The Boys and the Lake District Holocaust Project

By Hayley Shaw *

From 1945, 732 child Holocaust survivors came to Britain, often collectively known and referred to here as ‘The Boys’; there were only 80 girls amongst them. The children came to Britain under the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation (CBF), later World Jewish Relief. A founding member of the CBF and chairman of the Jewish Refugees Committee, Leonard Montefiore, made applications to the government for permission to invite children to the country. Such applications were initiated after Montefiore visited Paris in May 1945. Shocked after seeing the first arrivals of camp survivors, he believed something had to be done to help the victims.  In June 1945 the Home Office gave permission for 1,000 children under 16 to be brought to England for recuperation and ultimate re-emigration overseas. The Committee for the Care of Children from Concentration Camps was soon established to monitor and care for the children.


Children in Auschwitz Concentration Camp (courtesy of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

In August 1945, 300 of the 732 children came to England from Theresienstadt concentration camp. My Masters dissertation focused on these 300 children, exploring how they, and other child survivors, were rehabilitated in the north of England. They were housed in Windermere at Calgarth Estate, an unused wartime village that had accommodated workers in the aircraft industry, and their families. In Windermere the children began their new life; they were taught educational lessons, the English language, how to break habits learnt in the camps, and the presence of an English Rabbi allowed religious teaching and the Jewish ritual to be maintained. From Windermere the children were sent to hostels in cities such as Manchester, Liverpool and London. The 300 children had left Calgarth Estate by early 1946 and it had achieved its aim of being the children’s first step into rehabilitation and a new life in England.


Terezin-Theresienstadt Camp (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

The Lake District Holocaust Project (LDHP), located in Windermere Library, was established in 2013 to promote and preserve the history of The Boys. Following a programme titled “The Orphans who Survived the Concentration Camps”, aired on BBC One in 2010, a small permanent exhibition was located in Windermere Library. Large success led to the space being enlarged and improved in 2013 for larger displays and a separate exhibition space for temporary exhibitions. Prior to the establishment, eight years of intense research, education work, oral history interviews and various trips to European countries such as Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic took place. Such work and commitment set the level of effort and work that continues by the Director of the LDHP, Trevor Avery, and Senior Adviser Rosemary Smith.

The LDHP has done large amounts of work towards the preservation of The Boys memory and the history of Calgarth Estate, I have picked out several instances to reflect this. In August 2018 Trevor Avery appeared on Who Do You Think You Are? Robert Rinder. Rinder is the grandson of Morris Malenicky, one of The Boys. Rinder appeared on the programme and traced the contrasting experiences of two of his grandparents who came to the UK seeking a new life. As part of the filming, Rinder met with Trevor Avery and explored documents which gave information into his grandfather’s life in Windermere and subsequent journey to London. In November 2018 the story of The Boys in Windermere was presented by Helen Mark on an episode of BBC Radio 4’s Open Country series, named The Windermere Boys. The episode included conversations with Trevor Avery and two of The Boys, Sam Laskier and Ike Alterman.

From 15th to 27th July 2019 an archaeological scan and dig took place on the site of Calgarth Estate, now The Lakes School. The project was named ‘From Troutbeck to Treblinka’ and I was lucky enough to take part in the dig. It was led by Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls, Professor of conflict archaeology at Staffordshire University. Numerous artefacts of interest were found such as a tube of baby curling gel, a keyhole and patterned china. The dig was filmed for Digging for Britain WW2 – Troutbeck Bridge to Treblinka. Rosemary Smith documented the dig, and a diary of the process and findings can be found in the further reading section below.

In January 2020, The Windermere Children, a film based on The Boys and their experience in Windermere aired, was commissioned by the BBC to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The LDHP was the principal source of information about the film and its accompanying documentary The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words. The film focuses on some of The Boys in particular: Ike Alterman, Ben Helfgott, Arek Hersh, Sam Laskier and Harry (Chaim) Olmer, exploring their personal experiences. The accompanying documentary further tells the story of the rehabilitation of the children in Windermere and includes first-hand testimony from Ike, Ben, Arek, Sam and Harry, covering their experiences in the Holocaust and their arrival and life in Britain.

Alongside these large projects, the LDHP continues to host regular events such as the ‘In conversation with…’ series which has included talks with Sam Gontarz, Ike Alterman and Mala Tribich and commemorations to mark Holocaust Memorial Day. Throughout my Masters study I was lucky enough to gain strong working relationships with both Trevor and Rosemary and gained an insight into the incredible work they do on a daily basis to ensure the memory and history of The Boys lives on through the exhibition and other projects. The LDHP and its success is a credit to them and to their determination.

*  Hayley is starting her Ph.D at MMU this September.

Further reading and information:

Gilbert, M., The Boys: Triumph over Adversity (London: Phoenix, 1997).

Hersh, A., A Detail of History (Nottingham: Beth Shalom, 1998).

Kushner, T., and Know, K., Refugees in an Age of Genocide: Global, National and Local Perspectives during the Twentieth Century (London: Franks Cass, 1999).

Kushner, T., ‘Wandering Lonely Jews in the English Countryside’, Jewish Culture and History, vol.12, (2010).

Wellbeing and heritage research in times of closure

By Amy Luck and Dr. Faye Sayer, Department of History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University

The current devastating outbreak of COVID-19, lockdown and social distancing measures have undoubtedly had a substantial impact on the heritage sector. Most museums, archaeology and heritage sites around the world are currently closed. Many heritage professionals have been furloughed. Fundraising and/or admission income has been affected. The prospect of attempting to adapt to reopening in a way that complies with constantly changing public health guidance means the immediate future is looking very unclear for the heritage sector and those researching and working in public history and heritage.

