List of Speakers and their Talks

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TitleDurationSummarySpeakerContact details
Caring for books and documents: simple measures to ensure that your precious family records come to no harm.1 hourPamela introduces you to the materials documents are made from and the major enemies of those materials. She then explains simple measures you can use at home to keep your documents in good condition for generations to come. The session can include a show and tell element if audience members wish to bring examples they have for discussion (allow an extra 15 minutes for this).Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Delectable Documents – 800 years of Bedfordshire History1 hour to 1 hour 15 mins.Using a selection of her favourite documents from the collections of Bedfordshire Archives, Pamela takes us on a chronological and thematic journey through the county’s historyPamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Domestic Interior – home life in the archives1 hourPamela takes a look at the homes and lives of the people of Bedfordshire through examples from Bedfordshire Archives. Along the way she will consider such things as: decoration, cooking, servants and pets.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Great Estates1 hourWe take a look at the upstairs and downstairs of Bedfordshire’s country houses through the collections held by Bedfordshire Archives.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Crime in 19th Century Bedfordshire1 hourThe quarter sessions records held by Bedfordshire Archives are a wealth of information about life in 19th century Bedfordshire. This talk picks out some examples and looks at the context of the quarter sessions in the 19th century criminal justice system.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Patience, Jigsaws and Other Games Archivists Play1 hourThis talk uses well known games to explain the work of archivists and archive conservators and to show why working with archives is such fun. The talk can include audience participation – nothing to be scared of – just bring paper and a pencil.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Picture This – Life through a lens1 hourPhotographs can be brilliant sources for historical research. Pamela draws on examples from the collections of Bedfordshire Archives to discuss what we can learn from photographs and what we should keep in mind when looking at them.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Grand Designs – Conservation of the Wrest Park architectural drawings1 hourPamela explains the project that helped to protect the architectural drawings in the Lucas of Wrest Park collection and shows why these drawings are things of beauty as well as important historical sources.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Z to A – Dr Fowler and the history of Bedfordshire Archives1 hour to 1 hour 15 minsDr Fowler was an extraordinary man who, on retiring from being a professor of Zoology, turned his thoughts to being an Antiquarian, which in turn led to Bedfordshire Archives becoming the first county record office in England. This talk looks at Dr Fowler, the beginnings of the archive service and how the archive service continues to build on the foundations laid by Dr Fowler.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Who’s wearing the foolscap?1 hourPamela looks at the work of an archive conservator where variety is the spice of life, but you have to know your cartridge from your onion paper and a lot of other things besides.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
The Bedfordshire Home Front in World War II1 hourDrawing on the records of Bedfordshire Archives this talk looks at how Bedfordshire prepared for and coped with the Second World War.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
I Love Maps1 hourAn historical map often brings admiring looks even from people who have no interest in the area depicted. In this talk Pamela explains the different sorts of maps to be found in Bedfordshire Archives and why she loves maps.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Planes, Trains and Automobiles1 hourThis talk takes a look at transport in Bedfordshire through the ages based on examples from the collections of Bedfordshire Archives.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Many Mansions – the architectural records of Sir Albert Richardson1 hourSir Albert Richardson was a well-known, Bedfordshire based, architect in the first half of the 20th century. Richardson was a professor at University College London and a supporter of Georgian architecture. He designed furniture as well as buildings. He was knighted for his services to architecture. Bedfordshire Archives holds his company’s large and important archive, which includes architectural drawings for projects of all shapes and sizes throughout the British Isles. This talk discusses some of these projects.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Answers on a Postcard1 hourPamela delves into the Swain and Chrystal picture postcard collections owned by Bedfordshire Archives and explains why detective skills are often needed when describing or using picture postcards as historical sources.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Luton Works1 hourIn this talk Pamela looks at the development of Luton in the 19th to mid 20th centuries and the transformation of the town from a rural market town to an industrial centre attracting workers from around the world.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Harpur’s Bedford1 hourThis talk looks at how the charities set up by William and Alice Harpur in the 1500s influenced the way the town of Bedford developed for centuries to come.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Bedford’s Industrial Heritage1 hourThis talk takes a look at what the archives of Bedford businesses tell us about the development of the town in the 19th and 20th centuriesPamela Birch
Pamela Birch
Parish Records beyond parish registers1 hour to 1 hour 15 mins.Parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials, but what other records did Church of England parishes create? Pamela takes a look at these other records and how they can be used for family and local history.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
I Have A Plan1 hourBuilding plans can be useful sources for local history. They come in all shapes and sizes and sometimes need a bit of background knowledge to work out what they are telling you. In this talk Pamela introduces us to a variety of plans from the collections of Bedfordshire Archives.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
To the Manor Born1 hour to 1 hour 15 minsUsing examples from Bedfordshire Archives Pamela takes a look at what made a manor, the records they produced and why those records can be very useful for family and local historians.Pamela Birch
Pamela Birch
History of Policing in North Bedfordshire75 minsWhat was the role of a Parish Constable? What led up to the creation of a County Constabulary? Why did the northernmost Division end up in Sharnbrook? Do we know the names of the original Police Constables and what do we know of their careers? What crimes were the most common in a rural community? Were there any recidivists? Did criminal activity run in families? How successful were the police in apprehending the felons? Did the sentence of the Sharnbrook petty court match the crime? Were there any serious crimes in any of the surrounding villages?Des Hoar
Des Hoar
Land Ownership in Sharnbrook Parish75 minsHow did the geology of the area affect the use of the land? Is there any sign of habitation in prehistoric times?
