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
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
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.
There are aliens and strange structures just metres from my desk. But don’t be alarmed. I haven’t been beamed from Starship Enterprise to a parallel universe! The strangers are just asbestos removal experts – back for a second visit. This time they’re making the under-floor spaces for the new Heritage Hub safe, ready for remodelling work. And it’s all happening behind closed doors – so there’s no danger.
Meanwhile, Archives staff have been celebrating some good news. The Local Government Association has awarded us £15,000 to develop online customer registration arrangements and streamline our online document ordering system. These improvements should make it quicker and easier for everyone to access original documents and minimise any queuing times at the new Heritage Hub reception. Well done to our Digital Preservation & Access Officer, Claire Collins for leading the way on the successful bid!
Access & Learning Leader
This week we’ve had specialist site investigators on site, making trial pits and bore holes around the main Archives building. Thankfully, most of the work was outdoors. But we couldn’t avoid the hole in the visitor coffee lounge – sorry! Continue reading
At the end of April Gloucestershire Constabulary appointed Sue Webb as their project assistant. Sue brings a wealth of useful experience to the project from her background as a former police constable and head teacher. Continue reading
The ‘For the Record’ Stakeholders Advisory Board has made good headway with plans to develop a virtual Heritage Hub. Continue reading