Monthly Archives: April 2015

Say Cheese!

Another varied and thought-provoking 7 days since our last blog page at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, Yeovil, Somerset.

One of our fascinating recent donations was a series of papers and photographs related to the donor’s husband and father in law’s working life for Aplin and Barrett of Newton Road and Watercombe Lane, Yeovil. Aplin and Barrett will be familiar to many through the company’s “St. Ivel” Brand of Latic Cheese, made for many years in Yeovil and based on a fictitious saint. Also with the modern mis-description act it is probably not possible to advertise now as “The cheese served at the Doctor’s Own Table!”

The collection is significant for a number of reasons, but mainly it is so good to have information in the form of the documents and photographs which are related to a specific person’s working life in one company, over a number of years, which literally gives a ‘face’ to the workings of ‘buildings’ and an ‘organisation’ and one can make them more appealing to a wider audience; in other words ‘human interest.’ This is not to say we disregard or do not collect images that simply show street scenes – as any change over time is fundamental – but the added benefit of human or social interaction – shows how people have responded to that change and continue to do so.

Secondly, a new donation on such a well-known Yeovil Company makes us look again, reflect upon and appreciate anew the existing Aplin and Barrett items already in our collection and even say “I did not realize they made that” “or produced that advertisement.”

The actual photographs themselves are also intriguing as they reflect the whole cheese-making process; from stirring an unseen mixture in a large vat to ladies with hair covered and tied up, packing the ‘Latic Cheese’ in branded boxes – prominently displayed in the foreground of the image! There is also the two sides of these images, with a new piece of equipment delivered by mobile crane to a presentation for a member of staff on the roof!

A real insight into the working life of the donor’s father in law is shown in his retirement letters and also the ‘Little Cheese’ presented for an Atlantic Crossing (More on this later….)

However, there is always room for improvement, especially in terms of documentation! Our donor was not sure of exactly what is ‘going on’ in each stage of the cheese-making process. We have some idea as certain images are labelled “The Creamery” for example, but we would be glad to hear from anyone who worked in the cheese-making industry and even for Aplin & Barrett, as like the gloving industry, there are likely to be specialised terms involved!

Then like the Aplin & Barrett workers in the photographers – we too can really “Say Cheese!”

Just some of the many detailed photographs from the recent donation of Aplin and Barrett items – including a small self-indulgence on my part!

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A Timely Reminder

Another varied and intriguing week since our last ‘posting’ at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, Yeovil, Somerset.

Given our ‘off-site’ location, one of the exciting elements of our work is how many fascinating and significant ‘Yeovil and South Somerset connection’ objects are donated to us, from the generosity of the public at large.

We have recently engaged in an active collecting programme, where we directly ask for objects, documents, or photographs. One example was the early years of Westland helicopters, as we had very few items related to this subject. This has proven to be very successful, with many different areas and later years of Westland and ARP photographs ‘coming to light.’

One of our recent donations that made us go “Wow” was a clock, still in working order and inline with our collecting policy of “Yeovil and South Somerset.” What was really satisfying and superb was that the donors had not only thought to donate the clock, but had also provided the background context on the maker and the actual mechanism inside; which is so important to make an object appreciated by as wide an audience as possible.

The actual clock in question was made by clockmaker and jeweller, William James Sherriff of Market Street, Yeovil. This is interesting in itself as the Clock is marked only with the maker’s initials and surname “W. J. Sherriff” and a name helps to ‘define’ a person.

Being a long standing preacher in the Methodist Church, William James donated the clock to Preston Road Methodist Church, Yeovil when the church opened in 1938. From then, it kept time hanging inside the church until 2014, when it was replaced by a modern battery powered quartz version as William’s clock was considered, by some, too onerous a task to wind it on a weekly basis. The timepiece has a spring driven 8 day mechanism with a pendulum operated escapement.

We also wish to add that we still enjoy ‘passive’ collecting where someone calls us and the conversation starts: “Would you be interested in my…….”

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The clock made by clockmaker and jeweller, William James Sherriff of Market Street, Yeovil.

Everyone’s Convenience

Another exciting and varied week at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil, Somerset.

One of our intriguing new donations is a series of colour photographs. These are fascinating for a number of reasons. Firstly, they date from the early 1980s; a time clearly within living memory, but because of being so recent, may not be thought worthy of inclusion in a museum collection. However, important changes and developments would have been lost if someone had not put their eye to the view finder and pressed the shutter release.

In the specific case of these photographs they document the major changes around Vicarage Street in Yeovil and the construction of the Quedam Shopping Centre (see footnote for meaning of Quedam) which is almost unrecognisable today when compared to what the street used to look like.

