Preparing for Candlemas

Whilst some are getting ready for Advent and the Christmas season, at Eton we are looking forward to another Christian festival.  Candlemas commemorates the presentation of Jesus at the Temple, and falls on 2nd February – the fortieth, and some say final, day of Christmas.  In 2018, a special Candlemas service will be held in the College Chapel to install a newly commissioned silver altar set.

The pair of candlesticks are being made by Rod Kelly, one of the UK’s leading silversmiths, who specialises in low relief chasing.  Rod has established the South House Silver Workshop Trust to support young graduate silversmiths, who visit his workshop in Shetland to be mentored and receive technical training.

The chalice and patten are being made by Miriam Hanid, who has been working as a professional silversmith since 2008.  Her training has included a Master Craftsman Internship with Rod Kelly sponsored by the Goldsmiths’ Company.  Four of her pieces won awards in the 2017 Goldsmiths’ Craft and Design Awards.

The gallery below shows Rod and Miriam’s recent work on the altar set in progress.

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Images by Rod Kelly and Miriam Hanid; text by Lucy Gwynn, Deputy Librarian

A year in the life of an archives assistant

Coming to the end of my time as the Archives Assistant at Eton, I find myself divided between feelings of excitement for the future, gratitude for everything I have been able to see and learn, and sadness at leaving a Collections team that made it such an enjoyable experience, and one in which my consumption of cake has tripled.

The position is a trainee role, allowing me to learn what it takes to be an archivist, gain hands on experience, and (hopefully) help contribute to the work of the College Archives along the way. Over the year I have certainly been kept busy, working upon a range of projects including: cataloguing records of an island owned by the College; running a session as part of a challenge day at a local primary school, allowing 8 and 9 year old pupils to get hands-on with our records and investigate the life of Dr John Keate, a 19th century Eton Head Master; and assisting researchers using our records. The majority of my time has been spent cataloguing around 3300 letters sent to the College bursars between 1775 and 1900, which discuss day to day business – from food orders to the income from the College’s estates and the construction of new buildings to meet the needs of the ever expanding school.

When I started this job I thought that being a successful archivist was all about having a good eye for detail and an ability to order things, I now know that there is so much more to it than just that. You must have the confidence to trust in your knowledge and skills, knowing that a mistake could impact upon a researcher in the future. Be versatile enough to deal with the wide range of material in your collection, from wax seals, parchment rolls and boxes upon boxes of handwritten letters; to magazines, books and even emails. If I had my time again, I would certainly brush up on my non-existent Latin and Greek! Not to forget being willing and determined to spend hours removing rusted pins, paperclips and staples from documents they would otherwise damage.

I remember being unsure before I started of what to expect from the College Archives. What I have found is a place in which I was given the opportunity to ask questions, work within a fantastic archive on amazing records, and learn from excellent people.

By Josh Insley, Archives Assistant