Friday, 21 October 2016

James Hornby: Heslington Hall Horticulturalist

BI/JHOR/4/1/4 James and Mary Hornby

Earlier this year we were gifted a very exciting archive - the archive of James Hornby, head gardener at Heslington Hall between 1870 and 1902. This small but fascinating group of records gives us some real insights into the day-to-day role of a Victorian head gardener, and well as a different perspective on life at Heslington Hall, formerly the home of the Yarburgh family and now one of the University's most iconic buildings. The archive includes many photographs and drawings of the Hall as well as portraits of James Hornby, his wife Mary and members of their wider family, letters (including one from the then Lord Deramore thanking James Hornby for putting out a fire in the Hall!) and even a medal for prize-winning pears.

However, for me, the most fascinating document in the archive is James Hornby's 'Diary of Operations' which documents the first eighteen months of his 32 year employment at Heslington Hall. It showcases the beginning of the changes in the gardens at the Hall, starting with a note dated 18th August 1870 stating ‘No peas, nor cucumbers, nor melons nor yet many vegetables of any kind’. Even over the span of time recorded in this journal, it is possible to see James Hornby, at the head of a team of gardeners, taking and shaping the gardens into both an ornamental space and a productive garden supplying Heslington Hall with fruit, vegetables and flowers.

BI/JHOR/1/1/1 Pages of James Hornby's horticultural journal

The journal records successful cultivars, harvest dates, crop yields and temperature changes, as well as practical tasks such as cleaning the glasshouses, whitewashing and even (repeatedly!) mending a lawnmower. The image of the page above shows a typical spread of entries and illustrates one of the other ways in which this document helps us to understand the role of this head gardener. As with many of the other pages, these entries include backdated annotation, often in different coloured ink, which indicate how some tasks were recorded and then amended or added to at a later date. The detail below shows and entry recording potatoes being planted out on January 31st, with a note added in purple ink to say that the first dish was collected on April 9th but that it would be beneficial to plant a crop in time for Easter Sunday instead.  

BI/JHOR/1/1/1 extract of a page of James Hornby's journal

Even for those of us who aren't keen gardeners, the journal is a really interesting record documenting as it does the rhythms of life at Heslington Hall and events in the life of the Yarburgh familyincluding visits from ‘company’ for evening events, periods when the family are away from Heslington and also the birth of George Nicholas de Yarburgh-Bateson, noted as ‘Master Nicholas’ in November 1870. With characteristic brevity, it also records events in James Hornby’s own life including frequent visits from his brother William and trips to country fairs, including one to his home-town of Gisburn. 

BI/JHOR/4/2/2 James Hornby at the rear of Heslington Hall

The catalogue, listing each item in the James Hornby archive, is now available online through Borthcat and also includes a brief biography of James Hornby himself. All of the material is available for consultation in our searchroom and enquiries can be made via 

Lydia Dean

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The nature of the job: surveying the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust archive

Most of the boxes of the YWT archive;
we've since added a few more!

So, I'm about halfway through the 12 months of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust archive project - and what a six months it's been! The time is going quickly; summer was filled with continuing the survey of deposited material, drafting and re-drafting an archival structure and finishing off my Masters in Archives and Records Management at the University of Dundee. Now the Autumn has rolled around again and the new academic year is here, I wanted to give a quick update on the progress of the project so far and what's yet to come. I'm intending to do a few related posts, which you can explore through the labels at the bottom of the page - clicking either 'Yorkshire Wildlife Trust' or 'new professional' should show all the project-related posts - that will outline the more practical side of the project. This is the first in that series and is going to look at how I, as a newly qualified archivist, have approached surveying what is a large and complex archive.
I began my project by reviewing the box lists that were supplied when the material was accessioned. This gave me an idea of how varied the material is, as well as getting a handle on its original order. I then went to have a look at it on the shelves in the strongroom (left). This really brought home what just over 3.5m3 of archive looks like! For the most part, the material had been repackaged when it arrived so it was all neatly wrapped and divided in archival folders.

Boxed and unboxed files in the strongroom.
I decided to have a look at a couple of what I thought would be key files before I started the proper survey and I selected some of the foundation papers of the organisation, including correspondence from just before and just after the Trust was established, as well as the minutes of their first meeting. I also had a look at some of the unpackaged material relating to Askham Bog, which was the Trust's first reserve. This not only gave me insight into the post-war context in which the Trust was established but also gave me key names of the founding members - among them Arnold Rowntree and Francis Terry - and an idea of how the original Council thought the organisation would be structured. Examining the reserve files was a further step in understanding not only the sort of information likely to be found in the files - from scientific recordings of the habitat and species present, to photographs, through to independent research about the site - but also how the files were put together.
Askham Bog environmental data, 1933. 
I wanted to use the survey phase of the project to achieve several key objectives. Firstly, to get a good understanding of the material and how it fits together to intellectually represent a whole organisation. Secondly, to make a note of the content of each file: the types of records it contained, key topics covered by the file, significant correspondents and covering dates which will all be useful in describing the file at a later stage of the project. Thirdly, to gain an understanding of how the file was put together: did it have an intellectual order, was it structured around physical or practical constraints such as the size of the folder or the capacity of a filing cabinet drawer, who generated or collated the material and for what purpose. Fourthly, as both a new professional and as an outsider to the Wildlife Trust, to build up my knowledge of the depth and breadth of the archive.
A page of notes from my survey of
material on Bretton Lakes
Although only eight weeks were allocated to this phase of the project in the original project plan, I decided to take a little longer to do a more detailed survey concurrently with some structuring and describing of records (more of the latter in a future post). As the project was designed to describe the archive to file level, I needed to ensure I had enough information to create a usefully detailed description which could convey the right information to researchers - information to which they wouldn't have access otherwise.

