Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

Gloucestershire Archives

It’s a Virtual World: New Online Activities & Resources: Volunteers and Young People

It will come as no surprise that during 2020 we have turned our attention towards all things virtual. One of our most successful activities to come out of this has to be the virtual coffee mornings held for both Archives and Family History Volunteers. All involved could now sit an examination in Zooming, not to mention get an A* in good banter! We’ve got to know each other better than ever which is a terrific result

Staff and volunteers at one of the virtual coffee mornings

We’ve also been focusing on producing new online resources for children and young people. These aimed to address some of the difficulties faced by both Teachers and Parents in these troublesome times, as well as for the future Post-Covid World (who knows what that will look like). A new online lesson ‘Where We Live: a local history activity pack & resources’ all about Gloucestershire past lives has gone live.

 ‘Rainy Day Activities’ have also been created where young people can design their own time capsule, wax seal, map and coat-of-arms.

Finally, a video for KS2 looking at what the Speed Map of Gloucestershire (c. 1610) can teach us, has gone online, the first of many planned.

Whilst we may have reopened (hurrah!), virtual activities remain ever important. Our website is packed full of things to keep you interested! Please do take a look, use them, pass them on, and if you get a chance, let us know what you think. Thank you

If you would like more information please email 

Meeting the Needs of Younger Customers at Gloucestershire Archives

At Gloucestershire Archives we have over 10 million documents, from the 12th century to the present day, and something to interest everyone, whatever their age. We are able to share these with our customers onsite and, to a lesser extent, online. According to the new Archives Card (please apply online here - CARN cards were phased out in April) the lower age limit for archives’ users is 14 years.

However, we work with children a lot younger than 14 years! For example, we host regular class visits by primary schools, and deliver family friendly events for very young children (based on arts and crafts) through to young adults. And we receive enquiries, every year, from those aged 16-18 years, about volunteering with us. This is useful, practical experience for teenagers when writing their personal statements on their university admissions forms.

The things that our younger visitors find particularly interesting are visiting behind the scenes, such as tours of our strong rooms, looking at very old, original documents, and hands-on activities such as writing with quill pens and ink. Here is a photograph of youngsters from Kingsholm Primary School visiting our strong rooms and learning about old handwriting: 


One of the ways we’re reaching out to children and young people is through our connections with schools. During the recent lockdown, staff were busy creating all sorts of online resources. An example of this is the film that one of our staff made, aimed at Key Stage 2/3 children (older primary age), all about the C17th John Speed map of Gloucestershire that we have in our collections. You can view it here.

And if you have grandchildren aged 9-12, why not view it with them?

In order to meet the needs of some of our youngest visitors (and their parents) we have created a Children’s Corner in the microfilm room. This has a child-friendly set of table and chairs, and a few colourful wooden toys. We feel it’s important to make the Heritage Hub welcoming to all, whatever their age.

We are writing to several schools this month asking them if their pupils have been keeping Covid-19 lockdown diaries and, if so, would they consider donating them to us. This is because we’d like a permanent collection of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Gloucestershire, and its effects on young and old alike.

If you know a young person who has a keen interest in history, local history, or heritage, why not introduce them to the Heritage Hub, and suggest they come along to join Gloucestershire Archives as a member?

Sally Middleton

City Voices

One of the highlights of September is Gloucester History Festival and this year was no different. The festival became (mostly) a virtual feast of talks, tours, exhibitions and online delights. And, even though we are now well beyond September. much of the City Voices strand of the festival is still available to view online for free.

The Heritage Hub and its partners played a very important part in making this year’s festival such a success. The Family History page is full of wonderful vignettes by local historians filmed in the Heritage Hub community garden and covering an array of subjects from tragic accidents to Button Gwinnett, from Police collar numbers to Gloucestershire’s memorial inscriptions. The films also include lots of information about how to further your own family history research with Dr Nick Barratt, historian, genealogist and broadcaster drawing on his experience with the popular TV programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ to look at the future of family history and by providing tips on getting started with your own family history.

