Memories of Mr Seel’s Garden is a community project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, looking at the history of local food in Liverpool. The three local groups involved, Friends of Everton Park, Friends of Sudley Estate and Transition Liverpool, are all interested in finding out whether knowing more about the past might inspire new ways of thinking about the future of local food in our city. For example, while it might seem strange now to say you were heading out to Aigburth to pick some fresh veg from the farms there, this was exactly what people were able to do only fifty or sixty years ago. With all the interest in developing more local food systems, including long allotment waiting lists and new ‘Growers’ groups, we wanted to gather together a picture of how people used to grow food locally. Read more
Posts tagged ‘research’
The 2011 Census: History and Research for Liverpool (or, Why fill in the census? A historian’s perspective)
This year sees another census taking place across the United Kingdom. Censuses have been carried out in the UK every ten years since 1801 (with the exception of 1941 – the Second World War) and are therefore are amazing sources of information for family historians. Alongside other sources they can also be useful to the local historian, and it’s becoming increasingly easy to get your hands on them.
A History of Censuses
The first census in England produced perhaps the defining document of the medieval country: the Domesday Book.
The Book was produced as a way of measuring the wealth, and therefore taxability, of the whole of England, and was perhaps the natural thing for a new, invading, king to administer. Some unconquered parts of England were not included in the survey (notably parts of Cumberland and Westmorland), but for the majority of the country, Domesday Book continues to be an important primary source of information, including as it does the size of land divisions, industry, animal holdings and land owners’ names.
It’s probably well known that Liverpool, having yet to be founded, does not appear at all in Domesday. But many places on Merseyside do, including West Derby, Toxteth, Aigburth, Croxteth and Garston.
The Domesday Book has been an invaluable resource for local historians for years, and is these days available in modern published versions (such as the Penguin Classics translated version). Also, you’ll find the Victoria County History (if you can get your hands on one) bases its organisation on the Book. In turn, I based Historic Liverpool on the VCH, which is why this history of Liverpool is is divided into the townships found in these Victorian volumes.
The first modern UK Census took place in 1801, and the exercise was repeated every 10 years after that (along with some at the five year point in between).
For family history purposes, 1841 marked an important change: whereas the first four surveys had simply collected head counts in all regions, this one included the names of all people living in each household.
The next census will take place this year, on 27th March. There’s a £1000 fine for not filling it in, but also remember the legacy you’re leaving for future family historians (one you’ve enjoyed yourself as a researcher, perhaps). Liverpool City Council is launching a campaign to encourage people to register as central government money is allocated based on population. So current and future censuses still play the role they did back in 1801.
Research using censuses
If you’re a family historian you probably already know the many ins and outs of research with censuses. Many of the older ones are available online (with newer ones becoming available gradually under the 100 year rule). So what can you do with the census data as a local (as opposed to family) historian?
- For city historians the censuses can be used in a similar to Gore’s Directory: if you’re studying a small area then cross reference the addresses with the professions mentioned, and you have a good idea of the character of an area. Was it a residential area full of dock workers? Were there corner shops in the area? Or pubs? Was it a richer area full of merchants, factory owners and diplomats?
- Landscape change over time: following on from the above point, perhaps you want to know how a residential area changed over time. In Liverpool, Everton, Toxteth and Kirkdale were the first suburbs, expanding to cater to the rich who wanted to escape the city. Later these areas were covered with terraces for dockworkers. Later still the slums were cleared and modern housing erected in its place. While old maps can show direct evidence for this change, the census adds an extra layer of detail.
- Immigration: for Liverpool as much as other cities, many events and the tale of expansion are related to the areas in which incoming migrants lived. In our city (‘our’ in the most inclusive sense!) Welsh communities could be found in the north and east, the Scottish in the north and centre, Jews first around Brownlow Hill and then in the southern suburbs (Childwall, Allerton and Gatacre), the Chinese in… well, Chinatown, and the Scandinavians in Liverpool’s ‘Sailortown’ (Park Lane area). Censuses fit in here as they contain information on religion and language, and therefore the culture of different communities.
