LAMAS 55th Local History Conference

Saturday 13 November 2021 9.45am – 16.00pm

Zoom Webinar

London Overcomes: Resilience and Recovery in the History of the Capital

  • 09.45: Opening comments and practicalities

  • 10.15 - 10.45 -Session 1

‘Lost angels of a ruin’d paradise’ , Dr Peter Coles

  • 11.00 - 11.30 -Session 2

‘Casualty Services and Civil Defence within London’ , Nathan Hazlehurst

  • 11.30 - 11.45: Tea break

  • 11.45 - 12.15: Session 3

‘Shamefaced No More: Pauper Letter Writers, Resilience and the Workhouse Experience in Poplar and Bethnal Green, ca.1860-1890’ , Dr Peter Jones & Professor Steven King

  • 12.30 - 13.00: Session 4

‘The Brentford Flood of 1841’, Val Bott

  • 13.00 - 13.45: Lunch break

  • 13.45 - 14.15: News and Updates from Local Societies

  • 14.15 - 15.00: Keynote Lecture

'Britain's Blitz and Rebuilding: Exemplary Resilience and Recovery?',  Dr Catherine Flinn

  • 14.45 - 15.00: Tea break

  • 15.00 - 15.30: Session 5

‘Who hid the Cheapside Hoard?’, Dr Rosemary Weinstein

  • 15.45 - 16.00: LAMAS Publication Awards for 2019/20 and 2020/21

Introduced and presented by the Chair of the Local History Committee


Speakers and abstracts

Keynote Speaker: Dr Catherine Flinn

Britain's Blitz and Rebuilding: Exemplary Resilience and Recovery?

Around the world in the aftermath of the Second World War were devastating remains of once beautiful cities but also the loss of infrastructure and severe economic impacts from the war. London was obviously particularly hard hit. This talk will center around urban trauma. It will reflect on how London responded to wartime trauma, recovered and rebuilt, and the potential lessons and questions for the present and future in terms of both climate change and the pandemic. Though based on research in British postwar history, it will make comparisons with similar examples from Europe to Japan, and will do so with an eye toward preparing for post-pandemic urban change.

Catherine Flinn has a doctorate in modern British history and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. She has taught at several universities in the US and the UK. Her research focuses on postwar reconstruction, in particular the political, economic and social impacts of rebuilding and redevelopment. She returned to academia following a professional career in architecture, landscape and planning. Her book “Rebuilding Britain’s Blitzed Cities: Hopeful Dreams, Stark Realities” was published by Bloomsbury and is available in paperback.

Nathan Hazlehurst

Casualty Services and Civil Defence within London

Of all the various elements of Civil Defence created in the United Kingdom immediately preceding the Second World War, the Casualty Services are some of the least focused upon. Formed to supplement the peacetime medical services within a local authority area, the Casualty Service encompassed a wide range of groups, from teams deployed to the heart of an incident to Casualty Receiving Hospitals and emergency mortuary teams. Coordinated by two government departments, often with differing views as to their priorities, the Service was run at a local level by the Medical Officer of Health, who had to reconcile the needs of both departments, as well as the reality on the ground in their locality. They would also need to understand the needs of their specific areas, where bombing and direct contact with the enemy may not be the main concern, but evacuees and refugees may be. The talk will provide an overview of Casualty Services across the United Kingdom, understanding each section of the service on its own and as part of the wider organisation; focus will also be brought onto the Casualty Service in London and how this differed from the rest of the United Kingdom, with joint control between the Boroughs and the London County Council. It will also show how the Casualty Service has influenced the modern Emergency Medical Service, and how significant elements have parallels today.

Nathan Hazlehurst is a historian and PhD student at the University of Salford, specialising in the work of the Civil Defence Services during the Second World War. His current PhD is focusing on the Casualty Services and Emergency Medical Service in that conflict and the years immediately preceding it. Nathan is also an Emergency Planning Professional in the public sector, helping to prepare for emergencies and coordinating responses; this included being heavily involved in the Coronavirus Pandemic, in addition to a wide range of incidents including fires and terrorist incidents.


