3.4 Unlocking the Archives
In common with most County Records Centres, the South West Heritage Trust has a backlog of archival material, stored in document boxes, awaiting cataloguing and conservation at the Somerset Heritage Centre. These collections are usually acquired when estates are sold off or gifted as legacies, and take a huge amount of skilled staff and volunteer time to process. They include a number of collections relating to the Quantocks, including various estate, family and business records from the 18th and 19th centuries. Records collections can vary between a single box to upwards of 15 boxes. Until they have been examined and catalogued it is impossible to know what each contains.
The QLPS is supporting archivists at the South West Heritage Trust to undertake the task of cataloguing these archives, as well as training volunteer researchers to begin exploring their contents and, in the process, to shed new light on the history of the Quantock Hills. Amongst the contents, these collections contain maps and deeds, accounts, letters, and contracts that can reveal a wealth of information about an estate’s or businesses’ landholding, management, role in the local economy, and owning family. This information is clearly of immense value, providing a wealth of newly available primary source material for anyone interested in Quantock history, be they amateur researchers or academic social historians.
The project will conserve, and catalogue at least 10 full historical collections including the Esdaile family records relating to the Cothelstone area; papers of the Brooke-Popham and Popham families of West Bagborough; papers of Edwin Hellard, solicitors of Stogumber; papers concerning Thomas Poole of Nether Stowey; records relating to Grove Farm, Pickney; and the archives of the Friends of Quantock and the Kingston Historical Society. These will be available to browse via the Somerset Archives online catalogue, and the documents made publicly available as part of the archive at the Somerset Heritage Centre.