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Scraps that survive

Posted by on July 25, 2014

Among my grandmother’s (Mabel Burnley nee Harrison) few surviving papers are some interesting items.  There is a newspaper obituary of her father who died in 1933 and several letters about the business of clearing up his estate, but the oddest of all is a page from the Gomersal Book Society.  This must date between 1904-1913 and I cannot think of any reason why it has survived except by accident.  Nor can I find any trace of the book society to which it refers.

I suspect this was part of the Mechanics Institute in Gomersal which maintained a fair-sized library – it had 700 books when it was founded in 1854.  The reading room at the Institute, which had 200

A 100 year-old scrap of family history

A 100 year-old scrap of family history

members at this time, was well supplied with newspapers and journals, among them the Illustrated London News, Punch, the Leeds Mercury, Society of Arts Journal as well as evangelical magazines.  My great-grandfather, Thomas Lockwood Burnley and his cousin Thomas had been elected to the committee in 1887 and Thomas became a Trustee in 1907.  At some point the latter took charge of the English Mechanic and the Times Parliamentary Debates.  The rules of this book society were no doubt very ordinary, but from the tone one suspects that fines were levied and paid and the strict procedures complied with.  (If you click to enlarge the image you can read them).  It is nice to know that these two mill owners were fairly keen readers, on a wide range of subjects.  They had both had a respectable eduction – Thomas Lockwood at Applegate Grammar School in Newark – and Thomas at an obscure place in Doncaster.  This yellowing scrap of paper offers just a tiny and insignificant detail of their lives and how I wish more had survived.


2 Responses to Scraps that survive

  1. Diana Devlin

    How interesting. It seems a very precise method of circulation, with the book going regularly – since the names are printed – to each specific reader in turn, and then to Mrs Seal, and then back to anyone who wanted to give it a more thorough perusal. Perhaps explains why private libraries were so often called ‘circulating libraries’.

  2. Margaret McAlpine

    Good thinking – I had missed the ‘circulating’ angle. Of course, books were expensive and nobody wanted to leave them sitting on shelves.

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