The launch was held recently at Corsham Town Hall – from which there are excellent views of the High Street - attended by nearly 60 members of the public with numerous others having sent apologies but confirming their interest. Those attending included town councillors and officers. There were short speeches welcoming and supporting the project by representatives of the Corsham Civic Society, Wiltshire Buildings Record and the former Corsham Area Heritage group.
David Clarke, an eminent buildings historian, co-author of Burford: Buildings and People in a Cotswold Town and Secretary of The Oxfordshire Buildings Record, was the guest speaker and spoke about the highly relevant aspects of that project to the Corsham High Street Project [CHSP].
John Maloney, Project Facilitator and Corsham Civic Society representative, introduced the proceedings and began: Honorary Chairman, Julian Orbach (editor of the forthcoming updated edition of the Wiltshire volume of the Buildings of England), sends his apologies as because of a long-standing prior engagement he cannot be here this evening. He also sends his very best wishes for the project and asked me to say the following words on his behalf:
Sir Nikolaus Pevsner said in 1963 'Corsham has no match in Wiltshire for wealth of good houses. There are in fact no bad ones, and there are a few of really high merit'. He meant in particular the High Street, as at that date Corsham had barely begun to expand. There are many assumptions about the houses, their dates, for whom they were built, and how they worked, but we still know little. Even that much-used term 'weavers' houses' is elusive. To understand in depth what makes the High Street of Corsham such a memorable sequence requires a close look at each building, and this project promises to do that, by which the history of Corsham, and Wiltshire, will be enriched.
John noted that in order for a funding application to be made to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) it needed to demonstrate that sufficient owners/tenants in the High Street were prepared to allow access for recording to make the project viable and he was pleased to report that there already has been a very good response from owners of High Street buildings to informal soundings about agreeing access to their properties for recording. He made a point of stating that internal recording of buildings would be undertaken and managed strictly as agreed beforehand with owners and the aim was to record only internal features of historic significance: modern alterations and additions were not of interest and would not be noted. He stressed that in every sense it is intended that such work is non-intrusive. Thomas Brakspear, a local resident and specialist in historic buildings, who kindly agreed to be a Patron of the project, spoke of his experiences moving to Corsham and made the amusing and valid point that owners shouldn’t be concerned about the tidiness of their houses as CHSP members would be mainly intent on getting into their attics!
John noted that the project committee would ensure that every owner taking part will be provided with a free illustrated copy of their building’s report and acknowledgement in the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre archives and, ultimately, the published book.
He mentioned that little more than a decade ago, the Corsham Civic Society successfully completed the HLF funded project for the restoration of the late 19th century Mayo Memorial which was erected in to the memory of Charles Mayo, a notable benefactor to the town. Colleagues on the CHSP committee were involved and so the society has a good track record with HLF. It was encouraging that on that very day work had begun on one of the oldest known buildings in the High Street which was having its roof ‘raised’ and repaired!
The speakers came together as a panel and a good ‘question and answer’ session ensued and discussion continued informally over refreshments.
Principal Buildings Historian, Wiltshire Buildings Record
What is a Wiltshire loaf if it’s not bread? And who knew that kisses contain calories?!
You can discover the answers to these culinary questions and sample some tasty heritage recipes when we throw open our doors for its first ever Food Festival.
We are celebrating Wiltshire’s food and drink heritage on 14 April with a day of free activities, talks and displays. The Women’s Institute will also be on hand with a pop-up café, selling tea, coffee and heritage cakes throughout the day.
Food historian and author Sally McPherson and chef Deborah Loader will talk about the history of food and the herbs and spices used as flavourings down the ages. Sally has carried out extensive research at the History Centre for her books M’Lady’s Book of Household Secrets: Recipes, Remedies and Essential Etiquette and The Royal Heritage Cookbook.
For visitors wanting an actual taste of Wiltshire heritage there will be a pop-up café run by volunteers, and led by Alison Williams, from Lacock WI. Members will be recreating some of the historic recipes held in the archive and visitors will have the chance to sample the results, including possets, raspberry and ginger cheesecake, and traditional ice cream. All good cafés need cake and they will also be producing such delights as chocolate porter cake, violet cakes, Duke of York’s cake, Maids of Honour and kisses (small meringues).
Wiltshire is of course famous for its cheese and dairy industries and we are delighted that local cheese-maker Ceri Cryer will be joining in on the day. She has revived the traditional Wiltshire Loaf, a semi-hard cheese popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, which she makes at the Brinkworth Dairy using her great grandfather’s recipe. Ceri will be talking about the cheese and there will be samples to try.
Going back even further in time, and one for the children, local historian Lucy Whitfield will be creating medieval gingerbread and a Roman olive relish.
If that is not historic enough you can discover just what the builders of Stonehenge were eating 4,500 years ago. Historians from English Heritage will be on hand with a display on food and feasting at the ancient monument, including the latest archaeological research which reveals what our ancestors were eating, how they cooked and that early man probably invented the concept of food miles.
The day would not be complete without a display of just some of the fascinating archives housed here – from sumptuous feasts enjoyed by the wealthy people to the diet of gruel endured by workhouse inmates. Wiltshire’s bacon and dairy industries will also be celebrated with displays about Bowyers, Harris’ and Nestlé.
We are pleased to be running another six-week course this year, this time on 'Sources for Local History'.
The course is designed to help you discover the wealth of archives and published resources available for researching local history led by our team of professional archivists and the County Local Studies Librarian.
The sessions will take place on Tuesday mornings from Tuesday 1 May to 5 June 9.30am-1pm.
The cost is £40 for 6 sessions. Places are limited to 20 so book your place now on 01249 705500!
People often think of archives in terms of national historical importance – the Magna Carta, for instance, or the Domesday Books, or the Atlantic Charter – which is indeed true. What is less well-known is the importance of archiving for organisations, councils and companies: the charities, government structures and businesses that are a large part of society’s fabric. Documents such as minutes, agreements, court cases and correspondence all link an organisation to their past, and all may be needed in the future.
We at The National Trust are currently carrying out a complete review of our records and archives. Being the second largest landowner in Great Britain, The National Trust has hundreds of thousands of files, which are mostly stored in an old stone mine just outside of Bath. A lot of these files aren’t catalogued - so nobody knows exactly what’s down there. Our project objective is to decide which of these need to be kept and archived and which need to be destroyed, and to catalogue accurately and in detail those we decide to keep – making it easier for others to access the information and to preserve The National Trust’s history for the future.
Our usual process for sorting our records consists of the files arriving at our workshop, which are then appraised and catalogued: staff look through the files, and using a retention schedule, appraisal guidelines and a good sprinkling of common sense, decide whether they need to be kept permanently or destroyed. Those which are destroyed are shredded, but those which are kept are catalogued on our Archives and Records Management System (ARMS) with a title, a unique ID, keywords and a description of what the file contains – which can be anything from war damage claims to disgruntled tenants to property acquisitions. Some of the files are horrible – staples so rusty they have completely crumbled, cardboard covers water damaged and on their last legs – so we replace the metal and file covers and send the finished items, reprocessed and repackaged, back for storage.
However, this week we have been based at Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, where we keep our permanent archives. These are any executive and regional committee minutes, any important documents which show us how the Trust has developed over time, and anything that dates before 1940. As the Trust began in 1895 this covers just 45 years, but some of the most important years for the charity: the original acquisitions, statutory rights, the war years – in general, the work that would be the foundations for the flourishing charity we are now.
Most of the archives we’ve been cataloguing this week have fallen into the latter category – that is, they are all dated pre-1940, and, as a result, we have come across some intensely interesting documents.