Dr Faye Sayer and I are no exception to this; our research focuses on assessing the impact of engaging with heritage on individual’s wellbeing. Heritage provides a role in helping people form connections, bringing together communities and creates feelings of shared identity. Heritage can help to rebuild communities and support both individual, community and societal wellbeing. Previous research by Dr Sayer has shown that taking part in archaeological excavations positively impacts individual’s wellbeing; participants were more interested, connected, happier and satisfied after taking part. We are currently expanding upon this research through multiple projects; my AHRC funded PhD research investigates whether visiting heritage sites impacts visitor wellbeing and Dr Sayer’s British Academy funded ‘Heritage and Well-being: Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ international project looks to understand and compare how diverse heritage activities, including museums, heritage sites and community archaeological excavations in a range of cultural contexts shape individual and communal wellbeing.

The ‘Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ project will comparatively analyse quantitative data from public participants from nine diverse public heritage projects from developing and developed countries around the world (UK, USA and India) to access the impact of participation in heritage on well-being and the link to social, cultural, economic and political factors. The project’s research methodology, developed and piloted in the UK and USA, employs quantitative wellbeing measures such as the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Modified Visual Analogue Scale (MVAS), to identify the role heritage plays in enhancing well-being.

Our current research activities would look very different if it not for COVID-19; we would be liaising with heritage professionals, planning research visits to the USA and India, and conducting research on-site at archaeological excavations, museums and heritage sites in the UK. These activities are not currently possible, and we currently do not know when they might be possible again. Heritage sites are unlikely to reopen in the immediate future and when they do, they are likely to be operating differently due to measures such as social distancing and introducing timed ticketed entry to ensure control of visitor numbers.[i]

However, despite these obstacles, heritage research is still very much possible. The pandemic has even inspired new research which will complement existing ongoing research projects such as our Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing project.

COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of the UK population; life satisfaction is lower, and stress and anxiety levels are higher than usual reported averages.[ii] At the same time, heritage organisations have had to close and move activities online where possible. A survey of 650 museums in 41 countries conducted in April 2020 by the Network of European Museum Organisations indicated that more than 60% of museums have increased their online presence since closing due to social distancing and 40% have experienced a large upsurge in online visits.[iii]

With virtual heritage becoming the main way to engage with, learn about and connect with the past, it is important to understand the impact this has on users. As a result, we have launched the ‘Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing’ project.

Using the same methodology as the ‘Creating Healthier Societies Through Heritage’ project and adding a qualitative element (free comment space on surveys), this research will seek to:

  • Evaluate how engagement with virtual heritage sites can impact visitor wellbeing.
  • Understand how different types of virtual heritage sites and diverse demographics of visitors positively and/or negatively impact on subjective wellbeing.
  • Identify what elements of virtual heritage provide the greatest positive change to wellbeing.
  • Compare the impact of virtual heritage to that of in-person heritage experiences on wellbeing.

We hope that the findings of this research will allow both heritage and wellbeing organisations to ascertain the impact of a variety of online heritage on wellbeing, both during and after a pandemic and compare differences on wellbeing on virtual and physical visits. This could be used to ascertain the cost-effectiveness of future programmes and activities.

We are actively seeking participants to take part in this project. If you are interested in taking part, please visit:

We hope that our research will demonstrate that engagement with heritage is as important as ever. Whilst the global pandemic has undoubtedly impacted all our lives over recent months, we have and will continue to adapt. This holds true for the heritage sector too and as the way people are accessing heritage changes, we academics and researchers need to adapt also.

[i] Jim Richardson, ‘How Might Museums Look Different When They Reopen After Coronavirus?’, [accessed 18.6.20]

[ii] UCL COVID-19 Social Study, ‘Results’, [accessed 18.6.20]

[iii] Network of European Museum Organisations, ‘Survey on the impact of the COVID-19 situation on museums in Europe’, [accessed 18.6.20]

New Online: Thomas Barritt of Manchester

In collaboration with Chetham’s Library, Manchester, Dr Peter N. Lindfield FSA of MMU’s History Research Centre and Centre for Gothic Studies, has, as a Visiting Curator at Chetham’s, produced a series of online videos and an interactive map exploring the life and antiquarian work of Thomas Barritt: Manchester’s very own Georgian saddler and antiquary, available here.
Screenshot 2020-07-03 at 12.23.14
Exploring Barritt’s interest in collecting historic objects, conducting surveys of historic architecture, recording pedigrees and armorials, and creating his own imaginative heraldic and antiquarian art and artefacts, Dr Lindfield expands upon his two published journal essays on Barritt and he makes freely accessible over eight years of research into one of Manchester’s significant, but largely forgotten Georgian characters.
Dr Lindfield and the Librarian of Chetham’s Library will be running an online colloquium on Barritt and antiquarianism later in 2020.


For further details follow Peter on Twitter @PeterNLindfield



New Exhibition: Russia’s Second Patriotic War in posters, photographs and postcards.

Dr. Catherine Danks has worked with Manchester Central Library to launch the virtual exhibition: Russia’s Second Patriotic War in posters, photographs and postcards.

Screenshot 2020-07-03 at 12.15.21For Russia August 1914 marked the start of their Second Patriotic War. Just over a century before in 1812 Russia had triumphed over Napoleon in the Patriotic War. One the eve of war in the summer 1914 the Imperial Russian Empire was far from united. Even previously loyal non-Russian subjects were increasingly alienated, rapid industrialisation and continuing rural backwardness had also contributed to growing social and political unrest. 1905 had been marked by peasant uprisings, mutinies in the armed forces and strikes. In July 1914 on the eve of war, 80% of the factories and commercial centres of the capital city St. Petersburg were closed by a general strike and the Tsar-Emperor Nicholas II was jeered.