Dr Peter Jones & Professor Steven King

Shamefaced No More: Pauper Letter Writers, Resilience and the Workhouse Experience in Poplar and Bethnal Green, ca.1860-1890

Few Victorian Londoners faced challenges greater than those who found themselves, after a "good" life on the outside, confined to an East End workhouse as a result of sickness, old age or unexpected indigence. The Dickensian vision of these institutions as "pauper Bastilles" – places of great hardship, regimentation, discipline and drudgery, wherein paupers were rendered voiceless, powerless and were subject to arbitrary authority – has been difficult to shift in the academic literature, no less than in popular depictions. Yet new research based on the letters of complaint and appeal from paupers to the Poor Law Commissioners presents a serious challenge to this view, especially as it relates to the passivity and powerlessness of the workhouse poor. This paper explores the cases of a number of extraordinary inmates from the Bethnal Green and Poplar unions (all of whom would once have been characterised as the "shamefaced poor" – who explicitly challenged the authority of workhouse officials, boards of guardians, and even the Poor Law Commissioners themselves in the second half of the nineteenth century. Although far from unique among pauper letter-writers in the nineteenth century, London's workhouse correspondents exhibited particular determination and, at times, belligerence; and although their efforts were often not without some cost to themselves, they persisted in campaigns which were both informed by, and were an active part of, wider movements for the reform of workhouses in London. Their stories have, up to now, remained largely hidden in the histories of the New Poor Law. This paper is part of an ongoing research programme which seeks to bring them back into the light.

Prof. Steven King is Professor of Economic and Social History at Nottingham Trent University.

Dr Peter Jones is a Research Associate at the University of Glasgow. Until recently, they worked together on Professor King's AHRC-funded project, "In Their Own Write: Contesting the New Poor Law 1834-1900", jointly authoring a number of outputs, including Pauper Voices, Public Opinion and Workhouse Reform in Mid-Victorian England (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020), and 'Fragments of Fury? Lunacy, Agency and Contestation in the Great Yarmouth Workhouse, 1890s-1900s', Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 51:2 (2020), 235-265. A monograph arising from the project's work will be published in 2022.


Val Bott

The Brentford Flood of 1841

One night in January 1841, during a sudden thaw after freezing weather, a disastrous flood swept down the canal at Brentford, ripping boats from their moorings, smashing property and leaving death and destruction in its wake. Eye-witness accounts from The Times, together with contemporary illustrations and ephemera, record how local people coped with this extraordinary event. Val Bott's research reveals a great deal about the life of the bustling market town of Brentford, the bravery and strength of the community of boat families and Brentford men during that desperate night, the tragedies, the inquests and the blame. Crowds flocked to the scene, boat owners hurried down from the Midlands, scavengers lifted cargoes from the sunken boats and local businessmen faced ruin. City officials and Canal Company directors argued about who should take responsibility while local people raised funds to feed and house the homeless. It is a narrative with strong echoes in more recent disasters.

Val Bott's book Flood! (published by the Brentford &Chiswick Local History Society in 2002) won the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society's first London Local History Publishing prize in 2003. A curator by profession, Val set up new museums in Brent, Wandsworth and Havering, she was a government adviser as Deputy Director of the Museums and Galleries Commission 1996-2000 and a museum consultant 2000-2020. She edits the Brentford & Chiswick Local History Journal and chairs the William Hogarth Trust. She shares current research on local horticultural history on


