Category Archives: Outreach

Using Special Collections for your dissertation

Why use Special Collections?

You’ve chosen your dissertation topic because it’s something you’re really interested in discovering in more detail. Then delving into the sources in Special Collections can take your dissertation to the next level by making it more original, as well as helping you to develop your research skills.

Recent topics that people have researched using Special Collections include:

  • Politics under Churchill and Attlee
  • The beginnings of child protection in sport
  • London during the First World War
  • Communists in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Clothing of the poor
  • Perceptions of fascism in the inter-war period
  • Feminism under Thatcher
  • Colonial and post-colonial writers at the BBC
  • Presentation of women in the media
  • Feminism in the US in the 1950s

and the Burnett Archive of working class autobiographies has been featured in Radio 4 programmes about the history of friendship and the lives of working people during the industrial revolution.

Find out about our collections:

Special Collections is home to a huge array of material that can support your research. You can find out more by using our A-Z list of collections, or consulting our Special Collections guide, where we’ve highlighted collections of particular interest to English or History students.

You can search our collections by subject or keywords – use the library catalogue for printed material and the archive catalogue for manuscript.

Browse the Special Collections blog, you can use the tags to find posts on particular themes, such as the First World War or trains.

Contact the Special Collections Librarian, or your Subject Liaison Librarian for help.

If you are looking for collections beyond Brunel you will find a list of resources on our guide.

Using Special Collections

Our collections are kept in closed access, so you will need to make an appointment to come and see them. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before there is a guide on our blog.

 

Explore Archives

This week is a great time to get involved in archives and special collections that interest you! Have a look at the Explore Your Archive main page to see what’s happening near you, and look at the #explorearchives posts on Twitter and other social media.

Find out about our collections:

Special Collections at Brunel is home to a huge array of material that can support your research. You can find out more by using our A-Z list of collections, or consulting our Special Collections guide, where we’ve highlighted collections of particular interest to English or History students.

You can search our collections by subject or keywords – use the library catalogue for printed material and the archive catalogue for manuscript.

Browse the Special Collections blog, where you can use the tags to find posts on particular themes, such as the First World War or trains.

You can see more about us on Twitter and Instagram too.

If you are looking for collections beyond Brunel you will find a list of resources on our guide.

Using Special Collections

Our collections are kept on closed access, so you will need to make an appointment with the Special Collections Librarian to come and see them once we re-open in January. If you haven’t used Special Collections or archival material before there is a guide on our blog.

 

50 Objects 27: A History of Uxbridge

A post by Graduate Trainee, Becky Tabrar.

Included within our local history collection are nine volumes of The Victoria History of The County of Middlesex by the University of London Institute Of Historical Research. They are part of the Victoria County History project which was established in 1899, with the aim of producing a complete encyclopaedic history of each county in England. The project is still ongoing, and so far the histories of thirteen counties have been completed. The topics covered are varied and include natural, political, religious, economic and social histories.

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Some of our Victoria County History volumes

Volume Four of the Middlesex history is dedicated to the ten ancient parishes in North- West Middlesex, of which Hillingdon is one. It contains fascinating information on the development of Brunel University London’s home town Uxbridge, which we have summarised into a short history below.

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The frontispiece from Volume four.

Originally Uxbridge was a hamlet under the administration of its parent parish, Hillingdon. The earliest evidence of settlement within the Parish dates to the Palaeolithic era. A Roman road ran through the middle of the old Parish, and Roman pottery was found in Uxbridge in 1959, near Cowley church. It is believed the place names of ‘Hillingdon’, ‘Colham’, ‘Cowley’ and ‘Yiewsley’ originate from Saxon family names, while it is believed ‘Uxbridge’ derives from the original hamlet’s proximity to a bridge crossing the river Colne.

The first recorded use of the name ‘Uxbridge’ is in the 12th century, and the hamlet was represented in Edward I’s first parliament in 1275. By 1328, Uxbridge was the major settlement in the parish of Hillingdon, and by the medieval period was an affluent market town. At the intersection between Windsor Street and High Street was the centre of the town. As is still the case today, it was home to the market house and St Margaret’ chapel (original built in 1275, and later rebuilt in the 15th century). The present market house dates from the late 18th century, while the oldest part of St Margaret’s Chapel, the North Tower, dates to the late 14th century.

Further connections between the medieval market town and todays Uxbridge are still visible. The 16th century Treaty house, which is now the Crown and Treaty pub, was used as a venue for negotiations between King Charles I and Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. The inside retains original features, though only a single wing of the 16th century mansion remains. Similarly, the building of the Three Tuns pub originates from the 16th century, and is grade II listed. There is a monument on Cross Street overlooking what was formally known as Lynch Green to remember three protestant heretics who were burned there in 1555. The three men were not from the local area, but were used to set an example to the people of Uxbridge, and ensure they conformed to Catholic ideology. The memorial was established four hundred years later.

