Breaking Histories @ Shuffle Festival Line Up

Breaking HistoriesI’m really excited to announce the line up for Breaking Histories at this year’s Shuffle Festival.

As you’ll see we have a great mix of periods and topics for an event that will be a fantastic showcase of some of the exciting research and projects.

Breaking Histories joins a vibrant and varied festival and for more information and to book tickets please see the Shuffle Festival website:Shuffle Festival 2015 Programme Breaking Histories will be free and you can just turn up, but you should be able to book free tickets soon as well.

Saturday 25 July 2015
History in its Place
Looking at the theme of place these talks will explore the history of human interaction through a London estate at the turn of the century to ancient Roman farms, through the prism of disability and across generations in a socialist feminist choir.
Breaking Histories 25 July 2015

Love Thy Neighbour: inter-neighbour relations and the syntax of complaint in early 20th century London

Anna Robinson (University of East London)

Asylums and their Communities: Mental Health Patients and their Families during the First World War

Caroline Nielsen (IHR, University of London)

Contested Knowledge in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
Bob Taylor (Birkbeck, University of London)
Velvet Fist: Uncovering the History of the London Socialist Feminist Choir
Rosa Kurowska Kyffin (Beyond Past)


Saturday 1 August 2015
History Going Places
History is always moving and these talks will explore how, whether it is presented by experimental history trails or focused on the history of migration through the lens of community projects or works of fiction and biography.
Breaking Histories 1 August 2015

Moving Stories Judith Garfield MBE & Claire Days (Eastside Community Heritage)
Forced Walks: Honouring Esther….an instant case study Richard White (Bath Spa University/Forced Walks)
“but I am Price from Glynmawr” Stephen Woodhams
Stepney: Profile of a London Borough

Samantha Patterson

Shuffle Festival takes place in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. The nearest tube is Mile End and the entrance is on Southern Grove. We hope to see you there!


For more details on the papers please see below.

Saturday 25 July 2015
History in its Place
Looking at the theme of place these talks will explore the history of human interaction through a London estate at the turn of the century to ancient Roman farms, through the prism of disability and across generations in a socialist feminist choir.

  • Love Thy Neighbour: inter-neighbour relations and the syntax of complaint in early 20th century London
    Anna Robinson (University of East London)

Anna has been researching the history of her flat – a one bedroom former tenement designed by Octavia Hill in 1903. Through this research she stumbled upon some letters of complaint in an archive. Through these letters Anna will reveal the main concerns and antagonisms between neighbours in the early 20th century.

  • Asylums and their Communities: Mental Health Patients and their Families during the First World War
    Caroline Nielsen (IHR, University of London)

In 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, over 100,000 men, women and children lived in psychiatric asylums. Caroline’s research explores how the First World War fundamentally affected the lives of these vulnerable people and their families.

  • Contested Knowledge in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History.
    Bob Taylor (Birkbeck, University of London)

Bob’s research is focused on a 1st century Roman scientific work called The Natural History. His interests include Roman knowledge and its construction by those who have left no written evidence. He asks how knowledge was generated and contested in a Roman farm, or before a battle in Macedonia, or in a herb-garden.

  • Velvet Fist: Uncovering the History of the London Socialist Feminist Choir
    Rosa Kurowska Kyffin (Beyond Past)

In 2014, Beyond Past, a social enterprise for youth oral history projects, facilitated interviews with the London based socialist feminist choir, Velvet Fist, by a group of year 10 Tower Hamlets pupils. Rosa will explore the history of the choir and reflect upon the potential of young people as community researchers and oral history interviewers.

Saturday 1 August 2015
History Going Places
History is always moving and these talks will explore how, whether it is presented by experimental history trails or focused on the history of migration through the lens of community projects or works of fiction and biography.

  • Moving Stories
    Judith Garfield MBE & Claire Days (Eastside Community Heritage)

Eastside Community Heritage has accumulated a fascinating collection of oral histories. As part of Shuffle they want to share some of the Jewish, Hungarian and Ugandan stories of migration they have collected. ECH will highlight the importance of oral history in gaining new insights into history and education.

