Tuesday 28 April 2015

W/Op Hickling, R.I.P.

Although many of our books may be seen lining the shelves in the historic Library, thousands more are kept on the rolling stacks in our store rooms. These rooms are a calm and peaceful place to escape the troubles of the world; a quiet bit of re-shelving can rejuvenate even the most stressed librarian.

Today, though, that peace was shattered by one small manuscript volume. Sergeant Norman Victor Hickling's Observer's and Air Gunner's Flying Log Book, with its neatly documented record of training received, flights made and operations completed made curious reading, but it was the single sheet of paper carefully laid in between the pages that suddenly sucked the air from the room: The Air Officer in charge of Records feels sure you would like to have this personal record in your possession. This anonymous looking little book was suddenly freighted with melancholy; we needed to know the story.

It was a clear night, the 21st of June 1943. The battle of the Rhur had been underway since March 5th, and twenty-one year old Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Norman Hickling was on his sixth mission since he had transferred to the 77th Squadron based at Elvington Air Force Base in Yorkshire on the 29th of May. He was flying with Pilot Simon Hirsch, a known quantity, possibly a friend. They had been up together more than fifty times, first in the two-engine Whitley bombers known for their night-flying capabilities and then in the newly outfitted Handley Page Halifax bombers. Earlier in the month they had been on two 'bulls-eye' or reconnaissance missions, and a 'Nickel' mission to Nantes, the name given to leaflet-drops over enemy-occupied territory, but that night it was the real thing. Destination: Krefeld, a German city famous for its silk manufacturing, but also for its rail links and industry. RAF Bomber Command reported that 'A force of 705 bombers carried out a devastating attack on the town of Krefeld … more than half the town was destroyed, mainly by fire which spread, apparently unchecked, through its northern part.' They did not number the dead, although they did point out that 'Although no industrial targets to which priority ratings are given appeared to have been affected...'. The gas works and 23 factories and other small industrial concerns were destroyed or severely damaged, but, the report continues, 'The greatest damage, however, was to business and residential properties including many public buildings such as the district courts, the town assembly hall, the town theatre and the market hall'.

Forty-two of the 705 aircraft failed to return to Britain. Sergeant Hickling's plane, shot down by flak at 02.22, crashed onto a Wehrmacht artillery range at de Harskamp (Gelderland) some 11 km NNE of Ede, Holland. Six of the seven crew were killed instantly including Hickling and Hirsch. Mid-upper Gunner William Goodman Garratt survived long enough to be taken to a Field Hospital inside Germany, from where his death was reported on the 11th of July 1943. Hickling was buried at the Ede General Cemetary beside his colleagues Pilot Simon Hirsch, Flight Engineer John Phillips, Navigator Charles William Falckh, Bomb Aimer Raymond Geoffrey Kingsland, and Rear Gunner Edmund Dawson. William Garratt's grave may be found at the Durnbach War Cemetary in Germany.

Hickling's logbook ends with the entry 'Death presumed 22.6.43'. Perhaps it was one of his parents, Albert or Elsie (recorded as living in Watford), who also tucked the postcard depicting the RAF Memorial from York Minster into his logbook. The memorial was completed in 1955, and includes an astronomical clock showing the locations of the sun and certain navigational stars as would be seen by a pilot flying south above York Minster. Those stars would have shone bright in the sky that cloudless night, before the flames and smoke from the burning of Krefeld blocked out the light.

Thursday 23 April 2015

St George's Day - but who he?

A mildly fraudulent title for this ep of the blog, in that solving the problems around George's legend are a bit of a tall order for this modest organ. However, we can visit one of the Library's many volumes that have a single day of topicality a year about them, in this case Peter Heylyn's Historie of that most famous saint and souldier of Christ Iesus; St. George of Cappadocia; asserted from the fictions, of the middle ages of the Church; and opposition, of the present, issued in 1631, and dedicated to Charles I and the Order of the Garter, that most exclusive club among the king's personal friends since the time of Edward III. Heylyn, who had become a chaplain in ordinary to the king the year before, got Archbishop Laud to present the work to Charles I in person.

