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Archive for January, 2013

I got what I most wanted from the Alfred Day auction – though I’d have liked more!  At the viewing I decided to bid for a couple of photo albums; flicking through them I spotted one or two pictures of a very young Alfred.  Another lot comprised three items, one of which was his handwritten book “Fontwell Park and the South Coast Road” that included general and local history and selected autobiographical details.  I wanted this most of all.  I had used a photocopy of it when researching the Fontwell racecourse book and this was the primary source of the extra information that allowed me to write the follow-up about the Day family.  I hadn’t seen this original document before.

I’d have liked an 1898 painting of the Days’ house, and some of the horse pictures they had owned, but knowing certain other people were interested who had greater claims to them than me, I stood aside rather than compete in the bidding.  It was very satisfying to introduce two couples at the auction who I knew separately but didn’t know each other until now.  I must thank them both for providing refreshments for me at different stages of the viewing day.  Happily, both couples got what they wanted, within budget, and we all came out satisfied.

I was surprised that there were other people present who started bidding for the two photo albums before I joined in.  I don’t understand what the attraction was, unless it was their stout binding rather than the contents.  I got them in the end, though paying more than I’d expected.   The photos in them are 19th century, posed, studio-bound.   I don’t recognise many people so far but there may be clues written on the back of them.  They’re held cleverly in place but I need to find some tweezers to extract them without tearing anything and turn them over.  It may be that they tell me nothing new now; paying for them was a bit of a gamble.  Yet the way the Days’ story never quite finishes gives me hope that something may turn up in the future that will make them useful.

I secured the South Coast Road book, but this was purely because I coveted it.  I doubt that there’s any more meaningful history to be dredged from it and it’s not a thing of beauty.   I hope to sell the two other books that were part of that lot, one of which is 200 years old and holds no interest for me.  Internet prices for that particular item seemed to range from £65 to four figures, though I may not have been comparing like with like in every case.  Happily the amount I paid wasn’t too outlandish.

From the tense but cheery atmosphere of the auction – which had its fair share of Lovejoyish characters supplied by central casting – it was a long drive to Uttoxeter, with sleet and snow to accompany me the further north I went.  The plan on the first full day there was to look at some records in the Town Hall.  A lot more snow fell that morning and I am grateful to the staff there who kept on working, keeping the building open, which allowed me to make notes from old municipal minute books for over six hours.  The next day followed a similar pattern, except I was at the local library this time.  I did a lot more note-taking this second day, which was very productive.  (But what a noisy, dimly-lit, unevenly-focusable microfilm reader they had).  I find I am still happier making handwritten notes in these situations, with the result that I have a lot to type up later.

Meeting some of my local helpers was ruled out because of the riskiness of using side roads and country lanes in snowy, icy conditions.  Because of that and the threat of fresh snow the next day I curtailed my stay and came home a day early, doing the journey in record time thanks to there being so little traffic on the M1.  Now I’m home and have bee watching the promised fresh snow fall steadily for hours.

All in all, three good days.  Now where are those tweezers?

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Dramatic news – for me – was that some Alfred Day memorabilia is coming up for auction soon.  Though the catalogue isn’t out yet, this apparently will include furniture from the house he and his family lived in up until about 2001, when the last member of it died.  I understood that some of the contents had been sold at the time, while other items went into storage in a local museum.  These I saw when visiting the museum on quite a few occasions to go through family papers that had been deposited there at the same time as the furniture.  The paperwork helped the Fontwell racecourse book research, but it was primarily of assistance with my follow-up The Days of Fontwell.

I gather the sales proceeds will go to charity.  I expect I would like a lot of whatever is being auctioned, but space and financial considerations will limit what (if anything) I ultimately bid for.  Other people I know will be interested.  I would not want us to bid against each other if we could help it.  I shall go along to one of the viewings, and to the auction itself a few days later.  It so happens that I had the latter day planned to be the start of my next Uttoxeter visit.  I will travel north after the auction, wanting to have my cake and eat it.

The Bath talk notes progress; and I have finished going through the big box of newspaper cuttings from Uttoxeter racecourse.  It covers one ten year period in the last 25 thoroughly and one other single year.  I will need to make sure I don’t describe the course’s history at disproportionate length in those years simply because I have a lot of information.   Later this week I need to ring some people there who I’d like to see, or may be able to help me – and hope they will oblige; fortunately for me, many have in the past.

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