  • Forced Walks: Honouring Esther….an instant case study
    Richard White (Bath Spa University/Forced Walks)

Richard will be discussing a project that used an artist-led performative and socially engaged public walk to transpose a Nazi death march on to the English countryside. This project sought to connect history with place to reveal obscured stories and generate contemporary responses. Richard will discuss the project, how they used social media and subsequent responses.

  • “but I am Price from Glynmawr”
    Stephen Woodhams

South Wales almost uniquely in Europe witnessed net in-migration in the decades around 1900. While the subject of continuous study, in South Wales that history is lived too through biography, the novel and poetry. The talk explores this interweaving of written forms through Raymond Williams’ acclaimed novel Border Country.

  • Stepney: Profile of a London Borough
    Samantha Patterson

Samantha’s focus is on a specifically defined area, Stepney, rather than the vague area of the ‘East End’ which is open to interpretation. Stepney, an iconic London borough situated in the heart of the East End, has many well-known associations and images, but would you knowingly associate them with Stepney?

Breaking Histories @ Shuffle Festival 2015 CFP

Breaking Histories @ Shuffle Festival 2015

Call for Papers

24 July – 1 August 2015

Would you like to share your research with the public and be part of a unique community arts festival?

This is an invitation for papers as part of a new history event during the 2015 Shuffle Festival in East London. Panels would include three 10-15 minute papers and time for general discussion. Panels aim to demonstrate the wide variety of research amongst history PhD students and early career researchers happening now.

The themes for this year’s Shuffle Festival are Migration, Movement and Place. Though a connection to these themes would be useful, what is more important is that the papers reveal a range of historical debates and discussions. Let’s show that historical research is breaking boundaries, breaking conventions and should be breaking news!

The Shuffle Festival is a week-long annual event in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. It involves film, science education, storytelling, performance art, architectural installations, walks, food, comedy and music. This year we’re adding history to the list!

Breaking Histories is organised with support from the Raphael Samuel History Centre (RSHC). The RSHC is a research and educational centre devoted to encouraging the widest possible participation in historical research and debate.


How to be part of the festival

Please send 100-200 words on your research and why you think it’s important (essentially what you’d like to talk about). It would be great if you could link your research to the festival themes, but it is not essential.

Please send this by Tuesday 26th May to

Please include your availability for the festival. We don’t have a set date but we will have an hour slot on a weekday evening or weekend daytime between Friday 24 July and Saturday 1 August 2015.


Raphael Samuel History Centre

RSHC New Historians Network

Shuffle Festival

RSHC logo 

Local history comes to Life – Enfield Life

Enfield Life Exhibition at the Dugdale Centre. copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Enfield Life Exhibition at the Dugdale Centre. copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Recently the Enfield Life exhibition, looking at the history of the modern London Borough of Enfield, which includes the historic boroughs of Edmonton, Southgate and Enfield, was officially launched. It was curated by Enfield Museum Service and has been open and receiving visitors for a number of months, but as part of the redevelopment of the first floor of the Dugdale Centre in Enfield Town, it was officially launched with the availability of meeting rooms and community spaces in the heart of Enfield Town.

Enfield Life exhibition including room sets. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Enfield Life exhibition including room sets. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Now, I should immediately admit my bias to this, and declare that I was part of the team that put this exhibition together. It is something I am immensely proud of and can only claim to be a small part of the team that put it together, my two other colleagues, who were full time, put in a lot of time and effort and I think this is evident in the final display.

The exhibition is generally chronological, using aspects of life across Enfield to draw out themes. It largely follows a standard panel and case format, which results in the first couples of cases looking at the pre-history, ‘Early Life’, and also the Early Modern or ‘big house’ era called ‘Aristocratic Life’. However, I think a few touches have gone a long way to make the display more dynamic drawing visitors into and through the space. It was also a great excuse to exhibit some of the larger gems in the collection. A Roman coffin sits in the middle of the floor and two room sets demonstrate changes and continuity from Georgian to 1930s homes.

