The Chronicle Collection – The1960s

Since my last update at Christmas, my research on the Chronicle Collection owned by Reading Museum has continued with the help of Project Intern, Farah Qureshi. I have worked systematically and chronologically through the collection beginning with photographs taken in the 1930s for the Berkshire Chronicle newspaper before moving on to the 1940s and 1950s.

In nearing completion of the research stage for the photographs selected for the online resource, I am now researching photographs from the 1960s, the final decade for this strand of the project.

‘The Sixties’ denotes a time of revolution in social norms and a relaxation of social taboos. It has become a period synonymous with the new, radical, and rebellious cultural and political movements and trends of the time. It is also an era I find of particular interest, so I have chosen a few of my favourite photographs from this period to share.

The first is that of ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch at 20 years of age, performing at the Majestic Ballroom on Caversham Road in Reading at an event aimed at teenagers. Mr David Apps, the Majestic manager expressed his surprise at the popularity of Screaming Lord Sutch with the audience.  The singer was backed on stage by his band, The Savages. The Berkshire Chronicle described Lord Sutch as wearing “his hair about 18 inches long” and always appearing “in odd clothes like an old tattered loin cloth or some Eskimo outfit”. Sutch gained notoriety for his horror-themed stage show, dressing as Jack the Ripper, pre-dating the stage antics of the likes of Alice Cooper. During Sutch’s music career he worked with Keith Moon of the Who, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin, Ritchie Blackmore who would later become a guitarist in Deep Purple and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. He later forced a career in politics having founded The Official Monster Raving Loony Party in 1983, a registered UK political party famed for its deliberately bizarre policies aimed at satirising British politics. Sutch sadly suffered from manic depression and committed suicide in 1999.

1960s chronicle

The second is American ‘Ban the Bomb’ marchers on Wokingham Road in Reading. The marchers, facing hardship and possible loss of freedom trooped into Reading after beginning their walk in San Francisco in California 6 months previously. Their route took them across America to New York where they were then flown to England. The walk was organised by the American Committee for Non-violent Action, in an effort to “make people in the West and the East see the follies of nuclear armaments”. Upon arrival in Reading they were joined by Reading Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Reading University Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They were applauded by a 200 strong crowd of local people upon reaching the Town Hall on Blagrave Street. The marchers’ next stop was France followed by Belgium, Western and Eastern Germany as well as Poland before their final destination of Moscow in Russia.

1960s chronicle2


Sophie Fitzpatrick

Reading Connections Project Officer


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

Internship blog post – Evelyn Williams

I have been volunteering at Reading Museum since 2010 first as part of the Reminiscences Project, then Historypin and most recently Revealing Reading’s Hidden History. Through the internship, I have the opportunity to work full time for a period and see a lot more of how the Museum works. I hope to become more professional, efficient and effective in museum related activities and tasks. The role will also contribute to my own personal development. Working with colleagues from MERL adds a stimulating dimension to this project.

Research on the Reading Chronicle Collection continues and I am working with Project Officer Sophie to prepare information relating to the images that have been selected for an online catalogue.

My time is split between Reading Library where the microfilm copies of the Berkshire Chronicle are available to look at, and Reading Museum where I add to the data and information already held about the image.

Berkshire Chronicle has transported me back to the Reading of 1939 just before and just after the outbreak of the Second World War as it reports on how the outbreak of war affects life in the town. Some familiar local places, people and events crop up but I am learning all the time about Reading’s history.

Some stunning images have been selected to be showcased online covering the length and breadth of life in Reading. From these I have selected an image from June 1939 of the staff of the Berkshire Chronicle before they set off on their annual outing. The scene is in Valpy Street outside the Berkshire Offices and alongside Reading Museum, with Blagrave Street in the background, everyone is dressed up and ready to go.




Evelyn Williams

Project Intern, Reading Museum