Blogging a Building (12)


I recently went on holiday and returned to find a lot had changed in the space of a week.  It was great to see!  So I thought I’d bring you up to speed with what’s been happening since my last post –  hopefully you’ll be pleased too.  Here goes…

Outside, works on our new strong rooms have been coming along nicely.  We’ve been taking sneaky peeks from the back door and are pleased to report the 10 metre deep piles (featured in my last post) are now part of a solid foundation that’s supporting a steel –framed fort.

Concrete foundations being laid

Steelworks in progress

Once the walls have been completed a specialist contractor will construct three internal concrete caves.  These will eventually provide additional specialist storage for our collections.  This set-up is similar to our existing strong room arrangements, which are very sustainable.

Moving indoors, the temporary props that were supporting the ceiling in the new open plan areas have gone, replaced by steel beams.  This means we can see the actual size of the spaces that are to become the new Heritage Hub reception/shared area and the Archives research room/project workshops.

Remodelling to create Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

So what’s next?  Well, the building works will continue as planned and Archives staff are moving on to interior design choices.  We’ll be consulting with a range of people, including experts and volunteers from other organisations that will be sharing the Hub premises with us, to make sure we get things right.  It’s all very exciting!


JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk,

Access & Learning Leader




Gloucestershire Archives Revealed

Dig this, dude

It’s fair to say many of us would like a go on a digger.  Perhaps not a prominent desire, but the thought of moving large piles of earth at the touch of a joystick or smashing concrete into oblivion with a deft swipe of the controls is quite tempting.

Sadly, it must remain a wish and not become a reality, for us at least – because the joy of excavating massive holes would lead to a temptation to lift things that shouldn’t be lifted, like people or cars, or even other diggers. That’s a very good question: can a digger lift another digger?  Well, for as long as we’re not allowed to play with diggers, we won’t find out.  We think it probably could though.

So why all this talk about construction machinery?  Well, it’s because we’re awash with it at our Alvin Street premises in Gloucester: diggers, excavators, dump trucks and all manner of large and powerful machinery that we are (sensibly) banned from having a go on.  But we have fun watching them in our breaks, seeing them go about their destructive and constructive business to create new facilities for Gloucestershire Heritage Hub and build three more specialist storage rooms for the Archives’ collections.  You’ll probably know all about this if you’ve been following our Blogging a Building posts or visited recently.

Unfortunately, none of the machinery on our site is made by the old Gloucester firm, Muir Hill Ltd, which moved from Manchester to Gloucester in 1962.  The firm was based at the site of the Gloucester Railway Carriage and Wagon Company on Bristol Road and specialised in the manufacturing of dumpers, loaders and shunters.  Gloucestershire Archives holds a significant amount of this firm’s business records: collection D4557 contains photographs, slides, publicity material, artwork, administrative, financial and property records; and D14248, a smaller collection, contains similar items.

Muir Hill machinery 1

Looking through some of the Muir Hill catalogues, and judging by the range of dumping tractors featured in them, it seems dumping was a popular activity. The company also manufactured high lift shovels, tractors, scrapers and, surprisingly, standard gauge locomotives used for light shunting work.  The locos are notable for being pre-diesel machines, powered by petrol or paraffin.  They were advertised with the same advantages over steam power as diesel and electric locos (though the latter two came along years later): “instant operation and always ready for duty” – just like the Archives’ staff.

Muir Hill machines were exported around the world.  One of the sales information sheets quotes an Australian distributor calling the firm’s 161 model “This Beaut Tractor” and ends with the conclusion “there seems to be no doubt that the 161 is a far better tractor than the existing big yanks”.  This could be a comparison to another type of tractor, or confirmation that Gloucester engineering was far superior to anything the US could produce at the time.  We think the latter and, regardless, it’s nice to have some Aussie praise.

One of the photographs in the collection shows a peculiar high lifting shovel machine, rather like a rickety wooden shed on tracks, with a window and protruding lifting arm. Intriguing!  Especially since most of Muir Hill’s machinery was manufactured from far sturdier material.  Perhaps the boss was away when this quirky contraption was produced, leaving the workers free to knock something together quickly on the Monday and spend the rest of the week betting on horses or getting to know the local bar staff?  Thankfully not – a closer look at the photo reveals the words ‘Ruston and Bucyrus’, the name of a rival manufacturer, painted down the shaft.  Evidently they didn’t produce such quality machinery.  It’s certainly a relief to think the engineering designers of Gloucester didn’t expect a worker shovelling heavy boulders, coal and soil to be protected from a stray falling rock (and almost certain death) by a few thin strips of processed tree.  Instead, they thoughtfully encased them in the safety of metal – so the descendants of these operators can say “Thank you, Muir Hill people”.

Rickety tractor

Many of the machines produced by Muir Hill seem similar to the tractors and dumpers used today, so it’d be great to compare them and see if the old Gloucester technology could match today’s efforts. Could a Muir Hill pick up a JCB, for example?  Or could it go faster?  And which would be best at lifting tractors?  If there are any Muir Hill digger, dumper or shovel owners out there, we’d love to host a competition to find out (who knows, if we promise to operate the shed on wheels carefully, the site manager might even allow it!).  We could all wear high vis jackets and give the machines a fluorescent makeover – it’d become a high vis historic digger race off.  Imagine that!


