From India to Cheltenham

This post comes for second year undergraduate student Lydia Munn, who has been working as a research assistant on the Cheltenham: Diaspora project.

When I first joined the Cheltenham: Diaspora project I was unsure where my research would lead me. After exploring some of the project’s initial findings, I decided that I wanted to focus on women’s stories as I feel their voices are often overlooked. I noticed one narrative the project had already started looking at was the Ayah’s, who were Indian women brought over to England during the 19th century by British colonial officers in order to look after their children on the long ship journey’s. The officers were supposed to pay for these women’s journey home, but many ended up abandoned and were sent to the Ayahs’ home in London.

Ayahs Home
The Ayahs’ Home in Hackney, 1904. Photo courtesy of the British Library.

Most of these women’s stories have not been written down and are lost to history, but one Cheltenham related name that kept appearing was ‘Ruth’. She was an Ayah in the service of Colonel Rowlandson, and she became the first person from India to be baptised in Cheltenham along with one of the Colonel’s children. What is even more interesting is she was baptised by a different priest to the child, one who could speak her native language: Tamil. Very few records surrounding these women have been saved. With some determination though, I found the record of her baptism on Ancestry. This record revealed her last name, or at least the name she had been given while in England, as Adnitt, a piece of information I had not been able to previously find. I wondered if she had kept the name, so I searched for it on shipping records but found nothing. It was so frustrating as there was so much information about the English family she lived with, but so little about her.

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Ruth’s Baptism certificate obtained from Ancestry.

I have not given up on Ruth and hope to one day find out more about her but I wanted to be of more use to the project. A few weeks before I had helped the Diaspora team set up a pop-up exhibition at the Cheltenham Community Rescource Centre. During this Bernice Thomson, who runs the centre, had mentioned that she ran a group on Monday’s called Sahara Saheli, for women had had emigrated to Cheltenham from other parts of the world. I contacted her and asked if any of the women would like to be interviewed for the project, she suggested I come along to one of the Monday sessions, in order to introduce myself and explain the project. I thought I could be of use to the Diaspora project as many of these women come from traditional cultural backgrounds and would feel more comfortable being interviewed by another woman.

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The Cheltenham: Diaspora exhibition being installed at the Community Resource Centre on Grove Street.

The Sahara Saheli group was really welcoming and some of them seemed genuinely interested in the project. I conducted my first interview in March and heard the powerful story of a woman who came to Cheltenham from India in 1967. Over the next fifty years she watched a town change dramatically whilst dealing with immense loss and the need to support her family back in India. Sadly, due to the current Coronavirus pandemic it is unlikely I will be able to conduct anymore interviews this year, but I am so grateful that I have been able to have even the tiniest glimpse into some of these women’s amazing stories.

100 Years of GCHQ

This post comes from Charlotte Andrews, Ethan Cross, Liz Cutter, Richard Grace, Marcie Jones, Dan Moore.

Most people have an idea of what occurs at GCHQ – intercepting messages to do with international terrorism, helping to protect people from cyber-attacks. Others question why GCHQ should have so much power and what that means for ordinary people’s privacy.

We are looking at 100 years of GCHQ and particularly how it has become part of Cheltenham. As a large group we have been able to divide up our key focuses and have been able to look at more exciting things than we expected. The three key areas we are focusing on are:

1.  the Trade Union strikes that affected GCHQ in the 1980s;

2.  the lives of double agents;

3.  scandals surrounding the organisation and surveillance in the 21st Century and a possible future of surveillance vs privacy.

(BC Newsbeat, 2011

Charlotte, Liz and Marcie were able to take a trip to London to view the exhibit ‘Top Secret: from Ciphers to Cyber’ at the Science Museum. This was particularly exciting because it covered exactly what the research project wanted – 100 years of GCHQ. It was really helpful in giving us a clear understanding and helpful timeline of events concerning GCHQ in Cheltenham.

1. The Trade Union strikes that affected GCHQ in the 1980s: these took place in Cheltenham and some people might remember them. Gloucester archives have been a useful resource to find records of these events. Research suggests that people felt very strongly about Trade Unions being banned from GCHQ, as shown through the annual marches that took place through the town.

2. The lives of double agents and scandals surrounding the organisation: our case study for this is Geoffrey Prime and his life in Cheltenham. Prime was a double agent who gave information to the Soviet Union. It also allows us to explore the importance of Cheltenham during the Cold War.

3. Surveillance in the 21st Century and a possible future of surveillance vs privacy: we gained lots of valuable information about the future of GCHQ from London and the on-going debate on how much involvement GCHQ should have in individuals’ computer security. We also aim to speak to and include what local people think of GCHQ being Cheltenham based.

