Archive Service Accreditation

You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been a little quiet here in blog-land! Mainly because we have been busy reorganising our search room into a more streamlined space both for ourselves and our visitors. We now have all the Parish Transcripts and Indexes in here (rather than in the museum space). In addition, we have rehomed the microfilm/fiche computer and scanner into our search room so it’s less hassle for our users when they need some assistance.

We’ve also carried out lots of behind-the-scenes work in our store rooms ready for an inspection from The National Archives Service in response to our accreditation application. We needed everything to be ship shape!!

We are pleased to announce that we have now had confirmation from The National Archives that we have received our award of Archive Service Accreditation. Amongst other things, this will help improve our ability to protect and care for our collections whilst ensuring we provide suitable access for all our lovely visitors.

Exciting times ahead!

Archives Team: L-R Nichola Walshaw, Wendy Gradwell, Adam Carter and Helen Lindsay

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Something Good from Bury

If you were to say the word ‘Bensons’ to a Buryite of a certain age, then firstly their eyes may mist over, soon to be followed by a little sigh as they fall into a chocolate-lime induced reverie.

For several decades and way before Gene Wilder brought Willy Wonka to life, Bury had its own ‘Chocolate Factory’ and the little chap with the toffee-shaped head became familiar to people all around the world as the face of Bensons Confectionery.

Benson’s tin belonging to the Hargreaves family

Thanks to the foresight of one lady, Gladys Ratcliffe, whose father Harry Hargreaves was one of the founders of the business that later became Bensons, we have a first-hand account of the history of this much-loved local company and its origins in the Walmersley area of Bury.   Gladys’s account tells us how Emanuel Pickles started a small confectionery business – Scott & Rose – in 1900.  This was based on Topping Street, near the bottom of Walmersley Road.  A couple of years later he was joined in the enterprise by Harry Hargreaves.  They began to make ‘Tower Sauce’, along with some jams and sweets.  Gladys recalls accompanying her father to Manchester’s Shudehill Market to buy the fruit.  The business grew and moved to larger premises in the old ‘Wolstenholmes’ factory on Huntley Mount Road, off Bell Lane.

Benson’s delivery van

This heralded a new beginning as the sauce business was sold and the decision taken to concentrate on just the jams and sweets.  A new name was required as it was felt that ‘Pickles & Hargreaves’ did not fit the bill!  Out of the hat came ‘Bensons’ and a whole new era dawned.  Harry Hargreaves came up with the slogan ‘something good from Bury’ and his son, Clifford, designed the little ‘Bensons man’ figure that appeared on their distinctive tins, packaging and advertising.

Business continued during World War I, although by now the company had jettisoned the jam in order to focus on confectionery.  Bensons was always very much a family business and in 1921 Harry’s son Alan joined the firm.  In 1937 Alan was joined by his brother Clifford but being a highly qualified engineer he was called up during World War II.   Bensons continued during the war, having been nominated to produce goods for other firms, who would then add their own labels.   They continued to trade post-war, although by now they faced stiff competition from other brands.  Clifford, now back from designing Lancaster Bombers, became Sales Director and travelled overseas to investigate potential new markets.

In 1960 Bensons merged with the Liverpool-based firm Barker & Dobson, and later merged again, this time with the makers of Victory V’s, Nelsons.  Production continued until the late 1980s when Alma Scotland (whose brands included Squirrel and Keillers) took over.  In 1988 the decision was taken to cease manufacturing and Bensons closed its doors in June 1989.  The factory was demolished and in the early 1990s Aldi opened one of their first supermarkets in the area on the site, which still flourishes today.

Benson’s factory. Photo from our image archive

Throughout the 1960s and 70s,  the white paper bags overflowing with sweets and toffees of different colours and flavours were a familiar feature of local households and as a small child I can recall a lovely liquorice aroma filled the air when the wind was blowing in a particular direction.

Many thanks to the Hargreaves family for very kindly bringing in these splendid Benson’s tins and photographs to share with us, some of which are currently on display in our Searchroom, so come along and help yourself to some real toffees and be transported back in time…

Did you work at Benson’s?  Which sweet was your favourite?  …and what was Tower Sauce?

We would love to hear from you!