…and we wonder why we’re banned from building sites.

Anthony Phillips and Jenny Rutland, Archives Assistants

Blogging a Building (11)



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.

Internally, the temporary forest of scaffolding poles is disappearing as the new Hub area develops.   Surprisingly, it’s due to be ready for us to move into in early October 2017.  We are keen to set up our new home quickly, ready for visitors.  And volunteers who are setting up Gloucestershire Family History Centre and Gloucestershire Police Archives @ the Hub are thinking the same.  So it’ll be a case of ‘all hands on deck’ as soon as we get the keys!  The Archives research room will be closed whilst we do this and we reckon it’ll take just two weeks to get everything done and dusted.  We’ll keep you updated with the latest news, including the opening date for the Hub, via this blog and our website

The images above show the state of play as it is now.  You can hover your mouse over them for captions if you’ve visited our premises in the past and are struggling to get your bearings.

Our move won’t be the end of the journey for Hub building works.  These will continue for a further six months, creating a new main entrance, foyer, training suite, strong rooms and community garden.


JS ID photo 2016

Jill Shonk

Access & Learning Leader

New arrivals in our strong rooms

April 2017


Tree planting on Leckhampton Hill in the early 1970s (among records of R W Paterson architect of Cheltenham, catalogue reference D3867 Accession 14388)

Each month new archives arrive at Gloucestershire Archives – either as gifts or as deposits on indefinite loan. We regularly process between 25 and 35 new batches (or ‘accessions’). All are logged into our collections management database and stored securely.

We know from users’ feedback that it can be difficult to pick out these new arrivals from among the thousands of entries  in our online catalogue. So for those of you keen to find out what’s new, this is the first of a regular blog.

If you’d like more details of any collection listed below, click on the link in the left hand column which takes you to the online catalogue. No link means there’s no more description ready as yet.

The online catalogue will also tell you whether you can access the records now or whether they are closed for any reason. If this is the case you may be able to arrange to see them by appointment.

Title Description
D14375 Local cricket clubs, 1949-1957 Gloucester Thursday Cricket Club scorebook, 1953-1957; Bream Cricket Club scorebook, 1949-1954 (2 volumes)

Accession 14377

Gloucestershire County Council: County Surveyor’s Department c.1955 Publicity for a new accounting machine installed to calculate wages and the costs of all projects undertaken, c.1955. Includes photographs of machine operators  (1 volume, 4 photographs)
D14378 Samuel Bradley & Son, builders of Frampton-on -Severn, 1907-1959 Business accounts, 1907-1949 (3 volumes); estimates books, 1937-1959 (3 volumes)
D14379 Frampton-on-Severn deeds, 1843-1939 Fernleigh, Prospect Cottage, Tom Clarke’s Cottage; Tamaris Cottage, the Street, 1909-1939 (1 bundle);  Severnthorpe and the Mechanics’ Institute, The Green, 1843-1939 (1 bundle); other property on The Green, 1939 (3 bundles)
D14380 War Invasion Committee for Corse, Staunton and Hartpury, 1941-1945 Air raid precaution records formerly belonging to A G Compton, Chief Air Raid Warden for Corse, Staunton and Hartpury. Include a log book of events,  1941-1945, and an Invasion Committee war book, 1944-1945 (5 volumes, 1 bundle, 3 items)

Accession 14381

Woolstone with Gotherington and Oxenton Parochial Church Council PCC minutes,  1984-1996 (1 volume)

Accession 14382

Company of Proprietors of the Stroudwater Navigation, 1936-[1950s], Plans of trows ‘Elizabeth’, ‘Palmerston’ and unnamed vessel, undated, [1950s] (3 documents); plans of trow ‘Alma’, 1952 (2 documents); Port of Gloucester handbook, used as a working copy by boatman on the Stroudwater Canal, 1936 (1 volume)
D14383 [Hulbert’s] builders of Marshfield, 1786-1871 Accounts showing charges for various goods and services, 1786-1798, 1797-1815, 1815-1818 and 1856-1871 (4 volumes)
GCC/LEG Accession 14386 Gloucestershire County Council: Legal Sealed orders for Public Rights of Way and Highways, 2016-2017 (1 box)
GDR Accession 14387 Gloucester Diocese, 2016 Faculties relating to properties in the Diocese, 2016 (52 items)

Accession 14388

R W Paterson of Gloucester and Cheltenham, architect, 1903-1991 Include photos of Paterson’s architectural projects, 1940s-1950s; Leckhampton Court Estate sale particulars, 1912, and water supply, 1956; papers about Ashmeade Lodge, 1910-1949,  Tower Lodge (1938)-1989, and the development of Leckhampton Hill, 1970s-1980s (8 bundles, 2 volumes)
D14389 Gotherington in 2012 Gotherington and Area Local History Society’s text and photographic survey of houses in the village, 2012
D14390 Marshfield Reading Room, 1887-1947 Minutes and accounts, 1887-1947 (1 volume)

