Ichabod Wright – At the Close of the Year

Ichabod Wright, a banker of Nottingham, whose daughters married into the Barclay and Loyd families, was born on 28th January 1767. In addition to having a great sounding name, Ichabod was something of a genealogist. Before the days of online resources he compiled a history of his family, including his opinions on his relatives.

Boultbee, John; Captain Ichabod Wright of Mapperley (1767-1862), Formed the First Nottingham Troop in 1794; The Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry Regimental Association; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/captain-ichabod-wright-of-mapperley-17671862-formed-the-first-nottingham-troop-in-1794-46498

Ichabod joined the family bank when he was 15 years old, despite writing in his diary that:

the employment and confinement were most irksome to me ad I would gladly have entered into the Army or any other profession whatever.

On 31st December 1837 Ichabod wrote his customary end of year diary entry in which he reflected on the mercies experienced and evils avoided throughout the year. He comments on the marriage of his daughter Octavia, and the birth of his daughter Harriet’s girl. He thanked the Almighty that:

I have enjoyed perfect health, that my wife’s has much improved, that none my children have been visited with sickness, that no calamity has befallen me or mine.

Ichabod’s diary is a fascinating story of family, business and life in the first half of the nineteenth century. Watch out for more tales and, in the meantime, keep talking about history.

First Year for Five Without any War in it

One hundred years ago the Armistice brought the end of the Great War. The story has been told a thousand times, but no versions are so powerful as those told by the men and women who fought, laboured, lived and died in defence of their country.

You’ll have heard tales of the daring do of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. You’ll have heard of the mud and terror of the trenches, of the solid British Tommy and the caring VAD nurses. You may have heard of the women who died in 1918 during an explosion at the Chilwell shell filling factory. Often overlooked are the soldiers who performed essential duties and kept the supply lines open.

One such man was Joseph Bodill of 44 Yorke Street, Hucknall, Nottingham. A member of the 281 ammunition column of the Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport Company Joseph drove munitions to the front line. Joseph Albert Bodill was born in Edmonton, London, and gave his age as 31 years and 11 months when he enlisted in HM Regular Forces in December 1916. He asked to join the Royal Flying Corps, however he found himself in the ASCMT. At the time he was married to Rosina née Weaver with a young daughter named Josephine.

Whilst in the army Joseph wrote a “diary of the chief events of my experiences during my stay in France as a soldier”. His first entry comments that his diary was not “wrote in an easy chair by the side of a fire” but rather whilst waiting for the gunners to unload the munitions sometimes “within 2000 yards of the German trenches”.

One hundred years ago today Joseph’s civilian skills as a cook were to come in handy. Joseph thought himself privileged to design the programme for a gathering of 62 officers, of the 57th Division, to ring in the new year of 1919. The dinner was a 16 course affair and lasted for three hours. Then it came to midnight and Joesph describes how he saw in 1st January 1919:

At 12 o clock the lights went out & the German shell was used for the hour to be struck then we all jumped up and joined hands with the old song Old Langsin then the lights went up & we all started in the new yeare … the first year for five without any war in it

Throughout 2019 I’ll be telling more tales of Joseph Bodill, other soldiers and many more. Georgian spinsters, suffragettes, ordinary men and women like you and me. If you want to hear more about a specific person or a diary or letters history please leave a comment below.

Until next time keep talking about history.


Quotes taken from the diary of Joseph Bodill (281818 MTCSC) (Nottinghamshire Archives M24241)

Try These Unpopular Parts


It’s the 1940s and the Notts Education Committee have ideas on how to make your rationed food go further. On 8th January 1940 the rationing of bacon was introduced hence the Food Education Campaign leaflet on Unrationed Meats.

The first recipe is for the rather disturbing Sheep’s Head, the ingredients of which include, unsurprisingly, one sheep’s head, plus

  • half a pound of pearl barley
  • 2 onions
  • seasoning
  • a bouquet of herbs
  • and a little turnip (for a whole turnip would be an extravagance).


Let’s just say the recipe begins with an instruction to cut the head in half, moves onto chopping a boiled brain, before ending with a sliced tongue garnish.



Nottingham’s First Open Mic History Night

On Tuesday 3rd October something special will be happening upstairs in Nottingham’s Malt Cross. It’s the first meeting of Pint with the Past. What’s that? Well, it is what it sounds like – a group of people meeting in a pub over a few drinks (the Malt Cross make amazing hot chocolate if you’re not a drinker) and having a chat about history.

As it’s Halloween I’ll be starting off the evening talking about John Darrell, Nottingham’s Elizabethan exorcist. Open mic slots are available and you can book them when you get your tickets.

Book your free place now and I’ll see you there on 3rd October at 7pm.


