Latest news

Back to News

Just Catalogued June 2024

Posted in Behind the Scenes on 04 Jun 2024

Discovered to be a villain

The estate records of a related group of families who owned the manors of Coley and Whitley in Reading shed light on the dark history of British involvement in slavery in Jamaica in newly catalogued archive from the Reading Borough Deposited Collections (R/D150). Colonel Richard Thompson purchased Coley Park from the Vachell family in 1727, and decreed in 1736 that after his death his Berkshire estates were to be shared by his daughtersas long as they had not married without his consent. Anne, the only one who actually did marry, and her daughter Frances Jennings Clerke sold Coley in 1792, retained Whitley manor. Frances died unmarried in 1821, leaving all her Berkshire and Jamaica estates to her namesake niece Frances (1786-1861), wife of Sir George Henry Rose.

Warning: Please be advised that the image below contains historically sensitive terminology which readers may find offensive.

Warning: Please be advised that the image contains historically sensitive terminology which readers may find offensive. Schedule of Slaves, eighteenth century ref. R/D150/1/18/1

The records in this collection cover the period 1633-1884 and include deeds of Coley and Whitley manors in Reading, and papers relating to the enclosure of Whitley common fields in the 1850s – land which is now all built over. Deeds of the family’s Jamaican estates include lists of the names of all the enslaved persons living on the Coley Plantation (presumably named after Coley in Reading) in 1775 and the Morant Plantation in 1822.

Possibly strays from another collection, are papers relating to the Blagrave Estate in Reading and Tilehurst, 1653-1856. Of interest is a solicitor's bill from Jacob Newbury to John Blagrave, 1812, endorsed with the note 'Several items are charge'd twice and I at the time imagin'd Mr Newbury to be an honest professional man & in innocence discharged the bill... Have since discovered him to be a villain'. One can only guess what happened!

Memories of Woolhampton

Sale catalogue plan of a property in Thatcham 1837 ref. D/EX1007/2/38

Additional records have been added to the papers of the Frankum family of Woolhampton, covering the period 1837-2022 (D/EX1007). They include 'Woolhampton Childhood Memories' by Richard (Dick) George Frankum (1909-1987). This charming first person account includes memories of fishing; the village mole-catcher; businesses in Woolhampton including a maker of crystal wireless sets; the river rod beds 'which livened up with the demand for rods for wicker shell casings' during the First World War; hobby birds' nesting ('we never took an egg until there were at least three in the nest'). His son Roger added additional notes including a recollection of an uncle’s dog which collected the newspaper every day from the morning train.

Teaching Berkshire’s children in the 1970s

Norcot Primary School, Tilehurst c.1970s ref. D/EX2880/3/10

We have received papers from two local primary school teachers reflecting their educational practices. Maurice Grimmett trained to teach at Bulmershe College of Education, 1967-1970, and then taught at South Lake County Junior School, Woodley; Nine Mile Ride Primary School, Finchampstead; and Norcot Primary School, Tilehurst, rising to the role of Deputy Head Teacher at the last two in the 1980s. His papers reflect all aspects of his career in education (D/EX2880).

Badge reads I've visits the Reading Abbey Ruins, c.1970s ref. D/EX2880/3/20

Included is a guide for trainee history teachers in the 1960s, criticising the then O Level syllabus and suggesting that Victorian town hall buildings may appear 'hideous' to students. We were amused by the gentle guidance for planning trips out, 'Remember that Archivists, Librarians and Archaeologists are usually overworked and underpaid....  School parties can be a menace if they descend on a library or museum without any warning and expect to be waited on at once.' It also advised against the use of visual aids in class unless the teacher could use the equipment efficiently – this sounds like something that had been learned the hard way!

Children climbing a frame in a field c. 1970s ref. D/EX2924/2/9

The papers of Rob Bradford of Palmer CE Junior School, Wokingham, 1971-1978 (D/EX2924) offer similar insights. During his first teaching practice at The Hill Primary School, Caversham, in 1971, he found the children were interested in his topic work on 'Astronomy' due to 'such events as Moon Landings and television programmes such as ''Star Trek'''.

A shopping arcade and sources for house history 

Plan of proposed arcade on Friar Street Reading, 1893 ref. D/EX1064/3/4

A small collection of deeds of property in Bray and Cookham, 1807-1948 (D/EX2843) includes an unusual agreement by the lord of the manor, vicar, churchwardens, overseers and freeholders of Bray that William Langley, labourer, could enclose a small piece of the waste of the manor and parish. A small miscellaneous collection comprises a lease for land in Wootton, 1829; deeds relating to the 1825 marriage settlement of the Hon. Revd Arthur Philip Perceval and Charlotte Anne Legge of Bracknell, 1853-1856; and abstracts of title to a yearly rent-charge on The Arcade, Friar Street, Reading. This is of interest mostly because it includes plans of the site copied from 1884 conveyances of 167-174 Tilleards Court, Friar Street, also showing the Market and Corn Exchange; and a very large plan copied from an 1893 conveyance showing the layout of the proposed Arcade, which still exists (D/EX1064).

You can find out more about these records by searching our online catalogue. Simply enter the collection references given above in the Catalogue Reference field.