Now that I have come to the end of my internship with the North Herts Museums, and taken pictures of thousands of objects, I thought I would share my favourite object from the Social History Store at Burymead.

The object I liked most in the Social History Store was the wooden Bird House.


When we first discovered it in the depths of the store room, it was very dusty, and its only inhabitant was a lonely spider. But once we had taken the object out, dusted it off a little and taken the spider out it was clear that it was a very beautiful, decorative bird house.The birdhouse is very ornate and delicate, the bird house itself probably would have been a decoration in the front room.

In the 18th century, birds lived in dwellings that were similar of houses for people than for the birds themselves. Often made of expensive and exotic woods and built like miniature architectural models, these structures were found among the very rich and fashionable people of England and France. While structurally beautiful, most of these fantastic cages did little to support the needs of the bird. Often dangerous for the birds and difficult to clean, it’s amazing that the birds survived in these structures at all.

I particularly like the small set of steps leading up to the ‘door’, which were obviously useless for the bird, but make the entire cage look more like a house.

Finally I would like to thank everyone at the North Herts Museum Service for being so welcoming and giving me the opportunity to see the objects in storage. I look forward to visiting the new museum in 2015.

Now that I am coming to the end of my time working for the North Herts Museum Service I thought it would be a good opportunity to share with you what is my favourite object in storage at Burymead.

I have chosen a selection of ‘Home Cookery’ magazines which date from 1911-1919. My reasons for choosing these are simply because I enjoy cooking myself and found it interesting to see the recipes people were using 100+ years ago.


In the 1911 publication I particularly enjoyed the ‘Invalid Recipes’ which include Bovril Toast, Bovril Custard and Boiled Custard. I wonder which of those you would find most appealing? Personally I am not sure which I would prefer!


The second publication I have chosen is from the war period and is dated October 1915. The focus of this issue is on the cheap cuts of meat which can be found, and how to plan a week’s meals in advance. This includes substituting meat for other food stuffs including oatmeal and breadcrumbs to bulk out a meal.


Finally I would like to thank everyone at the North Herts Museum Service for being so welcoming and giving me the opportunity to see the objects in storage. I look forward to visiting the new museum in 2015.

Whilst carrying out an audit of the social history store at Burymead in Hitchin we came across two interesting children’s books which we have decided to share with you. They are called Bubble Books and are titled ‘The Merry Midgets’ (1917) and ‘The Pie Party’ (1920). The following is a brief history of the company who published them.

The story of the Harper-Columbia Bubble Book series begins in 1917 in the USA when Ralph Mayhew, an employee of Harper came up with the idea of producing a series of books for children which included records which sang to the reader. Mayhew promoted them with the tagline ‘Harper Columbia Book that Sings’. The price of the books varied over time, on their first release they were retailed at $1.00 in 1917, which then increased to $1.50 in 1920, $1.25 in 1921 and then finally in 1922 returned to the original price of $1.00.


The success of the Bubble Book series resulted in Harper Columbia making a deal with British publishers Hodder and Stoughton Ltd in order to create a British edition of the books. On UK editions; as we have at Burymead the publisher is Hodder-Columbia, a reflection of the deal between the two companies. Sales of the series were good but began to tail off in the early to mid 1920s when the patent for the series was purchased by Victor Talking Machine Company in 1924.

On obtaining the patent Victor published a series of six Bubble Books; the new editions were larger and had double sided records which appealed to the public who embraced the new format; this was reflected in Victor’s decision to manufacture a phonograph decorated with images from the Bubble Book series, this was priced at $18.00.


By 1930 sales began to fall , perhaps as a result of the economic situation following the Wall Street crash of 1929. In 1930 Ralph Mayhew regained the copyright and Columbia began production of the Bubble Book once again in partnership with Dodd, Mead and Company. In the following two years production was wound down and ended with the release of records from Bubble Books 13-16 alongside the Clarion recording label.

The historical importance of the Bubble Book series is reflected in their inclusion in the Library of Congress (USA) as part of the National Recording Registry. In 2004 Bubble Book #1 was added to the registry because of its importance as the first children’s book and record series.