On 23rd October, Local Studies hosted a WWI Reminiscence Event. This was a thrilling way to engage with local people’s stories of Kensington and Chelsea during World War 1, and we were treated to a variety of brought-in artefacts, from original medals to black and white photographs and even a Princess Mary Christmas 1914 tin, which was originally sent out to troops filled with tobacco.
We heard about grandfathers who had fought in the trenches and never spoke about it afterwards to aunts who had much better job opportunities, while the troops were away fighting, than they otherwise would have done.
Participants also greatly enjoyed their chance to have an exclusive preview of the scrapbooks and recruiting posters we’ll be using in our forthcoming exhibition, Kensington and Chelsea’s Great War. Do look out for this at various library and community venues in Spring 2015: keep an eye on our Twitter feed and Facebook page too for updates.
We’ve struck gold this week: a guest blog by our Local Studies Librarian, Dave Walker, with some personal- and local- reflections of WWI.
Like many of the people who work in libraries, archives and museums I’ve spent time this year getting ready for the commemoration of the start of the First World War, looking through archive material, going to meetings and workshops, working on exhibitions and events and answering the first flurry of enquiries on the subject. I’ve never experienced any preparation for a centenary like it. Raising awareness of a profoundly significant historical event and getting people interested in history is never a bad thing. But the First World War is not like other historical events. It’s definitely not like the Second World War.
World War 2 was an unambiguous struggle against evil. We may have had some allies we felt dubious about afterwards, and we may feel regret about some of the methods and weapons used by the Allies but it was a necessary war. That seems to be the general consensus. And I know it from my own family. Both my father and my mother were in the armed forces and believed in the cause for which they were fighting.
But World War 1 is less clear cut. We fought an aggressor who was determined on the domination of Europe (and elsewhere). But the origins of the war are caught up in diplomatic machinations and expediency. And there are many areas of disagreement about the conduct of the war. Were our troops “lions led by donkeys” as Allan Clarke famously put it? Or were the allied commanders as competent as could have been expected given that the technology of warfare was changing so rapidly? Was the Great War a just war against an enemy of civilisation? Or simply the result of one gang of would be imperialists attempting unsuccessfully to supplant another? It wasn’t as it turned out “the war to end wars”. But was it just an accidental outbreak of unjustifiable blood-letting?
It’s harder when the event being remembered is reaching the point of being almost past living memory. As far as my own family is concerned there are a few photos of men in uniform seen in old photo albums and I know about my great uncle John James Williamson who died towards the end of the war too late to travel home on compassionate leave when his mother died. (His brother George made it home and survived the war.)
When it comes to what is being commemorated we can agree that it was the courage and sacrifice of ordinary men and women that we want to remember and the details of ordinary lives. The historians and politicians can argue over the rest.
There is no doubt about the suffering and trauma which ended the long Edwardian summer and propelled us into the 20th century. But if it feels disheartening to contemplate pain, misery and injustice we can remember that this is history. We have the whole span of the war to examine, which is why I have chosen these pictures.
This was the Peace Parade of 1919. Men and women who served in the armed forces or in auxiliary forces are seen marching down Sloane Street (just a part of the whole route) to commemorate the end of the war.
We’re rightly avoiding the word celebration this year. But I think it is right to say that these men and women were celebrating one thing – their own survival. They marched in front of cheering crowds to celebrate the peace, proud of what they had done but glad it was finished.
The last few weeks have been really busy here, as students return to start a new academic year and sign up for library cards while families and schoolchildren come to make use of our great junior section, browse the study guides and participate in our children’s activity sessions. We have also noticed a surge in visitors borrowing and returning books, possibly boosted by the upcoming Booker Prize competition and perhaps the return of cold weather. As they say in Game of Thrones: Brace yourself, Winter is coming… As we say at Brompton: Brace yourself, Winter is coming…So stock up on library books!
