Major grant awarded to Hampshire Archives and Local Studies
Monday, 11 February 2013
A nationally important archive collection held in Winchester will become fully accessible thanks to grant funding.
Hampshire County Council's Archives and Local Studies Service, based at the County Council's Record Office in the city, has secured funding to catalogue one of its key collections: the archive of the Bishopric of Winchester.
The project will be funded through the National Cataloguing Grants programme, which is administered by The National Archives on behalf of several funding trusts. The award of £23,809 was made by an independent panel following a demanding and competitive two-stage application process. Hampshire Archives Trust is also contributing £1,000 to the project.
Councillor Keith Chapman, Executive Member for Culture and Recreation, commented: "It is excellent news that Hampshire Archives and Local Studies has been successful in securing funding to catalogue and preserve this key collection, in the face of stiff competition. This recognises the high standard and quality the of Hampshire Record Office. Its reputation is well know thought out the country. This project will open up a largely untapped resource to researchers of all kinds."
One of the largest and most significant collections in Hampshire Record Office, held in the county since 1959, the Winchester Bishopric collection comprises the estate records of successive bishops of Winchester. At its height, the Bishopric estates comprised 60 manors spread across seven counties in southern England.
Chief among the archive's treasures are the celebrated Winchester Pipe Rolls, dating from 1209 to 1711, which detail income and expenditure across the bishops' estates. In 2011 the Pipe Rolls were added to UNESCO's UK Memory of the World register, which raises awareness worldwide of some of the UK's exceptional documentary riches. To open up access to these records to a much wider audience, Hampshire County Council's Archives and Local Studies Service has embarked on an ambitious two-year project to digitise all 192 of the rolls.
The Winchester Bishopric collection is large, comprising 515 boxes and 16 linear metres of volumes, dating from the 13th to the 20th century. Its value has for many years been widely recognised as a rich resource for the economic and social history of southern England. The records contain a wealth of place and family name information, and have informed studies of medieval agriculture, demography, labour and wages, building history, the peasant land market, as well as medieval Winchester and London.
These exciting developments mean that the catalogue - the researcher's key to opening up the collection - can now be upgraded and improved. More descriptive and contextual information will be added to help users of the on-line catalogue, and to open up the archive to a worldwide audience. Fascinating series such as the court papers, which give vivid accounts of misdemeanours such as dumping waste in the streets and allowing animals to roam, and include many lists of tenants' names, will also be catalogued in more detail.
The archive has had many homes over the centuries, and some records are still covered in soot and grime from poor storage at previous locations. The second, and equally important, strand of the project will be to improve the physical care of records at risk. This will be achieved through a cleaning and repackaging programme involving volunteers, a vitally important task if these unique records are to be exploited fully and kept safe for future generations to enjoy.