Musings from the Museum

Musings from the Museum is a series of posts written by SGS members, volunteers and friends. If you would like to contribute, please email us at outreach@sgsoc.org.

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A Tale of Four Rivers                                                                      

 An article by Dr Martin Blake                                                                                                             

    Our corner of South-East Lincolnshire, the area historically known as Holland, is largely defined by its relationship to water, and in particular to four rivers which flow into the Wash, namely the Witham, the Glen, the Welland and the Nene.

Some rivers are believed to retain the oldest names surviving in our landscape. Most can be identified as deriving from known Celtic, Old English (Anglo-Saxon) or Old Norse words, but there is a significant corpus of river-names which, philologists assure us, cannot be related to any known language. These, it is assumed, date back to an era before the arrival of Celtic speakers in these islands, in other words to the Bronze Age or before, when we can only characterise the language spoken here, of which we know nothing, as early Indo-European.

These names can also be shared across huge areas. The River Don which gives Doncaster its name appears to derive from a root also found in the River Don in Russia, and even the Danube. It’s also a relatively modern convention that rivers maintain the same name along the entirety of their course. Parts of the Great Ouse in medieval times shared the name of the Severn and the Thames, the latter fossilised in the settlement name of Tempsford. The name of the village of Pinchbeck, ‘stream with minnows or with finches’, suggests that it was transferred from an early name for that section of the Glen.

Rivers tend to change their course over time due to geological and other factors. The Witham flows in part along a course taken by the River Trent before the last Ice Age, when it flowed through central Lincolnshire into The Wash. The Nene now has two courses, the Old and New, from where it was canalised centuries ago to aid navigation. Rivers also tend to silt up over time, the Welland being a case in point: its present-day lower course, on the whole unimpressive, belies Spalding’s status as a port for sea-going vessels until a couple of centuries ago.

So, let’s examine in detail the names of our four rivers:

Witham  The earliest known forms are Withma from about 1000, Wythum and Whithum from the early 12th century, and Widme from 1147. It falls into the category of river-names which cannot be related to any Celtic or Germanic element, and may well therefore  belong among the pre-Iron Age names mentioned above.

Glen  aqua de Glenye 1276, Glen 1365, le Glene 1390. The name is shared with a river in Northumberland, and probably derives from an early Celtic (so-called Primitive Welsh) word *glen, meaning clean or clear (Modern Welsh glan).

Welland  Early forms are diverse: Vueolod c1000, Weland mid-12th century, Wailand 1199, Weiland1199. No satisfactory explanation has been put forward for the name, and again it may well be pre-Celtic.

Nene  to Nen in a 963 entry in one recension of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Neen later 12th century, Nene 1232 (from a 14th-century document). There is a River Neen in Shropshire/Worcestershire from the same root, suggesting that it is Celtic in origin, but the meaning is obscure. The name is famously pronounced ‘Nen’ through its upper course in Northamptonshire, but ‘Neen’ once it crosses the border into Cambridgeshire. This is purely a dialectal variation, and the latter is generally considered to be older.

Bibliographical note

The only single-volume work on river-names remains Eilert Ekwall’s English River-Names, published as long ago as 1928 (OUP). Despite its age, it is still acknowledged as a work of enormous erudition. More recent detailed studies are to be found in the volumes of the English Place-Name Survey, published by the English Place-Name Society (EPNS) based at the University of Nottingham. Unfortunately, the relevant volumes for our part of Lincolnshire are still in preparation, but will presumably be published over the next few years. In the meantime, an excellent introduction to Lincolnshire place-names generally, including its rivers, is Kenneth Cameron’s A Dictionary of Lincolnshire Place-Names (EPNS, 1998). There is a detailed discussion of river-names in their topographical context in chapter 15 of the same author’s English Place Names (B.T. Batsford, 1996).

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SNAPSHOTS IN TIME.

by Alastair Goodrum.

4. Colour: Littlebury Holbeach 2011/2.​Side view of the tomb in 2011. ©AJG 2011

  It seems such a long time ago when, one evening at the end of October 2011, at an informal gathering in the Lecture Room, a sample of photographs taken from the Society’s glass-negative collection was shown as a Powerpoint presentation to members for the first time. This came about because, over a couple of years, I had made steady progress in the (self-imposed) process of digitising this rather vulnerable collection of about 800, 5″x7″ glass plates into positive computer images. With about 60% completed, I felt it was time to let some of them see the light of day for the first time in over one hundred years. It also echoed the president’s view that more ought to be done to utilise the Lecture Room to air some of the Society’s collections and presentations like this one seemed like a step in the right direction. Since this early work, many more negatives have come to light, in out-of-the-way corners and the collection has been found to be about twice the size first thought.

