Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

Gloucestershire Archives

Welcome to the third edition of the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub newsletter.

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 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.  


Paul Lander, Lakehouse Site Manager with Kim Kenny, 'For the Record' Project Officer.

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 – that’s the Archives, Gloucestershire Family History Society and Gloucestershire Police Archive volunteers – are keen to set up our new home quickly, ready for visitors.  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 our blog and website


Left to right: views from former strongroom and former locker room into research room; old front door.

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.

House History

In recent weeks staff at Gloucestershire Archives have presented 2 free sessions on House History, for people researching the history of their homes. The events were supported by Gloucester City Council’s Townscape Heritage Initiative. The focus of this Heritage Lottery funded project has been refurbishing residential, ecclesiastical and commercial properties in historic Southgate Street, in Gloucester. The sessions took place at the Frith (the temporary search-room lite), and there will be a full programme of such events in our new, spacious premises once the Heritage Hub is open.



For more information about City Council’s Townscape Heritage Initiative visit


There will also be a programme of training courses, offered by Gloucestershire Archives’ staff, as part of the offer from the new Heritage Hub, and this is something we are planning at the moment. We really want the new Hub to be a busy place, a place of discovery, welcoming, and with something to offer young and old alike. Our partners will have an important role in making this vision a reality.

261 fish in the Archives?

Gloucestershire Archives staff have been busy trying to make some of the help information about the Archives' online catalogue much more accessible. We’ve planned a series of videos and the first, called ‘The Basics’, is now available from the Gloucestershire Archives website. It is free to access, lasts for about 6 minutes and aims to give a brief introduction to our catalogue, as well as some hints and tips on using it.

The video show us searching catalogue descriptions with the word 'fish’ in them - you just need to replace this with your own search term and you'll be on your way!   

We’ll be following it up soon with a second video - ‘Searching Smarter’.




Blogging for Gloucestershire Archives

As well as the popular 'Blogging a Building' series other members of staff and partners have been using their blogging skills to give other information about the Archives.

Take a peek at some of the latest blogs.

Gloucestershire archives revealed (1) -

There are countless hidden gems in Gloucestershire Archives’ collections.  These range from beautifully illuminated medieval manuscripts to nuggets of priceless information and funny facts, often concealed in ordinary-looking documents.  These treasures are usually uncovered in the Archives’ research room, either by visitors using our collections or by Archives staff that handle them as part of our access arrangements.

It seems a shame to keep these special finds a secret so we thought we’d set up a new blog series to share them with you, beginning with a post we’ve written ourselves.....

Or how about.... 

New arrivals in our strong rooms -

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.

And a blog written by one of our partners....

Ab initio – or from the get go

Self service at Gloucestershire Archives



Earlier this year Gloucestershire Archives applied for – and were successful in obtaining - a grant of £15,000 from the Local Government Association (LGA) digital channel shift programme. This project will help transform our customer experience.


10,000 customers use our research room each year to consult original documents in our collections. They range from local and family history researchers (mostly older people) to professionals who require our documented evidence to do their day jobs e.g. council colleagues dealing with rights of way and planning issues. 

Currently two of our key research room processes are inefficient because information is double entered, firstly by the customer and then by us. We will use the grant to introduce systems that will allow customers to enter data directly into our database.


By the end of September this project will offer our users an improved and streamlined experience, and some of the funding will go towards making sure there’s as much information about the new system as possible. We’ll be writing user guides/help sheets/making videos and training volunteers to help customers get the most out of the new system.

Fancy a peek inside the developing Heritage Hub?

There a few spaces left on the ‘hard hat tour’ at 1pm on Thursday 6th July.  And you can join us if you take the right size shoes!  This isn't a mysterious form of selection.  Rather, we have to wear safety shoes and our supply of sizes 5, 7 and 10 have already been taken for this tour. 

Email , giving your shoe size, to book your place.

We’ll be offering more ‘hard hat tours’ as slots in the building work emerge.  If you’re interested, please keep an eye on our website where we’ll be advertising them.  Due to the nature of building works, there’s likely to be limited advance notice.   

Sorting websites…


In order to help us design the best website for the new Heritage Hub, we’ll be adding a sorting exercise to the Gloucestershire Archives website within the next couple of weeks.

Look out for it if you’re on the site!

Thank you to our funders, part 2

In this edition, we’d like to thank Arts Council England

Gloucestershire Archives is delighted to have received funding from Arts Council England to work with 5 artists, creating original artwork for the new Heritage Hub.

