Volunteering Continues During Lockdown

For my blog article this week I thought I would tell you about the team of volunteers at the Heritage Centre and how even though the Heritage Centre remains closed they are still working hard on all sorts of different types of projects from their homes. I would also like to say a massive thank you to Andy Birkitt and James Titley for also working on a few blog posts to share with all of you. I’ve created a special video that you can view below just to say hello!

If you would like to record any of your memories by recording or writing them down then please share them with the team to add to the Centre’s growing archive of oral history recordings. Please get in touch through the team’s various communication channels.

Andrew Birkitt is the Heritage Association’s Chairman and you can always find him busy working on a project or scanning images to add to the Centre’s growing digital archive. The recent pandemic has not stopped Andy and he is as busy as ever. Andy explains below the current projects he has been working on during the lockdown weeks.

We might be in the midst of a global pandemic and the Heritage Centre may be closed but that doesn’t mean all the great work we do has come to a stop. Many of our volunteers have their own projects that they work on all of the time at the Centre and when we went into lockdown quite a few of them took projects home with them. Here are a few of the projects being worked on by myself during these strange times.

Some of you may already be aware that we have a large collection of archives and memorabilia relating to the world-renowned firm of Marshall Sons & Company Ltd, in fact, it is probably the second or third largest collection in the country. It is a mammoth task working through all of this collection in order to try and make more of it available to the general public and for those interested in the history of the firm. One way I have been doing this is by digitizing large areas of this collection and it is a project I have already been working on for a number of years.

We often also get loaned other private collections and we are allowed to digitize these to add to our own collection, and it is another project that I am currently working on. The digitization of Andy Parker’s collection of literature and documents relating to the firm is no small feat as he has been collecting for many years and it contains several hundred documents and photographs many of which are not in our own collection.

We recently added a number of professionally printed books to the growing number of items in our museum shop, Tidal Bores by George Brocklehurst and Gainsborough’s House of Correction, Prisons and Lock-ups by Paul Kemp.

One of our other volunteers has spent the last several months piecing together a fabulous amount of research into one of our better-known items ‘The Rose Tablecloth’. The proof of this new booklet came back from the printers just before lockdown and I am currently in the process of correcting a few areas so that we should have another new publication for when we can eventually re-open.

I would like to say one more project I am working on is… but that will never happen with me as there are always loads of other small projects I am working on like items for the newsletter or blog posts. However, one long term project that I am still working on is something close to my heart and a project I was due to start with my dear friend Peter Anderson until he fell suddenly ill and is no longer with us.

Catherine and Peter Anderson in 1999

I have always been interested in the history of our local industries especially the firms of Roses and Marshalls and this is the final project I want to mention. Although there has already been a decent history of the firm of Marshall’s written it has never been told up to and including its closure, until now…

Andy’s determination to create a museum in Gainsborough began in 1993 however, he had been building his own personal archive of the history of Gainsborough before this time. Andy is a founder of the Gainsborough Heritage Association and in recent years during his role as Chairman has helped to expand the current Heritage Centre before it’s re-opening in 2016.

View a video below of Andy speaking with Paul Kemp in 2019 and understand how their passion and interest in history developed into the beginnings of the Association created in Gainsborough (video by volunteer James Broughton).

Andy continues to work hard to make more and more of Gainsborough’s Heritage available for the general public. Andy’s recent blog tells us about the history of Marshall’s and X Craft Midget Submarines, a fantastic read.

Due to the Centre’s special exhibition relating to the Mayflower 400 being closed to the public, Andy has been working on a different way to share the exhibition materials. He has created special presenter videos in collaboration with Randall and Victoria Charlton the son and daughter of Warwick Charlton to tell the story of how their father built and sailed a full-size replica of the Mayflower to Plimoth Plantation and gifted it to the people of America. Part one is available to view on the Gainsborough Heritage Association Facebook page and others will be released in the near future. View the video on the Centre’s new Youtube channel here…

Lynne Birkitt the Centre’s Exhibition Officer continues to work on the general upkeep of the Heritage Centre’s Facebook pages and to answer your messages as much as possible.

Andrew Birkitt with Rosemary Speck at the Silver Jubilee Ball in 2019

Rosemary Speck is one of the Archive Officers at the Heritage Centre and she tells us below about some of the work she has been completing during her time at home.

The Heritage Centre closed on March 15 because of the coronavirus threat. On the 17 the regular Tuesday volunteers went in to make sure the building was clean and safely shut down. Not knowing how long it would be before we could return to the work we all enjoy doing at the Centre, I brought home just one file and this included transcriptions that needed completing of various documents.

