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Happenings and goings on in the Archive and Study Centre: Events, researchers, discoveries, additions. For latest articles added to the Archive and Study Centre section of the website, click here.

Archivist Craig Fees writes:

Going through elements of the library of the late Robert Laslett, which came to us in several different stages, I open his copy of Donald Winnicott's "Collected Papers: Through Paediatrics to Psycho-Analysis", published in 1958 by Tavistock.

Apart from being a leading figure in the field of therapeutic child care, Robert was one of those magical people who write in their books. He has inscribed the flyleaf of this one:
                 Robin Laslett / December 1963 / Ealing.

So - he acquired the book when he was head of Aston Day School, which he had opened in 1959:  "That was the day school," he explained in an interview recorded in 1990 - "that was the first day school for maladjusted children in Middlesex, and it was the seventh in England and Wales." (CF0003, Robert and Pam Laslett, interviewed by Craig Fees, 10/7/90).

Opposite this, in a different pen, is
                 "Did I hit him..." Pg 200.  (On page 200 Winnicott writes "Did I hit him? The answer is no, I never hit. But I should have had to have done so if I had not known all about my hate and if I had not let him know about it too..." )

The Contents Page has more such notes.

The real surprise, however, unfolds as we move into the book proper, and come across Robert's bookmarks.

Here is his bookmark for pages 132-133.  The book opens at a section called "Characteristics of the Manic Defence", beginning on p. 132:

rlaslettbook132 133 001

rlaslettbook132 133 002


The bookmark holding his place at pages 180-181, within Chapter XIV, "Birth Memories, Birth Trauma, and Anxiety [1949]", is this note:

rlaslettbook180 181 001


There are three other bookmarks in the volume: At the first page of Chapter XIV, the chapter in which we find the note above, is a British Airways ticket stub for Robert, travelling from Birmingham International to Charles DeGaulle Airport in Paris. No year is given, but it's for a non-smoking seat on BA flight 1807, departing 1700 on the third of September. Earlier in the book, between pages 58-59, there is a photograph of Donald Winncott, perhaps cut from the dust jacket.  Slipped into the Index at the end of the book, between pages 338-339, there is a hand-drawn card from Phoebe dated 14/6/88.


What is the story behind that first note, written to David Wills by Donald Winnicott on the death of Davids' wife Ruth - in 1956, before the book was even published, and well before Robert acquired it. What was its journey? How did it come to be there? 

And what about the second note, giving Winnicott's regrets for missing a meeting of the AWMC? Was that to David Wills, or to Robert? Both were founders of the Association of Workers for Maladjusted Children.



 (For a bit on Winnicott's relationship with Wills, see "A Fearless Frankness". For a bit on David, Ruth, Bodenham and Ministries, see "Bodenham, David Wills, and 'Administrative hostility'". For Robert and the AWMC, see PP/RL Robert Laslett).

Taken into the Archive and Study Centre collections during August 2015, the gift of Dr. Tom Harrison:

A reminder of Hollymoor Hospital - Northfield Military Psychiatric Hospital during World War Two - site of the Northfield Experiments - one of the key seeds of the therapeutic community movement.

Colours and textures to be savoured. What hands have held these?


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Gearing up for the August (2015) stocktaking closure, this comes out of one of the children's files we hold:


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#Why we love archives

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It seems extraordinary, but in the five days of this year's Archive Week (June 22-26), a small band of Caldecott Association members:

  • created 551 scans
  • transcribed 33 documents (including 22 letters from John and Constance Masefield to Leila Rendel, dated from 1914 to around 1917)
  • located 42 newspaper articles on the online British Newspaper Archive related to the Caldecott Community, ranging in date from 1915 to 1954
  • added 2 new accessions (one of which sub-divided into 8 sub-accessions) to the Archive collections
  • recorded 3 hours and 49 minutes of oral history interview
  • completed a 132-entry accessions list for the larger of the new archive accessions
  • completed 2 archive collection catalogues begun earlier in the year
  • re-numbered and re-catalogued 1 archive collection
  • catalogued and integrated a later accession into an existing collection's catalogue
  • generated 4 entirely new collection catalogues, and initiated and made substantial inroads into a fifth
  • and enjoyed themselves!


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One Caldecottian wrote to fellow Caldecott Association members: "what an enjoyable and profitable Caldecott archiving few days I had..."

"It was very nice to attend PETT again in its lovely Cotswold location in equally lovely weather shared with CA friends. What 'hotel window' of a warm summer evening could you glance out of and catch sight of bats, the cawing of returning Rooks to their lime tree treetop nests or a little lonesome Muntjac deer wander across PETT's Barns House window-view field? And, in the morning draw one's curtains and view a flock of Jackdaws clucking in distinctive sing-song manner arrayed on the grassy expanse picking at ground nibbles, alongside Grey Wagtails and other ornithological creatures not a few yards from one's window?"


