Latest news and events round-up from the RHC

Regional Heritage Centre E-Newsletter, May 2020

Welcome to the latest e-newsletter from the Department of History’s Regional Heritage Centre. If you have difficulty reading this email please open it in your web browser.

You are welcome to forward this email to any groups or individuals you think will be interested in our activities. If you have received this as a forwarded message please join our mailing list so that we can send you future newsletters directly.
In this edition:
•         A message from our Director + how the RHC is working under Corona virus conditions
•         A report from an RHC placement student on her work at the Judges' Lodgings Museum in Lancaster
•         A new initiative from Lancashire Archives to record Covid-19 stories
•         Your adventures in local history during lockdown - this month, a war grave in Penrith
•         Update on the North West Heritage Networking Forum
•         New books from RHC Director Fiona Edmonds and RHC stalwarts Dr Rob David and Dr Bill Shannon

Welcome to the May 2020 newsletter

A Message from RHC Director Dr Fiona Edmonds

On behalf of all of us at the Regional Heritage Centre, I send our very best wishes to all of our supporters at this difficult time. We have missed seeing you at our Study Days, and we look forward to rescheduling our cancelled events for the forthcoming year, as well as planning exciting new Study Days. However, as circumstances may remain uncertain for some time to come, we are also exploring contingency plans for these events, in case we cannot run them in the usual format.

In the meantime, why not explore the free, online resources that the Regional Heritage Centre has to offer? As many of you know, we hold the transcripts of the Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive, a pioneering and hugely important record of oral history from Preston, Lancaster and Barrow-in-Furness. We have been digitising the transcripts, and additional material is being added regularly to the website. The Victoria County History of Cumbria project, a collaboration between volunteers and the Regional Heritage Centre, is constantly yielding new insights into Cumbrian history. You can explore much of this material through the Cumbria County History Trust website.

And turning from the past to the future...we are pleased to announce that Lancaster University has a new Vice-Chancellor, the seventh since the University was founded in 1964. Professor Andy Schofield formally came into post on 1 May 2020, joining us from the University of Birmingham. His academic career has been in theoretical physics, but you can read more about his background here. Many of our supporters will be aware that his predecessor, Professor Mark E. Smith, was a great supporter of the Regional Heritage Centre. We look forward to meeting Professor Schofield and continuing to build our reputation as a significant aspect of the public face of the University in the North West and beyond.

How RHC is Adapting to Lockdown Conditions

The Centre's physical space is now closed, but staff continue to work from home on RHC business. Alongside her RHC projects, our Director, Dr Fiona Edmonds has been working hard to support her many undergraduate and postgraduate students as they adjust to the online teaching environment. She is also involved in the planning of the 19th Viking Congress, which is due to take place in summer 2021. This prestigious international event will take place in Wales and North-West England for the first time.

Meanwhile Dr Sam Riches applies her usual rigour to the redaction of more material from the Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive. Sam hopes to continue adding more material online so that this fascinating resource can be accessed by an even wider audience. That's not to mention her work supporting students on Heritage Placement modules (read on for more on this) and her commitments as a board member on various other heritage organisations.

As Centre Administrator, I continue to respond to all inquiries. Some of you have noted that RHC publications are not currently available through our Online Store. This is because some buildings at Lancaster University remain inaccessible, and it is not physically possible to ship books to buyers at the moment. We will of course update the Online Store once the situation changes. Luckily, many of you will have taken advantage of our book stall at previous Study Days to stock your shelves. If you are starved of reading material, I will continue to publish regular e-newsletters, and our website is also fully functioning, so we can continue to engage with all you heritage fans across the region.

RHC Placement Student Gets a Taste of History at Judges' Lodgings


Before the pandemic sent us all into isolation, second year History student Natasha Robinson spent some time at the Judges Lodgings Museum in Lancaster. As part of her placement, she was working with a delivery of kitchen objects from the National Trust. Her report on this experience conveys her enthusiasm for what she calls a truly exciting opportunity.

From ornate figurines to a pair of bellows and a wooden mouse trap, the collection was absolutely brimming with nineteenth century history. My task was to unpack the delivery objects, assess their condition, take photographs and log this information into the heritage database ‘EMu’. This process was particularly important for storage purposes and future reference to the objects. Unpacking the boxes was a delight. Peeling back each covering of bubble wrap and tissue paper felt as though I was discovering snapshots of history, layer by layer. While the database work I completed taught me much about how the heritage sector functions, it was the objects which I enjoyed interacting with most. As I held the items, I wondered what stories could they tell us? Who had owned them? Where were they made? What had they seen in their previous homes? In this sense, the new Victorian Kitchen display can offer people a glimpse into the nineteenth century. Perhaps the most intriguing object to occupy the new display is a wooden mouse trap. Roughly 30 cm from the base to the top, with a box and a square handle, the trap is perplexing to say the least…how would such a thing have managed to catch mice? I think the trap will be an excellent tool to link visitors with the past, as we consider how our ancestors navigated kitchens rife with mice. Interacting with these kitchen objects showed me how tangible history can be. This experience was a real privilege. I hope when the Judges’ Lodgings opens after lockdown, the public will enjoy it as much as I did.



