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Brief Guide to Local History Resources at Bromley House Library

If you search for local history on BromCat you will currently retrieve 1922 items. Some of these are in special collections but most are on the open shelves.
The special collections are the James Ward Collection and The Michael Dobbin Collection.
The James Ward Collection was given to the Library in 1914 by the librarian and book collector James Ward and reflect his interests in local history, poetry, particularly Byron and his life and Henry Kirk White, and the Baptist Church in Nottingham, which is where he was Librarian. It isn’t a complete collection of his books, as he also generously gave books to other institutions. He also put together books himself, having collections of papers bound together either on a particular topic or added to a book that he had purchased. There are also several manuscript items.

The majority of this collection is shelved in its own bookcase in the Standfast Library.

The Michael Dobbin collection is on loan to the Library by Canon Charles Dobbin. This has a slightly wider geographical range and comprises around 750 items, some dating back to the 18th century and again some manuscript items. These are kept in locked cupboards in the ‘Michael Dobbin Corridor’ in the new wing and the doors will be unlocked for you on request.

Philip James Bailey was a Nottingham poet born in 1816, the year the Library started, although he was only a member of the Library for a few years when he returned to Nottingham prior to his death. As well as local history there are key items of poetical works, and theology and mysticism as well as freemasonry. The 200 volumes are housed in the cabinets in the Thoroton Room.

As much as the varieties of sizes of book and height of bookshelves will allow, Bromley House’s own collection of local history is housed in the Standfast Library, although the gems of this collection are in the glass fronted cupboard next to the counter. On the upper shelves are Phillimore’s Nottinghamshire Parish Registers (Marriages) There is also a collection of pamphlets stored in their boxes under the old card catalogue.
Just inside the coffee room you will find the Thoroton Society’s publications, a run of Trade Directories in date order, and the Records of the Borough of Nottingham’.
As the Library was always keen to collect local history, and didn’t dispose of this during any of the sales that took place periodically it has left us with a particularly rich collection. Some of these are inevitably in the locked cupboards, and if such an item is stated as in Case 1 or the Safe Room then you will have to ask and have it signed out to you, and it will be put in the Neville Hoskins Reading Room with the appropriate book rests etc. If this room is unavailable then unfortunately the book will also be, so if you are keen to look at a particular item on a particular day please do check with us prior to coming to the Library

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Traveler’s tales from Bromley House Library

 

The American author / traveler / journalist / broadcaster Lowell Thomas, wrote 65 books of which Bromley House Library has just 6.

Unknown perhaps today, but in the 1920’s , Lowell became both famous and wealthy on both sides of the Atlantic, by creating and promoting the image of Lawrence of Arabia. This at the time when Lawrence was trying to hide away in the RAF.

Having been sent as a journalist to Europe after USA joined WW I, Lowell Thomas found nothing to write to enthuse Americans in the Armies’ stalemate in France.

Meeting John Buchan at the War Office, he accepted the idea to see the war with General Allenby in the Middle East. There he met T.E.Lawrence, and traveling with his photographer, collected the material he would use in the stage show after the war.

 

Two of the Bromley House Library books promote similar heroes – ‘Back to Mandalay’ (Ca 9394) – about Orde Wingate of Burmah and the American air logistics which made the Chindit war possible(!), and ‘The Sea Devil’ (Cb 1661) – Count Felix von Luckner, describing his life ‘before the mast’ in the first person.  All fascinating reading, together with ‘The Sea Devil’s Focsle’ (Cb 1658) – which includes his help in restarting the German Navy in the mid 1920’s after Scapa Flow.

Luckner’s use of a sailing ship as a raider on the high seas in WW I is unique, especially as he determined to take all his victims prisoner, without any deaths!

 

In 1927, with his wife, Lowell Thomas travelled thousands of miles by the new airlines in Europe and Scandanavia.

‘European Skyways’ (Cb 1647) describes the primitive nature of airliners and airports at that time, and  two crashes in French planes which he survived.

It also underlines how even then, Germany was a leading manufacturer of all-metal aircraft – way ahead of Great British military or civil practice.

The description of Dornier Wal flying boats powered by Rolls Royce engines flying at only 20-30ft above the sea in Ground Effect’ to give a 30% reduction in fuel consumption was new  to me – what would insurers say today!

