Journal articles 1999-2000

Berkshire Family Historian articles between June 1999 and September 2000

Education in Langford and Little Faringdon 1858-1918

Miriam James

The villages of Langford and Little Faringdon lie two miles apart, in the far south-west of Oxfordshire. Until the middle of the nineteenth century they were in the ancient county of Berkshire, part of Faringdon Union. Little Faringdon was an estate village, owned by a single landlord, the epitome of a 'close' village. The chief landowner at Langford was the Ecclesiastical Commission, and its standing as on 'open' village was confirmed by the presence of three non-conformist chapels, several pubs, and a more varied pattern of houses and cottages. The combined population of the villages, according to the Post Office Directory of 1841, totalled 630: by the time of the 1891 census it had sunk to 490, a decline of more than 20%, as the farming recession bit deeper and people moved away in search of employment.

The village schools of Langford and Little Faringdon are particularly rich in records. Their Log Books and School Admission Registers are complete from the date of their adoption by the Department of Education following Forster's Education Act of 1870; for records earlier than this the census returns from 1851 enumerate the 'scholars' among the children of the parishes, while Directories for Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire list the schools and the teachers for the years that they were published.

Little Faringdon's school and school house were 'built by W Vizard Esq., supported entirely by his lady, Mrs Vizard' in 1847; the date is confirmed by its incision over the door of the school. It was to accommodate 40 children, though the average attendance in 1895 was 20.. After their purchase of the estate in 1864 Lord and Lady de Mauley in their turn 'entirely supported 'the school.

This seems to have been the first school in Little Faringdon, but at the beginning of the nineteenth century Langford was particularly rich in schools. In 1808 there were six, including a boarding school and a day school for girls. The number varied during the following years; Gardner's Directory for Oxfordshire of 1852 included a 'National School recently established'. The first mention of a school which was aided by a Parliamentary Grant was in 1867; the Post Office Directory for Oxon. of 1869 includes a 'Parochial school for boys and girls, supported by subscription'.

Photo of Langford School

Langford School as it is today

The school room in Langford was evidently viewed as a communal resource, and was often in demand for village activities. The Log Book regularly mentions its use for the annual Vegetable Show in September, for the Clothing Club in November, while in 1896 there was a 'Poll'; on occasions such as these the school had to be closed. Little Faringdon School, on the other hand, was the property of the de Mauleys, and was not used by the villagers; while it was being repaired in 1902, teaching took place in the de Mauleys' laundry. At Langford, the School Treat was held in the school; in Little Faringdon the children were given tea at the 'big house'.

From 1851 until 1891 the Census returns show how many children went to school, although the 1891 entries are very inaccurate and the figures in this case come from the School Admissions Register. The proportion of children who attended school rose steadily, from 25% in 1851 to 80% in 1891. At first the proportion of scholars to population of Little Faringdon, under the watchful eye of its owner, was considerably higher than at Langford, but by 1891 they had become the same. At the same time the parish marriage registers show that illiterates were diminishing steadily; after 1891 only one man, an elderly widower from the outlying village of Grafton, made a cross instead of signing his name.

In November 1875 Langford School, and in April 1879 Little Faringdon School came under Government Inspection. From these dates a detailed weekly record was kept in the Log Books following the New Code of Regulations for 1872. At first the entries in both schools' Log Books were perfunctory, noting the attendance in vague terms as 'small' or 'better than last week' or even 'much better.' At Langford the first Report from the Inspector was not copied into the Log Book, and the Register went unchecked; the entries reveal the easy-going methods of the teachers. With the appointment of Miss Newcomb at Langford in August 1879 the deficiencies became apparent. The previous teacher had 'left the greater part of her Register to add up.' Her successor refused to do this retrospectively, 'for when I leave the Schoolroom in the afternoon I am completely used up'.

'The Vicar has admitted several children one a mere Baby 17 months old the consequence is another person has sent a Child under 2 years, they quite upset the whole School, if one is not in tears the other is indeed two days together I had to send down a reading class it was impossible to hear a Child speak'

The Revised Code of 1862 envisaged children starting school at six years old; this was ignored in both schools. At Langford Miss Newcomb complained that 'The Vicar has admitted several children one a mere Baby 17 months old the consequence is another person has sent a Child under 2 years, they quite upset the whole School, if one is not in tears the other is indeed two days together I had to send down a reading class it was impossible to hear a Child speak (sic).' Miss Newcomb left the school after one stormy term; within a week her successor had 'sent away several children who were under three years of age,' apparently without complaint from the Vicar. Both Langford and Little Faringdon schools customarily admitted children who had only just reached their third birthdays; in 1880 the Vicar of Little Faringdon noted that 'Children are not taken under three years old except now and then to oblige. Their attendances are not counted.'

The age of leaving school was at first governed by employment: the Admission Registers show children leaving to go into service or to take up apprenticeships. By 1904 the process of leaving was regulated by the Education Department, and the 'Reason for Leaving' given was 'Gained Attendance Certificate' or 'over 14.' The school year was regulated by the feasts of the Church and the agricultural year. There was a Harvest Holiday for five or six weeks in the summer; Christmas, Easter and Whitsun holidays were usually for a week, but this was flexible until 1904, when 'Re e'd notice today that an uniform school year is to be adopted throughout the county.'

Both schools were under the jurisdiction of the Church of England, and the Log Books detail the annual report from the Diocesan Inspector's visit. The children of Little Faringdon were taken to church much more often than those at Langford, where non-conformity was stronger: during 'Holy Week 'before Easter they went to Church each morning. In 1887 SO many days had been taken as holidays that a new teacher shortened the Whitsun holiday to two days, so that the necessary attendances could be achieved.

