Tag Archives: Manuscripts

83. By Gum! Life were Sparse: Bill Mitchell’s Yorkshire Dales Scrapbooks

This week, we’re back in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, looking at the scrapbooks created by local author Dr W.R. (Bill) Mitchell.   Bill has put these volumes together over many years, using his own photographs plus ephemera and letters, to create unique and very personal records of Dales lives and landscapes.  Here we see a page featuring a campaign to protect a Dales feature very important to Bill: the Settle-Carlisle Railway.

Settle-Carlisle Railway ephemera in Bill Mitchell scrapbook

William Reginald Mitchell was born in 1928 in Skipton, “gateway to the Dales”, to a family who worked in the textile industries and were strongly influenced by Methodism.   He began his writing career as a “cub reporter” on the Craven Herald in 1943.  After service in the Fleet Air Arm, he returned to the Herald in 1948; he was then asked by Harry J. Scott, editor of The Dalesman, to join the magazine’s staff.  Bill later became its editor.  He also edited a sister magazine, Cumbria, after The Dalesman took it on in 1951.  Bill retired from The Dalesman in 1988.

The Yorkshire Dales, from the first issue of the Dalesman magazine

The Yorkshire Dales, from the first issue of the Dalesman magazine

Alongside writing for and editing the two regional magazines, Bill has written over 200 books and numerous articles, not to mention giving thousands of talks to local groups, radio and television.  He often refers to the advice given him by Harry Scott when he first joined The Dalesman: “We are more interested in people than things”.  Bill took this advice to heart: his works are full of the stories and voices of Dalesfolk, their tough working lives and their distinctive humour.

The titles of Bill’s books range from ABC of Lakeland to You’re Only Old Once!  Not to mention Summat and Nowt, and By Gum!  Life were Sparse!  They include folk tales, popular histories and biographies of famous people and local characters: J.B. Priestley, Alfred Wainwright, the Keartons, the Brontës,  Arthur Ransome, Beatrix Potter, Dales farmer Hannah Hauxwell, cheesemaker Kit Calvert, TV vet James Herriot, naturalist Reginald Farrer and many more.

Cover of Men of the Settle-Carlisle, by WR Mitchell

Bill has written thirty books about the Settle-Carlisle Railway, exploring the legendary Ribblehead Viaduct, the building of the Railway, the lives of its workers and their families, and the stories of individual stations: Dent, Hellifield and Garsdale.

Cover of Birds of the Yorkshire Dales, by WR Mitchell

  Bill Mitchell is also a naturalist, hence many works about flora and fauna, especially bird-watching and the Sika deer of Bowland.  Alongside the stories of Yorkshire and the Lakes, there are also glimpses of the natural history of Scotland.

Cover of Mr Elgar and Dr Buck, by WR MitchellMusic is also important to Bill: his research into the friendship of Elgar with Dr Buck of Settle led to the discovery of correspondence and new manuscript music written by the composer.

W.R. 'Bill' MitchellThese wide interests are reflected in Bill’s scrapbooks and in his Archive at the University of Bradford. Our Bill Mitchell Archive came to the University of Bradford after Dr Mitchell was awarded an honorary degree in 1996.  The Archive includes the scrapbooks, letters relating to Bill’s work at The Dalesman, ephemera relating to the Keartons, and audiocassettes of interviews with Dalespeople.

These interviews on these audiocassettes are at the heart of an exciting project led by Settle Stories.  The project aims to make the interviews much more widely accessible, offering new knowledge about Dales lives and work and opportunities for learning and enjoyment for local people.  Find out more about Bill Mitchell and the project here.

51. “The Story of My Trip to Russia”: Notebook from an Independent Labour Party Visit to the Soviet Union, 1932

This week’s Object tells the story of a trip to the Soviet Union in 1932.  The visit was organised by the Independent Labour Party and included “doctors, economists, technicians.  French professor – a Bolton mill girl – an army officer and his wife and an MP”.  They travelled out on the Cooperitza, “one of the six ships of the Five Year Plan”: their packed itinerary covered Leningrad, Kiev and Moscow and incorporated visits to museums, a prison, a workers’ club, a pioneer camp and factories.

The trip is brought to life for us thanks to a notebook put together by one of the party.  It contains  jottings, photographs, press cuttings and postcards.  Here we see the ship and life on board.

Cooperitza at Hay's Wharf, book stall, talks on board  (ref RUS p.2)

Cooperitza at Hay’s Wharf, book stall, talks on board (ref RUS p.2)

The writer is fascinated both by the communist regime and by the region’s history, experiencing for example Catherine the Great’s palace, where they see the famous Amber Room, “One room was all amber – priceless walls, floors, ornaments – casecaskets – all amber – like a huge jewelled casket turned inside out … I have never seen such wealth”.

Tsarskoe Seloe (Catherine the Great's palace) (RUS p.15)

Tsarskoe Seloe (Catherine the Great’s palace) (RUS p.15)

The writer frequently compares old and new uses of buildings, as here with the Smolny, boarding school turned government building.

