Well despite the reputation of dusty old archives things are anything but dull at the History Centre. One aspect I really enjoy about my job is the variety. We are asked an eclectic range of questions every week from local people and visitors from all over the world. This week we have helped visitors researching a slaughterhouse in Foleshill, a Hobson aircraft carburettor used by the Italian Air Force, the history of various inns of Coventry, haunted properties and a parachutist, Viola Spencer, who sadly died after falling on to a roof during a jump in Coventry in 1910.
We are often asked to find historical information and photographs for television companies at short notice which can mean any plans for the day going out the window. However I admit to being rather envious of my colleagues Rob and Jane who were recently involved with the filming of a new BBC 4 series at St. Mary’s Hall presented by historian Michael Wood. One of the city’s most important archives, the Coventry Leet Book, 1421-1555, was used during the filming of this programme, due to be broadcast in 2011.
With the 70th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz approaching we have also had several requests for photographs of the city following the bombing including one from the Philharmonic Choir of Nuremberg. The choir and Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra are planning a performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Memorial in the Meistersingerhalle in October and have requested photographs of the city centre for an accompanying exhibition at the concert hall.
In addition to answering enquiries and helping researchers find their way around our resources we also work behind the scenes adding new items and improving access to our collections. Recent additions of books and pamphlets to our collection include:
The Haunted Tour of Britain. West Midlands by Richard Felix
Tom Farndon. The Greatest Speedway Rider of Them All by Norman Jacobs & John Chaplin
Irish Birmingham. A History by James Moran
Coventry Market. In a Round About Way by Pete Chambers
Town Thorns. The Story of a Country Mansion by Deidre Hancock
Leisure and Pleasure. A Medley of Spare Time Pursuits by The Women’s Research Group
Eastern Green – Past & Present. Volume 2 by Eastern Green History Group
All are available to view in the History Centre Reading Room.
We have also just received the long-awaited 3rd edition of the National Burial Index. Updated and now on a single CD this will be a great help to people researching their family history, particularly those looking for ancestors who lived outside the local area. The CD is a database of 18.4 million records from parish registers of English and Welsh churches. It covers the period 1538-2008 and includes nonconformist, Roman Catholic and Quaker records. Please ask any member of the History Centre staff if you would like to use the CD. If your family history has come to a dead end this might be worth a try!
Rayanne, Senior History Centre Assistant