Record of the Month

Churching

image1As a former midwife now working as Searchroom Assistant, I am always interested in records relating to childbirth. So I was intrigued when I came across an illuminated manuscript version of an Order of Service for the ‘Churching’ of women (our reference: Par 56/7/9) in the Compton parish records.

The term ‘illuminated’ refers to the use of brilliant colours and gold to embellish initial letters, borders and small illustrations. This document, which measures 8ins X 6ins (20.5cms x 16cms), comprises a vellum case with red and gold decoration, and parchment leaves, some of which are illuminated with gold and vibrant red, green, brown and blue inks. Digital images of the manuscript are available to view on the Public Access Computers in the Searchroom using the Archangel package. Although the manuscript has no recorded date, it is estimated to be from early 20th Century.

The ‘Churching of Women’ is a ceremony for blessing newly delivered mothers. Although the practice is a Christian tradition, it is not confined to Christian religions alone. It seems that there are two main interpretations of the ceremony.

Some people regard it as a ritual thanksgiving for image3the woman’s survival of childbirth, an event which carried considerable risk to a woman’s life and health in times before the relative safety of modern medicine, when maternal mortality was high.

The days and weeks following childbirth, previously known as the lying-in period, was a time for newly delivered mothers to rest and recover from the ordeal of childbirth. It usually lasted 4 to 6 weeks and the Churching service was often the first occasion for a newly delivered woman to be seen out before she resumed her normal social life and activities.

However, an alternative interpretation is that it is related to the rite of purification following childbirth, possibly stemming from the Jewish practice described in the Bible, Leviticus 12:2-8 – women were pronounced unclean for a week after giving birth to a son or two weeks after giving birth to a daughter, and they would be purified after a month, or two. This period of time seems to match the traditional ‘lying-in’ period.

Although Churching has mostly disappeared from the modern Christian Church, one of our visitors to the Searchroom who saw the illuminated manuscript, recounted being ‘churched’ after the birth of her own daughter in 1961. She recalled how reluctant she had felt and how the Priest had been reluctant to perform the ceremony, too. However, it was her mother’s wish and the strong opinion voiced by her mother had made the newly delivered woman feel rather dirty following the childbirth.

I wonder how many other people remember ‘Churching’?

Joint photos

Susie Duffin

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A day in the life of…

Work experience student, Kathryn Mersey

Work experience student, Kathryn, at work in the searchroom

I’ve been on my second Work Experience placement at West Sussex Record Office this week; after being so inspired by my first, in 2015, I couldn’t wait to come back!

On my first placement I was introduced to some of the diverse and mysterious departments behind the scenes, like Screen Archive South East (SASE) and the conservation workshop. The mobile shelving in the strongrooms seemed particularly glamourous to me as I’d only ever seen it in films and documentaries and never expected I’d be able to operate one in real life!

I’ve been interested in history for a long time and the longer I spend here, the more I appreciate that a huge portion of the history we see from day to day (books, articles, news reports, dramatisation) relies entirely on the meticulous work of archives like WSRO, who ensure that even those without the power or money to enforce their own place in history are not forgotten.

For example, I’ve spent most of my time this week cataloguing a scrapbook kept by the Liberal/Radical women’s advocate Jane Cobden between 1888 and 1891. I’ve been absolutely astounded by the intensity of her work in this short space of time and put through some degree of emotional turmoil at the complex and, to a modern reader, outrageous challenges that she and her political allies faced.

Jane Cobden and Margaret Lady Sandhurst were elected to the County Councils of Bromley and Brixton respectively after an apparent oversight in the Local Government Act of 1888, which didn’t explicitly disqualify women from acting as County Councillors. They and several other women across the country (including Emma Cons, who became an Alderman for the London County Council) were urged to stand for the Council by their constituents who knew them, and loyally supported them, for their philanthropic work.

Profiles of Jane Cobden, Emma Cons, and other female County Councillors

Lady Sandhurst was removed from her seat by a petition, which was organised by the candidate who lost to her, Mr Beresford-Hope. I was surprised to find that many mainstream newspapers condemned or at least vaguely disapproved of his actions, including the Star whose headline read “Beaten Beresford-Hope Tries to Win in Court What He Cannot at the Polls”!

