Tag Archives: diaries

Magnifying Memories

A busy and exciting week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

We supplied a selection of photographs to the Celebrating Entertainment in Yeovil Show, which marked the 40th Anniversary of the Johnson Hall and Octagon Theatre. This special film show was held at the Octagon Theatre on Sunday 10th July 2016 and all those that attended enjoyed the evening; especially the combination of singing on stage and the interviews in the film – including the memories of a female wrestler!

We also attended a meeting at the Somerset Heritage Centre at Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton to discuss the Somerset Collections Project and will report back on progress in future blogs.

One of our other highlights this week was a visit from a researcher to examine the Louisa Harris Diaries as a possible basis for a University dissertation.

The diaries are always a rewarding part of the collection to get out as they continue to provide new insights and inspiration. Louisa lived in Yeovil and wrote a diary between 1887 and 1926. The last 6 years were written in Weymouth, Dorset, where they moved to, but Louisa and her sisters are buried in Yeovil Cemetery, just off Preston Road. One of the intriguing aspects is that Louisa was (as we say today) a wheel chair user from a young age. We do not know the reason for this, but Louisa records “waiting at the bottom of South Cadbury until her friends came back, but was determined to see the thatched cottage at Ninesprings.”

The key thing was getting ‘professionally’ prepared for the researcher to view the diaries. Therefore, we set up a reading pillow and cleared the table of any cups or refreshments and suggested reading one at a time, leaving the majority of the small A5 notebooks in the acid free, archival box.

We thought we had planned this well, until the researcher asked for a magnifying glass as the writing was very small and tightly spaced together. We had laid a suitable foundation, but are always open to suggestions. The closer examination was particularly rewarding to see each individual letter and ‘magnify’ the memories contained therein.

We are also getting on well with our school loans boxes and will report back later.

On the enquiry side, we have received a fascinating request regarding coffee tables that were presented to Councils as part of the naming ceremonies of ‘named’ locomotives. ‘Yeovil’ was named on the 2 November 1945 and we are currently searching for the corresponding table! If anyone can help please let us know – More next week!


Just one of the fascinating Louisa Harris diaries.


Loan Boxes coming along well!





All Mapped Out Louisa’s Links

We have enjoyed a busy and eventful week since our last posting from South Somerset District Council’s Community Heritage Access Centre, near Yeovil.

We have continued to prepare the four maps from the collection ready for transit to the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton to be digitised for the ‘Know Your Place’ project. This is a notable opportunity to contribute to developing resources.

We provided an illustrated talk on the ‘Louisa Harris Diaries 1887-1920 : A Picture of Life in Yeovil’ to Somerton History Group on Thursday 26th November at the Parish Rooms in Somerton. This was our first time we have provided a talk to this group and in this venue and the 40 members all enjoyed themselves – as we were informed afterwards! They particularly liked the selection of handling objects and illustrations of Yeovil History, which we passed around and Louisa’s links to local and national events. One significant example is the sinking of Kitchener’s ship, the H.M.S Hampshire by a German Submarine off the Orkney Islands in the First World War. Walter Horace Adams, “Wallie” named on Yeovil War Memorial worked briefly for the Western Gazette Newspaper and also perished on the ‘Hampshire.’ We use this example to illustrate well known aspects of the First World War including Kitchener’s famous recruiting poster ‘Your Country Needs You’ and the impact that his death would have had on morale; particularly as a journalist was quoted as saying: “He may not have been a great man, but he made a great poster!”

We also use this example to raise the point of perceptions, particularly as people may associate submarines (and developments in technological warfare in general) with the Second World War. However, Louisa underlines how close submarines came to Great Britain with an attack off the Shambles, off Weymouth, Dorset, as her brother was a customs officer, based in the local area.

During the preparation of our South Somerset Remembers the First World War Booklet, we also received several important artefacts related to W.H. Adams including his Memorial Card and letter of bereavement sent home to his family; copies of which we also passed around.

As this was Somerton History Group’s last meeting of 2015, we also referred to Louisa’s rationing at Christmas time and the Christmas parcels sent from pupils of Long Sutton School to former students fighting at the front, as recorded in the Langport and Somerton Herald.

We completed the evening by showing a few slides of places that Louisa would have visited around Yeovil, including Ninesprings, now part of Yeovil Country Park. This is interesting as Louisa was a wheelchair user from a young age and was ‘pushed in her carriage’ as she was “determined to see the waterfalls and springs!”

Another group also helped this week. Yeovil Women’s Institute allowed us to introduce our 2016 Yeovil Calendar to their Christmas meeting and we did very well indeed!

Our group of Yeovil College Students continued to enjoy themselves this week with completing the documentation of Roman villa plans and a series of aerial photographs of Yeovil. We aim to continue the process next week by entering these records onto our database.

We have also conducted our planning meeting for 2016 – so we have (hopefully!) most things ‘mapped out.’

In ‘news just in’ a producer from the BBC programme ‘Heir Hunters’ came to film at CHAC today for background on Yeovil. Will try and report back next week if we are able to!

One of the maps to be digitised later on this month


Louisa Harris, 3rd from left seated at her home in No.2 Clarence Street, Yeovil. Louisa’s neighbours were the Edgar Family. Mr Edgar was the first business partner of J.B. Petter. Louisa Harris Family