  The collection includes both glass negatives, smaller glass lantern-slides (positives) and some examples of early ‘plastic’ film, all estimated to date between 1890 and 1910. Much of the material is thought to be the work of E. E. Smith, a past member of the Society and at one time its curator. His main interest, apart from photography, lay in the production and study of stained glass and there are a number of negatives of examples of the latter art. However, it is known that other members of the Society were active in the local Photographic Club and so it is possible we are seeing some of their work, too. The collection is an eclectic mix of events; panoramic views; streets and buildings; people at work or posing in groups or as individuals.

  Card boxes containing the plates are numbered and the very basic original index lists about half of the collection’s contents. Sadly, many items are described as ‘unknown’ and it is hoped, now that the back of the digitization task has been broken, investigation can be carried out to identify the ‘mystery’ images – although I fear many will never be resolved. However, it is satisfying to report that some successes have already been made on this front.

  By way of illustration, in Box No.53 contains twelve negatives originally indexed as ‘unknown views’. These show hilly, rocky countryside, a croft, steam ships, piers and a small community with a church and to me, the views suggested Scotland. Paper prints were sent to a friend who is a Scottish local history ‘buff’ with a simple plea: “any ideawhere these are?” His response was: “probably Iona and Mull.” Sure enough, when the community/church view was compared to a modern view (via Google and my own holiday snaps) they had both been taken from an almost identical camera position: on a ferry from Mull – “over the sea to Iona” – as the song goes.

1. B/W: 53j Iona 1900.​Isle of Iona from steamer ferry from Mull, circa 1900. Church in need of repair to roof and tower. Note shape of hill in background and row of cottages near a small inlet.

 

2. Colour: Iona 2012 1 Box 53.​​Isle of Iona taken from the ferry to the island from Fionnphort harbour on the southern tip of the Isle of Mull. Church repaired. ©AJG 2012.

 

  Closer to home, in Holbeach Church is the Littlebury tomb – photographed on twelve plates in Box 21. A local monument, of course, but nothing informative was written in the collection index. It is simply listed as ‘Littlebury Monument.’ So, with notebook in hand, I called in at the church to see Sir Humphrey for the first time. My visit coincided with an art &craft exhibition and I hoped there were ‘people who knew’ present. However, it seems the sum total of all knowledge was on view in a single small piece of typescript (about A5-size) mounted in a picture frame, propped up against the recumbent form of our trusty knight. This short note was copied and will be added to the SGS collection index. During this small investigation, it was found that the tomb had been moved within the church since the original photos were taken.

3. B/W: 21.008 Holbeach Church Littlebury.​​Overhead view of the Littlebury tomb in Holbeach Church, c.1900.

 

4. Colour: Littlebury Holbeach 2011/2.​Side view of the tomb in 2011. ©AJG 2011

 

There is a small quantity of Kodak plastic-film negatives that have intriguing Alpine views among them – probably taken by a member with one of the new-fangled compact Pocket or Box cameras becoming available at the turn of the 19th/20thcentury, who seems to have travelled via Paris and Geneva to the (then) unspoiled area around Chamonix. Having consulted the Alpine Club of Great Britain, they quickly identified these views of mountains, valleys and glaciers around Mont Blancand thus the previous ‘unknown views’ index entry has been vastly improved.

8. Google image of Mont Blanc Hotel in 2010 with buff-coloured Hotel Couronne on left at end of street. Road level has been raised and front door area of Hotel Mont Blanc altered; but the name is still visible on the wall.

 

7. B/W Box 5.020.​Ladies outside the Mont Blanc hotel with Hotel Couronne in background. Chamonix c1900.

 

  An ‘unknown chapel’ turned out to be a bit of a teaser, but was gradually narrowed down to Weston St John, near Spalding. The chapel is almost unchanged but the whole area surrounding it has been entirely built upon, to the extent that the chapel can no longer be seen from the original camera viewpoint – a factor applying to many of the collection’s images. The growth of trees and houses over a hundred years have, understandably, greatly hidden the old views.

5. B/W 47.007.​A south Lincs chapel? – one of the ‘unknown locations’ – identified now as St John The Evangelist church, Broadgate, Weston Hills; with school building at right.

