Tag Archives: Westminster

My favourite things

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was that there was so much to tell – as the very first post said: “It’s about the life of the Libraries & Archives”. There are so very many facets to a public library service; I wanted to help bring more of what we can offer into the light.

After eighteen years in Westminster Libraries (a brief interlude in comparison to the tenure of Malcolm and many others, of course), I’ve rounded up a selection of wonderful things and, with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, persuaded my library-fan children to spare you my singing voice.  As I move on to pastures new, one of the things I will miss the most is editing this blog (I look forward to being a reader from now on). It’s been a privilege.

So long, farewell…

[Ali]

Advertisements

Henry Purcell – local boy makes good

Henry Purcell sculpture by Glynn Williams 1995, Christchurch Gardens SW1In a library situated between Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, there is a fine collection of music books and printed music – the one and only Westminster Music Library.

We’ve developed a bit of a reputation for obtaining money for all manner of music related activities, sometimes from the unlikeliest of sources…

So it was that following our MOD funded Joint Force Singers choral project last June, I started thinking about what Westminster Music Library could do next for the good citizens of the Borough. Maybe it was time to start looking a little closer to home for some inspiration.

Henry Purcell - portrait by John Closterman, 1660-1711

There have been hundreds of famous people who were born in Westminster, from Queen Anne to the First Earl of Zetland, but what about those who dedicated their lives to music? Composers like Thomas Busby, brothers George and Walter McFarren, all interesting but not exactly household names. I needed a show stopper, someone who had a real connection to Westminster throughout his life. How about the chap considered to be England’s greatest composer of the Baroque era, famously dubbed the “Orpheus Britannicus” for his ability to combine powerful English counterpoint with expressive, flexible, and dramatic word settings? None other than Henry Purcell.

Born in Old Pye Street, a stone’s throw from Westminster Abbey and Westminster’s present day City Archives, Purcell’s interest in music began when he was a young child. Even the street names in his neighbourhood are enough to get the imagination running riot: Abbey Orchard Street, Devil’s Acre, Thieving Lane.

Rumour has it that he started composing at the age of 9, his earliest work being the ode for King Charles’ birthday in 1670. The young Purcell attended Westminster School, was appointed copyist at Westminster Abbey in 1676, and landed the impressive post of Organist of Westminster Abbey by the time he was 20, in 1679. As organist of Westminster Abbey, he played at William and Mary’s coronation on 11 April 1689. An impressive pedigree for a local boy, and definitely someone we should be celebrating.

Henry Purcell: Chacony (MSS British Library)

While Purcell is well worth celebrating, I needed to think about how to do it – how could this celebration help residents to connect with their community, make the most of the local opportunities and assets available to them, and encourage them to celebrate Westminster’s unique historic heritage?

With musical expertise from our long-time partners the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the knowledgeable staff at Westminster City Archives (an Aladdin’s Cave of fascinating information, maps and photographs of the area), I put together a proposal which includes a series of intergenerational workshops for local residents and school children, resource packs for both adults and children, and an exhibition focusing on the life, music, history and heritage of Henry Purcell. And the beauty of Henry Purcell as far as Westminster Music Library is concerned? We have lots of books and scores in our collection with his name on them!

So we’re good to go for February 2017, with the generous help of the Westminster Cultural Partnerships Team and Westminster City Councillors – watch this space!

[Ruth]

Before Tufty, SPLINK and the Green Cross Man

Never underestimate the importance of road safety, or the voice of the entertainment industry!

Cal McCord. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Black and white photograph of cowboy Cal McCord with the First and Second prize winners in Weymouth Beauty Contest sitting on his horse Ladybird.

The City of Westminster Archives Centre staff have uncovered the predecessor of the hedgehogs that taught the youth of today to look both ways before crossing the street. Cal McCord was a celebrity cowboy involved in a road safety campaign touring from London to Leicester. He also appeared in classics like BBC Children’s How to Become a Cowboy (1953) and Never Take Sweets From a Stranger (1960).