'When gleaning was over children of both sexes were kept at home 'to mind babies and to gather acorns"; beans were gleaned, potatoes picked; in the spring children had 'to gather cowslips'. Occasionally a pupil was needed to 'nurse her sick mother and order the house in default of any other. Helper, 'while 'taking dinner to father in the field' was a common reason for absence in Little Faringdon.'

Reasons for absence were carefully noted in the Log Books. in both villages children went absent to go to local festivities: May Day in 1884, the annual Temperance Fete in Langford in July, Langford Feast every September. From Little Faringdon the pupils went to Lechlade Carnival; on two occasions they 'took the Monitress with them', though we are not told whether she had permission from the teacher to be absent from her duties.

Attendance was affected in both villages by wet or 'winterly' weather; there were families who lived at outlying farms who might be away from October until Spring; at Langford this could mean 17 fewer pupils. Another reason for absence was 'several children not being able to put on their boots, having bad feet from the severe weather'. The roads were sometimes covered with water or with snow; in January 1910 three boys reached school, half an hour late because they had been sliding on an icy pool and had detained (forcibly) an infant who also was marked late.' Sometimes so few children arrived that it was considered advisable to dismiss those present.

The pupils changed as children moved with their parents to other villages. In both schools this movement was worst in October, the time of the 'mop fair' in Faringdon, when 'the labourers are hired from Michaelmas to Michaelmas'. In September 1900 the teacher at Little Faringdon complained that 'The annual changing of the children makes it very difficult to teach them properly, so as to have good results from their work'. It was especially hard that the moving took place just before the annual examination, so 'occupying time and space needed for those about to be examined,' while the teachers found that 'as a rule the newcomers are very backward'. Sometimes fewer children moved to the village than left it. In October 1902 Little Faringdon school had '4 children only in place of the 10 who have left. 2 cannot read or write, the other two can read & write fairly well but can do nothing else'.

It was commonplace that the start of the school year, after the harvest, was slow. At Langford during the first four weeks of September 1888 there were 17 or 18 pupils present out of a possible 67. Altogether this was a difficult time, when ground lost during the long Harvest break had to be made up; in 1897 a new teacher found that 'the children have forgotten a great deal of the work they had learnt before holidays'.

When gleaning was over children of both sexes were kept at home 'to mind babies and to gather acorns'; beans were gleaned, potatoes picked; in the spring children had 'to gather cowslips'. Occasionally a pupil was needed to 'nurse her sick mother and order the house in default of any other helper,' while 'taking dinner to father in the field' was a common reason for absence in Little Faringdon.

From 1890 onwards the Attendance Officer began to warn the irregular attenders, making a list of their names from the Registers; parents were cautioned 'owing to the very poor attendance of some of the scholars'. This was not always effective: at Little Faringdon the teacher complained in March 1906, 'I have taken E Jefferies name off roll, as she has only attended one week out of eleven, although mother has promised to send every week,' but there were no prosecutions for persistent absence from either school.

Gradually the children's health became a matter of national interest. The first note of a medical certificate for non-attendance was in 1889; in April 1899 two pupils at Little Faringdon sent a 'Doctor's Certificate for absence' for ringworm. They did not return until November, when 'they have forgotten nearly all they had learnt, even their letters. 'In l901 the children of Langford were visited by the Medical Officer of Health; regular visits to both schools began in 1908. The children were weighed and measured and their heads were inspected regularly for vermin. The Log Books record visits from the Vicar, who acted as the Correspondent to the Managers; at Langford these visits were at first sporadic, but after 1879 they became much more frequent, often daily. His comments were noted and valued. He provided the new slates, books and desks needed in the school. He was responsible for receiving and paying out the salaries of the teacher; he distributed prizes, and acted as general adviser. He also regularly checked that the numbers in the Registers corresponded with the numbers of children in the school, and made an entry in the Log Book to validate this.

The Vicar's wife also played her part at Langford School, taking lessons in singing and drill and providing materials for sewing lessons. This was sometimes inadequate: in November 1879 the mettlesome Miss Newcomb complained that 'I sent to the Vicarage and received 1 Shirt 1 Shift a few pieces of old calico to tear up in strips; this will not do for the Infants it is too closely woven for their little fingers. Have drawn up a needlework scheme and sent it to the Vicarage just to give some idea of what is required.'

Little Faringdon School was visited in the same way by successive Vicars, who also checked the Registers and gave religious instruction to the scholars. Lady de Mauley's visits were almost as frequent. Hardly a week went by without her coming to the school. Sometimes she brought members of her family with her but more often she came on her own and participated in the lessons. In May 1882 'Lady de Mauley visited the School on Tuesday morning. Her Ladyship also came in on Friday morning in time to see the children at their Arithmetic Lesson, she was very pleased at the manner in which the children did their work.'

On other occasions she dictated a few sums to the children, heard the upper standards say their tables, and took a class in reading. She was especially interested in their needlework, and provided material for them to use, and in knitting: 'Her Ladyship remarked on seeing some small children knitting that it is a good plan for them to begin young.' Generally she expressed herself pleased with what she saw, although occasionally she offered some gentle criticism. In January 1880 'she heard the children sing. She commanded soft singing and told the children to sing a very little bit softer.' She also paid £30 of the teacher's salary, to supplement the Government grant of £20, in addition to the pence received from any children over the number of 20 attending the school.