 

6. Modern view of St John’s church, Weston Hills, now enclosed by housing development. ©AJG 2015.

 

  I am sure that the SGS Council will, in due course and Covid-rules permitting, make the collection and perhaps its accompanying Powerpoint presentation, available to a wider audience, since there seems little point in keeping such a fascinating collection of bygone images in a dark cupboard far from the light of day.

27/7/2020.

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Musings from the medal department.

The inter allied victory medal 1914-19

Of all the medals in the world the allied victory medal must surely be the most collected as the variants created, often in small numbers, combine to make a fantastic collection as very often there are many variants of a single medal found. I only intend this to be an introduction to the subject as Alexander Laslo has managed to fill a book on the whole subject. At the close of the great war at the Paris peace conference it was proposed by marshal Ferdinand Foch that the allied nations should issue a medal to commemorate the conclusion of hostilities. It was decided that each nation would make its own medals, and to avoid wholesale exchange as souvenirs between combatants, be similar with the wording appearing in the language of the issuing nation. The basic brief was as follows,

The ribbon would be of the double rainbow type with the red to the centre and colours merging to violet at the outer edges and be 39mm wide.

The medal would be a 36mm bronze disc with a winged figure of  victory on the obverse or the nations own interpretation of victory.

The reverse would have the wording “The great war for civilisation 1914-1919” or the national equivalent. National alms or symbols were permitted.

The nations who agreed to the medal are as follows  Belgium, Brazil, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Great Britain and dominions, Greece, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Siam, South Africa and lastly the united States of America. It is important to note that of these nations who agreed to the medal, Poland never actually produced one.

Examples of allied variants.

Top L-R  Belgium, France, USA,

bottom L-R  Czechoslovakia, Italy, Japan.

The British medal designed by William McMillan followed the brief with a very stylish winged victory on the obverse but with a fairly plain reverse with the stated wording within a wreath border. This same medal was also used for those who qualify for the award in the dominions. South Africa had a medal which differed from the British version in that the wording on the reverse was written in English and Dutch, approx 75 000 were issued and made at Woolwich arsenal. The British version was originally made in a dull bronze as are those of the other nations, however it has been reported that senior officers complained of this as it looked dirty against highly polished silver medals normally issued for gallantry and campaigns. The result was the medal was re-issued with a polished and lacquered finish with those having been given the dull versions able to exchange them for the lacquered example which most did but dull early issues are still found. Approx 5.75 million British victory medals were issued. These were made between Woolwich arsenal and Wright & son.  All British, dominion and South African examples are found with machine impressed naming of the person awarded around the circumference of the rim. A point to note is the dating of the British medal, although the war on the western front finished in 1918 certain operations carried out in Hedjaz and by the Aden field force carried on until the end of January 1919.

Left, front and reverse of South African Issue

Right, original British and Commonwealth Front and later reverse.

We have in the society collection half a dozen of the allied issues which at present are not on general display. On top of these we hold many of the later British issue which are found widely throughout the museum mainly in groups. To my knowledge and as far as I can remember we do not have an example of an early dull issue. In between the lockdowns I managed to get into the museum and start a re-vamp of the display of medals. A cabinet to the right of the Grundy map once contained lots of medals in envelopes and not on display these have now been removed and ribboned as required and are on display in the new drawers in the lecture room. Labels are still required for these as handwritten tatty scraps of paper are doing the job at present. It is my intent that in the future when we are allowed back into the museum the cabinet under the Grundy map will be cleared out and medals housed elsewhere. This will then give us a cabinet of four compartments dictated by the glass top panels to be used as a special exhibition which can be changed frequently so when the public view the museum there should be new items to look at including the stories of those to who the medals belong. The victory medals will be part of  the first instalment supplemented by some loans. While in lockdown Ian and Sharon have been working hard finding information and research hidden in the society with reference to the medals. So we are on the verge of putting together the stories which have for so long been hidden and dormant. If anyone has an interest in the collection and would like to help I would like some assistance with some of the more mundane chores , labelling, researching and sorting out the collection although not that interesting these tasks do take up loads of time and I am not the best at computer skills and work full time.

Although there are no time limits on the medals side of things and exhibits will be constantly changing around as new information is found, I hope the temporary display cabinet will be in use by the end of the year ready for public viewing in 2022. All this though is subject to covid policy but it does require doing to preserve the stories of our collection for future generations, When I took over as the curator I had no idea of what  information and objects were present to supplement the medals as they have been spread around the museum and not properly catalogued, little by little this is changing. My mission is to tell the story, any recruits out there please contact me then I can sign you up for the duration.

