Posted by: kbenoy | December 20, 2012

Launch of the Catalogue

The catalogue for the Smith, Son & Wilkie collection has been officially launched! It is available through the Black Country History website.

Catalogue on Black Country History Website

Catalogue on Black Country History Website

The catalogue contains 1,536 entries including descriptions of 1,223 individual items.

The collection was split into three parts:

  1. The internal records of the accountancy firm
  2. The records of client businesses
  3. The records of client families

The first section of the catalogue revealed a range of interesting records relating to the accountants including the Fire Order Book, which contains details of Fire Insurance Policies sold by the accountants between 1863-1873. This is believed to be the oldest item in the collection.

The second part of the catalogued revealed that the collection contains the records of around 80 businesses, many from the Wolverhampton area. A variety of types of business are represented in the collection including butchers, property developers, locksmiths, brick and tile manufacturers, shoe and boot manufacturers, timber merchants, garages, schools, doctors etc. The most interesting thing about the collection is the range of size of businesses included, from small local butchers shops to national associations such as the British Wrought Iron Association or Side Welders Association.

The third part of the catalogue has revealed details of a variety of family trusts relating to well-known wealthy Wolverhampton families including Mander, Loveridge, Crane, Shelton, Shaw-Hellier, Briscoe, Hodson, Jenks, Monckton, Reynolds, Sherwood etc. These records typically contain details of financial trusts set up to follow the wishes of the deceased as set out in their Will and include detailed information on all assets such as property and investments.

To use the catalogue search for D-SSW or use any search term, go to the bottom of the page and look for the name of the collection in this case:

+ D-SSW: Smith, Son & Wilkie, Chartered Accountants, Darlington Street, Wolverhampton

with a little plus sign + on the left. If you click on the + it will open the levels in the catalogue below the collection level description.

Catalogue Levels

Catalogue Levels

By opening and closing the sections using the + and – buttons you can explore the catalogue. To get more information on any level of the catalogue click on the description and it will open up the page you would like to see with all the details but the catalogue levels as shown above will be at the bottom of the page so you can continue to navigate through the catalogue.

I hope this makes sense! An archive catalogue is a difficult thing to explain. The main thing to bear in mind is that a catalogue provides you with descriptions of the items in the collection and does not contain images or transcripts of the items. It is designed to help researchers find records that will be relevant to them through description of items.

If you have any questions or comments about the catalogue please contact .

With the launch of the catalogue and the completion of the project comes the end of my time at Wolverhampton City Archives. Today is my last day as I am moving on to a new Archivist position at Teesside Archives, based in Middlesbrough. I have greatly enjoyed my time on the project and working in Wolverhampton. I have met and worked with many fantastic people, both staff and volunteers and I will miss everyone.

We have a new project starting at Wolverhampton City Archives, looking at Wolverhampton’s role in the First World War. To accompany this project, there is a new blog telling the stories of local people available at Please take a look and if you or your family have any relevant stories we would love to hear from you.

This will be the final post on the Taking Account of Our Past project blog so if you have any questions or enquiries in the future please contact . Thank you for taking the time to read the blog and follow the project.

I would like to thank everyone who has made this project possible including:

  • The National Cataloguing Grants Scheme for Archives
  • The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust
  • Heidi McIntosh (City Archivist)
  • Jon Everall (Conservator)
  • All the staff at Wolverhampton City Archives
  • Stuart Williams (Volunteer Coordinator)
  • All the project Volunteers

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Posted by: kbenoy | December 12, 2012

Project Review

As my penultimate blog post, I thought I would look back over the last 18 months at some of the highlights of the project.

The project began on 1st July 2011 and the first task was to get some understanding of the Smith, Son & Wilkie collection. I started by creating a box list to identify the items in the collection and by the end of July 2011 I was able to start creating the catalogue on CALM. I have been cataloguing records ever since! Cataloguing the Smith, Son & Wilkie collection has been the back bone of this project but today I am going to look back at some of the other aspects of project.


I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to attend a variety of events to promote the project and Wolverhampton City Archives. These included:

Tour in the Searchroom

Heritage Open Day 2012

I would like to thank everyone I who invited me to be a part of their events and all the people I met and great stories I heard, which helped to improve my understanding of the collection and the history of Wolverhampton.