Although in this case the court decided that women could not qualify to act as County Councillors, and so Mr Beresford-Hope replaced Lady Sandhurst, the 1882 Municipal Corporations Act (which the Local Government Act amended) stated that an elected Councillor could not be removed from their seat if it went unchallenged for twelve months. Since Jane Cobden and Emma Cons had been lawfully elected, they did not take their seats at Council Meetings for twelve months; acting instead as visitors (advising but with no voting power) so they were not committing a legal offence. The scrapbook contains several pages of newspaper cuttings from as far afield as New York and Milan celebrating and congratulating them when they were finally able to take up their seats safely. This surprised me again, as without such a collection of newspaper articles it would be difficult to say whether the first female Councillors received significant public support.

A representative page from the scrapbooks kept by Jane Emma Cobden

In 1890, however, their fellow Council Member Sir Walter Eugene de Souza took Jane Cobden and Emma Cons to court, fining them each £250 (equivalent to around £30,000 today) for acting as Councillors when they were legally disqualified from doing so. They were forced to stop acting on the Council by the threat of another £25 (£3000) fine for each vote at each of the Council’s weekly meetings. Jane Cobden kept a great array of press reaction to the case, almost all unequivocally denouncing de Souza’s actions (particularly as he was able to keep half of the money for himself). One of my favourite pieces is a satirical cartoon from the Pall Mall Gazette’s weekly magazine, which contends that Beresford-Hope and de Souza could not hope to replace the invaluable work that Jane Cobden and Emma Cons had been so staunchly committed to. In defending their work, the Daily Chronicle remarked that de Souza was “not himself a brilliant member of the County Council”!

Derogatory cartoon of De Souza and Beresford-Hope

In a statement in one of the articles, Jane Cobden explains that she wanted to refuse to pay the fines and would have let the government confiscate her property to do so, but then de Souza would have had the opportunity to declare her a bankrupt, which would disqualify her from holding any position in public office in the future. Although it can be wearying to read about these senseless barriers that Jane Cobden and her allies faced, her optimism and determination is inspiring. The rest of the scrapbook would suggest that although barred from office (leaving Bow and Bromley unrepresented for the next eleven months), she was still politically active in groups including the National Liberal Federation, National Reform Union, Bow and Bromley Women’s Liberal and Radical Association and National Society for Women’s Suffrage, with posters and flyers for many meetings and events that she chaired and spoke at. There are more scrapbooks which suggest that alongside Liberal and Radical reform and universal suffrage, she also advocated animal rights and Irish political autonomy.

I really enjoyed all of the tasks I was able to shadow or help with during my week, which included retrieving 17th century wills for enquires, cleaning glass film negatives and even learning a little about smuggling – but I feel I’ve become quite invested in Jane Cobden and her friends and I plan to return to the Record Office as a volunteer to help catalogue the rest of her scrapbooks.

 

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Record of the Month

The mystery of the Mary Celeste continues at West Sussex Record Office

certificate-of-discharge.pngAlthough we receive all manner of enquiries here at the Record Office, some cause us to investigate a little further, or highlight records within our collections that deserve a closer look. One such enquiry was made last week, regarding a Certificate of Discharge for a sailor from Shoreham. So far, so straightforward. However, it quickly came to light image1that the record had originally been deposited at the Marlipins Museum in Shoreham, and was part of a large collection of records transferred by the curator of the Museum to the Record Office which had not yet been catalogued. This deposit, it transpired, totalled 8 large archival boxes of deeds, plans, shipping and harbour records, personal papers, and correspondence. An hour of searching, and a few distracting Latin deeds later, I came across an envelope with the name ‘Henry Clement’ on. Inside was an A5 sized record, badly in need of a once-over from our Conservator, but bearing the stamp of the US Shipping Commisioner of the Port of New York. The certificate records the discharge of Henry Clement, a Shoreham sailor, from service on board the infamous Mary Celeste!

The tale of the mysterious abandonment of the Mary Celeste is well known and well documented the world over; however, finding a local connection to the ship once again raises more questions than it answers. The accompanying display information from theMarlipins display card museum states that the certificate discharged Henry Clement from ‘the ill-fated Marie Celeste some 2 years before her celebrated discovery at sea having lost her entire crew without trace’. The family also believed Clement to have had a lucky escape by disembarking before the fateful voyage, and the 1942 obituary of his wife confirmed that ‘Mr Clement had been a member of the vessel’s compliment, but did not ship with her when she started on this particular voyage. She was subsequently found with not a soul about her, and the event is a mystery to this day’. The narrative surrounding Henry Clement’s connection to the Mary Celeste suggests that this certificate proves the sailor’s fortunate discharge from the ship, avoiding the unknown fate of the rest of the crew.