In addition to our usual services we have had some interesting events taking place. Our weekly computer classes for beginners take place on the first floor in the learning centre and we are also currently hosting private piano lessons that are available to anyone of any ability. If you are interested in these services either phone libraries line on 020 7361 3010or pop into our branch and speak to a member of staff.
This month RBKC history buff Dave Walker and resident Librarian Stephanie Webb hosted a local history event in the Brompton meeting room:
Silver Sunday event
On a Wednesday afternoon in the week leading up to Silver Sunday, Brompton hosted a local history event concentrating on Earl’s Court Rd at the turn of the 20th century and some of the highlights of Earl’s Court Exhibition Centre long before it became home to the Ideal Home Exhibition and stadium style rock concerts. Dave Walker (Local Studies Librarian) brought along some fantastic photographs and original postcards and answered questions from interested locals. We were very happy to welcome Councillor Mills to Brompton as she was the lead Councillor for Silver Sunday in this borough. After having a good look at the exhibits every one sat down and had a good chat about more recent changes to the area and, inevitably, how much property prices had changed!
One of our most popular displays recently has been our “Haven’t you read…?” pod display. It started off as a means to promote our Reading Groups Book Collection which usually languishes in our first floor office but contains some classic titles.
We went on to use it to display modern classics which often appear on student’s reading lists (To Kill a Mocking Bird, Catcher in the Rye etc) and were surprised at how popular it turned out to be, however, it had to make way for our Mood Boosting Books display to support World Mental Health day.
This summer it was great fun for the children to create a book at Brompton Library in collaboration with an organisation called Celebrate My Library. They are a -not for profit- project created by library lovers Hilary and Victoria. They celebrate libraries and everything they do by speaking to people who love them most and through this show people who don’t yet use libraries just how great they can be. They collaborate with councils to inspire the widest variety of library lovers possible.
The children took part in two workshops in the library during Summer Reading Challenge and created the book, Creepy Library. This is a result of fun packed story writing workshops inspired by the children and illustrated by up coming illustrators. The children enjoyed every bit of it and so did the parents. They are proud to see their names as the authors of the book.
The children who attended our weekly Saturday Storyland and craft session read a crocodile story and got a chance to make some crocodile-puppets!
Earls Court Fete
The Library Service participated in a local street fete in Earls Court in late September. The fete gave opportunity for local businesses and services to showcase their activities. Penny Girling from Central Library and I (see photo) staffed a stall, where we promoted our services, activities and events. We engaged with over 200 local residents and were able to register many, as new library members.
As well as promoting our quarterly events calendar and the forthcoming London History events, I was able to engage with locals about our Earls Court and Brompton Local History Event on Wednesday 02 October. I had displayed some very interesting photographs of Earls Court in by-gone days, including the Great Ferris Wheel, built in the 1890’s on the site of the Exhibition Centre. These photographs attracted a lot of attention and inspired some to attend the local history event at Brompton.
It was a very enjoyable afternoon and wonderful to be part of a local community event. It would be great to do more.
As an aside, my daughter, Abigail, was also there, singing with a local jazz band. She was fabulous!
A reminder that books are not the only resource we have available. All the libraries across RBKC, Westminster and Fulham have a fantastic selection of audio books, music CDs and DVDs to borrow, as highlighted by resident creative guru and library assistant David Bushell:
Recently I was given the task of organising the CD collection at Brompton- my, what a selection of music we have!
All the pop is covered of course, plus an amazing diversity of other music- from Heavy Metal to the rhythms of the Congo, From Jazz to Country and Western, plus soundtracks for films and a selection of easy listening compilations. Then there are extensive classical recitals, famous composers and all the opera you’ll ever need.
At £1 for three weeks, it sure beats trawling the internet for that elusive download. You can admire the artwork and read the sleeve notes and lyrics while you listen, just like old times!
Also don’t forget that the Nour Festival of Arts runs from 1 October until the 30th November and the London history Festival will commence from 18th November with a range of fascinating talks from respected authors and speakers. Visit your local library for more information.
