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.

Pilgrim Street, Roads and Robert Burns Dick

Newcastle seems to be experiencing an endless period of building and regeneration. The Evening Chronicle recently reported that a ‘run-down corner of Newcastle city centre is currently being redeveloped to bring new office buildings, a public square, shops, bars, and restaurants. ‘Pilgrim Place’ is currently being built in an area on the eastern side of Pilgrim Street, after the scheme was approved by Newcastle City Council’s planning Committee in July 2021. 

As a main route into (and out of) Newcastle, Pilgrim Street has been the centre of many similar schemes in the past. When construction of the Tyne Bridge commenced in 1925, the lower end of Pilgrim Street was cleared of many historic buildings dating back to the Sixteenth Century. 

Two pages from a Charles Philips Trevelyan family album, dated 1925. They feature photographs of the bottom of Pilgrim Street, which was being cleared for the construction of the Tyne Bridge. The note informs us that ‘Some houses there were dated 1575’. CPT/PA/12, Trevelyan (Charles Philips) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

When the Swan House roundabout was built between 1963 and 1969, more buildings were demolished, including the ‘revered’ Royal Arcade which many people still mourn, even though it was never a commercial success and had fallen into disrepair due to its location outside the main shopping area of the city. 

A view up Pilgrim Street in the Nineteenth Century. The Royal Arcade is the large building on the right. ILL-11-268, Local Illustrations, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.
Interior view of the Royal Arcade. ILL-11-270, Local Illustrations, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

The imposing Pilgrim Street police, magistrates court, and fire station building, the work of local architectural firm Cackett, Burns Dick & MacKellar, is a central landmark in the new development. Built between 1931 and 1933 to replace a previous station, it was Grade-II-listed in 1999 and is earmarked for conversion to a five-star hotel. 

Thomas Cackett & Robert Burns Dick contributed greatly to the appearance of Pilgrim Street; further up the road, they were responsible for the design of the stately Northern Conservative Club at 29 Pilgrim Street, near the Paramount cinema (later the Odeon). This was later demolished to make way for one of the city’s most-disliked buildings, Commercial Union House. Blame T. Dan Smith!

Robert Burns Dick enjoyed a larger-than-life reputation in his adopted home town of Newcastle. Born in Stirling in 1868, his family had moved south when he was very young and Burns Dick always regarded himself as a Geordie. 

Family portrait of the Dick family, showing Robert (Seated third from left), his siblings, and his mother. His father and a brother are present in the two framed photographs. RBD-1-1-3, Burns Dick (Robert) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

After attending the Royal Grammar School and art school, he moved through various architectural firms before entering into partnership with another Scot in Newcastle, Thomas Cackett. Burns Dick provided the creativity while Cackett looked after the business. The company went on to design many of Newcastle’s most important buildings, including the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle University Students’ Union building, the Pilgrim Street police and fire station, the Bridge Hotel, and the extension of the Northumberland County Council offices, now the Vermont Hotel. Away from Newcastle, Burns Dick was the man behind Whitley Bay’s recently-reopened Spanish City buildings and Berwick-upon-Tweed’s old police station (regarded by many as the model for the Laing Art Gallery). An advocate of the Garden City movement, in the 1920s he helped design west Newcastle’s low-rise, low-density and landscaped Pendower housing estate.  

The Burns Dick (Robert) Archive 

Our Burns Dick (Robert) Archive was collated after a 1984 exhibition about the architect, held by the Royal Institute of British Architects Northern Region. Although instrumental in the design of some of the area’s best architecture, it was felt that Burns Dick had been ‘forgotten’. The archive comprises photographs of Burns Dick and his family, two University dissertations about him, and a collection of press cuttings about Burns Dick and the exhibition. These provide a good overview of his life and outline some of his ambitious plans for Newcastle. 

Copy photographs of Robert Burns Dick and his wife Margaret. RBD-1-1-4, Burns Dick (Robert) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.
Photograph of Millmount, the Dick residence in Cowgate, Newcastle upon Tyne. The house was designed by Robert Burns Dick with a large garden which was drastically reduced when the Cowgate bypass was built in front of it in the 1960s (hence the metal fence). RBD-2-1-1, Burns Dick (Robert) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

In 1924 Burns Dick was a founder member of the Newcastle upon Tyne Society to ‘Improve the Beauty, Health and Amenities of the City’. He advocated a green belt around Newcastle and drew up a list of city centre historic buildings to be saved from any future demolition or decay.

