than high”, “cheeks thin with wrinkles coming over them at the side of the nose, black eyes, brown rather than black… His chin and mouth are partly hidden by a beard – the mouth rather large and chin prominent.”

Of the performance itself, White writes enthusiastically, “He addressed the audience in perfect self-possession, a capital reader, or more a speaker, for his readings are like speakings. Every word falls distinctly on the ear… He has little or no action save when he throws it into the making up of a character. His imitations of the dramatis personae are very good.”

Jane Marcet (nee Haldimand) 1769-1858

Jane Marcet

Jane Marcet was an unusual woman. She believed that girls as well as boys should be educated in science and economics and that scientific knowledge should not be hidden behind a requirement for proficiency in Latin and Greek. She loved to learn and was keen to share her enjoyment of learning with others. When she was unable to find books that satisfied her own curiosity, she wrote them herself.

Jane Marcet the hostess

Born in 1769, Jane was educated alongside her brothers under the guidance of her father Francis Haldimand, a rich Swiss merchant established in London. The household was a lively one, often gathering groups of friends and intellectuals. After her mother’s death, Jane took on the role of hostess and relished the stimulating and intelligent company of her father’s friends. In 1799 Jane married medical doctor and chemist Alexander Marcet. Jane’s father lived with the couple and their growing family, and the culture of gathering for conversation and learning continued.

Jane Marcet the student

It is clear that Jane was a sponge for knowledge. At around this time in London one of the entertainments available to the fashionable elite was attending lectures and demonstrations on scientific subjects. Some of the best, which Jane and Alexander attended together, were given by Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution. Jane was somewhat frustrated not to understand everything she heard and saw, but after each lecture she discussed the topic with her husband and their guests, seeking clarification and deepening her understanding. She described her experiences, writing about herself in the third person, in the preface to her first published work.

“On attending for the first time experimental lectures, the author found it almost impossible to derive any clear or satisfactory information from the rapid demonstrations which are usually, and perhaps necessarily, crowded into popular courses of this kind. But frequent opportunities having afterwards occurred of conversing with a friend on the subject of chemistry, and of repeating a variety of experiments, she became better acquainted with the principles of that science, and began to feel highly interested in its pursuit.” 1

She invited Humphrey Davy and wife to dine and so drew them into her social circle.

Jane Marcet the educator

In response to her own increased enjoyment of scientific lectures, once she had acquired some background knowledge, Jane was motivated to share her joy of learning. Her first book Conversations on Natural Philosophy, written in 1805, was not initially published, but her second, Conversations on Chemistry was published anonymously in 1806. Although anonymous, she made it clear in her preface that she was a woman. Her books were aimed at young women in their teens. In Conversations on Chemistry, she dismissed concerns that science was not suitable for girls simply by stating that public opinion was changing and therefore she considered it suitable.

Illustrations of pulleys, wheels, the inclines plane, wedge and screw
Pulleys, wheels, the inclined plane, wedge and screw, drawn by Jane Marcet for Conversations on Natural Philosophy: in which the elements of that science are familiarly explained and adapted to the comprehension of young pupils (Wallis (Peter) Collection, Wallis 910 MAR)

Jane wrote textbooks intended for the non-expert at a time when this sort of simplified text was largely unknown. Simplification did not lead to stagnation, however. Her work was based on the latest ideas and she worked hard in subsequent editions to keep her books up to date, substantially revising them by adding the latest thinking and new discoveries and removing anything out of date.

After chemistry she tackled economics, publishing Conversations on Political Economy in 1816.  Conversations on Natural Philosophy was eventually published in 1819. She followed these with Conversations on Vegetable Physiology in 1829 as well as stories for younger readers. She put her name to her work in the 12th edition of Conversations on Chemistry in 1832.

Since “conversing with a friend” – probably primarily her husband – had been such an important means of her own learning, she emulated this, adopting a conversational style within her writing. Each of her textbooks is a conversation between a teacher, Mrs Bryan and two pupils, Caroline and Emily. These were not confined to the stilted question and answer style of many contemporary schoolbooks but instead were an approximation of normal lively conversation between a dedicated teacher and curious pupils. That this was a well-considered pedagogical technique was acknowledged by her contemporaries: “For Marcet, the dialogue is a teaching method, a means of conveying established knowledge as well as of helping young people to reorganize their own thoughts and experiences.” 2

The conversations frequently centre around experiments. The reader is able to experience and witness these vicariously through the questions, reactions and increased understanding of Caroline and Emily. This use of experimentation as a teaching method was innovative and, like the use of conversation, reflected her own learning experience.