In both schools the subjects taught were those which were awarded grants by the Education Department on the results of examination. At first these were the 'Elementary Subjects' of reading, writing and arithmetic. In Langford, passes in the 'Class Subjects 'of grammar, geography, singing and history also attracted grants, with needlework as an additional subject for girls. In 1883 'the Infant Boys commenced to do Needlework'. The children were also taught Object Lessons from objects or pictures which were readily available to the teacher: in 1883 these included 'Cheese making, Snails, Soap, Rice, Harvest work, the Fish'.

The Education Department also kept an eye on the suitability of the buildings. In 1878 they noted with approval that 'a boarded floor is to be laid down' in Langford; while in Little Faringdon in 1898 they complained that 'the water used in the school and teacher's house has to be brought a distance of about 300 yards. Could not the Managers provide a supply on the school premises?' The playground at Langford was made 'fit for Physical Exercises' in 1901, with the increased emphasis on national fitness which followed the Boer War.

Progress in both schools reflected the ability of their teachers. Joshua Walker was appointed Headmaster of Langford School in 1881, when the school was 'in an unsatisfactory state', and remained in office until 1909. On his appointment he found 'all standards backward, they don't seem to have done a weeks (sic) thorough work since the last examination'. Within a year of his arrival he had drawn up a list of rules on 'Punctuality, Cleanliness & Neatness and Truthfulness'; three days later he denied admittance to a pupil for refusing to comply with 'the rule of the school'. Good work was rewarded with illuminated certificates which he provided, rewards were given for perfect attendance. Physical punishment was rare; shocked by the bruises caused by Miss Newcomb's use of the cane, the Vicar had prohibited corporal punishment of any kind, and exclusion from school was generally effective enough.

During his twenty-eight-year headship Joshua Walker introduced lessons in drawing and nature study, as well as practical gardening; by 1902 Langford School had won the Gardening Prize offered by St John's College, Oxford, several years running. Mr Walker was commanded by the Education Department's Inspector as conducting the school with vigour and intelligence. The standards reached improved steadily; by 1893 the first Standard VI was achieved. The grant which resulted from examination passes and annual attendance rose from £34.11.0 in 1880 to £68.0.0 in 1901, augmented by annual Merit Grants for 'excellent' teaching.

The Headmaster's wife taught needlework at Langford for thirty two years. Her teaching was interrupted by absences of three to four weeks, when the Log Book noted that she was 'not well'; the dates coincide with those of the christenings of Walker children given in the Parish Register of Baptisms.

Mr and Mrs Walker were assisted by a series of teachers for the Infant Class. These were not always satisfactory: in 1885 Mr Walker noted that one had 'been at work now a Fortnight but at present I find her of no use whatever'. Other assistant teachers were more successful: Emily Lafford attended the school from 1875 until 1878, gaining Standard III; she became a Pupil-Teacher at the age of eleven in 1879, and went on to gain a Queen's Scholarship to train for a professional qualification after twenty years' teaching.

There were also Monitors in both schools; their duties were to assist with the Infants and, in the case of William Tanner at Langford, to light the fire before school, which he sometimes failed to do. His salary in 1907 was £l0 a term. In Little Faringdon in 1903, Patience Green, aged nearly 14, was paid one shilling a week as a Monitress.

The progress achieved by Joshua Walker at Langford was not matched in Little Faringdon, despite Lady de Mauley's enthusiasm. Teachers stayed only a few years, discouraged by the rapid turnover of pupils. In March 1903 one reported that 'so many of the children are newcomers that the general average of attainment is not very high'. Prizes were given to children both for 'Conduct' and for 'General Progress' but in the twenty-six years from 1879 to 1905, only three children attained Standard IV, roughly that of a ten-year-old, and none was recorded as reaching the higher Standards. There were persistent hopes of each new mistress, but in December 1903 the Log Book notes that 'the children are making a little progress in their work & seem anxious to do their best, but it is still very inaccurate'.

Both the teachers and the Vicar misunderstood the growing and complex demands of the Education Department. No 'Class Subject' was taught in 1895, and as a result the whole annual Grant was withdrawn, despite the Vicar's protests. Subsequent years did not improve matters. Expectations continued to be low, attendance short-lived and numbers too small to divide the pupils into groups for separate teaching. Successive Government Inspections found the standard of the school unsatisfactory. It finally closed in 1920, when the few remaining pupils transferred to Langford School.

Manuscript Sources:

Langford School Log Books, 1875-1892, 1892-1919

Langford School Admission Registers 1875-1910, 1910-1920

Little Faringdon School Log Books 1879-1901, 1901-1920

Little Faringdon School Admission Registers 1871-1920

Langford Baptismal Register 1838-1920

Langford Marriage and Burial Registers 1840-1920

Little Faringdon Baptismal Register, Marriage Register and Burial Register, 1864-1920

Langford Vestry Book

Langford and Little Faringdon Census Returns 1841-1891

Miriam James came to the village of Langford from London in 1940. She was educated at Mayfield School, Sussex, and at St Anne's College, Oxford. She subsequently became Head of history at Carterton Community College. Now retired, she has recently completed a Master of Studies degree in English Local History at Kellogg College, Oxford. As part of this degree she studied the early development of the schools in the neighbouring villages of Langford and Little Faringdon, with an emphasis on the influence of their contrasting status as an 'open' and a 'close' village and of the people involved in the teaching and patronage of the two schools.

