Wednesday 21 November 2012

Goodbye Barnsley Archives ... Hello Wilson's Piece

That is it now, no Tuesdays transcribing in the Archives and Local Studies Library at Barnsley until May next year. 

Yesterday some of the members of the Friends of the Archives and myself were invited in for the last time to help pack up boxes and about 8 people turned up.  The desks where the micro-fiche and film readers had sat had been dismantled, the room was full of packing boxes for the books, we couldn't even get at the coat hooks or the lockers, so for the first time ever we were allowed to put our coats on the back of our chairs.  GB, the local studies librarian/archivist, asked me to carry on transcribing the red folders (see my previous post for details) and the others did an assortment of jobs around repacking and sorting boxes of photographs.

I even joined the group at coffee time and had a glass of water with them for the first/last time.  One member made his farewells in such a way that we understood him to be saying that he wasn't sure if he would last until next May when the Archives reopens in the Barnsley Experience at the Town Hall.  He's not been well and has been getting visibly worse over the last month.  I do hope he's wrong and that he gets to see the new facilities - but the tears were pricking at the back of my eyes when he spoke.

The Friends of the Archives group support the work of the Archives by holding talks, doing raffles and selling tea, coffee and biscuits and so on.  Last week at the 'fuddle' the Archive staff put on for everyone they handed over another £100 to the Head Archivist Paul Stebbing.  Various chairs, trollies and other items in the Archives are nicely labelled "Bought with the donations from the Friends of the Archives", it does make you wonder how they are going to manage to keep the new museum going when the intital funding runs out if Barnsley Council can't even afford new chairs for the Local Studies Library.

I've been allowed to bring two of the red folders home to give me something to be getting on with.  I chose two that contained records from town centre Methodist chapels as there's always the chance of finding one of the OH's ancestors in them. 

I've got: Wilson Piece Methodist, Westgate Methodist, Salem Blucher Street Independent and Honeywell Methodist to do.  There's also an unfinished transcription of the New Street Methodist New Connexion Chapel which someone else had started.  That'll keep me busy and be a change from OU and Family History whilst I'm sitting here under the weather.

A sample of the information on the old transcriptions
The dates on these old transcriptions are around 1998-2000, which sounds recent but I expect the originals were on floppy disk and that may be why the Archives can't find them any more!  I did try OCRing a couple of pages and the first one worked OK ish, with trouble caused by the formatting of the page (as a grid) more than the actual text.  Acrobat Professional was happy to identify most of the words in the scans I took, but when it came to doing an export to Word all the text bunched up at the top left of the page and retyping the whole thing will be less of a task than trying to sort out the mess.  Even copying and pasting from the pdf didn't work very well as some letters, for example J and C didn't seem to OCR properly.

This is what I got for the top line of the table:
apt ism
Date Birth Date Surname -- Childs Name Parent Ch~istian - -- - Name.Wifes Maiden Nam Born Parish Of Abode ~ounty ofYork Trade/Employment

Not good I think you'll agree.  Pushing up the dots per inch on the scan just made things worse as it started picking up scuff and dust on the page as well.  So this is what I'll be doing ...
Pdf of old transcription with Excel open on top
The whole thing will then need checking against the original in the Archives at such a time as they reopen and the old registers become available again. 

Even local Barnsley people may be wondering where or what on earth Wilson Piece is? 

A thesis submitted to Warwick University (Kaijage, Fred J. (1975) Labouring Barnsley, 1816-1856 : a social and economic history. PhD thesis, University of Warwick. [Accessible online at:] says the following about the area:

A cutting from Kaijage, Fred J. (1975)
Kaijage is quoting from Burland, a piece in the Barnsley Times from 1878. The land being "awarded" is a reference to the enclosures of the commons in 1777. There is more about Wilson's Piece in Aspects of Barnsley 3, in an article by Harold Taylor about Handloom Weavers, unfortunately the book is out of print and I do not own a copy. (If anyone ever has one to sell or spots a copy on e-bay please, please, let me know!)

Searching on the Old Maps site I think I've been able to pinpoint the chapel to the corner of John Street and Heelis Street, in the upper right quadrant of the map below. 

The Wilson's Piece area from the 1852 Town Plans of Barnsley on Old Maps
The map clearly shows how densely packed the house were, with back to backs and lots of little courts infilling the spaces in the grid of streets. (This area is mostly flat now, with a big car park, a hand car wash and other empty plots waiting re-development - the houses were mostly cleared in the 1960s! and any industry that sprang up in the area was cleared in the last 10 years or so.)

The records that I have for the chapel run from 1822-1837 and that is all that is recorded for this chapel on the National Archives listing for the Wilson Piece Chapel.  The congregation appears to have moved to the Westgate Chapel according to an extract from the 1851 religious census.

Extract from the 1851 religious census - found on Google Books
I can only assume that the rest of their registers have been lost as the Westgate listing on the National Archive site only shows their own register 1796-1836 (I have also brought home the old transcription of this chapel to re-transcribe).

By 1889 the map shows a Temperance Hall on the site.  Probably the same building, but re-used I suppose.

A section from the 1889 Barnsley Town plan on Old Maps
showing the corner of John Street and Heelis Street
A search on Barnsley Council's image library YOCOCO found an image of the chapel in later years - but no reference as to where the image came from - a snip from some sort of book about Methodists maybe?
Probably the building that was Wilson Piece Methodist Chapel, but at a later date.
The building in the picture above has a sign above the door saying that it is the Institute of St John's Church, which was built in the area after 1851.  The 1851 religious census records a congregation for St John's, but it meets in the school at that time.  You can see the school at the bottom of the 1852 map snip I've included above.

Lots and lots of the OH's ancestors lived in this area until it was demolished in the 1960s.  Hopefully some of them will turn up in the various registers.  I will save all these map bits and pictures - I've enjoyed my romp around the web collecting this information.

Bye for now.

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