Back to the Future: The impact of science across Essex – The Science and History of Cloth Manufacture

We have already introduced you to two of our speakers for jam packed day of talks on the 7th March, our next introduction is for John Miners.

John has many years experience in textiles, starting his career with Samuel Courtauld & Co. Ltd in Essex. He has been involved in the sourcing and supply of historic fabrics for many restoration projects both in the United Kingdom, Europe, and the USA. His background is technical, rather than design based, and he has knowledge of the production techniques used to produce textiles in past centuries, as well as studying the social history aspects involved in the manufacture of fabrics.

In January 2018 he was appointed as Director of the Warner Textile Archive Trading Company Ltd. This archive is a rich design resource documenting the successes and innovation of Warner & Sons from the late 1800s. Owned by the Braintree Museums Trust, this Collection, the second largest archive of publicly owned textiles in the UK, comprises stunning textiles and inspirational paper designs, as well as original printing blocks, photographs and other documentary material.

John will be talking about how the local textile industry moved from the home into factories, changing from wool to silk. He will look at how Samuel Courtauld & Co changed their production methods of silk yarn using various forms of power: from hand to donkey to water to steam, then exploring the move into the production of mourning crape using machinery built to their own designs in their own workshops. In addition the history of the company up until closure in 1982 will be examined, giving information about the changes in technology.

Hopefully you will be able to join us for this fascinating subject on the 7th March. To secure your ticket, visit our website
http://www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk/events/back-to-the-future-the-impact-of-science-across-essex/

We are only half way through our introductions, so keep an eye out here on our blog for more sneaky peeks at what our speakers will be talking about.

Back to the Future: The impact of science across Essex – The Science of Brewing

Over the centuries science has had a massive impact on the lives of the residents of Essex. Join us on the 7th March for a day of talks celebrating some of the everyday developments in technology that have transformed lives in the past and how we live today.

This one day conference is positively brimming with no less than 6 speakers talking on 7 different subjects.

  • Peter Wynn will be talking about gas manufacture and water purification;
  • Zoe Outram will discuss the science of archaeology;
  • David Crease will talk about the science of  brewing;
  • Ian Vance will look at the development of fibre optics at STL in Harlow;
  • John Miners will explore the science of cloth manufacture, and;
  • Tony Crosby  will wrap up with a whistle-stop tour of the industrial archaeology of Chelmsford

Over the next few weeks we will be introducing some of our speakers and their topics in a little more detail right here on our blog.

Our first introduction is for Dr David Crease. David is, amongst other things, one of the founding fathers of Woodforde’s brewery in Norfolk where he was for many years the head brewer. David and his Friend Ray Ashworth pioneered the new wave of handcrafted beers in the 1960’s. Having produced thousands of barrels in his career, who better to talk to us about the science of producing the perfect pint? David may have even hinted that he might bring some samples of medieval brews, so we have made sure to schedule him to talk just before lunch!

Brewing of some kind has a history almost as long as humanity and it will forever be intertwined with the human story. Essex was no exception, when a medieval agricultural labourer in the Dengie reached for a drink it was undoubtedly an ale he grasped and when the workers at STL went out for a drink after work, there were more than likely a few beers consumed.

Brewing has had a huge impact on our landscape and our society, but how many of us know how our beer and ale is made now and how it was produced by our forebears.

Make sure to come along on the 7th March to learn about the whole brewing process from field to glass.

To secure your place visit our website
http://www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk/events/back-to-the-future-the-impact-of-science-across-essex/

The Reach of The Marconi Photographic Section

Lewis Smith, the Essex Record Office’s Engagement Fellow, takes a look at some of the things in the Marconi Photographic Section’s archive.

Founded by Guigielmo Marconi in 1897, the Marconi Company (which held various names over its lifetime) were pioneers in wireless technology. Famously based in Chelmsford (regulars in the area will draw attention to places like ‘Marconi Road’ and ‘Navigation Road’), his technologies helped to shape the world we live in today: so much of our lives are a result of their research, from radio to navigation, from aeronautics to maritime, from communications continent to continent.


