Hidden Treasures of Ordinary Life

Hello, I’m Julie and I’ll be writing future blog posts as Jo Baines has left Sussex for pastures new.

One of the major tasks with the items in the Legacy Collection and the other material in our Documents Collection is to look at and itemise every single piece of paper, booklet, pamphlet and government publication to make sure we know exactly what we have in this marvellous collection.

It’s interesting work, although sometimes a bit repetitive if you get a run of government papers or magazines. And this is just what was happening one morning as one of our team, Lisa, was itemising a run of magazines called The News-Letter, the National Labour Fortnightly which ran from 1932 to approximately 1938.

As she picked up an edition dated 1935 a small envelope fell out from between the pages, unstamped and addressed to a Mr R. Bassett, Balliol College, Oxford. It had obviously been tucked in there for safe keeping or to be used as a bookmark. On the back of the flap of the envelope was written “send back dirty things”.

Intrigued and amused we open up the envelope (it had already been opened by R.Bassett many years ago), and inside was a letter:reg-barrett-letter-007

 

My dear Reg

I am sending your clean undies , did not know if there was anything else you needed.

Hope your cold is better? Fine but chill here today with very cold east wind. Have not heard from Col(d?)stock yet today. I think Toby was out most of yestr:

Love from all

Mum

reg-barrett-letter-003-002

Nothing earth shattering, nothing life changing, just an ordinary letter from a mother to her son while he was away at university. But fascinating all the same, this little glimpse into ordinary lives, just another ordinary day, 30th July 1937.

The address at the top of the letter was Church View, Frant and with this bit of information we became a private detective agency. Who lived there in 1937? Did the house still exist? What became of Reg and did he ever learn how to do his own washing?

We found Mrs Bassett mentioned in the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser in 1934 and the name Reg Bassett was definitely associated with the village of Frant from about 1901 onwards, but it wasn’t easy to find out very much about the Bassetts in the 1930s.

We did a bit more digging about on the internet, searching for Reg in connection with Balliol College and the Labour Party and we finally found out who he was. This Reg Bassett was none other than the historian and political scientist Reginald Bassett from the London School of Economics. When his mother wrote him the letter he wasn’t a student at Bailliol but a lecturer with the Extra-Mural Studies Delegacy of the University of Oxford, mainly working in Sussex (which is possibly how his copy of the magazine came to be at the University of Sussex all those years later). He became a professor at the LSE in 1961. He was a supporter of the Independent Labour Party and supported Ramsay MacDonald’s design to a form the National Government with the Conservatives and Liberals.

professor_reginald_bassett_1950

The London School of Economics holds Professor Bassett’s papers in their archive, so we’ve offered the letter to them to add to their collection.

Of course a letter like the one we found has no national significance and is not as important or maybe even as interesting as the magazine it was found in or the rich material that makes up the Legacy Collection. But it has importance none the less, life is made up of little moments like this letter.

If you would like to look at The News-Letter, the National Labour Fortnightly or any of the other material mentioned in the blog posts or on our catalogue, please get in touch with us and we’ll be happy to help.

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