As part of the Trades Union Congress protest against the prohibition of Government Communications Head Quarters workers being allowed Trade Union membership, a series of marches took place annually through Cheltenham, in January. Police Constable Martyn Hillier riding   J82CVJ which was put on the road in December 1991, so this is the 1992 march. (Gloucestershire Police Archives URN 2269) | Photograph from Martyn Hillier
Gloucester Police Archives, URN 2269

We aim to put together a display that will reveal the importance of Cheltenham to GCHQ, exploring the impact and legacy on Cheltenham, and to allow local people to see more of an organisation that is part of their local community but, yet, so little is known about it. One main issue to come up so far is that GCHQ are very talented at saying a lot about nothing. Many news articles say the same thing. However, we are finding that we are now able to look past the surface of what is available to draw some conclusions about the impact of GCHQ in Cheltenham.

The Life and Legacies of George Whitefield

This post comes from Rebecca Chivers, Josh Oliver and Frankie Stanley.

The recent controversy over the removal of Confederate monuments in the United States, and even colonial figures such as Admiral Lord Nelson in Britain, has focused attention on the ways in which national ‘heroes’ and more problematic historical figures are and should be remembered. Our project provides one example by focusing on Gloucester-born George Whitefield, the 18th century evangelist credited with promoting a Protestant revival in Britain and its American colonies.

Whitefield’s childhood and early life are a pivotal part of our project, as they played an important role in his development as a charismatic and inspirational. His interest in acting and theatre whilst growing up was crucial in how he became such an influential and famous figure throughout Great Britain and the American colonies. His experiences acting on stage made him an incredibly captivating preacher. 

Whitefield is popularly known as a prominent evangelist preacher that sparked surges of religious interest in the American colonies during the 18th century, part of what was known as the ‘Great Awakening.’ However, his endorsement of slavery in Georgia and religious justifications for the enslavement of Africans have rarely been acknowledged. Even Gloucestershire tourist websites have taken advantage of his Gloucestershire connection but have not shed light on this controversial past. Although his charity work funding the Bethesda Orphanage in Georgia (that founded his advocacy of slavery), his interest in the religious education and conversion of African American slaves and protest of the physical abuse of slaves complicates the picture of his ethical blind spots.

As well as Whitefield’s approach to slavery and his early life and childhood, our group will be researching his involvement in the foundation of the Methodist movement of Christianity, and his relationship with the Wesley brothers, Charles and John. This approach will also naturally detail his upbringing and education, especially the time he spent at Pembroke College in Oxford. This will also lead into Whitefield’s journey to the American colonies and the missionary work , which eventually led to his rise to fame. It was the Wesley brothers who convinced Whitefield to travel to America, so the relationship between the three of them will be an important aspect of our project, especially when looking at the tensions and difficulties which later occurred during their lives.    

Whitfield Tabernacle built in 1741, Historic England

Our group project is to investigate the controversial legacy of Whitefield, how Gloucestershire should remember him and how Whitefield shows the complicated relationship between religion and slavery. In recent years, historians have explored Whitefield’s religious theodicy and conflicted views on slavery, which meant that it would be difficult for our group to uncover new information. Therefore, we concluded that our group would present a broad display of Whitefield’s life, his American preaching, his humanitarianism and his murky connection to slavery so that the audience can arrive at their own conclusions on how they, and Gloucestershire, should remember him.

Edward Wilson: Polar Explorer

This post comes from Sam Webber and Rachel Lane.

Our project focuses on the life and legacy of Edward Wilson. Not many people know who Edward Wilson was, but they would have heard about the mission he was a participant in: the Terra Nova mission to reach the South Pole (1910-13). Not as famous as the mission’s captain, Robert Scott, Wilson was, nevertheless, an instrumental member of the team. He was the doctor and scientist of the group and was among the five to reach the pole. All five died on their return, after having been beaten to the pole by the Norwegians. Wilson is the main focus of our project because he was born and raised in Cheltenham, growing up in a house on the Promenade.

At The South Pole (L-R: Edward Wilson, Henry Bowers, Edgar Evans, Robert Scott, Lawrence Oates)  

We had only very limited knowledge of Wilson before we started this project, but we knew of the mission and so had some basic information to start from. Our first action was to go to the Wilson Museum in Cheltenham. The museum was renamed after Edward Wilson, and has objects that belonged to Wilson and his family. We wanted to see what information was already readily available and to give ourselves a starting point. An unexpected and prominent part of the museum was Wilson’s paintings and drawings. He was a prolific painter and considered a career in art before pursuing medicine. Following this visit, we decided to focus specifically on Wilson’s life in Cheltenham, the mission itself and, finally, his legacy. We think it is important for Wilson to be recognised for his life, not just as being someone who died alongside Scott of the Antarctic.

