The Curious Case of Benjamin Cockayne

By October 1719, Churchwardens Stephen Turpin and John Pimm had had enough of Benjamin Cockayne, the bad boy of Bramcote. For seven years, they had watched with increasing concern his immoral lifestyle, his drunkenness, and his routine abuse of his neighbours. They brought a case against Cockayne to the ecclesiastical authorities and there was no shortage …

Medieval Christmas Mass

It’s entirely possible that the clerk who ripped the pages out of the 15th book of Roman Catholic liturgical music was just old enough to have attended church services in pre-Reformation England, but in truth we don’t know. These parchment leaves, MS 12/6-7, contain parts of masses for Christmas Day and the Feast of St Stephen …

Ballads at KMC

This is a guest post by Clare Clarke, a former volunteer librarian. As a volunteer I have had the privilege to work with a range of fascinating collections, including material from the French Revolution, Fred Westacott pamphlets and works on or by D.H. Lawrence donated by the family of Emile Delavenay, a French academic. My …

Between the Covers: Books and Booksellers

The trade in books grew from the system of barter between monasteries and the fledgling Universities, which in the Middle Ages were the two primary producers and consumers of books. In England, early booksellers were called Stationers, after their stalls (or stations), working from a fixed location, as opposed to being itinerant sellers. When the …

Anne Vaux: recusant!

If you’ve been watching the BBC drama Gunpowder, you will be aware of the historical character Anne Vaux, played by Liv Tyler. Anne was unmarried and wealthy, and fiercely devoted to Roman Catholicism, at a time when Catholics were being persecuted for their faith. According to her biographies in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography …

Notable Nottingham Alumni: Raja Azlan Shah

As the University of Nottingham prepares to welcome thousands of students for the new academic year, we look back at some notable alumni, starting with the King of Malaysia, Azlan Shah. Azlan Shah was born on 19th April 1928 in Perak, the 4th-largest state in Malaysia. He was the second son of Sultan Yussuf Izzuddin …

Scary Tales

In the words of her own grand-niece Rosalind Constable, Favell Lee Mortimer wrote “one of the most outspokenly sadistic children’s books ever written” [New Yorker, 1950 – subscription required], yet she topped the Victorian best-seller lists and was well-regarded as an educational author. Today is the 139th anniversary of her death, and the book referred …

The Bachelors’ Balls

If a single man in possession of a good fortune was in want of a wife in late nineteenth century Nottingham, he rectified the situation by joining a committee and paying to host a ball to meet eligible young ladies. This volume (MS 243: Minute book of the Bachelors’ Ball, Nottingham, 1908-1928) is the sole surviving …

Robert Boyle, the Biggleswade Bigamist

With dark eyes, broad shoulders and a black suit with a gold-embroidered waistcoat, former soldier Robert Boyle cut a dashing figure. He used his confidence and charm to win the hearts of young ladies wherever he went – and then ruined them. Bigamist Five days into her marriage, Susannah Boyle was confronted with the reality …

You May Now Turn Over Your Papers

Term begins this week and many students will be plunged straight into exams. We’ve had a look through the University Archives to find out what the students of yesteryear faced when they turned over their papers. Music, 1939 Prior to 1948, University College Nottingham had no power to confer degrees. All qualifications (and therefore, examinations) were …