Newcastle’s pre-eminent Victorian architects, Richard Grainger and John Dobson, had created an architecturally beautiful city but its roads were designed for horses and carriages. Burns Dick, although appreciating the pair’s work, said,

‘Is not Newcastle still trading on the brains of Grainger and Dobson and Clayton? . . . It has done nothing since worth mentioning in the same breath.’

He drew up plans for new roads to accommodate the arrival and proliferation of motor vehicles in the city, including a development of his partner Cackett’s 1905 plan for a south to north axial road running from the new Tyne Bridge to Barras Bridge to the east of Northumberland Street, and then to his proposed civic buildings on a site near Exhibition Park.

One of the articles shows a 1936 proposal for a new town hall and office space in the Haymarket. This appears to be in the space now occupied by offices over Haymarket metro station. RBD-3-1-6, Burns Dick (Robert) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

Had Newcastle Council not suffered a funding shortage and a change in political power, Burns Dick’s plan for roads, and his grand entrance arch at the northern end of the Tyne Bridge, may have gone ahead. The arch would, of course, have led onto Pilgrim Street, which became the Great North Road (later the A1).

Article from The Journal, 1 November 1982, showing Burns Dick’s plan for a grand archway entrance into Newcastle upon Tyne, dated 1925.RBD-3-1-5, Burns Dick (Robert) Archive , Newcastle University Special Collections, GB 186.

Maybe as compensation, Cackett & Burns Dick were handed the contract to design Newcastle’s new fire, police station and courts.

Burns Dick eventually moved to Esher, Surrey, and died there in 1954. His body was returned to Newcastle and he was buried in Elswick Cemetery.

In Newcastle, the city’s 1960s planners sat and planned a new north-to-south road running to the east of Northumberland Street. This was eventually opened in 1970 and named after one of the Newcastle’s Victorian architects, John Dobson.

T. Dan Smith, Leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960 to 1965 and the city’s ‘bogeyman’, is often credited with the destruction of Newcastle’s historic buildings and their replacement with ugly concrete blocks, even though much of what he is held responsible for was built after his period in office.

Crawhall: Family History

Joseph Crawhall, Morpeth, 1865 , JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.

‘The accompanying letter from the late John Hodgson, the Historian of Northumberland, to Mr. Thomas Sopwith having only been partially answered, induced me to prosecute further enquiry into our family history, & the result of such enquiry, with the authorities will be found in this volume’.

Joseph Crawhall II is perhaps best-known as a wood engraver of idiosyncratic illustrations which adorned books published by, among other, local printer Andrew Reid and London-based Andrew Tuer at his Leadenhall Press in London.

With a great interest in local history, folklore, and traditions, Crawhall seized upon the opportunity to research his own family after reading clergyman and antiquary John Hodgson’s queries to local mining engineer Thomas Sopwith, for whom he was carrying out family history. Crawhall, with both the time and resources to do so, began gathering together a large selection of family historical material. This is now referred to as the Crawhall Genealogical Scrapbook (JCII-8).

The Crawhall Geneaological Scrapbook open at a page about Joseph Crawhall II’s brother Thomas, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.

The c.150-page volume is a treasure trove of family history collected by Crawhall. Its contents include notes and family trees transcribed by Crawhall, sketches and paintings of family members, family photographs, newspaper cuttings, sale catalogues, letters. The historical material is drawn from a range of sources including Hodgson’s extensively-researched History of Northumberland, where the Crawhall family is traced back to the Twelfth Century (where the name is spelled ‘Crauden’, ‘Craweden’, or ‘Crawenden’). The 16th Century Crawhaws lived at Crawhall near Thorngrafton in Northumberland and were responsible for governorship of the Middle Marches “From Hexhamshire to the Water of Irdin (Irthing) on both sides of the Tyne”, near Hawteswell (Haltwhistle).

Page from the Genealogical Scrapbook with transcriptions by Crawhall from Hodgson’s History of Northumberland, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.
Heugh Crawhaughe, Commissioner for Enclosures upon the Middle Marches, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive , Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186

The majority of the material traces the history of the Crawhalls after the family was established in Allendale, Northumberland. Joseph II’s grandfather, Thomas was a lead mining agent, and married Ann Bownas in 1771. Their son, Joseph Crawhall I, (born in 1791) was apprenticed at a Newcastle ropery to learn the trade and eventually bought the St. Anne’s Ropery near the Newcastle Quayside. The company earned a commendation at the 1852 Great Exhibition for ‘Improved Patent Rope Machinery’.