This collaboration of heritage and art will bring together the local community, members of the Gloucestershire Heritage Hub network and our partners with the artists to create beautiful, eye-catching public artworks that tell the story of Gloucestershire’s history.

The five artists are Imogen Harvey-Lewis an illustrator, Julia O’Connell, a textile artist, Natasha Houseago, a sculptor and TomatoJack Arts who are mosaic artists.

 Click on the images below to read more about the artists and see examples of their work.



          Imogen Harvey-Lewis                                  Julia O'Connell                              Natasha Houseago              TomatoJack          


The artist activity will continue until July 2018.

Local History

Gloucester History Festival

2nd - 17th September 2017

This year’s Gloucester History Festival (2nd – 17th September) has an intriguing and wide-ranging programme celebrating the theme of ‘revolution and innovation’ with over 100 events across the City.

In our Blackfriars Talks series, we welcome Dan Snow and his History Hit show, hear Tony Robinson talking about his historical passions and The One Show’s Anita Rani exploring the moving story of her own family’s past during the 1947 Partition of India shown on BBC1’s Who Do You Think You Are?




Ian Mortimer takes us back to Charles II and the Restoration with his new Time Traveller’s Guide to Restoration Britain, Roy Hattersley delves into the history of the Catholics since the time of Henry VIII, Shrabani Basu talks about the new film based on her book Victoria & Abdul - starring Judi Dench as Queen Victoria -  and we go behind the scenes of The Archers to see how they portray changing rural life today.


Other highlights include: Gloucester Day on Saturday 2nd September; and Heritage Open Days (7 – 10 September) when many of the City’s finest buildings will open their doors for free and you can also enjoy walks, talks, tours and concerts that reveal Gloucester's rich heritage. 

You can also enjoy City Voices which reaches out across the City with its biggest programme yet. Come and hear World War Two veterans from the Polish community share their wartime memories, take part in our ‘Brexit and Me’ debate and hear our top-notch ‘tag team’ of historians covering the history of Gloucestershire in just one a day.  And finally, don’t forget our brand-new Family Day on Saturday 9th September, packed full of free fun events for children of all ages!

For a free brochure and more information visit  Tel: 01452 396572  Please note booking opens 24 July.

The Festival is delighted to offer a special 25% discount on all Blackfriars Talks tickets to Heritage Hub Newsletter readers meaning that £8 tickets will cost just £6. To take up this offer simply choose your events by visiting to book your tickets or call the Box Office on 01452 396572 after 24 July and quote HHN Offer to receive your discount. This can’t be combined with any other offer, discount or concession and is subject to availability.


Scriptorium Tag

Good ideas schemed up during a bout of insomnia don’t usually seem so clever next morning. But when I tried out on colleagues my nocturnal fancy for a local history contribution to this year’s Gloucester History Festival, they were enthusiastic, so now it will be in the programme and I am committed to making it work. In case you missed it, last year’s festival was an outstanding success, a vibrant, stimulating and joyous celebration of city, county, and history generally. This year’s, from 2-17 September, promises to be even better.

My idea, dubbed Scriptorium Tag, is to assemble a group of fellow local historians from among the ranks of the Victoria County History, local universities, and other friends and colleagues, to participate in a kind of relay of short, pithy and lively lectures, which will run non-stop through an afternoon and evening in the Scriptorium range of Gloucester’s admirably historical Blackfriars. Each presentation will touch on some aspect of Gloucestershire’s history, about which the speaker is an authority, and they will run in roughly chronological order. The ‘tag’ line will be that the last sentence of one lecture becomes the first sentence of the next, rather like the baton in a relay race. Intended to be informal and entertaining, as well as high-octane local history. We shall encourage our audience to come and go, eat and drink, question and heckle even, as the fancy takes them. Please come along, Thursday 14 September.


John Chandler,

Consultant Editor, VCH Gloucestershire

Visit for more information


Gloucestershire Local History Association


Gloucestershire Local History Association (GLHA) is a voluntary organisation of around 50 local history groups across Gloucestershire. We aim to promote local history throughout the County and to encourage as many people as possible to become involved with the history of where they live. You can discover more about us at


One of our activities is an annual Local History Day, the most recent of which was held at Churchdown Community Centre on 18 March 2017, with the theme of ‘Gardens for Food, Fun and Flowers’.  Around 150 people attended during the day to view displays on the chosen theme, prepared by 12 of the County’s local history groups, and to hear our three speakers. These were Dr Jan Broadway, who spoke on the history of the County’s gardening societies, Dr Jeremy Burchardt (University of Reading), who explained Gloucestershire’s place in the early allotment movement and Michael Brown (aka ‘The Historic Gardener’) who talked on ‘Ghastly Gardening: Horticulture’s Horrible History’.