From ag lab to County Constable

Carolyn Boulton

In the spring of 1870 a boy was born to the Norris family at Dean Place, Hurley (now a stud farm). He was baptised in May of the same year at the picturesque church of Hurley on the banks of the River Thames. He was the sixth child of ten and named John, as was his father and grandfather before him. They all lived in the rolling chalk downland in the hundred of Beynhurst (Bernersh) in a village called Warren Row on a road which ribbons the hillside from Knowl Hill to Hurley. The Norris family had worked the land for generations. Many of John's ancestors travelled to Reading St. Mary's Church to be Confirmed by the Bishop of Sarum. One Confirmation is noted in the parish register:

"begun at half past eight o'clock in the morning of 27th July 1808, 44 persons from the parish of Hurley attended each with a cart similar to 1804 (when there were 70 persons). The females were conveyed and refreshed with cheese, cold meat and the men with beer by Mr. Dancer and his charge for the whole is £2.2s.0d. for his time and trouble and disbursements."1

In 1804 the Confirmation Service had been taken by the Bishop of Norwich who officiated for the Bishop of Sarum. What a spectacle it would have made to have seen the troop of children, young people and parents on the road making the trek of 12 miles each way.

Many of his extensive family had worked in the area. John's greatgrandfather, Nathaniel Keeley, was the village blacksmith at Wargrave; his great-uncle, William Keeley, was a whitening maker, used for whitewashing walls and sometimes for improving clay soils. William's wife's great-aunt Sophia (nee Norris) ran the 'Old House at Home', a beer house in the village, for many years. She was called robust, swarthy and formidable, for after the death of her husband in 1869 she took over the running of the horsedriven grinding mill. Chalk had been excavated in the area since the tenth century and tunnels and caves dug deep into the hillside of Bowsey (45 feet above sea level) high to the west of Warren Row, where it is said seven counties can be seen from its summit. During the Second World War art treasures from London were stored there for safe keeping.

As a boy John's father had joined others of the family at 'Pudders' at Warren Row, a charming Tudor farmhouse and sizeable farm, which belonged at one time to Hurley Priory and is shown on the tithe maps of 1843 when it was owned by the Micklem family. Thomas Norris his great-uncle had worked there for over 30 years as did his cousins. It is now renamed the Juddemonte Estate with restricted access behind high electrified gates and is owned by the Saudi Arabian Prince Khalid Bin Abdullah. Close by are other large houses owned by Elton John and George Harrison.

The parish magazines of Knowl Hill give an insight into village life2. A report on the horticultural show held in September 1874 in the grounds of the Vicarage says 'it was remarked that a large proportion of the exhibitors came from Crazies Hill and Warren Row'. The 'best kept garden 'was won by Morina Norris and she received a prize of l0 shillings. She also won second prizeof 2s. 6d. for a home made loaf. William Norris won a prize for a dish of plums at the Autumn Show of 1888 and Mrs. William Norris won first prize for 'the cleanest and best kept cottage'. She received 10 shillings.

After a spell in the hamlet of Swyncombe, where they grew watercress in the fresh clear streams, the family moved to Sonning near the French Horn Inn. As his father was a carrier, John went to Sonning School in the 1880s, but by the 1890s they were off again this time to Crazies Hill (named after buttercups). John senior worked at Gibstrode Farm and John jnr. was employed at Hennerton House (now a golf course) by John Rhodes. The estate dates back to the fifteenth century and was named after the backwater that it looks down on.

As John had benefited from a good education, probably with the help of his employer, he applied to the County Police to join the Constabulary. John Rhodes was a magistrate and gave John a glowing reference. He passed through his training at Reading and by 1892 had become a first class PC, earning £1.15s.ld a week by 1896. He married Selina Marshall at Reading St. Lawrence in August of that year and the following year moved to Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, near Wallingford, where they stayed for over five years with a growing family. This attractive and historic village with its moated house and flint and timber framed thatch cottages later became the home of Dr. Edward Bach, one of the first modern pioneers of healing with flower essences.

A move to Windsor by 1903 may have been prompted by the newly crowned King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. John and Selina moved to Sawyers Gate, overlooking Primrose Hill on the edge of Windsor Great Park. His tours of duty included Ascot, on race days, Henley Regatta, and no doubt other royal events. Then when he was 38, after sixteen years service, he injured himself when he fell off a bicycle and retired on a pension. The family moved back to Reading where in 1908 Rube Norris my grandmother was born at Church Road, Earley. The children arrived at two yearly intervals until there were 12 in all. As the house could no longer hold them all, they made a final move to 'Hillbrow', Pitts Lane, Earley.

John and Selina Norris

John found work for many years as a steward at the Reading Gas Company Club. Sadly he died suddenly while his wife was on a char-a-banc outing. His obituary in the Berkshire Chronicle included his photograph and a detailed list of tributes by his colleagues and friends. He was buried at St. Peter's, Earley, on 25th June, 1937.

1 BRO D/P/72/1/3
2 BRO D/P/164/28A/2 and 3 etc.

Netting your ancestors

Eddie Spackman

Whatever your motives for researching Family History - whether it is for personal reasons, for the benefit of your children or for other reasons - you will want to make the results widely known and available. This will not only satisfy your own ego but also extend the chances of contacting relatives and others with the same interests. In the past it was rarely possible to publish your results other than by producing paper copies. Today anyone with a computer and a telephone line can use the technology of the Internet to put their research onto a personal website which can be seen by anyone world-wide.

Most Internet Service Providers (ISPs) - and there are now many of them - provide 'web-space' for their subscribers. This is usually about 10mb for each account and more than enough for most family historians, unless you want to show many images, video or sound clips, or if you wish to record information for thousands of individuals.

Many of us have been hesitant to publish on the web because of our reluctance to learn the language of the Internet - HTML (Hyper-text Mark-Up Language). Today, it is no longer necessary to learn HTML to create web-pages; you can use a word processor, web-authoring software or even a family history program.