This exhibition focuses on the first two years of the Second Patriotic War, 1914-1916. It examines the images of Russia, its history and culture presented in posters and postcards used to mobilise support for the war, raise charitable donations and to sell war bonds. These images stress Russia’s endurance and long history of defeating invaders; they draw upon heroic figures from medieval rulers to contemporary Cossacks, Russia’s Orthodox Christian identity and the solid good sense and tenacity of ordinary people. They also demonise the enemy Germans, Austro-Hungarians and Turks as evil, stupid and cowardly. Russia’s enemies for their part present Russians as cowardly drunkards. Photographs from 1914 show Russian troops valiantly heading to war, but despite some successes, no amount of positive propaganda could maintain national unity and support for Tsar Nicholas, who was forced to abdicate in March 1917.

The exhibition is hosted by the History Research Centre, MMU and Manchester Central Library:


Manchester Metropolitan University

The St. Petersburg Association for International Cooperation

The Manchester-Saint Petersburg Friendship Society

Russian National Library, St. Petersburg


Football, Plans and Public History: Art of Ayresome and taking the archives to the wider world

By Dr Tosh Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan University. 

 The searchroom of an archive is unlikely to be the first place many associated with the football fan reminiscing about past matches, players and a long-lost stadium. Yet, by drawing upon the rich sporting collections of Teesside Archives spanning club records, oral histories, plans, photographs and programmes, the recently launched Art of Ayresome online exhibition has helped celebrate the heritage of Middlesbrough FC’s former Ayresome Park home by taking this rarely seen material into the homes of Boro fans around the world.

‘Engineering Archie’

Amongst the highlights on the sporting collections are a number of Ayresome Park football stadium plans by world-acclaimed stadium designer Archibald Leitch, recently digitised and currently on show as part of the Art of Ayresome online exhibition. Bringing together work from acclaimed architects, cartoonists, illustrators, painters, photographers and sculptors, Art of Ayresome features numerous historic items and explore the story of Ayresome Park in a creative, engaging and unique way.

6 - Archibald Leitch's Ayresome Park plans from Teesside Archives' collections feature in Art of Ayresome

Archibald’s Leitch’s Ayresome Park plans from Teesside Archives’ collections feature in the Art of Ayresome.

Born in Glasgow in 1865, Leitch has been described as ‘the world’s first ever specialist designer of football grounds’.[1] ‘Engineering Archie’ designed a number of Britain’s iconic football grounds including Arsenal’s former Highbury home, Glasgow Rangers’ Ibrox Stadium and Manchester United’s Old Trafford. In 1903, Leitch’s Glasgow practice was commissioned to design Boro’s new ‘Ayresome Park’ home as the club made plans to leave the Linthorpe Road Ground. Leitch’s designs for Ayresome Park that have survived and can be found in Teesside Archives form part of a wider collection of plans that chronicle the initial construction of the stadium in 1903 and subsequent enhancements and redevelopments over the decades.

Archie’s Ayresome on show

The Art of Ayresome online exhibition, hosted on the Middlesbrough FC website, features Archibald’s Leitch’s original 1903 plans for Ayresome Park and are the oldest works in the exhibition. The plans provide the visitor with an architectural introduction to Ayresome Park and a detailed, unique perspective on Middlesbrough Football Club’s move to their new home at the beginning of the twentieth century. The plans allow the visitor to explore in minute detail – down to the very foundations – the place that became a central part of life for the club, town and hundreds of thousands of Teessiders.

The plan of the new Grand Stand, received by Middlesbrough Corporation’s Borough Engineer on 21st March 1903, details some of the key features of a typical Archibald Leitch Grand Stand that are evident in Ayresome’s standout feature. In his Engineering Archie, author Simon Inglis describes the new main stand as ‘straight from the pattern book of the firm with which Leitch often worked, the Clyde Structural Iron Company of Glasgow.’ Complete with its barrelled roof, arguably the most notable feature of the new stand was the iconic Leitch semi-circular roof gable, which many fans will remember was adorned for many years with an advertisement for McEwan’s 80/-.[2]

A plan of the Ayresome Park grandstand - Archibald Leitch (Teesside Archives)

A Plan of the Ayresome Park Grandstand – Archibald Leitch (Teesside Archives).

In their detail of the new facilities that formed part of the new ground, the Leitch plans give an indication of the investment and ambitions for the club that underpinned the construction of a new stadium. As Shaun Wilson notes in the ‘Ayresome Memories’ project, Leitch provided a ‘new ground in keeping with Boro’s growing stature.’[3] Costing a total of £11,857, the stadium was a vast improvement on the facilities at the club’s former Linthorpe Road home. The Athletic News reporter ‘Vulcan’ described the new, modern facilities in detail ahead of the ground’s inaugural 1903/04 campaign:

The directors, with great faith and equal enterprise have fitted up their new ground at Ayresome Park in accordance with the most modern requirements. Altogether, well over £6,000 has been spent over the equipment of the enclosure, and £3,000 of this has been devoted to the erection of a new grand stand to seat 3,000 persons, from the designs of Mr. Archibald Leitch, of Glasgow. Underneath this there is a well-appointed gymnasium, a billiard room, offices for the secretary (Mr. J. Robson), a boardroom for the directors, baths and retiring rooms for the home and visiting teams, a referee’s room, and other useful accommodation…With the exception of the sixpenny end where it is terraced with earth ashes, there are stands practically all round the field, and the total accommodation provided is for 32,000, so that the North Yorkshiremen are ready for big business.[4]

The Leitch plan of the Grand Stand – initially disapproved by the local authority and subsequently tweaked – detail the features of this ‘big business’ outlook and the state-of-the-art accommodation of the pavilion in miniscule detail, including the specifications of the terraces to the location of urinals in the changing rooms.

