Wiltshire and Swindon Record Office Past, Ivor Slocombe

 

The impending new Record Office seemed an appropriate prompt to look back at some of the annual reports and minutes of the County Council’s Records Sub-Committee.

Now the Record Office has nearly 9,000 visits a year of which 65% are from family historians. Forty years ago the figures were:

Year
Tutorials
Genealogists
Local history
National
County Council use
1961
16
69
169
13
61
228

1965

167
163
27
75
432

1970

358
293
463
74
1188

In 1961 the office produced only 309 photocopies of documents but by 1970 this had risen to 3,431. The archivist commented that this was taking up more and more time, as a result of which many new collections were not being catalogued. The huge increase in national inquiries was a result of a change in the universities with many demanding, for the first time, a written project as part of the undergraduate history course.

The Records Sub-Committee, which met three times a year, had an extremely powerful membership under the chairmanship of the Earl of Pembroke. But its activities were limited, decisions were seldom required and there was nothing remotely controversial (unlike the debate about the move to Chippenham!). In May 1960 the committee approved the purchase of a Gischard combined hygrometer and thermometer for 39s. 9d. plus 2s. p. and p. Two years later they rejected a proposal to acquire a microfilm reader even though £150 had been set aside for this in the annual estimates. They did, however, approve a new stapling machine (a Bates Model C) for £3 10s. plus postage. In 1967 £100 was provided for the purchase of documents and the archivist was allowed to spend up to £20 on his own authority provided he reported his action to the next meeting of the committee.

The nearest the committee came to controversy was in September 1972. Marconi had carried out some of his first successful radio experiments at premises in Figsbury near Salisbury (at Hillcrest Bungalow or, later, ‘Roving Kennels’). It was proposed that a plaque should be erected on the house to commemorate this achievement. After lengthy deliberation the committee decided to refer the issue to the Finance and Coordinating Committee for guidance.

Would we like to return to the ‘good old days’?