Commendation awarded to St. Anne’s Ropery at the Great Exhibition 1851, JCII-8,Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive , Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.

A shrewd business man, Joseph I held shares in the family’s lead mine at Rotherhope, near Allendale and, in his spare time, was a keen amateur artist. He eventually became mayor and sheriff of Newcastle. Joseph I lived (and died) at Stagshaw House, near Corbridge, with his wife Margaret.

Sketch of Thomas Crawhall by Joseph II, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.
Sketch of Stagshaw Close House by Joseph II, 1852, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.
A watercolour painting by Joseph II(?) of his birthplace, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.

Joseph II was born at West House, St. Anthony’s, Newcastle, on 16th May 1821 and quite early on exhibited a talent for art which he was able to pursue throughout his life. An adept, skilful draughtsman and watercolourist with a distinctly Northumbrian sense of humour, he is now best-known for his wood engravings in the chapbook style.

Watercolour and engraved cards by Joseph Crawhall II, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.

His work was not restricted to paper – a certificate in the scrapbook was awarded to Crawhall for commended work in an 1873 exhibition of paintings on china for the Art-Pottery Galleries in London.  

Certificate awarded to Joseph Crawhall II for painting on china, JCII-8, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.
A china plate painted by Joseph Crawhall II, Crawhall (Joseph II) Archive, Newcastle University Special Collections & Archives, GB 186.

More information about the Genealogical Scrapbook and other Crawhall items can be found in our collections.

Janet – March 2018

Stored in the Bloodaxe archive in the Robinson Library there is a note written in the margins of the manuscript of Ken Smith’s poetry collection, ‘The Poet Reclining’ from 1977, one of Bloodaxe Book’s first publications:

‘pity Janet, you’ve done it again!’

References to ‘Janet’ continue to appear frequently in the editorial marginalia, minutes and notes. As part of her practice-based PhD research, Kate Sweeney has decided to build a ‘Janet’ – from traces of administration ephemera found in the archive. An amalgamated, chimerical idea of a ‘Janet’ from paper. From the margins, notes and minutes, but mainly from the post-its – a part of the archive and Apart from the archive – much like Janet herself…

‘Treasure of the Month’

This month’s treasure is Janet. Janet seeps through on post-its pressed upon other people. A part and apart, her stickiness is temporary, her yellow glow fleets over faces. She is deeply disposable unless undetected – then, she slips off her sheet, off her box and into the archive…

Image: Post-it note attached to material in The Bloodaxe Archive, contained in BXB/4/5/1 and stored in Special Collections at The Robinson Library.

‘The Scenery of our Native North- The Collieries’: The Art and Legacy of Thomas Hair – February 2016

‘The characteristic appearance of no district in the world is more strikingly marked than is that of the North of England, the peculiar features of which are its collieries and their necessary adjuncts. The face of the country is thickly studded with the engine -houses and coal-heaps attached to respective pits… The fields and roads are crossed are crossed and intersected in every direction by the “waggon-ways” connecting the pits with their respective places of shipment… The margins of our noble rivers are fringed with the staiths and machinery, often constructed on a gigantic scale, necessary for effecting for effecting the shipment of the jetty treasure… The sea itself is blackened with our fleets of colliers, bearing the precious source of warmth and comfort to distant districts and countries, and thus diffusing wealth and happiness around…’.

Part of the opening remarks of M. Ross’ ‘Preliminary Essay on Coal and the Coal Trade’, in T.H. Hair’s A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (1844). The quote from the title comes from the same.

Old Pit, Burdon Main, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Old Pit, Burdon Main, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

The art of Thomas Hair provides a valuable and unique visual record of the region’s mining history. Although the landscape remains scarred by the industry, and other physical remnants of the pits have survived, much more has been lost due to the process of industrialisation and the passage of time. Hair’s work affords us a contemporary view of the pits that shaped our communities and the lives of those dependant on them.

