So today is elections across the country so best to have a quick post about the blue plaque on my local polling station:
Basically Lady Betty Hastings was pretty freaking awesome from what I’ve read so far. Best summary can be found on the website of the charities that still run to this day having been set up from her philanthropy in the 18th Century. She inherited a boat load of money in her early 20s, which for a society lady of that time meant she would have had access to a great deal more independence than most women who depended on finding a husband for survival. As an avid read of Georgette Heyer novels I like to think I know a little bit about this world as she did her research well (something I am aiming to emulate). So this is why I think Lady Elizabeth Hastings is a truly admirable figure.
Finding herself safely established in society, with no need for a husband and an easy competence to live off she could easily have decided to spend her time attending balls and card parties, living a life of leisure. Instead she went about donating her money to charity and most importantly setting up education institutions for girls. So if you still have not voted yet think about that – a woman who had not right to vote and very little freedom in society decided to use her money not to further her own experiences but to ensure that young women were educated.
Sadly Lady Elizabeth Hastings had a sad end, suffering from breast cancer and undergoing painful surgery to treat it that was ultimately unsuccessful. Definitely a lady worth remembering and an inspiration on election day.
Been a bit of a vacation while I travelled the country and then came back. I sort of have a job now. Well its part time and I can do it from home so not really a job but nonetheless I have got something to keep me occupied but this shall not lead to my lack of pursuit of blue plaques. Just yesterday I travelled down the desolate path of the A58 just because when I drove past it last week I discovered that there is a blue plaque on a cool building hidden down there. Sure it’s now the home of LC Vehicle Hire but still worth a look
Bit behind on my research schedule so going to step it up a notch and try and get a proper serious grown up research post done by Friday.
My research folders are bulging with information now. I’ve sort of decided it would be cheating to look at standard wikipedia pages for the historical figures etc. and I’m trying to put together the information purely from primary sources. A lot of this project is about me trying to hone my research skills. So the problem comes because I’m researching areas I know nothing about.
Lets take Sir Berkeley Moynihan:
I particularly enjoyed this plaque because he “prized caressing the tissues rather than speed in surgery”. In the archives there is an embaressment of riches about Sir Berekeley Moynihan and I haven’t even started looking in the medical resources. What I have found out so far is that during World War I he was consulting surgeon to the British Army and when addressing a Clinical Congress of Surgeons of North America he advocated a controversial method of treating wounds – carefully clean them, rest them and keep them free from contact with any drug or antiseptic rather than use the Dakin solution that was the main antiseptic solution used during World War I. What I want to know is why? If only I had a medical degree maybe I could figure it out. Although probably not. Maybe I need a medical and history degree to figure it out.
So I’m in Wales this week so no new plaques going up this week. I’ve started the process of researching and I finally appreciate how awesome it is to have access to a University library. The ability to search online journals and records is giving me access to so much in some ways but also so little in some ways.
For example I’ve been trying (without looking at any other blue plaque sites!) to find out a bit more about 18 Park Place
A basic google search gives you lists of blue plaques and zoopla links. A quick google of MEPC tells you they are a property company who do developments and refurbishments but that still leaves me nowhere with what actually happened in 18 park place over the years. Judging by the lack of information I doubt it was a great historical site but this project is making me start to take an interest in social history I never had before. Searching the newspaper records you can often get births, marriage and deaths records which gives you a family picture (I’m slowly building that up for Denison Hall) but 18 park place is a blank slate. I have two pieces of information about it.
Firstly in 1872 it was the branch office of the British National Insurance Corporation. Finding information on that organisation is proving tricky but I have found out their policies are now administered by Sun Life Financial of Canada (Lincoln UK). Now frankly that seems pretty dull. But when you combine it with the only other fact I know about the building it is. In 1884 the following advert was posted:
Now why would an insurance company require young men to spin hand looms? Obviously its possible that in those 12 years the building changes hands but still it’s intriguing. So anyway the research process continues but it’s throwing up more questions than answers at the moment.
So this little gem is in the slightly less salubrious part of Kirkgate that is filled with knockdown bacon roll prices and sofas bought on credit. But in amongst that is a blue plaque to Ralph Thoresby – the historian of Leeds.
This is one of the few plaques I was already very familiar with as it was on my walk to and from the bus station every day for two years. It was one of those “I should really look him up” moments regularly but I never did. Now of course the point of this blog is not to just show you what you could see on Wikipedia so today I’ve been searching not for blue plaques but for more on Ralph Thoresby.
The Leeds City Museum provided me with a really strong starting point. They have tried to recreate what Thoresby’s collection would look like if it had not been sold and given away after his death. It’s a fascinating insight into the world of those Royal Society members whose interests were to study, learn and document all they could about the world around them. The Royal Society first came to my notice through the excellent Baroque Cycle by Neal Stephenson, which weaves adventures in amongst the interactions of Christopher Wren, Isaac Newton, Robert Hook and many of the other great minds of their time. It’s an amazing fiction read but the reality of the lives of the fellows of the Royal Society were equally intriquing. Their commitment to true knowledge instead of assumptions based on accepted beliefs makes them extremely worthy of respect to me. They wanted to check the science underlying all our ideas. Leeds City Museum has a wonderful recreation of what the office of a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) would have looked like at the turn of the 17th to 18th century and it’s filled with books and microscopes and all sorts of wonderful bits and bobs. The FRS of those days, like Thoresby, did not limit themselves to one pursuit over another. Everything was science and everything was worthy of further study. So it seems right to start by writing about Ralph Thoresby as althought I’ve written very little about him the process of writing this blog is helping me get back into research, fascinated by every little thing out there. I hope to learn more about Ralph Thoresby as time goes on and plan to come back to him. In the meantime if you want to do your own reading I highly recommend The Thoresby Society. But for now I think Ralph shall just be my inspiration to keep researching.
This is quite possibly going to end up being one of the most boring websites ever made but I need to practice my writing and research so here we go.
Finding myself unemployed (ish), working towards a degree (ish) but most importatly spending every day at home I have decided to do an hours walking around Leeds every day to keep healthy. Today was day two of walking around so let’s not hold our breathe that this happens every day. However on day one I saw three blue plaques and thought “ooh it could be like a scavenger hunt”. So today (day two of walking, day one of the ridiculous project) I made sure I kept my eyes open and took pictures of any blue plaque I saw. Well I seem to have managed to gather a staggering 10 today by accident. Seems enough to make a really boring blog out of so here I go.
- I have to stumble upon them. I can’t go looking up where they are. The aim being to cover as much of the city as possible.
- I need to take a picture of it and a “context photo” so you can see it from a wider angle. Going to have to revisit a few from today for that.
- I then have to write a blog post about each on of them having done some further research.
- Not clear on whether I can take tips from other people about where to go. So this is less of a rule and more a clarification that this is a murky grey area. Yeah I suck at rules.
So the one bit I have googled is how manny of them there are. Estimates seem to vary from 150 to 166 and I don’t want to stay on those web pages too long in case I get spoilers.
Anyway – off we go!