Tuesday 24 January 2012

Cataloguing a century of community service

It is the New Year and our opportunity as Archives students at the University of Liverpool to experience new things at the Cheshire Record Office. We are part way through the Archives course and this is our chance to put theory into practice with a two week cataloguing placement.

The Warrington Council for Voluntary Service (WCVS) supported and enhanced the work of local voluntary and community organisations in Warrington for 102 years; however, by September 2011 it had closed, and their office at The Gateway, Sankey Street needed to be cleared. As part of Cheshire Archives’ work in looking after archives for Warrington, an archivist had visited the premises and identified records of historical value. WCVS staff had brought in additional material of potential interest, and a considerable quantity and variety of boxes and binders had arrived at the Record Office.

This was the collection we would catalogue from start to finish. We began our task by unpacking and looking through all the records to give ourselves an overview of the collection, to see how things had worked and how to arrange them. Records included minutes of the various committees, reports, newsletters, advice registers and some photographs. It became apparent that the majority of the records were from the WCVS, but there were also a small number of records from related and affiliated organisations, for example ‘Learning Together Cheshire and Warrington’ and the Thewlis charities.

Coming across this photograph was an unexpected surprise as the majority of the records that we had been looking through had been administrative in nature. It brings to life the Shaw Thewlis charity’s donations of clothing and blankets to people in need.

The records told us the history of the organisation and it became apparent, as we traced many name changes, that our task of description is very important. These descriptions, once entered into the database that delivers the online catalogue, are what will allow users to search, find and have access to this part of the history of charitable support in Warrington.

We hope that our catalogue tells the story accurately and that the collection as a whole will help remember the important work that the WCVS did within the Warrington community and its impact over the past century.

With thanks for this guest post and work on the WCVS collection (D 8214) that is now available in our online catalogue.

Friday 13 January 2012

'Restoration Man' starring Congleton Water Tower

We celebrate the starring role of the Congleton Water Tower in Channel 4's 'Restoration Man' with selected highlights of the 250 lines composed (and recited) by the Congleton Borough Treasurer W. H. Krinks on the occasion of the inauguration of the Congleton Water Works on 27th October, 1881!

To us, a rock in Horeb riven,
Has BEALES PURE WATER flowing given,
From sources searched for far and wide,
Nor left one likely source untried,
Till hill and dale had told their tale
Of fountains that could never fail -
Twin Giants, Gravity and Steam,
Together yoked, a matchless team,
To carry to each cottage door,
A beautiful, perennial store,
From elevated Corda Well,
Of pureness without parallel ...

A page, famed in our history, will
This day's great ceremonial fill;
And as ten years ago, the Park,
An epoch in our annals mark -
Another and long wished for move
In the right Sanitary groove,
To make our public health compare
Well with returns shewn any where.

This day to see the MAYOR elate
With great delight, inaugurate
Our WATER WORKS, proclaiming them
Each sparkling drop, a precious gem,
Of greatly more intrinsic worth,
Than all the jewels upon the earth;
And thus addressing the great crowd,
To hear each word in silence bowed,
And all of this grand fete day proud,
In language, terse, brief, clear and loud:
YE BURGESSES, my word assures
These WATER WORKS to you and yours,
A heritage, while time endures.
What would your ancestors have given
For such a blessing sent from heaven?

But I forbear more wearying rhyme
Which now but wastes your precious time.
Pray with your censure of this jingle,
Let this old kindness freely mingle,
And I'll this rhapsody conclude
With feelings of deep gratitude.

Just 30 lines as a taster - and while it makes us smile, it must reflect an appetite to celebrate the contribution of science and Victorian engineering to public health. Not to mention, of course, the miracle of running water.

(We enjoy it here, of course, because it reminds us of the joys of council collections!)