Simon Thompson

Curator of medals

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              Bible chain or is it?

A Universal Goddess?

       by Patty Harris

Long, long ago, in a place called normal life, I was asked to try and investigate a museum piece.

I bet, like me, you have walked past this dozens of times without sparing it a second glance as it hangs on the wall to the right of the Maples Gallery door.

A short description: It is labelled as a Bible chain but it has two figures, the larger one at the top, linked to a smaller one and a few links down it terminates in a fan-shape rather like an upside-down peacock tail.

The figures are rather crudely modelled cast in metal, the top figure being female with wings and holding what look like snakes, or dolphins, she has a tall head dress and full gown.

The lower one is much stranger in that she has two faces, a Greco-Roman dress with breasts exposed.

My first thought was to look at as many bible chains as I could, museums collections, church relics and auction sites, not one out of many hundreds looked like this.  Not only does ours have pagan half-naked goddesses, it also has none of the fixings required to keep a bible chained, so I abandoned that line of enquiry.

As the peacock is the symbol of Persia, I started there and immediately came upon a goddess called Astarte, not exactly as depicted on our chain, but she did have wings and held two lion cubs. I then went on to Minoan, Zaroastrian, Hittite, Greek, Mesopotamian and as many others of middle Europe and Asia and, amazingly, found versions of her almost everywhere.

The name in its Canaanite form is Astoreth and is mentioned in the Book of Jeramiah, to the Caananites she is the Goddess of War and Sexual Love, a strange combination. She may also a very old Egyptian Goddess, one of the first children of the creation myth.   The name appears to stick with her and she is,variously, Goddess of the Harvest,  Mother Goddess (that is, like Isis in the Egyptian pantheon, the first mother) Goddess of Nature and others.  I was amazed that despite my love of all things ancient I had never heard of her!

I then tried the other figure,  there are some two-faced and even three faced deities in the above pantheon, but none are like the chain figure, Janus is the only Greek god with two faces and he is definitely male .  I found absolutely nothing that resembled this figure.

So, sadly, I feel I’ve failed in this quest, there is no definite evidence pointing to what this object actually is, my feeling is that it may be some kind of souvenir albeit with some age, possibly from Istanbul, which would have been a good spot for amalgamating all things ancient godlike for tourists, rather like the things you can buy today, only less phallic. (In joke, for those who have visited this City).

If there are any among you who are particularly interested in this era of history and can shed any more light, I would love to hear from you.  For my own sanity I must refrain from looking at any more pictures of Goddesses, my brain is addled!

Conclusion.  Is it almost definitely not a bible chain, but what would you call it?

 

 

 

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Daniel Cross Bates (1868 – 1954) Clergyman and Meteorologist

by Richard Buck, Curator of Archaeology

It is sometimes interesting to observe the way that small things from your past develop into something much larger and more interesting in later life…

As a child my paternal Grandparents lived in a bungalow along Hawthorn Bank in Spalding. The bungalow, sadly, is no longer there, but I remember visiting my Grandparents in the early 1970’s and meeting their neighbour, a rather pleasant fellow they called Arthur, but who I knew as Mr Bates. I hadn’t thought of Arthur Bates for many years, until it became my pleasure to become a member of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society and latterly curator of Archaeology, that the name began to crop up again and I decided to investigate, not only for my own satisfaction, but to allow some artefacts in the Archaeology cabinet to gain provenance and discover something about their history.

The Moa bones were the catalyst, and my investigations began.  The Moa was a tall, flightless bird from New Zealand, long considered extinct, its remains being found on both North and South Islands and being one of the society’s more popular exhibits. From information on labels either attached to the bones or displayed nearby, I determined that the artefacts had been presented by Daniel Cross Bates but knew nothing more except the name.

                                      Leg bones of the giant moa donated to the SGS by Daniel Cross Bates.

The easiest place to look was on the internet and I must admit to being quite overwhelmed at the information I was able to find. Bates was far more well known in the antipodes than in the country of his birth and is often referred to there as ‘The Weather Man’.

He led a very long and interesting life, being born in Spalding and passing away in Wellington New Zealand. Bates was born on 9 June 1868 to Noah Bates, a farmer of 48 acres from Spalding in Lincolnshire and Louisa Bates (nee Cross) and was eventually one of seven siblings. He was educated at Spalding Grammar School and later Salisbury Cathedral school. By 1890 Bates had decided that he would make a career of the Clergy and entered the College of St Augustine in Canterbury. After ordination as a priest in Newcastle, Bates soon found himself heading towards Australia and by 1893 he was curate of St John, Wagga Wagga.  In late 1893 he married a girl from Sydney, Elise Abigail, with whom he was to spend the rest of his life.

