Trace your Here­ford­shire kin

Jonathan Scott vis­its the county of or­chards to ex­plore ma­te­rial pre­served in its newly opened £8 mil­lion ar­chive and records cen­tre

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Al­though Here­ford­shire was merged with neigh­bour­ing Worces­ter­shire in 1974, form­ing the Here­ford and Worces­ter ad­min­is­tra­tive county, this ar­range­ment was dis­solved in 1998 and to­day it re­mains one of Eng­land’s 39 his­toric coun­ties.

It is known pri­mar­ily for agri­cul­ture, es­pe­cially cider pro­duc­tion, and for ex­port­ing the hardy Here­ford breed of cat­tle to the world. Ma­jor set­tle­ments in­clude Brom­yard, King­ton, Led­bury, Leominster, Ross-onWye, not for­get­ting, Here­ford it­self, the county’s only city, plus two of­fi­cially des­ig­nated Ar­eas of Out­stand­ing Nat­u­ral Beauty in the Wye Val­ley and the Malvern Hills.

Plan­ning per­mis­sion for the new county record of­fice in Here­ford was granted in Jan­uary 2013. A cou­ple of years, and roughly £8.1 mil­lion later, the build­ing was com­plete.

How­ever, prior to the move some 17,500 boxes, 10,000 vol­umes and 5,000 maps had to be stockchecked, cleaned and pack­aged, helped by a team of about 50 vol­un­teers who, it is cal­cu­lated, gave up al­most 15,800 hours of their time in 2014 alone.

The build­ing was of­fi­cially opened in Oc­to­ber 2015 by HRH The Duke of Kent.

To find out how the first few weeks went, we caught up with se­nior ar­chiv­ist Rhys Grif­fith. “To say that the new Here­ford­shire Ar­chive and Records Cen­tre (HARC) is an im­prove­ment on our for­mer home would be an enor­mous un­der­state­ment,” he said. “First and fore­most, the £8 mil­lion build­ing pro­vides ideal stor­age con­di­tions, with ex­pan­sion space for more than 25 years.

“There are vastly im­proved fa­cil­i­ties for re­searchers and vis­it­ing groups with a well-lit fa­cil­i­ties, height-ad­justable re­search ta­bles and a spe­cially de­signed larger desk for con­sult­ing maps. Plus, thanks to the ef­forts of the same vol­un­teers who helped pre­pare the ar­chive for its move, there is now an on­line in­dex to

years, the hold­ings are now pretty well com­plete.

“Ar­chive col­lec­tions are only as use­ful and im­por­tant as the ac­cess to them will al­low. To that end, the nearly 50,000 Here­ford dio­cese will ref­er­ences now placed on­line ( are among the most im­por­tant of our sources for fam­ily his­to­ri­ans.”

Sales par­tic­u­lars

Mean­while, the most heav­ily used col­lec­tions held here are the thou­sands of sales par­tic­u­lars for prop­er­ties, rang­ing from hum­ble cot­tages to ex­ten­sive es­tates. “Th­ese date from the mid-19th cen­tury and can pro­vide a de­tailed in­sight into the homes and lo­cal­i­ties pop­u­lated by our an­ces­tors,” Rhys ex­plains.

“Here­ford­shire re­mains a ru­ral and es­sen­tially undis­cov­ered county so records con­cern­ing the man­age­ment of the coun­try­side are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant. The great coun­try es­tates, whose ar­chives are the bedrock of our col­lec­tions, were com­mu­ni­ties and in­sti­tu­tions that seemed to ex­ist with lit­tle ref­er­ence to the out­side world. Where their record keep­ing was par­tic­u­larly ef­fi­cient and ad­vanced, the ev­i­dence they left of lives from all ex­tremes of the so­cial spec­trum can be in­ti­mate and poignant.

“The Garnons, Hamp­ton Court and Moc­cas es­tate records in­clude de­tailed wage ac­counts and day books that al­low the re­con­struc­tion of labour­ing an­ces­tors’ daily rou­tines and du­ties. The hu­man cap­i­tal of the county fam­i­lies is most darkly ex­pressed in the records of the La Taste es­tate in Gre­nada, a dis­tant satel­lite of Moc­cas that de­pended on slave labour for its suc­cess.”