The sort of information put on the Internet will vary from individual to individual but is likely to range from genealogical narratives of ancestors to pictures of grandparents and from lists of individuals to biographies. You may also want to include local histories of the areas where your ancestors lived. The information will need to be attractively laid out with links that will encourage the reader to move economically and swiftly around the site. The content must also implicitly invite them to read the information, and to respond (for this you will need to include an email contact address), rather than move elsewhere. Tables 1 is an example of the top of a page from a site I created using FrontPage Express; it contains some details of my great-great-grandfather Edward, a policeman in Hertfordshire, his wife Sarah Brown and their children and grandchildren.

The process of getting your family history onto the net can be described in four stages. Decide what you want to put there, then design and create a site on your own computer, next upload it to your personal web-space and finally, so that others stand a chance of finding the site, ensure that it is indexed by several search engines. Each stage is described in more detail below. There are references to various items of software. General computer software can be obtained from several sources: enquire at your local computer shop or look for advertisements in computer magazines. Family history programs are generally obtained by mail order from advertisements in magazines such as Family Tree Magazine or at family history fairs.

Screen Dump of 'Spackman Family' ancestry

Table 1

Designing your site

The first, and most important, step is to decide what to put on your site and how to lay it out. Everyone has their own individual interests. You may want to give the ancestry of individual members of your family, or provide information on the families you are researching. Alternatively, if you are making a one-name study, you may wish to list all the names you have found together with references to their baptisms, marriages, and burials. You will need to consider who your target audience is, choose an appropriate presentation and make it attractive to the reader.

There are several limitations to bear in mind. Perhaps the most important is the fact that download speeds over the existing telephone network are generally limited at most to 56 Kbps (about 8,000 characters or one very modest sized picture per second) so that a page with many pictures or lots of text and hyper-links should be avoided. If a page does not download within about 15 seconds many surfers will move away to look at another site. You should ensure that the files you create are stored in a folder (or directory) structure that is easy to maintain. It is a good idea to have a folder for the site and sub-folders for each of your topics. You should also use the default file - usually 'index.htm'- in each folder to prevent others seeing what files you have put in your online folders.

The website

A website consists of files written in HTML and may include pictures, sound, or even video clips in other files. The HTML is decoded by Internet browsers such as Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator, Opera etc. to display screens of information provided by the creator. However the formats, fonts and layout seen by the viewer depend on the settings of the browser.

There are several ways to create the site. You can write HTML with a text editor, use a web-authoring package, create a formatted document with a word processor and save it as HTML or automatically generate a site using a family history program.

Writing HTML

HTML can be written with a Text Editor such as Notepad. It is claimed that HTML is easy to write but 'easy' is a relative term and why write HTML when there are packages that will do it for you? It is true that if you have the necessary skills to write HTML you have precise control over how your pages look and feel. You will also be able to write good code that is efficient and economic.

Web-authoring packages

Many people nowadays create their pages with what is called 'web-authoring' software. There are two types. The first is referred to as WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). It works like a word processor so that as you compose a page on screen it appears in much the same way as it will ultimately be seen when viewed from your web-site by a web-browser such as Internet Explorer. An example is MS FrontPage. There is also a cut down version called FrontPage Express which comes free as a component of Internet Explorer or may be downloaded from the Microsoft web-site. Netscape has an equivalent called Netscape Composer. More sophisticated applications are available. An example is Dreamweaver which is claimed to be the application of choice. It has many features but with a price tag of nearly £300 it is clearly a product for the professional. Potential users should expect to endure a steep learning curve when first using it. The other type of software is designed to work directly with HTML tags to ease the coding process. An example is HotMetal. During the process of creating a page for the web a composite of HTML tags and the user's text is shown on screen in a representation of the final product.

Using a word processor

Building your site using a word processor (such as MS Word, WordPerfect, Star Office etc.) will satisfy many family historians, especially if it is their first venture onto the net, and the site does not have many pages. However, you may find that the output is not always interpreted correctly by a web browser. Also, your word processor may not include the latest HTML features or correctly implement the latest HTML standards.

HTML generated by web-authoring software or by word processors can be improved by using a text editor to make the code more efficient - especially by removal of redundant code and to make the site look precisely as you want it to.

Uploading to the web

Usually web pages are first created on your own computer before being uploaded to a 'server', often on your own ISP, on the Internet. Files are uploaded using File Transfer Protocol (FTP). FTP can be run manually but nowadays it is usual to employ an FTP program. Examples are [FileZilla,] CuteFTP, WSFTP, FTP Explorer, and the MS Web Publishing Wizard. Many of these enable you to move files to and from the web in a way similar to moving files with Windows Explorer. Many web-authoring packages (including FrontPage - but not Front Page Express - and Dreamweaver) have built-in FTP facilities.

Search engines

It is little use having a site on the web unless others can find it. Search Engines, like Yahoo and Altavista, are used to find sites. You should submit your site URL address to several of these engines and there is usually a link on their home page to do this. There are also sites on the Internet which enable you to submit your URL to several engines at once. You should include META tags in your HTML. They provide keywords and other information on the content of your site which are used by search engines as part of the process of indexing your site. It is also worth searching the web to find recommended techniques for the construction and content of pages to maximise the chances of your site appearing high on the listings from expected common queries.

