local history john west george the fifth by the grace of God

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Custody of Archives

Paper records are of many types: official, personal and estate papers, legal documents, minutes of law courts, commercial archives, military records, pictures, newsprint and other ephemera. This mass is stored by many different authorities, National Records, Diocesan and Parochial, Counties, Universities, Reference Libraries, Regimental Museums, Local History Societies and Centres In 2009 the safest conditions of space, temperature and humidity for the custody of official archives are found in a Cheshire salt mine.

From Anglo-Saxon times in the 7th century, chronicles and cartularies were kept in monastic cathedral churches. Throughout the Middle Ages, alongside manorial court rolls and into Tudor times, the administration of each parish was recorded by churchwardens and secured in a wooden parish chest. In the following centuries many demands were made on churchwardens and vestry meetings. Public health, highways, lighting and watching, poor law and the appointment of Overseers were preserved in various states of care or confusion.

See: http://www.parishchest.com/
http://www.mcmullin.plus.com/parish%20chest.html
and: W.E. Tate: “The Parish Chest” (Phillimore, 1983 etc.)

The first County Record Office was established in Bedfordshire in 1913 but it was not until 1962 that the Local Government (Records) Act gave councils the authority to collect and store local archives. The Parochial Records and Registers Measure of 1978 by the Church of England also recommended more specialised care of diocesan records with higher standards of custody, light and humidity control than was available in most vestries. This has caused a transfer and concentration of all types of document in the local County Record Office. Professional care and ease of reference are balanced by distance of access for the village student. Information and texts of relevant statutes are given on: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/policy/other/default.htm

 

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