Another important aspect of the project was the team of volunteers who gave about 1,800 hours over the last 18 months to add great value to the project and assist with tasks including researching the businesses and families represented in the collection, basic conservation work and repackaging of records and the creation on indexes to make some of the records more accessible.

We were delighted to win the Archives and Records Association‘s Volunteer Award 2012 for the work of the volunteers on what the judges described as ‘an honest, positive and very well-managed project with excellent outcomes’. It was fantastic praise for the project and the work of the volunteers, which has really helped to make this project accessible and allowed the records to be put in context.

Volunteers, staff, the Mayor and ARA with the award

Volunteers, staff, the Mayor and ARA with the award

Looking back through the blog, there are too many posts about the work of the volunteers to list them all, but please take a look here to see how much their work has improved this project.


One of the challenges with this project has been managing the conservation needs of the collection. Many of the records in the collection has suffered from being stored in damp or even wet conditions, which has led to substantial damage to many items.

We were lucky to receive a grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust to help pay for some of the conservation materials required for the project. Where possible I have tried to tell the story of conservation work on specific items in the collection through the blog including:

Jon cleaning the Samuel Small Mander - Trustees Ledger 1881

Jon cleaning the Samuel Small Mander – Trustees Ledger 1881

I would like to thank Jon Everall, professional Conservator at Wolverhampton City Archives for his help with the project despite the unending flow of records to his bench!

Next week, in the final blog post of the project I will be talking about the circle of archive life with new beginnings and endings.

Posted by: kbenoy | December 5, 2012

Volunteer End of Project Party

Last Friday Wolverhampton City Archives hosted the Taking Account of Our Past end of project party for our volunteers. All Archive volunteers were invited to the party to celebrate the work of volunteers throughout the year. The main focus of the party was to gather the volunteers and offer them the opportunity to have a chat and get to know each other better over a drink and some nibbles.

Chatting at the Volunteer Party

Chatting at the Volunteer Party

The volunteers have supported the project in a number of roles including researching the background of many of the businesses and families represented in the collection, assisting with sorting the records, and basic conservation work like cleaning and repackaging of records.

Frank cleaning the Trustees Minute Book for Samuel Small Mander deceased

Frank cleaning the Trustees Minute Book for Samuel Small Mander deceased

The stories behind the records have proved to be fascinating and have helped to bring a collection that appeared dull to life. The research has helped to put the records in context and make them much more accessible to archive users.

Volunteer research

Volunteer research

The volunteers have worked incredibly hard on this project, giving around 1,800 hours over the last 18 months. Their work has helped to develop this project far beyond a simple catalogue and has helped to create a great resource for users of the collection.

Description on the catalogue with a volunteer researched Administrative History

Description on the catalogue with a volunteer researched Administrative History

An unexpected outcome of the project has been discovering the lives and connections of many prominent and influential Wolverhampton people from the turn of the 20th century. It has been interesting to find through the volunteer’s research that many of the families and businesses were interconnected.

Left to right: Betty, Nick, Elizabeth, Frank, Tom, Margaret, Angus, Shelia, Jack

Left to right: Betty, Nick, Elizabeth, Frank, Tom, Margaret, Angus, Shelia, Jack

I would like to thank all the volunteers for their hard work and dedication to this project and other projects at the Archives. The input of the volunteers has really helped to make this project special and I hope each person who has contributed has enjoyed being a part of the project as much I have. I greatly appreciate all the help and support I have received during the project and I have really enjoyed getting to know all the volunteers.

Posted by: kbenoy | November 28, 2012

Mander Ledger: Conservation 3

This week I’m going to complete the story of the conservation of the Samuel Small Mander Trustees Ledger from 1881 continuing from my previous two posts (here) and (here). Last week we saw Jon rebind the volume and prepare the text block ready for its new cover.

Trimming the end papers

The first stage was to trim the new end papers to the size of the book. It is easier to make the end papers larger and to trim them down to size once they have been sewn in place.

Gluing the Spine

The spine of the book was then glued to hold the sections together.