The plan of the new Grand Stand at Ayresome Park details facilities including changing rooms plunge baths referees room and visitor facilities

The plan of the new Grand Stand at Ayresome Park details facilities including changing rooms, plunge baths, referees room and visitor facilities (Teesside Archives).

A rare insight into the Linthorpe Road Ground

As well as affording an insight into the design of Boro’s attractive new stand, Leitch’s work in Art of Ayresome also provides a rare insight into the club’s old Linthorpe Road Ground, for which there are no known photos showing the inside of the stadium. The June 1903 plan of the old Linthorpe Road Grand Stand – which would become Ayresome’s early South Stand – provides detail absent from photographs of the stand in situ at Boro’s ‘new’ stadium. When compared with Leitch’s textbook Grand Stand creation, the old Linthorpe Road structure appears primitive and lacks the elegance and grace of the Glaswegian’s creation. Nevertheless, the old stand went on to serve the needs of Boro fans for over three decades until a new Dorman Long constructed stand replaced it in 1937.

The front elevation of the old Linthorpe Road stand shows how the stand lacked the grandeur of Leitch's Grand Stand

The front elevation of the old Linthorpe Road stand shows how the stand lacked the grandeur of Leitch’s Grand Stand (Teesside Archives).

New audiences and visitor responses

By featuring Leitch’s plans in Art of Ayresome thousands of fans have been able to enjoy the designs for the first time and learn more about the architect and Boro’s history.

Entries in the Visitor Book and Feedback Questionnaire responses reflect positively on the exhibition’s historical component. One supporter commented that “some of the earlier stuff (i.e. before my time) was fascinating. Lovely half hour spent viewing these drawings”. Another visitor noted that it was “good to see original plans”. When asked if Art of Ayresome had helped respondents learn something new about the history of Ayresome Park or Middlesbrough FC, one answer pointed to the “original plans”, another revealed they had acquired new knowledge of the “Scottish designer of the stadium”, whilst another supporter described how “the artist sketches for the original ground were interesting.”

As a rare architectural example of Boro’s early history on a public platform (with the club still in the process of making their own archives more accessible), the plans have attracted press coverage and formed part of a BBC Look North feature on Art of Ayresome.

It is evident from the responses to Leitch’s plans and the initial early feedback on the Art of Ayresome that taking the Leitch material beyond the archives has been beneficial for the exhibition and visitors alike. As well as helping develop new knowledge, the exhibition has also evoked positive emotional responses to the Boro’s sporting heritage.

During the challenging times posed by COVID-19, Leitch’s plans have played an important role in an ‘uplifting exhibition at a difficult time for many’ and it is planned will continue to have a positive impact for visitors and engagement with Teesside Archives’ collections and the area’s football heritage.

[1] S. Inglis, ‘Archibald Leitch’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (accessed 10 June 2020)

[2] S. Inglis (2005), Engineering Archie: Archibald Leitch – Football Ground Designer (Swindon, English Heritage), p.68

[3] S. Wilson,  ‘The Linthorpe Road Ground and Leitch’s Plans’ (accessed 10 June 2020)

[4] Athletic News, 24 August 1903

New Generation Thinkers in conversation


Catherine Fletcher is Professor of History, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2015. Her book The Beauty and the Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance was published in March 2020. Catherine is also author of Our Man in Rome: Henry VIII and his Italian Ambassador, Diplomacy in Renaissance Rome, and The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici.

Griffiths BBC

Seren Griffiths is Senior Lecturer in Public Heritage and Archaeological Science, and an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2020. She is an Early Career Researcher, and Principal Investigator on the AHRC-funded ‘Project TIME’. She will be talking about her research on the BBC ‘Free Thinking’ programme on the 23rd June.

Here Seren, at the start of her New Generation Thinkers Scheme, interviews Catherine about why she was interested in taking part, and why working with the media is an important form of public history and heritage work.

 SG: Catherine, what first attracted you to the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme?

CF: I applied three times, in fact. The first was back in 2010, the year the scheme was launched. I was working on Our Man in Rome, which a book for a general audience based on my PhD research, about the diplomats behind Henry VIII’s first divorce. This was just after the crash of 2008 and the academic job market wasn’t looking great so any opportunity to develop the Plan B career seemed attractive! I didn’t get selected that time, but I did manage to stick around in fixed-term contract jobs. I gave NGT another shot in my final year of eligibility, with a project related to The Black Prince of Florence, and got selected.

SG: What for you is the importance of public history and heritage?

CF: The idea that scholars wouldn’t want to talk to–and hear from–a broad range of people about our research always seems slightly odd to me. Obviously there are some elements of research that aren’t easy to communicate to non-experts, but whenever I do public talks and events I get questions that make me think in different ways about my work, and that’s hugely valuable. On a larger scale, I think it makes a difference to political life if voters come to their decisions informed about the past. All the big current questions–the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, Brexit–have historical contexts. History and heritage matter to citizenship.

SG: Has being involved with the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme changed or developed your practice as a public historian?

CF: Yes, definitely. Some of the programmes I’ve done have involved me reading and visiting exhibitions on topics that are well outside my usual expertise and giving my perspective on them–everything from seventeenth-century court music to contemporary art to ancient literature. It’s often quite easy in academia to end up siloed in your own discipline and not engage with other ideas out there. It’s also encouraged me to explore writing and performing in different genres – I’ve been experimenting more with fiction and I’ve done a few stand-up comedy/history gigs.

