Category Archives: Online

“The lamps are going out…”

"The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time" - Sir Edward Grey, August 1914

Today, 4 August 2014, is the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. No veterans survive, and the centenarians who were alive in 1914 are unlikely to have been old enough to have many memories of that time. It is important therefore to commemorate, collectively, the events of 1914-1918 – the history made, the lessons learnt, the stories held in families and places all over the world.

To this end, there is a four year programme of commemorative events and creative endeavour taking place across the country, with all kinds of interesting and educational projects.

Toby's Room by Pat Barker    In the teeth of the wind, by CPO Bartlett    Because you died, by Vera Brittain    The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West

Being a library service, we have of course compiled a series of book lists – both fiction and non-fiction – relating to WW1. The lists each have a subject focus, eg: the aftermath of war, the home front, or military history. Take a look – you can get to each list by using the drop down box on the First World War reading list page. When you see a book you’d like to read, click on ‘Find in my library’ for more details.

First World War reading lists on the Westminster Libraries catalogue

First World War reading lists on the Westminster Libraries catalogue – click on the drop down list (where it says ‘WW1: War poets and poetry’) to choose another list, such as ‘Crime fiction set in and around the war’.

Another way to find out about WW1 is via our extensive collection of online resources:

War Game by Michael ForemanA previous post described four ‘Westminster Heroes’ and the Lights Out campaign. A longer-term educational project led by Westminster City Archives, working across the Triborough area (Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham) and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund is ‘Playing the Game: Football on the battlefields of the First World War‘.

The project uses the narrative of Michael Foreman’s award winning children’s book ‘War Game’, building up to the Christmas Truce of 1914. The fictional story is put into context by introducing real soldier’s stories and the wider history of World War One.

The Playing the Game website is live and really worth a look – it includes soldier’s stories, images, educational resources and this documentary video:

“The lamps are going out all over Europe, we shall not see them lit again in our life-time”

- Sir Edward Grey, August 1914


Still gathering no moss

In a recent post we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the release of the Beatles film and album ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ in 1964. This album displaced the Rolling Stones first album in July after a reign of 12 weeks at the number one spot in the charts. With this the Beatles regained the top spot and the chart rivalry between the two bands was underway. As someone who (just) remembers that rivalry, I’m posting this complementary blog as a gesture of even-handedness!

The Rolling Stones’ album cover design is interesting as it features Nicholas Wright’s moody photograph of the band; and with the exception of the Decca logo, no title or identification information. The band was suitably confident in their brand recognition that the image alone was enough to promote the record. London Records, Decca’s American label, were not so confident of this approach so clumsily added the phrase “England’s Newest Hit Makers” across the front cover.

The album was recorded in the Regent’s Sound Studios, Denmark Street in about ten days. Keith Richards said in an interview

“We did our early records on a 2-track Revox in a room insulated with egg cartons at Regent Sound. It was like a little demo in Tin Pan Alley, as it used to be called. Denmark Street in Soho.”

The Rolling Stones weren’t the only band to make use of Regent Sound Studio. Through the 60s and 70s it played host to many other bands and artists including The Who, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Mott the Hoople, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan and Black Sabbath who recorded the iconic single and album “Paranoid” .

Life, by Keith RichardsWestminster Libraries hold a number of books, recordings and DVDs by and relating to the Stones, such as Keith Richards’ autobiography Life.

Anyone wanting to find out more about the Stones in contemporary context would do well to explore our newspaper archives. You will need your library membership card number for free access.

It is clear that many adults feared the rise of the Rolling Stones, and as with the punk revolution ten years later, a moral panic ensued with fears of the collapse of civilisation. This prompted the famous quotation “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?” asked by a Canadian broadcaster after he witnessed the teen hysteria and Mick Jagger’s onstage performance in 1965.
From The Times Digital Archive (log in with your library card), the following two reports give a flavour of this feeling: ‘No Lessons For Boys With Long Hair’ (19 April 1965, page 5): three boys from an Aylesbury secondary school were made to sit in the school dining room away from other pupils classes as they had refused to cut their hair until Mick Jagger did. More seriously, ‘Youth Killed Himself After Haircut” (12 February, 1966, page 6): The boy’s uncle and guardian had forced the boy to a barber after he had grown his hair long in imitation of the Rolling Stones.

Some of the most intense newspaper coverage came in 1967 with the famous drugs bust. Events began with a police raid on Keith Richards’ house Redlands in February following a tip off (probably by The News of the World) that there were drugs on the premises. It was left to the News of the World to titillate and horrify its readers with a full account of the raid. Other details only emerged from the separate trials of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. The Times straying into tabloid territory gave a full account under the heading ‘Young woman “wearing only fur rug” at guitarist’s party’ (Times 29 June 1967, page 2).

