Vroom! Vroom! – The Golden Age of Motoring
We were very pleased to acquire the archive of the Berkshire Automobile Club, 1903-2019 (D/EX2784). The club was founded in 1903, and was one of the earliest automobile organisations resulting from the growing enthusiasm for motor cars and driving in the early 20th century. Members took part in several landmark early automobile events at Brooklands race circuit, Surrey, and the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland Dust Trials, held at Maidenhead in 1905. They even helped advise the Automobile Club of Great Britain and Ireland on rules for races.
Between 1909 and 1912 the club was known as ‘The Berkshire Automobile and Aero Club’, and held aviation connected events as well as motoring ones. During the First World War the club organised the Berkshire Voluntary Aid Transport Service (BVATS), a vital wartime service providing cars to convey patients, military personnel and police between hospital locations and for Red Cross volunteer work.
The club provided advice to its members on speed limits and fines, road surfacing and maintenance, the rising cost of fuel, new legislation affecting drivers, and the design and location of road signage – still relevant iussues for today’s drivers. There was a general feeling of discontent at poor driving in the county (by others, of course), with the club chairman complaining of ‘road hogging’ in 1924.
A special badge for members was produced for members to display on their vehicles from 1925, replaced in 1933 by a chromium plated version provided by local firm Vincents of Reading Ltd. Membership fell from the 1930s onwards as driving became a more commonplace activity, and the club finally closed down in 2019; but the archive is an extremely valuable record of the Golden Age of motoring in Berkshire.
We have also completed cataloguing of the surviving vehicle licencing records for Berkshire, 1903-1972 (P/VL1). The registers of cars, 1904-1922, were previously available under a temporary reference, but have now been allocated their final references. The project has uncovered additional material, including registers of driving licences, 1907-1914; and applications for licences, 1921-1972. A later era is reflected in the arrival of some of the vehicle manuals produced by Maidenhead firm Autodata Ltd, 1962-1979 (D/EX2845). These repair manuals were for trade, workshops, and individual car enthusiasts.
Call the midwife!
We have also received the papers of Maureen Pointer, a nurse and midwife, 1941-1980 (D/EX2871). After a wartime childhood in Caversham, she trained as a nurse at King Edward VII Hospital, Windsor, in the 1950s, and as a midwife at the prestigious Guys Hospital, London, 1961-1962. She moved back to Berkshire in 1962 and practiced as a midwife in Reading and Tilehurst, including work at Battle Hospital and Dellwood Maternity Home. She also undertook District Nurse training in 1974. Her records relate to her own training and also include her midwifery registers of cases, 1962-1973 (please note that these are medical records so will be ‘closed’ to access for 100 years). The collection also includes material from her father G E Pointer's newsagent's, tobacconist's and stationer's business in Caversham, 1956-1963; a photograph of children (including the young Maureen and her brother) gathered in the street watching what appears to be a sea plane, perhaps from a wartime newsreel, on an open-air cinema screen, c.1943-1944; and a copy of Beating the Invader, an official leaflet issued to all households in 1941.
New parish registers
Some particularly exciting new registers have arrived this month:
West Challow: baptisms, 1814-2018 (unfortunately too fragile to be handled at present, but we plan to digitise it in the future); marriages, 1967-2016; banns, 1824-2016 (also too fragile to be produced); burials, 1858-2020 (D/P81C).
Shaw cum Donnington: baptisms, 2010-2019; marriages, 2009-2018; our first ever register of marriage blessings and renewals of vows, 2002-2014; and a plan of graves and transcript of monumental inscriptions in the churchyard (D/P106).
Our creative heritage
Finally, as Heritage Open Day celebrates the theme of creativity this month, we can reveal that material has been added to the important archive of Aldermaston Pottery, 1969-2001, much of it relating to their artistic designs (D/EX2422).
You can find out more about any of the records mentioned here and more, by searching our online catalogue. Simply enter the collection references mentioned above into the Catalogue Reference field.