By 1898 he and his wife had settled permanently in New Zealand. From here Bates became an Army Chaplain. He served with the 9th New Zealand Contingent and attained the rank of Chaplain-Colonel. The Boer War proved to be a changing point in Bates life. He contracted Enteric Fever in which one symptom was impaired voice and as a result he was obliged to retire from the church in 1903 as he was no longer able to deliver sermons. On his return to New Zealand his interest in all things meteorological gave him he opportunity to join the staff of the Colonial Museum, in which he was able to assist in helping to sort out a large amounts of climatological work for the Weather Reporting Office, of which he became Director in 1909 until his retirement in 1927. During this he was Director of Meteorology for the Army, specifically concerned with the meteorological requirements of military aviation. On his retirement he was appointed consulting Meteorologist to the New Zealand Government.

Bates probably became re-associated with Spalding sometime between 1919 and 1920.  On 5 July 1919 he and his wife set sail on the Commonwealth and Dominion Line Steamer the SS Port Denison bound for London. He was heading for the Meteorological Conference to be held in Paris, stopping over in England and presumably making his way back to Spalding. When you consider that Europe was at this time engaged in a pandemic of Spanish Flu, it was a very brave thing for him to have done! He left Europe, bound home for New Zealand in January 1920 and the records of the Gentlemen’s Society show that he was made an honorary member in October that same year.

From the Society acceptance books post 1920, Bates becomes a keen donator to the society, including many antipodean artefacts. We do not know if Bates brought anything with him in 1919, intending to donate to the Society, or whether the majority were sent over from New Zealand as gifts after his return.  It is clear however, that the Society forged an important link by making Bates an honorary member.

Daniel Cross Bates was indeed a remarkable man. In later life he helped establish the Wellington Zoo and became the first President of the Numismatic Society.  He was also a fluent speaker of Greek, being interested in the Greek Orthodox Church and its community in New Zealand. From humble beginnings Bates became a very learned and well-travelled man, he had connections with both the Church and the Army, he became known as ‘The Weather Man’ for his interests in Meteorology and he found time to return to his roots and acquaint himself with the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, the museum of which benefit greatly from his donations and gifts from the other side of the World… I am sure his descendants, including the late Arthur Bates, would be duly proud of their illustrious ancestor and his great achievements.

He passed away on 7th August 1954. In an obituary in ‘The Lincolnshire Free Press’ he was described as being one of the finest students Spalding Grammar School ever had. So next time you browse in the Archaeology cabinet and see the Moa bones, spare a thought for Daniel Cross Bates, a forgotten son of Spalding.

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Captain Christopher Middleton’s Map and Book

-Jonathan Dobbs, SGS Member & Volunteer Coordinator

A couple of weeks ago my Father was given a birthday present from his family to enable both him, and my Mother, to keep in touch with their grandchildren.

Advertised as an easy to use video calling device, Portal from Facebook also has the slogan: ‘If you can’t be there, feel there’.

I am not too keen on the advertising slogan – I am more impressed with Facebook’s portal – but my favourite portal lies elsewhere. Since I first entered its Broad Street home Spalding Gentlemen’s Society has become my portal to the past.

One Tuesday morning at the Society I came across a map of Hudson Bay, Canada. A couple of handwritten lines at the bottom of the map informed me that it had been donated together with an account of a voyage to discover a Northwest Passage. Our librarian Dustin found the accompanying book which transported me to a frozen eighteenth century landscape where I began to learn about Spalding Gentlemen’s Society member Captain Christopher Middleton.

Middletons Map of Hudson Bay, labelled by an early SGS member

 

                   Middleton’s Map of Hudson Bay, presented to the SGS in 1743

He was the first sea captain to become a Fellow of The Royal Society and also the first to receive its most prestigious award the Copley Medal.

He became a captain in 1725 when given command of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s ship Hannah. The following year The Royal Society published his paper on the variation of the magnetic needle in Hudson Bay and he continued to supply the Society with similar observations collected during a dozen annual trading voyages from England to Canada.

These Royal Society papers changed Middleton’s life as they attracted the attention of Arthur Dobbs, an influential Irish politician and hard-line free trader.  Dobbs wanted to end the Hudson’s Bay Company’s trade monopoly by finding the Northwest Passage, a route westward from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through Canada.

