Project Updates, Volunteer Project

November 2017 Project Update

Since our last update in August, we have both been focusing on working out how we are going to use the information we have collected and continue to collect at the record office in our theses. Terrifyingly, we are now in the second year of our three years of funding. Alice presented her field-name research at the University of Sheffield in September and is now in the very early stages of thinking about getting it published.

Helen has been tackling a pile of deeds for the mills in Cannock which haven’t yet been fully catalogued. It’s stretched her (increasingly obsessive) knowledge about title deeds but means it will be possible to piece together the rather complex history of the ownership of the mills. She has also been gathering a lot of data from the catalogue for the Quarter Sessions about repairs to bridges, flooding and watercourses. It’s revealed a couple of bridges that seem to have caused a lot of problems in the court (such as Hopwas bridge which has cropped up several times since she found it in the Assize records). So far it looks like the floods that are mentioned in Quarter Sessions might be caused by human negligence or even property damage! Often it’s because a watercourse got blocked or a bank got damaged, so someone (or even the inhabitants of a whole village) is being indicted.

More recently Alice gave a talk at Penkridge Library on November 2nd about things we have been finding during the volunteer project and weather and water in Staffordshire more generally. Alice is currently carrying out a questionnaire looking at understanding and memories of droughts in Staffordshire. If you live/ work in Staffordshire and have not already filled one in, you can download a copy at the bottom of the page. She’s set herself the goal of collecting in an absolute minimum 100 questionnaires by Christmas, so any help you can give by filling in a questionnaire is much appreciated!

Our volunteers have now collected over 3,500 daily weather reports and looked at around 100 mill leases. After months of finding very little (but an interesting very little) in the leases other than standard clauses for maintenance, Richard has found one from Trentham which mentions flooding.

We’ve just gained some new volunteers, looking at mill accounts, letters and weather journals. Helen is hoping that this will mean they will soon be able to match up accounts for mills in Burton with leases to the same property.

Alice and volunteer Pete have collected a huge number of daily weather reports from Trentham Estate papers from the 1820s, which Alice has used to reconstruct how many days of rain per month fell at Trentham between 1821 and 1828. The Record Office holds a huge amount of correspondence and other documents from the Trentham Estate, which the archivists don’t have time to read through and describe in the catalogue. Alice is very keen to explore earlier and later material from Trentham to build a longer series of weather recordings and it is very valuable for the Record Office for us to read these items and summarise the contents in the catalogue.

As ever, if you are free on Thursday morning and interested in helping us to gather information and improve the Record Office’s Catalogue, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you!

-Alice and Helen

PDFs: (please read the Participant Information Sheet and print and return the questionnaire)  Participant Information Sheet, PDF Questionnaire

Word document: (to be returned by email, Participant Information Sheet included) Word Questionnaire


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