Silver Sunday is 6 October this year, and is a day to celebrate older people by offering them free activities and events in their local areas. Activities are made available to older people on the Sunday and other days during the weeks before and after to encourage them to try new things, to keep active in body and spirit, to meet their neighbours and to overcome loneliness.
We have two events that have been organised especially for Silver Sunday but there are other activities happening across libraries all through the year – reading groups, writing groups, computer classes and so on. Ask at your local library for details of these and other things you may be interested in.
The Local History of Brompton and Earl’s Court
Wednesday 2 October, 2 to 4.45pm
Want to learn more about the local history of Brompton and Earl’s Court? Then come along to meet our Local Studies Librarian, Dave Walker. He will be on hand to discuss some interesting items from the Local Studies archive relating to the Brompton and the Earl’s Court area. Come and see how the area has changed over the decades. There’s no need to book a place to this free event – just come along.
Silver Sunday Quiz
Sunday 6 October, 2 to 4pm Chelsea Library
Come along to our Silver Sunday Quiz – a great opportunity to test your general knowledge, meet people and enjoy a cup of tea. There’s no need to book a place – just come along and it’s free!
There’s more information about this special day on the Silver Sunday website.
To celebrate London Fashion Week in September for the Spring /Summer 2014 collections we have some fantastic fashion events in two of our libraries.
Dressed to Impress: London Fashion in the 1960s
Wednesday 11 September, from 2pm at Chelsea Library
Join Archives for London to ‘get the skinny’ on the groovy threads and glamorous glad-rags that were worn by the Beautiful People in one of the most happening cities in the world.
2pm – A number of speakers from the Museum of London, Liberty and Central Saint Martins will be providing talks and reminiscing about influence of the King’s Road and Carnaby Street. There will also be a demonstration of the Berg Fashion Library – an online resource which is accessible through the library service.
5.15pm – An opportunity to view a display of archival images from the period.
6pm – A walk conducted by Chelsea Walks along the King’s Road highlighting the location of pivotal boutiques such as ‘Granny Takes a Trip’, ‘Bazaar’ and ‘The Sweet Shop’.
Dressed to Impress: London Fashion in the 1960s – exhibition
Monday 2 September to Friday 13 September at Chelsea Library
Come and see images from Archives for London and our Local Studies collection illustrating this exciting time in fashion in swinging London.
Fashion – Press the Fast Forward Button
Tuesday 24 September, 6.30 to 8pm at Kensington Central Library
Are you interested in the fashion industry? Thinking of starting a fashion business as a designer, retailer, importer or exporter? Then don’t miss this opportunity to hear from expert fashion management consultant David Jones and successful designer and entrepreneur Francesca Marcenaro.
David Joneshas worked in the fashion industry for 40 years and for the last 15 years has run his own consultancy specialising in fashion. Born in Italy, Francesca Marcenaro is passionate about the ancient art of her country. She designs and crafts jewellery in her workshops in London.This session is in partnership with Colin Rutt from Portobello Business Centre.
Please book your free place to this talk at Kensington Central Library.
Explore the Berg Fashion Library
Wednesday 18 September, 2 to 4pm at Chelsea Reference Library
There’s fashion at your fingertips with our amazing database the Berg Fashion Library. We’ve a training session that’ll show you how to explore this resource which has fashion information from around the world and throughout history.
Places are limited so book you free place soon at Chelsea Reference Library on 020 7361 3010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Adult Learners’ Week is the UK’s largest annual festival of learning, inspiring thousands of people to discover how learning can change their lives.
It is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the benefits learning can bring, and to inspire adults of all ages to try something new. We have events in five of our libraries during Adult Learners’ Week -we hope to see you there!
What makes people happy?
Sharing the practical lessons from well-being research – Birkbeck academics have put together a series free of workshops which unpack cutting-edge research from a range of disciplines to help you better understand the science behind the smile, as well as giving you practical tips to increase your well-being.
Please book your free place for these sessions on Eventbrite.