To say that her books were a success is something of an understatement. Conversations on Chemistry ran to 16 English editions, Conversations on Natural Philosophy 14, Conversations on Political Economy 14 and Conversations on Vegetable Physiology 3. They were translated into Dutch, German, Spanish and French and there were many American editions where her work was widely plagiarised due to lack of international copyright laws.

Throughout her works she makes no claims to original thought but presents the ideas of others in innovative and clear ways. She is not afraid of tackling controversial subjects or the latest theories. The books had a mixed reception with critics, being praised by some and dismissed as unsophisticated by others, however they were widely read and provided a useful introduction to each subject for adult readers as well as the schoolgirl audience for whom they were intended.

After the death of her husband, Jane continued to be influenced by the diverse intellectual circle of friends that she nurtured around her. Conversations on Political Economy was based on what she had learned in conversation with thinkers in her social circle such as Thomas Malthus and, most significantly, David Ricardo. Her publication predates Ricardo’s own work Principles of Political Economy. A friendship with naturalist Augustin Pyramus de Candolle inspired Conversations on Vegetable Physiology.

Line drawing of the common pea
The Common Pea, Pisum vulgaris, drawn by Jane Marcet for Conversations on Vegetable Physiology: comprehending the elements of botany, with their application to agriculture (Alderson (Brian) Collection, MAR CON)

Jane also published books on grammar and stories for young children including, in 1835, Mary’s Grammar which became a classic text and was still widely used until the early 1900s.

Jane Marcet the influencer

One of the early readers of Conversations on Chemistry was an apprentice book binder called Michael Faraday. He was inspired to attend Humphry Davy’s lectures himself. His insight and understanding made a favourable impression on Davy who later employed him as his assistant. He then rose to prominence in his own right. Jane befriended him and from 1833 incorporated his new discoveries into later editions.

Another member of Jane’s intellectual circle was Harriet Martineau. Martineau was inspired by reading Conversations on Political Economy to include the ideas in her own work.  The two became friends although they did not always see eye to eye politically.

Jane Marcet the polymath

In her youth, Jane had travelled to Italy with her father and became interested in painting. She studied with Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Lawrence, nurturing a talent that resulted in her illustrating her own work with simple clear and stylish diagrams. She read both English and French fluently.

Despite having become proficient enough in science and economics to have written successful textbooks, she remained modest. Her friends wrote of her propensity for listening rather than talking. Having listened, it is her ability to communicate in a direct and engaging manner in her writing that is her legacy.

Her originality lay in both considering science and economics suitable subjects for girls, and in her pedagogical style, using dialogue and experimentation to help learners to organise and re-evaluate their thinking based on her own learning experiences. Emphasis is placed on understanding rather than rote learning or memorisation. The pupils in her conversations are expected to be active participants in their own learning, to think for themselves and to ask and answer questions. Marcet, through the voice of Mrs Bryant, guides the students and uses examples with which they will already be familiar from other disciplines as well as from everyday life. Commentators have suggested that Marcet was influenced by writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth and Richard Lovell Edgeworth, and while this is certainly possible, it is likely that her style drew its most significant influence from her own desire for knowledge and understanding, experience of wanting to learn, and achieving success through “conversing with a friend”. 3

Jane Marcet in Special Collections

There are many of Jane Marcet’s publications, in numerous editions, held across our collections, including in the Wallis (Peter) Collection; the Alderson (Brian) Collection; the Butler (Joan) Collection; the Bell (Maurice) Collection; the Medical Collection; 19th Century Collection; and the Blavatnik Honresfield Library.

This Treasure of the Month is brought to you through our Special for Everyone project to celebrate and highlight diversity across our collections.

Notes

1.  Marcet, J. (1813) Conversations on Chemistry: in which the elements of that science are familiarly explained and illustrated by experiments. 4th / rev., cor. and considerably enl.. edn. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme and Brown. 

2. Letter from Michael Faraday to Auguste de la Rive quoted in Henderson, W. (1994) ‘Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Political Economy: a new interpretation’, History of Education, 23(4)

3. Letter from Michael Faraday to Auguste de la Rive quoted in Henderson, W. (1994) ‘Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Political Economy: a new interpretation’, History of Education, 23(4)

Listen to this Story!

Approximately 35 years after Akyaaba Addai-Sebo – a Ghanaian-born activist – established Britain’s first-ever ‘Black History Month’, the UK continues to celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black people every October. This annual celebration aims to promote a better understanding of Black history, with events taking place all the way from London to Aberdeen this year.