Accession 14391

The Nailsworth Society, 2012-2015 Group leaders’ annual reports delivered at annual general meetings, 2012-2015 (4 files)

Accession 14392

English Association of Male Voice Choirs (based in Gloucestershire) Committee attendance register, 1983-1999; accounts, 1983-2013; minutes and correspondence, 1992-2001 (3 files, 1 volume)

This isn’t the whole story as we also take into our Local Studies Collection a wide range of publications and printed items relating to Gloucestershire. They include newsletters, journals, reports, programmes and leaflets produced by organisations across the county. Too many to list here, but April gifts also include:

  • A draft MLitt (University of Bristol) thesis by John R Howe, 1977 titled “Political history of the Parliamentary constituencies of Cheltenham, Gloucester, and the Cirencester and Tewkesbury divisions of Gloucestershire, 1895-1914” (catalogue ref JF5.36GS)
  • Photographs of Gloucestershire Cottages presented to the Library Service by Miss Harriet C Fawkes in 1942 (catalogue ref J3.238GS).  Not all the images are identified.
  • Good Man and a Brave Man, The story of a Gloucestershire soldier, Cecil Thomas Packer, 1885-1916 by Alan Gaunt, 2017 (catalogue ref B733/57715GS)

We’re looking forward to having space in the new Heritage Hub to display new publications!




Who’s been digging holes at Alvin Street?

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!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

These geological investigations will tell us about the engineering and environmental characteristics of the areas we plan to develop or build on.  And our project architects will use this information to fine tune decisions about building design, including the sorts of foundations we’re going to need for the new strongrooms and Heritage Hub spaces, which is pretty exciting!

We appreciate it has been a bit noisy this week but the work is paving the way for project dreams to become a reality, so please bear with us.

We will be able to announce a start date soon – so watch this space!

In other news…

Gloucester History Festival 2016Don’t forget there are still lots of events going on in the city for Gloucester History Festival. Visit or see our blog post from last week for more details.

Heritage Open Days (8-11 Sept)

The city is proud to take part in the national Heritage Open Days’ Scheme. The Open Days encourage people to discover the wonderful diversity of our local heritage and in Gloucester members of the public have the opportunity to go behind doors and gates that are normally closed to the public; some of the city’s real gems are hidden from the first-time visitor. The Open Days give people an opportunity to discover and explore the wonders of the city. Many volunteers lead guided tours of the city and buildings, often in traditional costume and make history come alive. Find out more at and search for Gloucester.


Behind the ‘Thin Blue Line’ – making connections with the Gloucestershire Police archive

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.

She will be supported by expertise from three University of Gloucestershire interns who will be helping with the police archive activity strand during the 2016-17 academic year. They will be adding content to the police archive website and recording spoken histories of current and former Force members.

Sue recently took part in the recent Collections Care pilot training alongside three of the core police archive volunteers and one of our interns, Alex Griffiths.

Sue said, “The project is very exciting, although the Force archive group has been in existence for 16 years, in several different forms, the items for the collection seem to be scattered far and wide.  Part of my role is to try to bring some consistency and continuity to the archive and explore some of the elements that the volunteers do not have time for. So many elements so little time!“

The project website has been in a fledgling state for about 18 months and is nearly ready to go live:

It will not only share information with other stakeholders but also bring the archive group to the attention to both police and non-police persons. We want to encourage everyone to get involved with the force history, helping the collection and information grow.

Sue said, “We have already started putting out feelers to start a project on the floods of 2007 and may try to link this to reminiscences of the floods of 1947. We are aware that there are now a large number of police staff involved in these operations and want to ensure that their views are heard as well as those of police officers.  All in all it will be a very exciting year.”

Sue Webb (right) and Marion Chandler, who was the first woman superintendent in Gloucestershire, taken at the Cheltenham local history afternoon on 13th August.


Back to the future – the Virtual Heritage Hub

The ‘For the Record’ Stakeholders Advisory Board has made good headway with plans to develop a virtual Heritage Hub.

What is it?

Like the onsite Hub, it will offer facilities – in this case, digital ones –  that support people to gather, keep, share and use archives. The Board has already agreed a specification and we are setting up a stakeholder team to develop and manage the virtual Heritage Hub – so watch this space!

The virtual hub will be made up of the website and social networking sites so you can share your stories with everyone. Until then, we need your help to do it the old fashioned way:


Your Place in History

We’re looking for quotes and archival images to display in the new onsite Heritage Hub and would welcome your ideas:

  • Pithy comments about your experience of archives. E.g. ‘History is the glue that holds communities together’ (Historical Research Group, Sittingbourne, Kent);
  • Short quotes from archives and/or iconic archival images to inspire or intrigue Hub visitors.


Birthday celebrations

2016 marks the 80th birthday of Gloucestershire Archives and the 90th birthday of the building. So we’re also looking for contributions to our birthday celebrations in the autumn:

  • A story or anecdote about Gloucestershire Archives or our current home, the former Kingsholm School;
  • Or nominate your favourite archive (with reasons why) to feature in the birthday celebrations or future blogs.


We’d love to hear from you. Please contact or send your contributions by post to Gloucestershire Archives by 23 September please.