Slight sidebar and break from research. In the anniversary year of the play and it’s author, I’ve agreed to do a talk at Waterstone’s on Dylan Thomas’s ‘Under Milk Wood’ in a couple of weeks. Bright side, should be fun and looking forward to the play. Downside, its about 20 years since my academic research in the area so I need to remind myself what I’m talking about sharpish. Second upside, great excuse to listed to classic recordings of the play again, and remind myself why I fell in love with the voice of Thomas in the first place. Oh, and in book research, possible exciting links to Confederate President Jefferson Davis in the Square. Let’s see what that turns up.
What the hell was I thinking? The original undertaking to research the whole history of Abercromby Square from start to finish has had to be revised slightly. For now I’ll only be concentrating on the years 1800 to 1900. So, only a hundred years worth of research to become an expert in the law, shipping, politics, engineering, the civil war, abstinence, embassies, music, finance etc to do justice to the occupants and their contributions. I say again, what the hell was I thinking? I console myself with the fact I have excluded a hundred and twenty years of research for the time being. If I survive this at least I have something to look forward to.
Waiting on responses from speculative queries to the Haitian journal, Confederate White House and a local historian. Fingers crossed something new turns up. Loving the book I'm currently reading on the Liverpool to Manchester railway and think Henry Booth is my favourite study at the minute.
Sadly more exciting links to the Square have turned out to be duds. There are so many false leads and folk memories it is difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff. I’d been hoping the (possibly first in the World) model passenger train built by Stephenson resided in the Square, as it was to be found in the basement of a Gladstone residence. Unfortunately, despite the fact I now have three separate branches of the Gladstone clan living in different houses, this train looks like it has left this station.
Bugger bugger bugger. Eighty years of Gore’s directory researching, painstakingly tracing every occupant of each house and today I realised something was wrong. Houses change number with alarming frequency in the earlier part of the 1800s, and it is necessary to sometimes check a run of addresses for consistent occupants to deconstruct who was where when.
All had been going fine with Bedford Street until it split into North and South, subdivided by the Square. Working backwards from later directories (which actually give intersecting street names) and identifying anomalies I was certain I had it right, that both now worked outwards from the square in some years, with number 1 the house I needed each side. Reached the 1880s and a house I knew with 100% certainty had changed its address (from the side road to the square by moving the entrance) suddenly appeared with 2 addresses. Anomaly I thinks. After ten years of the anomaly listed I have to admit the error is probably mine. The next part is kind of fun, except for a sinking feeling a great deal of work needs to be re-done.
Going back to street maps of 1850 and 1890 to count the actual number of houses on each street to cross reference with listings I examine closely and, good news, find a physical entrance change I didn’t know about (new doorway, now gone), with a new set of steps (also long since gone) to accompany the address change. Bad news, counting houses, cross referencing Gore’s listings in five years from 1850 to 1890 as a sample, I discover the answer. To frustrate me from history, for no identifiable reason, when the Square officially split the road, Bedford Street South had its odd numbered houses on the opposite side of the street to Bedford Street North! Checking the adjacent years confirms it, as does the counting of residences listed. Bugger.
Good news, a whole new raft of names to research with possible interest, bad news, forty odd Trade directories and six censuses to re-research. Bugger bugger bugger. And you think this post is hard to follow, imagine what it was like doing the research!