image2Although, like every element of truth connected to the infamous ship, the story is not quite as simple as that. The record provides a wealth of information, and gives us great detail about the 19 year old seaman, stating he is of ‘good’ character and ability. In faded ink, it also lists Clement’s date of entry on the ship as 19th December 1876, and his discharge on the 10th August 1877. 5 years after the vessel was discovered abandoned and adrift between the Azores and the Portugese coast, on the 5th December 1872. After returning to New York following the salvage hearings in Gibraltar, the Mary Celeste continued to sail under new ownership, although to little success, and much suspicion. Plagued by rumours of a curse, the ship was eventually over-insured, wrecked, and once again clouded in scandal and another court case. It was during this less well-documented and unsuccessful period in the ship’s illustrious past that Henry Clement was aboard the Mary Celeste. Although we have no further information about Henry’s time on the famous ship, it must have been some experience for a sailor from Shoreham to explore the West Indian and Indian Ocean shipping routes on the Mary Celeste herself! We’re just glad he found his way home again, and that the record of his discharge survives to intrigue generations to come.

Lauren Clifton

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Sussex and the US: Closer than you think

JOINT FLAGSIn the final instalment of our American-themed blogs to celebrate Independence Day, we are looking at the many and varied connections between famous faces in America’s history and the county of Sussex.

Founded in the 17th and 18th centuries, thirteen British colonies on the east coast of North America declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States of America. However, long before the War of Independence, Sussex men and women were travelling to the colonies and making their mark. Two of these thirteen states, Delaware and Pennsylvania, were actually named after founders with links to Sussex!

Baron De La Warr

Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr

You may not think that a seafront pavilion in Bexhill has much in common with an entire mid-Atlantic state in the US, but they are both named after an English politician who set sail for the colonies in 1610. Appointed the first governor of Virginia, and later lending his name to the state of Delaware, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (1577-1618) had strong ties with Sussex. Various De La Warr monuments still exist throughout the county, after De La Warr spent much time here, and eventually married Cecily Shirley, the daughter of Sir Thomas Shirley of Wiston, West Sussex.

 

De La Warr was not the only emigrant to claim parts of the colonies in his own name, as early Quaker William Penn (1644-1718) founded the state of Pennsylvania. Penn too had Sussex connections, living for a time in Warminghurst, West Sussex, and worshipping at the Blue Idol Meeting House. Known to hold Quaker meetings at his home Warmington Place, when Penn returned to England in 1684 to William Pennsettle a boundary dispute with Maryland, the magistrates at the Arundel Court of Quarter Sessions ordered that he be apprehended for hosting such meetings (QR/W173, M.31).

While De La Warr and Penn may have founded cities and states, another Sussex local, John Harvard (1607–1638), sowed the seeds of learning and culture that to this day continue to bear fruit across the continent. Prior to founding the first American university, Harvard emigrated to New England in 1637, shortly after marrying Ann Sadler (1614–55) of Ringmer at St Michael the Archangel Church, in the parish of South Malling, Lewes, East Sussex. His connection to the area came through a Cambridge classmate, John Sadler, whose father was rector at Ringmer. Harvard University remains one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, and excitingly now has further links with Sussex through the research being conducted by Harvard academics into the ‘Sussex Declaration’.

Shared cultural interests also intrigued Charles Lennox, 2nd Duke of Richmond (1701-1750), and grandson of King Charles II, who was a leading patron of botanical expeditions to North America, and did much work to improve the grounds of Goodwood House, near Chichester, with specimens brought back from the colonies. His son, the 3rd Duke of Richmond (1734/5-1806), took a leading part in American affairs in the House of Lords during the War of Independence. It was during this war that the Royal Sussex Regiment, whose archives West Sussex Record Office hold, fought in major engagements, including Bunker Hill, Brooklyn and White Plains.

Perhaps the most well-known connection between Sussex and America is that of Thomas Paine (1737-1809), who lived at Bull House on Lewes High Street. Later travelling to

Thomas Paine

Sign at the White Hart Hotel, Lewes

Philadelphia on the advice of Benjamin Franklin, Paine became one of the leading propagandists for the American cause, notably through his Common Sense (1776), in which he advocated separation from Britain. Its publication had an immediate and profound effect in stirring up support for the American cause and the Declaration of Independence.