SG: What was the most surprising element of the BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers Scheme?

CF: I think probably the range of research that’s out there and can work for a wide audience. In the broadcasts and events that I’ve been involved in I’ve heard contributors talk about topics from queer digital lives in South Asia to seventeenth-century cookery to the history of menstruation. You can always count on running into something unexpected.

SG: Obviously my experience of the scheme in a Corona virus 19 context, will be very different from your experience of the scheme. What do you see as the biggest challenges of doing public history or heritage in lockdown?

CF: Personally I’m really missing the audience. I’ve done one live comedy show online, which was fun, but it’s not the same as speaking face-to-face to a crowd of people and getting that immediate response and energy. I’m spending a lot of time in lockdown trying to sketch out material for the future, but I’m very conscious that live cultural events won’t be the same for quite some time and there’s a real risk of some arts and heritage organisations closing entirely if support isn’t forthcoming from government.

Luck in the Lockdown! Researching early women doctors in Manchester: Blog 2: Searching for Dr. Ross (c. 1874 to 1961)

By Ali Ronan

Screenshot 2020-04-19 at 13.10.12

The Duchess of York Hospital for Babies, Burnage (By Peter Ward, CC BY-SA 2.0,

This has been an exciting search! A group of volunteers have been researching pioneering women doctors in Manchester and I have been looking at three forgotten women who all were involved in the Manchester Babies’ Hospital after 1914:  Dr. Elsie Brown Hey, Dr Sheila Ross and Dr Dora Bunting. I choose them, at random, from a list sent to the volunteers by Dr. Peter Mohr.

Today I am looking at what I have discovered about Sheila Ross and how I used the archives during the lockdown. When I first looked at the Annual Reports of the Manchester Babies’ Hospital in the Manchester University Archives, I had noted a Dr. Ross as one of the initial committee members: but just a surname was frustrating as I couldn’t find out who she was. But I was undeterred!

Peter Mohr had signposted us to the Medical Biographical Collection, so I looked up Ross and found that Dr. Sheila Margaret Ross (GB 133 MMC/2/Ross) had graduated from Edinburgh in 1904 and taken the Diploma in Public Health in Manchester in 1909.  So, I was already thinking about her age and how I might find her on the census. I looked up Sheila Margaret Ross on the FindmyPast census and saw that there was an entry for the 1939 register. There was Sheila, describing herself as a retired Doctor of Medicine, living with a housekeeper in Kent and her birth date of 1873.

From there I could narrow down the census requirements. As she took her medical degree in Edinburgh, I looked for census returns in Scotland. In 1881, I found Sheila aged seven, a scholar, living with her mother and three siblings, all scholars and two servants. Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 11.03.00They were living in the Manse at Appin in Argyllshire where her father Duncan was the Free Church minister, although he was not home on census night in 1881. I could not find him anywhere on the 1881 census, but he was at home 10 years later – I hope he had not been away for ten years! Clearly not, as in the 1891 Census there were three more children at the Manse, Campbell born in 1882, Jeannie born in 1885 and Mary born in 1890. There was also a boarder Mary McLead and her brother Donald, an unemployed tea planter, both from North Uist in the Western Isles. Another intriguing story?

By 1891, Sheila, aged only 17, was also living as a boarder in Smith Street in Govan, Glasgow in a boarding house run by a Mary Edgar who was the secretary to a Church Mission and perhaps known to Sheila’s father. In 1891 Sheila declared on the Census form that she was attending classes at college or school called St George’s although the content of the classes is unknown. Interestingly, in the 1901 Census Sheila’s brother Campbell aged 19 was recorded as also staying in the boarding house, as another medical student.

However, it made me think Sheila was quite a bold and adventurous young woman, leaving home in the West of Scotland and moving to the city to study and indeed, some of the information I later discovered, confirmed this idea.  I could not find her at all in the 1901 census. I looked at the England and Scottish 1901 census but no luck at all. I wondered if she had travelled abroad but there was no trace of that either.

However, searching the 1913 Medical Register, which is also on FindmyPast, confirmed what the Biographical Collection had already told me: that by 1904 Sheila Ross had Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 11.03.15graduated from Edinburgh University with a Bachelor of Medicine Degree and then in 1906 gained her MD – as a Doctor of Medicine. So, I imagine that in 1901 she was in Edinburgh but somehow not recorded on the Census. I had googled her to see if anything came up and discovered that a digitisation project at Edinburgh University ( had found a medical thesis from 1906 written by Sheila M. Ross. It is entitled Acute hallucinatory insanity – a type of the confusional insanities, with clinical notes.  Sheila was awarded a medal from the School of Medicine in 1899 for Systemic Anatomy and the July 1904 edition of the British Medical Journal notes the graduation in 1904 where out of a class of 130, only seven were women including Sheila M. Ross.

An interest in Public Health meant that Sheila moved to Manchester to complete a Diploma in Public Health and in 1909 she graduated from the Victoria University in Manchester. Although at that time, she clearly maintained an interest in insanity, as she was recorded in the 1911 census as visiting the Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane (sic) in Surrey and staying with the superintendent W.D Moore, (1859-1926) and his family. They were a middle-class family with four servants and from the census return it seems likely that the Moores lived on the site.