Dr Peter Coles

Lost angels of a ruin'd paradise

Using the results of an ongoing survey started in 2016, this paper will illustrate the extraordinary resilience of London's surviving veteran black mulberry trees (Morus nigra) and their historiographic value as indicators of the capital's tangible and intangible heritage. A non-native species, the black mulberry was introduced to England during the early years of the Roman occupation. It continued to be grown as an exotic, orchard tree in monastery and medieval gardens. The real watershed for the species, however, followed a 1607 letter from James VI & I, encouraging landed gentry to plant thousands of imported mulberry trees to sustain a domestic silk industry. The project failed, but several of the trees that were planted at the time have survived, producing many descendants. To date, the survey, being carried out through the award-winning Morus Londinium project, has revealed over 1,000 mulberry trees in Greater London. More than two hundred of these trees are over 150 years old, with a few dating to the 17th century and possibly earlier. In some cases, a surviving tree has its roots in the garden of a building that has long disappeared during phases of destruction and development. Paraphrasing the poet, Shelley, they are 'Lost angels of a ruin'd paradise'. The speaker uses archival research to trace the history of these 'lost angels', in an attempt to discover the 'ruin'd paradises' from which they have fallen. These range from medieval monasteries to the mansions of wealthy citizens of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Dr Peter Coles is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Urban and Community Research (CUCR) at Goldsmiths, University of London. After completing a D.Phil. in psychology at Wolfson College, Oxford, Peter moved to Paris to pursue a career as a science writer and journalist, specialising in environmental issues. In 2006 he returned to London, taking up an honorary research fellowship at the CUCR. In 2016 he joined with the Conservation Foundation to found the Morus Londinium project to document, preserve and raise awareness of London's mulberry tree heritage, winning a European Heritage / Europa Nostra Heritage Award in 2021. He is author of Mulberry (Reaktion Books, 2019).


Dr Rosemary Weinstein

Who hid the Cheapside Hoard?

Early 17th century Londoners endured a series of devastating events- civil war, plagues, and fire. Some Londoners, like Samuel Pepys, wrote of their experiences and became well known, others faced different challenges like William Gibbon, Goldsmith, and the jeweller Francis Simpson. Gibbon worked at the successful goldsmiths business known as the Black Mores Head, later numbered 32 Cheapside and laments the loss of his rental properties during the Fire of1666. He accepts the great financial loss with quiet resignation as the Will of God. All is not lost, however, as his new position as Treasurer of Christs Hospital has insured him lodgings and a pension. Francis Simpson, his jeweller neighbour, meets his challenges during the Civil War with great tenacity and some arrogance. His main concern is to renew the Cheapside lease he holds from the Goldsmiths Company and which expired in Midsummer 1641. He seeks better terms than those on offer. These negotiations continue for nearly twenty years! Simpson supplied the Queen with the then fashionable diamond jewellery and followed the Court to Oxford when it left London in 1641. He was declared a 'Delinquent' (follower of Charles 1) and his property was sequestered (seized). It was at this time that his jewellery stock of older jewels was probably hidden and which became known as the Cheapside Hoard (retrieved in 1912, full account in The London Topographical Society Record 2021). After the surrender of the royalist garrison at Oxford in 1646, Simpson returned to Cheapside but was arrested and imprisoned in the Wood St Compter. Exiled from the City, Simpson was living in Drury Lane in 1650, but at the Restoration returned to petition the Goldsmiths Company to renew his Cheapside lease. Unsurprisingly, the Goldsmiths had had enough of his demands and refused, giving only a verbal response. Simpson's lack of tact and impertinence failed him there, but his petition to Charles 11 to reappoint him as Royal Jeweller succeeded. To leave no stone unturned he also petitioned for £ 20,000 to cover past losses by 'Sequestration and Plunder'.

Dr Rosemary Weinstein was a curator at the former London Museum and subsequent Museum of London, where the Cheapside Hoard is part of the collections. She published Tudor London (1994), The History of The Feltmakers Company (2004), and, with Ian M Betts, Tin glazed Tiles from London (2011). She has a particular interest in medieval and early modern pewter (tin alloys) and was excited to write up these finds from the Mary Rose.