Welcome to the 7th London History Festival hosted by Kensington Central Library and Waterstones. It is a literary festival that aims to bring the work of the finest historians to the widest possible audience. The festival consists of a series of talks and discussions followed by book signings.
Part of us is amazed that we’ve got this far, but another part says it should be no surprise with the quality of speakers we’ve been able to present. This year’s programme has the same combination of eminent historians covering a wide range of subjects. Some veterans of the festival return – Max Hastings, Tom Holland, Jessie Childs, Helen Castor, Marc Morris and Dan Jones. But also some new names – Thomas Asbridge, Sinclair McKay and David Boyle. The subjects range from ancient Rome to World War 2 with much that is relevant to the world as it is today. A big thanks to the other Festival Director Richard Foreman. None of it would be possible without him.
If you’re interested in the history of Kensington and Chelsea, the most fascinating Borough in London, Local Studies Librarian Dave Walker writes a weekly blog, The Library Time Machine exploring aspects of the history of the Royal Borough through photographs, artworks and maps from the Local Studies Collection. Recently he has written about book illustrators and advertising, as well as adding some guest bloggers. There always seems to be something new to discover.
Please collect a programme from any of our libraries.
As well as hosting part of the London History Festival, we also have a fringe taster event.
Hoards (Greek & Roman coin hoards and Viking hoards) author talk by Eleanor Ghey
This was held on Monday 9th November, at Kensington Central Library
The talk focused on the hoards discovered in London including the Cheapside Hoard of exquisite Elizabethan jewellery, and the Hackney Hoard buried during the Second World War by a family fearing a German invasion. Eleanor Ghey is Project Curator in the Department of Coins and Medals at the British Museum.
Lucy Yates, WW1 Centenary Project Support Officer, writes….
Do you know where shrapnel fell on Kensington during the First World War? That the Suffragettes started a nursery for WWI orphans near Notting Hill, or why Rodin gave eighteen of his sculptures to the V&A during the war?
You can find out all this and more by downloading the interactive scavenger hunt/ tour guide app ‘Huntzz’ on your smart device.
Designed in conjunction with local cadets, this interactive online walk (with ten clues for you to solve along the way) showcases the World War One history of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
The 236 cadets, pictured above with their leader, braved the late evening darkness to help map the World War One sites they’d researched so as to turn this information into a guided online walk of World War One heritage around the borough.
This week Nina demonstrates how two very different subjects – the Titanic and Pablo Picasso – can be researched on the Times Digital Archive and UK Newsstand.
Sinking the Unsinkable
You can experience the drama of events such as the sinking of the Titanic, for example, and follow the awful event as it was reported as the news trickled in.
This is a string of some of the results you get when you search the database inserting a single search term: Titanic.
Launch Of The Titanic. Vessel Successfully Takes The Water. (News) from our special correspondent
The Times Thursday, Jun 01, 1911
The Largest Vessel Afloat. Maiden Voyage Of The Titanic. (News)
The Times Thursday, Apr 11, 1912
The Titanic Disaster. (Editorials/Leaders)
The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
Titanic Sunk. Terrible Loss Of Life Feared., Collision With An Iceberg., Official Messages. (News) (FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT.).The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
Position Of The Titanic At The Time Of The Disaster. (Picture Gallery)
The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
The Marine Insurance Market. The Disaster To The Titanic. (Shipping News)
The Times Tuesday, Apr 16, 1912
The Titanic Disaster. A Death Roll Of 1,328., List Of Survivors., World-Wide Expressions Of Sympathy. (News)
The Times Wednesday, Apr 17, 1912
New York Stock Exchange. Dull On The Loss Of The Titanic. (Stock Exchange Tables)
The Times Wednesday, Apr 17, 1912
Help For Titanic Victims. A Mansion House Fund., Donations From The King And Queen. (Letters to the Editor) THOS. BOOR CROSBY, Lord Mayor
The Times Thursday, Apr 18, 1912
The Titanic. Number Of Survivors Still Doubtful., The Supply Of Boats., Relief Fund Opened In London. (News) (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
The Times Thursday, Apr 18, 1912
The string of newspapers headlines eloquently illustrates how the ‘unsinkable’ ship went from this:
To this in one short week:
Fall and Rise of Picasso
In another example, the first article published in The Times about the artist, Pablo Picasso is dated 12 April1912 following the exhibition of his drawings in Stafford Gallery in Duke Street in London. It defends the artist from the accusations of being the ‘incompetent charlatan’ and discusses how the advent of photography ‘spooked’ artists like Picasso into exploring the abstract and moving away from representing form in the conventional way.
268 further results reveal the bewilderment of the established critics at the developments of this new way of artistic expression. They chart the artist’s rise through countless exhibitions, record-breaking sales, stolen works, attempts at forgery of his paintings, right through to the platitudes piled on him on the occasion of his 75th birthday, on 25th October 1956, in the article which declares him ‘among the greatest draughtsman to have appeared in the history of European art.’