- If you’re more technically minded, you might even make use of the National Archives’ Domesday on a Map, or its Domesday Places dataset.
Perhaps you have other suggestions for uses of census data in local history; feel free to share them with us in the comments!
If you’re interested in finding out more about your ancestors (as is the most usual role for the census!) then there’s no better place to start than Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A guide for family historians, by noted Liverpool historian Mike Royden. Mike is the man behind the Local History Pages, and has also appeared on TV and local radio. The book also contains a lot of local history too, as historical context is ever important when researching your family tree!
Some very interesting bits from the Net recently:
Liverpool History Society Questions is a blog I always watch – readers ask questions and (more often than not) Rob Ainsworth of Liverpool History Society comes up with an answer. Topics range from buildings to family history to maps, and two recent topics will be of interest to readers of this blog. From October 15th there is a great and detailed description of court houses in Liverpool. These cramped, airless and dim dwellings were thrown up around Liverpool in the 19th Century, and hundreds of families lived in them. I know that a number of my own ancestors lived in such conditions in Toxteth and around the Cathedral area (as it is now). The famous Dr. Duncan played a key role in their investigation, and there are only a couple left in the city (listed in September this year).
On October 19th a reader asks about the 1725 Chadwick Map, which should be familiar to anyone having researched Liverpool’s urban history for any length of time. The authenticity of a copy for sale in the US is in question, and Rob Ainsworth does a great job in describing the map’s history. Chadwick’s map is annotated with road names and landmarks in the margins, and can be seen in many Liverpool history publications, such as Aughton, and Liverpool 800. A decent reproduction can be found on the Mersey Gateway (though the labels are barely readable.) A paper copy can be bought from Scouse Press.
In a few other bits of news, the forever-delayed tram system may never see the light of day: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/8314734.stm
In a follow-up to my recent post on ShipAIS, you can keep track of the Queen Mary 2 while it stays in Liverpool: http://www.shipais.com//showship.php?mmsi=235762000
Researchers from the University of Liverpool have found diary references to ‘bathing wagons’ and other leisure activities taking place in the growing town from as long ago as the 1750s, much earlier than other local towns like Blackpool and Southport became popular destinations.
Once Liverpool began to expand at a massive rate in the Victorian era, holiday-makers (those who could afford to leave) made their way from the dirty city to the clean air of the seaside. It was at that time that the surounding Lancashire towns became known for bathing and other seaside pursuits, and their popularity only increased with the spread of the railways and organised trips for the working classes.
Although according to one report, it already is too late. Policy Exchange, a ‘right-of-centre’ Think Tank have branded Liverpool (among others) as beyond help. All the regeneration efforts are wasting money – this city on the north west coast will never be as rich as London, so what’s the point? Well, rather than telling us Merseysiders to do ourselves a favour and take a long run off the Pier Head, Tim Leunig and James Swaffield suggest we pack our bags for London. They go on to say that Liverpool has lost the very reason for its existence now that the port is no longer in its Victorian heyday.
Messrs Leunig and Swaffield have concluded that there is no other reason for continuing the rich adventure of life if you are not making as much money as possible. Now that the port of Liverpool is not what is was, Liverpool should just bite the bullet, and shut up shop. Then we can all move to London and start raking in the cash. Of course, Mr. Leunig is London based, but did come to Liverpool once, when researching “cotton towns”, so clearly he knows what he’s talking about…
The Liverpool Echo details the story, as I’m sure will many other sites who object to Bradford, Newcastle, Manchester and Sunderland being dismissed so easily. They also publish his email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Let him know what you think.
After much speculation about the possibility of a Viking boat being discovered under the car park of the Railway Inn, Meols, staff at World Museum Liverpool’s Field Archaeology Unit have written an article outlining the ways in which archaeologists must go about deciding what to do with the buried vessel. As well as damping down runaway speculation as to the age of the boat, the piece gives an excellent insight into how field archaeology works in general when considering the need to excavate buried remains.