Lancashire Archives to Record Covid-19 Stories

During the enforced closure, Lancashire Archives is still responding to enquiries and planning for restoring some sort of service in the future. Meanwhile Senior Archivist David Tilsey requests your participation in a topical project to help future generations understand the effect of COVID-19 on everyday life in Lancashire.

“The Archives’ nine miles of shelving hold the county's history from 1115 until now, told in millions of documents created by Lancashire people, from parchment medieval court rolls to digital sound recordings. We are now living through another important chapter in Lancashire's story and we need your help to make sure it can be understood in the future. We'd like to know how the pandemic has changed things for you and how you feel about it. Can you write down for us what life is like for you at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic, or make a sound or short video recording?”

Lancashire Archives would also like your help in collecting other material that you might come across such as:

•         leaflets, flyers or posters about the pandemic from district, parish or town councils
•         material from local business relating to closures or changes to how they operate
•         advice from local organisations about hygiene, social distancing and self isolation
•         information about community efforts to help vulnerable and isolated persons
•         information from local schools regarding closures and home-schooling

Please send any contributions or questions to or, for hard copy to: Lancashire Archives, Bow Lane, Preston, PR1 2RE.

Please include your name, age and the place where you live (not your full address).

And for further information why not sign up to the monthly News from the Archives by emailing

Local History Under Lockdown


And speaking of your participation, we've had a wonderful response to last month's feature on local history under lockdown, with many readers sending in comments and suggestions. But Richard Preston, Chair of the Cumbria Western Front Association, went one better, sending in the following report of his own adventures discovering a war grave which brings us full circle from the First World War to the lockdown situation of today.

There are a good number of articles on the Web about the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918/19, so no need to go into detail here. Suffice to say that there were three waves of the flu virus, and the movement of troops in close conditions certainly helped in creating the pandemic. The Americans brought it over to Europe from the USA when coming to fight in France. Celebrations after the war and the pageants held in many towns, along with the demobilisation of troops, meant packed trains at Victoria and other London Rail stations all contributed to the spread of the virus. In total there were 228,000 deaths in the UK throughout the pandemic.

In my researches and walks into the war dead in the eastern part of Cumberland, I came across the grave of T. A. Watson in Threlkeld Parish Church. The man was from Flusco (east of Penrith and north of the A66 going towards Keswick), and the Penrith Observer reported the following on 19 November 1918:

'At Threlkeld Church Yard on Saturday Private T. A. Watson, Flusco Cottages, Newbiggin was buried having died from pneumonia following influenza. He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and trained in Ireland. Afterward he was sent to Cumberland to work on the land and was allocated to Mr Hethington, Skelton. He went home ill to Flusco about a week ago and died there. Seven other persons were lying ill in the house at the same time, all suffering from the Influenza'

I wonder if there are any other soldiers who are victims of the 1918/19 Pandemic in other church yards?

Keep safe.

Richard Preston
Southwaite Cumbria.

And if anyone else comes across something interesting in the course of their government-sanctioned and socially distant exercise, why not share it with us? We could all use some distraction in times like these, and learning about local heritage is such a rewarding way to spend your time. Our thanks to Richard and everyone who took the time to write in.



Annual Enrolment of Patrons and Friends of the Centre

Many of you will have heard from us last summer as we appealed for more of our devoted newsletter readers to consider enrolling as a Friend or Patron of the RHC. I'm delighted to say that we've had an excellent response. More of you than ever before are taking your relationship with the RHC to the next level, enjoying discounts on our events and other great benefits - not least the satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting local history and heritage. We'd like to say a big thank you for the record, and to clarify the little details. If you are currently a Friend or Patron and pay by Standing Order or Direct Debit, your membership will automatically renew, but if you pay by cheque you will need to contact us in order to renew your membership. If you have not been a Friend or Patron in the past, please do consider supporting us in this way. Our subscription year runs from August to July, so to get the most out of our offer, take a look at our website at or contact us, and we will be happy to send you the relevant forms. The best way to reach us is via email since the Centre phone is not currently being monitored.