More specifically, we aim to highlight Wilson’s works and achievements as a physician here in Cheltenham, his extensive scientific work as a zoologist, his part in the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions as the first explorers to reach the South Pole, and the life he left behind. We also aim to cover his legacy, the lessons we have learnt as a result of his work and how he is commemorated here in Cheltenham.

Statue of Wilson, taken on Cheltenham Promenade

Wilson worked as a surgeon at Cheltenham General Hospital alongside his work as an artist and natural historian. His paintings, alongside much of his equipment and personal effects, can be found in the Wilson Gallery in Cheltenham. The gallery was renamed after Wilson in 2013 and there are rooms dedicated to his memory. The holdings include items and information about his family, who also did a great amount of philanthropic work in the town. The project will highlight how much of Edward Wilson’s life was linked to Cheltenham, yet not many people know who he was. We aim to establish Wilson as a figurehead for Cheltenham.

The great ice barrier – looking east from Cape Crozier, 1911 watercolour by Wilson

Exhibits now on display at the Community Resource Centre

The Community Resource Centre based on Grove Street in Cheltenham now has two of our main exhibitions on display. Visitors will now be able to see the ‘Cheltenham’s Lower High Street: Past, Present and Future’ exhibition, which was first displayed at Chapel Arts in June 2017. This project, which has been available on this website since early 2018, focuses on the memories of former residents of the Lower High Street area, and it’s often hidden role in development of Cheltenham. Visitors will also be able to see the ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ exhibition, which explores various and often unexpected narratives of migration to the town from the late 19th century onwards from different parts of the world.

Many thanks to Bernice Thomson, Manager of the Cheltenham West End Partnership and her team who have supported both of these projects. Contact details below:

Community Resource Centre, Grove Street, Cheltenham GL50 3LZ

01242 692112 or office.cwep@gmail.com

Mondays to Fridays: 9am – 4pm
Saturdays & Sundays: Closed

Gloucester History Festival 2019: the CC4HH Exhibits

The programme for this year’s Gloucester History Festival is finally here, and we’re very excited that the student projects conducted for CC4HH will be displayed in two separate exhibits throughout the festival. These are part of the Festival’s ‘City Voices’ programme which explores aspects of local history and heritage. The theme for this year is ‘Power and the People’.

Firstly, the projects exploring Gloucester’s Windrush Generation and Gloucestershire’s LGBTQ+ community will be exhibited at the Eastgate Shopping Centre (see pic above) in Gloucester from the 7th to the 21st of September. The projects exploring Cheltenham’s history, which include life in the workhouses, a history of Pittville, and the Heritage Lottery funded project led by Dr David Howell ‘Cheltenham: Diasporas’ will be exhibited at the Chapel Arts gallery on Knapp road in Cheltenham from 4th to the 14th September. After this date, these exhibits will be relocated to the Quad Walk Gallery in the Francis Close Hall campus library at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham. Ultimately, all the exhibits will be made available on the website. Here’s a sneak preview of a couple of the panels from the Windrush and Workhouses projects.

We’re very much looking forward to this year’s exhibits, which will be the third year in the life of the Centre, and the second year of collaboration with the Festival.

Cheltenham: Diaspora project is underway

In June, 2018, the History team at the University of Gloucestershire proudly announced the award of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, to support the ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project. Since that time, we have been busily preparing the project, putting together our research team, and getting started with our local history research.

The ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project aims to explore migration themes in Cheltenham. Much of our work is focused on the Lower High Street area, though this is not the sole focus of our attention. We are interested in recording narratives of how communities came to settle in Cheltenham, though we are specifically looking at how cultural traditions and practices change and move with people as they enter and establish new communities.

Much of what we have been doing over the past few months has involved reaching out to community leaders across Cheltenham, creating links and partnerships, through which we hope to meet people who are happy to share their personal stories and experiences. While we anticipate that most of our oral history recordings will take place in 2019, we have started conducting some interviews. The project has already begun to explore the challenging stories of forced Polish migration from central Europe in the 1940s, and the cultural legacy of Chinese migration, where both cuisine and martial arts have an important role to play in the contemporary cultural landscape of Cheltenham.

