Geoffs Genealogy Update 4 June 2013

Tuesday June 4th, 2013 | Geoff

About five months ago we received an email from Virgin Trains, offering cut price fares to and from London on certain days in the weeks leading up to the end of March 2013. Presumably the train company were seeking to attract extra passengers to fill their trains at a time when they usually have lots of empty seats. Helen and I rarely get an opportunity to go to London these days, and we always have a lengthy list of treeing items to attend to in the metropolis, so we eagerly took advantage of this offer.

We booked a return trip to London Euston on a Saturday in March. I can’t recall the total cost but it was around £15 return fare  each. The only snag was that in order to get these fares we needed to arise from our slumbers at 4.30 am! What dedication to the cause!

Helen had been studying the online catalogue for the Wellcome Library, and had noted some things to look up during our visit, so we decided to “do” these. We had never been to the Wellcome Library before, and are always keen to experience “new” repositories. We also had a list of items relating to people who feature on the Bankes Pedigree to look at in the British Library, and the SOG library. In the event we did not go to the SOG library, as we found the underground fare from Euston to the City to be prohibitively expensive, so we decided to concentrate on the other record offices.

As you may imagine, we arrived in London very early, so we had some time to kill before commencing research.  It was a very wet and windy day, so we wanted to find shelter if we could. We resolved the situation by partaking of breakfast at Euston station, then visiting the recently revamped St Pancras station. What a magnificent piece of work that is! Quite wonderful, and a tribute to all those who worked on it. The station roof , in particular, is a truly impressive sight, and I simply loved the statue of John Betjeman, one of my favourite poets and a saviour of  this station and so many other Victorian buildings.

On to the research.

We were very impressed by the Wellcome Library, which holds one of the largest collections of medical history sources anywhere on the planet. We were there to have  a look at One of Robert Hanham Collyer‘s books and we were not disappointed. Early History of the Anaesthetic Discovery is Collyer’s account of how he made this discovery. In all our researches into the life of this man over the years we had never previously seen this book, so this filled a significant gap in our research.

Our second reason for going to the Wellcome Library was for the chance to see a tea wrapper that originated from the Holborn grocer’s shop of Joseph Collyer, 200 years ago. Again, we were not disappointed. It is really amazing how items like this have survived over all those years, and to think that we were actually looking at an everyday item that would have been used in Collyer’s grocer’s shop 200 years ago was quite amazing. Probably the best way to describe this is to quote the library catalogue:

Sheet of white paper which has been folded and may have been used as wrapping paper for loose tea. It has an illustration of two columns to either side of the text, the East India House above it and a group of 5 people sitting drinking tea between palm trees below. Collyer’s business was at that address in 1824.
Author, etc.     Collyer, Joseph.
Subject name     Collyer, Joseph.
Topic-LCSH      Tea trade. / Grocers / Spices.
Place name     London (England)
Genre/Technique     Ephemera.
System no.     .b1689697x
Record no.     502992242

We already knew that Joseph’s shop was at 93 Holborn Hill, but this item gave us the additional information that it was situated “Opposite St Andrew’s Church”.

The Wellcome Library contains much of relevance to Bankes descendants – we know, for example, that it holds a number of the medical writings of Dr Thomas Hunt –  but we did not have enough time to explore further. We needed to get to the British Library, to see what gems we could find there.

It was when we got to the British Library that I realised that I had made a big mistake. Although I had learned, from the British Library website, that I needed to bring with me a household bill to act as identification, I had forgotten to do this. I could not, therefore, renew my out of date ticket, and thus was denied access to the library. My fault, I know, but this did seem to me a bit draconian. In most of the records offices that I have visited over the years in similar circumstances I would have been denied the use of original sources, but allowed to use microfilm or digital records. Not so at the British Library. I know that the rules are there to safeguard the security of the sources, and the situation was my own fault, but this did seem to me to be a bit “over the top”. Anyway, with the rain beating down outside  I was condemned to sit in the British Library entrance foyer for the whole afternoon while helen dipped into the records. While I finished off tthe final 150 pages of a book, Helen found some real gems. I’ll tell you about them next month.

If things had gone to plan next Saturday would have been the day of the second Reunion of John Bankes Descendants. Alas, it was not to be, as for a variety of reasons the number of people able to commit to the event fell considerably below our expecttaions. Once again, I apologise to those of you who were planning to come to the event.  Instead I shall be singing in a concert in my home town – my first appearance in my local male voice choir. I’m looking forward to that immensely.



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