To coincide with this important month, Newcastle Robinson Library has collaborated with Seven Stories to host a city-wide exhibition on Black Britain and children’s literature. Embodying the message, ‘Listen to This Story: From History to Our Story’, the exhibition features some of the most interesting picture books, nursery rhymes and illustrations, told from the material within Newcastle University’s Special Collections and Archives. The exhibition is running from 20th October 2022 – January 2023, on Level 2, Special Collections and Archives exhibition space, Philip Robinson Library – free and open to all.

Listen to this Story! exhibition poster, featuring an illustration of 2 black girls dressed in white t-shirts with a green pinafore dress over the top, reading books on a brown table

Analysing these archived children’s works has enabled us to look back over centuries of British literary history, allowing us to present a unique insight into how race relations have changed within the UK. Many of the books show how, historically, literature for young people has played a prominent role in transferring problematic ideas about race and power. Indeed, it becomes clear that texts even for the very youngest of readers, such as ABC books and nursery rhymes, have depicted non-white people in derogatory and stereotypical ways.

Front cover of Ten Little Niggger Boys by Jean Cumming [on loan from Karen Sands O’Connor’s Collection.  

In a similar way, we can see that young people’s texts also presented people of colour as being white children’s ‘play-things’, such as toys, dolls, and gnomes. Presenting Black people like this was historically used to justify white oppression as it effectively demonstrated people of colour as needing parental care and governance.

An example of this can be seen in William Nicholson’s The Pirate Twins (1929). In which, Nicholson presents two childlike pirates; miniature Black people who are cared for (and controlled) by a young white girl called Mary.

Illustration from The Pirate Twins, by Nicholson, William (1929) [Butler (Joan) Collection, 823.912 NIC]

These dehumanising caricatures became so normalised in British society that they could be found not only in children’s books but on postcards, perfume bottles, games, and jam jar stickers (to name but a few examples). They worked to elevate Eurocentric, white standards and devalue Black individuals, cultures, features and histories.

As a way to counteract and resist these harmful depictions, many authors, publicists and illustrators worked hard to create humanising stories which normalised and celebrated Black people.

It is clear, then, that a lot of progress has been made in the world of children’s literature.

However, with only 15% of published children’s books featuring a character of colour in 2020, we still have a long way to go to ensure that everybody is represented equally!

Written by exhibition placement student, Ella Fothergill.

We have sought to ensure that the content of this blog post complies with UK copyright law. Please note however, that we have been unable to ascertain the rights holders of some of the images used. If you are concerned that there may have been a breach of your intellectual property rights, please contact us with the details of the image(s) concerned at libraryhelp@ncl.ac.uk and we will have the specified image(s) taken down from the blog post.

Gertrude Bell’s Letters: Looking beyond her words

Our Gertrude Bell website (link:http://gertrudebell.ncl.ac.uk/) features transcripts of thousands of Bell’s letters and diary entries, alongside over 7,500 of her photographs. Thanks to a generous donation from the Harry and Alice Stillman Family Foundation we have been able to digitise and catalogue the letters Bell wrote to her family, her diaries and photographs to modern day archival standards and this process has allowed us to uncover details beyond what has previously been recorded in the transcriptions.

The homepage of the current Gertrude Bell website

Original transcripts of Bell’s letters and diaries were created in the 1990s and published online in the early 2000s. While these provide an excellent resource for exploring their content, cataloguing and digitisation has revealed new details and insight into how Bell communicated with her family, how those letters reached home, and the early 20th Century world she lived in.

When travelling in the Middle East, as she did on several prolonged trips in the 1900s and 1910s, Bell often used her letters to chronicle her journey. She regularly continued writing the same letter for several days, adding a new section each day and posting it when passing through a town. The original transcripts of Bell’s letters treat each day’s addition as a separate page on the website, however cataloguing and digitisation has revealed how often Bell wrote the same letter over multiple days, and sometimes, how rarely she passed civilization and an opportunity to post a letter.

Envelope of a letter posted by Gertrude Bell to her step-mother from Turkey in July 1907, including stamp, postmark, a changed address and later annotations.

The envelopes Bell’s letters were posted in also provide clues about their journey after they were posted home. Her father, a wealthy industrialist, and her step-mother lived between their family home at Rounton Grange in North Yorkshire and Sloane Street in London. Bell would choose one or the other address to post the letter to and if the letters arrived at the address the intended parent was not at they would be forwarded on by crossing out the address and adding the correct one. This was not unlikely when postage from the Arabian Desert to Rounton could take several months! Indeed, the envelopes or letters themselves often contain hand written dates telling us when a letter was received by her family, providing an insight into the speed and efficiency of inter-continental postage of the day.

