The Day The Circus Came To Town.


Local newspapers are available on microfilm.

It is a funny old thing when we are asked to perform a piece of research using our local newspapers; you just can’t help it when your eyes and attention are swayed by other interesting snippets of information, pictures, adverts and headlines! But, you know what, when this happens it adds to our teams local knowledge and that will, in turn, help with future enquiries. Every little bit of information helps!

This was exactly the scenario when the lovely Christine – Local and Family History Library Assistant – was performing her latest piece of research. She was thrilled when she came across this article detailing Broncho Bill’s Circus’s visit to Bury in 1929.


Extracted from The Bury Times April 27th 1929


You can smell the grease paint; hear the band and the animals, and feel the crowds excitement! The following extracts from the article sum up the Circus’s impact on Bury beautifully:

‘A circus in fact has a strange fascination for young and old alike, and wherever it appears eager crowds flock to witness deeds of daring. Such was the case on Thursday, when Bury was favoured with a visit from the original Broncho Bill’s great Wild West exhibition and mammoth circus. During the whole of the day the fairground, the centre of attraction, was a scene of great animation. The mushroom-like growth of the huge marquee is ever a source of wonderment, and the circus derives much of its fascination from the fact that it comes and goes “like a ghost in the night.”

‘The brass band , under the efficient leadership of R. Goaling, A.F.M, played a series of popular selections throughout the performance, adding to the attractiveness of a show which will long be remembered by those who were privileged to be present.’

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Back to the 1990s – Images from the Bury Times on Display

Archives preservation is not just about caring for records from long ago! Yes it’s always exciting to handle photographs from a far distant era but it can be just as fascinating to study and preserve images from more recent times: The 1990s to be exact! Bury Archives invites you back to the decade which brought us Britpop, the first Harry Potter book and the rise of the World Wide Web!


Our new Display takes our visitors on a mini time-travel ride to the end of the last millennium with a stunning collection of beautiful glossy images all published in The Bury Times – just before digital replaced film for many newspapers. As a nation of happy-snappers we are constantly reminded to back-up our digital files and many archives are now preparing for the efficient transferring, storing and presenting of their ‘born-digital’ records.



Of course, digital files get corrupted and hard drives fail, precious memories get accidentally deleted and perhaps the only way to ensure an image lasts a lifetime and beyond is to print it! With this in mind these fabulous prints – produced just over 20 years ago – take on extra resonance for us; with careful preservation they should still survive the decades and even centuries while their digital counterparts – which are always going to be subject to technological change – might not.



To ensure the photographs do not suffer damage while on display, they are carefully supported using acid-free card. Specialist transparent tape is used to secure the image to the card which prevents the corners curling while they are on display. We’d like to thank Susan Lord, curator from Bury Art Museum, who very kindly offered us her advice and instruction on preparing archival documents for display – it was a bit fiddly securing the photograph to the card but we got there in the end!




Did you know that we hold the Bury Times on microfilm from 1855 to the present day? This is an extremely useful resource for family researchers and local historians alike. Be careful though, looking through all those old newspapers can be addictive – you never know what you might find!! For more information please refer to our summary of catalogue resources.




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Bury Postcards

As you are probably aware we are really proud of our image archive and take every opportunity to show off what we have!! To celebrate the New Year we have two exciting projects coming your way! A fabulous new display of more recent photographs all published in the Bury Times during the 1990s (more of this in a later posting) and a beautiful pack of eight postcards on sale here at the archives.


Included in the pack are four prints from original art work by the talented Lee Crocker: vibrant and lively watercolour renditions of local landmarks you will instantly recognise plus a very special lino-cut print of Peel Tower! The rest of the pack contains images of Bury, Prestwich and Ramsbottom from a variety of decades. The postcards will soon be available in other outlets in and around Bury – a great gift for relatives who have moved out of the area or something for you Buryites to keep and treasure; a memento of the town we all love.







