Alternative Comedy Now

In the summer of 1979, two things happened which changed forever the face of British stand-up comedy. On 19 May, the Comedy Store opened in Soho – and a few weeks later some of the performers who had met there formed a group called Alternative Cabaret, described onstage by founder member Tony Allen as “a sort of collective of comedians, musicians, dope smokers, dole scroungers, tax evaders, sexual deviants, political extremists.” Taken together the Comedy Store and Alternative Cabaret kicked off a movement that became known as alternative comedy. This led to a radical reinvention of stand-up in terms of both form and content, and created what grew into today’s live comedy scene.

1984 flyer for Brave New Comedy, a show at the Edinburgh Fringe, featuring a young Paul Merton, then known as Paul Martin.

Alternative comedy was a youthful, iconoclastic thing, and many have made the point that it did for light entertainment what punk had done for music just a couple of years earlier. So it came as a bit of a shock when I realised that we were starting to approach its 40th anniversary. How could something so young and vibrant have started so long ago?

Clearly, such a milestone could not pass without being marked in some way, and the University of Kent was particularly well placed to celebrate it. Our Special Collections & Archives department contains the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive (BSUCA), which has an unparalleled collection of material relating to the beginning of alternative comedy. Its donors include key figures in the movement like Tony Allen, Alexei Sayle, Andy de la Tour, and Jim Barclay. We also have material from people who helped it spread across London and beyond, like Ivor Dembina, Monika Bobinska, Mark Thomas, and Ray Campbell. Indeed, BSUCA was started after we acquired the archive of the late Linda Smith, who cut her comedy teeth on the alternative comedy circuit of the 1980s.

Originally a venue, The Comic Strip collective quickly embarked on a national tour, released an LP and produced TV series “The Comic Strip Presents…”

A large selection of this material has been used to stage the Alternative Comedy Now exhibition. In it you’ll find publicity materials, photographs, press coverage, scripts, LPs, business records, and more. All of this is arranged into seven themes: the Comedy Store; Alternative Cabaret; the Comic Strip; the Spread of the Circuit; the Small Comedy Club; the Edinburgh Fringe; and Politics. The team from Special Collections & Archives have done amazing work in putting the exhibition together, particularly Elspeth Millar, Mandy Green, Karen Brayshaw, Clair Waller and Tom Kennett.

Poster, 1980. Smaller pub-based clubs were the lifeblood of the comedy circuit. The publicity materials took the form of homemade art that could be reproduced on a photocopier, like this striking example.

I’m particularly pleased that Jim Barclay and Andy de la Tour had time to visit the exhibition on a recent visit to the University. As Andy put it: “The exhibition is remarkable, I was quite bowled over by how much you’d manage to display.”

Oliver Double

From Conqueror to Gloriana: The Second Volume of Holinshed’s Chronicles

Written by Matthew Crook, student on HI6062: Dynasty, Death and Diplomacy – England, Scotland & France 1503 – 1603

Holinshed’s Chronicles is arguably one of the most important history books to have emerged from the Elizabethan era. Made up of two volumes, Holinshed’s twin books offer a fascinating insight into both early modern history and sixteenth-century printing; they also provide an understanding of how the people of the Tudor period viewed their own national past. The Chronicles were printed many times, and the Templeman Library’s Special Collections and Archives currently holds a copy of the 1587 edition of the second volume—it is this version that that will be discussed here.

Perhaps the most surprising fact about the Chronicles is that Holinshed was not the man who dreamt them up. Though he would later give his name to the work, Raphael Holinshed was really a secretary hired to help the project’s originator—Reyner Wolfe, a Dutchman who arrived in London in 1533.[1] Wolfe appears to have been an extremely ambitious man, as he originally planned for the Chronicles to cover the histories of ‘every knowne nation’, a desire which would prove to be far more difficult than he had perhaps imagined.[2] It would seem that Wolfe was naïve to the state of printing in sixteenth-century England, and his printers were quick to point out the impossibility of his plan. Even with Holinshed on board to help with the workload, Wolfe was forced to accept that the book would need a very serious scaling back to be feasible. Ultimately, the decision was made to focus the Chronicles on Great Britain alone, telling the histories of ancient England, Scotland and Ireland in the first volume and England’s royal lineage in the second. This, it would seem, was felt to be a far more manageable task than a complete international history.

