TWO Hampshire historians have won prestigious awards from the British Association for Local History (BALH). Barry Jolly from the Milford-on-Sea Historical Record Association (MOSHRS) received a Local History Award for Personal Achievement for 2020 and David C. Neilson an Award for a Long Article, published by the Hampshire Field Club.

Barry Jolly’s Award for Personal Achievement recognises his enormous contributions to the local history of Milford-on-Sea, including articles in local and national journals and promotion of events and exhibitions, such as the Cornwallis Bicentenary project last year.

After graduating in 1967 in History with Economics and French at Lancaster University he worked in industry before spending five years in an educational capacity as a Lieutenant-Commander in the Royal Navy He served with HMS Ganges and at the RN Engineering College, Plymouth. After a career in higher education he retired and volunteered for the National Trust at Sizergh Castle, near Kendal.

Here he discovered a link between Sizergh and family portraits of the Whitby family of Newlands, Milford-on-Sea. And later, by coincidence, moved to the area to be close to his family. This is a part of the Hampshire coast where sea captains and admirals are thick on the ground. Barry was soon exploring the rich history of the area.

Following on from his research at Sizergh, in 2011 MOSHRS published his monograph, Mrs. Whitby’s Locket. Since then he has published nearly 20 more articles, both in MOSHRS’s Occasional Magazine and Hampshire Studies, as well as national outlets such as The Trafalgar Chronicle and the International Quarterly Journal of the Society for Nautical Research.

His research has been greatly aided by the resources of the Hampshire Records Office, Winchester, as well as the National Archives, the British Library and archives elsewhere

He said: “I recently found some Keyhaven leases in Swindon, and finished with my hands black with ink! Sometimes it’s necessary to question the ‘historical gods’, who believe you can’t challenge the conventions. In a study of Ivy Bank Cottage in Milford, for example, I’ve been exploring the legend that it was there that a judge, the Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, dispensed justice – which is quite untrue, but has led to other revelations.”

Commenting on Barry’s award, Chris Hobby, chairman of MOSHRS, said: “He was one of the leading organisers of the Cornwallis celebration in Milford and of the ‘Command of the Sea: the Navy and the New Forest Against Napoleon’ exhibition at St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery in 2019.

“He has also given a number of talks to local organisations and as editor of the society’s Occasional Magazine he has done much to create a readable and respected – but thoroughly researched – source of information on Milford’s history.”

The second BALH award for Hampshire historians was given to David Neilson for his paper, “The operation and achievements of the Winchester pavement commissioners 1770-1866”, published in Hampshire Studies under the editorship of Dr Simon Sandall.

The citation read: “This very detailed study, based on meticulous research in the documentary sources, describes the history of …a body which functioned separately from the ancient corporation. In its concluding sections, the paper demonstrates the impact of their work over almost a century on the town’s infrastructure, health and environment. Bodies such as these have been much neglected by historians and it is good to see that imbalance being redressed.”

As well as paving the streets, the commissioners arranged “lighting and cleansing, removal of nuisances and obstacles, the employment of scavengers and night-watchmen and the regulation of Hackney carriages”.

The award was a “total surprise” to David, whose paper followed a dissertation for an MLitt degree on Family History and Local History from the University of Dundee. He said: “When I retired from my job as an IT manager I decided to get a qualification in history. It was a wonderful course, with modules you could pick and choose and it was all distance learning. I only ever went to Dundee to collect my degree!

“When it came to the dissertation I went to the Hampshire Record Office and was looking through the catalogue and noticed the documents with handwritten accounts of the activities of the Pavement Commissioners for almost 100 years. These and other sources were the basis of my dissertation and the paper that followed.”

David is also on the Register of Qualified Genealogists. His next project is a history of Chilbolton Avenue, Winchester, where the “great and the good” lived in the early decades of the 20th century.

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