Archives latest news

After a short sharp fight NCC have partially climbed down over the archive. However, the battle is not over it seems. Please see the below statement released today.

STATEMENT: NORTHAMPTONSHIRE ARCHIVES & HERITAGE SERVICE

Northamptonshire County Council has reviewed its decision to change opening hours at its archives and heritage service after listening to the views of its regular users and supporters.

The archives service will now be open for free access on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm and the first Saturday in each month, 9am to 1pm.

In light of financial pressures and reducing visitor numbers, there will be a review of the service ahead of the next financial year as part of the budget setting process and this will include a full consultation around any proposed changes.

In 2016, the service was visited by a total of 3,500 researchers, a drop of 50 per cent compared with 2006.

County council cabinet member for public protection, strategic infrastructure and economic growth Cllr André Gonzalez de Savage said: “Having listened to the views of our service users here in Northamptonshire and across the UK, a decision has been made to reconsider the proposed changes to opening hours.

“However, given our significant financial challenges, changes to customer behaviour and a growth in online enquiries, we need to consider how best to use our limited resources and will be reviewing the service in the coming months as part of the annual budget process.

“As part of this there will be a full public consultation in which service users will be able to provide their feedback ahead of any changes being implemented.”

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They have only gone and done it again mum!

 

Oh dear. Here we go again. Northants is once again doing its best to become philistine of the year. Yup the county that wanted to dig its battlefield up, brought you the Sekhemka debacle, and allowed one of the last surviving Queen Eleanor’s Crosses to crumble, is now attempting to price a visit to the local archives out of the market. This in effect stops anyone carrying out research into the town and counties amazing past (the archive is for both town and county, but run by the county). This is the county of spires, squires, kings and queens where national and international history was made. It was home to radicals from lollards to puritans, home and burial place of ‘founder of the Brownists and originator of the gunpowder plot. Amongst many others, it is the burial place of Napoleon’ s granddaughter and the inventor of the sandwich. And democracy was fought for in its fields many times! And that is just scratching the surface. Who knows what is there still waiting to be discovered. Are they really intent on making the town’s and counties history mere history?

To be fair, this time it is not the borough but the county council. However, the archive is in the middle of the town so both will no doubt, be tarred with same brush.

Over recent months there has been an awakening of the powers that be with the importance of the town’s and counties history and there have been serious attempts to raise the awareness of it locally and nationally, but in one foul swoop it has come crashing down to joke status again. The county sat on those meetings and went to events publically pronouncing the plans, so knew full well what was being admirably attempted, so why have they brought it all crashing down without consultation? No neither do I?

Perhaps it is a misguided attempt to cash in on the awakening?

For those of you who have not undertaken archival research before let me explain a typical process. You arrive at the archive and request the documents. Hopefully you have identified the correct file in which the information you are looking for is held. Sometimes there can be a number of different files in which the information may be found and you then you are typically restricted to three files at a time. You then have to wait for them to be found. Providing they have been put away from the last time they were viewed and not languishing on a trolley somewhere (that is assuming it has been catalogued and indexed correctly in the first place), and depending how busy the archive is, and how many staff are there, you should have the file within the hour, hopefully quicker, although it can be longer). These files are often little more than a collection of papers maps or rolls usually without indexes. It really is a case of trying find a needle in a pile of needles. This is a long and slow process. It can be much longer if it is not in modern English or before spelling was standardised or the writing is illegible. And even longer if in medieval Latin, French or Italian etc. So this might take several hours to complete.

You might not find what you are looking for, so you have to start the whole process again. And even then you might not find anything and have to go through the process several more times. I have spent a whole week at Kew researching one thing. On another occasion I spent two days going through the Astor Archive looking for evidence of an event but left empty handed. Kew of course is free but with the new system at Northampton, even a day is costing me serious money and a week? I will let you do the maths at £31.50 per hour. Yet there is still no guarantee that I will have found what I want. Speculative visits would of course be prohibitive under this new system.

The text then has to transcribed or copied (incurring additional costs).

You should now be able to see the problem! Contrary to popular belief writing history books pays little. You already have to pay a small fortune for images from recognised sources. So this puts any original research into the counties history out of financial reach especially if the intention is to write a paper, book or article. Instead people will be forced to rehash old accounts (some of dubious accuracy) and use less reliable sources. Or, and more likely, just ignore Northants contribution to history all together. This proposal will therefore be the death of historical originality and discovery. An immediate rethink is needed!

Here is a link to the petition, which at the time of writing had over 3,000 signatories.

https://www.change.org/p/northamptonshire-county-council-northamptonshire-county-council-don-t-charge-for-visiting-archives?source_location=petition_nav

Battle of Northampton Event 15/16 July 2017

The international award winning Northamptonshire Battlefield Society will be at Delapre Abbey on 15/16 July for the commemoration of the 1460 battle where we will be giving walks, talks and demonstrations. Come and play our new battle of Northampton game. We will have our new Northamptonshire and Rutland Wars of the Roses Gazetteer and battle heraldry posters on sale as well as the book and game.

delapre poster 2017

 

 

Change of Speaker 29 June 2017

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we have a new speaker and talk for our next talk on 29 June. It will now be Rob Atkins from MOLA talking about Iron Age Northants. Rob has been a post-excavation manager at MOLA’s Northampton office since March 2016 and is employed to write up and publish backlog sites as well as help colleagues in report writing. Rob graduated from Birmingham University in 1989 with a BSocSc in Economic and Social History. He worked for various archaeological units before being employed by MOLA in 1993 as a site assistant and later as a supervisor. In 2002 he briefly left MOLA to be a project officer with the old Cambridgeshire County Council unit (now OA East) before returning in his current role. Rob has always been very interested in the post-excavation side of archaeology and has authored or co-authored various monographs and articles in local and national journals over the last 15 or so years.