North West Heritage Networking Forum


As previously reported, the latest meeting of the North West Heritage Networking Forum, supported by the RHC, took place at the Lion Salt Works, near Northwich, in early February. We had hoped to stage our next event in April or May, but plans are now on hold until there is some certainty about the end of lockdown. In the meantime a message is going out to current members of the network (mainly trustees and officers of Friends’ groups in the Heritage sector, plus the professionals they work with) about an opportunity to interact online, in a discussion space provided by Lancaster University. If you are actively involved in Heritage, especially around organisational strategy, and are not already a member you are welcome to join our mailing list. Please email and do let your contacts know about this valuable new resource for Heritage organisations across the region.

External Events and Announcements

Please note that the RHC now lists external events on our website. The RHC cannot provide further information on these events and announcements, nor be held responsible for any inaccuracies in what is posted. If you have queries or wish to book for any event listed here please contact the organiser/venue/promoter directly.

Books for Heritage Fans - including new publications from Director Fiona Edmonds and RHC stalwarts Dr Rob David and Dr Bill Shannon


We are delighted to announce the publication of a new book by our Director, Dr Fiona Edmonds: Gaelic Influence in the Northumbrian Kingdom: The Golden Age and the Viking Age. This is the first full-length, interdisciplinary treatment of the wide-ranging connections between the Northumbrian Kingdom and the Gaelic world during the period c.600-1050. Sites in North West England feature prominently, including Carlisle, Irton, Whalley and Heysham.

The book is published in the renowned series Studies in Celtic History. Regional Heritage Centre Friends and Patrons can save 25% when they order direct from the publisher, Boydell & Brewer. All you need to do is email us for the special Friends and Patrons discount code then Visit their website and enter the code at the checkout. Alternatively, call Boydell's distributor, Wiley, on 01243 843291 and quote the same offer code. UK p&p is £3.70 per order (not per book). Any queries? Just email



Meanwhile Dr Rob David, former chair of the RHC Advisory Board and a Patron in addition to his myriad links with other heritage organisations in the North West, has published a book about Cumbria’s response to the refugee crisis of the 1930s and early 1940s. In A County of Refuge: Refugees in Cumbria 1933-1941, the author makes use of a wealth of archive material and oral testimony to demonstrate that at that time, many Cumbrians welcomed refugee groups from Spain, Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia into their communities. Central to the narrative are the Roberts family, who made possible the hosting of over 100 refugee children from the Basque region of Spain, as well as a number of determined women who led Cumbria’s response to the arrival of central European refugee communities in the 1930s. Foremost amongst the latter is Catherine Marshall, who moved from suffragist activity to internationalism and refugee issues during the 1930s, but other, less familiar names, such as Mary Crewdson and Clara Boyle are also introduced to the reader. At a time when refugee numbers are increasing and government and society’s attitudes are hardening against refugees, the book compares the attitudes of the 1930s to those of today. And best of all, it makes the perfect introduction to the planned RHC Study Day on Refugees in the North West - this is currently set to be re-scheduled for June of 2021, but if you just can't wait, why not read up on this fascinating topic now?

The book costs £17 (£15 for members of CWAAS). Please send a cheque payable to CWAAS along with your name and address to: Ian Caruana, 10 Peter St, Carlisle, CA3 8QP (For more information, please telephone 01228 544120 or email:



And finally, another name familiar to many RHC supporters has also been busy... popular local historian and author Dr Bill Shannon has come out with a book on the history of Lancashire as it was researched and written by one of its pioneering historians in the late 1600s. Launched by the Chetham Society, Bill Shannon’s book, Seventeenth-Century Lancashire Restored, is a major new contribution to the history of the county and puts into print some important documents explaining how Dr Richard Kuerden developed his history and other aspects of his work, including map-making. The book's contents range widely, giving details of Dr Kuerden's work as a physician, antiquary, topographer, cartographer and perhaps even alchemist. Bill Shannon has published widely on aspects of the history of Lancashire and of cartography, and his latest work is sure to find an appreciative audience.

The book is priced at £39.95, but available until the end of May at the special launch price of £25 from the Society’s General Editor, Professor Tim Thornton, who can be contacted via



We hope this newsletter gives important information on heritage activities and organisations locally. We do hope to see you at an RHC event in the future, but for now, keep safe, keep calm and carry on.

Best wishes,

Ann-Marie Michel


Regional Heritage Centre

Department of History,
Bowland College,
Lancaster University,
Lancaster LA1 4YT

RHC telephone: 01524 593770 (Tues/Thurs/Fridays 0930-1530)
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