The Smolny and Lenin statue (RUS p. 17 detail)

The Smolny and Lenin statue (RUS p. 17 detail)

Much of the notebook is concerned with the practicalities of travel (“Bugs!”) and food e.g. on the train to Kiev, “Our supplies of food went with us.  We were told to drink no water on the way & were given 28 bottles of soda water, 14 long loaves of black bread, 14 tins fish, 14 tins meat – no butter”.   The author carefully records details of the new Soviet systems e.g. the prison regime, or how marriages and divorces worked. They also note problems such as poverty, their guide’s fear of photography and the danger of bandits on the Kiev train.

Wayside station, Moscow travel, station Leningrad (RUS p.18)

Wayside station, Moscow travel, station Leningrad (RUS p.18)

The notebook’s creator acknowledges that “One cannot presume to tell the truth about Russia after seeing 3 of its great cities and from long train journeys across its flat surfaces”.  However, “I can record certain things which I saw and tell the story of my trip to Russia”: the notebook with its rich detail and visual appeal certainly does that very effectively.

Tantalisingly, we do not know the identity of the writer.  The notebook was given to the University long ago by Bradford Libraries (who had it from someone who had it from someone who was a friend of the author, but the letter we have does not include that crucial detail).   Parts of the text read formally as if intended for public consumption and there is evidence of editing; others are purely notes.  It would be a fascinating task for a researcher to try to work out the writer’s identity and to find out more about the journey.  Please contact Special Collections if you already have ideas about the writer’s identity or are interested in exploring this further.

12. It was 1913: J.B. Priestley’s “scribbling books”

Detail from The Modern Juggernaut

First paragraph of “The Modern Juggernaut”

In his 1962 memoir, Margin Released, J.B. Priestley looked back to his teens in Bradford, when he worked as a junior clerk with Helm and Company in the Swan Arcade (now sadly demolished).  In his spare time, he was “a lad bent on writing”, “scribbling and scribbling away” in what Priestley calls his scribbling books, notebooks he made at work in the copying press when no-one was looking.  Some of his works were typed up for him, by a “soft-hearted” girl who had her own typing agency near his office.

Round the Hearth logo, from Bradford Pioneer 1913In 1913 he began to find his way into print.  For most of the year he wrote a cultural column, “Round the Hearth”, for Labour weekly newspaper The Bradford Pioneer.  This work was unpaid.  But later that year an imaginary interview, “Secrets of the Ragtime King”, was accepted by a weekly magazine, London Opinion: payment, one guinea.  A version of the piece shown above, “The Modern Juggernaut”, appeared in The Labour Leader.

Priestley did not hoard paperwork, but somehow a box file containing scribbling books and typescripts survived to inspire him when writing Margin Released.  Two scribbling books and the typescripts are now in the J.B. Priestley Archive, along with issues of The Bradford Pioneer.

Priestley's scribbling books and typescripts

This image shows how fragile the surviving volumes are.  The hand-writing is “dark with closely-pencilled lines” and often smudged.   Transcripts of some of these early works, with critical commentary by John F. Bennett, appear in recent issues of the J.B. Priestley Society Journal.

In the memoir, Priestley was scathing about his early writing.  “Even as teenage efforts they seem to me to have hardly any merit”, he wrote of three short stories.  I think he was rather hard on himself.  The young Priestley was a beginner, experimenting with forms and styles, and was persistent enough to finish works and get them published.  It is exciting to see him finding the topics that were to interest him later: the value of the arts, popular culture, especially the music-hall, the impact of mechanisation and the mass media on people’s lives.

11. Banning Britain’s H-bomb: the Direct Action Committee flyers

15 minutes to annihilation flyerThese powerful images show campaign flyers from the Direct Action Committee Archive (DAC).  Like the much better-known Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the DAC originated in the storm of protest against Britain’s decision to test a hydrogen bomb, at Christmas Island in 1957.   CND’s leaders worked via traditional methods, such as public meetings, education work and parliamentary lobbying.  However, the DAC sought to use Gandhi’s techniques of non-violent direct action to demonstrate their personal opposition to nuclear weapons and to raise awareness of the issue.  They were willing to risk arrest and imprisonment.  Members included Michael Randle, Hugh Brock, April Carter, and Pat Arrowsmith.

Are nuclear weapons a defence? flyerTheir first big success was the Easter 1958  Aldermaston March (see Object 2); CND later took over the organisation of these annual marches.  The Committee carried out direct actions at military bases and research establishments, and tried to influence workers in the arms industry.  In 1961 the group, in financial difficulties, was wound up.  The Committee of 100, which aimed for mass civil disobedience, can be seen as its successor in many ways (more in Object 44).

A matter of life and death flyerThe DAC had an impact way beyond its size.  Many later protests, notably the civil rights movement in the USA, adopted the Gandhian techniques pioneered by the DAC.  Individual members took part in many other campaigns, including the Committee of 100, and some took their expertise into building the study of peace and conflict resolution in the academic world.

