Learn 3.4 Unlocking the Archives

Examples of archives at Somerset Heritage Centre

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 Quantock 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, but typically they contain old maps and deeds, accounts, letters, and contracts that can reveal a wealth of information about the estate’s or businesses’ landholding, management, role in the local economy, and owning family. This information is clearly of immense value – from someone researching the history of a particular property through to academic social historians. 

Starting in 2021, this project will train new volunteer archivists who will work under the supervision of specialist SWHT archive staff to unpack and catalogue this treasure trove of interesting facts, maps, and information about historic land use and landscapes.