Click image to watch Nick Barrett’s presentation

The interactive map  gives everyone, wherever they are, an opportunity to tour some of Gloucester’s very well known heritage sites (including amongst others the Cathedral, Blackfriars Priory, The Folk) and some not so well known (All Nations Club, the Olympus Theatre, Over Bridge). The Heritage Hub features too. So if you haven't visited us yet now is your chance!

Artists (funded in part by Historic England), contributed much content and as a result a fabulous collection of stories, illustrations, films and exhibitions were made and are still online for everyone to enjoy. These include:

Exhibitions and films curated in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and Black History Month



Signs of History is a tour around the city with Olivier Jamin and includes seven British Sign Language films for the deaf and hard of hearing, exploring Gloucester Cathedral and the city centre.

A life in Lockdown captures Gloucestershire’s response to recent events including interviews with Gloucester’s black elders

....and Karl Whiteley’s wonderful illustrated lockdown reflections.


Included here is just a taster of the events available, there is so much more to see and hear. For the full programme visit  and discover the wonderful heritage of Gloucester..

In 2020 people who would not normally be able to access the festival have been able to attend. People from across the UK and from much further afield, including Australia, Canada, Holland and North America have visited. 17,000+ people have so far enjoyed the festival.

We are already looking forward to next year when we hope, as well as online content we can have the live talks back at Blackfriars Priory, but whatever happens there will certainly be a Gloucester History Festival 2021.

Art at the Archives

The final two artworks, both by illustrator Imogen Harvey-Lewis, have now been installed at the Heritage Hub.


The Bridge House wall artwork ‘Archive Everyone Together’ is situated on the wall in the front carpark and the Donor Tree artwork is situated in the new Heritage Hub entrance.

With ‘Archive Everyone Together’, Imogen said -

‘I chose to focus on the people that make up our present day and historic community. The heads represent the every person, they are non specific and not specifically gendered or aged.

Each head is made up of interlocking fragments, to reflect the layered information, documentation and history that the archives hold, relevant to us as individuals and to us united as a county wide community.

The text - ARCHIVE EVERYONE TOGETHER - is simple, inclusive and uniting, and   captures a positive, encouraging and inviting call to use the service that is there for us all.’


The drawing style of the Bridge House Wall artwork is more urban and ‘street’ to match the outdoor location. Imogen wanted a contrast to the gentler, more homely style of the Donor Tree mural.

The Donor Tree mural is a colourful and playful apple tree which is drawn in Imogen’s strong, clean graphic lines. The tree which is made up of five main panels with added leaves and apples to give a 3D effect is bright, modern and humorous and we hope everyone will enjoy it as they enter the Heritage Hub.


Mrs Jones the Archives cat features too.

The Donor Tree as well as being a unique and lovely work of art is also a way for Gloucestershire Archives to thank all of the people and organisations who donated money to help make the Heritage Hub a reality.


We hope that both artworks will appeal to all and that they reflect the archive’s desire to be open to everyone.

Imogen ran workshops in Gloucester and Cheltenham and met with local people through various events at the Heritage Hub talking to partners, volunteers and staff. Visit the spring 2018 e.newsletter to read about Imogen’s research workshop at Kingsholm Primary School.

To see the Donor Tree artwork in progress visit the spring 2020 e.newsletter

Community Garden Update

This is the first full year that the community garden has been planted up. It’s been looking consistently fantastic so it’s a real shame that much of this has been during lockdown.


We’re growing peas, beans, squash and nasturtiums in the three raised beds, with varying degrees of success. These are really intended for use by our neighbours but again, lockdown got in the way. Hopefully next year we can remedy this and give them over to our local community as planned.  So if you’re local to the Heritage Hub and fancy having some growing space, please get in touch via


Thanks to the hard landscaping work done in early spring we now have a hoggin path linking the vertical sculpture and mosaic panels, a small “outdoor classroom” area and an open sided shelter.


We are particularly pleased with the shelter which uses materials salvaged from elsewhere on site-cast iron pillars for the supports, and bricks for the floor.