HTML converters and family history software

Always consider using software written specifically for genealogists. There are GEDCOM converters which take files in GEDCOM (Genealogy Data COMmunication) format to create web-sites. GEDCOM files can be produced from most family history programs. Also, web sites can be generated automatically by most of the leading family history programs. This only takes a few seconds on modern machines. Generally the site will be created on your own PC for subsequent uploading to your personal web space. However, FTM (Family Tree Maker) can only generate a site on-line at the FTM web-site and your information may then be included in the CDs which they sell.

Webpages produced by family history programs could be amended by using a web authoring tool but this would defeat the object of being able to instantly regenerate a site every time a change is made to the database. Table 2 is an example of a page produced by the Family History program PAF (Personal Ancestral File). It shows an 'indented text narrative 'for the same family as Tables 1. The superscript numbers provide links to source information for each individual. This site is at . PAF generates pages for selected individuals or for the ancestors or descendants of a specified individual. You could include everyone in your database but if you have thousands of individuals this will result in a large site taking up several Mbytes. PAF generates a site with a home page giving links to a Surname List and Name Index as well as a link to either a list of individuals, ancestors or descendants. Indented text narratives are provided for every person selected.

Screen Dump of 'indented narrative'

Table 2

Charts such as Drop-line Trees cannot generally be produced. Drop-line Trees with only a few generations are often very wide and this makes it difficult to create a design that will fit onto a PC monitor especially as most still have only 14 or 15 inch screens. It would be possible to create a chart as an image and insert that into the HTML. The image could be produced in several ways including scanning but it would probably be very difficult to get a satisfactory result.

Listings of family history programs and some convertors can be found in the March and June issues for both 1999 and 2000 of Computers in Genealogy published by the Society of Genealogists.

What now?

This is only an introductory article but maybe it will encourage more readers to think about putting their own family history onto the web. The guiding rule to a novice is to keep your site simple. You might look at a simple well designed site which has no frills and view the HTML code from your browser. With Internet Explorer use 'View' from the menu bar and select 'Source' to show the HTML code in Notepad. You could then edit the HTML to use your names and information and save it. A word of warning - be wary of breaching copyright and would you like to see someone copying your design?

Further information

If you have any problems in forming your website you will be able to discuss them with others at the new Research Centre. We are planning to hold Computing Workshops and one of these, 'Building A Web-site', is being planned for early in 2001. You can post your problems on the Discussion Group and hopefully someone else may be able to help. If you want further information have a look in computer magazines appropriate to your standard of expertise or look for a text book on HTML or web authoring. "Web Publishing for Genealogy" by Peter Christian (published by David Hawgood) is a beginner's guide with plenty of help and guidance. Useful articles directly relating to genealogy can sometimes be found in Computers in Genealogy - a Society of Genealogists' publication. A final word of caution. Do not include details of any living individual otherwise you will have to abide by the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998.

Maidenhead Library sources

Judith Mitchell

Maidenhead Library has many useful books and documents for family historians.

The collection is in three main areas:

  • Books on family history are available for loan on the ground floor. Dewey decimal 929
  • General reference books are to be found on the upper floor.
  • Local history books, microfiche and microfilm are also on the upper floor. Ask the library staff to access many of these books and documents as some are kept in locked cupboards. If you cannot find particular books or documents consult the computer index.

General sources for family historians:

International Genealogical Index (IGI) 1988 edition on microfiche.

Peerage, surname dictionaries, Who Was Who, UK telephone directories, Ordnance Survey maps, Crockford's ClericalDirectory, etc.

Sources for local families:

Local censuses for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 indexed by name, by location, by birthplace available on microfiche.

Maidenhead Advertiser from 1870 available on microfilm.

Parish register transcripts available on request.

Electoral Registers, some from 1945.

Poll Books.

Street directories from 1890.

Windsor Hall Books - transcriptions of council proceedings before this century.

Local history books mostly concerning Maidenhead, Cookham, Bray, but a number from other local areas.

Local maps.

Before 1857 there were no parish churches in Maidenhead so Church of England baptisms, marriages and burials took place at Cookham for Maidenhead north of the London to Bath Road (A4) and at Bray for the area south of the road.

Internet connections are [were] available at £2.50 for half-an-hour.

Reading Lives: Reading Museum Service's Oral History Collection

Javier Pes

Oral history is a unique and often vivid source of Reading's history. We can discover and preserve some of that history, which would otherwise go unrecorded, by interviewing people now, about their lives. Reading Museum Service has been collecting Reading's oral history on audiotape for the last five years. The memories we have recorded so far are as evocative as they are diverse.

'It was a very strange day when I returned to Reading on the Monday after the [Huntley & Palmers factory had stopped producing biscuits. When you arrived at work there was always a hustle and a bustle and a big hum about the factory and the Monday after it closed there was silence.' Midge Harris. [interview no. 199,7.127.5b]

As well as biscuit makers like Midge Harris, we have interviewed an artist, two architects, a brewer, a cinema usher, a carnival costume designer, a die-hard Reading football fan, a manager at Sutton's Seeds and founding members of Reading's Progress Theatre. So far we have recorded over 8o hours of interviews. We believe that this will be a rich and unique source of information for future generations interested in the social history of Reading.

Early in her museum career Karen Knight, the director of Reading Museum and Archive Service, led an oral history project in Birmingham. The impetus to establish oral history as an integral part of the Museum's work and the decision to purchase the necessary recording equipment came from the very top of Reading Museum Service. We began talking to people on audiotape in 1995 for a temporary exhibition about the experience of the home front in Reading during World War 11. Excerpts of the interviews were included in a temporary exhibition 'Home Front' held at Blake's Lock Museum that year.