The photographs also highlight once more the significance of detailed and accurate documentation, which our volunteer team are helping us with greatly.

On the back of each photograph is a helpful caption – “Vicarage Street That Was!” 1983 for example. This could be enough for a description and would certainly mean something to those who have lived in Yeovil for some time or remember ‘life before the Quedam’ but the significant part of the description is to state exactly what is shown in the photograph and the date; firstly to differentiate the photograph from other images of Vicarage Street on our database; otherwise the brief description would simply be Vicarage Street 15 or 20 times over and an unless we could view them digitally, we would have to physically look at each individual photograph to ensure that was the one we wanted; secondly, extra detail can make the image meaningful for people unfamiliar with Yeovil and thirdly, and specific to this case, 4 or 5 images are of the same location, but taken from different perspectives, so we need to be as sure as we can what the buildings are, for our own time and for generations to come. This is especially true, when existing landmarks may have changed again in another generation.

The pictures are also helpfully dated in other ways – by cars – or as in the case below – what is in the car window! The images also reflect the social impact of the building work going on – as in the second example. This may not be high on the agenda for the upcoming election, but remains important in most towns, and especially so in Yeovil and notable as something, someone thought to record!

We are always grateful to receive (or copy) images of Yeovil and South Somerset – with a current interest in the early years of Westland. Please contact us via the Blog or contact us  on (01935) 462886. For a time at everyone’s convenience!

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We wonder where Andy and Jane are today!

Footnote: “Quedam” from Brooke, Leslie – “Yeovil History in Street Names” published Western Gazette and Yeovil Town Council:

“The name Quedam, which was the most frequent spelling used in early documents, seems to have been adopted as the result of a misunderstanding. In early leases, it frequently occured that the name of a location was unknown and was often recorded as ‘property in a certain street’, and since all such early transactions were recorded in Latin, the word quedam meaning ‘a certain’ was used. This fairly common expression seems to have been taken as a specific designation by a novice, whose Latin was not quite as extensive as it might have been, and so the error came to be perpetuated as a noun.”

Mr Blake the Brickmaker

Another busy and varied time at South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre near Yeovil, Somerset.

Just before the Easter Holidays, we enjoyed a research visit from a Wiltshire couple, Des and Sue  to discover more of relatives, the Blake Family that had lived in Yeovil in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

This was a very useful enquiry as we were able to provide certain details before the visit to CHAC to enable a full day of discovery, rather than make several return trips. One of the Blake Family lived at Smith Terrace just off Reckleford. Upon arrival from our visitors, we learned that the family home was still present in Smith Terrace and a helpful owner had provided a guided tour. We also provided contact details for Yeovil Cemetery to investigate family plot locations.

Our input centred on providing information and access to objects from the local gloving industry, as one of the Blake Family had worked for the Blake Gloving Company in Reckleford. We started with a search of our database, which revealed a selection of references to Blake, principally concerned with the Blake Gloving Co. This was a useful learning curve as we assumed the Blake Family relatives in the enquiry were the same as the company; when in actual fact this was possibly just coincidence that the two names were the same. However, the fact that they worked for the gloving company may highlight a link.

The use of the database also helped to manage staff and visitor time with a defined set of objects and items. These introduced the backdrop of a tour around our gloving items, with gloving tools like The Donkey, from 1807, an early form of clasp with equal spaced teeth to pass the glover’s needle through; gloving shears; electric glove irons and finger stretchers. We then looked at the leather dressing side of gloving with the “unhairing department” and the production of gloves; with an actual pair of gloves made by Blake & Company. All of which helped to give an insight into the conditions that a glove worker would have experienced at the time.

The database search also helped with the unexpected – as further back, one relative was listed as a brickmaker. A document dated 1870 revealed an agreement between a Mr Cole and a Mr Blake and Mr Blake’s occupation is listed as “a brickmaker.” This was great to see as the name ‘jumped’ off the page and also confirmed the excitement of using a wide variety of sources.

We were also able to confirm more details  of a  great uncle  Herbert Charles Blake  who was wounded on Christmas eve 1916 on the Somme and died on Christmas day, and is buried in Grove Cemetery  Meaulte, through a lifetime’s work of checking War Memorials stored on our system.

The other great part of the enquiry was that our visitors defined the time of their visit by having to be at Yeovil Cemetery before 4pm – meaning we could get lots done in a set period of time!

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Des and Sue Cook visited Yeovil to research Family Gloving History with a trip to a family home at Smith Terrace and then to CHAC to look at gloves made in the area and a document from 1870 which is an agreement between Mr Cole and Mr Blake, a brickmaker and possibly a relative!