A11449 – 16748 MARCONI CO. TRADE MARK OR LOGO, 1947.

One part of the most interesting parts of the Marconi Company’s history was the Marconi Photographic Section, whom took hundreds of pictures over the organisation’s lifetime. These records are now stored at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford. Unfortunately, this collection remains largely underused – so the British Society for the History of Science and Essex Record Office tasked me to spend some time scoping out the Marconi Photographic Section’s archive, working out what kind of images are within and, perhaps most importantly, work out how they can be used. Whilst I have only been in the archive for a relatively short period of time (since the beginning of October), there are some very interesting historical angles in desperate need of further research – from business to imperial history, from labour to marketing history.


A11449 – 78774, MAP OF NADGE RADAR CHAIN, 1968

One thing to note is that there are a lot of pictures of non-descript machines and circuitry – fans of the history of electronic engineering need look no further: historians of oscilloscopes, transmitters and receivers, power supplies, RADAR arrays, and pretty much all kinds of specialist electronic engineering will find something of interest here. These images present an extensive product history of Marconi’s inventions and patents. Perhaps more generally appealing, there is a lot for those interested in maritime and aeronautical history: one of the key ideas that came about from wireless communication was the idea of wireless navigation, and Marconi fitted many different pieces of equipment to aircraft and ships to aid in their navigation around the globe.


A11449 – 15771, TYPE D.F.G.26 RECEIVER WITH OSCILLOSCOPE TYPE O.R.3, 1945

But the view of higher international politics, engineering and industry are only one side of the coin: the prevalence of this technical equipment masks ordinary life. The archive presents us with a rich social history of the worker and their working practices. Workers, many male and female, black and white, British and international, are presented in the factories assembling intricate circuits. To look at the ethnography behind the people in these pictures reveals the clear shifts, both natural and forcible, in middle and working class employment. Notice particularly with image 2015 – everyone is happy and content, giving the viewer the impression that everything was okay working for Marconi. It wasn’t always this sweet.


A11449 – 2015, GIRLS WINDING & LACQUERING SHOP AT WORKS, 1919

As this is evidently the photographic archive of a business, there is huge scope for a business historian. These photographs are frozen moments in time, specifically captured because they want to show a particular angle, person, product or scene – why one moment and not another? Why one person over another? Why one place over another? More specifically, there are multiple photographs of how the Marconi Company attempted to market itself in a world of innovation: some of the most interesting pictures are of the exhibits set up to advertise wireless communication at various exhibitions.


A11449 – 2464, MARCONI STAND, AERO EXHIBITION, OLYMPIA, 1920

What is most interesting about the archive is the company’s vast spread throughout the globe: as with any history of the twentieth century, Empire remains front and centre. Imperial conquerors can come and go as they please, but radio technology meant the constant connection between colony and coloniser. Furthermore, the concept of technological Imperialism remained hot in this period: teaching others how to use Marconi equipment orients them towards using that equipment for a long time, forcing the colony to ask for technical help from the coloniser. This relationship is observable in the photographic archives as Marconi equipment was placed in different colonies, greatly expanding the imperial nation’s reach.


A11449 – 3070, MAHARAJAH USING A MARCONI TELEPHONE IN INDIA, No date.

Art lovers may also find something worthwhile in the archives. There are photographs of many different artistic drawings by members of staff in the collection depicting a variety of different scenes. The collection features many talented artists, as well as plastic models of Marconi scenes and vehicles, models of scientific principles, and copious drawings. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that science and art are two separate unconnected topics, but the collection features some stunning images which clearly appeal to the art behind science.


A11449 – 14559, PAINTING ENTITLED “VOICE OF FREEDOM”, 1943.

This collection is for use in the Essex Record Office under Accession A11449 in over 100 individual boxes. This project hopes to eventually digitise and map these images to show the company’s reach. I have spent time electronically tagging the pictures with keywords: if you would be interested in looking at this spreadsheet or further discussing the project, do contact me at lcsmit@essex.ac.uk. Whether for research or for a casual perusal, this collection really has a lot to offer!