As records of their journey back to Britain the envelopes also have stamps affixed, postmarks, and during the First World War had stickers applied to signify that they’d been passed by a censor. The stamps provide a small insight into the countries Bell was posting her letters from and their changing political landscapes. This is particularly the case for the time that Gertrude lived and worked in what is now Iraq, during and after the First World War, where the changing face of the British occupation is reflected in the stamps on the envelopes of Gertrude’s letters home.

The front and reverse of an envelope from a letter written by Gertrude Bell to her step-mother in November 1916. The envelope has had a red stamp on its front and label on its rear indicated it has been opened by a censor. A pencil note also shows that this letter was not to be included in the later published work of Bell’s letters.

The letters also reveal clues as to how they’ve been used and managed in the time since Gertrude’s death in 1926. Following her death, Gertrude’s step-mother compiled and published two books containing text from many of Gertrude’s letters. The process of deciding what was and what wasn’t included is seen by the crossing out in pencil of sections of letter, or marking on the envelope that a letter was not to be copied. These are often sections where Gertrude talks about family matters or where Gertrude offered her (typically forthright) opinions of the people she met and worked with. Sometimes brief instructions were scribbled on the letters or envelopes themselves, particularly if a letter was not to be copied. 

Letter written by Gertrude Bell to her father in March 1903. The letter includes a section which has later been crossed out in pencil and a postscript which Gertrude added after signing the letter.

Thus, the process of cataloguing and digitising Gertrude Bell’s rich archive of letters allows us to explore facets of Bell’s life and her letters that are not immediately obvious from their content alone. Marks which help us understand how she lived and communicated with her family, how the political and cultural landscape of the lands that Bell lived in changed, and how Bell’s family managed her letters can all be explored through the newly digitised and catalogued archive.

Thanks to project funding from the Harry and Alice Stillman Family Foundation a brand new Gertrude Bell website in early 2023. This will make the digitised images, transcripts and a new archival catalogue available alongside each other, providing a step-change in access to this internationally important archive.

The Gertrude Bell website can be found at http://gertrudebell.ncl.ac.uk/

Find out more about the Gertrude Bell and the Kingdom of Iraq at 100 project, and the archive on the Newcastle University website here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/latest/2021/08/gertrudebellarchivedonation/

Cartoons and Caricatures

Newcastle University is currently in the process of cataloguing the Sir Terry Farrell Archive, a collection of professional practice material from renowned architect, planner and urban designer Sir Terry Farrell. In amongst all the plans, correspondence and reems of project based material you would expect from an architecture firm there are also some more whimsical items. Namely caricatures and cartoons of urban features, people and the natural world.

Caricatures of employees often crop up in the collection. These caricatures entitled ‘The Tycoon Twins’ were intended to be hung in the company offices. They were created by Sir Terry depicting Stefan Krummeck and Gavin Erasmus, Directors of Farrells, Hong Kong. The correspondence note reads ‘I think the side by side pictures made them look as though they are arguing or not speaking, with the original option, one above the other, they look as though they are working together.’ The side-by-side option was clearly seen as being more effective.

Photograph of a selection of 4 items from the Sir Terry Farrell Archive, including a typed memo, notes and two drawing of caricatures of side portraits.
Memos and presentation options for ‘The Tycoon Twins’ (uncatalogued collection).
Two caricatures side-by-side, contained within 2 circles are side portraits of people, titled 'The Tycoon Twins'.
‘The Tycoon Twins,’ by Sir Terry Farrell 2008 (uncatalogued collection).

Other caricatures are less formalised and are dotted throughout the concept and design sketches, possibly as a moment of distraction or procrastination.

Stylised drawings also make an appearance in some project work. Here are some sketched images showing the historical development of the Hungerford Bridge District, London from 1669 at Hungerford House and the construction of the suspension footbridge in 1845. These were also displayed in the company offices.

Photograph containing 5 sketches of the development of the Hungerford Bridge from 1669-20th century.
Stages of development of Hungerford Bridge from 1669 – 20th century (uncatalogued collection).

Sketching on the move is a common theme that runs through this collection. Caricatures form some of the material presumably produced by Terry when he was on his various travels. These images were located in a peculiar folder titled ‘Train portraits’. Maybe someone you know has been unwittingly sketched by Sir Terry.

Aside from buildings and people, there are also some beautiful drawings of elements of the natural world which have been anthropomorphised. These trees form a series of artworks titled ‘The Old Men of Maytham,’ and include an Oak, a Beech and a Spanish Chestnut.