Each year, three judges decide on the ‘best display’, which was won this year by the Forest of Dean Local History Society.  Their display contrasted the development of the pleasure gardens at Lydney Park with the use of gardens for food – and later also for flowers – by the average Forester.  It also covered the Bream Garden Show, which has been running for 150 years and still gets strong support.


The Local History Day is also when the annual Bryan Jerrard Award is presented. The award is given for what its judges believe is the best journal article on an aspect of Gloucestershire’s history written in the preceding year.

This year’s winner was Dr Nicholas Herbert for an article on the squatter settlement at Woolridge Common, Hartpury. Runner-up awards were given to Sally Self for an article on Cheltenham malt houses and to Keith Walker for an article on roads in the Forest of Dean.  All three received book tokens, kindly provided by the History Press.

This year’s Local History Day was generously sponsored by the Mid-counties Co-operative Community Fund, through the Gloucestershire Community Foundation, to which we are most grateful. The sponsorship enabled us to make the Day a free event.

Our next Local History Day will also be held at Churchdown Community Centre, on Saturday 28th April 2018, and will take as its theme aspects of life in Gloucestershire between 1918 and 1939. Further details will be available on the GLHA website, in due course.

The Dowty Project

We now have two new interviewers, John and Margaret Clifton (thanks for coming on board) trained to collect oral histories relating to local engineering firm, Dowty (now operating as Safran).  And we have recently completed a very full interview with Alan Davies who retired around 20 years ago.  We'll be planning more interviews as the year progresses.

   Alan Davies (left) with Graham James

We've also had recent contact with Mr Arthur Taliana, Head of Administration and Security Corporate Services at Malta Enterprise, asking for information about Dowty Malta for their 50th anniversary commemorations. We’ve exchanged a little information (see below) and hope to be able to share more information with them when the Dowty Archive is fully catalogued.


Sir George Dowty (right) visiting Malta in 1961                                      The Dowty Shop Floor at Mriehel, Malta in 1971 

It will be interesting to maintain this link, and any other information about Dowty offshore companies would be welcomed.

For more information about the Dowty Project visit

Family History

Gloucestershire Family History Society

Since the Archives' temporary research room has been in operation the Family History Centre has been overflowing on occasions.  'Very nice to see.


We welcome all our new visitors to the Family History Centre and we are pleased when our encouragement leads to them joining GFHS.

As we prepare to move into the Heritage Hub, we have been slowly going through our existing library and pulling out books that no longer reflect current best practice in Family History Research. These books are in our entrance for anyone to pick up, for a small donation, and can give beginners a start into the fascinating world of Family History Research at a nominal cost.  Feel free to browse when you visit the Family History Centre.

Meanwhile the committee has purchased new lanyards for our volunteers to wear.  You will soon see them being worn around the Family History Centre and eventually in the Heritage Hub.


The Card Holder may also have the volunteer's name on.

Visit for more information and upcoming events.

Friends of Gloucestershire Archives

Ready for the asylum?

The National Archives have staff who scour sale catalogues and let us know if they find documents relating to Gloucestershire.

In early May they told us that a collection of architect’s drawings for Gloucestershire’s two county lunatic asylums had come on the market – priced at £2,200. The collection included attractive full colour elevations.  The vendor agreed to reduce the price and hold them until the Archives knew if they could raise the money.  The Friends agreed the plans would be a valuable addition to the Archives' collections and made a donation of £1,000.  Tewkesbury Historical Society also made a donation and the balance came from council funds.  Just days after first hearing about the plans, County Archivist Heather Forbes and Friends’ Chairman Clive Andrews took delivery of them.



Clive Andrews, Chair of FOGA with Heather Forbes, Head of Archives


Royal Charters

Some of the Archives’ most valuable possessions are the royal charters of the City of Gloucester, which date from 1155 to 1974.  The Friends have provisionally agreed to contribute £250 towards the cost of having new protective enclosures made for them by conservation staff at the Bodleian Library.  The enclosures will offer greater protection to the charters and their seals and enable them to be safely displayed from time to time.  It is hoped the Friends’ donation, together with a contribution from the City Council, will demonstrate sufficient local support to secure a major grant from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for the balance of about £10,000.