'I always remember the first Yanks that came in. I didn't realise they were Americans because they didn't sound like the Americans you heard on the films. These two came in and one of them said to me "Excuse me, miss, can I have two cups of java and two tomato sandwiches", and I'm walking them up and down the counter trying to find out what tomato sandwiches was and it took me a long time to find out what the java was: coffee.' Olive Green [interview no.1997.1.27.Ic]

When I took up the new post of Curator of Contemporary History in 1996, Reading Museum Service had the tools in place to create a collection of real breadth and depth. We wanted to use what we were recording in a variety of public history projects: long term and temporary exhibitions, in talks and in multimedia and traditional publications. To ensure that the collection was accessible to researchers now and in the future we wanted to base the collection on sound principles of collections care. This has meant that we have never allowed a backlog to grow of interviews awaiting documentation and safety copying.

The next opportunity to use the collection in the Museum's public programme arose with the temporary exhibition 'Making Progress' in 1997, about the history of Reading's ground breaking theatre company. Working with theatre members, we created a lively and colourful exhibition which featured oral history as text on banners and on a soundtrack broadcast from a specially edited minidisc into the exhibition space.

'We were trying hard to think of a name. 'Dramatic Society', there were other dramatic societies, there were other players, like 'The Earley Players'... We could perhaps call it something to do with a word that was very much in the air when everybody was discussing the Beveridge Report. And the word was progress' ' And John Hall came up with the idea of 'Progress Theatre'... One of our number objected, said, "Why, we haven't got a theatre". We felt we were working on the theatre, and so far all we'd got was the progress. 'Norman Bishop [interview no. 1997.127.i6]

Over the last three years at Reading Museum Service our priority has been to create six new galleries at the Museum of Reading, part of a Heritage Lottery Funded refurbishment of the Town Hall and Museum. Two of the galleries feature oral history sound points. They are the Huntley & Palmers Gallery and Reading: People and Place. In addition, several of the programmes in 'Touch Base', the new multimedia gallery interactive, feature extracts from the oral history collection. This memory of the 1943 air raid on Reading accompanies a photograph of its aftermath.

'My mother was behind the counter in the Post Office and the overseer heard the shhhh of the bomb and he shouted to all the staff to get behind the counter because they were those big old sturdy wooden ones and they all got behind the counter and all the panel glass came in, blew the whole lot out'.... 'Funnily enough, the manageress of the People's Pantry, her son was at Bluecoat [School] with me. His bicycle was buried under that lot and they fetched it out a few days later and it was unscathed except it was covered in brick dust. Of course there were about 36 people died in that bomb'. D. Embery [interview no. 1997.1.27.3c]

The sound point in Reading: People and Place, is designed as a 'talking table', so that visitors can sit in comfort while they listen to memories such as this person's childhood evacuation from London to Reading:

'We didn't know where we were going to be honest, well, not at that age. I mean nobody knew. I think everybody was sort of crying and more frightened really than anything, because we just didn't know where we were going and I mean my aunt saw me off, my mum's sister, but you know she said it will only be for a few days ... we landed in Reading.' Irene Moore [interview no. 1997.127.1]

The important histories of biscuit making and the allied trade of tin box making in Reading are well represented in the collection. Amongst the many former workers in these two industries we have interviewed someone who was an apprentice in the tin design department of the biscuit tin makers Huntley, Boorne and Stevens in the 1950s. We have also interviewed a person who rose to become managing director of the same company. Like many of his generation his working life was interrupted in 1939 with the outbreak of World War II. Here is his memory of how he felt during the retreat through France to Dunkirk.

'We'd got well back into France, on the retreat, but we weren't worried about it... the lack of information we had, didn't worry us... We just thought somewhere we'd make a stand and fight these swine... I wasn't worried. I was worried about getting shot, but that was all.' Basil Tarrant [interview no. 1997.127.23]

A person's first day at a new job is often a memorable experience. This is how one person, who rose to become head of public relations at Huntley & Palmers, remembered his early days at the biscuit factory.

Mr Maslam will take you down, you are going to the tin department. So I followed Mr Maslam ... he took me down and I went into another world and I went into a huge warehouse. There seemed to be hundreds of women hammering tins, square tins, with wooden mallets, hammering them and hammering them and there was an enormous machine that was washing empty biscuit tins that had come back from the grocers and I couldn't believe it.' Michael Paxton [interview no. 1997.127.10]

Because so many Reading people have an association with Huntley & Palmers I have often found myself unwittingly interviewing an ex Huntley & Palmers worker when I had actually gone to interview them for another reason. For instance a man who had organised the Reading Show from its beginning as a wartime 'Dig for Victory' event turned out to have also been in charge of Huntley & Palmers production planning and so was an invaluable source of information about how the company had to adapt its production to wartime conditions in 1939. Another couple whom I interviewed because of their association with Huggins the bakers, formerly in Crown Street, and now on display at Blakes Lock Museum, turned out to have both worked at the biscuit factory in the 1920s, where they first met.

A valuable source of information about Huntley & Palmers was a former factory tour guide. Her interview also tied in with her guide's uniform that had been acquired by the Museum several years before. The costume's historical value has been greatly enhanced by the acquisition of its personal history.

'In the early days, of course, the biscuits were baked in coal ovens and they had bakers putting the trays of biscuits into the oven on peels. They were small travelling ovens and it used to be quite amusing too, because when we walked through the ovens, they were coal fires, and we had to walk past the thermoses, which people found very hot. When we got to the other end they were offered a hot biscuit as it came out of the oven.' Mary Cottrell [interview no. 1997.127.26]

Photo of Factory Tour Guides

Huntley & Palmers factory tour guides c. 1950

We have not neglected Reading's other '3B' industries: brewing, and selling bulbs and seeds. So far we have interviewed a member of the Simonds family who was also a brewery director and we have recently interviewed someone who worked for almost 50 years at Suttons Seeds, beginning his career there as a 15 year old shop boy.