Community Life case in Enfield Life exhibition. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

Community Life case in Enfield Life exhibition. Copyright Kathleen McIlvenna

The people of Enfield are at the heart of this exhibition and the cases looking at the later history of the area become more thematic looking at Suburban Life, Industrial Life, Municipal Life and Community Life (not in that order). Most of the objects in Enfield Museum Service collection were donated by local residents and hopefully the exhibition will facilitate a connection between the people of Enfield through the ages by translating how life has changed. From the Belling cooker, to a 1930 Toucan dinner gong and from a turn of the century silk women’s cooperative banner to a t-shirt created by the Enfield Island Village Mothers and Daughters group to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee in summer 2012.

The exhibition was also a great excuse to put up some of Enfield’s art collection depicting various aspects of Enfield’s people and places, and most of the press coverage of the exhibition has focused on the Constable drawing that has also been put on display. I won’t say much about that as it has been said elsewhere, but I will urge to take the trip to Enfield Town and the first floor of the Dugdale to have a look.

Victorian Photos of Hackney Residents: Volunteering at Hackney Museum

The Great Atroy, Image from the 'Peculiar Portraits' at Hackney Museum from Copyright held by Anderson/Four

This is just a quick post about some work I’ve been doing for Hackney Museum. I have been volunteering with the Collections and Exhibitions Manager and had the pleasure of cataloguing a collection of photos by the Hackney photographer, Arthur Eason.

The story behind these photographs, as well as the content, is fascinating. Over 2000 glass plates were discovered several years ago in derelict school in Hackney. These glass plates were in their original boxes and accompanied by the photograph studio’s original office stationery. From this it was discovered that the  plates were from Eason & Co. studio, run by Arthur Eason, and based on Dalston Lane. With no clue as to how they got to the school or who had owned them between the closure of the studio in the early 1900s and the discovery in the early 2000s, their life as objects remains a mystery. We know that the majority of images are from the 1890s and were taken in Eason’s Hackney studio.

Most of these images are portraits and they represent a rare historical window to life in Victorian Hackney. Subjects include newly wed couples, family portraits, possibly to celebrate a child’s birthday or other life milestone, and also promotion photographs for music hall acts. These promotional images even include some Victorian photography trickery with additional effects added by drawing on the negative.

In addition to these there are fascinating images of Asian and Chinese people in both national and Western dress. It is thought that most of the images are of international Salvation Army delegates in Hackney to attend the International Salvation Army Congress of 1894. This is supported by the fact that many of the subjects have Salvation Army badges, but it is also supported by the Eason’s connection to the Salvation Army.

The Easons were very active within the Salvation Army; Arthur’s father, John Eason, was a close friend of William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, and Arthur went on a missionary trip to China in early 1880s. The relationship between the families was clearly maintained and there are even photographs of Booth’s grandchildren within the collection.

I have been cataloguing Hackney Museum’s collection of Arthur Eason’s photographs, preparing them to be accessible through their online catalogue and so accessible to more people. This is a fantastic resource of the public and historians alike and I hope they are used in the future to tell many stories, from life in Victorian Hackney, Victorian photography and the history of the Salvation Army to name a few! Until then I will continue to catalogue to attempt to ensure they can be found by as many people as possible.

Update: I should note that the legal owners of the copyright of the images belong to Bridgit Anderson and Jim Four, who kindly donated copies of some of the images to Hackney Museum.

The images are up on Hackney Museum website now – go to their collections website ( and search ‘Eason’ and they’ll appear. Have fun!


Hackney Museum:

Salvation Army History:

Beddington Royal Female Orphanage

Carew Manor, Wikipedia

Through my recent volunteer work for Honeywood Museum I’ve had the chance to do some research into the history of the Sutton area during the nineteenth century. This has thrown up many interesting stories related to the industry of the area (being based of the river Wandle, there were many mills), and also the many institutions created to assist the unfortunate. One of these institutions was the Royal Female Orphanage in Beddington.