Poppies for Passchendaele


Earlier in July I was in Derby with a spare hour and found myself visiting the Poppies: Weeping Window at Derby Silk Mill. A World War I Centenary Art Commission by Paul Cummins Artist and Tom Piper Designer, the artwork is a haunting indictment of the war and the people who fought and died for their countries (whether they be Allied or German).

The cascade of thousands of handmade, ceramic hobbies cascades from the silk mill’s tower like a blood red waterfall. Truly beautiful and mesmerising judging from the number of people who simply stood before it and stared.

If you missed Poppies: Weeping Window in Derby, you will have another chance to see it at Cardiff from 8th August until 24th September 2017, then at Ulster Museum in Belfast from 14th October until 3rd December 2017.

Today marks the centenary anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, which was 1917’s take on the Battle of the Somme. Just as bloody and horrific. Want to understand the Battle of Passchendaele and what it means today? Head on over to Twitter.


Are we not all historians?

William Pooley in his blog joins in on an interesting debate; when it comes to history are we Asking the Wrong Questions? Asking a Western audience to name their top ten (or three or five) historic figures often results in a list of white men, with a couple of infamous women thrown in. When @HistoryExtra asked this question the results included those traditionally (in elitist terms) perceived as the “good and the great (or infamous)”:

  • Queen Victoria
  • Alfred the Great
  • Richard III
  • Adolf Hitler

Of course these people made a huge impact on the world: if we are to believe the historians who tell their stories. But, we make an impact too: you and me. Ever made a sacrifice for someone else? Ever asked for a favour? Ever helped somebody for no other reason than you could? Did you not impact on that person’s life? Did they not impact on yours?

Back in June Rebecca Rideal pulled out of the Chalke Valley History Festival. She was protesting that out of 148 speakers only 32 were women and only one a person of colour. If you do the maths that means that of 148 speakers 116 were white men. 116?

I’m a historian, but neither an academic, nor a published biographer (yet), rather I’m a person who lives and interprets history. An archivist by trade I have met people who thought they were “too stupid” to attend a history talk, that they would feel out of place and could never “research” anything for themselves. I have also met people self-publishing histories of their family, their house, or their village. Their stories are full of passion for the subject, the place and the people, because the people are their ancestors, the place is where they live, and the subject is close to their hearts. Understanding history helps humans to understand themselves and each other.

So, when you’re watching that famous historian’s TV show or podcast, or reading their books, remember that you are a historian too. You own interpretation is as valid as anyone else’s. Talk to your friends and relatives, and people who are neither, get to know your community’s heritage, maybe even pop into your local archive. Did you know that every county has at least one archive which is full of stories? Nottinghamshire’s has over four million documents covering 800+ years. And it will not cost you a penny to look at them.

History should be, to borrow from Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address, by the people and for the people. Are we not all people? Are we not all historians?

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What’s in a Diary?

It is 70 years since the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, better known today as The Diary of Anne Frank. Anne’s account of her early life during World War II prior to her death in 1945 Bergen-Belsen concentration camp is a fascinating, if harrowing, story of a young girl trying to survive to adulthood.

Being an archivist I see a lot of diaries and have been researching a number created by soldiers during the earlier World War I. The diary in the picture was written by Joseph Bodill of Hucknall, Nottingham, between 1917 and 1918. This frontispiece shows Joseph’s pre-war address, serial number and clearly identifies him as belonging to the 281 Ammunition Column of the British Expeditionary Force (the early name for the British Army).

Joseph was a driver whose job was to replenish the front line with ammunition and ordnance. The entry for Tuesday 26th June 1917, exactly one hundred years ago, talks about something which is a popular topic of discussion today: the state of the roads. Joseph comments that 16 of his comrades drove up to the lines the day before, but “they had to return with their loads” as the German artillery were making holes in the road.

The diary is an astonishing insight into life on the Western Front. Joseph yearns for news from his family and writes that:

I have not had a letter from home yet. I would sooner have one than my tea.

Joseph ruminates on his tiredness and lack of sleep, only having managed eight hours in 3 nights. He is “as tired as a dog”. The day’s entry finishes in a way which shows the loneliness and bewilderment of a soldier who can almost not believe where he is, and how devastatingly cruel humans can be to each other.

I often think of the old times at home it only seems like a dream to me now but never mind things will be better in a while.

I’m working on a transcription of the two manuscript volumes of Joseph’s diaries, with a view to publication. If you’d like to hear more about his life driving ordnance up to the Allied lines, leave a comment and I’ll be sure to keep you up to date on progress.

Joseph’s Bodill’s diaries are cared for in Nottinghamshire Archives. This volume ref: M24251/1.

It’s a bit furry!