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notice to quit



Archivist Craig Fees said "It's always a shock going from being a lone archivist one day to immersion in a residential community of passionate volunteers the next, with scanners and cataloguing filling the air with questions and discoveries, and archives spinning off into stories and memories, and excitement and laughter. The machines always throw up problems, which we mainly solve by the fourth day in; and with everything computer-based nowdays we could easily use two or three more. By the fifth day the full immersion in one community and one community's archives begins to unfold in emotional and intellectual rewards of a kind which illuminate the depth of what the community achieved, and what an archive is for. Two days in I was asked this year whether I would like people to leave early, to give me that fifth day off. The blast of transition still on me, the sudden extra long days of an Archive Week, and the frustration of mis-matched equipment thrown in together, and I was tempted: But in the end, five days is not enough. This is what I came into archives for. This is the gift that communities which care enough about themselves and their histories to tackle their archives, and record and share their memories give. It's absolutely precious. Thankyou!"

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Peter Still tries to focus, while immersed in cataloguing the Maurice Bridgeland Collection. Co-Volunteers Bob Lawton and Luke Stzymiak remain focused and calm in the midst of the plethora of tasks and information.


The immense riches of Maurice Bridgeland's researches into the lives and history and practice - what a combination! - of pioneer workers and work for his extraordinary 1971 book "Pioneer Work With Maladjusted Children", continue to unfold under the cataloguing hand of Red Hill School's Peter Still. Scratching the surface of the hundreds and hundreds of items:

A worn and slightly tattered, roneoed booklet of seasonal poems entitled "Brekenbrough Christmas".

A handwritten note from Brother Owen SSF, written from the Friary at Hilfield in Dorset, thanking Maurice for the return of a tape - "I hope you found it of some use", but asking about two others, which he had mislaid - "one of my farewell at S Francis School & the other of a talk I gave at a conference - Did I, by any chance, lend them to you" (oh where are these?).

A draft of the Introduction to the book by David Wills.

A Reader's Report:

The work could profitably be expanded on several themes. A greater awareness of the work of these pioneers has been brought about by official recognition (Home Office) of the value of their work. Their influence on the new Children's Bill is very apparent. The work, at present, stands as a good biographical survey of the field - but workers of today are searching for more than that ; they...want inspiration as to the type of methods or attitudes they can (indeed, must) adopt.... [emphasis ours]

George Lyward's heavily annotated response to Maurice Bridgeland's draft chapter on 'Finchden Manor and George Lyward' - "...all have tackled the problem of delinquency as an expression of maladjustment..." writes Bridgeland. The word "maladjustment" is circled by Lyward, with a line to the margin and a handwritten: "No! " followed by a description of the Finchden Manor view. In an accompanying letter Lyward writes: "Must you put Wills Shaw & myself together? To do that is to rob all that I believe is of significance - & the same for them." 

A detailed letter from Arthur Barron about Rest Harrow Abbey School ("Batty Abbey"), Q Camps for Boys, and Alresford Place School. 

Among others he notes that one of the members of the Rest Harrow Abbey School was Dina Rosenbluth - "she is now at the Tavistock Children's Dept.", writes Barron; and among other convergences with therapeutic community and planned environment therapy ('common roots') which are found in her obituary is the note that she was analysed by Harold Bridger (whose work at Northfield was influenced by Q Camps, and whose archives we hold). Of Hawkspur Camp for Boys (1944-1947) he writes that "we could not get licences for new building material so had to buy bombed rubble and attempt to recondition it!", and of the boys said:

"They had experience of bombing and other physical destruction on an unprecedented scale and of the worst effects of evacuation i.e. deprivation...Meanwhile [between establishment of the therapeutic camp in 1944 and subsequent years, as the war came to an end], the problem had changed. Dads were being demobbed. One by one the boys emotional centre switched back to the families. We became the wicked "they" who kept "them" away from home. The newcomers were disillusioned by the heroes' return and came feeling thrown out by an imposter so another load was added to their destructive urges."

According to Barron's letter, Alresford Place, the post-War experimental therapeutic community for children in Hampshire, spearheaded by PETT Founder Marjorie Franklin, "was founded before the senior staff and committee had found an answer to the central conceptual problem...I think subsequent events there tend to confirm that the Committee of Q Camp for Boys was right in thinking it essential to have a good "fit" between physical environment and task."

How good would it be to have Maurice Bridgeland with us, to thank him and to ask him about all this wealth of history and detail that he elicited from the people who had lived and created that history.

 Archivist Craig Fees stayed with him on the Isle of Wight in 1996, and recorded numerous discussions over the course of three days. Elaine Boyling visited in 2008 and recorded more. But the horizon Peter Still is revealing as he catalogues the Maurice Bridgeland Collection shows how far beyond the oral histories his experience and knowledge ranged. And how much could easily have been lost, without the wisdom and generosity of Maurice's family after his death.