The Royal Female Orphanage was established in 1762 in the historic Carew Manor, in the beautiful setting of Beddington Park. Carew Manor was built in the 1500’s for the Carew family, a well-connected family who reportedly often had visits from Tudor royalty; however by the second half of the 18th century the family had moved out of the manor and the house was put to a different purpose. This purpose was to house, school and train girls with no parents or, more frequently, without a father or with parents who were unable to look them. They were schooled and trained to work in domestic service and once at a suitable age (normally about between 14 and 16 years old) they were sent out to work.

The Sutton Archives has many of the records related to the orphanage, and I’ve had the joy of looking through the log of girls who had reached that suitable age. This holds a wealth of information in terms of social history and demonstrates the relationship these children must have developed with the orphanage. To encourage the girls to stay in domestic service and as a reward for their efforts, they were given a prize of £2 2s after two years of successful service. This was a continuation of many prize giving events that took place turning their time at Carew Manor, where prizes were given for good behaviour as well as merit in their schooling.

The Great Hall at the Royal Female Orphanage, The Carew Manor Project

The location and size of house the girls were sent to work in could vary greatly; some stayed locally to Carlshalton and Sutton however I found one girl, Florence Louisa Crago, who was sent to work for Lady Walpole at Hampton Court Palace. Domestic service wasn’t the only option for the girls, it is evident that some girls were ‘not strong enough for service’. Annie Elliot Bowe was sent into an apprenticeship as a dressmaker, and though this meant she was not eligible for the reward money, from orphanage’s records, she went on to have a successful career as a dressmaker.

I was amazed at the length of time the orphanage kept in contact with the girls after they had left, sending out regular letters, they attempted to maintain this almost paternal relationship with the girls. This is demonstrated in Annie Elliot Bowe’s records; it notes that having taken up the position of Assistant Dressmaker in Devonshire in April 1893, in June 1896 she was ‘still at same place and doing well’. The writer of this note almost comes over as proud of Annie’s achievement. For many the contact ended once they got married or after a move, but it is clear that for others a strong relationship had been developed with the institution that brought them up. Alice Maria Robinson was born in 1874 and at the age of 16 went into service with Lady Margaret Lashington in Lyndhurst. Two years later she received her £2 2s reward and went into service for Lady Rothschild. In July 1898 Alice came back to the Beddington Orphanage to attend the Prize Distribution event for the girls at the orphanage, and had married Mr Charles Pratt. The fact that this is recorded shows the perceived importance of this by the orphanage, obviously Alice would have given the resident girls something to aspire to, but also embodied the orphanage’s pride and achievement. The final entry for Alice is for sometime later and of a sadder note, it reads ‘July 1920, Died of heart failure’, ending her long relationship with the Beddington Royal Female Orphanage.


For more information on Carew Manor see the Carew Manor Project:

For more information on Sutton’s local history and archives, see the council’s website:

For Honeywood Museum also look on the council’s website: and the Honeywoode Friends website:

The Importance of the History of Portobello Road Market Today

Jesse Smith's Greengrocers and Florists, now where Admiral Vernon Antiques Arcade on Portobello Road. HistoryTalk

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve attended two of the free history events held by North Kensington’s community history group, HistoryTalk. Both of these events have looked at Portobello Market, the first consisted of a community discussion on the history of the market. Discussion was prompted by a slide show of photographs of Portobello through the years and led by two local historians, Eddie Adams and Tom Vague. The lack of a structured talk didn’t diminish the obvious knowledge and expertise of Adams and Vague, but allowed the group to discuss memories, ask questions and generally express their love of the area. I learnt a lot, including that the Antiques arcade ‘Admiral Vernon’, used to be a large greengrocers and florists called Jesse Smith’s, and also where Tesco’s is now used to be a dairy, run by recent Welsh arrivals to the area. Immigrant communities have been central to Portobello’s history, to its development and character, and though I knew about the Spanish community escaping Franco’s regime and Civil War, and of course the West Indian community, but I didn’t know there has also been a Welsh community of settlers who ran the local dairies.