The Caroline church, which proved such a bone of contention between Crown and Parliament, could be a stormy place, and Peter Heylyn (1599–1662) lived through those storms, through Cromwell's republic and through until the Restoration, even acquiring a small role in the coronation of Charles II, presenting the king with the sceptre. Major promotion always eluded him.

 That dragon in detail. Call RSPCA.

The job was a tricky one - Charles I was very proud of the Order of the Garter, and its patron saint, George, was also patron of England. Yet the whole business of sainthood was not without its theological controversies, and too Popish for many. George was not without his detractors, but his battle with his enemies was no more real than Heylyn's fight to separate truth from fiction, driving out medieval and Popish accretions:
Tumbling about the Vatican I found a certaine Historie of St. George full of prodigious lyes, and such as have not any likenesse with other myracles ...
And the battle intensifies further:
Thus are wee come at last to the maine shocke and furie of the battaile: wherein if our successe bee answerable to the beginnings, wee need not doubt, but that St George may keepe his place in the heaven of glories.
Later, as his modest 350 page contribution begins to draw its conclusions, we can start to relax, with a patron saint washed clean of Popery and fit to stand guard over St George's chapel and Charles' ceremonials:
I must returne againe for England, there to behold the solemn institution of the Garter ... St George doth still retaine his place in our common calendar ... [and] prefixed before the publike Liturgie of our most blessed Church of England, where he is specially honoured with the name of Saint, as is not any of the rest, excepting those which saw our Saviour in the flesh. Excellent evidence ...
So there you have it, in one of Lewis Carroll's nice knock-down arguments. You can't be wrong when you're right. George is on and off the various calendars, true and false by turns, but still clinging on, and it's up to us to celebrate him as Chesterton commemorates him, in peace with a glass rather than waving a flag:
St George he was for England.
And before he killed the dragon
He drank a pint of English ale
Out of an English flagon.

Thursday 16 April 2015

Cup of coffee anyone?

Enjoying a mid-morning break recently reminded us that the library has some interesting items relating to the history of coffee and coffee houses.

One of our earliest sources, published in 1682 and attributed to John Chamberlayne, is The natural history coffee, thee, chocolate and tobacco. In four several sections; with a tract of elder and juniper-berries, shewing how useful they may be in our coffee-houses: and also the best way of making mum, with some remarks upon that liquor. Collected from the writings of the best physicians, and modern travellers.

Chamberlayne starts with a brief history of coffee drinking in the East and goes on to discuss its use as a medical treatment in England by one Dr Willis:

‘In several headachs [sic] Dizziness, Lethargies and Catarrhs, where there is gross habit of the body…there coffee may be proper and successful; and in these cases he sent his patients to the Coffee-House rather than to the Apothecaries Shop’

However, he then records an unfortunate side effect of this treatment reported by the doctor:

‘which I am afraid will cow our Citizens from ever meddling with it hereafter, that it often makes men Paralytick, and does slacken their strings, as they become unfit for the sports and exercises of the Bed, and their Wives recreations…’

Despite these dire warnings, coffee houses became ever more popular in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. A cup of coffee was relatively cheap and the shops became venues for social networking, reading newspapers, doing business, gossiping and, allegedly, political intrigue.

In our Halliwell-Phillipps Collection we have a copy of the ‘Proclamation for the suppression of coffee-houses’ published in 1675 by King Charles II:

‘Whereas it is most apparent that the multitude of coffee houses of late years set up and kept within this kingdom, the dominion of Wales and the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and the great resort of idle and disaffected persons to them, have produced very evil and dangerous effects, as well as that many tradesmen and others do therein misspend much of their time, which might and probably would otherwise be employed in and about their lawful callings and affairs, but also for that in such houses, and by occasion of the meeting of such persons therein, many false, malicious, and scandalous reports are devised and spread abroad, to the deformation of his Majesty's government and to the disturbance of the peace and quiet of the realm, his Majesty has thought it fit and necessary that the said coffee houses be for the future put down and suppressed.’