The new shelter also attracted the attention of an unusual visitor, spotted in early April.

The last big addition we have planned is a wildlife pond which we hope will be done next spring. Meanwhile we will concentrate on producing signage and some information panels.

Finally, we currently have bees again- a stronger colony than last year which has managed to fend off the wasps so fingers crossed we can keep them going over the winter.


Accreditation and what this means for Gloucestershire Archives.

Many UK archives, including those in the public sector (such as Gloucestershire Archives) are accredited archives services. This means that they have successfully applied for accreditation by the National Archives and a team of peer reviewers.  Gloucestershire Archives has been an accredited archives service for several years, but we are required to reapply for reaccreditation every 3 years. Accreditation is the bench-mark for the service; it defines good practice and agreed standards for archive services across the UK, thereby encouraging and supporting the development of the archive service.

These days, very many services – especially those in the public sector – have to go through some form of bench-marking; the most obvious one, that the majority of people may have heard of, is Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education). Ofsted undertake inspections and assessments of all schools in the UK. All local authorities (such as Gloucestershire County Council) are similarly assessed.

So what does accreditation look like? Well, it examines all sorts of things around the delivery of the service; the staffing structure and skills, opening hours, policies, budget, outreach, collections and management. It is a fairly lengthy process, and nearly all staff will be involved to some degree. In essence, accreditation is about standards laid down by the National Archives; it is a badge of external recognition which demonstrates quality services, and encourages professionalism in the archives sector.

So is it accreditation for accreditation’s sake? No, absolutely not. It is an external affirmation of what we do, and how good we are at doing it. It gives you the opportunity to consider who does what, why we do the things we do, and how we do them. It is very much a peer-led review of exactly how we are performing. It shows our strengths and weaknesses, and gives practical support and guidance on how we can make improvements.

Professional archivists are a relatively young profession – the professional qualifications needed, for this role, are less than a century old (although archivists, in one form or another, have been around far longer). Accreditation has another important aspect; it can be about establishing, or sharing, best practice. It can set bench-marks for others to aspire to. And it can record, in a moment in time, that which is important in terms of policies, trends and sector-wide resources and priorities. We gather lots of evidence to help us with our application for reaccreditation, from how many customers and volunteers we have, to the nature of our collections. Accreditation plays an important part in stewardship of the collections – ensuring that we make them accessible, that we are fit for purpose and that we have the tools to do the job.

The first attempt at any kind of regulation for archives was the Public Record Office Act of 1838 to “keep safely the public records”. Most notable since have been the Public Records Acts of 1958 and 1967, which introduced legislation such as the “30 year rule” (subsequently amended by the government to 20 years, in 2013). With the proliferation of places of deposit, in the intervening years since the various Acts, there needed to be some sort of agreed accreditation for the profession.

Here in Gloucestershire, the record office (the antecedent of Gloucestershire Archives), was set up in 1936. The records of the county of Gloucestershire (which then included what is now known as South Gloucestershire) were scattered across various offices, including having been deposited for safekeeping with the library service. The record office was initially housed at Shire Hall, and moved to its Alvin Street site in 1976. And just over 40 years later, we have the new Gloucestershire Heritage Hub, the home of Gloucestershire Archives and some of its partners.

Accreditation can help us see exactly where we have come from. Rather like when you’re looking at generations of the same family!

As part of our application for reaccreditation we have reviewed all our policies.   If you would like to comment on any of the draft policies  please reply to by 6th November 2020.


Sally Middleton.

Parking at the Archives

Good news - parking at the Heritage Hub will be free for visitors until Christmas. If anyone wishes to donate they would be most welcome!

In the New Year we will re-introduce the £3 fee for all-day parking. Volunteers will continue to receive free parking. 

