Posted by: kbenoy | June 8, 2012

Volunteering Experiences

This blog post has been written by one of the project volunteers regarding his work to research a business represented in the collection and learning the skills to complete basic conservation tasks.

I started my involvement in the Smith Son & Willie project in November, researching the history of Craddock Brothers, boot and shoe manufacturers and retailers.

Notice in the London Gazette for Craddock Brothers on 12 June 1888

The London Gazette of 1888 provided the names of the founders of the company, brothers George and Stephen Craddock along with George’s son, also George. Using census records I was able to trace the families firstly living at the “back of the shops” in Wolverhampton, eventually moving into properties overlooking the West Park.

Image of Craddock Brothers factory in Powlett Street P/3857

These were very successful business men, extending their chain of shops to some 24 outlets mostly throughout Staffordshire with a factory in Powlett Street, Wolverhampton.  Stephen went on to be mayor of Wolverhampton and was a much admired figure in the town.

Along with the history of the company, other family matters came to light during my research including the discovery that two of George (the younger)’s sons were killed in WW1, one of them only a month before the end of the war.

Image of Craddock Brothers Shop in Queen Square P/3944

The business passed down through another two generations and another entry in the London Gazette led me to contact the archivist at Clarks shoes in Somerset who acquired Craddocks as part of their expansion in 1964. The shops in Wolverhampton appear to have been sold in 1974 when Craddocks was put into voluntary liquidation, virtually 100 years after being started.

Another area of my volunteering work has been with the “mouldy Mander” papers. This part of the collection was previously stored in very damp conditions causing the papers to become very dirty, delicate and damaged. 

Mander Will and Paperwork

Before Kimberley can sort and catalogue these papers they need to be cleaned and in some cases treated by Jon the conservator to repair any damage.

A volunteer cleaning a letter from the Mander Collection

In most cases all that is needed is a gentle brush over to remove loose dirt and mould, with the more delicate and damaged papers being passed over to Jon to assess how best to treat them.



  1. While I think it’s very positive to have a volunteer share their experience of the project, I am perturbed that you have not had the courtesy to name this blogger.

    Simply referring to a generic, un-named ‘volunteer’ is demeaning to the person who wrote the blog, all those who volunteer on your project, and to volunteers in general.

    From this evidence I feel your project needs to learn the difference between ‘free’ and ‘worthless’.

    • I am sorry you feel this way Kath. The volunteers had the option to introduce themselves within their posts and they chose not to. I did not feel it was my place to add personal information to the posts they had written.
      The idea of asking the volunteers to contribute a blog post was to offer an insight into the type of work being carried out on this project by the volunteers. Not all the volunteers on this project are comfortable with writing blog posts and I thought it would be unfair to name specific volunteers and highlight their work over that of others who have contributed just as much but did not wish to add to the blog.
      We greatly appreciate the work of the volunteers on this project but we also respect their right to privacy and that some people may not be comfortable being named on the internet. My intention was never to cause offence but simply to share some experiences of volunteers without looking like we value the work of one person more than another.
      The service has a full time dedicated Volunteer Co-Ordinator, which shows our commitment to managing volunteer projects and the value we place on the needs of the volunteers. The volunteers are recognised with events held at the service including the awarding of certificates and events celebrating their work and achievements.

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