One of several editions of the “Vindication”, with an inscription recording its donation to the SGS library by Middleton

Dobbs found an ally in Middleton as the captain was one of a long line of seamen who dreamed of finding the Northwest Passage.

What followed was years of lobbying by both Dobbs and Middleton before they finally got the blessing of King George II in 1740 for the first-ever British naval expedition to set sail the following year in search of the Northwest Passage through Hudson Bay.

In order to lead the 1741 expedition Middleton had to give up his long and successful career with the Hudson’s Bay Company to take up a temporary commission in the Royal Navy.

After sailing further in Hudson Bay than any previous vessel, the two ship expedition returned to England the following year with Middleton concluding that there was no Northwest Passage to be found.

It was the Society’s copy of Middleton’s map of the expedition’s discoveries that introduced me to him. He presented both the map and his self-penned book ‘A Vindication of The Conduct of Captain Christopher Middleton’ to the Society in 1743.

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I Felt Like Alice in Wonderland (Italian & English)

Irene Regolo

[*We are delighted to have many international members, volunteers and correspondents. To ensure their voices are captured, we present their posts in their own words, followed by a translation where necessary.]

Durante il mio viaggio attraverso l’Inghilterra, casualmente scoprii la SGS e il suo museo, ero abituata a visitare grandi e rinomati musei, ma quando vi entrai pe la prima volta, fu come scoprire un piccolo gioiello celato a sguardi indiscreti.

Era come essere proiettati nella Storia, in un tempo sospeso che si mostrava poco a poco.

Quello che mi colpii di più fu l’atmosfera particolare che vi regnava e la moltitudine, la varietà e la preziosità degli oggetti esposti che mi fece pensare ad una sorta di Wunderkammer, ordinata ed esposta con grazia, perizia ed eleganza.

Tutto era come doveva essere, aveva il fascino di una partitura musicale, non coglierlo era quasi impossibile, almeno per me.

Questo contribuì a capire meglio il mio personale rapporto con l’Arte ed il Restauro, le motivazioni e la curiosità che mi spingono in quella direzione ed attraverso le quali mi sento appagata.

In quell’occasione, al termine della visita e aver parlato con i volontari presenti presi la decisione di aderire alla SGS e di attivarmi per contribuire per quanto mi è possibile, collaborando e contribuendo a far conoscere ed apprezzare ciò che ci deriva dal passato, sul quale si basa il nostro presente.

An 18th century deck of playing cards from the SGS museum (SPAGS 65000047).

During my journey across England, I casually came upon SGS, and its museums.  I was used to visiting large and famous museums, but when I entered there for the first time, it was was like finding a rare, tiny and precious jewel.

It was as if I had been sent back in time, to a place where time itself was suspended, edging out a little at a time.

What struck me the most was the particular atmosphere that reigned there, and the vast variety of precious items exhibited, that made me think of a kind of Wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities) carefully exhibited with grace, skill and elegance.

Everything was it should have been, it had the charm of a musical score, to not fall under its spell was impossible, at least for me.

This helped me to understand my personal rapport with Art and Restoration, and justify the motivation and curiosity that drives me in that direction, giving me great personal satisfaction.

On that occasion, at the end of my visit and after speaking to the volunteers present, I decided to join SGS.  My aim is to help, where possible, to collaborate and contribute in making known and to appreciate that what derives from our past, is also the foundation of our future.

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Combat Over the Trenches

Alistair Goodrum

Their donor sadly unknown; tucked away among the treasures in our Library are two unique books that, to an aviation historian, are little gems.  These are a pair of Log Books – not of the more familiar, personal, aircrew type – but of two individual aeroplanes that flew during the First World War.  Each book contains the service history of an aeroplane known as the FE2b (Farman Experimental 2, model ‘b’).  Over the Western Front in 1917, these were used for bombing and photo/reconnaissance and even – rather optimistically – as an escort fighter.  The FE2b was the main production model of this two-seat, single-engine, ‘pusher’, aeroplane manufactured by the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough and outsourced to Boulton & Paul; Weir; and Ransome, Sims & Jefferies who between them built about 1,900 b-models.

Due to the high rate of loss in combat or accidents, life-span of these rapidly mass-produced aeroplanes was short enough, but one machine can only be described as ‘a real Friday-afternoon job’, since it gave nothing but trouble every time it flew.  Serial A5472, built by Boulton & Paul in Norwich, was issued to No.11 Squadron in France on 7 January 1917 but saw no combat action.  Various wing components were faulty and replaced and its engine was unreliable.  On 18 March the engine seized up in the air and A5472 was wrecked during the ensuing landing.  After nine weeks service, the RAF gave up on it, packed it in a crate on 28 March and shipped it back to ‘Blighty’ for spares!

Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b, serial number A5478, presentation aircraft ‘Gold Coast No10’; from same batch as SGS aircraft logbooks for A5472 & A5485

The second log book relates to FE2b, serial number A5485, also Boulton & Paul-built. It was what is known as a ‘Presentation Aircraft’.  It had ‘BOMBAY No.1’ painted on the side of the cockpit nacelle and had been ‘bought’ by the gift of money from wealthy citizens of that Indian city.  As an indication of the attrition rate, no less than nine aeroplanes bore that particular name – as each one was written off, its replacement was given its predecessor’s name.  On shipment to France in parts, in a wooden crate, A5485 was assembled and issued to No.23 Squadron based at Baizeau airfield on 15 February 1917.  On 13 March it was flown by pilot, Sgt James Cunniffe and his gunner Airman First Class (AM1) Strong, before Cunniffe was posted away from No.23 to No.11 Squadron.  In action with No.11 on 13 April 1917 he encountered the famous Red Baron (Manfred von Richthofen) flying an Albatros DIII fighter.  Sgt Cunniffe was shot down and wounded but was one of the few Red Baron victims (Cuniffe was his 42nd) to survive and quite coincidentally this Welshman spent two years in Johnson Hospital, Spalding recovering and recuperating from his wounds.

At 2.15pm on 24 March 1917, pilot Sgt Edward Critchley, a twenty-four-year old American from Ohio and his observer/gunner, Airman First Class Frank Russell, aged twenty, took off in A5485 as part of an escort for a group of photo reconnaissance aircraft.  The lumbering FE2b was far from an ideal aeroplane for fighter escort duties and was certainly no match for the nimble German fighters currently opposing them.

That day, it was bad luck that Critchley and Russell should run into the next best air fighter in the German Air Service at that time, Leutnant Werner Voss of Jagdstaffel 2 (Fighter Squadron 2).  Voss was a fighter pilot ‘ace’ with 20 air victories to his name already and his victory tally would climb to 48 before he was killed in action.  Flying an Albatros DIII, Lt Voss swooped at the RAF aeroplane; his gunfire was deadly accurate and his twenty-first victim dived to the ground.  AM1 Russell was killed outright and Sgt Critchley was wounded in the leg but despite his wound, Critchley managed to crash-land the stricken aeroplane behind British lines.

A5485 was damaged beyond repair and the logbook records its demise: “Forced down in combat near Achiet-le-Grand with extensive damage by machine gun fire.  Total time in the air since ‘purchase’: 7hours 45minutes.  Operational flying time: 2hours 0minutes.  It was dismantled, packed in a crate and sent back to England on 28 March 1917.  It had lasted just six weeks at the Front.

Why don’t you have a browse through our Library – you just never know what you might find.

Musings from the Museum 10

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U3A Shared Learning Projects with the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society

Dr Mandy Topp

The Spalding Gentlemen’s Society holds some thirty plus boxes of documents relating to Sir Joseph Banks and the Stanhope family who inherited his Revesby estate. Over the last few months members of Sleaford U3A have been working with the SGS, in a Shared Learning Project, to catalogue the contents. The SGS provided training in how to handle, catalogue and describe documents. Then the SLP members set to the task. The ultimate aim is to develop a comprehensive inventory of the boxes’ contents so that it can be cross-referenced and made available to aid researchers.

These boxes are proving to be a wonderous mixture of regional, estate and personal documents covering almost two hundred years of the Revesby estate history. Everything from detailed records of Lincolnshire’s canal network and eighteenth-century drainage improvements to very personal items such as school textbooks and even love letters. Some mirror national historical events, such as the setting up of a powered weaving factory in Louth for which Banks sought advice from ‘Mr Arkwright’. While others deal with very local issues, for example the exchange of letters between Edward Banks-Stanhope and the neighbouring vicar as to how a hare came to be shot on Revesby land. This fascinating project has even produced some significant finds. For instance, a copy of the second act for the building of the Sleaford Canal. As this act failed, copies of the act were discarded making this a rare and important document.