…and finally his death at 91 on Monday, 9th April 1973, with The Times depicting him as the ‘greatest painter of modern times’ and a national treasure of several countries. Henry Moore calls him ‘probably the most naturally gifted artist since Raphael’ and the director of Tate hails him as ‘beyond comparison and the most original genius of the century.’
“When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the Pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
It is interesting to note how the emphasis of the whole body of writing on the subject of Picasso on the Times Digital Archive is overwhelmingly his art, despite the fact that he had a very colourful private life. Out of 268 articles only a handful refer to his private life, briefly and respectfully.
The true fall-out of his manner of life and the fact that he left no will to help the family manage his gigantic legacy can be much better traced using UK Newsstand, reflecting our modern obsession with salacious detail and Picasso himself. Search for “Picasso women” yields staggering 9222 articles in UK Newsstand.
All this is interesting on its own merit, but if you are a student or a researcher or have a special interest in anything that happened or was talked about in this country in the last 200 years – Times Digital Archive can enrich your understanding and widen you research through its particular take on people and events captured in news articles as they unfolded.
If you wish to have a demonstration of the Times Digital Archive or UK Newsstand please contact Kensington Central Reference Library on firstname.lastname@example.org. A reference librarian will be delighted to help you get familiar with the databases and set you off on your own journey of discovery. Kensington Central Reference Library has 5 dedicated computers available for researching our online databases.
We were very kindly given a pitch on Portobello Road Market on Friday 30 November to promote the library. Me and a colleague, Amanda Southern valiantly volunteered to staff the stall for the day! We thought we’d have something eye- catching for busy shoppers to have a look at so we had lots of photos of the market through the ages, from the 18th to the 20th centuries. These were very kindly supplied by our Local Studies Library.
Here’s some pictures of our market stall.
We were given an excellent pitch, right in the middle of the market.
And thankfully although it was a cold day it didn’t rain!
Lots of people stopped to look at the photos and talked about them.
We also took a short video of our stall. Apologies- it’s a little shaky!
Many of the current market traders knew of the families and market stalls in the photos such as Mr Brooks and Mrs Rudd.
And here’s a photo of the market in 1951.
If you’d like to see more photos like this please do pop into or contact our Local Studies Library (it’s at Kensington Central Library, W8).
It was a great day as so many people stopped to have a look and chat with us. Me and Amanda would like to say thanks to the following people as it couldn’t have happened without their help:
Mark Atkinson, Markets Development Officer- who very kindly gave us the pitch.
Eddie Philips, Building Supports Assistant- who drove us to and from the market and helped us with the gazebo.
Gaynor Lynch and Ishwari Prince from North Kensington Library- who covered for us so we could have lunch in the warm!
Dave Walker, Local Studies Librarian- he took the pictures for this post and got the photos together for the stall.
The Reference Library store at Kensington Central Library is full of treasures kept for students, researchers, and anyone interested in history. But you don’t have to be interested in old battles to dig this history. What about words?
There are shelves of books about the history of language. From 1788 we have A Dictionary of the English Language to which are added An Alphabetical Account of the Heathen Deities; and a list of the Cities, Towns, Boroughs, and remarkable Villages, in England and Wales. All this in one tiny volume that would fit in your jacket pocket, published in 1788 for W. Peacock on “Fleet-Street.”
For the purists we have a copy of Samuel Johnson’s dictionary, one of the most famous dictionaries ever published. It took eight years and six helpers to compile and was hoped to stabilise the rules of the English language. Ours is from 1814 so it isn’t a first edition but it still contains all the words he allegedly made up, and other words he says are “low” such as gambler and traipse.
In A Dictionary of the Derivations of the English Language in which each word is traced to its primary root forming a Text Book Of Etymology with definitions and the pronunciation of each word, we learn that the word browse used to refer to the act of nibbling on the twigs of shrubs. What we’d really like to know is when titles stopped being an entire page long. This book was published in 1872.
There’s a 1939 copy of In A Word by Margaret S. Ernst and illustrated by celebrated New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber. This one seems to argue that a picture—or at least a drawing—really is worth 1000 words.
To keep them in usable condition for a long as possible these and many more books are only available on request and we’re thrilled when they’re requested. Search theKensington and Chelsea library catalogue for what interests you and come in to visit some of our treasures.
Jennifer Brubacher, Senior Customer Services Assistant
November at the Central Library means the London History Festival now in its fourth year.
We started the Festival in partnership with the literary agency Chalke Authors with the intention of improving our programme of author events. By concentrating on one subject (one of the most popular non-fiction topics) for two weeks we could get more authors and present them not only on their own but talking to each other in panel events. In the first year we covered Women in history (with Alison Weir, Sarah Gristwood and Claire Mulley), Greatest battles and war reporting but also had the time to devote a whole event to a serious academic history of the English Civil War by John Adamson, interviewed by the editor of History Today Paul Lay. History Today magazine has supported the Festival since it started and became a sponsor from the second year.
The success of the first festival enabled us to attract bigger authors to the event. In the second year Anthony Beevor made his first appearance discussing his blockbuster books about the Second World War with Roger Moorhouse another historian familiar with doing research into the war years. They spoke about how the opening up of East German and Russian archives after the fall of the Soviet Union has changed our view of the period.
