So, just what Do our visitors come to see?

on Tuesday, 05 November 2013. Posted in History Centre

I thought it may be of interest to take a look on your behalf at the kinds of original documents visitors order out when they visit our search rooms, to give you an idea of the wide range of requests we receive for documents each day. I chose Tuesday 22nd October at random, and got peeking!

Tenancy agreement for the stalls

Many visitors pre-order material so that it is waiting for them when they arrive (a good idea if you have a lot to look through).

One such researcher was looking at some Great Western Railway plans for the stables next to Paddington Station.

They included a tenancy agreement for stalling dated 1905 (Ref: 2515/210 Box 128) and the elevation to London Street by the Engineers Works office in 1912 (2515/403/375).



Ordered out on the day was material from the Earl of Pembroke collection (Ref: 2057) including the account of H.M. Holdsworth with the Right Honorable George Robert Charles Earl of Pembroke for the estate of Wilts for one year as to rents to Michelmas 1880 (Ref: 2057/A1/99). Estate surveys (Ref: 2057/563) and a wages book (Ref: 2057/A5/32) were also of interest, and wages books may also give the name of an ancestor who worked on the estate.

Other documents included an auctioneer’s valuation for properties including the Shaw Brewery at Melksham and the New Inn at Seend, dated 1901 (Ref: 2623/93), often to be found as long lists in small notebooks with the contents handwritten in pencil. They can be of good use to those researching the history of their house.

For some visitors their research led them to poor law union material, notably the Minute Book 1878-82 for the Highworth and Swindon Union (Ref: H9/110/8) and the register of births for the Malmesbury Union (Ref: H8/182/1). Enquirers often ask about hospital records, such as those for Roundway Hospital which were produced for one visitor. The case books often provide detailed information, sometimes even with a photograph. This type of material is restricted for 100 years due to its sensitive nature but visitors are able to view the records if they write for permission beforehand (please contact our help desk staff for details).

Another popular item which remained so on the day were wills. We have an ongoing digitisation project running at the moment, but for those wills which have not been digitised, the original can be produced for visitors to view. For those lucky enough to find one for an ancestor, they can provide a wealth of information.

Deeds for property are another common draw, such as those called up for Chippenham and dating from 1597-1820 (Ref: 118/127). Court books are also looked at, such as the Certified copy court book of the manor of Monkton Farleigh, 1735-1835 (Ref: 866/26).

My vote for most beautiful item of the day was the Grant of Arms to the Story-Maskelyne family. Also included was a printed genealogical table of the Booth family, latterly Barons Delamer of Dunham Massey, co. Chester, from the 13-18th century (Ref: 1390/130).

An interesting and unusual request was for a scrapbook containing labels, notices, publicity materials and price lists with competitors product labels at the end, contained within the Bowyers collection and dated c. 1950-60 (Ref: 1822/400/1).

Understandably, we hold many local authority records which can prove to be a useful source. Planning Department material was viewed on the day, covering the Devizes and Marlborough Borough Councils as well as their District Councils, for 1948-60 (Ref: F14/400/19). Also viewed were the Trowbridge Urban Council minutes for 1902-5 (Ref: G15/100/3). Found in records of The Green at Christian Malford and viewed by one visitor, was a plan of the church site in 1951 (Ref: F9/120/21).

These are but a few of the many documents produced for researchers on just one day... Of course, all this would not be possible without the sterling and often overlooked work of our production team, who are the unsung heroes of the day! Visitors only have to wait five minutes or so for their documents to be brought to their seat, and little do they realise that this involves trips between seven different strong rooms on two levels. Items can also vary greatly in size, and it takes great care and dexterity for them to be brought from the shelves to your seat; we have the greatest trust in their abilities. We couldn’t do without them, and neither could you!

Julie Davis
Local Studies Assistant


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