How to be happy: some quick wins (and losses)
Saturday 18 May, 10 to 11.30am, Brompton Library
This workshop will focus on what psychologists have learnt about the science of happiness, in particular the characteristics that allow people to remain hopeful and optimistic in the face of challenging and busy lives. We will also explore how this knowledge has been translated into practical interventions that increase hope and optimism. Participants should leave with ideas around how to translate this information into small and meaningful improvements to their own levels of hope and optimism and those in their care.
Using positive psychology to stay healthy and happy in your work
Monday 20 May, 10 to 11.30am, Brompton Library
Find out how to safeguard and improve your happiness and well-being in professional settings. This workshop will help you better understand the science behind the smile, as well as giving you practical tips and strategies to increase your well-being.
Saturday 18 May, 10.30am to 1pm, Notting Hill Gate Library
Friday 24 May, 12 noon to 1.30pm, Brompton Library
Learn, chat and make with the Crocheting Divas. All materials and equipment will be provided – all you need to bring is your enthusiasm and creativity. There’s no need to book a place – just come along.
Online taster sessions
Want to do more online? Please book your free place for any of these sessions at Chelsea Reference Library.
Social media: how to make the most of Facebook, Twitter and more
Tuesday 21 May, 2 to 4pm, Chelsea Reference Library
Beyond Google: high quality learning materials available free from your library
Wednesday 22 May, 10am to 12 noon, Chelsea Reference Library
Career information online: finding the best career and training information for you
Thursday 23 May, 12 noon to 2pm, Chelsea Reference Library
Colville Community History slideshow and talk
Tuesday 21 May, 5.30 to 7.30pm, North Kensington Library
Colville Community History Project’s Tom Vague presents a slideshow and talk about the history of the area. Come along to join in the discussion, share your experiences and find out more about the Colville Community History Project. Please book a free place for this event at North Kensington Library.
Writing Creatively in Kensington – a creative writing workshop
Wednesday 22 May, 1.30 to 4.30pm, Kensington Central Library
Using photos and other artefacts from our Local Studies Library to inspire creativity participants will be encouraged to write their own pieces. Please book a free place for this event at Kensington Central Library.
Deep Recording Studios – information stall
Wednesday 22 May, 12 noon to 4.30pm, Chelsea Library
Want to find out more about music technology or sound engineering? Then come along to our information stall run by Deep Recording Studios in West London. They run Levels 1,2 and 3 City and Guilds accredited Music Technology and Sound Engineering Courses (no qualifications required). Deep has a fully operational recording studio facility near Ladbroke Grove tube station in West London, running Logic Pro and Pro Tools music software .
Hand Sewing Workshop – make a felt badge with Eithne Farry
Thursday 23 May, 2 to 4pm, Kensington Central Library
Are you passionate about clothes and accessories? Would love to create something of your own, but are unsure of how to get started? Then come along to our hand sewing workshop with Eithne Farry, where you will create your own badge out of felt.
Please book your free place for this workshop at Kensington Central Library.
How to Use Skype – over 50s session with Open Age
Friday 24 May, 10am to 12 noon, North Kensington Library
Are you over 50? Have you heard about Skype? Skype allows people to talk for free to friends and family around the world via a computer using the internet. Come along to this session to learn how to use Skype. Places are strictly limited for this class, so please book your place early at North Kensington Library.
Author, Sarah Wise came to Kensington Central Library on Thursday 18 April to speak about her book, Inconvenient People. This looks at 75 years of psychiatry in 19th Century England bringing to light new research and unseen stories of contested lunacy.
This event was part of our Cityread London events. For more information about this London-wide reading campaign, check out the Cityread London website.
For those that missed the event, Sarah supplied us with some images that she used and talked about on the night. I also took note of some of the questions the audience asked Sarah.
A rare illustration of Bertha Mason, restrained in the attic at Thornfield Hall in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847). Mr Rochester had chosen not to send Bertha to an asylum, but to secrete her instead at home with keeper Grace Poole.