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Christine – Volunteering for the Borough Archive

Hi my name is Christine. Having made the decision to retire from full time work two years ago, I discovered that Bury Archives were looking for volunteers to work on the WW1 project. Having studied History and English, a keen interest in my own family history and having a little more ‘me’ time, I thought this opportunity might be right up my street. I saw it as a way of using my free time in a meaningful way whilst giving something back to the community. I completed the paperwork, went along for an informal chat and that was the start of an interesting alternative to paid work.


Initially I worked on the WW1 project, extracting information from local newspapers about soldiers, their experience’s and all too often their demise. Every time I captured an image of a soldier and with one click, saved it to the pen drive, I felt a sense of how quickly such young lives had been snuffed out in a split second. Poems, letters, advertisements and the effect the war was having on industries made interesting reading and added a real sense of the effect of war on people and places. having worked on this project for over twelve months it was time for a change.


Other volunteers were steadily working their way through a mountain of archive boxes containing a whole range of information totally unrelated to the WW1 project. My next task was to input the information they extracted onto a data base. week after week I sat quietly on the computer typing away and as soon as I saw the end of one file, the volunteers had catalogued yet more!


Three months ago I was asked if I would like to get involved in the latest project, Made in Greater Manchester. This involves volunteers from various Archives across greater Manchester working together as a team to catalogue specific archives from a locally based company. I have attended two morning courses held at Manchester central Library, one an insight into cataloguing and the other about digitisation of images and documents. Both courses were informative and also gave me the opportunity to meet other volunteers across Manchester. It seemed strange revisiting  central library again after so long as this was where I had my first job after leaving school in 1970.


Back to the MiGM project. In Bury we are working on the archives held for Thomas Robinson and Company Limited who were bleachers and dyers. I have had my first taste of opening an archive box and wading through the papers and samples looking for items of interest. I have found many samples of materials including some flannelette printed with little characters e.g. Bo Peep, rabbits etc. which transported me back in time when such material was used for children’s pyjamas back in the 50’s and 60’s. Another interesting discovery was that Thomas Robinson were forward thinking and clearly valued the importance of its employees’ suggestions. I have found several suggestion slips completed by individuals and if management felt the ideas were viable, the Company gave the employee a bonus. I am really looking forward to finding out more about the company at the archive boxes reveal more gems as the weeks go by.



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Love Dickens at Christmas!

We always look forward to the Christmas decorations going up here at Bury Libraries! And Library Staff have really made this year’s display look especially festive by creating strings of beautifully crafted snowflakes to drape across the Children’s library; lovely twinkly lights, a Christmas tree and Santa’s little helpers have transformed the space into something quite delightful.  Why not come along to our Winter Wonderland where you can choose a book to read over the Christmas holidays?!


Chiming nicely with the festivities in the library, Archives have another treat in store for our customers! Right next to the Christmas tree in the Search Room we have our newly installed Christmas Display cabinet which contains … wait for it the genuine signature of Mr Charles Dickens!! This is held within a Victorian autograph book which forms part of our Hutchinson collection. Dickens just loved performing and regularly journeyed throughout Britain and beyond on reading tours in which he would read sections of his writings to what must have been an enthralled audience. Presumably, it was from one of these Readings where the signature was obtained.



Published in 1843, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol  became an instant bestseller and sold 6,000 copies on Christmas Day 1843. It would certainly have been a favourite amongst the many people who attended Dickens’ Reading Performances. Sadly (for me anyway who reads the novel every year!) the quote accompanying Dickens’ signature and photograph is not from A Christmas Carol but from The Old Curiosity Shop. Some may be moved by the lines quoted, others may think they are overly sentimental but we are absolutely thrilled to have on view the ‘death of little Nell’ written so beautifully by the hand of the great author himself!



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Radcliffe Library Archive Display


Here in the Archive department, we are always really pleased when we find a way to display the Borough’s historic documents within the communities where they were originally created. This month we have had the opportunity to temporarily transfer one of our Heritage Lottery funded – Bury Remembers WW1 – cases to Radcliffe Library; to display some letters from the WW1 period.



