Researching the Chronicle Collection

Over the past few months I have continued my work on the Chronicle Collection belonging to Reading Museum. With the help of Project Intern, Sarah Beattie, the 2,000 glass plate negatives selected from the collection for the online resource have now been digitised using specialist scanning equipment. This strand of the Reading Connections project is now in its final phase.

I am in the process of researching the photographs alongside Project Intern, Evelyn Williams, using diverse and interesting methods including the study of microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle in Reading Library, in an attempt to identify the selected photographs in their published format and any related articles. It should be noted that Reading Library are in the process of digitalising their newspaper collections amongst other items including the Berkshire Chronicle which will make future research more accessible. Books written by local historians and select websites have also been useful in providing a history of Reading, from which to draw information from.


In researching the photographs in the Berkshire Chronicle, I have come across many interesting local stories, for example, an escaped swan in 1945, who tired of his surroundings in the River Thames was found wandering through Reading, unperturbed by the traffic. He was eventually captured by Mr L. T. Boshier (pictured above), Keeper of the King’s Swans in Reading and was returned to the river unharmed.


Another unusual story found in the Berkshire Chronicle is that of 19 year old, Miss Ellen Harvey (pictured above) who was badly bitten by her 7 year old male lion, Mushie, who she had trained in a ‘wrestling stage act’. The inclusion of wild animals in stage performances was somewhat acceptable at the time. The incident occurred during an evening performance at the Palace Theatre on Cheapside in Reading in 1948, shortly after beginning her first act. It was reported in the newspaper that Mushie, who had seemed agitated all afternoon leading up to the performance, took a bite from Miss Harvey’s hand, his teeth sinking to her bone. Miss Harvey soldiered through the rest of her act before seeking medical attention and during her second act of the evening was wrapped in bandages. It is claimed that during the later performance, Mushie was back to his usual self and safely ate raw meat off Miss Harvey’s face, an unofficial world record in 1948.

Sophie Fitzpatrick

Project Officer

4 thoughts on “Researching the Chronicle Collection

  1. I googled Miss Ellen and Mushie, because I remembered that sometime in the 1950s, when visiting Blackpool, I was scratched by Mushie through the bars of the cage!

    I can remember thinking it was very exciting to be scratched by a lion, and Miss Ellen gave me a signed photo of herself and Mushie. i have lost the photo, and there is no-one in my family I can ask about it as I am 71 and my parents long since dead.

    I don’t think Health and Safety had been invented then!

    • Dear Mrs A. Ford,
      Thank you for your comment on the blog post and for sharing your memory. It seems Miss Ellen and Mushie were a popular attraction in the 1950s and performed at different theatres around the country!

  2. I read your article with interest and in particular your reference to Mr L T Boshier, The Keeper of the Kings Swans.
    He was my Great Uncle, the eldest brother of my Dad’s Mum – my grandmother. I knew the story about someone in my family being a Keeper of the Kings Swans but your article is the first proof I have seen regarding same.
    There are 2 things I would like to ask.
    1. Is there any record/information about the Keeper of the Kings Swans I can look up. In particular I would be interested to learn how my Great Uncle became involved/got the job and what it entailed as on the 1911 Census his job was detailed as something quite different and was employed, I believe, by the biscuit manufacturer Huntley & Palmers.
    2. Can I copy your article to my family tree please?

    Robert Allum

    • Thank you for your comments, and for your questions, which I will reply to within the next couple of days via your email address.

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