A milestone.

Although there is still some on-site photography to take place down at Birmingham Oratory, this week CHICC celebrate the completion of principal photography of the Newman Archive. In total, the project has taken three years, comprising of 11 batches (238 boxes in total), and the grand total of images generated here at John Rylands Library is 233,886.

Batch 10 included some fascinating photo collections, and it seems the Cardinal was partial to a portrait – and certainly not camera shy! One album consisted entirely of portraits. I have selected some of my favourites, and would go as far as to speculate if he were alive today, he would more than likely be a big fan of the selfie!

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The Last Portrait of the Cardinal

St Philips Day

May 26 1890

The Cardinal died

August 11th 1890′.


Although CHICC still have some digitisation and physical object photography to complete down at Birmingham Oratory, this will personally be my last blog post on the Newman Project, as my role comes to an end today and I’ll also be leaving John Rylands Library. It’s truly been a fascinating project to be a part of and it’s been a privilege to work with CHICC.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful poem by P.J. O’Kennedy titled John Henry Newman, which was published upon his death alongside his obituary:

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Batch 10


Last week CHICC handed over Batch 9 and received Batch 10. We anticipate batch 10 to be the final batch of boxes we will receive for digitisation, although some more may surface yet, and we will potentially be visiting Birmingham Oratory in Spring 2016 to photograph some physical objects.

We extend our congratulations to Tony Richards, who after two and a half years as Newman Project Photographer will be joining CHICC as a Heritage Photographer in the new year. The remaining Newman workload will be distributed between Tony, Jamie Robinson, and Heritage Photographer Gwen Riley-Jones, with Cerys Speakman remaining as Photographic Assistant until the end of May 2016.

Seasons greetings to you all!


Laus Deo

A curious find in Batch 8, from this day 149 years ago:


Historical weather forecast records for Oxfordshire for June 1866, from the Met Office website:

  yyyy    mn  tmax    tmin     af    rain     sun
              degC    degC    days    mm      hours
   1866   6   21.9    11.1       0    81.7     ---


Thankfully the weather in Oxfordshire today is glorious, for which we’re sure the sheep are truly thankful!

Batch 7b complete

Last week we completed Batch 7b, sent the boxes back to Birmingham Oratory and received Batch 8. The running total of images generated, to date, is 155,000.Batch 7b

Mary Jo, Daniel, Cerys and Jamie were on hand to load and unload the truck.



Digitisation on batch 8 started immediately, and is already presenting its own challenges:



As the Newman Project comes to the end of its initial two year period of digitisation, we are pleased to announce that the digitisation process will continue until 2016.

Box 147 contains a beautiful hand painted card of congratulations to Cardinal Newman from School Sisters of Notre Dame:


Newman’s elevation to the rank of cardinal took place on 12 May 1879, making him Cardinal-Deacon of San Giorgio al Velabro.


Your Eminence,

My Lord Cardinal.

Uniting ourselves with so many thousands

of English Catholics who rejoice in Your

Eminence’s elevation to the Cardinalate.

we beg humbly to offer our most hearty congrat

ulations for this august occasion.

we need scarcely clothe

The Glass Plate Negatives

We have just completed digitisation of the glass plate negatives from Batch Six, after preparation by the John Rylands Collection Care team. The plates were a mix of size and subject matter, ranging from 6x9cm to 10x12in, while the contents ranged from the formal to the informal; from snapshots to precisely posed.



A small selection is included below. The digitised negatives are inverted using our digital capture software in order to create the positive image. The negative image appears as below:


Many of the plates were an early endeavor to photographically record the Newman Archive, meaning that we found ourselves digitising glass plates of letters we most probably photographed in their original format earlier in the project! It is safe to say the digitisation process has improved over the years; as you can see below, drawing pins were used.



Not all attempts were successful, as seen below, flare on paintings can always be an issue:


And we wouldn’t dream of mounting tapestries to a fence or shed wall!


