An exciting Letter from Admiral Horatio Nelson to the 2nd Earl Camden dated 11 October 1804 has been put on display and revealed to the public for the first time. The letter concerns Camden’s nephew, Francis James, who, having lost his ship and his clothes, evidently decided he was not cut out for a life at sea! As Tunbridge Wells Museum’s Object of the Month for December, the letter sits alongside supporting text provided by our own Mike Bevan, Archivist at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. You can take a look at the letter online: http://www.tunbridgewellsmuseum.org/Default.aspx?page=2363. The full article is also available via the link and as a PDF. This version reveals letters from the NMM’s Archive, specifically the Croker collection (CRK) and puts the exhibited letter into a wider context concerning patronage, naval operations and reminds us that the call of the sea didn’t suit everyone!
The letter has already generated some local media attention:
A visit to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford last weekend has piqued my interest in the capture of the Westmorland: an armed merchantman. The exhibition, entitled ‘The English Prize, The Capture of the Westmorland: An Episode of the Grand Tour’, reveals the fascinating story of an English merchant ship that was captured by the French on 7 January 1779.
The Westmorland left Livorno under Captain Michael Wallace with a cargo that included 57 crates of objects collected by aristocrats on the Grand Tour. These Grand Tourists included Francis Bassett, Prince William Henry and Charles Howard. The ship was chased by four French ships consisting of the Caton, Destin and two smaller vessels. Being outnumbered and outgunned, Captain Wallace surrendered and was forced to Malaga. It was at this point that the valuable works of art were sold to the Spanish King, Charles III, for 360,000 silver reales; a substantial amount. Many of the items were then presented to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid. The archives in Madrid have been able to trace the history of the cargo and have discovered what became of the artefacts. For information about the exhibition see: http://www.ashmolean.org/exhibitions/westmorland/.
Included in the displays is a letter of marque against France, dated 20 August 1778 from the National Archives at Kew and their High Court of Admiralty records. There is a letter from Thomas Jenkins, a key agent in Rome, writing to William Legge, 2nd Earl of Darmouth, informing him of the acquisition of items made by his son, Lord Lewisham. The Archive at the National Maritime Museum holds several letters written by Thomas Jenkins from the John Wilson Croker collection of Nelson letters.
After visiting the exhibition, my immediate thought was to whether I could find anything interesting about the capture and dispersal of items from the Westmorland in the NMM’s manuscript collection. Having conducted a brief search, it seems that this task would prove very difficult. However, if any of our readers find anything of interest, please let us know!
The image on the right shows a ship’s model from the NMM’s collection. It is the Atalanta of c.1775 and the model can be found in the Ashmolean’s exhibition. It has been used as an example of a vessel similar to the Westmorland.
Mike (Assistant Archivist)
We are delighted that the move of the collections into the new archive stores is on schedule to be completed by Christmas, so the full Library service and access to the collections will start in January 2012. Please see the latest update on the website.
The full Library service will begin from Tuesday 17 January 2012 on a trial period, when the Library will be open from Tuesday-Thursday. During this time, we ask that you bear with us as we’ll also be continuing to update locations in the stores, training staff and getting used to the new ordering system and retrieval process.
From Monday 30 January 2012 the Library will be open six days a week, Monday to Friday 10.00-16.45, late night Thursday until 19.45 and Saturdays 10.00-13.00 and 14.00-16.45. Please note that to use the Library and access the collections, you must register online for a new style three year reader’s ticket. Guidance on how to request items using Aeon will be posted on the Museum website shortly.
We look forward to welcoming you to the Caird Library in 2012.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
Colleagues in Norway have issued a request for help to solve a mystery dating back to 1816.
The Regional State Archives in Trondheim have in their collection a number of letters that were found, washed ashore in a box, at Orlandet. The box, which also contained clothes and books, had at one time been on board the British ship Mercator and belonged to John Lambeth and his son.
Aside from what little information can be gleaned from the manuscripts themselves, archivists in Norway know nothing further about the Lambeth family or the Mercator. It is now hoped that some genealogical sleuths will be able to shed fresh light on this intriguing collection of letters.
Readers of the blog can find further information, as well as some images of the documents, on the National Archives of Norway website.
