After a poor excuse for a “full English” breakfast in the basement of my hotel, I set off for Victoria Station to catch the tube to Kew Gardens. Not really knowing where I was going or what I was doing, I stood in the longer line to purchase tickets from the attendant. In the end, I got a one day pass and set off to find the “District Line” platform to Richmond.
The tube station was well signed and it was easy to find my way. I realized that it was much easier to navigate than Toronto because all of the signs were English words instead of the typical symbols we have at home. The overhead sign showed that the Richmond train was the second one due in five minutes. When the first train rumbled into the station, I smiled to hear the “tube lady” warn the passengers to “Mind the Gap”. When my train came, I got on and followed my journey on the tube map inside. Kew Gardens station wasn’t too far.
Again the signs were clear and I headed off to follow them to the National Archives building.
It was about the five-minute walk as advertised on the BNA website and led me through a residential neighbourhood. On one front step, I saw bottles of milk, waiting to be taken in.
I walked through the parking area and came around the corner to a really impressive sight.
Inside, I was directed to the locker area to lock up my backpack and coat. Only my netbook, paper and pencil were allowed into the archives with me. I chose locker #222 – that should be easy enough to remember. When I expressed interest in the Recusant records for my Catholic ancestors in Lancashire, I was directed to the second floor to apply for a readers card. I filled in the form at the computer station there and completed the tutorial and test on document handling. The clerk took my photograph and printed out my readers card.
It was soon clear to me though that finding what I was looking for wasn’t going to happen. It was all very confusing and the help desk wasn’t able to help me much at all. After looking through some finding aids and not seeing anything like I was hoping to find, I decided to head back to the main floor and visit the shop.
The shop had the full complement of Old Ordinance Survey maps of London from the turn of the century and I was determined to find the right one for the dock area where the Bond family lived in the early 1890’s. Since there were about 40 maps in total covering the city of London, I enlisted the help of the clerk and between what I remembered and a modern map of the city, he gave me a starting point and eventually I realized that I actually needed two maps to cover the area I was looking for. I browsed some more and picked up some books and a map of the Isle of Wight.
After having some lunch I headed to the beginners area of the archives where I found a guide on looking for Royal Artillery pension records. I followed the steps and located a microfilm and found my William Bond’s pension record from 1890. He was awarded 13 1/2 pence for his twenty-two years of service.
I spent another hour browsing through the books available and then decided to head back. On the walk back from Victoria station, I went into the local grocery and bought a ready-made sandwich, some veggies and dip and a small bottle of wine for my dinner using the self check out, just like at home. After eating and packing ready for the morning, I decided to go across to the pub but I didn’t stay long. It was incredibly noisy and not at all like the cosy pubs back on the Isle of Wight. I guess I’m not a city girl at heart. I will certainly be back to England one day, but I’m not anxious to spend any more time in London. The dales of Yorkshire or the village of Kirkham seem more my “cup of tea”.