I’m Jane Heward, and I am the new Cirencester Project Archivist at Gloucestershire Archives. I have recently finished a 21-month project at Cambridgeshire Archives cataloguing the records of the Bedford Level Corporation (the organisation who drained the Fens between the 1630s and 1650s, and maintained many of the drainage works until the 1920s). Before that, I was an archives trainee at Glasgow University Archives in 2010-2011 and completed the UCL Archives and Records Management course in 2011-2012.
In November 2013, Gloucestershire Archives was successful in its bid to the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for funding to catalogue the records of Cirencester solicitors Messrs Sewell, Mullings and Logie, formed from the merger of the practices of Messrs Mullings, Ellett and Co and Messrs Sewell, Rawlins and Logie in 1991. The records are extensive – 632 boxes were included in the project brief, and a further two collections (D181 and D182) contain related material. At present, only 43% of the collection is “box-listed” (meaning that only a summary of the contents of each box is recorded), and just 18% is available through either the paper catalogues in the Searchroom or the online catalogue.
The collection is of both local and national importance. John Mullings was a personal friend of journalist and author Richard Jefferies (b. 1848), and his office is affectionately described in the chapter ‘The Solicitor’ in Hodge and his Masters. The collection contains significant business records of Messrs Mullings, Ellett and Co, as well as records relating to prominent former clients including the Warneford family and the Warneford Ecclesiastical and Clerical Trusts; the Bowly family; the Whitmore-Jones family, of the Chastleton estate; the Ponsonby family, Barons de Mauley, of Hatherop; the Rushout family of Sezincote; and Joseph Pitt, of Pittville fame.
I spent my first seven weeks at Gloucestershire Archives carrying out a comprehensive survey of all 632 boxes, which gave me a sense of the records preserved and informed a strategy for tackling them. I have recently started cataloguing the major client papers. So far I have tackled 20 boxes, including the papers of the A’Bear, Coles, Cumberland, Reade, Sarney and Piercy families. These included 9 boxes of deeds for several properties in Bledington and Oddington owned by Sir John Chandos Reade, which after some research turned out to relate to “Oddington House” “Bledington Ground Farm”, “Manor Farm” and “Home Farm” in Oddington, and a further (as yet) unidentified farm in Oddington. I also discovered that “Oddington House” sold for £13,000 in the mid 1800s, and was recently on sale for £10.5 million! Untangling the complex (and interconnected) affairs of the A’Bear, Sarney and Piercy families gave me a “crash course” in death duties, trust funds and annuities circa 1900. I am currently working on the papers of the Coles family, which relate to a number of properties in Coln St Dennis including “The Grove House” and “Calcot Farm”.
A volunteer project listing approximately 950 sale particulars has just got off to flying start, and a second volunteer project listing bundles of deeds relating to properties in Cirencester and the surrounding area is soon to get underway. Please get in touch with our Volunteer Co-ordinator Paul Evans (Paul.Evans@gloucestershire.gov.uk) if you would like to get involved with either project.