Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A year in archives: collection highlights from 2016

Each year the document collection at Sheffield City Archives grows in size.  Last year we received around 900 boxes of archival material dating from the 16th century to the present day including legal documents, photographs, architectural plans, glass negatives, ancient deeds, watercolour paintings and digital files.  Each item reveals a bit more to us about Sheffield’s history.  What follows is a brief look at some of the collection highlights from 2016...
Two volumes were donated by a private individual relating to Hadfields Limited (National Projectile Factory), Sheffield detailing orders for high explosive shells during World War One.  The orders came from the Ministry of Munitions, the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, the Secretary of State for War, the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, War Department, Washington DC, USA and the United States Government, Navy Department.  Almost all of the orders recorded in the two ledgers were made at the Hecla Works, the smaller of Hadfields’ two sites.  To give an idea of the volume of goods produced, the monthly peak in March 1916 (three months before the Battle of the Somme) was around £437,000 worth of orders - quite an extraordinary sum. (Sheffield City Archives: X752/1).

Sheffield City Council has historically owned various plots of land and buildings across the city, the deeds to which have been stored in The Deeds Registry in the basement of Sheffield Town Hall, Pinstone Street.  In 2015, the Council began the process of voluntarily registering its ownership of land and property with the Land Registry.  Packages of unregistered deeds and documents were sent to the Land Registry for them to check the chain of ownership and prepare for a first registration.  Upon their return, the old prior deeds were no longer required as legal documents and were passed to Sheffield City Archives.  In 2016, we received over 100 boxes of these old title deeds, many dating back to the 1600s.  They cover ancient highways and byways, pubs and beerhouses, steam grinding wheels, cutlery works, music halls, dwellinghouses and more.  The oldest deed received so far dates from 1571 and describes ‘tenements on Snigg Hill leading from the Irish Cross to the West Barr’.  We expect hundreds more boxes to be transferred over the next few years. (Sheffield City Archives: CA778).

 A curious illuminated manuscript was donated to the Archives in November 2016.  It was an address, dated 1896, presented to James Melling of Throstle Grove, Pitsmoor by the Committee of the Sheffield Social Questions League, thanking Melling for the action he took against the landlord of the Black Swan Hotel, Snig Hill  and his 'brave stand...taken against the glaring public evils of our time - the forces of drink, gambling and impurity...'  It transpired that James Wallace, the landlord of the Black Swan, had published two letters in the Sheffield Independent falsely accusing Melling of trying to entrap him into selling alcohol after hours in breach of the licensing laws.  The case went to court and the judge ruled in favour of Melling.  The illuminated address praises Melling’s commitment to the promotion of temperance and social morality. (Sheffield City Archives: X748/1).

Upon their move from Meersbrook House last year, the Parks Department transferred a large quantity of records to the archives for permanent preservation including minutes, early staff wage books, allotment plans and photographs.  The records add much to our knowledge of the development of Sheffield’s parks and green spaces.  Of particular interest is a volume of coloured linen plans of parks, recreation grounds and open spaces drawn up by Mr E. Partington, Estates Surveyor in the 1920s.  The volume was obviously a working document for the Parks Department during the Second World War and many of the plans are annotated to denote ARP shelters, ARP posts, rest centres/shelters, barrage balloon sites, wartime allotments, ARP trenches, water tanks and fire tanks, open cast coal and huts for the Home Guard. (Sheffield City Archives: CA981).

We also received a donation of First World War letters written by Able Seaman Joe Rhodes of the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves to his sweetheart in Sheffield, Nellie Drabble.  Joe was born in Sheffield in 1900.  He became a crucible furnaceman, later serving in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves during the First World War, enlisting towards the end of December 1917 and starting his naval training in January 1918 at the Royal Navy training depot in Crystal Palace, London. Throughout his naval service, Rhodes kept up regular correspondence with his sweetheart back home in Sheffield, Nellie Drabble (1898 - 1968).  His letters discuss his training at the Royal Navy depot: ‘…the palace is a magnificent place and I am very sorry to say that our superiors are rotters...', thoughts of Sheffield: '...by the papers I see that the Zepps were knocking about Yorkshire last and I hope they did not make it uncomfortable for you just the same as when they pay us a visit...' and his enduring relationship with Nellie: '...We managed to get out last night for the first time and I had not been out 10 minutes before a girl came up to me and asked me take her a stroll, this I flatly refused by saying that the girl I left in Sheffield has all the love I can give and that I had none to spare for her...’  Joe Rhodes married Nellie Drabble on 25 February 1922 at St Mary's Church, Bramall Lane, Sheffield. (Sheffield City Archives: X747).
We also took in public records from Sheffield Magistrates’ Court, HM Coroner, the Northern General Hospital, Jessop Hospital for Women and Trent Regional Health Authority. Records were also deposited by Sheffield City Council, the Diocese of Sheffield, the GMB and NALGO trade unions, local businesses, societies and organisations and private individuals.
A full list of archives received by Sheffield City Archives (and other archives around the country) is published by The National Archives each year:
You can also search Sheffield City Archives' online catalogue here: http://www.calmview.eu/SheffieldArchives/CalmView/Default.aspx?