Signature of Sir Joseph Banks

From this wealth of material each cataloguer has their personal favourites. These include the documents about local elections in Lincoln and Boston which include an affidavit swearing that one of the candidates had been seen to have raised a glass to ‘The King Across the Water’. The long list of curiosities including ‘exploding glass balls’ and ‘jumping frogs’ but sadly no explanation as to how or why the list was made. The magistrate records showing Sir Joseph Bank’s involvement in the planning and organising of the ‘transportation of felons to Botany Bay’ and that some wives opted to go with their husbands. A very personalized cartoon about a recent local election drawn for Banks-Stanhope by a house guest.

Unfortunately, the Covid-19 crisis means that the project has had to be put on hold for the time being. The U3A members were sad to have to stop so jumped at the chance to join the SGS in an online Shared Learning Project in the form of the Stukeley Memoirs Project. This involves the transcription and annotation of the SGS’s five unique volumes gifted by William Stukeley. These slender notebooks offer a personal, first-hand account of the Royal Society from 1740 to 1750. This project is proving to be just as fascinating and simulating. A great way to pass the lock-down.

Musings from the Museum #9

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Discovering the SGS Archives

Dr. Michael Honeybone

As I’m a historian, I will start with a date.  In 1992 I had just moved from school-teaching to educating adults and was teaching a course in the History of Science and Technology for the Open University.  I was in search of local historical material which could make the scientific work of the past seem relevant to Lincolnshire students; someone in Grantham, near where I lived at the time, mentioned a very unusual set of eighteenth-century documents kept in Spalding.  So I bravely ventured from Kesteven across the Forty-Foot Dike into the Parts of Holland, where the SGS President, Norman Leverett, proudly showed me an unbelievable archive of documents from the early years of the Spalding Gentlemen’s Society, including minutes recording scientific observations.

I realised that here indeed, in the Society’s archives, was a complete window into the world of the early eighteenth century, a favourite period for me.  The six volumes of minute books provided plenty of material for a PhD, which I undertook, on ‘The Communication of Science in the East Midlands of England, 1710-60’.  I was proud to present a copy of my findings to the SGS in 2002, in gratitude for their assistance and I had been equally happy to become a member of the Society, following in the footsteps of Newton, Celsius and a number of other eighteenth-century scientists, both well-known and obscure.

Far from exhausting the resources of the archives, this was only the beginning.  I was soon blessing the name of our founder, Maurice Johnson, for his precise and careful keeping of the SGS’s records, the most complete of any left by an eighteenth-century learned society.  I discovered the remarkable Treasurer’s account books, unparalleled in Europe for their period, which give week-by-week accounts of the subscriptions from members and expenditure on refreshments as well as equipment for their studies.  The amazing hand-written catalogue of the original library collection drew me to the collection itself, still looked after today.  It was built up by the Society which kept rigidly to its original rule that every new member must give the SGS a book, or books, to the value of one pound.  The range of titles gives a helpful insight into what the early eighteenth century thought was worth reading.  This collection is complemented by the seventeenth-century Spalding Parish Library, cared for by the SGS ever since the days of its first set of rules in 1712; indeed, the cleaning and care of the Parish Library was one of the first tasks the new Society set itself when it began.

To my great encouragement my wife Diana became equally fascinated and was kindly admitted by the Society, who did not have women members at the time, to join me in my exploration of this eighteenth-century world.  Together we were able to work on the huge collection of correspondence, over 500 letters from the Society’s early years, containing discoveries and information they wanted to send to the SGS; this could be anything from the track of a comet observed in Greenland to a ‘strange fish’ found near a local dike and what sort of tea-tray was now fashionable in London.  This led to our being able to publish, via the Lincoln Record Society, a calendar, with some transcriptions, of the SGS’s correspondence from 1710 to 1760.  In recent years, many members are discovering the fascination of the Society’s documents and the thrill of transcribing them; more volunteers for transcription are always welcome.  Luckily much of the handwriting of that period is more legible than the mediaeval documents in the Society’s collection though a few are almost illegible at first. A prominent correspondent, Dr William Stukeley, has a surprisingly legible hand; our founder, Maurice Johnson, has a beautiful hand with some elegant flourishes, so that reading his work is a pleasure.

Let me finish by sharing a letter that Johnson wrote to his much younger step-brother Richard Falkner, then an undergraduate at Lincoln College, Oxford, welcoming him as a member of the SGS in 1734.  Please note the other new members that Johnson welcomes, notably the “ learned Mahometan Priest from Africa” – but that’s another story!

Letter from Maurice Johnson in London to Richard Falkner in Spalding, 6 July 1734 (SGS Archive)