Lancaster Moor Asylum, in the north-west of England – built as part of the massive, mid-19th-century national construction programme of public asylums for the poor.
Anti-lunacy-law campaigner Georgina Weldon became a huge star, championing all sorts of progressive social measures. She was able to command large sums for personal appearances and product endorsements, such as this soap advert.
Kensington House Asylum stood, until 1872, approximately where Kensington Court is today – facing towards Kensington Palace. In 1838, the asylum was the focus of a scandal that prompted the formation of a campaign to improve patients’ conditions and to change the rules regarding lunacy certification.
Questions & Answers
Q – If a person was put into an asylum but they were sane how did they get out?
A – At the time, it was regarded that the state couldn’t interfere with family life but they would try to exert gentle pressure on the family for their relative to be let out.
Q – Will Sarah continue her research into the 20th century?
A – Sarah doesn’t think so. She found the research for this book quite upsetting and with the changes that occurred after the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act it would be hard to carry on.
Q – Were operations on people’s skulls happening in the 19th century?
A – Doctors would drain blood from the head but more often than not this would injure the patient such as causing deafness.
Sarah Wise’s book ‘Inconvenient People: Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England is available from our libraries
Dave Walker, our Local Studies Librarian is the author of our extremely popular blog, The Library Time Machine. This showcases some of the amazing photos we have in our archive. As a companion piece to his blog post this week he writes here on the history of the crinoline. Over to Dave….
In my post on the Library Time Machine this week I have written about the first production of Arthur Pinero’s play Trelawny of the Wells. First performed in 1898 the play is set in the 1860s and for the author, producers and presumably the audience some of the comedy derived from the costumes and décor of a bygone age, specifically the actresses wearing crinoline dresses which to modern theatre goers of the late 1890s would have been inherently ridiculous rather in the way than modern taste regards previous fashion disasters such as the puffball skirt of the 1980s or even the flared trousers of the 1970s which we all wore quite happily for years and which vanished almost overnight in the punk era.
But the crinoline actually lasted for about ten years from roughly 1855 to 1865 so it must have had some advantages.
In the 1840s and early 1850s dresses and skirts became wider and needed to be supported by a large number of petticoats. The first crinolines were starched petticoats to which hoops of whalebone and cane were added for better support. The idea was to free women from having to wear so many layers of underwear. Developments in steel technology produced lightweight flexible wires which could be put together into a dome shape – the cage crinoline which at a stroke eliminated the need for heavy petticoats and freed the legs from those entangling undergarments. So the crinoline was actually a step forward in women’s fashion both in terms of mobility and affordability. It was one of the first fashion trends which travelled outwards from the middle classes and encompassed both upper class and working class women.
Of course crinolines were a little silly. The wearer had to navigate city streets in wide skirts, sometimes very wide if you look at Mrs Fitzgerald (above) and had to be skilled in sitting down without causing the whole apparatus to billow up and reveal what was underneath. Women took to wearing ankle length pantalettes or drawers in case of accidents which gave rise to later more decorative forms of underwear. The crinoline was a gift to humorists. Punch magazine satirised it unmercifully for many years, even creating urban legends in the process such as the notion that women boarding buses would remove their crinolines and that the bus conductor would hang them on the side of the bus as in this photograph.
Can we really believe this? Can you imagine having to remove a crinoline in the street without showing your underwear and then put it back at the end of the journey? The picture was probably staged. Along with the satire there were also scares over crinoline dresses which were accidentally set alight, or women in factories dragged into machinery. So despite the advantages of the crinoline perhaps everyone eventually got tired of the whole business. By about 1865 women were ready for a change. Crinolines changed their shape, became flatter at the front and sides and got pushed to the back in the form of the bustle. Here is Princess Victoria in 1876.
Ironically this elegant looking dress would have been tighter and more restrictive as far as walking was concerned. So perhaps the enlightened audiences of 1898 shouldn’t have laughed too hard at what their grandmothers used to wear.