 

Even the first President of the independent United States of America, George Washington, was originally of Sussex stock! His path to becoming founding father and signatory of the Declaration of Independence started in 1588, when Lawrence Washington, who had family in Petworth, married Margaret Butler of Tyes Hall in Cuckfield. It is their grandson Lt. Col. John Washington, who first emigrated to the colonies. During the English Civil War, John’s father, the Rev Lawrence Washington, had been removed from his benefice as Rector of Purleigh in Essex by a Parliamentary Puritans. This ill treatment of his father by Cromwell’s forces is said to be a factor which led to the eventual emigration to Virginia of John Washington in 1656. Tobacco-plater, soldier, and later politician, it is this John Washington who became great-grandfather to George Washington, who gave another city, and another state the name of another Sussex family! George Washington copyright free

In the light of recent research and media interest surrounding our early parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence, it has been fascinating to examine the role Sussex has played in the history of the US, and many ways this is reflected in the written record. Through Record Office collections, it is possible to trace a connection that spans American history, both pre and post-independence.  The archive certainly shows us that we are closer to our American cousins than perhaps first thought!

Lauren Clifton

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Chichester’s Admiral: Sir George Murray and the American War of Independence

Murray ColourContinuing our week of themed blog posts focussing on West Sussex links with America, today’s focus is on Royal Naval Officer (later Vice-Admiral) Sir George Murray, a Chichester local who saw service throughout the American War of Independence, as well as the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.

A few days prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, on 28th June 1776, Midshipman George Murray, aged just 17, was serving on HMS Bristol, Commanded by Sir Peter Parker, in an attack on Sullivan Fort, the key defence bastion of Charles Town in South Carolina.

Parker had 9 British ships in his squadron, anchored just inside the bar crossing the approach to Sullivan Island and the main channel leading to Five Fathom Hole. Once inside, the British ships would be assured of a warm welcome from Fort Moultrie’s 33 cannons at either end of Sullivan’s Island, all manned by patriots. General Clinton, with 3,000 British troops, 10 artillery pieces, 3 men-of-war with 24 naval guns, and 15 armed flat-boats was encamped across a narrow and supposedly shallow channel at the end of Long Island, too far to be of any great help when hostilities began.

Parker’s ships gathered at Five Fathom Hole from early June, but attacks on the Fort were delayed by calm winds. Meanwhile, the enemy strengthened its entrenchments and mounted pieces of heavy cannon on the eastern end of Sullivan’s Island, thereby inhibiting cooperation between British ground and naval forces. Sullivan fort plan 1More troops arrived on the transports but had to land at Spencer’s Inlet, some five miles from Sullivan’s Island. The harbour nearer the fort had still to be surveyed for possible wrecks left to obstruct passage, and for the British to lay buoys. Clinton was invited to use the Bristol as his HQ to facilitate cooperation, but he declined due to his propensity for sea sickness. He became somewhat isolated and frustrated, stuck on land and unable to contribute.

A flag of truce was sent to the Fort but that was fired at, so a hostile welcome was clearly inevitable, and expected every day until the 26th when the larger Experiment under Captain Scott arrived from Antigua. They crossed the bar in the evening of 27th and her cannons prepared for an attack. On 28th the Commodore gave the signal for an attack on Sullivan Fort with nineteen 32 pounder guns. The waiting was over. Midshipman Murray was about to experience bloody warfare for the first time.

The rebels inflicted significant damage on the Bristol. Two springs were shot away, causing her to swing in the ebb tide into the line of raking fire. The enemy fire was said go through and through the vessel and its crew. The vessels continued to attack the Fort, but the ground troops were too far away to help, (although reports on distance varied from 4 – 900 yards). By mid-afternoon, the Fort was silenced.Sullivan Island Attack Map 1776 includes Long Island

On the Bristol, Parker took stock. Having suffered considerable damage to the hull and masts, with knees and timbers shot through and smashed, together with a large number of 44 men killed and another 30 wounded, he decided to withdraw. It was said that if the water had not been so smooth it would have been impossible to keep her from sinking. The Captain lost his left arm above the elbow (he was sent back to England the next day) while the Commodore’s breeches were torn off and his ‘backside laid bare’, with his thigh and knee wounded, he was able to walk only when supported by two men’. The Bristol spent the next few days in Five Fathom Hole, with all available carpenters, unrigging the main mast, and removing the stump of the mizzen mast.

