“How did a boat with such a tall mast end up moored outside the Kings Arms?”: An answer to the question we put to you in the York Press!

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The ‘Centurion’ replica moored outside the Kings Arms in 1953… but how did it get there?

When we here at York Explore first studied this photograph from the York Motor Yacht Club archive collection (reference MYC), we were baffled as to how it actually got to the Kings Arms, considering the existence of both Ouse Bridge and Skeldergate Bridge. Could its masts have collapsed to get under the bridges? This did not seem likely considering the height and apparent robustness of them. Seeing as the photograph caused so much discussion amongst staff here at Explore, we decided to reach out to the public in our latest feature in the York Press, and hopefully stir up some public discussion on the topic. And so we did!

Putting the question to you in the York Press ( "It's amazing what you can find in a box", Friday 24th July).

Putting the question to you in the York Press ( “It’s amazing what you can find in a box”, Friday 24th July).

The answer I hear you ask? Skeldergate Bridge was an opening bridge! It turns out that the Clifford’s Tower side of the bridge was designed so that it could be opened so that taller vessels were able to pass through. Upon learning this, I decided to delve into our archive collections and see what I could find about the Skeldergate Bridge…

If you look carefully at this image, thought to be of the regatta held for the opening of the bridge, you can just about see Skeldergate Bridge open in the background (reference y_11143).

If you look carefully at this image, thought to be of the regatta held for the opening of the bridge, you can just about see Skeldergate Bridge open in the background (reference y_11143).

I located the Skeldergate Bridge Committee Minute Book (Y/COU/5/9/2) in our civic collection and started reading… Here’s what I found:

In 1873, it was decided that a bridge in the Skeldergate area of York was needed, and in 1875 the York Skeldergate Bridge Improvement Act was passed, permitting the building of the bridge. The photograph below to the right shows a section of the Act that described the terms under which the bridge would open. The Act permitted the bridge to be opened when required between 10:30 and 11:30 “in the forenoon”, and between 3:30 – 4:30 in the afternoon so that vessels that would otherwise be unable to, to pass through.

The bridge was to be a Bascule Bridge and, according to architect Gordon Page, it was the largest of its kind in the world at the time.

Architect George Page proclaiming that Skeldergate Bridge was the largest bascule bridge of its kind in the world!

Architect George Page proclaiming that Skeldergate Bridge was the largest bascule bridge of its kind in the world! (Y/COU/5/9/2)

We also hold some of the fabulous plans for the proposed Skeldergate Bridge here at Explore:

The bridge was officially opened to pedestrians on 1st January 1881 and to carriage traffic on 10th March 1881.

A drawing of the Skeldergate Bridge opening plaque (Refeence PH097/1757)

A drawing of the Skeldergate Bridge opening plaque ( PH097/1757, not yet publicly available)

The official opening of the bridge was marked by a wonderful procession, as can be seen in this image:

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The official opening of Skeldergate Bridge on 10th March 1881 (Imagine York, reference y75_93).

The ship that is shown in the image from the York Motor Yacht Club collection (reference MYC), is a replica of the ‘Centurion’, which was the ship in which the first Society for the Propagation of the Gospel mission sailed to America. According to one email I had in response to our York Press call out, the ship visited York in 1953, hence why it is pictured moored up outside the Kings Arms.

We would like to thank all those who got in touch with responses to our call out in the York Press, it has been very informative and we are thrilled to have stirred up such a popular discussion!

 

Experiencing a ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ workshop for the very first time!

Last Thursday I went along to my very first ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ workshop. It was a wonderful day and it was clear from the feedback we received that it was enjoyed by all. I thought I’d share my experiences with you, being new to the workshops myself!

The day started the way any day should start- with tea and coffee upon arrival! Whilst everyone sipped away, we handed out our ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ packs. These include worksheets for the day ahead, a useful guidebook on storing and managing your own archives, and some extra little freebies!

Our 'Gateway to Your Archives' packs

Our ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ packs

After a short introduction delivered by Sarah, Laura led a fabulous tour of our archives services. During the tour, Laura explained the uses of the different rooms; from the Local History Room and the Family History Room, through to the infamous Pod, and finally the Reading Room. It was a great way of helping our guests to get to grips with the uses of the different rooms and informing them about the various types equipment we have to offer, such as the microfilm reader and book scanner. This sort of equipment is something people often get very excited about, as it can come in very handy for local history groups or individuals who are conducting their own research.

 

After taking part in a short activity on the theme of ‘What Should York Remember?’, I led the group back down to the Marriott Room; our main base for the day. More tea and biscuits were consumed, and then Sarah launched into her introduction to archives and cataloguing, asking and answering some fundamental questions such as “what is an archive?” and “what is the point in keeping an archive?”. These questions certainly get you thinking in greater depth about archives and the need to keep them.