These black and white photographs show cowboy Cal McCord in a variety of scenes in an album which was compiled and captioned by the man himself – click on the images to enlarge and read his captions. The photographs have been taken around London and next to famous landmarks in Westminster. They feature other local figures like the then-Mayor of Westminster and the First and Second prize winners in the Weymouth Beauty Contest. His constant companion, self-proclaimed to be beloved above the rest, is his horse Ladybird.

Cal McCord photograph album. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

“The Mayor of Westminster, Alderman Rice, (looks like he’s brought his corporation with him????) handing me the Road Safety Message which I was to hand to the Lord Mayor of leicester at the end of the journey in Victoria Park there. It is worth nothing that this picture was taken in the Victoria Tower Gardens at the foot of the houses of parliament. Ladybird didn’t like the umbrella, look at her expression.”

The album dates from the 1950s. McCord lived at 21 Fontaine Road and Ladybird was stabled at Hilcote Stables, Wimbledon Common.

We have this gem in our collection, which we’d love for you to come to see, but if you’d like to know more about his life and works, the Cal McCord Collection was bequethed to the V&A Department of Theatre and Performance.

[Michelle]

A working day at the Archives Centre

I’m Cecilia and work as an Archives and Local Studies Assistant at the City of Westminster Archives Centre in St Ann’s Street.

Stained glass celebrating Westminster's history and architecture (Jane Campbell 1995) at Westminster City ArchivesMy daily work is varied and is split between staffing the reception desk on the ground floor and the enquiry desk in the search room on the fifth floor, plus some time off the desk for back office duties.

Reception duties include looking after the meeting room we hire out, the Express Library and the small local history bookshop. I register all new archives and library visitors, answer all the incoming calls for the building, monitoring bookings and statistics etc.

Work in the search room means helping archives users find appropriate sources for their research.

The search room at Westminster City Archives

Most of our users are looking for their family history and will look at the parish registers, census records, historical maps, prints and photos and electoral registers for Westminster. They can also access many more records for a wider area through the libraries subscription to family history websites such as Ancestry and Findmypast. Many of Westminster’s parish registers and early rate books are available to search by name and view on Findmypast. They are also available on microfilm in the search room as are other parish records, local newspapers etc.

Finding Aids at Westminster City Archives

Other users are looking at building history and use our large collection of council drainage/architectural plans. All original and unique records are kept in our strong rooms and are available by request slips. Descriptions and finding numbers can be found by searching our online catalogue WESTCAT or by using one of our finding aids in the searchroom, such as the print and photo card index or one of the printed volumes of indexes. On the Archives website there a wealth of information to help, for example our Information Sheets found under Family History and a guide to the General Register Office indexes. Most of these records are only available to view in person by visiting us. We also have a large collection of printed material, such as reference books, pamphlets, periodicals and London directories, which have listings of trades and streets etc.

Doing research at Westminster City Archives

One of the most interesting aspects of the job is answering the email enquiries we receive – I often learn something new about the history of Westminster while answering. It’s great to have all this information collected in one place.

[Cecilia]

Explore Your Archive

Explore your archive badges

The now annual UK and Ireland Explore Your Archive week, co-ordinated by the National Archives and the Archives and Records Association, falls this year on 14-22 November. In  2015, Explore Your Archive takes democracy as its theme, chiming in with the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta and Parliament in the Making 2015.

Explore your archive: democracy

Westminster City Archives is rich in records of representative politics in Westminster, at parochial, metropolitan, and national levels. We hold the records of the Westminster parish vestries, the organs of local government prior to 1900, and those of their successors the metropolitan boroughs of Paddington, St Marylebone, and the City of Westminster. The three boroughs were incorporated as the new City of Westminster in 1965.

