Welcome to our last edition of the Cheshire Archives and Local Studies e-newsletter for 2020. We hope that everyone is continuing to stay safe and well. Our searchroom has been closed to the public during lockdown but we have been busy as usual with a few of us on site to do the jobs that can’t be done from home. Read on for the latest information about our searchroom service and more of what we have been up to.
Explore Your Archive!
Explore Your Archive is a national campaign throughout the month of November, highlighting the work of archives and all the wonderful things we hold in our collections. Celebrations took place solely online this year, so we used our social media channels to showcase our service and collections and demonstrate what archives can offer to new archive audiences.
Over on Twitter we took part in the Explore Your Archive daily hashtags, identifying and sharing items from our collections relating to themes such as Communication, Education, Home and #Light gave us this top tweet.
On Instagram we put a twist on our annual Searchroom Stories series, where we share and celebrate the variety of stories being researched by our searchroom visitors, by sharing our top staff searchroom moments instead! Head over to our Instagram page to read our staff searchroom stories, from our favourite enquiries and research successes, to some memorable events and exhibitions.
In November the whole team were also on a mission to explore our archive and extract ‘gems’ from our catalogues, collections and databases. Our ‘Cheshire’s archives: a story shared’ project is developing ways of offering a very personal experience with ways into the collections that people can relate to. We have been asked to test this idea out to discover how feasible it is to tell a community’s story with a range of material from the archives.
We were tasked with finding 100 gems that could be document, sound, image or video for six places – Wharton, Lache, Malpas, Sandbach, Nantwich and Bollington. There were a few surprises – Afghan hound racing at Wharton (no evidence of this found yet in our collections!) and the first purpose-built nursery school in the country in Lache.
We are going to need help to choose and only local knowledge will tell us if we’ve made the right selections or if we’ve missed anything. If you know of local groups who are already sharing stories about any of these places or would like to get involved, please do let us know! With your support we will know more about how to roll out this activity for lots more Cheshire places and make it part of the ‘delivery stage’ if our next round bid to National Lottery Heritage Fund is successful in 2021.
Teaching the Teachers
The school curriculum often includes a study of an aspect of a local area or a look at the history of the school itself. For some years, Cheshire Archives and Local Studies and West Cheshire Museums have delivered a joint session to final year Education students at the University of Chester to introduce them to records and artefacts to enable these soon-to-be-qualified teachers to piece together a local ‘story’.
There are a number of sources from the Record Office which can help: an early parish register, wills and inventories, a school log book, maps and census returns. Artefacts from the museum service also give clues as to how people lived and spent their spare time.
The session normally takes place in the Record Office hands-on, using records and artefacts and a look ‘behind the scenes’ to see how we look after the archives in our care. Obviously, this year, things had to change and there was the challenge of presenting a virtual session to the students that would have the same content and impact – all within an hour…! This was rather daunting, but after some quick revision on putting together presentations to share images with the students and a couple of ‘practice runs’, we delivered two sessions to a total of 70 students.
Nothing really replaces handling original archives and artefacts, but we’re encouraged by the feedback that we came as close as we can – in these strange times – and it has taught us another way of delivering learning experiences for the future!
Cheshire’s Manorial Documents Register
The Manorial Documents Register for Cheshire is now available online!
The manorial system gave structure to the lives of people in Cheshire for many hundreds of years and manorial records are valuable sources of information about the county’s people, places and communities. Perhaps their greatest importance is in recording the lives of the ‘ordinary people’ of Cheshire. Before parish registers began to be kept in 1538, they were one of only a few types of records in which someone who was not a member of the upper classes might appear. We get a glimpse into the daily lives of ordinary men and women, the places they lived, the ways in which they occupied their time, and especially their disagreements with neighbours (usually over the maintenance of their ditches and hedges!)
The Manorial Documents Register (MDR) is an index to the surviving manorial records for England and Wales. It allows researchers to identify all records relating to a particular manor or place, whether they are held in local record offices, privately held family estates, cathedral and college collections or national repositories. We are looking forward to being able to direct people to the MDR so that communities can pinpoint what survives for their area – who wouldn’t want to know the state of people’s houses through the centuries as presented by the locally appointed ‘house lookers’ - would you like to be tasked with telling your neighbours to literally get their house in order?!
This entry from 1756 in the Nether Peover manor court records a scarcity of straw accounting for the state of thatch on several buildings – and that the House Looker of Plumley has nothing to present! It can be found in the Leicester of Tabley collection (reference DLT/D452/1).
The MDR project was funded by the National Archives. You can visit The National Archives website for guidance on how to use the Manorial Documents Register.
All new images!
We have been able to digitise another 500 images from our collection and are currently working on adding these to the Cheshire Image Bank. You will soon find new images of Crewe (including the Technical School pictured below), Helsby, Manley, Marple and Shavington. We want to expand the Image Bank with more photographs taken ‘in living memory’ such as those taken by Anthony Baker, a local photographer based in Crewe in the 1970s. His image of Northwich on a rainy day in the 1970s can be seen below, right.
Snowmen and sledging
Images highlighting traditional Christmas and winter scenes around Cheshire, from building a snowman in Frodsham to sledging in Wilmslow, can be found in our “Cheshire at Christmas” Flickr album. The collection includes archive material, photographs and postcards, with the latter often sent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries like we send Christmas cards today. Many of the traditions seen in this album are familiar to us; sledging, Christmas trees, Christmas dinner, decorations and building snowmen, but over the centuries Cheshire developed a few unique festivities, such as anybody who ate 12 mince pies in 12 different houses during the festive period would receive 12 months of prosperity the coming year – not to be attempted in 2020!
A festive foray into the Cheshire countryside
Thinking about getting out and about over the festive period? These fascinating facts from our collections all about Cheshire fauna and flora can keep you company; meet famous Cheshire naturalists, explore popular walking trails, and discover Cheshire words for its native wildlife in our blog post.
There is plenty more on our home page to help inspire you! Go to: Cheshire Archives and Local Studies and then follow links to what we hold to learn more about our collections. Reminisce over photographs of Cheshire in years gone by on our Image Bank or see how your local area has changed over time on the Cheshire Tithe Maps site at: Cheshire Tithe Maps Online.