The file had been donated many years ago by a gentleman who had put together some handwritten notes about the history of the town. Some were of his own research notes and some the notes of Mr. Jim English, Chief Librarian at the Gainsborough Public Library and also a local historian. However, respecting the donors’ rights to confidentiality his name cannot be mentioned here.

The main purpose of transcribing these notes is so that the contents can be made available for research or viewing whilst the originals are kept in the best condition possible in the Archives. The notes make for fascinating reading and I, personally have learnt a lot more about our town’s history.

Rosemary selected a few items from the file to share in this blog post.

The first is of ‘’CLAY PIPE MAKING IN GAINSBOROUGH’’ – these notes contain a history of when and why clay pipe making started in the town, who the pipe makers were and where they worked.

Figure 1 shows the names of some clay pipe makers in Gainsborough (Images copyright of the Gainsborough Heritage Association Archives).

Figure 2 shows news articles relating to clay pipe making in Gainsborough (Images copyright of the Gainsborough Heritage Association Archives).

Secondly, Rosemary focused on transport in Gainsborough and this included coach services as in coach and horses with evidence detailing the years and names of the coaches. The information included where coaches departed from in Gainsborough, their destinations and various time tables. The research by the donor would have taken a lot of time and includes so many fascinating details. Rosemary is doing some brilliant work ensuring that these amazing documents preserved in the archives will be available for the public in the future.

Figure 3 includes the first page of a diary of coach services in Gainsborough that continue to 1835 (Images copyright of the Gainsborough Heritage Association Archives).

Moving to Motor Coach Services, the file includes an account of some of the bus companies which have operated in the town from around 1924.

Figure 4 shows newspaper cuttings for the sale of buses and information on a bus hire company (Images copyright of the Gainsborough Heritage Association Archives).

Figure 5 above shows just the first page of handwritten notes about Gainsborough’s local soap makers (Images copyright of the Gainsborough Heritage Association Archives).

Figure 6 above details a diary of events from 1882 to 1949 with additional notes on the theatre (Images copyright of the Gainsborough Heritage Association Archives).

Rosemary’s task is not completed yet with many more documents to transcribe but she is continuing to work hard on this task. However, Rosemary is also using her time to enjoy a well-deserved break from the Heritage Centre and has started working on projects that she doesn’t usually have time for such as crafts, watercolour painting, sewing and working on her family tree as well as enjoying the lovely weather in the garden. Rosemary continues to share photographs from the collection on the Facebook group Gainsborough Past and Present so make sure you don’t miss them!

Linda Clarke has been working slowly on a project called the Black Box. The black boxes contain index cards with information on them relating to births, deaths and marriages. The cards also contain newspaper reports detailing all sorts of different topics from fishing matches in Gainsborough on the River Trent to adverts promoting different products for sale. The research for these cards was originally done many years before by Susan Edlington and a team of research volunteers who worked really hard in the Gainsborough Library to locate and preserve Gainsborough’s heritage. Unfortunately, in recent years a leak in the Heritage Centre’s Research Library after severe weather caused these cards to be nearly ruined. Linda has taken on the massive task of transcribing and condensing the information on the cards, re-writing and preserving the hard work that was originally done so that these cards can be made available in a new form for visitors and researchers in the future. Below is just a small section of the information Linda has saved. In future blogs more information from Linda’s project will be shared.  

FAMOUS PEOPLE (1822 1885)

King Swegn A.D. 1014. King Canute – King Swegn of Denmark, then recognised as the King of England, wintered at Gainsborough 1013-1014 with the Danish Army and his son Canute. This town is famous in history as being the anchorage place of the Danish ships, when the tyrant Sweyne, ravaged and laid waste many parts of this country, and who, while carousing with the nobility, was stabbed in the body
by an unknown hand, of which wound he died three days after in great agony. Swegn died at Gainsborough on 2nd February 1014, his tomb is supposed to be on Castle Hills, near the encampment on Thonock. Canute stayed at Gainsborough in command of the army till Easter 1014.

Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke died 1324, eldest son of William de valence and half brother of Henry III, who was Lord of the Manor at Gainsborough.

Recardus de Gaynesburgh cementarius, a master mason at Lincoln Cathedral who built the Angel Choir.

Thomas. Lord Burgh Gaynesburgh K.G. 1407-1649 entertained Richard III at the Old Hall.

Richard III 1484. Henry V111 and Queen Catherine 1541, Richard III visited Gainsborough in October 1434 and stayed with Lord Burgh. Henry VIII and his Queen, Catherine Howard stayed a week at Gainsborough in August 1541.

Sir Edmund Anderson, Knight, Lord Chief Justice 1530-1605. Lord of the Manor of Lea who presided at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots

Sir Richard Williamson, Knight, Master of Request 1619.

