Explore Your Archive 2016

November 22, 2016

Renowned chef, Bryn Williams helped to kick off the Explore Your Archive campaign in Wales last Friday, here at Denbighshire Archives.

The campaign will run from 19-27 November in archives across the UK and Ireland and encourages everyone to discover the stories, the facts, the places and the people that are at the heart of our communities with many archives opening their vaults and inviting the public to experience, understand and take pride in the wealth and variety of material they hold.

Hailing from Denbigh in North Wales, Bryn Williams learnt to appreciate food and its origins from an early age. He has worked in some of the most prestigious kitchens in London and is now the Chef Patron of Odette’s, taking over the property in October 2008. He has also recently opened Bryn Williams at Porth Eirias, a beach-front Bistro, Café & Bar on the North Wales Coast.

Bryn commented: “It’s fascinating to look at bygone recipes and to see what people used to cook with and also to examine how those old ways of cooking have influenced what we do in kitchens today.  Recipes were one of the things that everyone wrote down and passed on to future generations so they give us a great insight into the food that was served in the richest of houses right down to the rations given out to prisoners or those in the workhouses.”

As part of this year’s campaign here in Wales the focus will be on ‘food’ and a series of short films in English and Welsh have been created featuring historians and archivists looking at nutrition in prisons and workhouses, bygone remedies using some weird and wonderful ingredients and jam-making! We also have a small exhibition highlighting some of the collections held by Denbighshire.

The films can be viewed on the archives.wales website, plus Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Letters of Private William Jones 1914-1916

November 11, 2016

In July of this year a parade with 4,000 handmade poppies took place in Ruthin, as part of World War One Centenary commemorations. Schoolchildren from across Ruthin helped to make the poppies to mark the centenary of the battle of Mametz Wood. Its events organiser, Ron Bell of Ruthin Community Group said the commemorations had been “designed to bring all generations together”.

The 38th (Welsh) Division attacked Mametz Wood between 7 and 14 July 1916, with more than 4,000 of them killed or injured. We hold a series of letters written by a soldier who was killed at the Battle of Mamets Wood in the Somme in July 1916. The letters start in December 1914 and are a valuable record of a private’s experiences in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the First World War.

William Jones, ‘Bila’ to his family, was a young man from Derwen, who in November 1914 aged 21,  joined the Welsh Fusiliers, leaving his work in a nearby farm. He began his training in Llandudno, and then went on to a camp in Winchester, before leaving for France at the beginning of 1916. His story is very characteristic of the time, however this makes it no less poignant.

What is different about Willliam’s story, is that his letters, all 64 of them sent to his home in Banciau, Derwen were all kept by his family until their deposit at our office. And considering William, a miner’s son, left school at the age of 13, his Welsh is articulate and precise.

The letters are forthright, sincere and interesting. He talks about daily life, and accounts of the war, he’s eager to hear about everyone and what sort of harvest they’ve had. Although it is clear he suffered greatly whilst battling on the front for long periods of time, he does not complain, but is grateful for respite from the bitter experience and for everything the family have sent to him.

The letters end suddenly- two being from a friend asking the family if they have heard any mention of him since he was reported missing. According to his sister, after the family were officially informed of his death,  his Mother kept the front door unlocked for some time, in case he had lost his mind, but were to eventually find his way home. One of the last letters is an official one from the salaries department in Shrewsbury, telling his mother that she has been paid too much pension following her son’s death, and she must pay a portion of it back.

 The letters are available to view at the office – ref DD/DM/884/1-17