The second event was a screening of the film ‘Stall Stories: A History of Portobello Road Market‘. This was billed as a documentary made by the children at the local Colville Primary School, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Needless to say I was very impressed. We learnt afterwards that the film was a result of a HLF funded project led by an arts and educational charity, Digital:Works, which worked with four primary schools to make a film about their local market. The children did the research in the archives, spoke to local historians and then made the film, which meant they conducted the interviews and filmed them, their involvment didn’t reach into the cutting room, though they were shown a rough edit to give them a chance to make any changes. Some of the children who were involved came to the screening and also answered questions on the making of the film afterwards, and it was really inspirational to see the joy and pride they got out of the process, not only were they proud of their finished product but they also clearly enjoyed the historical research and practice of oral history. I was overjoyed when one of the girls said if she had to make another similar film her topic would be local black history, mentioning Claudia Jones and Kelso Cochrane.

What was also notable about the film, was that it wasn’t just a straight narrative history, it demonstrated the significance of history to the present day and the strong sense of heritage today’s stall holders felt. Stall holders past and present where the celebrated feature of the film and were presented as being responsible for creating and sustaining the character of the area. It made a strong case for why Portobello should continue to be a place for local independent traders, with a regret for the continued increase in rents and establishment of corporate chains along the road.

The film tells an emotive story and records a snapshot of life on the market today. It was good to hear that after it was made it was not only shown to the filmakers’ fellow students at Colville, but also to the market holders working on the market day by setting up a screening on it’s own stall one weekend. Some of the audience felt it needed to be shown to local Councillors, and I’m sure it does have some political strength, though I think it can also act as an inspiration to other children. History on TV, in a variety of forms, is at an all time high, from ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ to ‘Downton Abbey’, and work like this can encourage students to engage with history in an alternative way, as well as giving them training and ideas of how historical research and knowledge could be useful in a future career.

As you can see I liked the film, so it would be wrong of me not to share it, so please find it below. It would also be wrong of me not to mention that there is a campaign to ‘Save Portobello’ from the torrent of commercial chains and retain its historic character, more information can be found on the campaign’s facebook page:

The project has also looked at Brixton, Leather Lane and Petticoat Lane, you can find more information at their website:

Also for more information on HistoryTalk and their events go here:

Finally some articles on the Save Portobello campaign: (18 Oct 2011) (12 Nov 2010) (14 April 2010)  (22 March 2010)


The History of My Hand-drawn Map at the Museum of London

Hand-drawn London Exhibition, Museum of London

To my utter disbelief I am currently in an exhibition at the Museum of London. No, I’m not a time traveller or old enough to feature in stories of the Blitz or even the Brixton Riots, I’m not even an artist, but somehow my hand-drawn map is in the most recent temporary exhibition at the Museum of London, ‘Hand-drawn London‘.

Me & my map in the exhibition

The exhibition is a collaboration with the Londonist website, and features ten hand-drawn maps hand-picked to represent different Londoners views and perceptions of the city they live in. There is a lovely depiction of Brixton as a tree, a very humorous insight into the world of an over-seas student whose world focuses on the Bloomsbury area with unmapped territory surrounding, and an intriguing look at London’s firsts mapping events and inventions that were premiered in London. You can find a preview with images of all the maps on the Independent website here.

My map is ultimately very simple (seemed the best idea due to my artistic constraints), and is probably one of the few without much annotation. With my interest in local history and my love of North Kensington I used the hand-drawn map project as an excuse to research the long gone Kensington Hippodrome, a Victorian racecourse that stretched from Holland Road to modern-day St Quintin’s Avenue.

When I first created the map I wrote a blog on the maps that influenced my final creation can be found here, but I’d thought I’d take this opportunity to share a bit more history of the Kensington Hippodrome.

A Notting Hill racecourse was the brainchild of local entrepreneur called John Whyte. Situated on 200 acres of the Ladbroke lands, leased from James Weller, the Kensington Hippodrome boasted a larger capacity and closer proximity to London than the other famous racecourses, Epsom and Ascot. It opened on 3 June 1837 to much praise and acclaim from the sporting and national press, and it was soon considered to be a very fashionable place to be and be seen.