Screenshot 2020-06-18 at 11.03.26

Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane in 1885 (Creative Commons, from Wellcome Collection)

Searching the 1911 Census for Sheila Ross taught me an important lesson: usually I look at the transcription of the census, in this case the transcription told me that Sheila Ross stayed with a W.D. Woore. I looked up this name to no avail and as it seemed such a strange name, I decided to look at the original image where it became clear that the enumerator had written the name Moore with a flourish, meaning that the transcription re-transcribed it as Woore. Once I realised that the name was Moore, many parts of this jigsaw felt into place. Sheila was at the Holloway Sanatorium as a visitor, citing her occupation as a Doctor of Medicine.A remarkable view into the lives of psychiatric patients at Holloway Sanatorium can be found in the recently digitised patient case books. Many of these case notes are recorded by W.D. Moore. Holloway Sanatorium was opened in 1885 as a hospital for the paying middle classes and W.D. Moore started work there in 1901. Set in 22 acres of lush parkland, the asylum was located to be visible from the nearby train station. The design of the sanatorium was based on the French idea that plain walls were obnoxious to the mad. Every inch of wall was “richly decorated including portrayals of small devils amidst the florid design”. (Wellcome Library Blog). I think Sheila must have still been interested in ‘lunacy’ at this stage and was perhaps building on ideas from her thesis written a few years before. The sanatorium was relatively new in 1911 and the place was one of the most extraordinary communities in England. The patients could wander freely down to the shops and back, mingling on equal terms with the locals.

By 1913 Sheila was working in the Public Health Laboratory in Manchester. Presumably, she needed a job. At that time the Public Health laboratory was under the auspices of a Swiss Doctor, Aguste Delefine (1855-1921), who was Professor of Bacteriology at the University and who developed a course for undergraduates in bacteriology and set up the bacteriological laboratories in the Medical school. This is interesting on several levels, firstly that Delefine was exploring ideas about public health and young children, particularly in relation to a diet of cow’s milk. Sheila Ross will have been aware of these findings, as the summer outbreak of infant gastro-enteritis had been one of the catalysts for the establishment of the Babies Hospital in 1914.  Secondly, Sheila Ross subsequently became a bacteriologist for the Public Health Department in Derbyshire in the 1930s, demonstrating the influence that working with Professor Delepine in the Public Health Laboratory had had on her.

By the early 1950s, Sheila Ross was working in some capacity, (possibly as a consultant as by the early 1950s she was in her late 70s) at the children’s hospital in Booth Hall, Manchester which had amalgamated with the Babies’ Hospital (now renamed the Duchess of York Hospital) when the NHS was established in 1948. Sheila Ross co-authored with paediatrician W.H. Patterson, an article in the British Medical Journal in February 1952, entitled: ‘GASTRO-ENTERITIS IN INFANCY’ AN ACCOUNT OF 286 CASES TREATED IN A GENERAL PAEDIATRIC HOSPITAL by N. M. MANN, SHEILA ROSS and W. H. PATTERSON. From Booth Hall Hospital, Manchester. Clearly the issue of childhood disease, in particular, sickness and gastro-enteritis, was a recurring preoccupation for Sheila.

I had suspected that Sheila Ross was adventurous, I discovered that during the 1920s, she travelled to Madeira at least twice and to Cape Town in 1923. In 1952 she travelled once again to Cape Town. I wondered if she visited the Manchester doctors Marguerite and William Douglas Drummond who had emigrated to Cape Town in 1926. Marguerite Douglas, born in Cape Town in 1881, was one of the doctors on the first committee at the Manchester Babies’ Hospital in 1914, she married Dr. Bill Drummond in 1915, and since 1912 she had been in charge of Maternity and Child Welfare as part of the Manchester Public Health department. Marguerite Douglas was also a signatory to the  Open Christmas Letter which was a public message for peace addressed “To the Women of Germany and Austria” signed by a group of 101 British suffragists at the end of 1914. This letter was also signed by Margaret Ashton who was the main benefactor and supporter of the Babies’ Hospital. Although Sheila Ross did not sign the letter, I am sure that these women will have been spoken of current events, and all will have been suffrage sympathisers and possibly critical of the war as well.

Sheila Ross died in 1961, she was 88 years old and died in Bromley, Kent, near where she had lived in 1939.



The Stone Age for School Kids: The Bryn Celli Ddu Minecraft Experience

By Dr. Ben Edwards, Senior Lecturer, History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University.

Since 2015, alongside Dr Seren Griffiths, also of MMU, Dr Ffion Reynolds of Cadw, and Adam Stanford of Aerial Cam, I have been involved with the Bryn Celli Ddu Landscape Project. Bryn Celli Ddu is one of the most impressive Neolithic burial monuments in the British Isles: a passage tomb, consisting of a stone-built passage into an artificial earth mound, which terminates in a burial chamber. The passage tomb was used as a location for burial around 3000BC, but the site had a much longer history, and exists in a landscape replete with evidence for prehistoric ritual activity. Prior to the site’s use for burial, a henge monument with an internal stone circle occupied the site and given the 3000BC data associated with the later passage tomb, this would seem to be one of the earliest henge monuments in Wales. Our excavations during the project did not focus on the tomb itself, as this was excavated in the 1930s prior to its reconstruction and restoration. Instead, we set out to investigate the landscape around the monument, which had seen surprisingly little sustained investigation, despite the importance of the site. We have located new panels of Neolithic cup-marked rock art, demonstrated the existence of a later Early Bronze Age burial cairn cemetery to the south of the tomb, and located a cluster of later Neolithic Grooved Ware pits. The burial monument clearly led to the location being significant in prehistory after the use of the tomb itself had finished. Bryn Celli Ddu is one of only three passage tombs in Wales, all of which are on Anglesey, but it is the only such monument with an association with midsummer solstice sunrise. The passage into the mound was deliberately aligned so that on the longest day of the year, as soon as the sun rose, it would shine down the passage and illuminate the burial chamber within.