Special Collections includes the large and detailed archive of the Committee, one of the Archives collected by independent peace library, Commonweal.  Until very recently, these archives were “hidden collections”, uncatalogued and unknown.  Helen Roberts, the PaxCat Project Archivist, funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Scheme, catalogued them in detail and brought them to life in her blog.  Now they form a major resource for the study of history, protest and design.

9. Fighting All the Way: Barbara Castle’s Cabinet Diaries

Barbara Castle was a Labour politician who served as a Cabinet minister in two governments, 1964-1970 and 1974-1976.  After each Cabinet meeting, she typed up what had been said, from memory and her shorthand notes, creating this week’s object, her Cabinet diaries.  These were later published.

The Cabinet Diaries

The Cabinet Diaries – typescript and more

Barbara Castle never shrank from controversy: she was at the heart of the introduction of seatbelts and the breathalyser to improve road safety, the Equal Pay Act, and, as Secretary of State for Employment, the 1969 white paper “In Place of Strife” which sought to curb the power of the trades unions.  Her diaries show government actually happening, and her candid thoughts about everyone involved.  In his review of her 1974-1976 volume in the London Review of Books, Edmund Dell said, “Barbara Castle’s diary of the period 1974-76 shows more about the nature of cabinet government – even though it deals with only one Cabinet – than any previous publication, academic, political or biographical”.

The Cabinet Diaries in published form plus Castle's autobiography

The Cabinet Diaries in published form plus Castle’s autobiography

The unpublished diaries are exciting to use even though they also exist in published form.  The publications omitted some material (mainly technical), and also lose the vitality of Castle’s input.  The diaries are a melange of typescript, shorthand, handwriting, doodles and caricatures, and give a sense of how she composed them.

Castle’s papers were left to the Bodleian Library (she studied at Oxford University), but she bequeathed her diaries to Bradford University because the city meant so much to her.  Although not born here, she spent her formative years in this hotbed of radical politics.  The University awarded her an honorary degree in 1966.

Barbara Castle at Bradford University in 1966 at the installation of the Chancellor

Barbara Castle at Bradford University in 1966 at the installation of the Chancellor

7. Handle with Care: Foam Family and Friends

Foam supports ready for use

Foam Family ready to help

Special Collections at Bradford offers a range of materials to help staff and readers handle fragile objects carefully.  For example, the Clarkson Book Support System, which we call the Foam Family.  The System was designed by conservator Christopher Clarkson with Polyformes (also available from other conservation supply firms).   The foam wedges range in size from mini to massive and help support open volumes so their spines aren’t broken. We also offer booksnakes and weights, to hold down maps and other rolled items without damage.  Pencils avoid damage from ink; cotton gloves keep photographs free of sweat.

Foam supports in use with rare books

Foam Family at work

Special Collections staff teach our visitors  how to handle original archives and rare books with understanding and respect.  This is part of our preservation policy.  Special Collections, like most organisations, has very limited funding available for conservation work on individual items.   So we rely on preservation: simple, cost-effective ideas which prevent damage to collections occurring in the first place.

Book with foam supports

Map weights in action

5. Poems in Stone: A Land, by Jacquetta Hawkes

Front of A Land dustjacketA Land, published in 1951, was the masterpiece of an extraordinary writer and archaeologist.  Drawn to the deep past and the study of nature since childhood, Jacquetta Hawkes (1910-1996) combined a poetic imagination with scientific understanding.  A Land united these to create a unique work that tells Britain’s million-year story in a compelling new way.

Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall ca. 1951

Jacquetta Hawkes by a waterfall ca. 1951

As Jacquetta said in her preface to the book, “The image I have sought to evoke is of an entity, the land of Britain, in which past and present, nature, man and art appear all in one piece … I see a land as much affected by the creations of its poets and painters as by changes of climate and vegetation”.  Typically, Jacquetta began the book with her own experience, lying on the ground of her back garden in London, which made her think about the geology below.

A Land tapped in to a contemporary revival of interest in Britain, its history, its distinctive past, its visual heritage, and was itself an appealing artefact.  It featured colour drawings by sculptor Henry Moore; Jacquetta had discussed his creative use of the qualities of stones in the book. The book made a great impression at the time, and was awarded the Kemsley Special Award.  It continues to inspire.  Jacquetta’s view that humans could not be separate from nature is more resonant now than ever.

The Jacquetta Hawkes Archive at the University of Bradford covers the development of the book: manuscript, typescript, different editions, illustrations.

A Land display from Hawkes Archive, Ilkley 2010

Some of our archives documenting A Land, on show Ilkley 2010

To find out more about Jacquetta:

A life online: Jacquetta Hawkes archaeo-poet, by Christine Finn Biography of Jacquetta by a fellow archaeologist and writer.

Past, Present, Man, Nature: online exhibition by Alison Cullingford (who also curates 100 Objects) telling Jacquetta’s story through objects in the Archive.

Our Jacquetta Hawkes blog.  News from Christine Finn and Special Collections, and reflection on Jacquetta’s work and ideas.