A historic collection which has been independently assessed as one of ‘the most important archives of Northumbrian social history’ has been acquired by Northumberland Archives at Woodhorn.
The collection of papers from Dickson, Archer & Thorp Solicitors of Alnwick charts the history of the 200-year-old practice from its establishment in the late 18th century until its closure and the death of the last managing partner in 2003.
It has been purchased by Northumberland County Council’s archives team at Woodhorn thanks to a series of grants, including from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF); the Arts Council England and V&A Purchase Grant Fund; Friends of the National Libraries; and the Lord Crewe Trustees, with the total purchase cost £150,000.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, a HLF grant of £77,400 was awarded to assist with the purchase of the collection and it will also allow Northumberland Archives to engage a volunteer coordinator who will work with a team of volunteers to clean, package and undertake basic listing of the collection.
The practice had a wide client base dealing with probate cases from families of relatively modest means to handling the business of many county families including that of the Duke of Northumberland. Practice partners were also involved in governance both county-wide and more locally.
The collection comprises in excess of 400 archive boxes or more than eight cubic metres of records.
Coun Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts and leisure at Northumberland County Council, said: “This is a fantastic acquisition for Northumberland Archives.
“Once the content has been sorted and listed it will be an amazing resource for those studying family history or local history and also people interested in old wills or in criminal cases.
“It will give an incredible insight into the history of Alnwick and the wider community.”
Ivor Crowther, head of HLF North East, added: “We’re delighted that National Lottery players’ money can support Northumberland Archives to acquire this significant record of local history. The project will not only secure the collection’s future, but also share this heritage with the community through an exhibition and exciting new volunteering opportunities.”
Northumberland County Council has recently taken over management of the county’s archive and modern records service in a move that will ensure the sustainability of the collections for the people of Northumberland and further afield.
The council is committed to investment in preserving its historical records, and plans are already being developed to increase public access to the collections both online and through outreach programmes.
The services also play a key role in strengthening the council’s overall records management, ensuring that in this digital age, the local authority is able to control and govern the vast amount of information it owns.