In the last week, we were pleased to welcome four student interns to the project, who will be helping develop the research side of things. The partnership is ideal, as it allows the project to help develop research skills for students of history, while allowing both undergraduate and postgraduate students to play an active role in a significant local history project. Their contributions will be meaningful and valued as we move forward.

Over the coming weeks, ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ will be continuing to reach out to cultural and religious organisations in Cheltenham, to help introduce the project to as many people as possible. Meanwhile, our student interns will be spending time in the local archives, looking to identify and explore some of the earlier migration narratives that helped shape the historical expansion of the town.

While we are in the process of reaching out to groups and individuals, we would also welcome people reaching out to us. If you have a migration story that you would like to share, please get in touch. Equally, if you know someone who has a story that might contribute to the project, please draw their attention to the project. You can reach us, and find out more about the project through any of the following methods:

Email, project co-ordinator: dhowell1@glos.ac.uk

Project hub: The Cotswold Centre for History and Heritage.

Cheltenham: Diaspora on Twitter

Cheltenham: Diaspora on Facebook

‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project secures HLF funding.

The History team at the University of Gloucestershire, and the Cotswolds Centre for History and Heritage, is pleased and excited to announce that a Heritage Lottery Fund award has been granted in support of the forthcoming ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project.

‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ will explore narratives of migration in Cheltenham. The town has a long history of being a gateway to the south west, however relatively little work has been done to document the narratives of those migrating into the area. This project will focus on the more recent history of Cheltenham and record oral testimonies of first and second generation migrants living in Cheltenham today.

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University of Gloucestershire History students worked closely with communities in Cheltenham as part of the Lower High Street project. Picture by Clint Randall http://www.pixelprphotography.co.uk

Stories of travel, culture, change and community are all of vital importance to understanding the way our communities have become what they are today. All too often, however, these stories are left undocumented until it is too late. ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ creates the ideal opportunity to work with local communities, to help them record their own history, and become custodians of their story, while sharing it with a significantly wider audience.

 
‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ will focus on recording stories of migration, but it will also look to provide training opportunities to members of the community and students based with the University. It is hoped that, following training in recording of oral histories, this is a project that will be taken on and maintained by people living in Cheltenham. Project results will be maintained in an online archive, in addition to a touring exhibition based on the community led research.

 
This project follows on from the success of other community history projects led by the History team at the University of Gloucestershire, including the very successful ‘Lower High Street’ project in 2016-2017. In a ten day period, over 1000 people visited a pop-up exhibition celebrating the history of the Lower High Street, demonstrating the huge value placed on these local stories by the surrounding community. ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ looks to build on the success of these past projects, while giving greater voice to the significant cultural diversity found in Cheltenham.

 
The History team would like to thank the Heritage Lotter Fund, and National Lottery players, for their support, without which this project would not be possible.
‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ formally commences in July, 2018, and training opportunities will be made available and advertised once the project is underway.

 
For any questions, queries or general interest regarding the ‘Cheltenham: Diaspora’ project please contact dhowell1@glos.ac.uk, or follow the History team at Cheltenham on twitter or on our facebook page. You can find information about other recent and ongoing projects via the Cotswolds Centre for Heritage and History website: http://www.cc4hh.co.uk

The Centenary of the End of the Great War in Cheltenham

Project Group: Rebecca Humphrey, Rhian James, Lily Lord, Bertie Lyman

Our group is looking at the centenary of the end of World War One and the effect on the local area in Cheltenham. After visiting the archives as a source of preliminary research we decided to divide the project into three separate areas.

After setting up a simple timeline outlining the events of the Great War, we are going to provide a case-study of a specific area in Cheltenham, allowing us to research the impact on a direct local area. As we already know, Cheltenham racecourse was converted into a military hospital, so we think that this might be an interesting area to study due to the massive change in purpose. However, we are also interested in studying the St Paul’s area, as this housed two schools as well as having a large residential population. The impact of the war on both of these separate areas would have been considerable and so we hope this will form an interesting section of our project.

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Mary Ann Young: the only woman listed on the FCH WWI Memorial Board

We would like to look at the impact of the war on specific people. We have already completed research on the soldiers who fought in the war from both St Paul’s college and other schools, working with the university archives to aid our research. From this point, we have decided to choose 3 specific case-studies to research for our final piece, including not only a soldier from the school here, but perhaps someone who was not killed in battle as well. Mary Young was the only woman to be commemorated in the university memorial boards.

Finally, we have been researching memorials in Cheltenham. In addition to this, we have a specific interest in how exactly the end of the war was celebrated in the town. We are planning to combine both aspects of this commemoration of the end of the war to provide an overview of the legacy and impact of the war, both immediately and throughout time.