2 sketches of trees titled' Old Men of Maytham'. One is a sketch of an oak tree and the other a Beach tree.
‘The Old Men of Maytham,’ by Sir Terry Farrell, April 2010 (uncatalogued collection).
Sketch of a Spanish Chestnut tree, titled 'Old Men of Mayhem'.
‘The Old Men of Maytham,’ by Sir Terry Farrell, April 2010 (uncatalogued collection).

Material has been used with permission of Farrells. Sir Terry Farrell’s archive has been generously loaned to Newcastle University Library and is currently being catalogued. Once catalogued it will be made fully available to the public.  All rights held by The Terry Farrell Foundation. 

Celebrating 50 Years of Pride

July 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the UK’s first Pride march, held in London on 1st July 1972. The first Pride saw around 2,000 participants marching together. Over the past 50 years that number has grown considerably, with the 2019 London Pride seeing 1.5 million people taking part to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights.

Photograph of London Pride 1987 showing a group of people carrying a banner with 'LESBIAN + GAY PRIDE '87' written in bold letters on it.
Photograph of London Pride 1987 (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/02/01).

The official theme for this year’s march was #AllOurPride, uniting the collective past, present, and future of Pride for all members of the LGBTQ+ community. After a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s London Pride Parade took place on Saturday 2nd July, beginning at Hyde Park, where the first Pride march in 1972 ended.

Photograph of a display celebrating Gay Pride Week 1979.
Photograph of a display celebrating Gay Pride Week 1979 (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/07/02).

2022 also marks the 50th anniversary of the Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality, a branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) which was established in Lancashire in 1964 and grew to have local groups throughout the country. The archive for the Tyneside CHE contains documents relating to the group’s many campaigns for equal rights. For example, the archive covers the fight for the age of consent for same-sex couples to match that of heterosexual couples, and campaigns against Margaret Thatcher’s 1988 Section 28 legislation banning local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality’ by discussing LGBTQ+ issues in schools. As well as campaigning, CHE also provided a social and support network for gay men and lesbians.

Within the Tyneside CHE archive, it is possible to look back at Pride marches across the past five decades. The first Pride march in 1972 took place 5 years after the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which decriminalised sex between gay men over the age of 21 in England and Wales. At the time of the first Pride, however, the LGBTQ+ community still faced much discrimination – for example gay marriage was not legal, and gay and bisexual people were banned from joining the armed forces.

CHE Broadsheet, April 1978, article highlighting that this was the first year Pride saw support from allies in meaningful numbers
CHE Broadsheet, April 1978, article highlighting that this was the first year Pride saw support from allies in meaningful numbers (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/02/02).
Close-up of CHE Bulletin 1978 central article
Close-up of CHE Bulletin 1978 central article ( Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/02/02).

The Pride movement was influenced by the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York. The riots were a response to a violent police raid at the Stonewall Inn gay bar and were a catalyst for LGBTQ+ equality movements worldwide. The significance of Stonewall is reflected in the Tyneside CHE archive, as the marches of 1979 and 1989 commemorate the 10th and 20th anniversaries of this watershed moment in the LGBTQ+ liberation movement.

Stickers from Pride 1979 commemorating 10 years since Stonewall
Stickers from Pride 1979 commemorating 10 years since Stonewall (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/07/02).
Pride 1989 Annual Newspaper/Programme
Pride 1989 Annual Newspaper/Programme (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/07/02).
Pride 1989 Annual Newspaper/Programme
Pride 1989 Annual Newspaper/Programme (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/07/01).

Throughout the years, Tyneside CHE organised annual trips to the London Pride marches. A coach was arranged, and ticket prices were ‘related to people’s earnings, so everyone can afford to come down on our bus’. Pricing tickets in this way promoted inclusivity and ensured LGBTQ+ people from across the socio-economic spectrum could participate in Pride.

Tyneside CHE Newsletter front page article advertising the organised trip to London Pride and the sale of coach tickets, June 1988, Issue 213
Tyneside CHE Newsletter front page article advertising the organised trip to London Pride and the sale of coach tickets, June 1988, Issue 213 (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/02/01).

The London march was not the only way to celebrate Pride, however, with the CHE Tyneside newsletter from 1987 outlining that some events were planned in Tyneside itself.

CHE Tyneside Newsletter promoting Pride, June 1987, Issue 201
CHE Tyneside Newsletter promoting Pride, June 1987, Issue 201 ( Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/02/01).

The Tyneside CHE archive also contains paraphernalia from Pride festivals across Europe, including from the very first EuroPride. EuroPride is a pan-European festival hosted by a different European city each year. The first EuroPride took place in London in 1992 and was attended by over 100,000 people. Not only does 2022 mark 50 years since the first Pride, but it also marks the 30 year anniversary of EuroPride.

