Sulgrave Manor Trust

Save Sulgrave Manor's archive

The Manor has a significant collection of documents from the 16th to 20th centuries, reflecting both the history of a typical English country estate to 1914 and the development of Anglo-American relations in the 20th century. The collection is in desperate need of conservation, cataloguing and, in the long term, digitalisation to make it accessible to scholars world-wide.

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Situation

The Manor is custodian of a collection of documents accumulated in the 20th century from a variety of sources. Partial bursaries and volunteer effort over the years have resulted in a sorting of the papers into rough categories but the wealth of information within them has never been made available to researchers. The documents are badly deteriorating and soon the wealth of information within them will be lost. We have funded the initial work from our own resources but the next stage must await funding. The Funding need : We are currently seeking funding to identify and meet the immediate preservation /conservation needs of the collection; and to prevent further damage by improving the storage conditions and to establish a summary list of their contents. This will enable us to catalogue and separate the collection into its component archives and assess the way forward to the final stage of the project, which is to open the archive to interested researchers and to transfer much of the material onto the web-site for international access. We estimate that the total cost of this next stage of the project will be in the region of £25,000. The value of the collection : The 16th to 19th century documents represent a rare insight into the history of one small country estate and village and typify the development of English agriculture during those years. The 20th century documents are, we suspect, of considerable significance in the development of Anglo-American relations, as the Manor was established in 1921 to be a symbol of what was beginning to be seen then as a “special relationship”. The collection may also be of use to researchers in English social history of the period and specifically to those interested in the early development of the ‘heritage industry’, since the Manor was one of the earliest houses to be regularly open to the public. The current conditions : The archives are held in a refurbished attic in one wing of the historic house. The conditions are comparable to an ordinary house – there is no environmental monitoring equipment or special provision. Fortunately small gable windows limit light exposure and the security required by the nature of the historic house also protects the archives. The majority of the documents date from the early 20th century and are stored in ordinary card folders and sturdy cardboard boxes. Many of them are stapled or paper-clipped together with rusting metal. The estate documents, the earliest dating from 1546, are mostly, as a holding operation, deposited with the local Record Office where they are stored under controlled conditions but, as they are uncatalogued, remain inaccessible to researchers. The Project to date : We started the Archive Access Project with Stage 1 in 2006, a ‘scoping exercise’, to evaluate the work to date and to sort out the best way forward. We have extracted non-archival material, rationalised the storage and broadly identified the component parts of the archive. Within the limits of the hours of work we could fund from within our own budget, we have made a good beginning. But the rate of deterioration is beginning demands investment in conservation and improved storage which we cannot fund.

Solution