Lancashire archives set to record 75th anniversary

Neil Sayer is the Archive Access Manager at Lancashire Archives in Preston
Neil Sayer is the Archive Access Manager at Lancashire Archives in Preston

Lancashire Archives is fittingly turning to its records to mark the culmination of its 75th anniversary year.

As a grand finale to its “75 Years: 74 Treasures” exhibition, which has been showcased at three different county venues in 2015, it is seeking a 75th treasure selected from items donated to the archives last year.

As decision day approaches, it wants members of the public to help mark the moment in two special ways.

Firstly, there is still time to donate or make a long-term loan of archive items. Any items deposited up to the end of February will be considered for the birthday honour.

Secondly, the public will be asked to help to choose the 75th treasure from a shortlist of anniversary year acquisitions. The winning record will then go on display in the 
Lancashire Archives on Bow Lane in Preston.

Archive access manager Neil Sayer reports that each year some 200 items – which can range from one document to collections of documents and associated memorabilia – are accepted by the archive.

Neil gathered together a range of archives to share with Lancaster Guardian readers to demonstrate the sheer unexpected variety of records the building is home to, its global reach and its continuing willingness and desire to share those documents with members of the public.

Many are on long term loan, others have been deposited by people who recognise their records have a wider significance and wish to ensure they are preserved in optimum conditions for future generations.

He said: “There are nine miles of records going back 900 years. The oldest one is a medieval charter from 1115.”

A ship’s log from the 18th century which chronicled journeys from Lancaster to Cork and on to Jamaica and back.

The log, from the Brigantine Dolphin which had sailed in April 1774, contains delightful drawings of sea creatures as well as sketches of landmark geographical features (useful on a voyages without maps) and lists of cargo.

Most notably, there is a remarkable entry where the author refers to the outbreak of the American war of independence, noting that the news had arrived in Jamaica.

“This day we had the disagreeable news of our English troops on America is come to action and the provincials of bloodshed on both sides,” it stated.

Cargo included cotton and mahogany, with some wood going to Lancaster firm Waring and Gillow.

A party piece if ever there was one, as I was able to see who my neighbours were when I was but a babe in arms.

Neil is open-minded about which item could win the coveted “treasure” status and there is still time to donate to the archives – the anniversary year culminates on February 28.

But readers should be aware that the archive is not like a safe deposit in a bank cannot accept everything and will consider each offer of material on its merits and its relevance.

You can find council documents, company documents, personal papers and information from different societies here. The collection even includes a piece of a meteorite, while a more recent deposit contained a soldier’s First World War dispatches from Gallipoli.

Some of the delight of finding information from the past is discovering unexpected information by chance. Neil said: “If your ancestor was mad or bad there’s a good chance we’ve got a record of them.”

But there may be other records which require a bit of digging, as many documents yield references which could not have been predicted.

He sees his job, in part, as trying to bring out the individual stories in the archive and to alert the public to the wealth of research material on their doorstep. “I’ve been her 23 years now and I am still surprised by some of the things people can find,” he says.