From the same year, we have a tiny five-page pamphlet with an incredibly lengthy title, which echoes the concerns of his majesty about the costs to business of spending too much time in coffee houses:

The art of good husbandry, or, The improvement of time: : being a sure way to get and keep money. Wherein is prescribed several ruls [sic] for merchants, shop-keepers, and mechanick tradesmen, (as well servants as masters) how they may husband their time to the best advantage; the loss whereof is the sole cause of poverty in this city and nation. Likewise the loss of a mans time spent in a tavern, coffee-house, or ale-house, computed. Also instructions to all sorts of people, how to order their business for the future, both to the enriching of themselves and their families / In a letter to Mr. R. A. by R. T. 

The King failed in his attempt to suppress coffee houses and, by the turn of the century in London, many of them had become rowdy drinking dens and even brothels. In our engraving ‘Morning,’ from Hogarth’s 1738 series ‘Four times of the day,’ he depicts the notorious ‘Tom Kings Coffee House’. The scene is Covent Garden and, by the time Hogarth made the print, the coffee house was being run by Tom’s widow Moll, who apparently opened the doors as the taverns were closing and allowed customers to continue drinking and carousing till dawn. ‘Morning’ shows the market stallholders setting out fruit and vegetables  whilst in the coffee houses the revellers are still partying, a fight has broken out and a wig flies out of the door.

Still the idea lingered for a while longer of coffee houses as democratic establishments which encouraged civilised discussion and debate, places where anyone was welcome as long as they paid for their refreshment and observed the ‘rules’  and procedures of the particular establishment.
Perhaps too, things were different in the provinces. The library has a broadside from 1793 with the  rules of a local establishment, the ‘Manchester Coffee Room’ which make it sound more like a library than a den of iniquity!

‘Rules and orders to be observed in this room:

7th That if any person shall take any Newspaper, Book, Pamphlet,&c out of this Room, or cut out any Advertisement, Paragraph or Print, from such a Newspaper, Book or Pamphlet, he shall, on Discovery, be expelled the Room, whether he be a Subscriber or otherwise, and shall be deemed ineligible for future Admission’

8th That no subscriber, or other person, be permitted to put on, or pull off, Boots in this Room, nor come into it with Slippers on’ .

New Exhibition - Life's Labours Lost?

A new exhibition, here until 3 July, is open now. Life's Labours Lost? Hard-working Families in the Age of Revolutions is a look at working life in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries seen through the eyes of artists, print-makers and caricaturists. We're grateful to Nick Howell, collector and friend of the Library, for lending us his art, his enthusiasm and ideas.
Worsted Winder by William Henry Pyne (1804)

Nick writes:
Recently politicians have turned the phrase 'hard-working families' into a cliche. There is a reality behind the phrase both now and in history. This exhibition offers a glimpse into the lives of working people in Britain c.1780-c.1840, the period of the Industrial Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and agitation for reform. Men, women and children all had to contribute to raising family income at a time of rapid industrialisation, failed harvests, trade embargoes, enclosures, the collapse of traditional hand industries, and mass political action.
 Brighton Shoemaker (Charcoal, Anon. c.1830)
Drawn from a small private collection, items on display include books, engravings, watercolours, aquatints, by Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray, William Henry Pyne, William Alexander, George Walker, colour plate books, a broadsheet poster 'Rules of The Albion Mills 1841', an apprentice's indenture 1834. One highlight is a letter from a young man 'pressed' into service onto HMS Victory, seeking his parent's intervention with two local Lords to get him 'released'. Letters from 'below decks' are very rare.
 Doncaster Fair by Thomas Rowlandson (1818)
The exhibition comprises mainly visual images, complemented with objects, printed material and extracts from contemporary publications. The displays are organised around the following themes: mainly men, mainly women and chidren, life in the armed services, caricature and conflict, forced labour, and colour-plate books.
Come down and see it!