Following the award of £492,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to the Wiltshire and Swindon Archive Service in 2013, we have purchased and catalogued the nationally important Lacock archive that dates back to medieval times. With huge support from the local communities of Lacock and surrounding towns and villages, we were successful in obtaining the whole amount we applied for, which included £420,000 to purchase the archive and £72,000 for conserving the archive, cataloguing it and making it accessible to the public; and a variety of participation and learning activities, including innovative use of digital and mobile phone technology. The catalogue is now complete; the website and app have been launched; and conservation work is ongoing. We have also developed a community archive which we will be sustaining for many years to come.
Community consultation and the Lacock Archive Forum
Many people have enquired about the archive and our attempt to purchase it, so here are some of your frequently asked questions answered:
The archive is mainly about the Lacock Abbey estate and its past owners, notably the Talbot family, dating back to the 12th century. This is an archive of outstanding local, national and international value. It comprises of early deeds and charters relating to Lacock Abbey and the surrounding lands dating to the thirteenth century; deeds, manorial records, surveys and estate papers of the Tudor period relating to Sir William Sharington; estate surveys and household accounts; personal correspondence and papers of the Feilding, Davenport and Talbot families, including estate records of William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), a pioneer of photography.
The Lacock Archive provides written, pictorial and cartographic evidence of the evolution of the community, its landscape and built environment over 800 years. It is vital to the understanding of the history of Lacock and adjacent communities. Lacock is a preserved village and together with the abbey it is under the ownership of the National Trust. The house and village is a popular tourist destination and is a favourite television and film location for media companies. The archive provides a unique link to a preserved village that enables researchers and visitors to Lacock to better understand the abbey, the buildings in the village, and the community's development.
The project is ongoing. Much of the grant was spent on purchasing the archive, but the Heritage Lottery Fund also wished to ensure that as wide and diverse an audience as possible is able to access, use and be inspired by the archive. This was also an ambition for the Archive Service. Therefore, we divided the project into four main areas:
- Opening up the archive - preserving, cataloguing and indexing the archive to enable more people to access it.
- Digital interpretation - interactive website, digital online community archive and the use of mobile phone GPS technology to engage a wider and a younger audience.
- Education resources and activities - working with schools using the archive to develop curriculum teaching.
- Inspired by Lacock - family learning and other activities using the Lacock Archive as their starting point that will encourage people of all ages to learn new skills or express their talents, discover new things about Lacock and enjoy their local heritage.
We have made the collection accessible to all through the creation of an online catalogue, which in turn will facilitate better access to the originals held at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. This has been supplemented by an index of manorial records to ensure they are especially accessible to community and family history groups and individual researchers.
We have also prioritised vital conservation and preservation work on the archive which can then ensure the collection is accessible for future generations. Cataloguing, indexing and conservation work was undertaken by a professional archivist and conservator respectively, supported by community volunteers, including e-volunteering. A training programme was created to ensure volunteers had the opportunity to learn and develop new skills, ranging from IT, basic conservation and local history research skills to palaeography and Latin.
Our web designer worked with students from Wiltshire College to develop an interactive website. Some content is also available through an App that will trigger mobile phones at certain points in the village, creating a fun and interactive experience for audiences with smartphones. It works with Apple and Android systems.
We have also worked with the local community to create a digital community archive, where additional content such as personal memories, photographs and ephemera is uploaded by individuals onto the website, creating a living archive for present and future generations. This will create a different dimension to the understanding of Lacock’s rich history.
Our Heritage Education Officer has worked with local schools to develop online resources available for all schools on themes supporting curriculum teaching. We have used some key documents for A-level studies on the Tudors, such as the Sharington Pardon (following William Sharington’s failed plot with Thomas Seymour against Edward VI and protector Somerset), manorial surveys, wills and inventories. There is also provision for study modules that incorporate field visits to Lacock and live research at the History Centre, supplemented by classroom activities.
Archives can stimulate a wide range of informal learning, discovery and enjoyment if used in innovative ways. We hope the Lacock archive will act as an entry point and inspirations for a range of family learning including arts-based activities such as craft, photography and creative writing; hands-on history research workshops on subjects such as estate archives and manorial documents, village landscape and interpretation; exhibitions about the archive and aspects of Lacock's history; and a Lacock Local History Festival. If you have any ideas on what we can do to promote the Lacock archive to a wider audience, please let us know.
The largest proportion of the funds required was acquired through the Heritage Lottery Fund grant. However, we had to raise matched funding to the value of £10,000. We have already reached the necessary target.
We also looked to raise in-kind support from partner organisations such as the National Trust and through volunteer time, that has a value of around £92,000 (please not this is not actual cash, but contributions that are equated to monetary value). We have achieved this due to the large amount of volunteer support we had from the start of the project – so thank you all – but we still want volunteers to continue to enjoy giving their time to the project and make the project outcomes even more successful.
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund gives grants to sustain and transform our heritage. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions the HLF invests in every part of our diverse heritage. For further information go to www.hlf.org.uk.