For more information about the charter and Richard's gift to Gloucester visit

A magical mystery tour

On Sunday 21 May a large group of Friends set off on their second mystery tour. Ably organised by Dr John Chandler, this time he took us to mid-Wales to discover the effects of the industrial revolution on local communities.  In Brecon we had time to visit the cathedral before a walking tour showed how the fortified market town had been transformed into a wealthy commercial centre when iron production started nearby in the late 18th century. 

Then on to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Blaenavon to visit the best preserved 18th Century ironworks in the world, complete with rows of workers’ cottages. It was a site that was at the cutting edge of the industrial revolution.  In between we had the pleasure of travelling through some of Wales’s most stunning countryside and hearing a brief talk on the Chartists and the Newport Rising of 1839.  The verdict?  Let’s have another mystery tour next year!

Someone must know the way?


If you are not a Friend already, why not join and know that your subscription will make a real contribution to Gloucestershire Archives? Visit for more details.

South Gloucestershire

South Gloucestershire Council

“Representatives from heritage organisations across the Bristol region came together on the 3 March 2017 in South Gloucestershire to attend a special event “Social media: What can it do for us?at Emersons Green Village Hall.  The event comprised a series of invited talks from heritage organisations and museums on projects that are benefiting from the use of social media, the internet and digital technology, opening up new ways of engaging with visitors and providing 24/7 access to resources online. 


For more information about the event see here:

The online resources can be found here:”

Avon Local History and Archaeology

About Avon Local History and Archaeology is the umbrella group for local history and archaeology societies in Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset.


We help member societies by compiling an annual list of recommended speakers, and by publicising societies’ activities through our newsletter and website. We organise a local history study day each year, and our AGM is accompanied by a lecture with a distinguished speaker.


Each year we publish 3-4 compact but authoritative books on aspects of Avon local history, and each summer we organise a series of walks.


We have strong links with the Regional History Centre at the University of the West of England, and with the libraries, archives, museums and other organisations in our area.


For news and forthcoming events visit



Acton Court

In 1535 Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed at Acton Court whilst on their summer Progress around the West Country. In honour of the occasion, Nicholas Poyntz, the owner of Acton Court, built an entire new wing onto his existing moated manor house. Remarkably this East Wing, hastily constructed in nine months, is still standing and is said to be the most ‘original’ Tudor building in England.


Acton Court will open to the public this year from 5 July to 13 August, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.  Tours of the house and grounds are at 2pm and 3.30pm. (No tours on the last day of opening, Sunday 13th August).  Full access to the house and grounds is with a professional guide only.

You can make a reservation by phone or reserve online, or buy a ticket at the door. Allow approximately an hour and a quarter for the tour. Please wear soft soled shoes (strictly no stilettos!).

Blue Badge guides tell the story of Acton Court, the Poyntz family who lived here, the monarchs they entertained and the state apartments they built for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

In addition to our tours we hold some Special Events during our summer opening. You can book and pay for Special Events online by credit card using PayPal. Alternatively you can reserve online, by phone or post and pay by cheque. See our website for full details: 


Chris Sperring MBE                                                  Sounds and Sweet Airs - 22nd July                       The Lion and the Rose - 13th August

Getting Close to Nature 7,12,15th July

South Gloucestershire Heritage Open Days

South Gloucestershire Heritage Open Days, 7th - 10th September.


If you want to travel a little further afield, why not visit one of the interesting and unusual venues open in South Gloucestershire over the Heritage Open Days weekend?  From a medieval barn to a coal mine, South Gloucestershire has some real heritage gems.



    Avon Valley Railway                                                               Ram Hill Colliery                                                  Winterbourne Barn


To find out more go to

Gloucestershire Police Archives

Police Records

On Saturday 22nd April Gloucestershire Constabulary records management staff and Police Archive volunteers held a busy open day at Waterwells for serving and retired officers and members of staff.  They gathered new contacts, documents and photographs and there was a lot of reminiscing.

Sue Webb, who was employed by the Constabulary as Police Archives Project Officer for a fixed period, is now working at Gloucestershire Archives and producing interactive learning resources that will help people to learn more about Constabulary history.

Both new and established Police Archives volunteers are busy reorganising display items, transcribing documents relating to the early history of the Constabulary, identifying items for the next few Force Open Days and planning for the move to the Heritage Hub.


Have you visited Gloucestershire Police Archives' official website? 

Gloucestershire Constabulary is the second oldest county force and has a rich and varied history to share about policing in the heart of the community. And you can use the Police Archives website to browse a selection of photographs and memories taken from our fascinating archive.  Whether you are a serving or former member of the Constabulary, have an interest in local police history, or want to find out about a police ancestor, this site has something to offer.  Please share your feedback, stories and memories.


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