Local History Month: Local Studies pictures and papers share insights into ancestors’ lives
- Credit: Archant
Havering Libraries’ Local Studies and Family History Centre in the Central Library provides an excellent starting point for you to research Havering’s history and to begin your own family history.
The collection can be traced back to 1903 but was established in the first Romford Library when it opened in 1930 and at the first Hornchurch Library in September 1938, when they received a set of photographs of Hornchurch from a Mr F. Buckley.
The collection includes books, maps, photographs, minutes, documents, newspapers, directories, electoral registers and other items which help us build a picture of our past, often donated by individuals and organisations to ensure they are available to future generations of Havering residents.
Free access to the major family history databases Ancestry and Find My Past enhances the collection.
Some of the more interesting and useful resources are highlighted below.
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Local Studies offers access to a wide-ranging collection of books.
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This includes the earliest published history about a place in Havering, Sketches of Upminster in the County of Essex by Thomas Lewis Wilson. Wilson’s book (revised in 1881) begins the exploration of Havering’s history beyond the church and the manor houses, recording the farms and early industries.
Maps are critical in helping us understand how the local landscape has changed.
One of the most fascinating is a copy of the Hornchurch parish map of 1812.
This large rolled map includes fascinating details of the landowners’ names and is a great resource for local and family historians alike.
Local newspapers are a fantastic resource, often described as “the first draft of history”.
The collection includes the defunct Essex Times dating back to 1868 on microfilm and includes the Romford Recorder from 1934 until the present day.
Celebrations, wars, births, marriages and deaths can all be found within their pages.
Romford Board of Health
One of the most fascinating publications in the collection also has the most unpromising title, Report of the General Board of Health into the sewerage, drainage and supply of water and sanitary condition of the inhabitants of the town of Romford of 1851.
This led to the establishment of the Romford Local Board of Health and the beginning of modern local government.
The collection includes the minutes of councils in Havering since 1819.
Local government has helped shape the places we live in today. The minutes record the decision-making process and the voices of councillors and the public over nearly 200 years.
A wealth of information about the services of councils past and present can be traced through their pages.
Alfred Bennett Bamford art
Alfred Bennett Bamford was an artist, born in Romford, who also had a passion for local history.
He donated several books and many of his own illustrations to Romford Library. His prints, drawings and watercolours often provide unique views of buildings and street scenes which have disappeared or are greatly altered.
Our rate books date from 1839 and includes volumes in the 1950s.
The earliest rates were collected for the poor and expanded as local government developed. Rate books are invaluable to local historians, enabling us to trace the growth and development of our villages and towns, when buildings were erected and when they disappeared.
Arthur Cornell collection
Another major component of our collection are items collected and created by Arthur Cornell, who was a registrar in Romford until his retirement due to failing eyesight in 1915.
The Cornell collection includes a manuscript history of Romford looking back to 1840, as well as photographs and scrapbooks which capture Romford life in the Victorian era.
Registers and land documents
Electoral registers are useful for tracing the history of the borough’s houses and streets and the people who have lived in them. Registers are available for Romford in 1938 and 1939, then from 1949, and from 1945 for the rest of Havering.
Sale catalogues and legal documents are also a fantastic resource. They include property details, record the owners and many come with illustrations and plans.
There are thousands of prints, paintings, drawings and photographs in the collection, many viewable online through the library catalogue: https://arena.yourlondonlibrary.net/web/havering/100.
It is difficult to single out individual images, however those that capture the faces of our ancestors reveal so much.
The photograph above is ‘Outside the Three Crowns, Rainham Ferry’.
Using the centre
The Local Studies and Family History Centre is open 21 hours during the week and on the second Saturday of each month.
Contact Local Studies for more information and to make an appointment to research your local history.
Email LocalStudies@havering.gov.uk or call 01708 432392.
Local History Librarian Simon Donoghue will give a free talk about the borough’s local history collection at the Central Library, Romford, on Wednesday, May 24 at 10.30am. To book a place, please call 01708 432389 or email LocalStudies@havering.gov.uk.