Surprisingly, Holinshed was very nearly not involved in the Chronicles in the first place. Originally, he had his career trajectory aimed towards the Church, rather than history writing; his biographer, Cyndia Susan Clegg, said that he was involved in the English Protestant movement until the accession of Mary I in 1553.[3] With England’s religious situation changing rapidly, he took up work with Wolfe and, when the Dutchman passed away with the Chronicles still incomplete, he took over as project manager. What this shows is the complicated nature of the book’s production—the originator died before its completion and left it to a man who was not a trained historian. Certainly, the Chronicles was not born out of easy circumstances.

The front cover of the Chronicle—though it does show signs of age, it remains sturdy and protects the pages inside well

The front cover of the Chronicle—though it does show signs of age, it remains sturdy and protects the pages inside well

Nevertheless, the Chronicles remains a fascinating example of sixteenth-century literature; the Templeman’s edition is not only academically striking, however, but is also physically captivating. It’s covers are rebacked calf-over-boards and, though worn by age, it is obvious that the covers once had gilded edges. Whilst showing signs of exhaustion, these covers do show the wealth of the person who purchased the text, since books in this period were not distributed with their own covers. After all, such a book was deliberately designed for an audience that was both literate and educated, and therefore likely to be wealthy too.

The spine for the Templeman’s copy of the Chronicles—though not original, it is undoubtedly fitting for such an impressive text.

The spine for the Templeman’s copy of the Chronicles—though not original, it is undoubtedly fitting for such an impressive text.

It is, however, this volume’s patchwork nature that makes it uniquely attractive; the Templeman’s volume is a mixture of sixteenth-century craftsmanship and various repair jobs of wavering quality. For instance, the book’s spine has been very well restored, giving the text a sturdy support whilst also demonstrating the sort of gilding that is now missing from the covers. Inside the book is a different matter entirely; the first page of the Chronicles’ main body, which covers William the Conqueror, is both badly damaged and poorly repaired. The paper appears to have been torn at one point and crudely stuck back together—the technique employed, however, indicates that it was conducted towards the end of the nineteenth century; whilst this book may have needed repairing upon purchase, it does suggest the possibility that it was used a great deal throughout its lifetime.

On the spine, the title and volume number are written in gold lettering, something which reflects the gilding of the covers.

Aside from the damage and patch-up attempts, the book still maintains much of the Chronicles’ original features; among others, it demonstrates a variety of charming details that can be found in early modern printed texts. Being a book of considerable size and covering every monarch from 1066 through to the late sixteenth-century, its printers were likely aware that ease of navigation was important. Each left page has ‘An. Dom’ in the top right corner, followed by a date—since each chapter covers a different English monarch, this allowed an early modern reader to find a specific year within a king or queen’s reign without difficulty. Another interesting reader aid comes in the margin, as each paragraph has a small summation to its side that briefly describes its contents. Such a tool would be useful for anyone who used the book for research purposes; many writers used the Chronicles in such a manner, and perhaps the most famous of the text’s users was William Shakespeare. Allardyce and Jacqueline Nicholl, in their book Holinshed’s Chronicles as Used in Shakespeare’s Plays, notes that he was known for using Holinshed’s book to inspire many of his most beloved plays, including Richard III and King Lear.[4]

this image shows the inside of the book—specifically, the start of the section about Richard II. Though the book is centuries old, the print is surprisingly legible.

This image shows the inside of the book—specifically, the start of the section about Richard II. Though the book is centuries old, the print is surprisingly legible.

The Chronicles’ function as a history book is relatively straightforward; it details the lives of each English monarch in a linear fashion, with little deviation from such a structure. Curiously, however, the authors appear to have taken the chronology aspect very literally. For example, the chapter on Richard II does not end with the king’s death in 1400, but rather with his deposition the previous year.[5] At the very end, there is an authorial note which declares that, ‘Thus farre Richard of Burdeaux, whole deprivation you have heard; of his lamentable death here—after, to wit, pag. 516, 517’. The death of Richard II is only acknowledged during the section on his successor, Henry IV; whilst one would expect the deposed king’s death to be acknowledged at the end of his own section, it would seem the authors here preferred the history to be uninterrupted by time jumps. Though this does make certain chapters somewhat strange—after all, one would expect it to end with the monarch’s passing—the pathway of logical is sound and adds more to the Chronicles’ identity.