Murray survived his baptism of fire, but the Bristol suffered significant and almost catastrophic damage. She was twice in flames, her quarter-deck was completely cleared of both officers and men, excepting the Commodore, and no individual escaped being killed or wounded. Her Captain, after losing his right arm, and several other wounds, died later from the vast ‘infusion of blood which had thus occasioned’; American losses were also considerable. In such a baptism, in what transpired to be an unsuccessful attack, Murray was said that like Nelson ‘he knew not fear nor its heat and severity were such as might have deterred him from the further pursuit of a profession so hazardous as that of the Navy’.

Signing of DeclarationIn the Days following the battle, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress, announcing that the thirteen American colonies were now an independent nation from British rule. The Revolutionary War continued, as did Murray, who followed his mentor Peter Parker to HMS Chatham in September 1776 and survived action on several other occasions along the eastern seaboard of America. After further naval and bloody adventures from East to West Indies and with Nelson in the Mediterranean, Murray reached the rank of Vice Admiral. He was made a Knight Commander of the Most Honorable Military Order of the Bath (KCB) in 1815. Sir George became the Mayor of Chichester in the same year. He died in 1819.

Barry Aldridge and Noel Castiglia

 

Find out more about Admiral Sir George Murray by contacting West Sussex Record Office, or The Murray Club online- https://admiralsirgeorgemurray.club/

To purchase a copy of Barry Aldridge’s book ‘My Dear Murray: A Friend of Nelson’ please contact West Sussex Record Office, or the Novium Museum, Chichester

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The US Declaration of Independence and West Sussex Record Office

HEADLINESMany of you may have read about the ‘Sussex Declaration’ in the past few months. You may have heard about the record on the radio, you may have even seen it broadcast to millions on morning television! The story behind how this parchment copy of the US Declaration of Independence ended up in Chichester is still being looked in to, as researchers investigate its life before it was deposited in the Record Office in 1956. The Declaration is also being tested at the British Library to confirm its age and provenance, and there is a lot more work to be done to uncover the history of this intriguing document. However, what we do know is that the ‘discovery’ of the Sussex Declaration is causing quite a stir both sides of the pond!

To celebrate American Independence Day, the holiday that marks the signing of the original Declaration on July 4th 1776 which announced thirteen American colonies as independent sovereign states free from British rule, we will be posting a series of blogs focussing on the links between this turbulent period of US history and the county of Sussex.Low res declaration

Although we will be looking at the many and varied relationships with the signatories and events of the period – the first President of the United States, George Washington himself was of Sussex stock – it is WSRO’s copy of the Declaration of Independence that has really got people talking. The copy was brought to the public’s attention by an interview the New York Times conducted with Harvard academics Danielle Allen and Emily Sneff, from the Declaration Resources Project. The project sought to investigate and document copies of the Declaration circulated in the decades following its signing, and to ‘create innovative and informative resources about the Declaration of Independence’. The project located WSRO’s copy through the National Archives online catalogue, through which our own online catalogue can be searched. Although the record had been previously featured in ‘Roots of America’, an anthology of documents relating to American history in West Susses Record Office, published by former WSRO Archivist Kim Leslie, it had perhaps passed researchers by due to the lack of the word ‘independence’ in the title of the document, and thus catalogue entry. The description simply uses the title in the record itself, and states; ‘Manuscript copy, on parchment, of the Declaration in Congress of the thirteen United States of America, 4 July 1776’.

Following a visit to WSRO last summer, Professor Allen and researcher Emily Sneff published a paper on the ‘Sussex Declaration’, which was delivered at a Yale University conference in April. Investigating the significance of the ordering of the signatories, and its importance as a copy on parchment, second only to the original held at the National Archives in Washington, D.C, the paper invited media attention from both America and the UK alike. Quickly followed by articles in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, and the Daily Mail, the New York Times article also led to articles from NBC News, ABC News, The National Post, Fox News, and CNN. Even the New Delhi Times was writing about us!

Photos of CBS filming

Charlie D’Agata and the CBS crew filming in the Record Office searchroom

 

In the days following the news, American network CBS visited us in Chichester to film a segment reporting the ‘discovery’ on live breakfast television. Speaking to County Archivist Wendy Walker, and filming for a whole morning in the Record Office searchroom and strongrooms, a clip of the segment can be found on Youtube. Similar to much of the reporting on the Sussex Declaration, reporter Charlie D’Agata focussed on the potential CBS Youtube screengrablink between the parchment and Charles Lennox, 3rd Duke of Richmond (1735-1806). Lord Lieutenant of Sussex at the time the original Declaration was signed, and based at the Goodwood Estate just outside Chichester, the Duke was a well-known supporter of the colonists during the American War of Independence. This is only one possibility in the search for the provenance of the record, and explanation for its journey to and home in Chichester, with other ideas currently being explored. The document itself is also being looked at in detail, and will be sent to the British Library over the summer for further scientific tests which we hope will reveal more about the parchment, the ink and its origins.