The Common Garden Orator by Isaac Cruickshank, 1800. Image property of Westminster City Archives

“The common garden orator – or aut Caesar aut nullis [either Caesar or nothing]  …, My Dear Friends & Constituents, had I not possessed Principles suited to all occasions I never could have sat so long in the House as I have done …”, by Isaac Cruickshank, 1800, a satire on Fox’s alleged opportunism and lack of integrity. Image property of Westminster City Archives

During the late Georgian period the parliamentary seats of Westminster were the most important in the country, carrying great prestige and influence. Voting patterns and public debates in the borough were viewed as a barometer of national political opinion and temper. Given the importance of the seats and that they were largely the preserve of the aristocracy and family favour, Westminster became the home of several veins of radical politics, challenging the old oligarchy and the commonplace corruption, bribery and intimidation that accompanied elections.

The Westminster elections of the period are illuminated in an engaging and entertaining way by the fine collection of contemporary political caricatures and cartoons held at the Archives Centre. The prints depict those occupying or aspiring to Westminster borough parliamentary seats variously as wild and dangerous revolutionaries/courageous reforming statesmen, brazen rogues/ heroes of the people, dishonest charlatans/righteous tribunes – all depending on who the satirical artist was attacking or promoting.

A Great Man in Distress, or how to grow rich... by William Dent, 1793. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

“A great man in distress or, How to grow rich & avoid becoming chargable to the Parish.  A subscription experiment” by William Dent, 1793, a satire on Fox’s fund-raising. Image property of Westminster City Archives.

Prominent among the Westminster reformers was Charles James Fox, by far the most caricatured figure of his age and a favoured victim of the graphic satirists James Gillray, Isaac Cruickshank, William Dent and others. Fox was a powerful orator, an advocate of parliamentary reform, opponent of the transatlantic slave trade, rake, gambler, hairy, corpulent – and the butt of countless satirical prints.

A selection of satirical prints together with other drawings, photographs and documents revealing the city of Westminster’s representative politics over the centuries is currently on display at the Archives Centre. Do come and explore!

Explore your archive

[Rory]

Are you registered to vote?

National Voter RegistrationDay

It’s National Voter Registration Day today, Thursday 5 Feb, and the Council’s Electoral Services team is taking to Twitter to answer questions from Westminster residents about registering to vote.

The team will be taking questions until 5.00pm today using #askwccvote. Please let the people you work with know about it to help as many people register as possible. People must be registered in order to vote in the General Election on 7 May 2015.

The deadline for registering to vote is 20 April and for the first time people can register online at gov.uk/register-to-vote.

The Council wrote to all households at the end of January to let people know who is registered at their address. If the information is correct, people don’t need to do anything. If someone is missing, they should register at gov.uk/register-to-vote or contact Electoral Services to request a paper copy.

If the information is incorrect, the Council are asking people to let them know so their details can be amended.

Your vote matters, make sure you’re in!

Email:  electoralservices@westminster.gov.uk or telephone: 0207 641 7500 (Monday-Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm).

[Claire]

 

 

Happy Birthday Queen’s Park Library!

Today Queen’s Park Library celebrates its 125th birthday.

Queen’s Park is Westminster’s oldest library. The purpose-built library first opened its doors on 16 January 1890 as Kensal New Town Library, which was then in the borough of Chelsea. Although a long way from Chelsea, the area now called Queen’s Park was administered by Chelsea vestry and known as “Chelsea detached”. The library was intended to serve the residents of the Queen’s Park Estate, which had recently been built to house local workers such as railwaymen, postmen and policemen.

Queen's Park Library decorated for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902

Queen’s Park Library decorated for the coronation of Edward VII in 1902

After the creation of the London Metropolitan Boroughs it became the first public library in Paddington on 1 April 1901. For 30 years was the only library provided by Paddington Council, and for over 20 years – until Paddington adopted the Public Libraries Act – only Queen’s Park residents were allowed to use it and had to pay extra rates for the privilege. It eventually became a Westminster library in 1965 when the boroughs of Paddington and Marylebone joined Westminster to form one larger borough.

Queen’s Park Library in 1910

Queen’s Park Library in 1910

Everyone is welcome to join us for some birthday refreshments today, including cake! The library will be celebrating throughout the year with birthday-themed events. Full details will be available on our events page.

[Hugh]