What does the Domesday Survey tell us about who owned the land? Who were the landowners and can we ascertain how they transferred ownership across the generations?
What type of farm management / field system was used? What were the names of the fields over the years and can we determine in which estate they lay?
How was the ownership/layout of the fields affected by events such as the coming of the railways and WW2?
Des Hoar
Des Hoar
Using GIS to support Local History Studies75 minsThe results of archaeological excavations or fieldwalking can be recorded so that the location is known. These results can then be read into mapping software as a specific layer.
Additional layers can be added from raster images such as Estate diagrams, LIDAR images, aerial photographic images, Portable Antiquities Scheme etc.
A GIS project can use data from the county’s HER departments so one’s own research can be overlaid with data from formal infrastructure projects. The layers can be used to analyse datasets and create interactive online maps.
Des Hoar
Des Hoar
The Story Behind the View-the Making of the Bedfordshire Countryside40 minutes max : questions welcomeThis Presentation is an introduction to the countryside of Bedfordshire beginning with its geological foundations and linking this to the present pattern of land use and agriculture. The talk is based on a publication entitled, An Unassuming County: The Making of the Bedfordshire Countryside, which is now in a second edition (2023). This presentation provides a simple framework which is a useful guide to understanding the various distinctive areas within Bedfordshire. This talk invites the audience to ask more questions of what they see and perhaps take an active interest in present day countryside and its future.Brian Kerr
Brian Kerr
From Erik the Bald to Nigel de Albini: the Domesday Book in Bedfordshire40 minutes max : questions welcomeThe preparation of the Domesday record throughout most of the counties of England, including Bedfordshire beginning in 1086 provides an intriguing snapshot into the land holdings at this time of radical change. As one historian puts this: William had conquered the kingdom all over again, this time statistically and in a form no disgruntled Motte and Bailey baron would ever overcome.
We meet many characters in this account including the previous owners, and their tenants and the new estate owners such as Nigel d’Albini. The estate lands are given a value, we are told the number of pigs any woodland.
Brian Kerr
Brian Kerr
How to Value a Skylark: The Countryside in a Time of Change40 minutes max : questions welcomeThis presentation is based on a book of the same name, published in January 2021. Essentially the book and the 35-minute presentation pose the question: What do we expect from the countryside? The pandemic and lockdown in 2020/21 have forced a rethink of previous held views. Issues such as health and diets; food security; the aspiration to plant more trees across Britain; and an understanding of the part nature plays in mental health and wellbeing; are all part of an increasingly crowded agenda. The book and this presentation are illustrated by images from across the UK.Brian Kerr
Brian Kerr
It’s a Hole-A big, big Hole: The Extraction Industry and the Bedfordshire Landscape40 minutes max : questions welcomeThe geology of Bedfordshire has provided resources for a variety of extraction industries over a long period, the best known being the brick clay workings of the Marston Vale. Additionally, there are other less well-known mining and quarry operations winning coprolites, Fullers Earth and industrial sand from the landscape. This has left Bedfordshire with a residue of abandoned mining sites which are now important as brown field development areas, nature reserves, and leisure facilities. This presentation includes the hard rock quarrying of chalk and sandstone; the sand and quarrying industry based in Leighton Buzzard; and other extraction sites.Brian Kerr
Brian Kerr
From Open Fields to Fletton Bricks: A history of landscapes in Bedfordshire from John Bunyan to the Malcolm Stewart40 minutes max : questions welcomeTwo historical figures bookend this period of change in the Bedfordshire landscape. Bunyan walked through the countryside of the county as a tinker and this gave him an intimate knowledge of the landscapes which he used in his allegorical writings. Stewart had the business acumen to move the brick making industry on to a commercial basis and the political and practical approach which supported the Land Settlement Association communities in Bedfordshire at Potton and WybostonBrian Kerr
Brian Kerr
Cities with Walls of Water: How the Dutch used water in times of war.40 minutes max : questions welcomeFrom the mid-16th century, the Dutch state employed a system of defense lines to protect towns and cities from invasion. This novel technique made use of strategic flooding of low land in times of need. A carefully engineered system of defensive forts was constructed linking dykes which could be breached, flooding areas to a pre-calculated depth-too deep for a man to wade across easily, but not deep enough for boats to be deployed. The forts are still in good condition and now tourist attractions. This Presentation explains this typical use of resources by the Dutch and is illustrated by slidesBrian Kerr
Brian Kerr