Little is known about Hair’s life. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne around 1810, and his working life began when he trained with local engraver and lithographer Mark Lambert. Hair moved to London at some time in the late 1830s, and exhibited his work at the Suffolk Street Gallery from 1838, and several times at the Royal Academy during the 1840s. Although based in London, Hair maintained a strong affinity with the North East and continued to produce work inspired by the region during his time in the capital.

Percy Pit, Percy Main Colliery, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Percy Pit, Percy Main Colliery, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown.

Hair travelled the ‘Great Northern Coalfield’ of Durham and Northumberland during the early nineteenth century, sketching and painting many of the different scenes of mining life. The paintings were then taken back to his studio, where they could be turned into etched engravings, either by Hair himself or another engraver he was associated with. Much of his work relating to the coalfield was published in Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham; A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham, in 1844. Frank Atkinson, who wrote the ‘Preface’ to the 1969 edition of Hair’s Sketches and Views, has commented on the technical accuracy of Hair’s depictions, as well as his ability to pick up the small details that capture the essence of the scene.

The B Pit, Fawdon Colliery, 1848, by Thomas Hair.

The B Pit, Fawdon Colliery, 1848, by Thomas Hair.

If a criticism can be made of Hair’s work, it is that it does not reflect the struggles and ‘everyday life’ of the miners and their communities. As Hair scholar Douglas Glendinning has noted, although miners are often pictured outside in Hair’s panoramic views of the pits, few of his depictions show the hazardous working conditions and danger involved in coal mining. However, Glendinning emphasises that many other artists also ignored the grim reality of the Industrial Revolution in order for their art to sell. Hair should therefore not be judged on this, and his work appreciated for the scenes it does portray.

Crane for Loading the Rollies, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown. This is one of the few illustrations by Hair that shows the subterranean conditions of the pit.

Crane for Loading the Rollies, by Thomas Hair. Date unknown. This is one of the few illustrations by Hair that shows the subterranean conditions of the pit.

Although Hair had already published his artwork in Scenes and Views, his illustrations were pirated by William Fordyce, who had produced his own survey on the region’s mining industry. Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, published in 1860, used Hair’s work extensively with no credit given to the artist. Some of the illustrations were also altered to make them accurately reflect technological advances in the industry since Hair’s time. This is most obviously seen in Fordyce’s Bottom of Pit Shaft, which is a clearly altered version of Hair’s Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery.

Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery, 1844, by Thomas Hair.

Bottom of the Shaft, Walbottle Colliery, 1844, by Thomas Hair.

Bottom of Pit Shaft, from Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, 1860. Note the addition of a cage on the left hand side, which replaced the corves in Hair’s original. Most prominent is the removal of the rollies and their replacement with the wheeled tubs carrying coal.

Bottom of Pit Shaft, from Fordyce’s Coal and Iron, 1860. Note the addition of a cage on the left hand side, which replaced the corves in Hair’s original. Most prominent is the removal of the rollies and their replacement with the wheeled tubs carrying coal.

Hair died in Newcastle on 11 August 1875, and was buried in an unmarked grave in All Saints Cemetery. Although we know little about the artist himself, his art gives us an invaluable insight into the ‘The Scenery of our Native North’.

The Hair Prints- Special Collections. The prints have been digitised and can be viewed on our Collections Captured portal.

The above images have been digitised from the Hair Prints and are currently uncatalogued. Please contact lib-specenq@ncl.ac.uk for further details.

 

Further Reading 

T.H. Hair and M. Ross, Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham (1839)- Special Collections Rare Books (RB 622.09428 HAI )

T.H. Hair and M. Ross (with an introduction by Frank Atkinson), Sketches of the Coal Mines in Northumberland and Durham; A Series of Views of the Collieries in the Counties of Northumberland and Durham (1969)- Special Collections Edwin Clarke Local (Clarke 1999)

William Fordyce, Coal and Iron (1860)- Special Collections Robert White (W622.33 FOR Folio)

Douglas Glendinning, The Art of Mining; Thomas Hair’s Watercolours of the Great Northern Coalfield (Newcastle: Tyne Bridge Publishing, 2000)- Robinson Library 709.42HAI (Gle)

Sir Humphrey Davy’s Harmful Emissions – November 2015

Scientific Researches! - New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! - or - an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, 1851 (Gillray Prints, JG/2/11R)

