It’s all change at Suf­folk, writes Jonathan Scott, with new projects on the ground and on the web

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A new home for Suf­folk archives is be­ing built on Ip­swich’s wa­ter­front

The old­est trea­sure looked af­ter by Suf­folk’s ar­chive ser­vice is an early 12th­cen­tury Char­ter of Henry I to the monks of Eye Pri­ory. But a chill­ing doc­u­ment from more re­cent times is a di­a­gram of the

Brookes slave ship com­mis­sioned by a lo­cal cam­paigner.

The Brookes was built in Liver­pool in the 1780s, named af­ter its owner and builder James Brookes. The print was com­mis­sioned by Bury St Edmunds abo­li­tion­ist Thomas Clark­son (1760–1846). It was used to il­lus­trate the ap­pallingly cramped and un­san­i­tary con­di­tions aboard the slave ship – which at the time was legally al­lowed to trans­port 454 slaves – and helped to gal­vanise the anti-slav­ery move­ment.

The ser­vice’s Sec­ond World War re­sources in­clude vis­i­tors’ books from Gains­bor­ough’s House Ho­tel in Sud­bury, which con­tain the names of many US ser­vice­men who stayed there dur­ing the war. There’s also the Phyl­lis Page col­lec­tion of di­aries (1939–1945), ra­tion and rent books, pho­to­graphs and postcards. Phyl­lis, the daugh­ter of a fish salt and ma­nure mer­chant, was born in Low­est­oft in 1922. She lived with her grand­par­ents at 420 Lon­don Road South, and her di­aries give an eye­wit­ness ac­count of wartime life.

There’s also the col­lec­tion re­lat­ing to Beccles Dis­pen­sary and Hospi­tal. This in­cludes records made dur­ing an in­ter­est­ing pe­riod in early 1939 when it be­came part of a cen­tralised state-run Emer­gency Hospi­tal Ser­vice, em­ploy­ing doc­tors and nurses to care for those in­jured by en­emy ac­tion. Beccles War Memo­rial Hospi­tal was part of Eastern (No. IV) Re­gion.

Dur­ing our last visit to the county in our Oc­to­ber 2013 is­sue, we delved into the col­lec­tions held by the three ar­chive branches at Bury St Edmunds, Ip­swich and Low­est­oft. As a gen­eral guide, Bury St Edmunds holds ma­te­rial for West Suf­folk, Ip­swich cov­ers East Suf­folk, and Low­est­oft looks af­ter ma­te­rial for the north-eastern parishes. These in­clude orig­i­nal par­ish reg­is­ters, plus par­ish chest ma­te­rial such as vestry min­utes, church­war­dens’ ac­counts, and Old Poor Law records such as set­tle­ment ex­am­i­na­tions, re­moval or­ders, bas­tardy bonds and re­lief pay­ments.

How­ever, changes are on the hori­zon. In Jan­uary the county coun­cil ap­proved plans to build a new, state-of-the-art home for Suf­folk archives on Ip­swich’s wa­ter­front. De­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Univer­sity of Suf­folk, the new build­ing will be known as ‘ The Hold’, boast­ing pub­lic re­search fa­cil­i­ties, fit­for-pur­pose stron­grooms and col­lec­tions care spa­ces.

Ac­cord­ing to search­room ser­vices man­ager Judith Stephen­son, there will be ded­i­cated spa­ces for digi­ti­sa­tion, con­ser­va­tion and cat­a­logu­ing; an ex­hi­bi­tion gallery, shop and

café; and a learn­ing space and teach­ing fa­cil­i­ties.

“In May 2016 we were thrilled to re­ceive an ini­tial pass from the Her­itage Lot­tery Fund (HLF) to de­velop the pro­pos­als, and plan­ning per­mis­sion was re­ceived in Jan­uary,” she says. The new build­ing will be sit­u­ated near the junc­tion of Fore Street and Grimwade Street, part of the univer­sity cam­pus, and will be run by the county and univer­sity to­gether.

The to­tal cost of the project is ex­pected to ex­ceed £20 mil­lion – the coun­cil has pledged £5 mil­lion, the univer­sity £1 mil­lion, there’s the HLF de­vel­op­ment fund­ing of roughly £0.5 mil­lion, and a de­ci­sion from the HLF on the next round of fund­ing is an­tic­i­pated this spring. All be­ing well the build­ing should open its doors by the end of 2019.

Judith also re­ports that they will be con­tin­u­ing to of­fer ser­vices at the Bury and Low­est­oft branches – although the lat­ter is cur­rently the sub­ject of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion “to de­cide the fu­ture shape of the ser­vice in Low­est­oft”.

On­line there have been changes too. A new and dra­mat­i­cally im­proved archival web­site launched in 2016 ( suf­folka­, which boasts help pages, guides, ‘Suf­folk Sto­ries’ and a uni­fied on­line cat­a­logue through which you can or­der doc­u­ment down­loads. You can also search for de­tails of spe­cific col­lec­tions re­lat­ing to fa­mous Suf­folk com­pa­nies such as brew­ers Greene King, Tolly Cob­bold and Ad­nams, or the

en­gi­neer­ing firms Gar­retts and Ran­somes, or trawl Low­est­oft’s mar­itime col­lec­tions, or per­haps Felixs­towe’s his­tory as a spa re­sort.