Received by Close Methodist Church; the letters express the gratitude  of local soldiers for parcels and correspondence sent to them by the congregation. The display case houses only a few examples of over one hundred letters that have been donated into the care of the Borough’s Archive.

You may notice that the documents on display are copies, rather than the originals. The Archive’s principle aim is to protect and preserve all documents that help to tell the story of the whole Borough. As this moveable, temporary display case does not provide enough protection for original documents; we have produced high quality ‘like for like’ surrogates to enable the display to be installed in their home town. As with all handwriting, some is easier to read than others, so we have produced transcriptions of all of the letters on display to accompany the case. We have included a transcription of one of the letters here;  if you can’t get in to Radcliffe library and wish to have a copy of them all please email:


Dec 8th 1915

Dear Mr. Charles,

Please convey my heartiest thanks to the members of the Sunday School and Church for their splendid gift of socks, mits etc., also for the Season’s greetings, which I most heartily reciprocate.

Trust you are in the best of health.

Kindest regards,

Yours very sincerely


In future months we will share more of this collection of letters with you. We will be using different themes to guide the our choice of items for display. This time we were lucky enough to have an example of some knitting produced by Alma Gardner, a proud resident of Radcliffe Hall for her whole life, 92 years. Sadly Alma passed away in October 2015 so we have worked with her daughter, Carol Kemp, to choose letters from 1915 that mentioned the packages and the knitted items that some – perhaps all – local soldiers received.


Archive volunteer Carol Kemp and her mum Alma Gardner

We hope you enjoy this display. Let us know your feedback or ideas for future displays, by commenting on this blog, sending an email to or by having a chat to the library staff.



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Elvis has left the Building …

The last days of Save Records

Bury Indoor Market recently bade farewell to Lawless’s, an indoor market institution since the 1960s, and on 29 October another long-serving market trader pulled down the shutters for the last time.  Save Records, since 1968 the purveyors of all things recorded, be it vinyl, cassette, CD and DVD, will, like a Betamax video, be no more.




Here at Bury Archives we believe that it’s really important to continue to capture and record what is happening in and around Bury right now, as one day in the future someone will be looking back on 2016 as “olden times” and maybe wondering, “…what were these places called shops?”



In 1968 the first Save outlets were opened by footballer Simon Jones, a goalkeeper (hence the name!) on Rochdale and Lincoln indoor markets.  In 1974 Save Records opened in Bury’s indoor market, where it has remained up until the present day.   Maxine began working there in 1978 and has seen numerous stalls around it come and go, like the changing fashions in music-lovers’ listening habits as records and tapes (and the 8-track cartridge, anyone?) gave way to CDs and MP3s.

img_0634‘Elvis’, the portrait by local artist and music-lover Eddie Kilner, was commissioned by Simon.  A painter of landscapes, Eddie was apprehensive about painting a portrait.  However, as we can see, his worries were unfounded and the portrait became an integral part of the stall’s identity.  Despite several offers, Maxine is keeping him!

img_0627The stall built up a regular and loyal following, many of whom have been coming here over the past few weeks to reminisce and grab a bargain amongst the well-stocked racks of vintage vinyl, which are being continually topped up.




Maxine and I reminisced also, about other record shops of Bury that have come and gone: Javelin, Disc and Tape Exchange, Muse, Vibes (where I spent many a happy hour loitering on a Saturday afternoon back in the 1980s) and Our Price and not to mention the well-stocked record departments of our local Boots and NSS Newsagents.   Of all of them, just HMV remains.  Maxine’s own musical tastes vary  “…from Celine Dion to Def Leppard” – which would be a perfect name for a record store!




By one of those happy coincidences, during our visit, a presentation of flowers, balloons and gifts was made to Maxine by other stallholders as a mark of their appreciation.