There is no doubt that Holinshed’s Chronicles is an utterly fascinating book. Not only is it contextually and academically marvellous, but its numerous printing quirks and occasional damage makes it a captivating physical object as well. Filled with all manner of oddities and unusual details, it is a treasure-trove of curiosities for any budding bibliophile.


Primary Material:

Holinshed, Raphael, Chronicles (London, 1587) Special Collections & Archives: Pre-1700 Collection, q C 587 HOL

Secondary Material:

Clegg, Cyndia Susan, ‘Raphael Holinshed (1525-1580?)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 31 October 2018]

Heal, Felicity and Henry Summerson, ‘The Genesis of the Two Editions’, in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles, ed. by Paulina Kewes, Ian W. Archer and Felicity Heal (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013) 3-21

Nicoll, Allardyce and Josephine Nicoll, Holinshed’s Chronicle As Used in Shakespeare’s Plays (J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.: London, 1927)

Pettegree, Andrew, ‘Reyner Wolfe (d. in or before 1547)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  [accessed 31 October 2018]

Tuck, Anthony, ‘Richard II (1367-1400)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 31 October 2018]

[1] Andrew Pettegree, ‘Reyner Wolfe (d. in or before 1547)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography [accessed 31 October 2018]

[2] Felicity Heal and Henry Summerson, ‘The Genesis of the Two Editions’, in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed’s Chronicles, ed. by Paulina Kewes, Ian W. Archer and Felicity Heal (Oxford University Press: Oxford, 2013) 3-21, p.3

[3] Cyndia Susan Clegg, ‘Raphael Holinshed (1525-1580?)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  [accessed 31 October 2018]

[4] Allardyce Nicholl and Josephine Nicoll, Holinshed’s Chronicle As Used in Shakespeare’s Plays (J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.: London, 1927), p.vii.

[5]Anthony Tuck, ‘Richard II (1367-1400)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography  [accessed 31 October 2018]


Looking at Lanquet: A Closer Look at An Epitome of Chronicles

Written by Bex Norris, student on HI6062: Dynasty, Death and Diplomacy – England, Scotland & France 1503 – 1603

Little is actually known about Thomas Lanquet’s life, except that he began writing his Epitome of Chronicles, but he died before it was finished. The Chronicles werefinished by Thomas Cooper and published in 1549, with the book later being known as the Coopers Chronicle. Lanquet died in 1545 after writing about the accession of Tiberius, with the rest of the book being written by Cooper. Despite the fact that very little is known about Lanquet himself, it is known that he was a historian and a humanist, which would suggest that he would have styled his work to mimic Classical literature, something seen as contemporarily popular.

Title Page of An Epitome of Chronicles

The copy of An Epitome of Chronicles held at Special Collections & Archives at the Templeman Library is interesting for several reasons. The book has been rebound and several pages of the beginning on the book have been replaced, most likely due to water damage, as seen in the images below. The newer elements of the book seem to have been replaced in the nineteenth or twentieth century. This is also seen with some pages where the original paper has remained partially intact, with the damaged elements being replaced with newer paper, as seen in the images below. This is something that is therefore unique to this copy of An Epitome of Chronicles and gives a clear idea that the book was not left in the best condition, potentially being left in a damp storage area that would have degraded these elements of the book to the point of needing replacing. [Editor’s note: this damage did not occur in the book’s current home!]

One of the damaged pages

One of the damaged pages


Cover of An Epitome of Chronicles

Cover of An Epitome of Chronicles

Another interesting feature that is unique to this copy of Epitome of Chronicles is the fact it has been annotated. This is indicative that a previous owner of the book did not feel that it was important enough to remain unmarked, with one page containing a sum, which appears to be to do with the chronology of the history. This highlights the use and engagement with the book, as they were able to read well enough that they felt that they were able to annotate certain sections and to add their own thoughts. This suggests that the book was owned by a literate person who was able to write down what they thought of particular passages, giving an insight in to their responses from when they read the book.