 

He is followed as a writer by his son – Lowell Thomas Jnr.

 

 

Roger Allton

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Long serving librarians

The next two librarians spent rather longer in the Library’s employ, with James Archer in charge during the move to Bromley House, and then being the first of several of our librarians who left the Library rather precipitously.

1820 – 1834 James Archer

 The previous librarian, Valentine Kirk, had left in June 1820 and Archer was certainly appointed well before 1/3/1821 when all books were to be returned prior to the move to Bromley House which opened in April 1821. The Librarian’s salary had been confirmed as £35 per annum (3/10/1820) and he was to be on duty from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. with a break for his dinner from 2 to 3 p.m. and another break of 30 minutes for tea to be taken on the premises.

A minute of 3/10/1820 records a gift of the 4th volume of Walpole’s works from the Librarian this having been damaged by a subscriber. On 4/9/1826 he was allowed 3 weeks leave to go to Edinburgh, but was to be back by Goose Fair, and this pattern of release was repeated over the years. In 1826 his place filled by Robert Hardy and Thomas Hawkesley who was appointed on a short term basis and who received 1 guinea on 4/12/1826.

From about 1820 up to about 1830 he was the witness to 78 signatures on the Library Rules document. He produced the Appendix to the Library Catalogue for 1824 and a supplement for 1825. Thomas Jowett supervised Archer’s production of the Appendix to the Library Catalogue for the present year (1826) and an Appendix to the Standfast Catalogue of 1817. Archer seems not to have been involved with the 1829 catalogue.

Gifts:

  • a map of Edinburgh – From his visit to Scotland (9/10/1826);
  • a biography of the bank robber, James Mackcoull;
  • Bertholet: Essay on Chemical Statics (5/2/1827);
  • The Scottish Tourist (4/6/1827)
  • Chalmers: Traditions of Edinburgh (2 vols.) (19/9/1827).

He again had three weeks leave granted on 1/8/1831 and on subsequent occasions but was expected to return before Goose Fair at the start of October.

The Interest Book has a number of receipt slips pasted inside its covers.
These acknowledge payments by James Archer (librarian) of interest on Bromley House Building shares.

On 25/7/1834 he was brought before a special meeting of the Committee as he had absented himself and ‘conducted himself in a highly improper manner’ and he was found to be ‘unfit to retain his office’. He was discharged.

On 4/8/1834 the Committee received a letter from Archer asking to be reinstated.
On 5/11/1834 a special sub-committee wrote to members urging them not to support Archer, and shortly after that he wrote to state that he would not apply for the vacant post of Librarian.

A letter to James Archer
A letter to James Archer from a Willie Cameron dated ‘Edinboro 21st Nov. 1813’ was discovered in the Library in February 2008. In it Cameron exhorts Archer to come soon to Edinburgh and the two men were obviously great friends and drinking companions.

The letter is addressed to Archer at ‘Mrs Harpham’s, Fletcher gate’. Curiously the letter was written more than two years before the foundation of the Library and some seven years before Archer began his employment there.

 1834 – 1857 John Walton

 He was described as ‘of Grantham’ when appointed rather quickly as Librarian to replace James Archer (25/7/1834).

He and his wife were provided with a residence, but had to provide a £100 security payment, which was offered by Thomas Burgess of Grantham (7/12/1835). He was granted two weeks leave (3/8/1835) and agreed to whitewash the dwelling (5/6/1837).
His salary, initially £50 per annum, rose to £65 in 1846 and to £70 in 1849. In 1845 the Committee agreed to increase his ‘Christmas box’ from £5 to £10 (7/4/1845).

In 1849 the Committee decided that his kitchen was to be cleaned (2/7/1849).

An innovation in the Library organisation occurred in 1851 when he was entrusted with £20 as petty cash (7/7/1851). He was responsible for the preparation of three catalogues in the 1850s and received an extra payment of £3 3s 0d for his work on the revised catalogue on 7/2/1853.

The poor quality of the 1857 supplement to the catalogue may be an indication of his failing health (Hoare, 1991). His sudden death was reported on 19/10/1857.

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