In recent years, Save’s other outposts have gradually disappeared, with just the Bury branch flying the flag since the closure of its Rochdale stall in 2005.  Ironically Save’s closure comes at a time when good old vinyl is enjoying something of a comeback, with recent initiatives such as ‘Record Store Day’ attracting wide media coverage.


Cherish your local record shop!










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Access Free Online History Magazines Thanks To Bury Libraries!


Bury Archives and Local Studies are proud to be part of Bury Libraries and a fantastic new online magazine offer – provided by Bury Libraries – may just help to give your local and family history research a boost; whilst also saving you pounds to boot!




There are loads of e-magazines now on available for library members to access free of charge. In amongst the huge array of titles there are quite a few that will interest amateur historians as well as local and family history enthusiasts. There is even something for younger history readers! Each title has the up to date issue, as well as back copies, available to download.




In order to access this fabulous resource you just need to be a member of Bury Libraries and then follow the instructions on the Bury Council web site.

Happy reading!



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Photograph of the Month: The Derby Hall

Last week we were approached by Nick Smale, Marketing Manager for The Met in Bury, who wondered whether we had any historic images of The Met building under its former name, The Derby Hall. Nick informed us that The Met refurbishment is almost complete and thought that some framed pictures of the original interior of the building would look fabulous on the walls of the newly transformed theatre.


We came across this magnificent image of a group of gentleman, dressed in their finery, getting ready to dine in The Derby Hall. The wording on the reverse of the image states that the picture was taken in 1910 and the event is described as ‘Lord Derby’s Rent Dinner’. Lord Derby is seated at the top table underneath the balcony with a plant and menu in front of him; he’s the one with the darker hair and suit!


We’ve produced a copy of the photograph and, along with images of the original plans of the building from 1849, are ready for Nick to collect. We can’t wait to see them framed on the walls of The Met when it reopens in a few weeks’ time.





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Manchester Voices comes to Radcliffe

On a sunny Saturday morning at the end of August, I travelled to Radcliffe Library to record the visit of the Manchester Voices project, this being the ‘umbrella’ term for a series of research projects investigating and celebrating the accents and dialects of Greater Manchester.


Dr Rob Drummond (second right) and his team


Manchester Voices is the idea of Dr Rob Drummond and Dr Erin Carrie from the Department of Linguistics at Manchester Metropolitan University.  They aim to capture the different dialects of Greater Manchester by asking people questions about their different accents and dialects, and how they feel their accent shapes their sense of local identity.  Over two weeks Dr Drummond, Dr Carrie and their two MMU student assistants toured around the region in their splendid red van, enticing people aboard with the prospect of their voice being captured for posterity, as well as supporting academic research into understanding how the way in which we speak helps to make us who we are.


Ready to go…


Carol Kemp, Bury Archives Volunteer

As Archivist and keen advocate of the preservation of local customs and heritage, I duly clambered aboard to record my contribution.img_8865Once settled in with just Chester the talking laptop as my guide, I tapped the screen and began to speak… The questions posed concerned identity, belonging and how I felt about my accent and where I lived.  It’s hard not to feel a little self-conscious, with the awareness that I was occasionally lapsing, Hyacinth Bucket-style, into my ‘posh telephone voice’.  I soon snapped out of it however, and began to relax and enjoy the interrogation!  I recalled when, whilst briefly living ‘down South’ in the late 1980s, I reduced the office to hysterics when I asked if anyone wanted ‘a brew’.  “Ooh you sound just like someone off Coronation Street” they said!  This was an interesting observation to me as I had never thought of my accent as being particularly broad (although on several occasions I have been asked if I am from Blackburn).  To this day I am also unsure as to which Coronation Street character I reminded them of…


Captured for posterity!

The second part of the project will be the creation of a Greater Manchester Dialect Map, an interactive resource whereby people can describe their own dialect and how they think people speak in other areas.


Next stop Abraham Moss!

For more information about the project and to contribute to the Dialect Map, visit




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