Gluing the tapes to the end papers

The loose ends of the tapes were glued to the outside of the end papers.

Spine and tapes covered with linen

The spine and end tapes were then covered with a piece of linen that stuck to the glue on the spine and this was left to dry.

Cutting out the new boards

The next job was to make the new boards for the cover of the book. Where possible Jon will reuse the original boards but in this case they were too rotten. The boards were cut just larger than the text block so they would protect the edges of the pages.

Cutting out the new covers out of book cloth

Black book cloth was then cut out to start making the case for the book and was roughly measured using the boards.

Working out the amount of book cloth required for the spine

The next step was to stick the boards to the book cloth to make the cover of the book. To get the spacing right for the spine of the book between the two boards, Jon glued one board to the book cloth and placed the text block on top. He then glued the second board and placed it glue side up on top of the text block. This allowed him to fold the book cloth over and stick it to the cloth, while leaving exactly the right amount of space for the spine.

The case

The spine was made up of a piece of light card covered with paper. When the glued paper dries it contracts, causing the card in the spine to curve. The book cloth was then trimmed and stuck down to finish the case.

The book in the press

To attach the text block to the case, the outer end papers were glued to the boards of the case, leaving the spine free to move within the case. The complete volume was put in the press and left for two days to allow it to dry flat.

Attaching the original leather cover to the new covers

The final stage was to salvage what was left of the original cover and glue it to the outside of the repaired volume to show what the book looked like before the work was carried out.  

The finished volume

This image shows the inside of the finished volume with the new end papers and the original pages. This volume will now be accessible and usable by the public once the catalogue is completed later this month.

Before and After

The image above shows the volume before and after conservation work.

I would like to thank Jon, the Conservator for his hard work in putting these volumes back together and making them usable. I would also like to thank the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for their funding, which allowed this work to go ahead and has helped to improve access to much of the Smith, Son & Wilkie collection.

Posted by: kbenoy | November 21, 2012

Mander Ledger: Conservation 2

This week I am going to tell you about the next process in the conservation of the Samuel Small Mander Estate Ledger. In my post last week we saw how Jon the Conservator at Wolverhampton City Archives repaired the pages of the volume ready for it to be resewn back into a book.

The first step was to set up the sewing frame by attaching three tapes for the sections to be sewn to.

Jon fixing the tapes to the sewing frame

The tapes were made of standard archival quality tape and were attached to the frame by keys that push in at the bottom of the frame and hooks that hang from the top.

Lining up the tapes with the text block

The tapes were spaced in the frame to match the original bindings on the text block and were then tensioned by tightening the hooks on the top of the frame.

Tensioning the tapes on the sewing frame

Once the tapes were in place the first new end paper was sewn to the tapes using a needle and bookbinders thread.

Sewing the first end paper to the tapes

The stitch goes across the tapes rather than through them to allow the sections to roll over the tapes once sewn in place.

Sewing the first end paper to the tapes

After the end paper was sewn in place the first section of the ledger was sewn in by stitching through the pages in the same way, across the tape using the existing holes from the previous binding.

Sewing the first section of the volume to the end tapes

This process was continued with each section of pages being sewn to the tapes to make up the text block as shown below.  

Half sewn

The image below shows the kettle stitch used at the end of the pages to hold the sections together. Without it the sections would be able to move up and down on the tapes. The kettle stitch also supports the top and bottom of the spine of the volume once in use.

The pages have been sewn on to the tapes with a kettle stitch at each end

Once all the sections of the ledger had been sewn together the second end pages were sewn in place and the text block was removed from the sewing frame.

Removing the fully sewn volume from the sewing frame

This image shows the finished binding with the kettle stitch along the left side, holding the sections together, and the stiches over the tapes.

The text block after being stitched to the tapes

At this point the volume had been sewn but was still a long way from being finished.

Volume after being sewn but not yet glued or covered

Next week, in the final part on the conservation of the Samuel Small Mander Trustees Ledger, I will explain how the volume was finished and covered to make it back into a usable volume.