The work of Lanquet, and subsequently Cooper was to educate readers on the history of England as they saw it, with references to what was happening in the wider world. This would include who was ruling in other countries and if there were any plagues within countries, such as a pestilence in 491 B.C. in Rome. It is accepted within the writing that the Bible and Arthurian legend are history, and this is used to emphasise the chronology he was writing. Cooper, however, changes Arthurian legends to suit the history he wanted to tell, removing magic from his chronicles and replacing it with the power of the ‘common voice of the people’. Magic being removed when writing the histories would have been not only to make them a realistic part of history, but also because Cooper, who finished the chronicle, was a bishop, and the use of magic would not have fallen in line with his religious views. The histories therefore would have been adapted to suit the narrative that the authors would have believed in, as well as any political leanings that they may have had, which is shown with how the book is dedicated to Prince Edward and the Duke of Somerset. This highlights how Cooper would have been attempting to praise the prince, while affirming Protestant beliefs, with Cooper stating in the preface, ‘the holy scriptures […] teaches us politicall administracion, and let forth many notable examples, which in rulying a publike weal be necessary to bee knowen, and whereby the myndes of princis may bee stiered to the study of true nobilitee and vertue’. This explains why not only the biblical history is accepted as fact and dated within the chronicle, but also why it is so supportive towards the Tudors and how they are favoured by God. The fact that the book is also written in English, in a Gothic font, further highlights the break from Rome, as Lanquet and Cooper did not write in Latin, with English books being more common following the Reformation.

The preface not only gives an idea of the setting in which the book was written in, but also the type of person it was written for. As ‘the readyng of histories doth indifferently avayle all men’ and ‘Princis, yea and all other, that have auctoritee in great affaires and high matters, ought those examples and actes chiefly to consider’ suggest that Lanquet and Cooper believed that the main audience of their book would be those in a position of political power, and that history would be useful in knowing where previous leaders have failed and how they have succeeded.

Even though little is known about Thomas Lanquet, quite a lot can be discerned about England during his time from this single copy of An Epitome of Chronicles, with language choices giving an indication of the context that the book was written in, and additions to the book with owners’ notes giving a sense of the history of this particular copy of An Epitome of Chronicles. The book is unique to other copies because of its treatment since its publication in 1549, making it an interesting centrepiece for research, seen even in the past with different copies of the book. The way in which the book has been treated, such as the rebinding of the book because of its damage makes this copy unique to any others. The copy of Lanquet’s Epitome of Chronicles held in the Templeman Library is therefore interesting based on not only the history of England that it gives, but also in how it differs from other copies


Primary Sources

Lanquet, Thomas and Thomas Cooper, An Epitome of Chronicles [London: Thomas Berthelet, 1549] Special Collections & Archives: Pre-1700 Collection, C 549 LAN

Lanquet, Thomas and Thomas Cooper, ‘An Epitome of Chronicles’, Early English Books Online, <> [accessed 31 October 2018]

Secondary Sources

Fletcher, Robert Huntington, The Arthurian Material in the Chronicles Especially Those of Great Britain and France (New York, NY: Haskell House, 1965)

H., C. W., ‘Queries with Answers’, Notes and Queries, 3rd ser., 11 (1867), 332-333

Pearson, David, John Mumford and Alison Walker, ‘Understanding and caring for bookbindings’, British Library Preservation Advisory Centre, <> [accessed 30 October 2018]

Starnes, D. T., ‘Sir Thomas Elysot and the Lanquet-Cooper “Chronicle”’, The University of Texas Studies on English, 34 (1955), 35-42

Summerson, Henry, ‘Lanquet, Thomas’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, <> [accessed 29 October 2018]

Wheatley, Chloe, Epic, Epitome, and the Early Modern Historical Imagination (Farnham: Ashgate, 2011)

Holinshed’s Holistic Histories of Britain

Written by Daniel Quirk, student on HI6062: Dynasty, Death and Diplomacy – England, Scotland & France 1503 – 1603

The Templeman Library’s Special Collections & Archives Department holds a rare 1587 edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles; a book that collates the works of some of the most influential pre-seventeenth-century writers of early English, Scottish and Irish history in a single place. Printed in gothic English font, the book’s characteristics imply a lot about its intended use as an object, which will be explored in this blog. This blog will also demonstrate that the book was the product of a growing late sixteenth-century belief that Scotland and England were becoming a shared space and that Holinshed believed it was important for the national histories of both nations to be understood within a single book.