Some of the es­tate maps re­cently de­posited with the ser­vice in­clude a won­der­ful bound se­ries of beau­ti­fully coloured sur­veys of the Hamp­ton Court es­tate, dat­ing fromfr 1690.

As men­tioned ear­lier, the coun­tyc is per­haps best known for th he pro­duc­tion of cider and hops. RhysR says that the ar­chive’s col­lec­tionsc are shot through with lo ocal ref­er­ences to th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties asa small-scale op­er­a­tions ex­isted ono most farms.

Then, in the late 19th cen­tury, th he mar­ket was cor­nered by the Bul­merB fam­ily, who went on to dom­i­nated the in­dus­try na­tion­wide. HARCH looks af­ter the prop­erty archivesa of the firm, as well as so ome fam­ily pa­pers, while su urviving pro­duc­tion and staff re ecords are held at the Cider Mu­seum,M Here­ford. The mu­seum web­sitew in­cludes an ar­ti­cle de­scrib­ingd the recorded ori­gins of ciderc mak­ing at ci­der­mu­seum.­dex.php/the­be­gin­ning-of-or­chards.

An­other ma­jor Here­ford­shire in­dus­try that rose to na­tional promi­nence was the en­caus­tic tile man­u­fac­turer Wil­liam God­win and Son. Rhys says: “The com­pany rode the wave of in­ter­est in Gothic re­vival­ism in church ar­chi­tec­ture and be­came the lead­ing tile firm for ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal im­prove­ment projects.”

Very lit­tle orig­i­nal ar­chive ma­te­rial has sur­vived, but a Her­itage Lot­tery Fund grant en­abled the ar­chive ser­vice to ‘recre­ate’ the work­force records us­ing census re­turns. A full cat­a­logue of tile de­signs was also res­ur­rected by pho­tograph­ing all ex­tant va­ri­eties of tile de­signs.

Of course, there are other po­ten­tial sources of in­for­ma­tion for the Here­ford­shire re­searcher. Records of the county reg­i­ment, for ex­am­ple, are held at the Here­ford­shire Light In­fantry Mu­seum in Here­ford, while the Na­tional Li­brary of Wales holds pro­bate records for wills proved in the Archdea­conry of Bre­con. Mean­while, the very ac­tive Here­ford­shire FHS has pro­duced a large num­ber of tran­scrip­tions and find­ing aids not avail­able any­where else.

Now the phys­i­cal care of Here­ford­shire’s her­itage has been pre­served, at­ten­tion is turn­ing to im­prov­ing its on­line ac­ces­si­bil­ity and digi­ti­sa­tion.

Rhys re­ports that the HARC web­site will soon be sep­a­rat­ing from its par­ent coun­cil site, in the hope of im­prov­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity and func­tion­al­ity. He says its large and ac­tive group of vol­un­teers will also be called upon again to ex­tend the cur­rent on­line in­dex to wills, tak­ing it back to the ear­li­est ex­am­ples, which date from the 1540s, as well as con­tin­u­ing to im­prove the gen­eral in­dex to hold­ings.

“The vol­un­teers will also work on the clean­ing and cat­a­logu­ing of sev­eral thou­sand ar­chi­tec­tural plans de­posited with Here­ford’s build­ing con­trol depart­ment from the 1920s.

“This will be a fan­tas­tic re­source for build­ing his­to­ri­ans and home­own­ers in the city. We are also plan­ning, with the help of our vol­un­teers, to tran­scribe cal­en­dars of pris­on­ers in Here­ford County Gaol for the se­cond half of the 19th cen­tury.”

Who Do You Think You Are?

A beau­ti­ful sun­rise over Here­ford Cathe­dral and the city's Wye Bridge

Cider ap­ples be­ing un­loaded from rail­way wag­ons at the Bul­mers fac­tory in Here­ford, 1957

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