Helen (Chocolate Limes)


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Reunion of two cousins who died in the First World War

We’ve lost count of the number of coincidences and surprises we encounter through our work at Bury Archives but the reunion of two cousins, who lost their lives in France during World War One, will remain one of the most memorable. It began with a photo shoot to celebrate four generations’ family love and loyalty to their fallen ancestor, Albert Carter. Albert’s story can be read here and here and the resulting exhibition of images can be seen here in our search room. Little did we know that Albert’s story would expand to include another family member! And one, who with the help of social media, Heritage Lottery funding and the kindness of strangers, will never be forgotten.

WW1 Soldier

Albert Carter

Jennifer McDonough was the ‘stranger’ who spotted a small brooch with a WW1 soldier pictured on its front in a local charity shop. She bought the brooch, took it home and posted a picture of it on Facebook group ‘Bury Olden Days’ in the hope that someone would recognise the young man’s image. Of course it was a long shot, yet our Reference Librarian, Adam Carter, began a search through our newspaper images (3,000 of them extracted as part of our HLF project, Bury Remembers the First World War) to see if he could find a match. Within a couple of days of the brooch-picture being posted, Adam had identified the soldier’s image!

Brooch found in Bury Charity Shop

His name was John Nation and as the obituary informs us had a cousin, also killed in action, whose name was A Carter. The information was posted back into the group and Betty Chapman (descendant of Albert Carter) made the connection! Both Jennifer and Betty agreed that John Nation must be reunited with his cousin, Albert Carter, here in the search room at Bury Archives.

Obituary and Face Image from Bury Times

The story of the picture-brooch being identified captured the hearts of Social Media group ‘Bury Olden Days’ and generated 54 comments and numerous reactions – it captured our hearts too and we really enjoyed hosting the special get-together with Jennifer handing over the brooch to Betty. John Nation now sits beside his cousin, Albert Carter, in our beautifully lit corner display cabinet – if you are passing please pop in and take a look.

Jennifer hands over the brooch to Betty Chapman


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Home Learning Challenge: Genealogy

It’s a bit like being a detective when you start tracing your family history – this is what Harry Cain discovered when he visited the search room this morning to find out more about his maternal grandmother’s side of the family. Harry is from Christ Church Primary School in Walshaw and his genealogy research forms part of a Home Learning Challenge set by the school.

Harry ready to inspect the Rate Book

We always like to think the Archives is not just about ‘dusty old ledgers’ but today it was just that! We wanted Harry to take a break from the computer and experience what it’s like to be a real genealogical sleuth, armed with clues and searching through primary source material. The hefty volume Harry and his grandad searched through is a Rate Book for Radcliffe from 1924, in there they located Harry’s three time great grandfather, Richard Pye, who was an Insurance Agent and lived at Whittaker Street in Radcliffe.

Harry with Rate Book for Radcliffe from 1924

Harry with his Granddad

Harry uses a map from 1930 to help locate streets in the Rate Book

Harry was fascinated by the material we showed him and said he would love to come back to the archives to discover more and continue growing his family tree.



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Ancestral Photo Shoot: WW1 Soldier with descendants

We talked about Private Albert Carter from Bury (who lost his life during a raid on enemy trenches in July 1916) in a previous posting. Now we want to share some of the images of Albert and his descendants taken at a very special photo shoot held in the search room here at Bury Archives.

Four generations of the Chapman family with their ancestor, Albert Carter

We were pleased to meet and photograph Albert’s niece – Betty Chapman, his great nephew – Ian, his two times great niece – Holly, and little Amelia, Albert’s three times great niece. That’s four generations of Albert Carter’s family who were eager to communicate their love, respect and gratitude for this young man’s bravery and sacrifice carried out during the First World War.

There were so many emotions we set out to capture and we’re sure we went someway to achieving this in the resulting images – a selection of which can be seen below.

Betty Chapman, Ian Chapman with portrait of Uncle Albert

Four generations of hands with Albert’s medals

Ian Chapman – composite portrait with Uncle Albert

We also produced a short film to tell a little of Albert’s story alongside memories of the photo shoot:

By exploring archives and being inspired by them we can help connect communities to their heritage and create individual stories; it was a huge privilege for us to share the Chapman’s family history and capture new memories for them to be passed on to future generations.



To learn more about Albert Carter’s experiences of war, please read our earlier blog post!


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Bury Archives New Opening Times for 2018

As all our visitors are probably aware, 2017 has been a stressful time for the Borough’s library service (of which we’re a part of). But we are pleased to say we are preparing ourselves for a brand new start for 2018 and feel both positive and enthusiastic for the future of our Archive Service. For more information on the Library Service Review, please click here.