Also included were some exterior shots of the Oratory, and documentation of special events;





Below is a Magic Lantern Slide, a transparent positive image which would be used in a projector.


A 10×12 glass plate documenting Cardinal Newman’s room. This could be of interest to conservation staff who are currently developing a long term preservation strategy for the room, as certain elements have suffered damage over the years.


Working with these plates has certainly been a welcome break from two years of document digitisation, however now the work is complete we are back to the usual content.

Batch 6 Update

Today we exchanged Batch 6 for Batch 7.

Batch 6 was meant to be a smaller batch of twenty boxes, for completion before Christmas. It turned out the contents were greater than expected, just eleven boxes of this batch produced over 19000 images, so the full batch would have been nearer 40000 images! We will carry over nine boxes and add it to Batch 7.

To date we have digitised a total of 119000 images for the archive.


Image from The Press on Cardinal Newman, With A Short Sketch of His Life.

“Ealing School Playground, August 11 1853”.

Today we came across a more unusual and unexpected item in the Newman Archive – in amongst the thousands of letters, an envelope simply labelled “Ealing School Playground, August 11 1853”. Inside, a collection of dry leaves with no further explanation.

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It seems Newman must have paid a visit to Ealing School, where he had studied between the ages of seven and fifteen. At the end of his time at Ealing School, Newman underwent his conversion, influenced by Thomas Scott.  ‘. . . to whom (humanly speaking)  I almost owe my soul.’  Newman would have been 52 years old when he collected these leaves. This would make these preserved leaves over 161 years old!

It’s all a bit of a mystery – can anyone help us get to the root of it?

Feast day of Blessed John Henry Newman

Feast Days of the Blesseds and Saints are usually marked on the day they died. The Feast Day of Blessed John Henry Newman , despite the fact he died on August 11 1890,  is celebrated on October 9th, the day he converted to the Catholic Church.

Here is a letter penned on that very day.


Littlemore, October 9. 1845

My Dear Madam,

  I have not been able to tell you. I shall, please God, be received this evening. Father Dominic, the Passionist, who is hearing my confession, did not come till late last night, and has to get away soon, being on his way to Belgium. So he fixed this evening.

  I am so engaged, in various ways, as you may suppose, that I merely tell you this, thanking you sincerely for all the interest you feel in me, and earnestly praying & trusting that it will not be found misplaced. The Church of Rome has never acknowledged English Orders, though she has never formally denied them. Practically, I am a layman in her eyes.

  Yours very sincerely,

    John H Newman


A visit to the Birmingham Oratory

As the CHICC team near completion of the second batch of archive material, a few of us were invited to visit the Birmingham Oratory. This was a wonderful opportunity for the team to put the material into context and learn more about Cardinal Newman himself. Brother Joseph and Daniel Joyce gave us a tour of the Oratory and let us in on its history.

Pictured: The Cloister


We were fortunate enough to be shown Cardinal Newman’s room, in which he lived and worked until he died at the age of 89. The room remains in its original condition.

Pictured: Cardinal Newman’s room:

NewmanRoom1 NewmanRoom4 NewmanRoom3 NewmanRoom2

We were shown The Cardinal Newman Library, which Newman founded in 1848 and made significant contributions to throughout his lifetime. We spent some time viewing pieces of interest including those with original medieval bindings and we discussed conservation issues surrounding these items.

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Pictured below is the remainder of the Newman archive awaiting digitisation, minus the fifty boxes already digitised or currently held at the John Rylands Library. As you can see, we will be kept busy for quite some time yet!


Pictured below: The Newman Chapel

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Pictured: The Oratory Church:


Finally, a trip to Birmingham Oratory isn’t complete without honorary tour guide, Pushkin the cat, a firm favorite with visitors!


Thank you to everybody at the Oratory for making us welcome, the visit was thoroughly enjoyed by all. For more information about the Oratory, you can visit their website here.