Alan Crosby: Maximum security archive storage

By Jon Bauckham, 28 May 2015 - 11:00am

Archives and record offices are sometimes housed in unusual locations, as Alan Crosby recently discovered on a trip to Denbighshire

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 28 May 2015
Alan Crosby
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"The microfilm reader in Cell 2 is free!" (Photo: Alan Crosby)

Among the pleasures of working as a family and local historian is the opportunity to go to record offices previously unvisited.

It’s almost always an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Each office has its quirks, and there’s a remarkable variety of buildings in which archives are housed.

Last week I went for the first time to Denbighshire Archives, in the delightful market town of Ruthin. There the record office occupies part of the Old Gaol, at the bottom of the main street beside the River Clwyd.

It dates back to 1775, when the county magistrates approved the construction of a state-of-the-art prison. Though it originally had a seriously grim purpose it is a very attractive building, now restored as a museum and heritage centre – and also, in one wing, a record office!

It was a great place and I had a really enjoyable day-and-a-half of research. I went to Ruthin to investigate the history of a property located in the hills south-west of the town of Denbigh, and there was plenty of useful material available – deeds, leases, sale catalogues, enclosure records and estate rentals.

One reason I like smaller record offices is that everything is so accessible – documents came amazingly quickly, catalogues were on the shelf just behind where I sat, and my all-too-numerous questions were answered straight away.

I finished my work and decided to do a quick family history check as I have ancestors from the area (though their surnames were unfortunately Lewis and Edwards, so tracking them down is far from easy – so many people had the same names).

I needed to look at a couple of microfilms of parish registers. There can’t be any other record office where you’re told “The microfilm reader in Cell 2 is free”!
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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