Scientific Researches! – New Discoveries in Pneumaticks! – or – an Experimental Lecture on the Powers of Air, 1851 (Gillray Prints, JG/2/11R)

Engraving of Sir Humphry Davy from The life of Sir Humphry Davy, 1831 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 530.9 PAR)

Engraving of Sir Humphry Davy from The life of Sir Humphry Davy, 1831 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 530.9 PAR)

In one of his more robust parodies, this print from our collections by satirist James Gillray (1757 – 1815) is aimed at the spectacle and frivolity of scientific discovery in Georgian culture. The depiction of a public experiment is aimed at the Royal Institution (chartered two years before in 1800), which attempted to render complex scientific ideas comprehensible, but also provide an element of theatre. The accusation is that the latter often took precedence, devaluing breakthroughs at best and providing merely infantile parlour tricks at worst.

Amongst the recognisable figures, at the centre brandishing a pair of bellows is a young Sir Humphrey Davy (1778 – 1829) – chemist and inventor. Davy’s public experiments with nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, at the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol (hence the print’s title), led him to a post at the Royal Institution in 1801. Davy famously failed to grasp the significance of the gas as an anaesthetic except for minor surgery, treating it instead as a curio and conversation piece. Indeed, his often public experiments on himself led to a personal addiction and a reputation latched onto by commentators like Gillray.

Luckily, Davy’s legacy was much more significant. He was perhaps the first professional man of science and helped pave the way for many more like him, but this was not without further scrutiny and controversy. This included the eponymous Davy lamp, invented 200 years ago this month.  By 1815, Davy had been knighted for his services to chemistry, including ‘discovering’ and naming potassium and iodine. By that point a scientist of international renown, he was called upon to solve a problem with a strong local connection.

In 1812, Felling Colliery was the site of an explosion caused by pockets of flammable gas referred to as ‘firedamp’ being ignited by the open flames of the miners’ lamps. Although not an isolated incident, this loss of 92 lives was a crystallised the need for greater safety precautions. Davy was personally asked by the Revd Robert Gray of Bishopwearmouth to investigate. As well as proving firedamp was in fact methane, Davy worked feverishly with his assistant and future pioneer Michael Faraday from October to December 1815 to produce a basic lamp with a wire gauze chimney to enclose naked flames. The holes let light pass through, but the metal of the gauze absorbed the heat and prevented the methane burning inside the lamp.

Engraving of George Stephenson from George Stephenson : the locomotive and the railway, 1881 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 620.92 STE-1)

Engraving of George Stephenson from George Stephenson : the locomotive and the railway, 1881 (19th Century Collection, 19th C. Coll. 620.92 STE-1)

Following successful tests at Hebburn Colliery in early 1916, the lamp went into production. It proved to be Davy’s decisive triumph. He was awarded the Royal Society’s Rumford medal, and in 1820 became the President of that society, elevating his scientific field in the process.

However, the uniqueness of his invention was disputed. Davy refused to patent his lamp, and in doing so exposed himself to rival claimants, chiefly the then unknown engineer George Stephenson. Stephenson had been working on his own similar design at the nearby Killingworth Colliery north of Newcastle at around the same time through an arguably more scientific ‘trial and error’ approach. What followed was a public war of words with Davy rejecting Stephenson’s claims and winning out largely by virtue of his reputation.

Despite this, on 1st November 1917, Stephenson presented evidence to a committee of his peers in Newcastle, claiming his invention was at least contemporary to Davy’s. In this report, available in our Rare Books Collection (image shown below), both miners and members of the Literary and Philosophical Society give testimonies on witnessing the other lamp being developed and tested as early as August 1915. One Robert Summerside, an Overman in Killingworth Colliery, went as far as saying ‘Stephenson’s light produces a much better light than Sir Humphrey Davy’s’.

At the meeting, it was decided that Stephenson was entitled to a public reward, but perhaps more importantly, his name was cleared in scientific and entrepreneurial circles. This allowed him to become one of the most important figures to the Industrial Revolution as Father of the Railways. It is also thought by some that his lamp, termed the Geordie Lamp after him by those that used it in the North Eastern coal fields, was the source of the term ‘Geordie’, as a shorthand for the people of Newcastle.

