Tea Time in London, and more London Libraries

Victoria here. Before I finish my tea, I will tell you about several other London libraries I have used for research. After my day in the reading rooms of the British Library, I took the train to Hertford, a little north of London, and worked at the Hertfordshire Archives.  I took a taxi to the County Hall, where in addtion to the archives, they perform weddings and all sorts of other governmental business.

I had accessed their archival catalogue on line and pre-ordered a number of papers related to the Melbourne and Cowper families who had country houses and large land holdings there. The archives had more material than I could use in just one day, so I had to sort through a lot of things I wished I had time to look at — and tried to concentrate on the most significant materials for my needs. 

Darn if that isn’t a frustrating thing — when you have all sorts of letters, from ones telling the bailiff to do something about a certain field, or an account of a church fete organization, it’s hard not to read the whole thing.  But by 2:30, my eyes had glazed over and I headed back to London.  If I need the material again, they will copy some documents for me — or for you — more for a fee, but a few without charge if you have the specific numbers.

I got to the VandA National Art Library on Friday afternoon just an hour before it closed. Again, I had preregistered on line and asked for a certain sale catalogue I wanted to see.  Even though I doubted I would finish with it that day, at least I would have an idea of how much more time I’d need. 

Luckily, the material was brief: sales of rugs, bronzes, and a few other items.  So I had it copied (again, without charge) and I was done!  Amazing.  

Everyone was as nice as could be in both facilities. And I feel I accomplished most of my purposes. No one at eitjher place wanted any documentation of my status (darn good thing I guess) nor did they ask my purposes. It ws great! But was I hungry!!! That was a teatime too at the VandA, which is open late on Friday nights. 

Last year, I did some research at the Westminster Archives, which also has its catalogues on line. It has books, papers and records for the western part of what we call London, the part outside of the city.  I used microfiches and several rolls of microfilm, with the capable assistance of a librarian and found out exactly what I needed about a few streets in Mayfair — the parish records showed who lived where and when. Their facilities are located just a short distance from Westminster Abbey.

Three years ago I used the Colindale reading room of the British Library, on the Northern tube line. That’s where you can read the papers on  microfilm, microfiche, and in the case of the Morning Chronicle from the regency period, in bound copies. I felt the pages almost flake as I turned them. Very fragile indeed.  And talk about being easily diverted — wow. Everything was of interest. Quite a few of these newspapers can be accessed through the Library of Congress or the British Library on line.  There may be a  fee involved, but it’s worth checking.

Here’s one I haven’t been to yet.  If I had a pile of pounds, I would join the London Library, a private institution in St. James Square with a superb collection.  Georgette Heyer is said to have done most of her research there.  Someday, I’ll make it.

Because I only have one internet connection at the hotel, I don’t have any links to these places, but you will find them easily with google.

Now, as I sip my last drop of tea, I will tell you I went back to Buckingham Palace this morning, to the Queen’s Gallery Shop.  I bought a catalogue of the exhibition “Victoria and Albert in Love” that Kristine and I visited week before last. And a few other things. We rode the bus, as it is a beautiful day in London, but a bit on the warm side and those tube stations can be sweltering.  And anyway, even with the bumpy streeets, crazy traffic and constant noise, it’s fun to sit and look around.

We dropped off the loot at our hotel and wandered off to the British Library to see the exhibition there on maps.  Fascinating. Also walked around in the their permanent collection, the Magna Carta to the Beatles lyrics and music, including Jane Austen’s writing desk presented to the BL by the late Joan Austen-Leigh, one of the founders of JASNA, and a relative of the Austens.  Before the family gave the desk to the library, I was at a meeting where it was shown and I have touched it!!! 

After lunch we tottered off to the British Museum for a brief visit. Like the BL, it was jammed with people.  Huge crowd around the Rosetta Stone and inspecting the Elgin Marbles.

 Ed came back to the hotel, but I had to have one last crack at a nearby Ox-Fam bookshop.  Things were mostly too recent for my tastes, but I found a novel to read on the plane tomorrow.

So we  have abused our feet and backs again, even though we tried to take it easier today.  And since the tea is now cold, I’d better quit.


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