Local History

A familiar face returns (for a while)

Thanks to generous donors in South Gloucestershire, work is now underway on the parish of West Littleton (down the A46, just about opposite Dyrham Park). The research is being done mostly by Simon Draper, a former denizen of Alvin Street, who is being ‘borrowed’ from his current employers, the Oxfordshire VCH Trust. Simon will be handling most of the documentary sources, many of which reside in the Hub, while John Chandler will be writing up the landscape and topography of the parish, which numbers about 24 households. Assuming all the necessary archives remain accessible (fingers crossed), the work should be largely complete by spring 2021. The results will form part of Volume 14 of VCH Gloucestershire.

John (left) and Simon (right) are pictured at an alfresco ‘project initiation meeting’ in Cheltenham - definitely NOT just a chat over coffee.

James Hodsdon

Family History

Celebrating Family History

As part of the City Voices strand of Gloucester History Festival 2020, Gloucestershire's family historians gave a series of short talks ranging from 2 to 9 minutes.

Headline speaker, Dr Nick Barratt, historian, genealogist and broadcaster also gave a talk drawing on his experience with the popular TV programme, ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ to look at the future of family history. He concludes by providing tips on getting started with your own family history

A Focus on Family History (32 minutes)

Local family historian talk on a range of subjects including -

(Click title to see the film)

Introduction to family history with Clive Andrews

Stonemasons at Gloucester Cathedral with Elaine Schollar

Researching the Smiths and England’s oldest farmers with Barbara Osborne

Button Gwinnett and the American Declaration of Independence with Liz Jack

Early family history publications with Gareth Swain

JRR Tolkien with Sue Woodward

Tragic accidents with Elaine Schollar

Gloucester Cemetery, Tredworth Road with Andy Sysum

Police ancestors with Barbara Osborne 

Police collar numbers with Sue Webb

Richard Gwinnett the dramatist Liz Jack

Unusual sources for family history with Rose Hewlett

Family tree to die for with Barbara Osborne

Gloucestershire’s memorial inscriptions (grave stones) with Andy Sysum

Titanic with Sue Woodward

Gloucestershire’s war memorials with Andy Sysum

We hope you enjoy the range of stories as much as we did! If it inspired you to take up research into your own family, please join us in the covid-safe Heritage Hub and work with one of our local experts.  Pre-booking essential - please see for details

News from Gloucestershire Family History Society

We are sad to report that in July, we lost our long-standing committee member and former Chairman, Dr Hugh Kearsey. Hugh was also president of Oxfordshire FHS, and had a keen interest in the Cotswold Canals Trust, to which any donations in his memory may be made: Hugh will be sorely missed.

Dr Hugh Kearsey

Re-opening of the Family History Centre

September was a busy month for the Society. After much work, we were finally able to open the doors once again to the Family History Centre. Initially for one day a week, following this successful trial period, we are now open on Tuesday and Wednesday (morning and afternoon) and Thursday (morning only). Pre-booking is essential, and the form with further details can be found at: 

Also in September, we were delighted to contribute a series of short films promoting family history to the Gloucester History Festival (click here to view the talks). Another highlight of the Festival was Rose Hewlett’s presentation “Defending Gloucestershire's Coast”. This drew on her recent book “The Gloucestershire Court of Sewers, 1583-1642”, which contains a wealth of family and local history information.


Click the image to see Rose's presentation

And finally, we were privileged to have been gifted the lifetime work of Bryan Sysum, who passed away in 2019. Bryan created about 30 ring binders of local history information. We’ve scanned some of these so you can view them on our website,   We hope they can be appreciated, if not for current accuracy, but for Bryan’s skill and dedication to his interest in history.

Friends of Gloucestershire Archives

News from the Friends

Like so many organisations the Friends have been in hibernation since the beginning of the Covid epidemic. Sadly, it has been impossible to continue with our usual programme of talks and visits.  We were especially disappointed to have to cancel the annual Mystery Tour, which always attracts a large number of members.

Unable to meet physically, the trustees have been conducting their business by email, and the Annual General Meeting happened in a similar way with emails or letters being sent to every member. This enabled us to approve our annual report and accounts in a timely way and to submit them to the Charity Commission on time.


