Spitalfields Life

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Bayswater, Lisson Grove and Fish and Chips

When I think of Lisson Grove I think of fish and chips. It is slightly shameful that I have lived in London for most of my life and I have only ever had fish and chips in Lisson Grove once but memorable they certainly were and I do keep meaning to go back and have some more. Anyway if you are ever in the Marylebone area head down to The Seashell and spoil yourself http://www.seashellrestaurant.co.uk/.

One thing I DON’T think of when I think of Lisson Grove is highway robbery but in October 1827 eighteen year old James Haynes was¬†sentenced to death for robbing Richard Harrison of 28 Charles Street, Lisson Grove with Elijah Barlow and James Wheeler.¬†¬†After all meeting in The Swan pub in Bayswater, which is still there and apparently does good food and isn’t too touristy, they proceeded to have a few drinks and eventually all left together beginning the walk home. The petition says that ¬†they approached an area called Harpers Fields but after searching for this area it seems to be well and¬†truly gone I have found a map from 1830 however of the Marylebone area and there seems to be a lot of open space around the Paddington / Edgware Road area so¬†possibly this was an open area around here? I really wanted to post a picture of the map but I’m not allowed because of security reasons so that is a shame but fair enough I suppose. On entering Harpers Fields, James Haynes and Elijah Barlow say goodbye to James Wheeler and then a few minutes later claim to hear somebody shouting thief. After searching for a while for somebody they gave up and proceeded home where in the morning they were arrested for highway robbery.

I believe that James Haynes and Elijah Barlow were innocent for a couple of reasons. Firstly the prosecutor, Richard Harrison believes they are innocent and even signs this petition. He also claims to have not seen them at the incident and can only identify James Wheeler. Secondly James Wheeler’s main witness has a previous conviction for¬†receiving¬†bribes and is the ONLY witness that claims three men and not just one were at the scene of the crime. Make of it what you will but certainly more to think of than just fish and chips! I know where I will be this weekend yum, yum, yum, yum.¬†

Has it Really been 8 Months??

I haven’t posted since the 22nd of¬†February¬†which is in no way acceptable and I am sorry!! Ha!! I have however been busy, busy, busy with a number of things.

Firstly, and yeah I know it has nothing to do with archives but that’s ok right (??), I have been learning to make cocktails and pour pints in my new part time bar job in Soho. It seems like an ex students right of passage these days. The obligatory post degree bar job. It’s fun though and am meeting lots of great people so if you are ever on Kingly Street (it runs behind Liberties) on a Wed or Fri night come and say hi and have a Tiki cocktail.

Back to the archives. Well last month I finished my cataloging project at The National Archives. I really enjoyed working with such old letters (see previous posts if you are totally lost right now) but I have to say that after an entire day with just me and the criminals I would often feel mentally exhausted. Some of the cases were just so sad and I know the letters were written to cause maximum effect on the reader because all these people had left was the sympathy vote but 15 down and about a hundred starving children later I was always ready to exit 1829 and move back into 2011!  I know this project is ongoing so if you are looking for any archiving experience I really recommend that you get in touch with the team at the TNA they are all really, really nice, helpful and I had a fantastic year working with them learning and most importantly getting really involved with the project. The volunteers room is buried deep in the basement of this huge building. The lack of windows and presence of lots of dusty old books really help you get involved with the cases and transport you back to late Georgian England.

As a Londoner I can’t deny that the cases from the Old Bailey were my¬†favorite. I was lucky enough to have a whole box of them when I started the project and I would often read about streets and pubs that were really familiar to me. I would spend my time on Google Maps looking at the places mentioned and sometimes just felt so connected with my home town and the people struggling to survive here almost two hundred years ago. Highway men in Edgware Road, men meeting for drinks in The Dublin Castle in Camden Town, stables round the back of Tottenham Court Road. ¬†Absolutely¬†amazing and so close to home. I go down the Edgware Road when I come home from work, I went to school in Camden Town, I spent all my university years around the streets of Tottenham Court Road because I went to UCL. It is these type of stories (and I think I blogged about a few) that have been buried in archives for so, so long that I have made¬†accessible to the public again. That to me is amazing.

UCL Centre for Digital Humanities

So last Wednesday evening I headed down to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at UCL for an event being put on by the UCL centre for digital humanities. I found out about the event through following them on Twitter and through following their blog http://www.ucl.ac.uk/dh-blog/.

The main¬†focus of the evening seemed to be¬†how iphone/ipad¬†technology can be¬†used to enhance your trip to a museum. The guys (well actually they were mainly girls) running the event were incredibly friendly from the moment I walked through the door. I have to admit I was the first person to arrive so I got a lot of attention! The first activity I took part in was a digital exhibition/tour of the Petrie Museum. It involved using your smart phone and a map of the museum to seek out¬†QR codes attached to artefacts. Once the artefacts had been located¬†you simply (well more simple if you had an iphone, I was stuck with a BlackBerry) scanned the code using http://www.talesofthings.com/¬†and a full description of the artefact came up as well as giving you an oppurtunity¬†to comment on it and to read other people’s comments. I described it as a kind of simpler¬†Facebook for museums. It is technology that you can actually imagine taking off. Sitting on public transport in London for example, every other person is glued¬†to their smart phones. Listening to music, playing games, facebooking, twittering, reading blogs. It is totally feasible¬†that street artists could use QR codes to receive¬†feedback on their work just as museums can use them to receive feedback on artefacts that are sometimes thousands of years old.