International news agency Reuters also wrote about the Sussex Declaration, and once again interviewed County Archivist Wendy Walker for a more in-depth discussion CNN tweetof the Record Office’s role in the document’s new-found fame. The interest on social media also increased in the following days, and the WSRO Twitter saw a record number of mentions from both sides of the Atlantic.

Following the interest in the Record Office and our unique discovery, the response in the press and on social media allowed us to reach a whole new audience, and make links with American institutions and individuals alike. Although in the coming days we will explore further links West Sussex has with the United States, it is the significance of the Declaration that has captured the imaginations of our followers and supporters. We hope to report back once the on-going research and tests have enlightened us further, but for now, everyone at West Sussex Record Office would like to wish you a happy Independence Day!

JOINT FLAGS

Lauren Clifton

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Record of the Month

Chichester City Treat Committee (ChiCity/CAL1)

CHICITY CAL-1 coverOn Tuesday 21st June 1887, the nation celebrated Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Events were held up and down the country to mark the occasion, and Chichester was no exception. The archives of Chichester City Council – held at the Record Office – feature a beautifully illustrated and detailed minute book which records the official Jubilee treat which was to be held for the City’s schoolchildren.

The minute book shows that the schoolchildren – numbering 1,829 in total and arranged in school groups, each with its own, unique rallying flag – were to be photographed in groups in the cattle market, before proceeding to Priory Park, where they were treated to tea, games, races, and a Punch and Judy show, to be run at the same time as a marionette show. As a souvenir of the day, each child was also given a mounted copy of their own photograph, as well as a commemorative mug.

CHICITY CAL-1 mug design

Commemorative mug design

Given the number of children involved, the day’s schedule was tightly controlled. They were to meet at 1.30pm at the cattle market (with each school being sent instructions as to the route they were to take in order to get to the cattle market), to be photographed by Mr W N Malby, before proceeding, at 2.30pm, to the Priory Park – via the East Street, the North Street and then Guildhall Street. Once at Priory Park, the children were to meet by their rallying flag before being dismissed to their entertainments, before gathering again at 4.15pm for their tea, to be held at 4.30pm. To assist with identification, each child was to wear an amulet on their left arm, featuring their school’s rallying flag.

CHICITY CAL-1 flags

School flags from the Chichester City Minute Book

This little minute book is simply a delight to read, and this is why I have chosen it as document of the month. It is full of incidental detail, including lists of the names of ladies who assisted with cutting up the plum cake and bread rolls for the children’s tea, or the names of those who arranged and marshalled the children’s races. It also includes printed ephemera, such as the tender issued to businesses and individuals for the supply of the children’s tea, the poster which shows how the children’s treat fitted into the rest of the City’s celebrations, and the arms which were to appear on the children’s commemorative mugs.

CHICITY CAL-1 tenders

A number of pages are also dedicated to the sorry tale of the Punch and Judy and marionette shows, which failed to meet expectations (it had been hoped to secure a troop of performing dogs, but such was the demand that the Committee had to make do with a marionette show instead). Both shows had been booked from ‘Col. Meurice’s Amusement Supply Association’ but, according to the minutes, ‘one performer only was, however, sent down together with an assistant for the Punch and a small boy as musician for the marionettes. The two performances could not therefore go simultaneously.  The Punch and Judy show was a very poor performance, and the marionettes were not as good as they ought to have been’.  The council refused to pay Col. Meurice’s bill, resulting in ‘a very illiterate letter…from “Col” Meurice, threatening to place the matter in the hands of his solicitors’.  In the court case which followed, which the City Council lost, it emerged that ‘the chief performer and the assistant were both dead.  The small boy who played the music was the only survivor of the party’. A sorry end to a very sad tale.

All this aside, the day must have been a memorable one for all concerned, given that the City was bedecked with bunting and decorations, as well as being illuminated with electricity; in addition, the city gates were decorated in grand style and, following the children’s Treat, a torchlight procession and a grand display of fireworks were held, accompanied by music from the Royal Sussex Regiment band. The Treat Committee’s minute book shows the organisation required to put together a part of the City’s celebrations, and just how much of an occasion the Golden Jubilee was.

Poster for Jubilee celebrations (ChiCity/CAL1)

 

Nichola Court

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