Posted by: kbenoy | November 14, 2012

Mander Ledger: Conservation 1

This week I’m going to tell you about the conservation work that has recently taken place to restore the Samuel Small Mander Trust Ledger to a usable state. This volume had been stored in damp conditions for a number of years before being deposited at Wolverhampton City Archives as part of the Smith Son & Wilkie collection.

The volume before any conservation work

The water damage caused the spine to degrade and the index section at the front of the volume to become weakened with the paper very soft to the touch.

The water damaged index of the volume

Jon, the Conservator started by taking the volume apart and then treating the damaged front pages with a process called sizing. Paper naturally contains gelatine but the damp conditions had caused the gelatine to be washed from the paper leaving it lacking strength. The process of sizing involves adding gelatine to the sheets to restrengthen the paper.

Sizing the water damaged paper by adding gelatine

Jon brushed a gelatine solution over the damaged sheets and left them out to dry. Once the pages were dry they had become much stronger and less fluffy.

The next stage in preparing the volume for rebinding was to remove the remaining stitching from the less damaged sections. The stitching was degraded and could just be pulled away from the sheets.

Jon removing the old binding

The last stage before the volume could be resewn was to make new end papers that would go in the front and back of the volume and attach the text block to the cover.

Making the new end papers

The end papers were cut out of paper of a similar weight to the original papers and were made oversize so they could be cut to the exact size after binding.

Next week I will explain how Jon sewed the sections together to rebind the book.

Posted by: kbenoy | November 7, 2012

Queen Square Syndicate Minute Book

This post has been written by Frank Lockley, a volunteer on the Taking Account of Our Past project. For more details on the work of the Queen Square Syndicate please see my earlier blog posts here, here and here.

A few weeks ago I had a browse through the Minute Book of the Queen Square Syndicate, reference D-SSW/2/QSS/1/1/1.

This is a comprehensive record of the Syndicate from the very first meeting of the Syndicate directors on 21st February 1907.

Queen Square before Queens Arcade was built c.1907 P/4981

The detailed entries during the initial years of the Syndicate provide a wealth of information on the building and letting of the new shops, with details of the rents and length of leases.

Along with the shops in the development there were plans for a restaurant, bakehouse and a new building to re-house the pub Harleys Vaults.

Many of the existing tenants of shops were allocated new units and advertisements were placed to attract new tenants “…for high class retail business premises”.

There are a lot of entries regarding the negotiations with the existing tenants before agreements were reached.

Although not strictly needed for the project I thought it would be interesting to try and find out a little more about some of the individuals mentioned.

William Fleming was one of a number of existing tenants who made an offer for a new unit. He was a confectioner, who had been based at 31 Queen Square since at least 1900. Despite initially agreeing terms for the new unit No. 2 and the bakehouse, there seems to be some disagreement and an entry on 16th March 1908 records that he has declined the offer and requests reasonable time for him to vacate the premises.  In 1912 he is in premises in North Street where he stays for a number of years.

William Allt is a boot maker, who starts trading from 26 Queen Square as well as 60 Victoria Street. He has been an established wholesale boot maker and retailer in the town for many years along with his father, also William. He is one of the first tenants to move into his new premises in May 1909. However he does not appear to have stayed in Queen Square for long, the 1911 census finds him and his family living in south Wales.

26 Queen Square is taken over by a Mr. G.C. Dean who moves his already well established tailors shop from Lichfield Street. The first recording of the Lichfield Street premises is in 1899 and the Queen Square address is occupied till 1930.

This longevity is almost matched by Ladies Outfitter Miss Annie M.  Deans. She is trading at 3 Victoria Street from 1899 where she is listed in directories under “Hosiers and Haberdashers” as well as “Baby Linen Warehouses”. She is one of the tenants that the minute book records the arrangements for temporary premises during the building work.  1910 sees her at the new No. 28 Queen Square where she stays till 1924.

Queen Square showing Queens Arcade and AM Deans shop on the right c.1911 P/5143

This is just a very small selection of the huge amount of detailed information to be found in these minute books.

Thanks to the Project they are now available to researchers in all manner of subjects, along with all the other documents that are now catalogued.

This item is currently on display in the Map Room of Wolverhampton City Archives as part of the Taking Account of Our Past project display. It will be available for use by researchers from the start of January 2013 following the end of the display.