The committee concluded as follows:

Under the influence of these impressions the friends of Mr Stephenson will no longer dwell upon those intemperate and uncandid insinuations, respecting the clandestine acquirement of the principle in question, which have so lately been given to the world in the name and apparently under the authority of Sir Humphrey Davy, but which they are thoroughly convinced can never have obtained the deliberate concurrence of that enlightened philosopher.

Below are 2 plates depicting the rival lamps; Davy’s on the right and Stephenson’s on the left.

Engraving of George Stephenson's safety lamp from Report upon the claims of Mr. George Stephenson, relative to the invention of his safety lamp, 1817 (Rare Books, RB622.47 REP)

Illustration of Sir Humphrey Davy’s safety lamp from Practical hints on the application of wire-gauze to lamps : for preventing explosions in coal mines, 1816 (Rare Books, RB942.8 TYN(VI)2)

Illustration of Sir Humphrey Davy's safety lamp from Practical hints on the application of wire-gauze to lamps : for preventing explosions in coal mines, 1816 (Rare Books, RB942.8 TYN(VI)2)

Engraving of George Stephenson’s safety lamp from Report upon the claims of Mr. George Stephenson, relative to the invention of his safety lamp, 1817 (Rare Books, RB622.47 REP)

The Battle of Britain Ends – October 2015

31 October 2015 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the battle of Britain.

The Battle of Britain was an air campaign launched by the German Air Force, Luftwaffe against the UK in the summer and autumn of 1940. Hitler had already swept through France and forced the British army out the European mainland. In order to finally invade Britain, Hitler needed to launch a final air strike to wipe out Britain’s RAF defenses.

Though the RAF Fighter Command had only 640 aircraft against the 2600 aircraft of the Luftwaffe, with the support of Bomber Command and Coastal Command, the RAF were victorious. Nazi Germany turned their attention to bombing British cities in the attack known as The Blitz, but failure in the Battle of Britain forced Hitler to cancel his Operation Sea Lion; an amphibious and airborne invasion of Britain.

Sir Robert Pattinson

Sir Robert Pattinson

In our special collections holdings at Newcastle University we hold the letters of Sir Lawrence Pattinson, an RAF pilot who fought during World War I and World War II. After the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Sir Lawrence was appointed Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command and Flying Training Command in April 1940. By January 1945, Sir Lawrence was created Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire as part of the New Year’s Honors.

This month’s treasure is a letter from Sir Archibald Sinclair thanking Sir Lawrence Pattinson, on behalf of King George VI, for his long and valuable service in the RAF (dated 20th April, 1945).

GB 186 LAP/1/4/1 – Pattinson Papers

GB 186 LAP/1/4/1 – Pattinson Papers

Frances Burney Correspondence – September 2015

By Sophia Leggett

Sophia Leggett is an MLitt English Literature student at Newcastle University, specialising in Contemporary Children’s Literature.  Throughout the year, she has also been working in the Special Collections department at the Robinson Library, helping to catalogue newly acquired rare books.

As she reaches the end of her time with us, we have asked Sophia to take a look at one of the hidden gems within our archive collection and tell you (and us!) a little bit more …

Taking inspiration from the three letters in the Manuscript Album collection written either to or by the great author, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney, Sophia looks a little deeper into the life and correspondence of this fascinating writer.


The Letters of Fanny Burney, held by Newcastle University, and available to consult in the Special Collections Reading Room, Robinson Library.

Reference ID: GB186-MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney

Reference ID: GB186-MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Burney


Frances Burney (1752-1840) was arguably the most successful female novelist of the eighteenth century; her first novel Evelina (1778) was a publishing sensation and follow-up novels Cecilia (1782) and Camilla (1796) were considered among the best fiction of the time and were much admired by her contemporary Jane Austen. Further than this, Burney was also a keen playwright, and also wrote many letters and journals to her family and friends. Burney composed many of these letters and journals with a keen awareness of their future historical significance, giving a fascinating insight into many aspects of eighteenth century life including family, politics, court, war and pathology. Living to the incredible age of 87, Burney lived a long and fascinating life.