I have worked in what I suppose is a pretty analogue way, filling four notepads as I've gone along and then reappraising what I've written as I type it into a master spreadsheet. From there, I've been able to move files around and to separate different levels of the archive out for further examination. This phase of the project is coming to an end now and I will be continuing with the final tweaks to the structure of the archive and starting to describe the records in our online interface, Borthcat. Whilst it will be refreshing to move from leafing through files to adding to our online catalogue, I'll miss discovering lots of little snippets, and discussing them with my (very patient!) colleagues. I have been adding some of these to Twitter and Facebook as I've gone along, and I'm sure there'll be more to come as I finish the last few boxes this week.

Lydia Dean
Project Archivist

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Archbishops’ Registers Revealed: final thoughts of an indexer

A year has flashed by and the project to index two of the registers of the Archbishops of York, 1576-1650, will very soon come to an end. However, both registers are now fully indexed and the results are available for searching on line at

What will you discover?

Looking back over the work, it was perhaps a little surprising to find that the majority of the contents of those two registers comprised York Consistory Court wills (but no probate inventories), mostly of clergymen, but also some lay people. Earlier registers, such as those of Archbishop Neville (1374-1388) and Archbishop Lee (1531-1544), for example, appear to record a much greater variety of business.

However, wills have long been known to provide a very valuable source of information on many aspects of daily life in the past, revealing the testator’s material possessions, personal tastes, relationships and place in society. Needless to say, the wills in Registers 31 and 32 have done the same for the sixteenth and seventeenth century clergy and their families, offering a rich seam of interest and, on occasion, entertainment! Who would have thought that anyone would wish to receive a legacy of a chamber pot (Reg. 31, fol. 125 v, entry 3) or a ‘stoole of ease’ (commode) (Reg. 31, fol. 123 v, entry 2)? Who would have thought that cows would have been named ‘Daisy’ as long ago as in 1625 (Reg. 31, fol. 249 r, entry 1)? And would a testator leave his daughter his musical instruments if she were not able to play them or at least keen to learn (Reg. 32, fol. 113 r, entry 4)?

Otherwise, the registers have revealed such other aspects of the archbishops’ business as the technicalities of providing a diocese with a new bishop, following a strictly-laid down ecclesiastical legal procedure still adhered to today, requiring royal assent and formal election. The process of the archbishop’s visitation or periodical inspection of clergy and lay people in the province is also found in the registers, but few details of matters for concern discovered and corrected appear. This omission is explained by the fact that by around this date, a separate series of records for visitations, including visitation court books, had been created (YDA/6, 1567-).

Durham clergy list 1577
Another feature of this type of material was that records of the archbishop’s visitation of the diocese of Durham in 1577 are very detailed in including lists of names of all the clergy in the archdeaconries and deaneries of the diocese summoned to appear before the archbishop with their credentials, together with the names of several churchwardens and others, such as schoolmasters, in each parish (see for example, Reg. 31, fols. 30r-34-v, containing 105 names).

Nevertheless, even the routine business of the archbishops can have its lighter moments. That and other visitations of the diocese of Durham also show the immense difficulties encountered by the archbishops of York in carrying out these inspections. This was particularly true of visitations of the cathedral clergy, who strenuously resisted the process, to the point of excluding the archbishop’s deputy, the Bishop of Durham, also in 1577, from their chapter house by locking him out (Reg. 31, fol. 33v, entry 7). The registers then go on to present the farcical picture of the bishop, sitting on a chair near the entrance doors of the chapter house, attempting to continue the visitation proceedings from outside (Reg. 31, fol. 34 r, entry 2)!

Among the other high points of the project has been the discovery in Register 32 of a seating plan showing the allocation in 1636 of seats or pews in the chapel of Holmfirth in the parish of Kirkburton, in the West Riding of Yorkshire (Reg. 32, fols. 94 A & B). This plan is equally rich in names of local inhabitants, so giving a kind of snapshot of the area at the time, and would prove very useful for any local historians interested in the place in producing a study of the chapelry and its local families, perhaps similar to that created in 1700 by the English author and antiquarian, Richard Gough, who also based his work on such a plan of the church of Myddle, in Shropshire.

Pew plan, Chapelry of Holmfirth, 1636

It was excellent to be able to publicise the registers and discoveries such as these showing potential for research at the ARKDIS conference in Uppsala in Sweden this summer and also present a poster session on the project at the ARA conference in London this month. Next year, a presentation on the project, also showcasing material from the registers, particularly items found in wills, will also be given at the University of Huddersfield’s ‘The Material Culture of Religious Continuity and Change 1400-1600’ conference to be held there.