We close for Christmas at 5pm on Friday 22nd December and we reopen to the public on Tuesday 9th January. However, our team of four will be returning to work on Wednesday 3rd January where we will carry out our annual stock take. We will use these few days to address issues of preservation and labelling of collections, to improve access throughout the rest of the year and to prioritise collections for cataloguing.  It also gives us chance to do a ‘stock-check’ ensuring all material looked at by the public has made its way back to its original home in our stores.

Our new opening times as from Tuesday January 9th 2018 are as follows:

Monday: Closed all day
Tuesday: 10am – 3.30pm
Wednesday: 10am – 3.30pm
Thursday: 10am – 3.30pm
Friday: 10am – 3.30pm
Saturday: 10am – 1pm
Sunday: Closed

We will be open to the public during the above times. However, as our search room will only ever be supervised by one member of staff an appointment is essential if you wish to view any items that are stored in our Archive.

Appointments are available between the hours of 11am and 2pm Tuesday – Friday and between 11am and 12pm on Saturday.

Local and Family History resources (such as local history publications, parish transcripts) are available for self-directed research. Please note, however, that an appointment may be required to view items which are securely stored.

We would like to thank all our visitors, enquirers, volunteers and readers for supporting us during 2017 and wish you all a happy Christmas and a bright New Year.



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Hairy Archives: Mayors of Bury

Continuing with our celebrations for ‘Explore Archive Week’ we have taken the challenge to choose something hair-related from our collections. Bring on the marvellous moustachioed mayors of Bury! These hirsute gentleman are also helping us to spread awareness of the admirable work carried out by the Movember Foundation, a charity organisation which aims to tackle issues surrounding men’s health.

Commemorative photographs of Mayors of Bury 1889 – 1907

From top left to right: William Smethurst Mayor of Bury 1888 – 1889, George E Wike Mayor of Bury 1897 – 1899, John Ashworth Mayor of Bury 1892 – 1894.

From middle left to right: John Hall Mayor of Bury 1894 – 1896, Oliver Ormerod Walker Mayor of Bury 1896 – 1897, John Parks Mayor of Bury 1891 – 1893.

From bottom left to right: James Byron Mayor of Bury 1899 – 1900, James K Butcher Mayor of Bury 1903 – 1905, Lambert Fletcher Mayor of Bury 1905 – 1907.



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Explore Archives Week: The Rate Books

Bury Archives have signed up to an exciting campaign which will take place over the next seven days (18th – 26th November). Led by The National Archives, ‘Explore your Archive’ aims to create awareness of the essential role archives play in our community and the society at large.

To explore this theme, we decided to kick off by discussing which of our archives holdings are used most and what kind of historical information can be gleaned from studying them.

We looked no further than the Rate Books – easy to spot as they are lined up very neatly on our shelves in the store room just by the door for easy access!

Rate books for Bury

A regular user of this resource is Stephen Perry who was happy to tell us the role they’ve played in his own local and family history research:

Stephen consulting the Rate Books: Archive Search Room

The rate books, alongside maps, lease books and images from the Archive, have helped me chart the development of a residential and industrial area of Bury which borders Bell Lane, St Paul’s Church and Freetown where ‘cotton’ and ‘wool’ ruled! I spent my formative years in this area of Bury and have been able to piece together a picture of an area and its people which were once surrounded by open fields with Barn Brook at its centre. The open fields gave way to the building of hundreds of terraced houses and several mills and factories. The area had always been working class and saw post-industrial decline during the 1960s.It has been an interesting process, following those who have purchased land from the Earl of Derby Estate. Some of the individuals concerned I knew as a child

Bell Lane, Bury: 1958

What are Rate Books?

Rate books are accounts kept by local authorities for raising local taxes on a property. In order to collect this tax, a periodic valuation of all properties was needed which resulted in a Valuation List. Each time the rate was collected a rate book had to be made out to record who had paid and the amount. Bury Archives hold rate books for Bury from 1789, Pilkington from 1775, Prestwich and Ramsbottom 1910, Radcliffe 1866 and Tottington from 1862 (with gaps in all cases). Early books list all property owners rather than all properties (e.g. ‘Mr Smith, for all his cottages in Bury 6d’), although some will be named.  From the 1840s onwards, all properties are listed in geographical order, along with the names of the owners and occupiers (head of household only).
(The above taken from House History Leaflet – A guide by Bury Archives)

Stephen’s use of the rate books for Bury’s east ward displays a good example of how ‘local’ and ‘family’ history (often treated as separate disciplines) can combine to produce a rich context, answering questions of how our ancestors lived and worked. They have certainly helped Stephen to connect to his past and learn more about his heritage.