Sir Willoughby Hickman Bart. 1604, Lord of the Manor of Gainsborough.

Colonel Oliver Cromwell early in 1643 at Lea attacked their Royalists and slew their commander Charles Cavendish.

Simon Patrick 1626-1707 became Bishop of Chichester and Bishop of Ely.

John Robinson 1575-1625 and John Wesley had many associations with Gainsborough.

Andrew Carnegie 1905, who gave the library to the town.

This is the birth place of William de Gainsborough, the firm defender of the doctrine of the Pope’s infallibility, who was advanced by Boniface VIII to Worcester which place he died in 1308. Simon Patrick, Bishop of Ely was born here in 1628 as also was his brother, John Patrick, one of the translators of Plutarch.

Here is a few more:

Angling on 18/08/1892

The Neptune Angling Club fished their annual match at Hibaldstow in good weather. 78 out ot the 100 members caught fish. Mr Frith arranged the event admirably. E Watmough won with a 11lb 11 ½ oz catch. 92 prizes were distributed. 

On 13/05/1892 the swimming season opened at the Gainsborough swimming Baths with an aquatic entertainment promoted by Prof Bocock, under patronage of Sir HB Bacon bart, Messrs Bonnett JP, J Marshall JP, HD Marshall JP, Lieut H Marshall, Mr AE Iveson, the clergy, the local board, and local tradesmen. Entertainment by Willie Leaning, a clever little boy, Annie Luker and Prof Bocock.

Over the years you may have met Bob Clarke in the research library busy cataloguing the large collection of Marshall Drawings that are held in the Archives. The Gainsborough Heritage Association is the custodian of the Marshall’s Drawing Collection. These include traction engines, road rollers, some steamrollers and a few portable engines and the Centre has over 10,000 Marshall drawings in the collection. Bob is currently typing up his notes onto a spreadsheet and creating a searchable system for the Marshall Drawings whether that be plans of Road Rollers, tractors or just different parts for engines. The work that Bob is doing is brilliant as it will considerably make it easier for the team to assist researchers in the future as to the location of the Marshall Drawings that they require.

Elaine Ayris the Treasurer for the Gainsborough Heritage Association has been ensuring that everything is up to date and organised. Before lockdown, another volunteer called Celia and Elaine had started the data entry of the indexes for the Gainsborough Urban and District Council minutes. Both of the volunteers were able to continue this project at home however, Elaine has been suffering from Sciatica in recent weeks so the team all wish her well.

Pauline Jackson the Membership Secretary is working on a small project researching the story of a lady called Grace Broadberry, a remarkable and brave lady who lived in Morley Street near the Gainsborough Old Hall.

Carlton Bradley, Pauline Jackson and Elaine Ayris at the Silver Jubilee Ball in 2019

Volunteer Don Meale has been working on a project with Sue Edlington for the past few months and completed it during the lockdown. The project was to produce a database of Marshall’s drawings that specifically related to the work in all of the different departments in order to produce a timeline for the development of the Marshall factory from their start date in 1867 to closure in 1982. There are now 1,957 drawings on the database with another 165 that have to have dates included.

Another project Don worked on over the past 18 months that was mentioned in Andy’s section was the Rose Tablecloth. The Rose Tablecloth includes signatures of airmen who fought in WW2 including the famous Dambuster’s and Guy Gibson. Don researched all the names that are sewn onto the tablecloth by Mrs Rose originally signed by the men themselves. The book will be available for purchase when the Heritage Centre re-opens.

View the video below of Don Meale talking in 2019 about the reasons why he thinks its important to preserve the history of Gainsborough (video by volunteer James Broughton).

A big thank you to all of our volunteers for continuing to work hard on all of their projects during the lockdown. If I have missed anyone then please let me know!

As a volunteer myself I have been working on some blog posts during lock down, the full list is below if you haven’t had chance to view them already. 

A special blog post from former Exhibitions Officer James Titley on a brief history of Cinemas in Gainsborough, Oh, to see the silver screen again! is definitely worth a read.

Don’t forget to check out our recently launched Youtube channel here…

If you would like to support the Heritage Centre at this time by becoming a member. The money raised through membership will help the team to continue running the Heritage Centre after this current crisis is over.

Membership starts at £15 and when the Centre re-opens with the Association’s membership you will gain free access to the Centre and its vast archives to explore more about the history of the town and the building that was once the Post Office and Telephone Exchange. As a member, you will also receive a newsletter and other discounts so please check out the membership page and consider supporting us today!

Please note the Centre and Telephone Exchange Tearoom is currently closed until further notice due to the current outbreak of COVID 19/Coronavirus.


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