Re-opening the archives

September 9, 2020

North East Wales Archives are set to re-open their Hawarden and Ruthin offices to the public in September. We are planning a phased re-opening, with safety measures in place, to help us to ensure that our search-rooms are a safe space for all.

From 15th September 2020, Hawarden branch will be open on Tuesdays – 10.00am-4.30pm (with a lunchtime closure between 12.45pm and 1.45pm).

From 18th September 2020, Ruthin branch will be open on Fridays – 10.00am-4.30pm (with a lunchtime closure between 12.45pm and 1.45pm).

A strict booking system is in place and you will need to book your visit at least 72 hours in advance. Please book for either a morning or an afternoon session, to enable as many researchers as possible to access the archives during our phased reopening.

All documents must be ordered in advance of your visit, up to a maximum of 10 items, which will be ready to view when you arrive. Please see our website for details and to use the online catalogues. You will also need to sign up for an Archives Card, details are on our website.

To book a visit, please use our new website- http://www.newa.wales

Alternatively, email us – archives@newa.wales

We look forward to welcoming our researchers back to North East Wales Archives.

A Fresh Look at School Log Books, by Bridget Thomas

September 4, 2020

At North East Wales Archives, we hold an extensive collection of school records, including school log books. These are sometimes overlooked by researchers, as they tend not to include the names of individual pupils and are thought to be too ‘general’. However, they are a fantastic source for discovering fascinating facts about the lives of children and teachers in the past, and social history generally. Bridget Thomas, Archive Assistant at Hawarden branch, looks at some of the things you can find out from school log books.

What did an Edwardian child learn at school in Flintshire?

Some school log books record, in detail, the day’s lessons.  At Bodfari National School on 14th February 1903 (E/LB/7/1) Headmaster, Mr Roberts, taught dumb bells and bar bells in PE; annuals, biennials and perennials in the ‘Flower Garden’; the ‘Affairs of Venezuela & Morocco’ in Geography; and the meaning and use of six rules of arithmetic.  On 21st February, he taught how to grow vegetables in the kitchen garden; and on 28th February he concentrated on the chemical compounds in sea water!  Mr Roberts appeared to adopt quite modern methods – in the Government Inspection of June 1904, the Inspector commended him for sending periodical reports of their children’s progress to the parents as well as their examination papers.  This same Headmaster introduced an adult Night School in 1898 for three evenings per week – this proved to be very popular.

Childhood Diseases in School Log Books

Epidemics and illnesses were prevalent in Victorian/Edwardian times, and as is the case today, school attendances were highly affected by these outbreaks.

The Master’s salary depended on pupil attendance so School Managers regularly arrived unannounced to check the register in order to ensure that there was no falsification in order to enhance the attendance figures.

Children regularly stayed away from school during outbreaks of illness, to stop disease spreading.  Log books are punctuated by reports of childhood illnesses which are rarely heard of today, and which often had a devastating impact.  In Mold Junction School the log book (E/LB/58/12) records the death of a pupil from diphtheria.  During December 1893 to January 1894, the school suffered from an outbreak of whooping cough and scarlet fever; and in July that year there was an outbreak of mumps and measles.  It was not unusual to close a school for a few weeks in order to stop diseases spreading.

School Log Books as Social History

Log books provide an accurate record of historic events and social history as they mention days of national importance and national holidays, but they also record more mundane details, such as the weather, leaking windows or pipes, delivery of supplies, problems with pupil teachers, punishments, visits by the nurse, vicar and local gentry.  An extract from the log book of Rhuddlan Boys School from 1889 (E/LB/54) includes a request for coal money and later on in the same log book, the Free Education Act (1891) is commented upon in terms of disappointment that the attendance was low – in spite of education now being free!

Styles of Handwriting

Log books also demonstrate the changing styles of writing.  The Victorian era (1837-1901) saw the art of writing copperplate (it was called this as students learned it from copy books which were printed from copper plates). In Victorian times, being able to write well improved your prospects for getting a good job.  Copperplate writing remained popular in the Edwardian era (1901-1914) and generally learning to write by copying has carried on in one form of another to this day, but the style has changed.  The flowery, uniform nature of the letters has been replaced by individual handwriting styles.  The school log book from Lime Bank Roman Catholic School in Whitford, written in1879 is a good example of how beautiful the copperplate style of writing was.

Bridget Thomas, Archive Assistant at Hawarden