“Re­cently we have started to add dig­i­tal im­ages [to the cat­a­logue] that cus­tomers can view for free in the search­room or pay to down­load on­line,” Judith adds.

To date the ar­chiv­ists have al­ready up­loaded Suf­folk wills from the archdea­conry of Sud­bury (cov­er­ing West Suf­folk, 1660–1760) and the archdea­conry of Suf­folk (East Suf­folk, 1703–1857), and they are con­tin­u­ing to add wills as they digi­tise them.

“We have also added a se­lec­tion of im­ages from two of our ma­jor col­lec­tions at Ip­swich, which cover the whole county.”

The first re­lates to Isaac John­son (1754–1835), a land sur­veyor from Wood­bridge who sur­veyed and mapped es­tates in al­most ev­ery par­ish in East Suf­folk, as well as many in West Suf­folk. His pa­trons in­cluded lo­cal no­bil­ity, clergy and gen­try, and Lon­don au­thor and pub­lisher John Ni­chols (ed­i­tor of The

Gen­tle­man’s Mag­a­zine for nearly 40 years). The cat­a­logue for the col­lec­tion is now live on the web­site, as well as dig­i­tal im­ages for 50 of the sur­veys, which are avail­able free of charge.

The sec­ond is the Caut­ley and Bare­foot Ar­chi­tects’ draw­ings. At the end of 2012 Suf­folk Record Of­fice was awarded a grant to cat­a­logue a large col­lec­tion of ar­chi­tects’ plans and draw­ings. The orig­i­nal col­lec­tion, held at the Ip­swich branch, cov­ers nearly 100 years with the ear­li­est items dat­ing from about 1890.

Judith says: “The ar­chive forms a seam­less dy­nas­tic ar­chi­tec­tural tra­di­tion in Suf­folk, start­ing with the im­por­tant Ip­swich ar­chi­tect Fred­er­ick Barnes and con­tin­u­ing into the late 20th cen­tury. It is a fas­ci­nat­ing re­source for any­one in­ter­ested in prop­erty, so­cial, busi­ness and church- his­tory stud­ies across Suf­folk and neigh­bour­ing coun­ties.”

The full cat­a­logue is now on­line, along with 112 im­ages that are avail­able for free.

Cat­a­logues go on­line

In ad­di­tion to all these dig­i­tal im­ages, the team has been edit­ing and up­load­ing pa­per cat­a­logues. “We want re­searchers to be able to do as much work as pos­si­ble be­fore com­ing to the branches, so that they get the max­i­mum amount of time with the doc­u­ments. In the last year we have added nearly 102,000 cat­a­logue records to the web­site. Once the cat­a­logues are on­line cus­tomers can or­der doc­u­ments in ad­vance of their visit, re­quest a quote for copy­ing and build wish­lists of items to view.”

Mean­while the ar­chive has also ac­quired a huge num­ber of new col­lec­tions since our last visit. Some high­lights in­clude mano­rial records re­gard­ing Cock­field Hall and Earls Hall (1331–1899), in­clud­ing court rolls and court books – which may be use­ful to re­searchers who have ex­hausted par­ish reg­is­ters.

There’s also a col­lec­tion of ma­te­rial from the 94th Bomb Group Memo­rial As­so­ci­a­tion, 1943–2013, in­clud­ing nu­mer­i­cal lists of mis­sions flown, with copies of pho­to­graphs of crews, air­craft, badges and aerial pho­to­graphs, for­ma­tion di­a­grams and more. The ar­chive ser­vices has two air-raid logs cov­er­ing Ip­swich and the sur­round­ing area (be­tween Septem­ber 1939 and Oc­to­ber 1945); a Suf­folk Con­stab­u­lary cell book for Strad­broke Po­lice Sta­tion (1886– 1971); and a hand-drawn Sec­ond World War Roll of Hon­our for Strad­broke.

The ar­chive has also taken re­ceipt of bap­tisms, mar­riages and buri­als reg­is­ters for St Ed­mund’s Catholic Church, Bury St Edmunds. This in­cludes notes on the state of the mission and some con­fir­ma­tions (1756–1832).

This pho­to­graph from the 1950s shows her­ring trawlers un­load­ing their catch on the quay at Low­est­oft

The Tide Mill Liv­ing Mu­seum in Wood­bridge, by the River Deben – there has been a mill on the site since the 12th cen­tury

This poster for Lon­don & North Eastern Rail­way pro­mot­ing rail travel to Ip­swich fea­tures the pro­tag­o­nist of Charles Dickens’s The Pick­wick Pa­pers (1837), who vis­its the town in the course of the novel

The Greene King Brew­ery was founded in Bury St Edmunds in 1799

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