Holinshed’s Chronicles were collated by Raphael Holinshed (1529-1580) with the first edition published in 1577, and this particular book at the Templeman Library published as the second edition in 1587 under the supervision of Holinshed’s successor, Abraham Fleming. Holinshed and his successor brought together works by authors that dominated the contemporary understanding of England’s and Scotland’s respective histories, such as Hector Boece whose ‘Scotorum Historiae’ was translated and used in the ‘Historie of Scotland’ section for Holinshed’s book along with works by other authors on Scotland’s history.

External view of the 1587 Holinshed Chronicles Volume II in the Templeman Library’s Special Collections & Archives

The first obvious feature of the book is that it is very large, measuring 36cm x 23cm x 8cm. The size suggests that this book was not designed to be an easily portable book but was most likely intended for personal educational use as part of someone’s collection. The use of English translations instead of Latin suggests that the intent of the book was primarily educational, bringing about greater awareness of the ancient origins and histories of the British Isles by using a more widely understood language. Furthermore, as paper was an expensive material to use in the sixteenth-century, the impressive size of the book and its pages also implies that the book was materially valuable to its owner as well as an important educational resource. Evidence of intricate gold-leaf patterns on the cover reinforces this argument that this book was produced with expense to impress.

Evidence of elaborate gold-leaf decoration on the cover and binding of the book.

Conversely, a surprising observation of this book is the lack of internal decoration with very few woodcuts used. The same few woodcuts are repetitively used, suggesting that although this book was impressive externally the expense was spared internally. This contrasts with the 1577 edition of Holinshed’s Chronicles at the British Library which has many elaborate woodcuts depicting important monarchs and historical events that are not evident in the Templeman Library’s edition. The reason for this could be the lack of financial support behind the 1587 edition. After Holinshed’s death in 1580, his successors had difficulty establishing financial support for continuing with the new edition. Woodcuts were expensive additions to a book and were often reused instead of new ones being commissioned to keep costs down. This lack of financial means may explain the sparse use and recycling of a few styles of woodcuts in this copy of The Chronicles.

Example of the recycling and inconsistent use of letter woodcuts in the 1587 edition of The Holinshed Chronicles

Example of the recycling and inconsistent use of letter woodcuts in the 1587 edition of The Holinshed Chronicles.


Example of the intricate woodcuts present in the 1577 edition of The Holinshed Chronicles which are absent in the 1587 edition (British Library)

From studying the ‘Historie of Scotland’ section, it is interesting that the story of Gathelus and Scota is present followed by detailed descriptions of the early Scottish kings. This mythical tale of the origins of Scotland contrasts with the section on England’s history, where the tale of Brutus explains the ancient history of the British Isles by stating Brutus’ son Albanactus was the first king of Scotland. However, the Albanactus and Brutus tale does not appear in the Scottish history section, demonstrating one of the many contradictions which exist within the book.

There is a general lack of public awareness of the Holinshed’s Chronicles despite its importance in detailing the history and mythology of the British Isles. However, the book remains a significant example of the emergence of a shared ‘British’ history and identity at the end of the sixteenth-century. The sixteenth century was a time of ‘British’ mythological history being used as propaganda in both England and Scotland, with competing national claims on ‘owning’ historical heroes. The inclusion of aspects of this mythological history in the collection suggests the importance of these stories in Scottish and English national identities and that Holinshed’s Chronicles allowed readers to explore these ‘histories’ in combination.

The Chronicles was also published in the context of growing awareness in England that a Scottish king may inherit the English throne. This possibility first appeared with the marriage of James IV and Margaret Tudor in 1503 and persisted throughout the sixteenth-century, especially during Elizabeth I’s reign, possibly explaining why Holinshed decided to collate works on England and Scotland together in his first edition in 1577. By 1587, it was believed that James VI would inherit the English throne after Elizabeth, and so both kingdoms and their histories would become one. Perhaps the inclusion of both England and Scotland in this collection is therefore significant in showing the growing belief in the late sixteenth-century that the island of Britain as we know it today was becoming a shared space and that therefore a single collation of their histories was necessary. If so, this book is important in showing how these ideas of Britain were viewed at the time.

