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Discover fascinating treasures in new Archives display

Published on Thursday, 23rd February 2017 in Local history and heritage news

Visitors can see a significant new display of fascinating historical treasures in the Rotherham Archives and Local Studies section at Clifton Park Museum.

One of the prized items is a letter from Thomas Paine to Thomas Walker. Thomas Paine is credited as the godfather of the American Revolution, it was his pamphlet Common Sense which encouraged American independence from Great Britain and went on to become one of the best-selling titles in American history.

Thomas Paine was also engaged in the world of cast iron bridge building. In this capacity he came into contact with the Walkers of Rotherham, famous iron manufacturers, together they designed and built a number of cast iron bridges.

His letter dates from January 1789 and discusses the stagnation of the bridge building business and the illness of King George III and hints of Paine’s revolutionary republican ideals and opinion on the British constitution.

Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cultural Services, Cllr Taiba Yasseen, said: “The items on display have been chosen by the Archives staff for their interesting or unusual stories that they reveal. We welcome everyone to come along a take a look at our specially arranged exhibition.

“Visitors to the new Archives display will discover a collection of objects with amazing stories which give an astonishing insight into people’s lives during this period through viewing over one hundred years’ of history.”

Another item on display is a telegram giving details a shocking theft and a transatlantic manhunt! In 1893, Richard Butterworth a cashier working for Steel, Peech and Tozer stole £760 from the company, which in today’s money is equal to around £84,000.

The telegram is from Steel, Peech and Tozer to New York asking for help in locating Butterworth who was believed to have sailed there from Southampton shortly after the robbery.

Unfortunately, the American manhunt was unsuccessful and the authorities were unable to locate Butterworth in America. A £100 reward was issued nationwide for anyone who had information on the location of Butterworth.

Also on display, is the 1884 diary of Alfred Ward from Kimberworth who travelled all the way to Australia looking for work. In 1884 the journey to Australia took 53 days, even on a fast ship like the S.S. Cambodia which Alfred travelled on.

This diary covers both his journey there and back, and gives a real insight into world travel in the late 19th century. It recalls a rather eventful Sunday church service on board the ship, in which the parson was too drunk to deliver his service!

These items are just some of the wonderful archive materials on display in the searchroom at Clifton Park Museum. The searchroom is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 10am to 5pm and Saturdays, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm.

Go to the Archives and local history webpage

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