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Dusty Deeds & Docs Blog

Random musings on curiosities encountered in archives and beyond,
not forgetting the dust …


Lincoln’s Voice

Guest Blog by Ken Ross Twenty years or so ago, when I was working as an audiobook producer, I got to know an actor in his mid-sixties. At the start of his career, in the nineteen-fifties, he had worked with a veteran American actor who told him the following story. In the mid-thirties Roosevelt had… Read more »

Remember, Remember

I had intended to commemorate Guy Fawkes Night by translating an Elizabethan Recipe for Fireworks held in the State Papers Collection of The National Archives at Kew, but it turned out to be more Molotov Cocktail than Sparkler – arguably appropriate to the historic events of the day, but not so much for a how-to-make-this-at-home… Read more »

Puritan Lockdown

On this day … “23 CAR. I.  … Die Sabbati, 16 Octobris, 1647.  … Suppressing Stage Plays, &c. For the better Suppression of Stage-plays, Interludes, and Common Players; It is this Day Ordered, by the [blank space] and Commons, in Parliament assembled, That the Lord Mayor, Justices of the Peace, and Sheriffs of the Cities… Read more »

A Tale of Two Halls, part 2

A Tale of Two Halls, part 2 – read part 1 here The structure known since the early nineteenth century as Brearley Hall is in fact the younger of the two, having absorbed both the title and legend of the elder via custom and practice.  This may be a chance legacy of its most recent… Read more »

A Tale of Two Halls, part 1

PATRICK BRANWELL BRONTË d. 24 Sept. 1848 Despite the notoriety surrounding Patrick Branwell Brontë’s year in Luddenden Foot, which culminated in – and resulted from – his summary dismissal by the Manchester and Leeds Railway Company, surprisingly little is known of the time he spent there.  Speculation has crystallized into fact, with distorted anecdote, rather… Read more »

Minions of the Moon

To celebrate tonight’s Full “Red Moon”, I pre-ordered another alchemically themed document to view in the Map and Large Document Reading Room of The National Archives at Kew, which recounts the misfortunes of a Practitioner claiming to have made an elixir with the power to transform base materials into Silver. Filed within TNA’s Special Collections… Read more »

Open, locks, Whoever knocks

The 7th of August in the year 1606 saw the first recorded performance of Macbeth, in the Great Hall at Hampton Court. Shakespeare’s addition of three witches into the historical brew was tailored to grab the interest of the evening’s host, King James VI & I, himself an author with a well-known interest in the… Read more »

Through the Looking Glass

Although I carry out most of my research in the Map and Large Document Reading Room at The National Archives, the most precious and sensitive items in its extensive collection have to be viewed under supervision in the Invigilation Room on the floor below – a much less daunting process than it sounds. A member… Read more »

The Longest Day

When I think of Midsummer, images of bonfires and solstice celebrations spring to mind, followed by the symbolic Mediæval custom of paying a red rose “in the time of roses” on Quarter Day, but today I am remembering a less uplifting event, following on from cannon-fire and the red of blood – the Surrender of the… Read more »

Inky Fingers, part 2

Inky Fingers, part 2 – read part 1 here Middle English Dictionaries confirm that context should provide the key to filling in the measure, which in this case must logically be a weight. Shifting to a microfilm reader in the Map and Large Document Reading Room at The National Archives, I transcribed a second recipe,… Read more »