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Oral History: David Swithenbank

Listening to memories is something we’re very good at doing here in the search room. We hear so many of them during the course of our working day – from all you genealogists, local historians, volunteers, artists and general enquirers! We learn so much from your stories of the town, its people and buildings. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could capture all this history? How would we go about it? What equipment would we need? How would we conduct an oral history interview?

Artist David Swithenbank

We were lucky enough to find answers to these questions when we attended a two day Oral History Training Workshop conducted by Vox Pops in our search room. The training had been arranged by Bury Art Museum who had recently secured funding for an exciting project named ‘Bury Art Society: Archiving People & Place’. Right up our street – as it aims to create a Bury Art Society Archive including an interview with David Swithenbank, the current and longest serving president of the society. And that’s where I come in! It was such a fabulous opportunity to be asked to interview David, especially when I found out his love for wildlife and folk music; both passions of mine.

David’s Sculptures of the Hoopoe, a bird he first saw in India


We learned that this is a key stage for any Oral History Project. My research into David’s life and work began with a pleasurable couple of hours reading his beautiful book Hill Norway. From this I learned of his love of poetry, folk traditions and, of course, his affinity with wildlife and the natural landscape. Part of the preparation for the interview included an informal meet-up with David at his home (and place of the interview); this was the perfect ice-breaker and a way of calculating journey times and parking areas; I wanted to ensure I was punctual and unflustered on the day of the interview.

David at his desk

Preparing Questions

This was very much a collaborative process and guided by the aims of the project which is to leave a legacy of David’s artwork in the form of a digitised archive. David’s narrative would have to complement this and so questions about his painting, sculpting and role as President of Bury Art Society were essential.

The Interview

Although the training session had given advice on recording equipment and how to use it, this particular interview was being filmed and recorded by a professional film-making team which left me to concentrate on my interviewee. David Swithenbank was an absolute joy to interview: lyrical, entertaining, funny, serious and completely passionate about wildlife, art, folk music and dance – I was enthralled from start to finish.

Behind the scenes


As mentioned, I had already read David’s book Hill Norway a few days before interviewing him. This offered me a direct comparison of a written documentary and that of a spontaneous spoken narrative on the same subject. To me the overriding difference is an obvious one – to be able to hear someone’s voice, with all the nuances and subtleties of accent and dialect, offers a far more intimate and personal connection to the past than the composition of words on a page.

All photographs ©Wendy Gradwell

A film of the interview will be featured in a forthcoming exhibition at Bury Art Museum. Please follow the link for further information:


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Ancestor Project: Albert Carter

We might never have the chance of meeting our ancestors but sharing what they’ve left behind could be the next best thing…

This is the sentiment behind our new project which connects members of the community to their past by combining photographs, props and film footage in such a way that it brings their stories to life.

Betty Chapman being interviewed by BBC Radio Manchester on the day of the Photo Shoot

Our first participant is Betty Chapman, who along with her son, Ian, told us the story of their ancestor, Albert Carter.

WW1 Soldier

Albert Carter

Creative Historian, Scott Carter-Clavell, who has been assisting us with the project, has uncovered some facts whilst researching Albert’s military history:

The story starts years before when an old tin was found in the back of a cupboard by a family member. Within the tin were medals and a memorial plaque.

Tin box containing medals and notebook

The name on the medals and plaque is inscribed Albert Carter, who was Betty’s maternal uncle.  With this information and service number inscribed on the medals, Betty researched who this man was and what happened to him. A notebook kept by Albert, describing his departure from Bury and movements through France, years of research and perseverance saw more and more come to light culminating with a visit to the War graves in 2003.

Albert’s Medals

Albert was born on 29th July 1896 to Isiah and Ellen Carter of Woolfold. On the 1911 census the Carters were living with Ellen’s mother and two siblings at 72 Crostons Rd (now demolished); Isiah being employed in a Papermill while Albert was listed on the census as a Croft Boy at a Cotton bleach works with his elder brother, Herbert. Following this, the family moved to 38 Livesy St, Elton and afterwards to 380 Rochdale Old Rd, Bury.