Family Life

Frances (‘Fanny’) Burney was born the third of six children to Charles and Esther Sleepe Burney. Her father, a musicologist, came from humble beginnings but increased his social standing through hard work and study. Her mother died when she was ten years old, and her father was remarried 5 years later to Elizabeth Allen, bringing three step-siblings into the family, and later two half-siblings. Her large family were a talented group of musicians, writers, scholars, geographers and artists. The whole family shared a habit of vividly ‘journalising’ experiences for each other, and between them left behind more than 10,000 items of correspondence. Burney’s family clearly nurtured her artistic talent, even though she did not learn to read until she was 8 and never received formal schooling. Burney was also nurtured by her father’s circle of friends, particularly as she acted as her father’s secretary as he worked on a history of music. Charles’ circle included the lexicographer Samuel Johnson, the poet Christopher Smart, the painter Joshua Reynolds, the actor David Garrick and a brewer Henry Thrale and his wife, Hester, a diarist.

Thrale Relationship

One of the letters held by Newcastle University is a letter from Hester Thrale, a friend of the family. Thrale seems to have had a very interesting relationship with the Burney family. She was allegedly strangely judgemental of them, torn between her love and admiration of the Burneys and contempt for their humble origins, referring to them as ‘a very low race of mortals’. Burney’s first novel, Evelina altered this relationship. It was initially published anonymously, but knowledge of her authorship soon broke out and Thrale saw the advantage of an acquaintance to Burney and demanded an introduction, inviting Burney to social gatherings and gaining her access to literary circles. Upon Thrale’s scandalous remarriage to musician Piozzi in 1784, Burney, in outrage, ceased correspondence with her, though they later had a partial reconciliation in 1815 in Bath.

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 1

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney – Part 1

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 1 Narrative - Copy

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 2

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney – Part 2

MSA-1-13 Letter From Hester Lynch Thrale To Fanny Burney - Part 2 - NarrativeCourt Life

At 35, Burney was reluctantly appointed Keeper of the Robes to Queen Charlotte at the Court of George III, after the Queen wished for a new dresser who could supply her with intelligent conversation. This was meant to be a position for life, but Burney hated it and managed to leave after five years due to ill health. Despite this, Burney left on good terms with the Royal Family, and proceeded to stay in touch. She left with a pension of £100 – half of her £200 salary. Whilst at court, Burney vividly documented Court lifestyle, providing an intriguing insight into court lifestyle as well as King George III’s ‘madness’.

France

Following the French Revolution, in 1793 at the age of 41, Burney met Alexandre d’Arblay, an exiled French General, and soon after married him following a secret courtship. Due to poor relations with France following the Revolution, this was frowned upon particularly by Burney’s father, who tried to dissuade her from an imprudent match, though Burney clearly ignored him. D’Arblay was not allowed to work in England due to his nationality, and so Burney became the breadwinner of the family with her royal pension and her writing.

In 1802 Burney and her son joined D’Arblay in France, where he had returned to claim what was left of his estate and joined the French Royalist Guard. The family were then trapped in France by the breakdown of the Peace Amiens and the outbreak of war between France and England. In 1815, Burney fled from France to Belgium, and upon discovering that her husband was ill and wounded at Tréves (more than a hundred miles away from her), Burney set out to find him and take him back to England, documenting her travels through a war-torn country.

During her time in France, Burney’s journals and letters provide a fascinating insight into French society, politics and war. She also provides an intriguing pathological account of then-modern medicine. In 1811 at her home in Paris, she underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer without anaesthetic, writing a very detailed and graphic account of this operation.

MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Charles Burney

MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Charles Burney

MSA-1-15 Letter From Fanny Burney To Dr Charles Burney - Narrative

The Manuscript Album is a collection of letters, purchased or given to Newcastle University Library over the last century. Although collected with no particular subject focus, each letter was chosen for its historical significance, and the album includes letters by Horatio Nelson, A.E. Houseman, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Garibaldi, and Mary Shelly to name but a few, as well as by people of local significance like Thomas Bewick, Richard Grainger, and George Stephenson. The Manuscript Album contains three letters which were written either to or by the great author, playwright and diarist Fanny Burney.

Further details about this Collection

Chicken-rearing and the Revolution – August 2015

17 August 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s classic ‘fairy tale’ about animals in revolt and allegory of the Russian dictatorship, Animal Farm. Orwell – real name Eric Arthur Blair – wrote the book in 1943/44 at his small cottage in Wallington, Hertfordshire. His friend and fellow author, Jack Common, ran the village shop in nearby Datchworth.