Magazine from the first EuroPride, showing a photograph of 2 dogs wearing t-shirts
Magazine from the first EuroPride, London 1992, published by the Lesbian and Gay Pride Organisation (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/07/01).

Looking through the Tyneside CHE archive it is clear that a lot of progress has been made since the first Pride march 50 years ago. However, with 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people in Britain experiencing a hate crime, and with conversion therapy still being legal in the UK, there is still a long way to go to achieving true equality.

Pride 1987 Festival Programme, showing an illustration of 2 people holding a love heart
Pride 1987 Festival Programme (Tyneside Campaign for Homosexual Equality (Tyneside CHE) Archive, CHE/03/07/01).

CHE materials are used by kind permission of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality.

We have sought to ensure that the content of this blog post complies with UK copyright law. Please note however, that we have been unable to ascertain the rights holders of some of the images used. If you are concerned that there may have been a breach of your intellectual property rights, please contact us with the details of the image(s) concerned at libraryhelp@ncl.ac.uk and we will have the specified image(s) taken down from the blog post.

The Alnwick Corn Exchange Archive – The William Dickson Papers

These papers were originally accumulated by the office of William Dickson, overseer of the Alnwick Corn Exchange from its opening in 1862 until 1880. Dickson, a solicitor in Alnwick and local benefactor, in fact raised the money for the building of the Alnwick Corn Exchange, and then oversaw the building of the Exchange, before then taking responsibility for its running for the next twenty years.

The Alnwick Corn Exchange Archive contains correspondence and legal agreements relating to the purchase of the site and the subsequent building programme; correspondence about similar markets in Berwick and Kelso, a Broadside announcing the opening and detailing the functions of the new Exchange, as well as accounts and correspondence for the period 1862 – 1880.

These papers are particularly fascinating as the Exchange was used not only as a market but also as a venue for entertainment, and both the accounts and correspondence files contain much information about the acts which were booked during this period.

Images below are from the Alnwick Corn Exchange Archive.

A fundraising pledge letter for the building of the Alnwick Corn Exchange, 1860. W Dixon of Warkworth pledges to take one £50 share in the Exchange building.
A fundraising pledge letter for the building of the Alnwick Corn Exchange, 1860. W Dixon of Warkworth pledges to take one £50 share in the Exchange building (ACE/01/01-1).
Official declaration of the opening of the Exchange by the Keeper of the Exchange (Robert Wardhaugh), 7th May 1862.
Official declaration of the opening of the Exchange by the Keeper of the Exchange (Robert Wardhaugh), 7th May 1862 (ACE/02/01-1).
Scale of Charges at Alnwick Corn Exchange, 1862.
Scale of Charges at Alnwick Corn Exchange, 1862 (ACE/02/01-2).
A letter from the National Opera Company to Alnwick Corn Exchange, 1876. The Managers of the Company ask if they can book the Exchange for March 10 to 15 inclusive.  They go on to write that if those nights were available they would be happy to give up the room during the day time, and that if the full six nights were not available would three or four consecutive nights be possible.
A letter from the National Opera Company to Alnwick Corn Exchange, 1876. The Managers of the Company ask if they can book the Exchange for March 10 to 15 inclusive.  They go on to write that if those nights were available they would be happy to give up the room during the day time, and that if the full six nights were not available would three or four consecutive nights be possible (ACE/05/01/02-1).
A flyer for an act playing in Barnstaple, part of correspondence making arrangements for the act to visit Alnwick.
A flyer for an act playing in Barnstaple, part of correspondence making arrangements for the act to visit Alnwick (ACE/05/01).
A mixed review for the Dunbar and Cogan Theatre Company, 1869!  The cutting accompanied a letter from William Cogan to the Alnwick Corn Exchange requesting a booking at the Exchange later in the year, "for a period of two to three weeks for theatrical performance".
A mixed review for the Dunbar and Cogan Theatre Company, 1869!  The cutting accompanied a letter from William Cogan to the Alnwick Corn Exchange requesting a booking at the Exchange later in the year, “for a period of two to three weeks for theatrical performance” (ACE/05/01/05-1).

The Sinking of the Titanic

The 15th April 1912 was a dark day in maritime history. RMS Titanic sank during her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York City, after hitting an iceberg. The Titanic was built at Harland and Wolff, Belfast and was the largest passenger liner in the world at the time. The accident resulted in the loss of over 1500 lives. 

News of the tragedy spread around the world and the sinking was huge news in the media. Punch included a dedication to those who drowned.  

“Tears for the dead, who shall not come again
Homeward to any shore on any tide!
Tears for the dead! But through that bitter rain
Breaks, like an April sun, the smile of pride.