That year we also had panel events on the always popular subjects of the Tudors and the Victorians.
Sometimes of course things don’t go according to plan. I was particularly keen to have an event on ancient history and we arranged for Tom Holland and Richard Miles to discuss their specialist subjects in Rome and Carthage. Richard Miles was unable to make it so Tom Holland had to carry the whole event supported by Paul Lay. Tom was surprisingly adept at covering both sides of the argument and the event was a success. The one disappointment for me was that I had been told that because Tom started his literary career writing vampire novels (pretty good ones too) he always got a couple of Goths at his events. But no Goths appeared so I was denied the chance to get a quirky photo.
In the third year we collaborated with Waterstone’s Kensington High Street branch and split the individual events between us. The Library presented the big authors. We had local resident Simon Sebag Montefiore talking about his books on Jerusalem and Russia. Max Hastings delivered a completely solo talk on his history of World War Two through the experiences of ordinary soldiers and civilians. Sir Max worked standing up and without an interlocutor, taking over the lecture theatre with his customary confidence. Our final night featured award winning biographer Claire Tomalin talking about her new biography of Charles Dickens. This was probably the most popular event the Festival has seen so far.
We think of the Festival as a way of giving something extra to our regular readers and as a way of bringing new users to the library. At a time when the publishing industry is changing due to the introduction of e-reading, and when many people get their books from online retailers, events like the Festival bring readers and writers together in an actual rather than virtual place. People can see, hear and talk to authors, which is good for writers, readers, publishers and librarians.
Tickets for this year’s Festival are available from all our Libraries and by phone from LibrariesLine (020 7361 3010). For further details see also the What’s on page on the Council website and the Libraries Facebook page.
Crime historian Jonathan Oates talks about his new book, a definitive account of one of the most infamous series of murders in the 20th century.
John Christie murdered at least eight females – including his wife Ethel – by strangling them in his flat at 10 Rillington Place, Notting Hill, London. Shortly after Christie moved out of Rillington Place the bodies of three of his victims were discovered hidden in an alcove in his kitchen. His wife’s body was found beneath the floorboards of the front room. Christie was arrested and convicted of his wife’s murder, for which he was hanged.
Jonathan will be joined by John Curnow of the 10 Rillington Place website and retired Metropolitan Police Superintendent Terry Johnson.
Details: Thursday 8 November, 6.30 to 8pm
Kensington Central Library
Price: £5 (£3 concessions)
Ticket and booking information:
Tickets are on sale at all Kensington and Chelsea libraries.
Payments in person or by post should be made in cash or by cheque only. Please make cheques payable to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Payments by credit or debit card can be made via Librariesline on 020 7361 3010.
For more information please call Librariesline on 020 7361 3010 or email email@example.com
As a celebration of all things sporty, we at RBKC libraries have cast an eye over Chelsea’s fashion collection and found a few sportswear gems from the past that we thought we would share…
Long before the days of lycra and spandex, ladies wore the height of fashion to cycle: this keen 1820’s cyclist (on a Pilentium, or early tricycle), wore a long-skirted white dress and tall bonnet trimmed with flowers (difficult to imagine Victoria Pendleton’s Olympic record of 200m in 10.724 seconds in this get up):
Judging by a 1978 illustration, men’s and women’s cycling fashion was a little uncomfortable: a tight, military-style jacket for men with a little pillbox hat, and “the really smart wearer of this outfit carried a bugle to warn pedestrians of his approach” (from “Costumes & Fashion” by James Laver). Bradley Wiggins, take note!
Swimming next, and a poster of strapping young Agnes Beckwith (note the illustrations on the poster which show her many feats, including swimming with hands and feet tied, walking the water, and rescuing drowning men).
While not an Olympian, Agnes Beckwith fought with British authorities to allow women to wear less cumbersome and restrictive garments in the water, although the 1870’s outfit she wears above still looks uncomfortable and heavy to our eyes. Below is a picture of three winners from the 1912 Women’s 100-metre freestyle Olympic swimming championship – their outfits, now knitted by new swimsuit company Speedo, look very different from those sported some forty years before. But strangely, not that dissimilar to those worn now? (Have a look at this blog post picture).
A great little booklet from Chelsea’s store called “The Story of Women’s Tennis Fashion”, by Ted Tinling, is an intimate 27-page look at women’s tennis attire from the 1870s to the 1970s. Women players wore corsets, painful and restricting (blood stains were regularly seen on women players’ “stays” in the dressing rooms), until 1925 when Suzanne Leglan wore a simple (and daring) one-piece cotton frock, without a petticoat or coset in sight:
Stockings were discarded in 1929, and by 1939 tennis fashion became recognisably sportier and maybe a little more masculine:
In 1949, it was decreed that tennis-wear must be all-white, but an edge of coloured lace around Gussie Moran’s panties was a nifty way around this rule:
As was Lea Pericoli’s little petticoat and frilly panties…