There were many protests at the harsh sentences including from The Times’ editor William Rees-Mogg, under the now famous headline ‘Who Breaks A Butterfly On A Wheel?’ (Times, 1 July 1967, page 11). In it he argued that

“there must remain a suspicion in this case that Mr Jagger received a more severe sentence than would be thought proper for any purely anonymous young man.”

Finally on the 31st July the Appeals Court overturned Keith Richards’ conviction and Mick Jagger’s sentence was reduced to a conditional discharge. Probably in gratitude to the newspaper’s intervention, Mick Jagger gave an exclusive interview in the next day’s issue: ‘Mr Mick Jagger speaks his mind’ (Times, 1 August 1967, page 8).

You can find all the above articles and more on the Times Digital Archive, by date or by simply searching for ‘The Rolling Stones’.


Why bother with botanical Latin?

The Marylebone Gardener ponders…

Like many gardeners I am frequently irritated and bamboozled by plants’ botanical Latin names. Often difficult to pronounce and a nightmare for those of us with poor spelling skills, eg: Zygopyllum prismatothecum… Why are we stuck with botanical Latin? The simple answer is that the Latin botanical name is universally recognised and identifiable. Sticking to common names can cause confusion. Recently a library colleague asked me what a certain purple flowering plant was in the staff garden. On replying, “It’s a (hardy) geranium”, they said, “I thought they had red flowers” – referring to the pelargonium family.

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill) at Camley Street Natural Park, Kings Cross

Geranium pratense (Meadow Cranesbill) at Camley Street Natural Park, Kings Cross

Pig amongst the Pelargoniums (Marylebone Library staff garden)

Pig amongst the Pelargoniums (Marylebone Library staff garden)

Likewise there is common confusion over the name bluebell. Referred to in the Scottish folk song:

“Oh where, tell me where
Did your Highland laddie dwell?
He dwelt in bonnie Scotland,
Where blooms the sweet blue bell”

This refers to Campanula rotundifolia, commonly known as the harebell, rather than the ‘English’ bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta.

Flora Britannica, by Richard MabeyHere the plant’s common name is restricted to two, but other plants within Britain have many more local names. Sixteen names have been recorded for the dandelion, including lion’s-tooth, puffball, fairy clock and pissabed! When you consider that many plants can be found growing across continents, the use of local names just doesn’t work for identification purposes. It’s fascinating from a cultural / historical viewpoint though, and Richard Mabey’s extraordinary Flora Britannica is a mine of curious information.

Latin names are often long due to the fact that they are frequently portmanteau words made up of descriptive elements within it. So returning to the hare bell the Latin name Campanula = bell-like (flower) and rotundifolia = round foliage. These descriptive elements occur in many botanical names and so are useful clues to the plant’s appearance such as colour, leaf shape or growing habit.

You may be aware of the name Carl Linnaeus (1707 – 1778) the Swedish botanist who brought order to previous attempts to classify plants by dividing 7,700 species into 109 genera each one having an unique botanical name. In spite of being born and dying in Sweden, Linnaeus spent a significant part of his active life in England so warrants an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. His entry can be consulted either online using the Westminster Libraries 24/7 electronic resources or in the printed version held within the Marylebone Information Service or Westminster Reference Library collections.

An entertaining history of Linnaeus and his predecessors attempts to bring order to the plant world can be read in Anna Pavord’s book The Naming of Names.  Westminster Libraries also stock several lending and reference guides to botanical Latin to aid the puzzled gardener:

The Naming of Names, by Anna Pavord   The Names of Plants, by D Gledhill   RHS Latin for Gardeners

We also stock Geoffrey Grigson’s Dictionary of English Plant Names, and Some Products of Plants. Please note that this reference book is currently held in a library store so it must be ordered in advance from Marylebone Information Service – but we’d be very pleased to bring it out into the light of day!



Welcome to your new library catalogue!

Regular users of the library catalogue will have noticed a big change today:

Westminster library catalogue, June 2014

We’re pleased to announce that the upgrade to the catalogue is live and working – give it a try! For those who are used to the previous version, don’t worry – here’s what you need to know:

  • To renew your items, check what you have out etc., just go to My Account at the top of the page. Logging in is the same as before – you need your library card number and pin. If you have forgotten your pin, please contact
  • To search, use the search box toward the top of the page. You will notice that you can now search all of the triborough libraries: Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, and Hammersmith & Fulham. You can also reserve items across the three boroughs. Once you have done a search, you can narrow it down in many more ways than before – by library, language, material type (eg: DVD) and so on. All the options are down the left hand side of the search results.

