Local history and the E17 Art Trail: Beryl Swain: The Need for Speed

The E17 Art Trail must have something for everyone, and it certainly has some things for the local history enthusiast.  Kirstin Sibley has researched the display ‘Beryl Swain: The Need for Speed’ with huge enthusiasm, and her long list of thank-yous includes Jo Parker and Carol Tertullien of Waltham Forest Archives at Vestry House Museum.  The display at 1B Coppermill Lane has plenty of text, but not an excess of it, very comfortable to read as you stand at this shop window without a shop.  There are biker leathers from an era when they weren’t a global women’s fashion, and a rather thin-looking helmet.  A map locates the two Walthamstow houses in which Beryl Swain lived.  Of her time as a competitor in 50 cc motor bike racing, there are of course photos and magnifications of newspaper and magazine coverage.  Rules for international motor bike racing were changed to exclude her as a woman.

Beryl’s marriage to Eddie Swain, the owner of a motorcycle repair business, ended in divorce, which may or may not be connected to Beryl ceasing to compete in UK bike races.  I needed to go to her obituary in ‘The Times’ to find out that Beryl moved to Woodford and later Epping, and was a departmental manager in Sainsbury supermarkets around this part of the London suburbs.  In her spare time she was a Women’s Institute branch secretary and an organiser of ‘meals on wheels’ for the elderly.  Beryl Swain appears from this as unremarkable and as attractive as she does in her bike racing photos.

This E17 Art Trail display designed by Rachel Gomes is an example for local historians.  It has an ideal venue.  The clearly printed text black on white helps those of us with aging sight.  Suspended panels give just the right variation to back wall images.  The available artefacts and information are sufficient to make clear what a trailblazer Beryl Swain was, and how unfair the discrimination against her.

Local history and the E17 Art Trail: Low Hall at 90 + Multi-Cultural Toys

At the junction of Low Hall Lane and Markhouse Road, Walthamstow was a pioneer children’s nursery, and this has inspired Waltham Forest History and Heritage Networker Katherine Green to create a display for the E17 Art Trail.  She has been able to use the railings along the entrance path to mount a panel succinctly summarising the historical significance of the nursery, and photos of its use from the opening in 1929.  Another panel explains how anyone can hear extracts of oral history interviews by dialling a phone number, for which no charge is made.  The audio is clear and the system very simple to use.  It will however cease to work after this month (June 2019).  The first recording, of Margaret Petchey, is an astonishing insight into life for a member of a large family with little money for anything other than necessities.  Katherine describes herself as a social documentary photographer, despite her familiarity with historic document and photograph archives and her skill at oral history.  The display survived some high wind and rain but can be seen in most daylight hours.

Katherine’s contribution to the Art Trail links well with that of another. Waltham Forest History and Heritage Networker, Mary Clare Martin, has brought together some toys made decades ago around the world that reflect a range of cultures and also some of minimal national or religious culture.  Mary Clare Martin is Head of the Centre for the Study of Play and Recreation at the University of Greenwich and Co-Founding Director of The Children’s History Society.

Local history and the E17 Art Trail: Aftermath 1919 – Art and Revolution

For just a week the Artists’ Studios in Lloyd Park contained an exhibition which had history at its centre.  A hundred years ago the Bolsheviks were defending the 1917 Revolution in Russia, and radical socialists were trying to bring about a similar revolution in Germany.  For many of us these events have a weak hold on our understanding and emotions, despite their drama and significance.  The artists who created ‘Aftermath 1919’ demonstrated stunning talent and an affinity for the revolutionaries that cut through hostile British culture and education.

Opportunity to become a trustee at The Pumphouse Museum

Marshall Engine. Engine Run day at Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum.
Marshall Engine at Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum.

Walthamstow’s Pumphouse Museum is housed in and around a Grade II listed former Victorian wastewater pumping station, with collections relating to this and to local innovation in transport, technology and manufacturing. 

A volunteer-run site, The Pumphouse Museum has just undergone a review of governance and operations which will help prepare plans for exciting future development. As a result of this they are looking to expand their Board and seek applicants with the following experience:

– Treasurer/financial and budget management 

– Collections management and documentation, to support ACE accreditation application.

– Collections conservation 

– Fundraising 

– Event management 

– Business Planning 

– Audience development and marketing 

– Volunteer management 

Meetings: The Board currently meets monthly on an evening.

How to apply: Please send a brief covering letter and CV outlining your skills, experience and interest, with a subject line ‘Trustee Application’ to: CC:

Closing Date: 1st June 2019.

Job Type: This is a permanent, voluntary, unpaid position.

Volunteer Opportunities at The Pumphouse Museum

Fantastic volunteering opportunities have opened up at The Pumphouse Museum. Due to the proposed transformation of the museum’s site, the museum requires a number of Volunteers.

Volunteer Role: Front of House (4 positions available)

Schedule: Sundays 11.00am to 4.00pm (on a rota basis)

Duties include engaging with visitors and explaining about the historic building and the current collection on show.

Training will be given.

Other Volunteer Roles: General Volunteer (positions available)

How to Apply: Please email Mr Lindsay Collier MA
with a general overview of yourself, please. Thank You

Featured network partner: Dr. James Lewis

Dr James Lewis, far right, filming a piece on the roof of Alexandra Palace for BBC TV .
Photo Credit: East London and West Essex Guardian

This week we’re delighted to welcome Dr. James Lewis to our network.

An expert on the industrial history of the Lea Valley, Dr. Lewis is a prolific author who is also available to give lectures on his specialist subject. If you’re interested in booking him for a speaking engagement, just send us a message and we’ll put you in touch with him.

Dr. Lewis’s passion for the heritage of the Lea Valley has also fueled his involvement with the Lea Valley Heritage Alliance which he has helped to set up and launch in recent years.

Welcome to the network!

We’re delighted to welcome these wonderful people and organisations (below) who have joined our network in recent weeks:

Katherine Green

Lucy Harrison

Muslim History Tours

Rendezvous Projects

Suntrap Forest Centre

Waltham Forest, Antigua & Barbuda and Dominica Twinning Asssociation

Walthamstow History

Walthamstow Memories