What courage yielded place to others’ need,
Patient of discipline supreme decree,
Well may we guess who know that gallant breed
Schooled in the ancient chivalry of the sea! O.S.”

Page from Punch magazine showing two women holding hands dressed in Roman attire with a dedication written underneith.
Toll of the Sea [Dedicated to the memory of the brave men who went down in the Titanic], dated 15th April 1912. Punch, 20th Century Collection, 052 PUN, v. 142, 24th April 1912.

People wrote of the Titanic’s sinking in their diaries and in letters. The M. P., Charles Philips Trevelyan wrote to his daughter, asking if Miss Clarke had told her of the accident. 

The letter reads,

“Has Miss Clarke told you the dreadful story of the ship-wreck of the Titanic? It struck on an ice-berg and went down and hundreds of people were drowned.”

Letter from Charles Philips Trevelyan to Pauline Trevelyan, 20th April 1912.
Letter from Charles Philips Trevelyan to his daughter, Pauline Trevelyan, 20th April 1912. Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, CPT/4/1/9/73.

His wife, Mary Trevelyan, known as Molly, wrote in her diary of the tragedy,

“The last week has been overshadowed by the most terrible shipping disaster that has ever happened. There are two giant White Star ships, The Olympic and The Titanic, the biggest liners afloat. The Titanic with 2,200 on board, started on her maiden voyage at the end of last week and on Sunday night, just before midnight, she struck an iceberg, 600 miles from the American coast and sunk in 2.5 hours. All the women and children were saved, but hardly any men. There were 13 lifeboats full, and overfull. The titanic marconied for help, and the Carpathia came under full steam, and arrived at dawn to fill the boats but no Titanic. The accounts are heartrending, and one could hardly read them without tears.” 

Diary entry extract of Mary Trevelyan, 20th April 1912
Extract from Mary Trevelyan’s diary, 20th April 1912. Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, CPT/2/1/13

The former Professor of Classics at Armstrong College, John Wight Duff, wrote of how the disaster was mentioned in the Church service he attended at Croft, on 21st April 1912.

The diary entry from 21st April 1912 reads,

“The Rector’s sermon was on Exod. [Exodus] XV. 5. “The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone” and touched on “the week of eclipse when it was dark at noonday” and shadowed with the gloom of the loss of the Titanic on an ice field and the drowning of over 1400 passengers and crew.”

Extract from Professor John Wight Duff’s diary
Extract from Professor John Wight Duff’s diary, 21st April 1912. Duff (Professor John Wight) Diaries, JWD/01/01/03

The journalist and author Frederic Whyte, mentions the event in a letter to his then future wife. Included are cuttings about another passenger who perished, the journalist W. T. Stead being aboard the ship, as well as information of a special service held in his memory.

Press cuttings on W. T. Stead in a letter from Frederic Whyte to Karin Lija, 21st April 1912
Press cuttings on W. T. Stead in a letter from Frederic Whyte to Karin Lilja (later Whyte), 21st April 1912. Whyte (Frederic) Archive, FW/2

There has always been a lot of interest in the Titanic, partly as it was known as the “unsinkable” ship. The wreck of the Titanic was eventually discovered in September 1985, when it was discovered to have split into two., but due to deterioration the ship has never been raised.  There have been further expeditions to the wreck to recover items, leading to various exhibitions about it around the world. 

Many books, fiction and non-fiction including Clive Cussler’s Raise the Titanic and films, including James Cameron’s Titanic.

In recent years a Titanic Quarter has been developed in Belfast which is proving to be a popular visitor attraction and ensuring that the name Titanic lives on.

Crawhall and the Big Birdwatch – January 2022

Each year the last weekend of January is time for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds’ (RSPB) annual Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s a time when we’re all encouraged to go and count the birds we see – maybe in your garden, from a balcony or window, or in a local park, and submit the results online. The initiative helps monitor the bird population in the UK.

There’s lots of opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife in the North East of England, and our archives and rare books reflect people’s interest with the natural world across history. One example of these is this fabulous bird illustrations from our Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive.

Watercolour illustration of a trio of goldfinches.
Watercolour design, likely for a decorative plate, featuring goldfinches, c.1875, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive JCII/6/1/64, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186

Joseph Crawhall II (1821-1896) was a businessman, artist and patron of the arts. His artistic achievements including wood engraving, watercolours and contributions to Punch magazine. The pursuits of himself and his family contributed to the thriving cultural environment of 19th Century Newcastle.