Battle of Northampton Memorial Walk 10 July 7:00pm

All welcome. Meet at Delapre Abbey at 7:00pm to walk to Queen Eleanor Cross to lay flowers for the fallen of Northamptonshires medieval battles. Will include a mini tour and talk on the 1460 battle.DSCF9513

Queen Eleanor’s Cross – The story so far

When Edward I’s queen, Eleanor died in 1290 at Harby, her viscera, less her heart, were sent to the Angel Choir of Lincoln Cathedral for burial, and her body was then taken to London, taking 12 days to reach Westminster Abbey. Crosses were erected at the twelve places where her funeral procession stopped overnight. Today only three crosses still stand, at Geddington, Northampton, and Waltham Cross. The top of the Northampton Cross was missing in 1460 at the time of the battle.

eleanor cross

 Northampton’s Queen Eleanor Cross. Photo Nicola McKenna
In July 2016, Northamptonshire Battlefield Society began to express concerns about the deteriorating condition of the Northampton Cross in meetings with Northampton Borough Council and other stakeholders in Delapre park. NBS continued to bring it up at subsequent meetings but got no further than a than a dispute of who was responsible for its upkeep. Frustrated at the lack of action, NBS made their concerns public which were then taken up by BBC Radio Northampton. Starting Monday 24 April, for three days in succession it was headline news and the chair of NBS, author Sara Cockerill and others were interviewed on the radio. As a result, the Borough Council issued the following statement.

“We are aware of the many references to the cross on our website and sadly whilst this seems contradictory we still believe this isn’t proof of our ownership of the cross, however we have carried out extensive maintenance on the cross in the past we now intend to carry out further work to tidy up what is undoubtedly a fantastic monument of national importance”

And this was despite the cross being listed on the council’s asset register. So, on Wednesday 26 April this page was launched. The threat to the cross sparked outrage within the local community and further afield. Support grew rapidly and a twitter feed was greeted with a similar response, also gaining celebrity support from the likes of Tony Robinson and Al Murray. The cross’s plight made TV and interviews with the NBS Chair, plus Marie Dickie and Adrian Bell from the Hardingstone History Group was shown on BBC Look East on 2 May.

eleanor growth 3

Some of the growth on the Cross. Photo Matthew Lewis

Then on the afternoon of 2 May, Northampton Borough Council released the following statement

“We are moving ahead as quickly as possible to get the permission we need to carry out work on the Eleanor Cross. We have met with Historic England and taken their advice and have already approached three accredited restoration and conservation companies with the experience of working on such important monuments. Two have already responded and when we have heard from the third, we will appoint a contractor to carry out a condition survey, commission initial works and advise on what further work is needed going forward.
“We have formally made an application to work on a scheduled monument and once we have received the permission necessary from Historic England work will begin straight away. We are well aware of the importance of the Eleanor Cross and how our plans for Delapré Abbey will raise its profile even further.”

There is a way to go yet. Support continues to grow and NBS will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the council sticks to its promise. Responsibility needs to be confirmed and a long term maintenance program needs to be sorted. Better access to the site and some signage are also priorities. We will continue to report progress.
But all in all, not bad for little over a week. Thank you everybody.

eleanor patching

Earlier low grade repairs. Photo Matthew Lewis

Next Talk: 27 April 2017 – 7:30pm

It is the welcome return of Mike Brown. This time talking about the medieval pilgrim. Mike has walked all the pilgrim routes of Europe dressed as a medieval pilgrim and will tell their story and play some of tunes of the time on authentic instruments.

Free to full Northampton Battlefields Society members otherwise £5.00 on the door.

Location: Marriott Hotel, Northampton  https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/maps/travel/ormnh-northampton-marriott-hotel/

mike brown

Northampton Battlefields Society receives new international award

NBS has received an international award. The silver plated figurine of Nathaniel Wade was given to NBS at the International Guild of Battlefield Guides annual dinner on Saturday 14 January 2017 and collected by Vice-Chair Phil Steele and committee member Graham Evans.
The GBG Nathaniel Wade Award is named after one of the first Battlefield Guides. Wade was a Bristol lawyer and the hardworking creator of the rebel army during the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.

 

The award publicly recognises the contribution of an individual, group or organisation associated with the GBG, who through their efforts has made a significant contribution to the craft of battlefield guiding and the wider Military History community. Last year it was awarded to the Belgian Tourist Office so we are in good company.

In July 2016, Chair Mike Ingram and the society received the Presidents Award from the Battlefields Trust for outstanding contribution to battlefield preservation and interpretation which was presented by Sir Robert Worcester. Previous to that, in 2015 it received an award from the NN4eight local community group for its work on battlefield preservation.

Chair Mike Ingram said afterwards “We are proud and pleased to receive the award and thank the GBG for considering us. It reflects the commitment and the hard work of our committee and members to preserving nationally important battles such as Northampton.”

 

award

The award came the day after NBS gave a display and talk about their work to the GBG at Delapre Golf Club.

 

 

Talk Thursday 26 January. Dominic Smee and Richard Knox – The Armour of Richard III

Dominic Smee has a form of scoliosis similar to King Richard’s and for the recent Channel 4 documentary, Richard III: The New Evidence, Dominic was subject to various riding and training tests to determine if the condition could have had any negative effects on the King’s ability to fight in battle.

Richard Knox, Heritage Development Manager at Bosworth Battlefield Centre opens the talk by giving a history of armour, relating it to Richard 111. Dominic will then talk about his experience during the making of the Channel Four documentary. The talk concludes with Richard arming Dominic in the armour made by Channel Four and adding his own pieces.
Free to full NBS members otherwise £5.00 on the door.dom smee 2