Richard (Assistant Archivist)
On Thursday 14th July the new Caird Library opened to the public, two days after the formal opening of the Sammy Ofer Wing by the Museum’s Patron, HRH the Duke of Edinburgh.
The Caird Library is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10am – 4.45pm for access to the 6,000 selected modern books on open access shelves, most recent issues of journals, electronic resources and selected core reference works such as Lloyd’s Register of Shipping and the Navy List.
Access to the Library is by Reader’s Ticket. You can register for one ahead of your visit by filling out an online form at www.nmm.ac.uk/aeon. You can also register in person in the Library – but pre-registering online helps you to beat the queues!
To celebrate the opening of the Sammy Ofer Wing and the new Caird Library, we have a range of Library tours and Archive Journey sessions taking place this weekend (16th and 17th July). There’s no need to book, but sessions are timed and places are limited. For more information, please see our website: www.nmm.ac.uk/visit/events/introduction-to-the-archive.
Gareth (Reader Services Librarian)
June and July will see two seminars given by Archive and Library staff as part of a wider Museum Staff Research Seminar series designed to illustrate the research actually being carried out with the Museum’s collections. This is an opportunity to hear about research projects Archive and Library staff are involved with.
On Wednesday 22 June, Archives Assistant Graham Thompson will be exploring the early years of commercial maritime photography with a focus on the Kentish riverside town of Gravesend. As the maritime gateway to London, the Thames was at the time the busiest shipping lane in the world. All kinds of shipping passed up and down this artery of Empire, from tea clippers racing to China in the last days of sail to P&O steamers full of emigrants to all parts of the Empire, from small barges of local produce to the 42,500 ton HMS Thunderer, the last battleship built on the Thames. Between the years 1870-1910 much of this traffic passed by the lens of two generations of commercial shipping photographers, F. C. Gould & Son. With extensive experience of early photography, Graham’s talk F. C. Gould & Son, photographers at the Thames Gateway promises literally to be a window on the past.
On Wednesday 13 July, we plunge into the world of Admiralty Record Keeping. How did their Lordships, so fond of seniority and established precedence, grapple with their own records? How did they find anything before the profession of Archivist existed and what was their attitude to Records Management? What did Samuel Pepys have to do with it all? In 1688 and all that: Admiralty Record Keeping since Samuel Pepys, Assistant Archivist Mike Bevan traces what was originally stored in the Pepysian presses now lovingly preserved at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and charts the early attempts to bring order to the mass of Admiralty records to their modern arrangement at The National Archives.
These talks are free and begin at 4pm in the Boardroom, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London SE10 9NF.
Places are limited so please ensure you contact the Research Administrator to reserve a place: on 020 8312 6716 or by email: email@example.com
Martin (Manuscripts Cataloguer)
We thought that Caird Library readers would be interested in an event at Gosport Discovery Centre on 9 June. The Navy Day will include a workshop on interpreting naval photographs and a video presentation of the Royal Navy in films. Staff will also be on-hand to demonstrate some navy family history websites, and there will be an evening talk, Britannia to Beira and Beyond, by Mike Critchley. It looks like a great day out, and would interest anyone interested in researching various aspects of the Royal Navy.
Eleanor (Head of Archive and Library)
We have now finalized the schedule for moving the National Maritime Museum’s Caird Library and archives from their current locations to the new library and archive store in the Sammy Ofer Wing. The Library and E-Library will close to all visitors on Thursday 21 April for the move of the collections. The new Caird Library will open in the new wing on Thursday 14 July; a full service with access to all the collections will start on Monday 5 September 2011 or earlier if possible.
The notice on the website gives full details of the closure period and the planned, phased re-opening of the new library. We ask you to bear with us this transition period and look forward to welcoming you to the new Caird Library in the summer.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
As our regular readers will know from seeing the crates of books in the Caird Library as we undertake several mini-moves before the really big one, we’re busy preparing for moving into the Sammy Ofer Wing during April-July 2011. We’ve updated the information on the website so please take a look – we’ll update the information monthly, so please keep continuing to check on our progress and closure dates for the Caird Library.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)
The work on the Sammy Ofer Wing is continuing, and we are busy preparing the collections to move into the new building in April-July 2011. We’ve updated the information on the progress of the building work and our plans for the new research and reading room on the website. The information is updated every two months, so please take a look at the blog or website in the future.
Eleanor (Head of Archive & Library)