By the late 1700’s insanitary conditions in Uxbridge meant the high street was widened by fifty two yards to the South West, and a new market house was built. By 1790, the town consisted of houses neatly lining both sides of the high street, with a few shops, including a chair factory, a malt house, a brewery, a mill, Higgenson’s bank and the market house. By the 19th century Uxbridge, aided by its proximity to the Grand Union Canal and it lining the route from Oxford to London, became one of the most important market towns in Middlesex, and was the main producer of flour for London. Even Kingsmill bread originated from Uxbridge!

Becoming increasingly autonomous, Uxbridge split from the Parish of Hillingdon in 1894, and formed the civil parish of Hillingdon West, which later became the Borough of Uxbridge.

References:

R.B. Pugh, The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Volume IV (13 Vols, London, 1971).

C. M. Hearmon, Uxbridge: A Concise History (Hillingdon Borough Libraries, 1982).

 

Brunel Library in 50 Objects

In 2016 Brunel University London marks its 50 year anniversary. The University is showcasing its celebrations via http://fifty.brunel.ac.uk/: one of the features is an exhibition of 50 objects that have helped to shape the university.

We in the Library are building on this with a separate virtual trail of 50 library objects that tell us about the Library and its holdings and services. We aim to produce one post on the Special Collections blog every Friday for fifty weeks during 2016.

If you have an idea for a submission, please tell us!

 

The Engineer’s Corset

A blog post by Janet Goddard, writer and director of The Engineer’s Corset.

 

“I wanted the genuine voices of working people of the 1840’s to play a substantial part in The Engineer’s Corset. While I love reading histories and biographies of the Brunels and spending many a happy hour trawling through old newspapers in library archives one of the most inspirational sources in terms of listening to the voices of ordinary working people and their experiences is John Burnett’s Useful Toil.

John Burnett worked at Brunel University in the 1980’s when my father, Prof Crook, was Vice Principal and he alerted me to his work for another of my writing projects. A friend then gave me Useful Toil, she having found a copy at a car boot sale. It is one of my favourite books for dipping into whatever the reason so The Engineer’s Corset has given me the opportunity to turn my leisure pursuit into my work.

Having read the book cover to cover I came to Brunel Special Collections to look in the archive of working people’s diaries and journals kept there and while I didn’t spend as long or read as many as I would have liked – there’s always a next time – the information I gleaned has gone into the play – both in the voices of the working men and in the references the maids make to a range of fabrics and textiles and the means to keep them clean and well presented.

Horror stories of household fires and swirling skirts are also a shocking reminder of the risks women took when they dressed in highly flammable, voluminous clothing and sat of an evening in front of the fire sipping gin! Keeping up appearances is also well recorded in the working people’s voices – and it’s these forgotten voices that, along with Mary Brunel, who is always centre stage, that permeate The Engineer’s Corset and the message of the play – that history is rarely recorded as it was – and fictional interpretations can be as illuminating as factual ones. A proviso in this is to start with factual information and the Special Collection, John Burnett’s archive and Useful Toil, all entirely factual, have been the best starting off point for my fictional telling of the incident involving IK Brunel and his swallowing of a gold half sovereign in The Engineer’s Corset.”

Writing the 1940s

Ever wanted to find out more about writing historical fiction and give it a go?  Our FREE workshop on Tuesday 26 May, between 6 and 8pm is the place to find out!

Historical fictionWe’ll be looking at primary sources from the 1940s, all specially chosen from Brunel’s Special Collections. You’ll have the opportunity to read and handle original documents, to help you find inspiration. The tutor, Emma Filtness, will help you plan and begin writing a poem, story or other creative piece that explores the time period. This workshop is suitable for those new to writing historical fiction as well as those more experienced who are looking for fresh inspiration and the chance to work with original documents.

The workshop is free, but places are limited so that everyone can have a chance to see and handle the documents. Please book a place in advance. If you have any questions please email Special Collections.

We’re on COPAC!

We’re delighted to announce that our Special Collections catalogue records have been added to COPAC, where they join the records of over 90 other major UK and Irish libraries. COPAC is a great way to find out about rare materials, and is used by large numbers of academics and students, so being on there will raise awareness of our collections.

Shakespeare In addition to our archival resources, Special Collections is the home of many rare books and periodicals. Our earliest book dates from 1679 but most of our collections are from the 19th and 20th centuries. We have collections relating to transport history (particularly railways), the history of tunnelling under the English Channel, operations research and working class autobiographies. Other themes are poetry and dialect, South Asian literature, art, theatre and music, Shakespeare authorship and issues around equality and advocacy (including child protection and disability history).

Look out for posters and bookmarks in the library with more information about COPAC.

1921 Booklet recommending the Tunnel