In essence the article concludes that the boat is not under threat, would cost millions to raise, and would probably cause more harm than good were it to be exposed to the elements. Furthermore, there is no conclusive evidence as to the date of the boat, with some evidence actually refuting claims that it originates in the mid to late part of the first millennium AD.
Two recent news updates have highlighted the marine importance of Merseyside, on both sides of the river:
Viking boat at Meols
Recent work by Professor Stephen Harding and a team of archaeologists from the University of Nottingham has brought attention to a possible Viking boat buried under the car park at the Railway Inn, Meols. The remains were first spotted in 1938 by men laying the car park, but with the risk that building work would be delayed by a dig, the find was kept secret. One of the workers, however, made a few notes, and in 1991 his son produced a report and a sketch. After the report was brought to the attention of the current landlord, the Nottingham team was brought in, and conducted a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the location.
The survey seemed to show a ‘boat-shaped anomaly’ in the underlying clay, and further survey will assess the potential for an evaluation excavation.
The find is particularly interesting from a landscape perspective, as the pub is over a kilometre from the coast, and even further from the medieval shore. Prof Harding suggests that the boat may have been washed in by a flood, or have sunk in one of the many marshes which covered the area at the time. The area is covered with old Norse field and track names, and it wasn’t unknown for the people of the time to drag their ships substantial distances inland if necessary.
Current Archaeology, Issue 213: p4-5.
Wirral and West Lancashire 1100th Anniversary Homepage
Liverpool Echo article on DNA analysis done in Liverpool by Professor Harding
News article in the Independent covering the survey.
More recent marine heritage may soon be making its way back to the Mersey, if Chris Pile and members of the HMS Whimbrel Battle of the Atlantic Memorial Project get their way. The group aim to bring the Whimbrel, a modified Black Swan class sloop, to Merseyside, and place it in Canning Dock, close to the Liver Building, with other symbols of Liverpool’s maritime heritage. The Whimbrel, launched in 1943, was designed for the defense of merchant convoys in the Atlantic.
The Project Team see the ship as a “symbol of heroism and sacrifices made in six year battle to keep open Britain’s vital wartime lifeline to North America”, and need £2m to bring it home from its current location, Egypt. They then require another £2m to make the ship fit for a public museum, which they hope to complete by Summer 2008. £300 000 has so far been raised from the Duke of Westminster, Liverpool City Council, the Government Office of the North West and several smaller donations.
Read the Signs
A recently released pamphlet highlights details of streets of Liverpool which are named after individuals who played a prominent part in the Transatlantic Slave Trade. The issue has become controversial in recent years, with calls to rename the roads, against the insistence that even Liverpool’s darker past should not be forgotten.
The Read the Signs booklet was written by Laurence Westgapgh, and distributed by HELP (Historic Environment Liverpool Project), who were involved in a Heritage Open Days event at Toxteth Town Hall, attracting over 200 people from the Liverpool area. There will also be an exhibition called ‘Read the Signs’ at St George’s Hall in 2008, managed by HELP.
The pamphlet is available from locations around Liverpool, including libraries and community centres.
English Heritage’s news article about the pamphlet
Read the Signs (PDF)
Liverpool has been chosen as a case study as part of research by the Arts and Humanities Research Board, in partnership with Dr. John Schofield of English Heritage and National Museums Liverpool. The research will examine the influence of the urban environment on popular culture. The long term goal is to publish the results of the research for a wide range of audiences to read. Go to landscape.ac.uk for more details.
A study reported in Molecular Biology and Evolution shows that the area around Liverpool was an important centre in the early middle ages, a time usually associated with the Vikings. Place names on Merseyside already point to the presence of Norse settlements in the area (see Kirkby, West Derby, Formby, and possibly Toxteth and Croxteth). However, this latest study involved research into those surnames present in the area before the massive influx from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and beyond in the 19th Century, coupled with genetic tests and documentary research. See a summary at Guardian Unlimited