Gloucestershire’s archives revealed

Model me a railway, Eric

Apart from qualified train drivers, how many of us have, in fact, driven a train? Maybe that question should actually be: how many of us want to drive a train?  I would – for the unique driving experience and the challenge of keeping hundreds of people simultaneously on track (excuse the pun) for their appointments. Continue reading

Mayor Visits Gloucester City Charters, by Rachel Wales

It’s an exciting day when the Mayor of Gloucester calls in.   But it’s not me he’s here to visit – along with several Friends of Gloucestershire Archives, he has come to see the gorgeous Gloucester City Charters, kept here at Gloucestershire Archives since 2012.  The City Council consider the Charters to be amongst the most significant items held here because they document the development of Gloucester as a city.  Continue reading

New arrivals in our strongrooms (2)

May 2017

It’s been another busy time for new arrivals. We’re really grateful for all these new donations and deposits, many of which have been hidden away in homes and offices for years. If you’re planning on bringing items to offer to the Archives, please get in touch before you visit so that we can make an appointment for you.

We were delighted that the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives helped us to purchase a small but significant group of architectural plans relating to Gloucestershire’s early mental hospitals (then called ‘lunatic asylums’). These iconic buildings at Coney Hill and Horton Road in Gloucester survive in very changed forms today. Continue reading

Blogging a Building (11)

 

FullColour_Landscape

Since April, the Heritage Hub site – both outside and in – has been a hive of activity.

Externally, we’ve been creating firm foundations.  The 26 tonne piling rig shown in the images below arrived on the back of a lorry from Devon.  It drilled 87 piles 10 metres deep to underpin our new strong rooms in a matter of days. Continue reading

Ab initio – or from the get go

So when was the first record office established in Gloucester? 1930s? 1940s? 1950s? Well, thanks to a chance conversation a year or two back I think I now have a more radical, and surprising, answer. I was chatting to Giles Standing, then The National Archives Transforming Archives trainee at Gloucestershire Archives (and now working for the Diocese of Lichfield). It transpired that we had both studied Roman archaeology, and had both been involved in publishing. Moreover, Giles was editing for book publication the collected essays of his former tutor at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, an eminent scholar of Roman Britain, Mark Hassall (whom I then only knew by reputation). And, since I still operate as a small publisher in my spare time, would I be interested in publishing Mark’s work?

Yes, of course! And now, two years later, I find myself typesetting Mark’s essays (meticulously edited by Giles), which happen to include a paper on ‘The Tabularium in provincial cities’. The Latin word tabularium means record office (or to put it in modern parlance, ‘heritage hub’!) and Mark had assembled evidence from Roman sites in continental Europe about what archives such an office might contain. He prefaces his remarks with the caveat that there is hardly any evidence from Britain itself, but that (because Roman bureaucracy was pretty standardised) what he describes is very likely to have existed in the cities of Roman Britain, and especially in the coloniae, of which Gloucester (Glevum) was one of three.

He then goes on to list the categories of archives, and they begin to sound eerily familiar. There would have been the city charters and constitutions, lists of magistrates and councillors, minutes of council meetings, decrees (perhaps the equivalent of our local byelaws), maps and surveys, contracts and leases. By analogy elsewhere, the Roman record office would have been a room or office attached to the basilica (or town hall) and presided over by the tabularii publici curator, the city archivist.

As a young man Mark was involved in archaeological excavations in Gloucester and Cirencester, and his tabularium essay was originally published in a tribute volume to an archaeologist whom he had worked under in Gloucestershire, John Wacher. Although his paper does not mention it, Mark would know well that in Gloucester the site of the basilica was excavated in the late 1960s and is now occupied by Marks & Spencer. The Emperor Nerva, who in 97 AD was apparently responsible for founding the colonia of Gloucester (and presumably therefore for instigating the first city archivist to look after its first charter) sits astride his horse nearby. I walk past his statue every day – from now on I’ll treat him with a little more respect.

 

John Chandler

VCH Gloucestershire