1911 Census

After the declaration of war on 4th August 1914, Albert Joined up the following month, one of the many from local businesses who volunteered during Kitchener’s drive for recruitment.  At the time Albert had been employed at Messrs Horridge & Cornell at the Bolholt Works.

September 1914 saw a huge surge of recruitment; on 3rd  September alone, 33,000 men joined the colours nationwide. In the industrial towns recruitment drives did the rounds of various industries with some companies publishing the monthly total of volunteers from amongst their workforces.

Albert had enlisted in the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers (No5 Platoon, X Company). After leaving for Southport on 11th November for training, moving on in the following April for Folkestone.

In his notebook Albert recorded:

…. We left Southport on 18/4/15 arrived at Boulogne at 1 o clock on 4/5/15, we then walked it to a rest camp at Boulogne and it was pouring down all the time we were wet. We arrived at 2:30 in the morning of 4/5/15, we left the rest at 4 in the afternoon and walked it to the station which was about 5 miles away and the sun was boiling all the time…

WW1 notebook

Albert’s Notebook

After another period of training at Arques lasting about two months, they were sent to the front line in July 1915. Albert also mentions a number of casualties suffered by his company in artillery bombardments of their trenches.

Less than a year later Albert was one of 56 Other Ranks and 4 officers selected for two weeks’ special training behind the line for raiding the German trenches.

Trench raiding was a brutal business  – often conducted during the night  – to grab prisoners for intelligence gathering, to take out machine gun posts and reconnoitre enemy positions. Silence being a necessity in such operations meant that many raiders left their rifles behind and used their own home-made weapons and later some were produced professionally on both sides. These were primitive looking clubs with spiked iron heads, though some were little more than wooden clubs with nails or studs hammered into the head.

In the prelude to the opening of the battle of the Somme a few miles to the south – further up the line – there were diversionary raids across no man’s land attacking enemy trenches and positions in an attempt to divert German eyes away from events to the south.

One of six such attacks was planned for the 28th June near Blaireville, south of Arras. For four days prior, the Royal Artillery had systematically shelled the enemy’s front and rear areas. Late afternoon, on the 28th, after much delay due to the wind, Royal Engineers opened the valves on the gas cylinders and the assault began. The Artillery opened on enemy frontline again before switching to the support trenches at 5:35pm.

At this time the Raiding parties went over the top. The 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers raiders were split into three detachments under the overall command of Captain Bloy. The sections were led by Capt. Hutchinson, Lieutenant Young and Second-Lieutenant Ainscow, all three groups suffered casualties crossing no man’s land.

The right-hand party got to the German trench and in bombing out two dugouts with hand grenades were themselves attacked with the same weapons from German Soldiers defending their positions. The party was then ordered to retire. The other two groups entered the enemy line but fared little better.

Lt Ainscow, in the central party, led five men up an enemy communication trench for forty yards until German troops began throwing hand grenades. Ainscow was wounded and later captured. His men were ordered to retire.

The party on the left led by 2nd Lt Young was reduced to nine men in the German trench and found the way barricaded, which did not hold them back for long as they climbed over and continued throwing hand grenades down dugouts. It was in this action that Pte. Hutchinson won the Victoria Cross for holding back the enemy whilst the other men evacuated the trench and returned across no man’s land.

Albert did not return and was reported missing.

A letter received by the family from Major J Barnsdale reads: You have now heard the bad news that Pte. Carter is reported missing. Some day you will learn the whole story of the magnificent work done the battalion on the day he did not return. It is my sincere hope that when you do hear the story it may be from Pte. Carter himself.…

It was at some point during the action that Pte Albert Carter, aged 20, lost his life. It is impossible to say whether this was in no man’s land or in enemy trenches as Albert has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras memorial.

Albert’s Memorial Plaque

Still remembered by his family a hundred years on, one of the missing who will never be forgotten.

Photo Shoot of the Chapman family in the search room Bury Archives

To think, behind every memorial, behind every inscribed name there will be a story; a family like Albert’s who might never know of their forebears’ sacrifice. A sobering thought, especially when beneath the Menin Gate or the Thiepval memorial are the many thousands of others around the globe.

Scott Carter-Clavell

We will be displaying images from this very special photo shoot in our search room during the next few months. And a short film will be played on our open day event on Saturday 14th October 2pm – 4pm. All welcome! 




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