Queen Square Syndicate Display

Further details on this item and others in the Queen Square Syndicate collection can be found on the Black Country History website.

Posted by: kbenoy | October 31, 2012

The Project – 16 Month Review

With exactly two months to go until the end of the Taking Account of Our Past project I thought it was time to reflect on the achievements of the project so far.

The main bulk of the cataloguing is coming to an end and I am currently working on the last few boxes of the main family records. Once they are finished I will be moving on to any odds and ends left over and making a start on cataloguing the ‘Mouldy Mander’ papers that include records regarding Samuel Small Mander, Ellen Maria Wilkes and Benjamin Reynolds. This set of records had been stored in very damp conditions and as a consequence were badly damaged. They have been cleaned by volunteers on the project and Jon the Conservator has made a start repairing some of the more significant finds such as the Trustees Ledger for Samuel Small Mander dating from 1881.

Jon working on the Trustees Ledger for Samuel Small Mander

The cataloguing should all be complete by the end of November leaving time to fully check the collection and catalogue before it is prepared to be fully launched on the Black Country History website, later in December.

I wanted to take a look at some of the achievements of the project so far in numbers…

  • 180 of boxes of records are fully sorted and catalogued

Completed Boxes

  • 964 items described on the catalogue

Items on the catalogue

  • The records of 66 businesses have been fully catalogued

Businesses on the catalogue

  • The records of 19 families have been fully catalogued

Families on the catalogue

  • 1,750 volunteer hours have been worked on the project so far

Group shot of the Volunteers
Back row: Sheila, Guy, Nick, Frank, Claire, Ann, Al, Stuart (Volunteer Co-ordinator), Sheila
Front row: Elizabeth, Margaret, Glenys

  • 80 blog posts

The blog

  • 51 comments on the blog

Comments on the blog

  • 12 original items on display

Records on display

I am pleased with the progress of the project and looking forward to completing the catalogue and making the collection fully accessible to the public.

Posted by: kbenoy | October 24, 2012

Reynolds – Partnership Agreement: Conservation #3

This is the final part of the series on the conservation of the Reynolds Partnership Agreement. Over the previous two weeks I have described the process to prepare and assess the document and the treatment that it received to make it more stable.

This post is going to talk about the steps taken to permanently preserve this document and make it accessible.

After the document was encapsulated it was decided to scan the document to make a surrogate copy for access purposes. The document was scanned on an A3 scanner and the images were saved as high resolution TIFF files. The images were then printed in full colour on A3 paper to create a full surrogate copy that can be used for access in place of the original document.


The original document will still be preserved despite being in poor condition and unable to be handled by searchers. A bespoke folder has been made to store the encapsulated document, as seen on the right in the image below.

Surrogate and Original Records in Bespoke Folders

Posted by: kbenoy | October 17, 2012

Reynolds – Articles of Partnership: Conservation #2

In my post last week, I explained the preliminary work that had been carried out on the Articles of Partnership document for Messrs Reynolds trading as R Chambers & Co. In this post I am going to explain how Jon Everall, the Conservator at Wolverhampton City Archives, has treated this document to make it more stable.

The paper had been stored in damp conditions before coming to the Archives and was too delicate to be used. Jon decided to use a technique called sizing to replace some of the gelatine in the paper that had been lost. The pages of the document were separated and laid out on plastic sheets before being sprayed with a gelatine solution.

The pages were left to dry and absorb the gelatine, which helps to strengthen the structure of the paper, before being turned over and sprayed with the solution on the reverse side.

Once the pages had dried and absorbed the gelatine solution they were less fluffy and soft and could be carefully handled. The gelatine gave the paper more substance and made it slightly more durable.

At this point Jon took the sheets and encapsulated them individually in polyester. Encapsulation is not the same as laminating as the polyester sheets are not adhered to the document but sealed around the edges. The polyester can be removed at any time by carefully removing the sealed edges, allowing the document to be removed fully intact. Encapsulation protects the document while it is being handled and stored and prevents further deterioration.

Next week I am going to explain how we have made this delicate document available to public by creating a surrogate.

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