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The rising sun illuminates the passage on the summer solstice (Photo: Adam Stanford)

Of absolutely central importance to our project over the course of the last five years has been the involvement of the local community in all our research work. Every year, volunteer excavators have been part of the excavations; in partnership with Cadw we have run public open days; we have hosted school visits; designed a local prehistoric treasure hunt; developed a smartphone app for public use; and hosted temporary exhibitions with Oriel Ynys Môn. However, with the introduction of the Coronavirus lockdown, we were forced to cancel all our excavation, survey and outreach work for the 2020 season. Whilst this was a great shame, it did provide the opportunity for more imaginative ways of connecting people with the prehistoric past. This is the context for the Bryn Celli Ddu Minecraft Experience.

The Welsh government, through its Hwb Cymru school’s portal, provides free access for school children to the Education Edition of Minecraft, as does Manchester Metropolitan University for the development of learning resources. Usually, the value of Minecraft as an education tool focuses on its use to introduce children to basic coding skills and its use for artistic expression, though there an almost infinite number of uses to which it has been put. It seemed to me that a recreation of the Bryn Celli Ddu landscape would be the perfect way to get school children virtually to the site, even though the excavation and open days had been cancelled: the technology was familiar, and access to the programme was provided freely. Thus, by roping-in my now home-schooled daughter, we were able to embark upon a recreation of Bryn Celli Ddu and all the prehistoric features we had discovered or investigated over the five years of the project.

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The entrance to the reconstructed Bryn Celli Ddu

Minecraft has its limitations as a tool for reconstruction, primarily the 1 cubic metre basic size of the majority of the ‘solid’ components of the world, known as ‘blocks’, for the uninitiated. The construction of a Neolithic passage tomb, various Grooved Ware pits, the Bronze Age cairn cemetery and standing stones was all possible despite this constraint. Enough types of block are available to provide the range of textures needed to represent the different types of stone that are used in the construction of the passage and burial chamber, for example. Simple pits are represented by a 1 x 1m hole in the ground, and ‘flower pot’ objects can be placed in them that bear a passing resemblance to the Grooved Ware; similarly a flower pot represents the cremation urn we discovered during the excavation of the Early Bronze Age burial cairn of Bryn Celli Bach. Blocks representing the stone-built burial cist in the centre of the same cairn, in contrasting stone, were buried beneath the mound as an easter-egg for any that chose to dig into it. Other elements were more problematic. Neolithic carved rock art panels are an important feature of the landscape – our project had made eight new discoveries of art panels, in addition to one large panel that was already known near to the passage tomb – but creating Neolithic ‘art’ was difficult within the constraints of the Minecraft world. The compromise solution was to create large rock outcrops using bedrock blocks and inset into these decorated stones, which could represent the location of the carved cupmarks from the Neolithic.

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Neolithic rock art panels set into the rock outcrop near Bryn Celli Ddu

We did take a degree of artistic license in order to enhance the educational experience. There is no evidence for settlement activity near Bryn Celli Ddu during any of the time periods that our project has studied, but there have been discoveries of impressively large Neolithic buildings elsewhere on Anglesey. CR Archaeology discovered three such structures near Llanfaethlu in the north of Anglesey, and their excellent reports allowed an attempt at the Minecraft reconstruction of one of the buildings within the experience. Similarly, due to a lack of pollen survival for detailed palynological analysis, little is known about the specific vegetation history at Bryn Celli Ddu during the Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, but clearly tree cover would have been more extensive than it is today. Therefore, we used trees in Minecraft to structure the user experience: oak and birch trees obscure lines of sight and, when used in conjunction with the waymarked paths we created, shape the way people move around the landscape and create sudden vistas to engage the visitor. Using trees in this manner also allowed us to separate the reconstruction of the Llanfaethlu house from the rest of the landscape, into which we had artistically imposed it.

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The reconstruction of the Llanfaethlu Neolithic house

The most fundamental element of any landscape is the topography itself: the shape of the valley of the Afon Braint in which Bryn Celli Ddu is located. The monument was deliberately sited on a low sand and gravel knoll in the middle of the valley, presumably to provide local prominence and to avoid the boggier ground that surrounded the river and its tributary streams. These are now canalised, but aerial photography shows their previous courses in the form of palaeochannels. Fortunately, using World Painter, a third-party Minecraft world creator, we were able to import an actual digital terrain model of the valley into Minecraft, to use as the base on which to build the world. This terrain model was accurate to 1m, having been derived from satellite lidar data, and the contours clearly showed the course of the river and tributary streams. ‘Painting’ the world as a first step also allowed the rapid creation of the rivers themselves, and the boggy areas that would have surrounded them in prehistory.

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Aerial view showing the real-world contours and river channel, Grooved Ware pits bottom left

Finally, thanks to Dr Ffion Reynolds of Cadw, we have been able to meet another fundamental objective of all of our public engagement work in the project: bilingual accessibility. By translating all of the Minecraft Experience into Welsh, Dr Reynolds has enabled both a Welsh and an English version to be uploaded onto the Hwb Cymru education resources portal. Schools across Wales, and indeed the UK, can now download the world onto their Education Editions of Minecraft and allow pupils to access the Experience.

For links to the Bryn Celli Ddu Minecraft Experience see


Public Archaeology in Lockdown

By Dr. Seren Griffiths, Senior Lecturer, History, Politics and Philosophy, Manchester Metropolitan University.

As an archaeologist the prospect of being ‘locked down’ poses challenges for lots of research – traditional fieldwork like the type that Dr Ben Edwards and I do most summers is not possible.

