Thursday, 25 October 2012

Leicestershire Records Office

The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland played host to two groups of Kickstart participants on 6th and 22nd October 2012.

Adam Goodwin gave an introductory talk on the work of the Archivists and a tour of the building including behind the scenes in the strong room, which houses 10,000 shelves - approx 4.5 miles! Leicestershire falls under the Diocese of Peterborough so many historical records are held there and in Cambridge. Rutland did not begin collecting until the 1960's and with the various political boundary changes over the years their records are now in the Leicestershire storage facility. Annually the archive receives approx 250 new deposits.

The Leicestershire records office began in 1947, originally housed in the building, the basement of which stood where the body of Richard III has recently been discovered.

Wills and parish records are on microfiche, but prior to the mid-1980's parish registeres were produced every day for viewing; Leicester Union Workhouse records exist from 1875. Originally paper was made from rag cloth and Adam showed examples from The Leicester Mercury from 1874 which are in far better condition than those from less than 50 years ago.

The documents available to our group for research included a Quaker marriage certificate from 1860, signed by all member sof the congregation; early village maps of the Rutland area, naming tennants of each field etc. A great seal of Henry II lay alongside the Gretton Family Estates book of lands held, plus a large royal seal of Richard II (the boyking) showing him astride his horse on one side and enthroned on the other.

An original pedigree of the Shirley Family  of Staunton Harold was partially unrolled -at 30 foot long and 13 feet wide, Adam had only seen it unrolled once in its entirety when they took it to the museum at Long walk specifically for the purpose of using the floor space. At that point they had it professionally photographed so you can now view it in sections.

Large poster size letters were on view from 1630's; one Rutland family were ambassadors to Turkey and the letters are signed from Charles II and Oliver P (Oliver Cromwell Protector) - mainly to complain about piracy!

The oldest book on display, believed to belong to Robert, Count of Moulin, was an 1150 copy of an 1107 original book of Town charters, written in Norman French or Latin, giving a grant of rights by the Earl of Leicester at the time of Edward the Confessor, and proves the existence of the Guilds prior to the Norman Conquest, when Freemen ran the town of Leicester.

Generally writers did not start to date documents until after 1290.

Other documents available included Leicester St Martins Church (now the cathedral) Church Wardens accounts written between 1544 and 1647 - a lovely book with metal clasps, the book had been fully restored using paper pulp to reline the paper edges - the accounts were started 60 years after Bosworth , where Richard III was reputed to have died - the document is written in 'secretary hand'.

The Town Hall library collection established in the 16th century at the Guildhall are now with the records office on display from the collection was a copy of John Wycliffes sermons in english.

A book that resembled our modern fascination for altered books was the Sherrand family survey book of the 'Manor of Teigh' - listing the estate properties and tennants in 1597; describing every field strip, tennant name, field name with illustrations and maps. Oxgang was the name given to a strip of land that an ox could plough in a day.  The name Wong referred to enclosed land among open field strips. Each farm may have  enclosures immediately adjoining the farmstead, giving rise to names such as Home Close and Croft.

If you want to take field names further there is a book - English Field names - by John Field.(appropriately).

One of the most recent, but with a very decorative cover was parchment illuminated address from WWI to Thomas Feilding-Johnson a local textile manufacturer.

A map of the manor of Langham was on display from 1624, part of a deposited archive collected form the 1300s that had been stored in 70 tin boxes in a stable,along with the horses.
The Grant of a crest or badge (not  a coat of arms) of the Herick family of Beaumanor Hall from 1590 showed a bulls head, a design common to the area in buidling s and pub signs, sitting alongside the signature of Henry VIII acting in his capacity of Duchy of Lancaster to swap some land ownership in the Beaumont Leys area of Leicester.

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