A Gloucester Garden Party

By Abigail Hartley, Searchroom Archivist

Something light and fluffy this time, a diary entry of sorts of trip north west to some colleagues, catching the last of the good weather and enjoying endless amounts of cake!

Showing the side of the building with assorted car parking spaces. The building is red and grey brick, with large rectangular windows.
Formally Kingsholm School, the Heritage Hub has been updated as part of the Heritage Lottery Fund Project

As some of you may know, I moved from Gloucestershire Archives to West Sussex Record Office in March of this year.  Gloucestershire was my first job after receiving my Archiving and Records Management degree, and when I arrived, it was in the middle of its Heritage Lottery Funded building project – refurbishing the public search room and reception areas, bringing in partners to the one site, doing up the garden and exterior entrances, as well as the necessary extension of three new strong rooms. 

Stairs and a wheelchair lift bring you up to automatic door. The carpets are light grey and teal green. A side door leads to a community centre, and another side door leads to the garden
New front entrance to the Heritage Hub

When I left in March for Chichester, only the front entrance, garden, and the all too necessary car park remained to be done.  Gloucester’s annual history festival results in the Archives (now branded the Heritage Hub with the Family History Society, Constabulary, Victoria County History and the Archives all sharing the building) having a large open day.  This year, with the completion of the garden, it seemed only fitting the open day was based around the new exterior.

Bright new rotating shelf units for the strongrooms, some for boxes, some for rolled up maps
Mmmmm… new clean strongrooms…

I was desperate to see what my old colleagues had been up to in the six months I’d been gone, so I wished to make a visit. Inevitably I was roped (willingly! willingly!) to assist with the ever-important tea and coffee making, and I’d made a point of informing them all that I was going to be generally a nosy guest and wanting to see the new strong rooms.

Fortunately for myself there is one blessed train a day that runs from Brighton up through Southampton, Westbury, Trowbridge, Bath, Bristol, Gloucester, then Worcester and Great Malvern, and there is one blessed train a day that does the same journey in reverse. Excluding Sundays.

Six counties and three and a half hours later, I arrived back in Gloucester. First stop? The Archives? Pfft no. The Cathedral of course.

Sunday was where the action was, so I popped on my blue Heritage Hub t-shirt and got ready to help the other volunteers with the endless streams of tea, coffee and cake. So much cake.

Apples and cakes line two tables. Including brownies, lemon drizzle, victoria sponge, cupcakes, marmalade cake, coffee and walnut, chocolate cake, chocolate and vanilla and fruit cake.
How much cake is too much cake?

The garden had a local community group set up. Pitch Up, who were an accessible and family friendly performance experience inspired by camping. It involved walkabout performances and an interactive performance installation.

There was also a barber surgeon present, in case of any grievous wounds or teeth that needed pulling.

John Putley, resident barber surgeon, talking to the Pitch Up group. He is pointing to the different tools used by surgeons in full 17th Century costume
John Putley, resident barber surgeon, talking to the Pitch Up group

There were also displays showing the building work that the old school had undergone (GA had moved into their current location when Kingsholm School closed in the late 1970s) as well as displays for the 180th and 100th anniversaries of the Constabulary and the Gloucestershire Deaf Association (GDA) respectively (the latter of which’s collection was largely catalogued by yours truly).

Displays from the Taynton Metal Detecting Club showed off 40 years’ worth of collecting coins, artefacts and non-metallic finds (pottery, flint and clay pipes) to link in with the talk on site: the Saxon Warrior of Operation Shallow Grave, which detailed how, in 2016, a high status Saxon burial was found in Gloucestershire and was excavated with the help of the MOD’s Operation Nightingale.

A yellow sign stating bees at work warns of the beehive at the very back of the garden, away from the members of the public
Gloucestershire recently moved in their beehive, Archive Honey on its way soon!

You had the usual guided tours and a Treasures of the Archive talk, and luckily the sun was shining strong on Sunday, so there were nearly 200 visitors in total to feed and water.

Where Gloucestershire exceeds is their relationships with local community groups, and this can be seen with every event they hold, hosting other groups in the Archives. The History Festival, which lasts the first half of September, provides ample opportunity to use the meeting spaces for talks, to have open days, or to hold smaller events for palaeography, conservation and so on.

Visitors enjoy cake and tea, whilst the displays of the GDA and Constabulary bring interested parties over
Visitors enjoy cake and tea, whilst the displays of the GDA and Constabulary bring interested parties over

The five hours passed distressingly quickly, and soon it was time to pack up. One dinner and sound snooze later it was Monday morning, and time for me to get the train back to Chichester. The weather was decidedly less helpful than Sunday, but I managed to get a photo of me and some of my old colleagues in front of one of the landscape photographs spread around the building.  It was wonderful to see many of them once more, and to see what I had missed the past six months.  The building looked incredible. 

And with that, I was back on the train. Two carriages this time, luckily I had a seat the whole way. But still. Squish. Three and a half hours later, I was back in Chichester. First stop? Home. To be blunt the train had been heaving and there was no room to give up your seat, even for a loo break. Certain things must take priority when travelling.

My old team… spot the interloper?

Here at West Sussex, our Open Day will be announced soon in the coming months, so keep an eye out for news at that front, and keep up with us on Social Media, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see what Treasures West Sussex has in store.

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