"The last grand steeplechase at the Hippodrome racecourse, Kensington" oil on Canvas, by Henry Jnr Alken, Wikigallery

However, there had been an oversight in Whyte’s plans and it turned out that his racecourse intercepted an ‘ancient public way’. Though apparently situated in a sleepy and leafy area, the Hippodrome had actually been built next to one of the worst slums in London’s suburbs, the Potteries, possibly represented by the chimney in the background of this painting. And this public way, or footpath, had become popular with the inhabitants of the Potteries and the nearby area as they attempted to avoid Pottery Lane, affectionately nicknamed ‘Cut Throat Lane’, to give you an idea of the undesirables that resided there.

Whyte tried to block this footpath, but the locals were having none of it, and continued to protest, campaign and also dismantle any obstruction there. For the press this became a matter of class warfare, and to them it seemed acceptable that people should have a few hours enjoyment at the races without seeing the dregs of society, who kept breaking into the Hippodrome for free through the footpath.

This wasn’t the end of Whyte’s problems, and though the Hippodrome had become fashionable (visited by the Grand Duke of Russia and other foreign dignitaries) and extended in 1841; the jockeys weren’t keen on the clay soil and began to shun the racecourse. Eventually Whyte admitted defeat and gave up the lease in 1842. With this Weller turned to the builders and the Ladbroke Estate was subsequently built over the racecourse. This wasn’t the end of racecourses altogether in the area and there was a course also called the Kensington Hippodrome built as part of Portobello Pleasure Gardens, featuring a track around the axis of Talbot Road. Also in the early 1850s there was a third Kensington Hippodrome, this time an equestrian extravaganza amphitheatre on the site of De Vere Gardens.

Hippodrome Place, W11

Today the ghost of the Kensington Hippodrome still lingers in the area. There is of course street names, Hippodrome Place at Clarendon Cross, between Portland Road and Pottery Lane, and also Hippodrome Mews, former stables. There are also several pubs in the area that date back to the 1840s and probably have origins in Hippodrome business; the Prince Albert in Notting Hill Gate at the entrance to the racecourse, and the North Pole on North Pole Road at the other end of the racecourse. Parts of the Ladbroke Estate were also built along features of the racecourse, most notably that the Notting Hill grassy knoll, that became the ‘natural grandstand’ is now where St John’s Church is situated, accessible by a gate which is now the main entrance to Ladbroke Square Gardens.


Armchair Local History: Claybrooke

Claybrooke Magna Milestone, Jonathan Eudall December 2010

This year I’ve taken a break from London to spend my Christmas and New Year in the Midlands village of Claybrooke Magna.

Even though I should be concentrating on essays for University I just can’t help myself but delve in the history of the area. However, it being the holidays, I was feeling a bit too lazy to even enquire if local record offices were open. Consequently I set myself the task of finding out what I could from the comfort of an armchair.

Claybrooke Magna and Claybrooke Parva, or greater and little Claybrooke are rural villages situated in the heart of the Midlands. To start my enquiry it seemed logical to start at the beginning, and one of the oldest surviving documents listing England’s settlements, the Domesday Book.

St Peter's, Claybrooke Parva, Claybrookes website, Pictures of England

In the Domesday Book Claybrooke is listed as one village, Claibroc, and The Doomsday Book Online website notes it is ‘nearby Newcross, formerly known as Venonae, a major Roman settlement, and the junction of Watling Street and the Fosse Way’, Roman roads. The Leicestershire History website had a bit more detail and I discovered the village was held by Fulk, one of the Count of Meulan’s men (whoever the Count of Meulan was?!). He held one plough and 2 slaves. The village had a modest population of 9 freemen, 9 villagers, 2 men at arms and 6 smallholders with 5 ploughs, and had a value of 55 shillings.

My next line of enquiry took me to the Heritage Gateway website and I was surprised and the amount of listed buildings in the Claybrooke area, 7 in Claybrooke Magna and 4 in Claybrooke Parva. The oldest building is St Peter’s Church in Claybrooke Parva, which possibly dates back to Anglo-Saxon times with many additions and modifications over the years and today stands majestically in the centre of the littler Claybrooke.