To conclude, Holinshed’s Chronicles is an important book in illustrating how national histories and identities were perceived in the sixteenth-century. The decision to include both Scottish and English histories in one book demonstrates a broader thematic emergence of a shared British history and identity in the sixteenth-century which arose from the possibility of both realms falling under a single monarch. Therefore, this book as an object has wider significance for early British history than just what is written inside. Further analysis of this book should consider the reason why the elaborate woodcuts of 1577 do not appear in this edition; was it due to cost efficiencies or instead a consequence of the censorship which occurred in the late 1580s? Regardless of the lack of woodcuts, this copy of Holinshed’s Chronicles is a beautiful example of sixteenth-century literature which deserves wider awareness amongst the British public.

The copies of Holinshed’s Chronicles held in Special Collections & Archives are on loan to us via the Marlowe Society.


2018 Highlights from the SC&A Team

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but the end of the year has crept up on us remarkably stealthily! (Although all the Christmas decorations and festive events around campus may argue otherwise…) With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at 2018 and share with you our particular highlights – work you may know about, projects you may not, or collections that are waiting for you to explore them.

In no particular order…

Karen (Special Collections & Archives Manager): “2018 has been a fantastic year for Special Collections and Archives. In February we welcomed our new University Archivist, Tom, who began work almost immediately on the fabulous “Our Templeman” Exhibition. The exhibition was created to celebrate the completion of the library extension and refurbishment as well as 50 years since the Templeman Library first opened its doors.

We are Archive Accredited and therefore Awesome

In March we had a party! We were very excited and proud to receive the National Archives Accreditation Award – and of course like all good parties we had a cake. In the summer we were lucky to be able to recruit two Bursary funded Interns. Janee and Philip spent the summer working on the Maddison collection and revealed some interesting discoveries from this science collection through a series of blog posts and pop-up sessions.

Interning at SCA: far more fun than making endless cups of tea and photocopying

Interning at SC&A: far more fun than making endless cups of tea and photocopying

Tom Ritchie needed a venue to demonstrate a Meccano based reconstruction. SC&A were happy to play host to Tom and the Meccano Men (they are real people!). We eagerly watched as the Differential Analyser was constructed and then opened the doors to a whole host of diverse people who were interested to see how meccano played an important role in the development of computers.

What do you get when you cross archives and toys?

What do you get when you cross archives and toys?

And just to whet your appetite about what is to come next year – in the summer we received a new collection, which focuses on the history of Music Hall – in the New Year we will reveal more about it but here is a taster of what is to come…”

Your Christmas starter for ten: what links all these items?

Your Christmas starter for ten: what links all these items?


Helen (Library Assistant, Curation & Metadata): “The ‘Prescriptions’ exhibition of artists’ books, on wellbeing and medicine, took place at the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge in 2016. Books by 82 artists, from 15 countries exhibited their work and many of them subsequently donated or deposited their works at the University of Kent’s Special Collections and Archives. The books deal with topics including “cancer, chronic illness, disability, mental health, surgery, medicine and wellbeing” (Bolaki & Ciricaite, 2017).

A rare sighting of the endangered cotton glove (Karen Apps, 'Losing Touch', 2016)

A rare sighting of the endangered cotton glove (Karen Apps, ‘Losing Touch’, 2016)

Working with these poignant, and sometimes harrowing, books proved to be a rewarding challenge. It was very moving to handle a succession of very personal artworks, created with care and documenting painful experiences. The collection as a whole captures a great breadth of different experiences. Many of the artists faced an initial shock and disruption around a diagnosis but came to terms with their illness and made peace with the impact it had on their lives. My experience cataloguing the collection took a similar trajectory, from a sense of intrusion and uncertainty to acceptance and even comfort.”

Rachel (Library Assistant, Curation & Metadata): “It’s been great to be part of a project to catalogue and digitise material from the Queen’s Own Buffs The Royal Kent Regiment Collection. It contains material from the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) and the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent regiment who merged in the 1960s. There’s a variety of material in the collection, ranging from prisoner of war accounts to the Buffs Golfing Society records, as well as plenty of books surrounding the history of the Buffs, who are one of the oldest regiments of the British Army, tracing their roots back to the 16th century. As part of my work I spent a lot of time with the Dragon and the Queen’s Own Gazette, the regimental journals of the two regiments. They’re full of information on the history of the regiments, as well as plenty of reports of their leisure time, giving a fantastically detailed picture of life in these regiments from the late 19th century onwards.