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Figure 1. The 2019 season, excavating an important bronze age burial monument to the south of Bryn Celli Ddu.

Instead, I’ve been concentrating on the public archaeology aspect of my research. I have just published a paper on public archaeology in Wales, based on consultation with archaeologists working across Wales. The link to the paper is here I also took part in the fifth Public Archaeology Twitter Conference on Friday 29 May 2020 to talk about these issues; you can see my twitter paper by following #PATC

This research examined what constitutes best practice in public engagement in heritage. Working with colleagues, and reflecting on my own research, I identified a series of common values that professionals engaged with public archaeology and public heritage felt were central to best practice.

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Figure 2. In consultation with public heritage and public archaeology professionals we identified common values that are central to best practice. Image copyright Adam Sanford.

In our research, we defined public archaeology and heritage as occurring in the world: negotiated, contested, ethical, and diverse, but work that makes explicit reference to the context of practice.

Importantly, although often people think that public archaeology or heritage practices emphasise the social value attached to specific places in the historic environment, members of the public often value a ‘multi-sited’ approach especially in a digital age. In a digitally distributed, international world, geographical proximity to a particular place may not be the most essential criteria in assessing why people determine places to have social value.

Indeed, the processes and media through which public archaeology is undertaken can be as important to the people doing it as the places at which it takes place. In this sense, we can think of public archaeology as a form of ‘intangible heritage practice’, that creates cultural heritage value because of the relationships between a community – whether focused on a locality or forming around a site or network of sites.

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Figure 3. Mechanisms through which best practice in public archaeology could be achieve. Image copyright Adam Sanford.

We argue that best practice is created through networks of relationships and intangible practices, and especially those that are allowed to develop over time, that emphasise benefits to participants, and that work with a network of partners and organisations. Critical to best practice is the ethical treatment of people, and the safety of people involved, but after this the most important aspect was the creativity and enjoyment that projects offered. Public heritage and archaeology needs to be fun!

Places where public archaeology is undertaken clearly have value as the nexus of activities, but a recognition of the value of the responsive, creative, relationships that facilitate public archaeology are as important as discourses on the conservation and curation of places in the historic environment.

Because the best public archaeology practices creates social value in the historic environment through networks of individuals, communities, and professional and volunteer practitioners, the effective curation of the historic environment requires funding, time and resources to support the inclusive relationships that make public archaeology. Even further, there is the wider political context of the production of other forms of social value in Wales, beyond archaeology. For example, the Wales Government’s national strategy of Prosperity for All, which emphasises the social value attached to healthy and active lifestyles. Public archaeology has significant potential to support these themes, both in terms of physical fitness and the effective pathways to good mental health that have been explored in other public archaeology projects. Integrating national policy themes of healthy and active lifestyles would provide another means for public archaeology to generate social value beyond an appreciation of the historic environment, and could be productively explored in the future if such projects could be effectively resourced.

The research that this was based on was undertaken before lock down, and the current, terrible Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In the context of the horrible aftermath of this virus, the future of public engagement with the historic environment may seem trite but, its importance is actually very significant. The value of public archaeology, as a form of heritage discourse, is as ‘archaeology in the world: negotiated, contested, ethical, and diverse, but work that makes explicit reference to the context of practice‘. It is as much about the kinds of societies that we wish to create in the present as it is about seeking to better understand the past.

Public engagement with the historic environment reminds us of the enduring qualities of creativity and ingenuity that represent some of the best aspects of humanity from time immemorial. Of course, aspects of the historic environment can also demonstrate some of the worst human traits, including subjugation and violence. But, in times like these, when we face crises and unprecedented uncertainty, the historic environment also matters because it provides us with a connection to human societies across time.

The historic environment represents all of our common human inheritance, and provides us with a connections to human societies that have gone before. It reminds us of the enduring, essential qualities of being human. In this sense, heritage is transcendental.

Public heritage, and the relationships that people make doing it, matter, now as much as ever.





Virtual Heritage and Wellbeing

Investigators: Amy Luck and Dr Faye Sayer

Project Brief: This research project investigates if engagement with virtual heritage impacts individual’s wellbeing and mental health.

A survey of 650 museums in 41 countries conducted in April 2020 by the Network of European Museum Organisations shows that more than 60% of museums have increased their online presence since closing due to social distancing and 40% have experienced a large upsurge in online visits.

This research will seek to:

  1. Evaluate how engagement with virtual heritage sites can impact visitor wellbeing
  2. Understand how different types of virtual heritage sites and diverse demographics of visitors positively and/or negatively impact on subjective wellbeing
  3. Identify what elements of virtual heritage provide the greatest positive change to wellbeing
  4. Compare the impact of virtual heritage to that of in-person heritage experiences on wellbeing

Project Method: This mixed-method research methodology has developed from an accurate and critical data capture strategy already piloted on several heritage projects in the UK, USA, India and Nigeria (Sayer 2015; Sayer 2018). This research methodology employs quantitative wellbeing measures such as the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) and Modified Visual Analogue Scale (MVAS) alongside quantitative measures such as free comment space on surveys to identify impacts on individual wellbeing.

Participation: We are actively seeking participants from all demographics to take part in this research.

If you would like to take part, simply follow the steps below:

  1. Read the participant information sheet to find out more:
  2. If you’d like to take part, click this link and fill in the survey:
  3. Once you finished the survey, visit one (or more) of the below museums or explore their collections – virtually!

(Recommended minimum time 20 minutes, maximum 2 hours)

(Just click on the yellow man to access virtual tours or scroll down to see collections on Google Arts & Culture)

  1. Once you’ve finished your visit, click this link and fill in the survey:

Contact: If you would like to know more about this project, please contact