The new Friends’ website is up and running:  Have a look if you haven’t done so already.  It is optimised so that it looks as good on a phone as on a PC.  We have also been developing our social media presence and we can now be found on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Now that the Archives have re-opened, visitors can enjoy the flower borders at the entrance to the building, which were planted by the Friends last Autumn.  In solitude, and largely unobserved, the plants have established themselves, grown and flourished, and greatly enhance the visitor experience.


When the Friends were raising money for the Archives’ refurbishment we decided that the names of donors should be displayed near the entrance.  The idea of a ‘donor tree’ evolved, with donors’ names being written on the leaves. 

A grant from the Arts Council of Great Britain, together with a contribution from the Friends, enabled the commissioning of illustrator Imogen Harvey-Lewis. Her artwork has been installed during the enforced closure and now greets visitors on their arrival.  Drawn in her characteristic humorous style, donors’ names adorn the leaves and falling apples, while human figures, birds and animals lurk playfully in the branches.


Clive Andrews


South Gloucestershire

News from South Gloucestershire

Victoria County History Research in South Gloucestershire

VCH logo

West Littleton

Gloucestershire County History Trust have fund raised and organised for John Chandler and Simon Draper to start work on West Littleton, South Gloucestershire for the future Volume 14 of the Victoria County History, Gloucestershire. For more information.

You can also read James Hodsdon's article here

Little Sodbury and Old Sodbury

Draft texts for Little Sodbury and Old Sodbury are in progress and comments are welcomed.  See:

Thornbury & District Museum

The museum has published a new book ‘The Glorious Uncertainty: Salmon Fishing in the River Severn’, by Nick Large, about the fishermen and fishing on the River Severn. It is a unique collection of black and white photographs, mainly from the 1960s, of a vanished industry.  Books will be posted out to those who wish to purchase a copy: 

The Museum is also offering to supply both 'The Glorious Uncertainty' by Nick Large and 'Thornbury Castle Revisited' by Tony Cherry, also £20.00 plus p&p. 

Please contact the museum by email, to place an order, and our volunteers will reply.

Thornbury & District Museum's big success, especially since March, is our Facebook page, thanks to the very enthusiastic on-going work by a small team. Regular posts feature ‘This Day in History’, news from around our area, interesting snippets from further away and lots of old photos and links to the extraordinary comprehensive Thornbury Roots website.

If you are not a Facebook user, you can view the posts by going to our museum website and scrolling down to the little f in a blue square on the left-hand side. Just scroll further down to see what is on offer today, and further down for older posts. A real ‘history fix’.

The museum is also asking for photos of ‘Christmas Lights Past’, so if you have any good ones, please email them to


South Gloucestershire Museums and Galleries

For more visit

Jane Marley, Museums and Heritage Officer, South Gloucestershire Council

Gloucestershire Police Archives

News from the Police Archives

The police archives are as busy as ever with 68 queries and counting since lockdown began.

We are starting to get back to something that looks a bit like normal with displays, some socially distanced talks and events back on the agenda.

Currently we are getting ready for Black History Month and for Armistice and sometimes things that we dig up during that research challenge our understanding of the force and even county history.

For years we and The Citizen believed that Britain’s first black police officer to be sworn in was Astley Lloyd Blair at Gloucester in January 1964. Further research shows that there was already a black special constable serving in Devon who by the time Blair was sworn in had been ‘a special’ for 25 years.


Astley Lloyd Blair on duty.


The volunteers continue to work hard at home but are looking forward to when we can have a responsible catch up in person. We have all loved looking at the Heritage Hub webpages and learning about the staff, volunteers and other hub users who have added content during lockdown.

Archive Officer, Sue Webb and local historian Barbara Osborne also contributed to the Family History event at this year's Gloucester History Festival.

Listen to Sue's talk about Police collar numbers and Barbara's about police ancestors in these short videos from the Family History page on Gloucester History Festival website. Click here for Family History page where the talks are listed.


To see all of the Family History talks click here

Visit for more information about the Police Archive.

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