There’s been a bit of a fuss lately about the time ink takes to dry on goatskin parchment; hence the alleged delay to the Queen’s Speech.  But, did you know that goatskin parchment is neither skin nor made of goats? And it isn’t even parchment.

In the archive world we use goatskin parchment, which is actually acid-free paper, for wrapping and protecting centuries old documents. In the photo it is the white material at the bottom right. The roll is parchment and the top item is vellum. Yes, that white stripe is where the animal’s spine would have been.

We have thousands of documents which were written on parchment and a few more on vellum. So, what’s the difference? Today the terms are interchangeable; traditionally vellum was produced from the hide of a calf and parchment from a sheep. Treated with lime, then dehaired and defleshed, and in an England before the introduction of paper mills and the widespread use of paper, parchment and vellum made high quality writing material.

Being from a larger animal, vellum is more expensive and required greater skill to produce. One slip of the knife and the skin would be ruined. Vellum is also what I can describe only as furrier than parchment. Thicker and a bit like stroking a cat! This Hutchinson and Bottlier heraldic pedigree was illuminated onto vellum and certainly passes the furry touch test. This Hutchinson family included John Hutchinson who was governor of Nottingham Castle during the English Civil War and later signed the death warrant of King Charles I.

This medieval copy of the “Forest Book” from the Rufford Abbey collection was written on parchment and shows the wear and tear of a 800 year old book. One reason for its survival is the strength and durability of the parchment.

The Undying Splendour

I am the eldest in a family of twelve. I had dreams, I had ambitions, because I strove even in boyhood after learning, after expression. But because I had love (I am proud to say this) I drowned all my ambitions of a brilliant career and gave my life for my family. This entailed entering into a life which was not calculated to build up the artistic career. I became a coal-miner. I have spent fourteen years of my life down in the deep eternal shadows of the mine, working with rough men with hearts like diamonds, sweating, toiling, fighting death daily, until, a dreamer by temperament, I am like a Titan in my capacity for work. I feared no one at my work, I fear no physical work now. Yet even in that environment my soul craved for learning, and with limbs aching with physical weariness and pain, I have sat up until the hours of midnight devouring the books that I had been able to buy after many weeks’ saving of my spending pittance.

Will StreetsSo wrote Will Streets to his friend W H Wright on 13th May 1916.

Sergeant John William Streets, of the 12th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment (aka the Sheffield Pals) is unusual for a World War I soldier from the Worksop area. A miner, Methodist and poet; Will Streets left behind a stunning collection of letters which tell his story. Not only his life as a soldier in the Sheffield Pals, but his home life is told in his own words.

Will is best known for his poetry, in particular his sonnet-sequence, The Undying Splendour, published posthumously by his younger brother Ben. The sonnet which best sums up his life and death is An English Soldier.

He died for love of race: because the blood
Of Northern freeman swell’d his veins: arose
True to tradition that like mountain stood
Impregnable, crown’d with its pathless snows.

When broke the call, from the sepulchred years
Strong voices urged and stirr’d his soul to life;
The call of English freeman fled his fears
And led him (their true son) into the strife.

There in the van he fought thro’ many a dawn,
Stood by the forlorn hope, knew victory;
Proud, scorning Death, fought with a purpose drawn,
Sword-edged, defiant, grand, for Liberty.
He fell: but yielded not his English soul:
That lives out there beneath the battle’s roll.

When asked what inscription Will’s mother Clara Streets would like on her son’s headstone in the Euston Road Cemetery No. 4 (Colincamps, France), she requested a variation on Will’s own words: “I fell: but yielded not my English soul, that lives out here beneath the battle’s roll”.

On 10th June 1916, Will wrote a poignant letter to his younger brother, Ben; in which he included the “sonnet-sequence that I have been working at lately”. Will’s letter continued with a sadness and request that his brother keep his secret. “The next month or two will see me in a position to endeavour to have a book printed, or see me beneath the sweet soil of France. I cannot tell you why. Only accept the statement and keep it to yourself.” Ben Streets could not have known what was coming. Less than a month later the poet, miner, soldier from Whitwell was one of the 19,240 who fell on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

All letters courtesy of Nottinghamshire Archives. Collection reference: DD1499.

We’re all Going on a Summer Holiday

It’s International Archives Day and Twitter abounds with traveller’s tales. There are a fair few in the massive collection at Nottinghamshire Archives.

Let’s start with the annual day trip to the seaside where the Raleigh Cycle Company took its staff to Blackpool for the day. The year is 1956. The starting point is Nottingham Station. Is one of these happy people a relative of yours?

Blackpool train platform

Are you the cheeky lady with the candy floss?

Blackpool candyfloss


See even more pics of the ladies of Raleigh at the Inspire Picture Archive.