However, the illustrations we’re highlighting here were not created by Joseph. They are pages from illustrated diaries and sketchbooks attributed to his brother, George Edward Crawhall (1821-1896). This generation of Crawhall siblings were all artists – George and Joseph but also brother Thomas and their sister Jane. George’s legacy is not as celebrated as his brother Joseph’s, but he also contributed to some of Joseph’s most famous works, including the Compleatest Angling Booke, for which George contributed the trout tail which features at the end.

Watercolour illustration of a magpie sitting in a branch.
Watercolour design for a decorative plate featuring a magpie, 17 December 1873, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive JCII/6/1/59, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

These diaries/sketchbooks reveal George’s travel in England and Scotland between 1867 and the 1890s. Many of the images depict scenes from the North East, such as the image below of a coot and moorhen fighting in Brandling Park – just around the corner from the Philip Robinson Library, home to Newcastle University’s Special Collections and Archives.

Page from a diary containing three watercolour illustrations of a coot and moorhen on a pond.
Watercolour illustration showing a coot and a moorhen fighting in Brandling Park, 25th April 1888, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive JCII/6/2/10, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186

The diaries record many of scenes of hunting and fishing, alongside natural history studies. Birds feature heavily, although frequently under the gaze of armed hunters.

The beautiful circular designs featured in this blog post each showcase a different bird native to the UK, and were likely intended to appear on decorative plates.

Watercolour illustration of a trio of bullfinches sitting in a bush.
Watercolour design, likely for a decorative plate, featuring bullfinches, c.1880, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive JCII/6/2/3, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186

Will you see any of these birds in this year’s Birdwatch?

You can read more about the Big Garden Birdwatch and sign up to participate on the RSPB’s website.

You can read more about the fascinating Crawhall family history and their relationship with the North East in this blog.

The Gunpowder Plot: The Northumberland Connection

Bonfire Night is synonymous with the name Guy Fawkes and the failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament. Fawkes was one of the five main conspirators, but not the leader. This was Robert Catesby, and another eight men were recruited later. Another of the main conspirators was Thomas Percy, second cousin once removed from the 9th Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy.

The South East View of Alnwick Castle, the Ancestral Home of the Percy family, Earl of Northumberland, 1800–1899, Local Illustrations ILL/1/32, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

Thomas Percy was a tall and “wild” man whose conversion to Catholicism calmed him. It was said by Gerard that he was a bigamist having one wife in London and another in the provinces.

Portrait of Thomas Percy, from Gerard, What was the Gunpowder Plot? The traditional story tested by original evidence, Research Reserve 941.061 GER, Newcastle University.

He was employed by his relative, Earl of Northumberland to collect rents, and later became Constable of the Castle in 1596.

Percy despised King James for the continued persecution to Catholics, despite verbal reassurances to the contrary. In 1604 he became the fifth member to join Catesby in the Gunpowder plot.  His role was to rent a property in Westminster and obtain a lease underneath the first floor of the Houses of Parliament. Guy Fawkes was “appointed” as a “servant” to the property.

When the gunpowder and Guy Fawkes were discovered, it was Thomas Percy’s name given on the first arrest warrant, as Fawkes declared he was Thomas’s servant.

When the plot was discovered most of the conspirators escaped from London, however Thomas Percy and Robert Catesby were killed at Holbeche House, Staffordshire. Their bodies were later exhumed, and their heads displayed outside Parliament House.

Henry Percy became Earl of Northumberland after his father’s suicide in the Tower of London in 1585. Although a protestant, the Earl was a Catholic sympathizer and sent his cousin Thomas on missions to glean any information from the King about being more tolerant to the Catholics.

 After the failed Gunpowder Plot, Henry Percy was arrested as it was thought he knew about it, as he had met with Thomas on 4th November. As it couldn’t be proven either way as Thomas was killed on 7th November, Henry was charged with lesser offences and imprisoned in the Tower of London and fined £30,000 where he remained for 16 years.

The charges brought against the Earl of Northumberland, extract from Markland, J. H.  Instructions by Henry Ninth Earl of Northumberland to his son Algernon Percy, touching the management of his estate, officers &c. written during his confinement in the Tower with prefatory remarks and notes, Communicated to the Society of Antiquaries, White (Robert) Collection W942.82 PER, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.
Extract about his confinement and fellow prisoners, extract from Markland, J. H.  Instructions by Henry Ninth Earl of Northumberland to his son Algernon Percy, touching the management of his estate, officers &c. written during his confinement in the Tower with prefatory remarks and notes, Communicated to the Society of Antiquaries, White (Robert) Collection W942.82 PER, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

The legacy of this event is the annual celebration through the lighting of fires and fireworks which takes place on 5th November.