There are many more new features available on the new catalogue, which we’ll be highlighting in future posts. Do click on the picture or link above and have a look around.

[Edited to add: One of the downsides of moving to the new catalogue is that links to books in previous blog posts will no longer work. We will edit the more recent ones to fix them, but older posts will have to stay as they are.]

Looking back to D-Day

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, and activities commemorating the events of early June 1944 are taking place in France, England and around the world.

omahaReading Anne Frank’s diary I realised that it was not just the British who were awaiting the invasion of occupied Europe but also those living under the tyranny of the Nazi regime and occupation. There were feelings that the Allies’ invasion was long overdue, especially considering the fall of Mussolini’s Italy in July 1943. At the same time, the Russians were annoyed at what they saw as too much being put on their shoulders.

The invasion was planned for earlier but bad weather had postponed it until Tuesday 6 June. The landings began overnight with gliders and parachutists landing in Northern France; leaflets were dropped warning the French people of what was to come.

Unsurprisingly when the news came forth the newspapers sprang on it with a great many headlines – this from The Times:


For most of us, D-Day is not a memory but a piece of history. Reading newspapers from the time can be a good way to see how events unfolded and how they were reported in the press. The Times and other papers and magazines can be read via our online archives, just go to the Online Resources page, choose a newspaper and log in with your library card number.

You could begin by browsing through the newspapers of 7 June 1944: The TimesThe Mirror (via UK Press Online), The Guardian and even the FT feature relevant stories from the day.

Then if you want to explore further, try illustrated stories from Picture Post (24 June) and Illustrated London News (10 and 17 June).



“It worked online – at home!”

This was what someone had to say about Library Press Display, one of our amazing online resources, available to all members of Westminster Libraries. Last week I showed him how it was possible to get different magazines and newspapers using our website and that you don’t even need to be in the library to use them – they can be accessed at home as well.

Online newspapers for members of Westminster LibrariesLibrary Press Display has to be one of my favourites. It allows you to read the papers as they look that very day – the current copy. Not just one or two newspapers either, but papers and some magazines from around the world in a huge variety of languages – also on the day they are published!
I loved it from the moment I saw it but didn’t believe that we could have access to anything that amazing; would they really allow our library members to access all this? Yes, they would and yes, they do.

Of course as the visit by this particular customer proves, using this or any other online resource doesn’t have to mean the end to all your visits to your local library so do continue to drop by.

Library Press Display is one of several online newspaper resources useful for anything from finding recent articles and looking at today’s stories to historical research. Just go to:


Find Your Past with findmypast

Hugely popular database Find My Past has recently made fundamental changes to its search interface. To make the most of this amazing resource, free from your Westminster Library, read on…

Auntie Nora? Family history resourcesThere are increasing numbers of datasets available to users. One set close to home is that from the City of Westminster Archives Centre. These are in what is referred to as The Westminster Collection and are absolutely invaluable if you want to find out about any relatives who perhaps lived, worked or had a major life event in Westminster; maybe they got married here!

Accessing Find My Past in Westminster Libraries

Find My Past can be accessed from the computers in any Westminster Library. Furthermore, access is now automatic but you must follow these instructions:

  • From the start page, go to Online Resources > Family History and follow the link to Ancestry and Find My Past.
  • This will take you to the Online resources page where there are links to both Ancestry (which can also be used in any Tri-Borough Library) and Find My Past.
  • When you follow the link to Find My Past (you can also enter the web address: you will then be able to perform a search straight away, either from the main page or from one of the options referred to later on.
  • When you see a result that interests you, you can see more (for instance the original image) by clicking on the link. You will be taken to a page with a few options. The one you must choose to make sure you remain logged in is: “Continue as a guest”.
  • You may then continue using Find My Past without having to choose this option again.

Recommended ways of searching the new Find My Past

You may find that searching from the first page is not ideal as you may end up with too many results to sift through. What we recommend you do if this is the case (don’t be afraid to try all sorts of methods, by the way) is to go to the Search records menu and either choose to search within one of the general areas, for example Census, land & surveys, and fill in the more complex search form where you can add more criteria. Here you can also choose specific datasets such as the 1911 Census – but this isn’t the only way to search specific Censuses etc.

You can also select A-Z of record sets and either flick or search through to find what you wish to look at eg: a census, electoral register. Each one will have a different search form and may be easier or harder to find records. Some, such as the 1901 Census, may even allow you to search for different things such as addresses. But whatever you do, we encourage you to spend as much time as you wish using both Ancestry and Find My Past in conjunction with one another and…

findmypastIf at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again!