The Buffs are for life, not just for Christmas

The Buffs are for life, not just for Christmas

My personal highlight was finding Pte. A. Baker listed as missing in an issue of The Queen’s Own Gazette from 1916. Arthur Percy Baker was my great great uncle who worked as a train conductor before the First World War. He died at the Somme in July 1916 and is one of the 72,000 men listed on the Thiepval Memorial.”

Who Do You Think You are in action

Archives have all the answers (sometimes)


Jo (Senior Library Assistant, Special Collections & Archives): “This year we’ve been full steam ahead with our education and engagement offering, welcoming over 900 visitors through group sessions in the Autumn Term alone! It’s always brilliant to see people who’ve never looked at or touched historic material before engage with our collections, but two particular sessions stand out:

No books were harmed in the making of this photo, apart from the one which is art

No books were harmed in the making of this photo, apart from the one which is art

In the Spring Term, we revamped our sessions to support a final year English course where students write and self-publish their own book. In previous years, groups have come in to look at modern poetry exclusively – but this year we pushed things a bit beyond that. One Reading Room table focused on a history of print from the early modern period to the present day – spanning everything from rare books to playbills and zines. The other table was split into modern poetry on one section and artists books on the other. By looking at the history of print material first, students were then able to see how contemporary works play on printing traditions – and it worked so well, we could barely get them to leave after three hours!

We were very glad to have more responses than 'old dusty things'

We were very glad to have more responses than ‘old dusty things’

In the Autumn Term, we undertook the obviously-very-small challenge of welcoming every single first year History student into Special Collections & Archives through their mandatory ‘Making History’ course. Using some of the reading I’ve inhaled through my MA, we planned a detailed 50 minute session that was split into parts – and included hiding the archive material in boxes so students couldn’t get distracted from the first activity about physical and digital archives. We’re looking forward to working with the School of History further to improve our support next year, but it really was wonderful to meet the very enthusiastic first years.”

Tom (University Archivist): “My highlight of 2018 was working on the exhibition the “Our Templeman” celebrations in March, marking the completion of the Templeman extension and refurbishment and the 50th anniversary of the library first opening. This was one of the first tasks given to me after starting work here in February and it allowed me to totally immerse myself in the University Archive in digging out a pictorial history of the library. It also allowed us to showcase some of our amazing other collections. We brought it out again for the start of the new academic year and it was great seeing how many staff, students and alumni engaged with it.”

Templeman Time-machine: spot the difference!

Templeman Time-machine: spot the difference!


Elspeth (Digital Archivist): “I’ve loved having the opportunity to explore two oral history collections from Special Collections & Archives through digitisation and cataloguing. The collections comprise unique, original oral history recordings, which are not archived in any other institution or heritage centre. They were recorded on reel-to-reel tapes, now an obsolete format, in the late 1960s and 1970s, so it is fantastic that we were able to have these digitised to ensure that the testimonies included on them are preserved and able to be made accessible.

The first of the two oral history collections, The Barker Oral History Tapes collection, comprises interviews with c. 100 people in Kent recorded in the late 1960s. The interviews were part of an oral history project, funded by the ESRC, directed by Professor Theo Barker (founding professor of Economic and Social History at the University of Kent in 1964) and John Whyman (Lecturer in Economic and Social History and Master of Rutherford 1996-1997), who were interviewing older respondents for their memories of life in Kent before 1900. Barker was an early supporter of oral history as a research methodology, and he became the Oral History Society’s first Chairman in 1973. The second collection is the Winstanley Oral History Collection.  This collection comprises interviews with over 160 people in Kent (mainly east Kent), recorded between 1974 and 1976. The recordings were undertaken as part of an SSRC-funded oral history project (called ‘Everyday Life in Kent before 1914’), looking at life in Kent at the turn of the 20th century.

Both collections, and the first-hand testimony within them, is unique. The interviews provide insight into life in the county in the period between 1890 and 1950 (although the focus is on life at the turn of the century), and cover topics such as work, industry, society, war, community, and women’s history. The testimonies will also provide a linguistics resource, providing a rich resource for those studying dialect and the changes in Kent dialect over time. The recordings can be accessed via the Special Collections & Archives reading room (email

What’s been your highlight of 2018? Let us know below!

We’d like to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Our Reading Room is closed from the 19th December 2018 and will reopen on January 14th 2019. This slightly longer-than-normal closure period allows us a week to develop our collections, so we’ll be spending 5 days in January working on exciting projects in our storage areas!