The museum also had an ipad to play around with, once again it was set up with an artefact and the event organisers were interested in reading all the comments written about it and using the technology to get feedback from all the people visiting the museum. I suppose a little like a comment book but cooler and more accessable to people all around the world. It would be, in my opinion impractical to expect people to walk around museums clutching onto  ipads, but not so impractical for museums to strategically place ipads throughout their museums offering them the chance to use new technology, have fun and offer the museums staff vital feedback on how they can use their resources to make the museum as user friendly as possible.

Is all this technology a good thing? When going to¬†spend time¬†with the old, the preserved and the past is it right to blend it so ruthlessly with the modern? Well I think YES. Why not? I thoroughly¬†enjoyed my evening at the Petrie Museum and met so many great people championing the digital cause, historians, classicists and people from a more technology based background of course. It was so great to be¬†back at my old university as well. I think UCL truly is my spiritual academic home ūüôā

Book Digitization – The Debate Continues….


New Year – New Ideas

So it is 2011 – I didn’t really think I was looking forward to the new year until it arrived. I feel a great sense of relief to put 2010 behind me and get started on some new projects. As we all know I am now working at The National Archives cataloguing petitions for clemency from 1827. When I started this project I had no idea just how involved I would become with some of these people and how sad some of the cases that I have been working on would make me feel.

Yesterday I spent my afternoon with a man called John French. He kept stables in Chenies Yard (Tottenham Court Road) in 1827. Chenies Yard is actually still there, I google map-ed it and you can tell that the now very plush looking flats and sweet cobbled street were once stables. Actually it is just behind where I went to university, you forget sometimes when pounding the pavements of London, stressed with all your own problems that the streets actually have incredible stories of people who came before you.

So,¬†getting¬†back to John French and his stables in Chenies¬†Yard. Compared to some of the miserable cases I have catalogued over the last few weeks John isn’t too badly off. He has a wife and seven children, he works hard, he likes a drink. Practically all of his witnesses and alibis claim that he seemed ‘tipsy’ when they saw him on and around the 23rd and 24th of July. Money doesn’t seem too tight, his family have somewhere to live and everybody seems to be getting fed.

On the morning of the 24th July 1827 a Mr Benjamin Shaw comes to visit John French’s stables, he is a regular customer and is greeted¬†like one. He brings with him two horses, one with a sore neck and one big brown one. He asks if John French can keep the big, brown one for him for a few days and physic and bleed him (whatever this means – sounds brutal.) John agrees as he often looks after horses for Benjamin Shaw and his family and the man goes on his way. A few hours later a servant¬†arrives at the stables claiming that the horse actually¬†belongs to his master Thomas Samuel¬†Mott who lives in Hertford, that it¬†was stolen¬†in¬†the night and why is it here with John French in the middle of Tottenham Court Road? Panic ensues. John tells the servant to wait while he goes to fetch the man who left the horse with him. He cannot find Benjamin Shaw, only his brother Thomas Shaw who tells him to stay clear of the stables, and to meet him at the Dublin castle in Camden Town at 7pm¬†and the situation¬†shall be sorted. I used to drink in The Dublin Castle in my late teens, I used to watch bands play there,¬†I¬†went to sixth form in Camden,¬†and the story becomes even more close to home.

John French eventually has to go into hiding, his wife is arrested¬†for theft (though she is released¬†after two weeks and four days) and the Shaw’s assign their attorney to John French who eventually destroys evidence, manipulates John¬†French¬†and his witnesses and essentially goes on to frame him for a crime he did not commit. For which it seems John French was executed¬†on the 18th December 1827. As much as I tried i¬†could not detach myself from this story, it made me feel incredibly sad for John French and his family and I just didn’t want him to be¬†lost¬†to history like so many sad stories must be.

I have now catalogued 24 different cases but this is the one that stood out to me the most. I am really enjoying the job and the personal connection it gives me with the past. I feel like I am looking into stories that nobody else knows about and they are mine and I will be trying to share as many of them with you all as possible.

Cool Event for Aspiring Archivists

East Midlands Regional Meeting
11.00 Arrival and Business meeting
12.00 CALM Meeting and report on Lincolnshire Archives’ Digitisation project or
12.00 Find out more about careers and the Archives and Records Association and get to know colleagues in the region.
13.00 Finish, followed by lunch at a local restaurant
14.30 Visit to Lincoln Cathedral Libraries and Conservation Workshop
There is a small cost for the visit.¬†This will depend on the number of people attending, so it can’t be¬†confirmed currently¬†but it should not exceed ¬£6.00 per person (although it should be less than that).¬† There is a limit of 25 people for the visit.
Information about visiting Lincolnshire Archives is available at http://www.lincolnshire.gov.uk/section.asp?catid=22009&docid=77253.
Lunch has been organised at a local restaurant, and a menu is available online at http://www.zucchinislincoln.co.uk/index2.htm. Cost will depend on what you eat.
If you would like to attend, you’d be most welcome.¬† please email our regional secretary Peter Lester peter.lester@nottscc.gov.uk by Friday 26th November
1) if you are attending the business and CALM or Discussion
2) if you would like to visit the cathedral libraries and workshops
3) if you would like to have lunch.

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