Dave WalkerLocal Studies Librarian
Pictures of Princess Victoria, Mrs Fitzgerald and Miss Geralupo from ‘Fashion in Photographs 1860-1880’ by Miles Lambert 1991. Just one of the many books on the history of fashion in the Costume Collection at Chelsea Library.
Cityread London is a campaign to spread a love of books and reading to the widest possible audience throughout our capital. By choosing one book- A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks – for the whole city to read, discuss and debate, the aim of the campaign is bring Londoners together in a series of special events, across London and online. This year’s Cityread London campaign will launch in our libraries and across the capital on 2 April 2013.
As well as opportunities to borrow A Week in December (and other works by Sebastian Faulks) from our libraries, there will also be events for children, families, young people and adults in April 2013.
Cityread events for adults
Trains, Trams and Buses: Images from the History of Transport in Kensington and Chelsea – An Exhibition
Come and see images from the Local Studies collection. This exhibition has been curated by Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library at the following libraries:
Tuesday 2 to Saturday 6 April, Kensington Central Library
Monday 8 to Saturday 13 April, Brompton Library,
Monday 15 to Sunday 21 April, Chelsea Library
Monday 22 to Saturday 27 April, North Kensington Library
Creative Writing Workshop with Tamara Pollock
Wednesday 10 April, 2 to 4pm at Brompton Library
In this two-hour workshop led by writer and workshop director, Tamara Pollock, we will look at incorporating the theme of London in a short story. We will briefly examine the way in which Sebastian Faulks depicts London life in his novel, A Week in December. This workshop is designed to ease writers into the process of short story writing and to answer questions about character, structure and dialogue.
Places are strictly limited for this workshop, so please book your free place early at Brompton Library.
Legends of Underground London
Thursday 11 April, 6.30 to 8pm at Kensington Central Library
Antony Clayton, author of Subterranean City: Beneath the Streets of London, presents an illustrated talk that will uncover some of the colourful folklore of underground London including legends of secret tunnels and passages, pigs in the sewers and buried trains. Please book your free place to this event at Kensington Central Library.
Inconvenient People – Lunacy, Liberty and the Mad-Doctors in Victorian England
Thursday 18 April, 6.30 to 8pm at Kensington Central Library
Sarah Wise looks at 75 years of psychiatry in 19th Century England bringing to light new research and unseen stories of contested lunacy. Exploring Victorian social history, she provides a unique insight into the sexuality, fears and greed of the Victorian middle class. Sebastian Faulks chose this as one of his Books of the Year (2012). Sarah did some of the research for her book at Kensington and Chelsea Local Studies Library. Please book your free place to this event at Kensington Central Library.
Cityread events for children, families and young people
Drama Workshop with Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea
Tuesday 9 April, 2 to 3pm at Kensington Central Library
Age: seven to 14
Join Chickenshed Kensington and Chelsea for a fun-filled, inclusive performance workshop. Inspired by the 150th birthday of the London Underground we’ll be heading off on an adventure exploring London through dance, drama and music. This is a great opportunity for young people to develop their performance skills using Chickenshed’s proven teaching methods and unique performance style. Places are limited so please book your free place in advance at Kensington Central Children’s Library.
Story and Craft Sessions – Kensington and Chelsea Libraries
We’ll be having special Cityread story and craft sessions for children aged four to ten at the following libraries:
Tuesday 2 April, 2 to 3pm at Notting Hill Gate Library
Thursday 4 April and Thursday 11 April, 2 to 3pm at Kensington Central Library
Thursday 4 April and Thursday 11 April, 2.30 to 3.30pm at North Kensington Library
Saturday 6 April and Saturday 13 April, 11am to 12 noon at Brompton Library
Saturday 6 April and Saturday 13 April, 11am to 12 noon at Chelsea Library
Saturday 13 April, 3 to 4pm at Kensal Library
We hope that you will be inspired to join in with this campaign in order to make London’s second Cityread has successful as the first. More details about how to book are on our Cityread events page and for more events across London take a look at Cityread London’s website too.