George Orwell BBC

George Orwell

Common was born in Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1903. He moved to London in 1925 and later worked at The Adelphi magazine, where he met Orwell in the mid-1930s.The pair struck up an uneasy friendship – Common was North East working-class, whilst Orwell, was (in his own words) “lower-upper-middle class” and Eton-educated. Despite their differences, the two remained friends until Orwell’s death in 1950. Orwell became Common’s literary mentor, regarding Common’s collection of essays, The Freedom of the Streets (1938), as:

‘the authentic voice of the ordinary working man, the man who might infuse a new decency into the control of affairs if only he could get there . . .’

Jack Common died in 1968, and his papers were deposited at the University Library in 1974. They comprise photographs, diaries, notebooks, manuscript, and letters.

JC/4/1/8

(JC/4/1/8) Jack Common

This 1962 letter (shown below) to Common (COM 3/3/38), from London bookseller Anthony Rota, is about the purchase of a selection of Orwell’s letters. Rota, obviously looking for insights into Orwell’s writing, isn’t impressed with some of the content:

‘Like you, I find Orwell’s absorption in the minutiae of chicken-rearing well worth reading about but, in terms of hard cash, it does not mean as much as any comment he makes on how and why he wrote his books.’

Rota offers Common a poultry £75 for the letters.

But perhaps the letter should maybe not be dismissed so lightly. Orwell – a keen angler and gardener – strove for self-sufficiency and reared his own livestock in his Wallington garden. His chickens and goats are the animals that provided inspiration for characters in Animal Farm.

Common replied, expressing his disappointment at the offer. Rota’s response of 8th August 1962 (COM 3/3/39) presses home his disinterest in Orwell’s Good Life interests:

‘From our point of view the trouble is that he writes too much about chickens and not enough about his work.’

The two eventually agree on £85 for the letter.

(COM 3/3/38), letter from Anthony Rota to Jack Common, 3rd August 1962

(COM 3/3/38), letter from Anthony Rota to Jack Common, 3rd August 1962

150 years of Alice in Wonderland – July 2015

Front cover of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1922) [20th Century Collection, 823.8 CAR]

This year celebrates the 150th anniversary of jam tarts, rabbit holes, mad hatters, secret doors, tea parties and even more ‘curiouser and curiouser’ delights in Lewis Carroll’s fantasy children’s book, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Published in 1865, the tale follows Alice, a seven year old girl, who falls asleep and enters a world full of nonsense. Upon following the White Rabbit, she encounters many iconic characters whose symbolism aim to teach children lessons surrounding growing up, identity and curiosity.

Lewis Carroll is a pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Born in the village of Daresbury, Chesire, he was the eldest boy in a family of eleven children. Carroll was educated at home, until the age of twelve when he was sent to Richmond Grammar School in North Yorkshire. In 1851 he registered at Christ Church, Oxford, where he excelled at maths. He received the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship in 1855, which he continued to hold for the next twenty six years. However, he is best known as an adept storyteller; spinning new tales to entertain his friends.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was inspired by real events and a real child. The story occurred in 1862 during a river outing with Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and his family. Along the journey Carroll spoke of a bored little girl called Alice who goes looking for adventure. Alice Liddell (one of three daughters on the trip) loved the story so much that she asked for it to be written down. Carroll agreed and he eventually completed the story two and a half years later.

Reproduction of a tipped-in colour plate by Gwynedd M. udson depicting the Made Hatter's tea party
Reproduction of a tipped-in colour plate by Gwynedd M. udson depicting the Made Hatter’s tea party [20th Century Collection, 823.8 CAR]

The enchanting tale has charmed both children and adults through numerous re-prints, theatre productions, film adaptations and more. Special Collections hold a version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland that was published in 1922 by Hodder and Stoughton and contains twelve reproduced illustrations of highly detailed tipped-in colour plates by Gwynedd M. Hudson. Each illustration contains specific scenes from the story, including Alice receiving advice from the Caterpillar, Alice and the Queen of Hearts playing croquet, and Alice meeting the Gryphon and the Mock Turtle. Hudson passed away at the age of twenty six but, despite her short life, she is noted for her remarkable illustrations in J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Wendy as well as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Reproduction of a tipped-in colour plate by Gwynedd M. Hudson depicting the Alice with the Caterpillar
Reproduction of a tipped-in colour plate by Gwynedd M. Hudson depicting the Alice with the Caterpillar [20th Century Collection, 823.8 CAR]