‘An Ocean of Books’

Hannah Salisbury, Engagement and Events Manager

In preparing our latest mini-biography of an interesting person from Essex’s past for Essex Life magazine, I came across this wonderful quote from William Gilberd (1544-1603), in the preface to his book De Magnete, published in 1600:

‘But why should I, in so vast an Ocean of Books by which the minds of studious men are troubled and fatigued, through which very foolish productions the world and unreasoning men are intoxicated, and puffed up, rave and create literary broils, and while professing to be philosophers, physicians, mathematicians and astrologers, neglect and despise men of learning: why should I, I say, add aught further to this so-perturbed republick of letters, and expose this noble philosophy, which seems new and incredible by reason of so many things hitherto unrevealed, to be damned and torn to pieces by the maledictions of those who are either already sworn to the opinions of other men, or are foolish corruptors of good arts, learned idiots, grammatists, sophists, wranglers, and perverse little folk? But to you alone, true philosophizers, honest men, who seek knowledge not from books only but from things themselves, have I addressed these magnetical principles in this new sort of Philosophizing.’

Portrait of William Gilbert (Wellcome Collection)

Gilberd was a physician and natural philosopher who founded the field of magnetic science. He was the first person to suggest (correctly) that the earth is a giant magnet, and the word ‘electricity’ has its origins in his work. The ‘new sort of Philosophizing’ to which he refers is his methodology of using experiments to find out about natural phenomena.

Gilberd was born in Colchester and is buried there in Holy Trinity church. You can find out more about him in our article that will be published in the October 2015 edition of Essex Life magazine.

 

Document of the month, July 2015: The heat of summer

Each month one of our Archivists selects a document to highlight. This month it is the turn of Chris Lambert – his chosen document will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout July 2015.

It was July 1615.  Joan, Lady Barrington, of Hatfield Broad Oak was unwell, and she sought medical advice.  That advice, from Dr Duke of Colchester, survives amongst the Barrington family papers in the ERO (D/DBa F40/1).

D-DBa F40-1 watermarked

The advice of Dr Duke of Colchester to Lady Barrington of Hatfield Broad Oak, July 1615 (D/DBa F40/1)

Reassuringly, Duke did not believe ‘that the swelling of her legges shold be an effect of a dropsy’ (what might now be understood as heart disease).  Lady Barrington’s urine suggested to Duke ‘only much melancholy’.  The effects of melancholy were extensive, including ‘windiness of stomacke & body, flushing heates, [and] causeless feares’, but Duke did not think them dangerous.

Beyond that, Lady Barrington was ‘of a good complexion, well coulered & eateth her meat well, having a full body’.  For Duke, this was evidence that the swelling was simply ‘an effect of watery humours in the veynes, wherewith Nature being burthened, she doth expell & abandon them to the inferiour partes’.  The condition appeared in summer because Lady Barrington ‘eateth & drinketh liberally although the naturall heat of the stomacke be now much lesse then in winter, as also because the passages of the body are more open in sommer … and so the humours do with more facilitye flowe into those partes’.  The ancient Greek doctrine of the four bodily humours, associated with the four seasons, still ruled 17th-century medicine.  In 1615, William Harvey’s revolutionary discovery of the circulation of the blood still lay 13 years in the future.

D-DQ 14-191 watermarked

Hatfield Broad Oak, seen in a contemporary map (D/DQ 14/191). Lady Barrington’s home at the Priory House appears just above the church.

Duke’s prescription was a moderate purge, the ‘often use of turpentine of Cipres [Cyprus]’, and frequent ‘astringent bathes’ for the patient’s legs.  But ‘at the fall of the leafe, it wer necessary to take some more forcible purging physicke’.  The humours of the body being un-balanced, purging would restore them.  Perhaps it did: Lady Barrington lived on until 1641.