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Order of Service for the Cheltenham War Memorial Unveiling Ceremony, 5 November 1922

Through the research and presentation of each of these areas, we are hoping to provide a comprehensive and interesting overview of the impact of the Great War in Cheltenham. We are hoping that through studying specific areas, people and dates we can provide a good insight into the time whilst humanising the event and provoking emotion in anyone who reads our project findings.

Women’s Suffrage in Cheltenham

Project Group: Anna Cardy, Laura Collins, Bradley Dickinson, James Juden, Sharmaine Roch, Dan Wills

This year marks the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People’s Act by which women over the age of thirty gained the vote in Britain. Our group has been tasked with looking at the suffragette movement in Cheltenham and Gloucestershire. We decided that our best plan of action was to research and gather as much information surrounding the subject as possible. Following this, we met and discussed our research, deciding that we were individually each to focus on one aspect of our research findings to cover the subject efficiently.

Sharmaine’s focus of the project will primarily look at the nationwide movement of the 1911 census evasion, with an emphasis on Cheltenham and Gloucestershire. This strategy of opposition was reinforced by the idea of the ‘No Vote, No Census’ movement whereby women were encouraged to evade the census on the night of recording. Women argued that if they were not considered a citizen, they should not be included in official citizen documentation. Sharmaine has also been in contact with the Wilson Gallery in Cheltenham which once held an exhibition commemorating the suffrage movement.

Although she has made some progress and has been given bits of information about the exhibition pieces, she has yet to hear from the curators about whether the group will be granted permission to take photos of some of the exhibition pieces for our own exhibition. Nevertheless, this discussion is on-going, and we hope to hear from the Wilson soon. With regards to future research and progress, Sharmaine’s basis for research is growing and she hopes to visit Gloucestershire Archives in the nearby future to expand this further.

Dan and Brad’s focus for this project is the militant action in and around Gloucestershire. Cheltenham was a significant location in the suffrage movement in the South-West (second to Bristol). During our exploration of local news articles researching militancy during the suffrage campaign, we came across a discussion that arose multiple times concerning whether the suffrage movement was hindered by the few violent acts that suffragettes conducted during 1913-14, these being three separate acts of arson. The research explores whether or not suffrage demands would have been recognised without the acts of the militants, or whether the suffragettes harmed the image of the suffrage movement as a whole, possibly hindering and altering the public’s view on Cheltenham’s suffrage campaign.

Despite the national direction of militant and violent action, suffragette activities were rare in Cheltenham during this period. One of the rare examples of suffragette militancy in Cheltenham was the Alstone Lawn arson attack, committed on 21 December 1913 by two suffragettes who were later identified by local papers as ‘Red’ and ‘Black’. The two women were promptly arrested the next day and subsequently went on hunger strike. This was reported in the Gloucestershire Echo, which we have been able to view through chronographs at the local studies library. Further sentiment is expressed in other local papers such as the Cheltenham Chronicle.

Both James and Anna are focusing on the actions and the role of individuals involved in the suffrage movement in Cheltenham. James is focusing on Harriet McIlquham, the campaigner for equal rights and the presence of women in local government, and Madame Borovikovski(y), one of the first members of her local suffrage branch to be imprisoned for involvement in the cause of women’s enfranchisement. These women represent a rarely told history of the suffrage movement in Cheltenham. Anna is looking at Mrs Frances (Rosa) Swiney, who was the President of the Cheltenham’s Woman’s Suffrage Society as well as publishing widely on women’s rights. She is also looking at Mrs Florence Eagerny, who subscribed to many groups in Cheltenham, including the Women’s Freedom League and the Women’s Social and Political Union. Eagerney is also significant because of her husband’s involvement in the women’s rights movement. Mr Eagerney was the honorary secretary of the Cheltenham Branch of the Women’s Freedom League (WFL) in 1911, and in 1913 he became the President of the Tewkesbury Branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.

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James is organising a video to be made showing the opinions and thoughts of local residents about the suffrage movement.

Laura is looking at contemporary suffrage groups, including those that were unsuccessful. The active groups include the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society (NUWSS), the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the more militant Women’s Freedom League (WFL). It is interesting to note that even the militant group was not prepared to damage property or use violence, even though they were willing to break the law. Their spokesperson, Florence Earengey, discussed with the local papers the violence used by the WSPU. As far back as the 1870s, there was considerable support for women’s suffrage in Cheltenham and later it was thought that many joined the NUWSS in order to support the cause.