Getting into the "What types of records should you keep?" activity

Getting into the “What types of records should you keep?” activity

A discussion then ensued about what to keep and what to throw away when keeping an archive, and this led perfectly on to our next activity- where we tested our guests on their thoughts as to what should and should not be kept. This activity came with useful warnings about how to throw away archive waste and what records can and can’t be made accessible to the public.

Next it was time to ‘create a catalogue’! This activity is aimed at encouraging our attendees to think logically about how to actually store and file their archives, and is really helpful in teaching them how to approach an archive.

Learning how to create a catalogue

Learning how to create a catalogue

It was then time for lunch! In came the sandwich and cake platters, and the room was quickly filled with chatter about the day. One thing that is often mentioned in the feedback is that the workshops offer a fantastic opportunity for attendees to network and get to know people from other local societies and groups- and lunch is the perfect time for this!

After lunch it is time to talk about digital records, a hot topic that is often met with confusion that we aim to minimise! It was soon clear that digital records, once handled in the right way, can be straight forward and as easy to manage as any other type of archive record.

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Introducing our guests to some storage solutions, from boxes and shelving to fire doors and flood management!

Next: storage solutions! This is where we talk about the practical side of managing your own archives, from the type of storage space used through to minimising fire and flood risks. Finally, after another tea break to liven everybody up again, we talk about how you, as a community group or society, can actually benefit from your archive, and how you can take your archives into your local community to encourage further engagement with history. This prompted lots of apt discussion, as many local societies were able to advise others on how to engage with different segments of their communities.

The final part of the day is often people’s favourite… being given a ‘Gateway to Your Archives’ certificate! It was lovely to catch people on their way out and hear their thoughts on their day spent with us. It was also extremely rewarding coming in the following morning to emails thanking us for such an enjoyable day!

20150715_133402If our ‘Gateway to Your Archive’ workshops are something you or your community group are interested in, then don’t fret- we still have spaces available on our Thursday 24th September and Saturday 24th October workshops! Please get in touch by emailing Sarah Tester at sarah.tester@exploreyork.org.uk for more information. We look forward to seeing you there!

Hello there! Introducing Explore’s Newbie…

Hello there! I am Jenny McGarvey, the latest newbie here at York Explore (when I say “newbie”, that’s not technically correct. You might recognise me from my previous blog post, “Getting to Grips with Criminal Histories…”, posted back in March when I was a placement student here, but I am delighted to be back as a member of staff!).

Cataloguing at the end of my first week as Community Collections Assistant

Cataloguing at the end of my first week as Community Collections Assistant

I am the new Community Collections Assistant and I am very excited to be working on the fabulous York: Gateway to History project. My role is to work with Sarah to help her deliver different aspects of the project; from winding up the Archives Roadshow and cataloguing the collections though to helping deliver the Gateway to your Archives workshops and our Community Collections volunteering programme.

 

Some of our volunteers working hard cataloguing some of the community collections.

Some of our volunteers working hard cataloguing some of the community collections.

One aspect of the project that I am very excited about is the creation of an art installation that will reflect the different views of the local community on the question “What should York remember?”. This is the question that has been put to you, the general public, during our Archives Roadshow sessions that have taken place across all of York’s local libraries over the past few months. A local artist will be using your responses to create an installation that will be displayed in the first floor landing at York Explore.

I went along to my first Archives Roadshow session on Monday afternoon at Strensall library, which made for a very interesting first day! We also went along to Dunnington Library yesterday evening for our final stop in the Archives Roadshow journey. It was clear that local history is a popular passion in both Dunnington and Strensall, and it was lots of fun chatting to local residents about the things that they think are important to York’s past. I cannot wait to see the final outcome of the art piece, and how it reflects the huge range of responses we have had about what we should remember about York’s history.

 

“What should York remember?” - some responses given at Strensall library Archives Roadshow.

“What should York remember?” – some responses given at Strensall library Archives Roadshow.

I am also very much looking forward to being involved in the Gateway to your Archives workshops, where we will be encouraging local community groups to develop and manage their own archives. The workshops have been a fantastic success so far and they are an amazing opportunity for us to meet lots of local community group members and help them enhance their archival skills.

 

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

One of the Gateway to your Archives workshops.

Today I have been busy doing my first bit of cataloguing which I am thoroughly enjoying. It has given me the opportunity to have a quick nosey at some very interesting documents and learn how to actually organise a collection logically. I am getting to know the catalogue system and finding it easier each time I log a new entry! I can tell already that I am really going to enjoy this aspect of my job.

You’ll certainly hear a lot more from me over the next few months on our outreach and cataloguing work as part of the Gateway to History project here at York Explore, as I’ll be keeping you updated on our latest events and progress through the blog as well as Twitter, Pinterest and Flickr.