Going back to wacky names for animals, however, it has also been most enjoyable blogging about the project and revealing that cow’s name to the world!

So, now that the work is almost complete, very many thanks to all at the Borthwick, especially Gary Brannan and also Julie Allinson in IT, for all their help and support during my time on such a fascinating and absorbing project.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Thoughts of an Indexer: I name this cow....

Our Marc Fitch project archivist, Helen Watt, reflects on some of the common (and unusual names) given to our bovine friends...)

As a recent authority states, we have been naming animals for thousands of years; not only did the ancient Egyptians give names to animals, but also the ancient Greeks, for example, Alexander the Great called his horse, Bucephalas (‘ox-head’)1. Apart from horses, other types of animal, particularly farm animals, may be given names for many reasons, predominantly because the animals are seen as individuals and are treated as such among the herd or flock, long before the days of factory farming with large herds and uniform breeds. Otherwise, they might be named according to any distinctive markings or characteristics, apparent to their handlers in everyday work.

Sources for names of animals are often provided by wills and when Canon J. S. Purvis, first Director of the Borthwick, compiled his Classified Subject Index for material held there, he included a section for Agriculture covering names of horses, cows and oxen. Examples for these were taken from various series of York Province ecclesiastical documents such as Probate Registers, Dean and Chapter Probate Registers and the Cause Papers. Only a few references to named animals in one of the registers of the Archbishops of York, Register 28 of Archbishop Lee (1531-1544), are given. However, it is now possible to add many more such references from other registers, thanks to the University of York’s project funded by the Marc Fitch Fund, developing the earlier Archbishops’ Registers Revealed Project funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The results of this project are now available on line via and provide an index to all the entries in Registers 31 and 32, covering the period 1576 to 1650. In the process of adding keywords to entries for the many wills of clergymen found within, several legacies of horses and farm animals, especially cows, including those mentioned by name have been identified.

'a cowe called nightegale'
Apart from flower and bird names, such as ‘Primrose’, ‘Marigold’, ‘Nightingale’ (1581, Reg. 31, fol. 94r) and ‘Daisy’ (‘Daze’, 1625, Reg. 31, fol. 249r), names given to cows show many of the characteristics identified by scholars such as Leibring and also Keith Thomas and George Redmonds, particularly with reference to Yorkshire names and including some of those listed by Canon Purvis 2. For instance, ‘praise’ names, such as ‘Lucky’ (1632, Reg. 32, fol. 29r), or names celebrating the animals’ nature, such as ‘Stately’ (1599, Reg. 31, fol. 139r). Others might denote the animal’s physical markings or makeup, such as cows called ‘Brownie’ (1577, Reg. 31, 80v), ‘Great Brownie’ and ‘Young Brownie’ (1588, Reg. 31, fol. 106v), also ‘Great Allblack’ (1609, Reg. 31, fol. 158v).

Other names may seem to be harder to classify, including such names of heifers as ‘Jeliver’ (1594, Reg. 31, fol. 132r), ‘Tymlye’ (1629, Reg. 32, 96v), ‘Flowrell’ (1584, Reg. 31, fol. 97r) or ‘Sternill’ (1625, Reg. 31, fol. 249r). However, some of these appear to be favourites, handed down over the years. For instance, ‘Tymmyll’, perhaps a variant of ‘Tymlye’, occurs nearly a hundred years earlier (1546, Probate Register 13, fol. 171), as does ‘Starneld’, perhaps a variant of ‘Sternill’ (1565, Reg. 30, fol. 24r). One name which seems to have persisted in some form in the York Probate Registers between at least the 15th and 16th centuries is ‘Motherlike’ (‘Moderlybe’, 1441, Probate Register 2, fol. 25; ‘Motherlicke’, 1585, Probate Register 23, fol. 186), which may be of particular interest as it has been compared with similar types of cattle names from Scandinavia, perhaps suggesting an earlier origin, who knows, possibly even from Viking times 3.

This phenomenon is not restricted to Yorkshire, but is found in other areas of the country; evidence from Essex wills also shows the same kind of naming practices, with  cows called ‘Gentle’ and ‘Brown Snout’ and even ‘one black cow called Tytt’ 4. Back in Yorkshire, if I had to choose one of these kinds of name, my favourite of all – for a cow difficult to milk, maybe –  is Shorte Papps (1588, Reg. 31, fol. 106v)!

'A cow called shorte papps'
1. Katharina Leibring, ‘Animal Names’, in Carole Hough (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming (Oxford, 2016), Part VII, section 43, 615-627.
2. Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World (London, 1983), pp. 93-6; George Redmonds, Names and History: People, Places and Things (London, 2004), p.148.
3. Katharina Leibring, ‘Animal Names’, in Carole Hough (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Names and Naming (Oxford, 2016), Part VII, section, Names in Europe’s Traditional Agricultural Societies.
4. F. G. Emmison, Elizabethan Life: Home, Work and Land, Essex Record Office Publication No. 69 (Chelmsford, 1991), p. 52.