'You had to be very careful with seeds, there was a story once... there was a brussel sprout called 'Market Rear Guard' and there was a savoy called 'Rear Guard' and somehow they got muddled up, and because of that market growers had the wrong seeds, which is quite serious. And they had to grow lots and lots of plants to compensate these people." Jack Warner [interview no. 1997.127.35]

We seek to integrate oral history into the mainstream of the Museum's work and so often an interview has been made to accompany the acquisition of a new object. Three Reading Carnival costumes were specially designed and made by Reading's leading carnival costume designer for the new gallery, Reading: People and Place. We interviewed the designer to find out more about his life story and his experience of carnival as a young child in Trinidad.

'The competition [in Trinidad] is very fierce. Everybody wants to win but there is only going to be one Carnival king and queen. Every year costumes have a different theme. I remember on Carnival night when it finishes at 12 o'clock people discarded their costumes ... they are big and they have nowhere to store them and they have ideas about what they are going to do next year. And so the streets are littered with fantasy, bits of glitter, bits of costume .... My first costumes ]for the first Reading Carnival in 1977] were Native American. It was not easy to get materials; we only had two weeks to prepare. For wire I used bits of clothes line and for feathers I went all the way down to a peacock farm in Pangbourne. I got some beads from Heelas and bits of velvet. We worked day and night'. Herman Philbert [interview no. 997.127.32]

When we record an interview we always have in mind that we are building a public collection. We seek to obtain a recording with the best possible sound quality. This might mean avoiding interviewing someone in a room with a lively budgerigar in the background. Likewise, because Reading lies under the flight path of Concorde, sonic booms have interrupted several interviews. The issue of good sound quality also meant that we chose to record on digital audiotape as opposed to analogue cassette tape. This made Reading a pioneer museum service to go digital.

We are also careful to ensure that whoever we are interviewing is happy that other people can listen to their memories. We always explain the purpose of the interview and obtain the written consent of the interviewee, that their memories can be made publicly accessible. As a matter of courtesy we always make a copy of the interview for the interviewee. From personal experience the interviewee's family often appreciates this.

In addition to recording oral history ourselves, Reading Museum Service is keen to encourage and advise individuals and groups to undertake their own oral history projects. We have written a simple 'how to' guide, called 'Reading Within Living Memory' which is available free of charge from the museum. The guide covers areas such as which tape recorders and microphones to use, through to simple dos and don'ts.

As with any primary source oral testimony cannot be judged on face value. Oral testimony, like any written document, can contain biases, silences, unreliable facts or even fictions, which the historian needs to be able to evaluate. Oral history is a particularly good way of finding out how people felt about an experience or event in their life. Sometimes the emotional truth of a memory does not match its factual reliability. My colleague Jocelyn Goddard was formerly Oral History Officer in Oxfordshire. She remembers this telling incident:

'At a talk I played a piece from an interview which 1 had found very moving - it was a story from the Second World War about a woman at home waiting for news of her husband.

She had heard on the wireless that the hospital in Chittagong, where he was posted, had been bombed and there were no survivors, but she never got any official notification that he was dead. For months she could not tell her young children and went on helping them write letters to their father, even though they never received a reply. She kept on telling them he must be too busy to write, but she was becoming convinced that he was dead. Then one day she came home from work and the front door seemed to be jammed. When she finally pushed it open she found the hall floor covered with letters - her husband had been moved to China and several months of his letters had all arrived on the same ship.

Someone in the audience put his hand up and made the point that this story demonstrated the unreliability of oral evidence - the interviewee had said 'the Germans bombed Chittagong', when in fact it was the Japanese.'

I agree that for hard facts, dates and so on, oral testimony should be carefully compared with other sources. 1 still think this story was valuable as historical evidence, because it took me so vividly into an experience shared by so many people at that time, almost ordinary to them then and extraordinary to us now. You can find out from an encyclopaedia who bombed Chittagong. You need a person to tell you how it feels to live through a war.' Jocelyn Goddard, Education Officer, Reading Museum Service.

When we interview someone for the oral history collection we are very much an 'outsider' or stranger. People interviewing other family members have created very interesting oral histories. They will therefore have a very different 'insider's' perspective and knowledge. This will naturally affect the content of the interview. A technique open to a family member who is recording an in depth family oral history would be to repeatedly ask questions about the same subject over several interviews held at different times. By doing this, one family historian was able explore experiences and events about which the interviewee, who was their mother, was initially hesitant to recall.

The Museum's oral history collection has been formed with a social historical intention. However, 1 want to conclude this brief introduction to the oral history work of Reading Museum Service by recalling how researchers at the University of Reading found a quite unintended linguistic value in the collection. They were researching how the Reading accent was changing as younger generations spoke in a less localised south-eastern or 'Estuary English' accent. Several of the interviews that we have made have been with people born in or near Reading between 50 and 70 years ago. They were ideal sources of the more traditional Reading accent. We were delighted to be of assistance. It also impressed on me how we cannot wholly predict what will be of interest to current and future generations. However, one thing we can be sure of is that the growing collection of interviews, complimenting the Museum's rich collection of objects and images, will form a unique and vivid resource for future generations.

Javier Pes is Curator of Contemporary History, Reading Museum Service and formerly worked at the Museum of London.

Additional information