I couldn’t find much in the way of history in the time between the middle ages and eighteenth century, but Wikipedia turned up an interesting story about some of the ministers of St Peter’s, who had a surprisingly far reach. John Higginson was minister of Claybrooke from 1571 and is also listed as one of the 8 ‘founding fellows’ of Jesus College, Oxford. His son, Francis Higginson became the minister at St Peter’s in 1615 after he had obtained a BA and MA at Jesus College, Cambridge, and became renowned as a preacher. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography details that at some point Higginson became acquainted with Arthur Hildersham, a well-known non-conformist, and subsequently became disillusioned with the Church of England. In 1627 Higginson lost his license and in 1628 proceedings in the Court of High Commission had begun. This led to Higginson’s application to the Massachusetts Bay Company to be a Puritan minister in one of the new settlements in New England. His application was successful and he sailed with his family from Gravesend in April 1629, eventually landing in Salem, Massachusetts. His place in history was firmly established when his account of his journey, A True Relation of the Last Voyage to New England, was published in the nineteenth century.

Claybrooke Hall, early 20th Century, Humphrys Family Wesbite

The majority of key buildings in Claybrooke appear to have been built in the eighteenth century, which include the Water Mill in Claybrooke Magna which is still in working order today. Could this be as the Industrial Revolution coming to Claybrooke? In any case it is clear that the area at this time was growing and with the nineteenth century came the railway boom, and in 1840 a Midland Counties Railway opened a line from Rugby to Derby and Nottingham, with the aim of providing Leicester with Nottingham coal. The service also stopped at Ullesthorpe, a town close to Claybrooke. The route from Leicester to Rugby was closed in 1961, and the tracks now lie overgrown.

The parish of Claybrooke is mentioned in the Topographical Dictionary of England on the British History Online website. This was published in 1848 and details the population of Greater Claybrooke as 514 and Little Claybrooke as 104. The main industry of the area is given as ‘stocking manufacture’, unsurprising as the Midlands had become a centre for the knitting industry during the Industrial Revolution. There are two schools in the parish, the most recent a school for girls set up by a J.E. Dicey Esq.

The Dicey family‘s link to the area appears to date back to 1765 when the printer Cluer Dicey bought Claybrooke Hall, now another listed building in Claybrooke Parva. The Dicey’s left the Midlands in 1848, but did not sell the Hall until 1885. The Humphries family history website where I found this information also had this lovely picture (above) of Claybrooke Hall in the early twentieth century.

A website dedicated to the Claybrookes has the best information on the area in the twentieth century, with a link to an amazing scrapbook and memoirs donated from a local resident. The photos are amazing with many portraits of friends and family as well as beautiful images of a lost agricultural life. Another notable feature of the photos are the amount of men in uniform, a stark reminder the two World Wars and the affect they must have had on these small villages. St Peter’s has a war memorial for all those lost, and the Claybrookes website has an in-depth article on the memorial, it details who the men were, and where they fought and died, it also includes some of the soldiers correspondences with loved ones whilst in service.

1840 Map of Claybrooke Magna & Parva, Francis Firth

The 1960s saw the building of many new homes in Claybrooke and the recent times have seen the refurbishment of the listed buildings including the Claybrooke Mill and Claybrooke Hall, however as with many rural towns many of the local amenities like the village shop and post office have closed. Though the area is still popular and if the Claybrookes website is anything to go by, they still have a thriving community.

This is obviously a very brief history, but still an interesting one, and Claybrooke is definitely a place I would love to find out more about. In my time here I have also come across a couple of documents mentioning a robbery of Church linen in 1507 and nearby villages using Claybrooke’s common land before it was enclosed in 1694. Areas that definitely deserve further research, but perhaps in a records office or library rather than an armchair….

I hope you’ve also found this interesting and if anyone has any more interesting information on the Claybrookes history, or have comes across a copy of Rev. Aulay Macaulay’s The history and antiquities of Claybrook, in the county of Leicester (Northampton, 1791), I’d love to hear about it!