Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

Gloucestershire Archives

Our 'Green Pledge' project gets going

Earlier this year we received the fabulous news that our 'Green Pledge' project, which will see the county’s unique environmental archives opened-up and used for various events and activities, has received just under £250K from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Since then, we've been busy recruiting.  The new project team is now appointed and the Project Cataloguer and Project Officer began work on 2 October.  For now, activity is focusing on the many boxes of historic maps and plans used by the Environment Agency.  These important records are currently uncatalogued and Jenny, the Project Cataloguer, will need volunteer help to compile detailed descriptions for them all and achieve one of the project's key outcomes.  She has devised a spreadsheet to enable volunteers to capture the required pieces of information from each map or plan within a roll.  Imogen, our work experience student from Cirencester College, has been acting as 'guinea pig' to test out the instructions and methodology before more volunteers are recruited.  Keep an eye on GoVolunteer Gloucestershire if you're interested in getting involved with this task. 

Meanwhile Hannah, our Project Officer, has been reaching out to students and teachers. She wants help to co-create archives that capture the essence of our 'Green' initiative and is also looking to share eco-friendly tips, tricks, and lifestyle choices.  If you have ideas, dreams, or schemes to share, then email today!

To finish, here's a mind blowing fact from the Digital Decarbonisation website which is devoted to reducing our carbon footprints.  

Did you know…an average post from Ronaldo on Instagram has such an immense reach that it consumes an energy equivalent to powering 10 homes for an entire year! To put this into perspective, with 45k Instagram posts being made every minute, if just two of these posts were as impactful as Ronaldo’s, it would be comparable to powering every single home in Washington DC, New York, and London for an entire year.

And keep an eye on the project's dedicated website page.

COVID hits Know Your Place resource...

...but in a good way!

Community Cataloguer Max Parkin has devised a volunteer project which will enable us to share photographs which document the county's response to the dark days of the COVID 19 pandemic. 

The idea for the project was sparked back in April when the Collections team received a large batch of photos taken during lockdown in central Cheltenham.  Images of deserted streets, social distancing, one way systems in supermarkets and the like captured both the challenge of those months and the community spirit which developed.  The fact that the photos were readily identifiable and easily linked with specific places meant they could be 'geo-tagged', which in turn meant that the community layer of the Know Your Place digital mapping resource leapt out as an ideal way to share them.  What's more, Max realised that there was clearly scope to gather in more photos for our collections and extend coverage beyond Cheltenham. The Know Your Place team agreed, and created a whole new layer for the photos, denoted appropriately by a mask.

You can read more about the project in Max's blog

The Frozen Continent

We have been delighted to support the 'Frozen Continent' exhibition at the Wilson in Cheltenham.  The focus of the exhibition is the eponymous Edward Adrian Wilson, after whom the gallery is named.  Born in Cheltenham, he is perhaps best known as a heroic but ill fated explorer who perished alongside Captain Scott and three other men during an expedition to the South Pole in 1910.  But his role of Chief of Scientific Staff also drew on his skills both as a naturalist and an accomplished artist.

Alas, a stuffed penguin we were memorably presented with some years ago, along with other Wilson related items, did not fit our collecting policy and was transferred to join others of its kind at the museum.  But we do still hold several boxes of archive material relating to the Wilson family which include a scrapbook of drawings by the young Edward (D10725 accession 10725).  This early work clearly shows his artistic ability and interest in the natural world. 

Our conservator Ann Attwood carried out a thorough condition assessment of the volume and made a book cradle for this unique item so it can be safely displayed. One unusual feature of the scrapbook is that two of the drawings seem to be done on a extremely early plastic.   

See the scrapbook and other fascinating Wilson related material showcased in 'The Frozen Continent' from 7 October 2023 –18 February 2024.

Heritage Schools update

Earlier this month (October) we launched year 3 of the Heritage Schools programme by delivering a training session for teachers, in partnership with Historic England, and Voices Gloucester.  We'll be working with participants over the coming year to help shape and deliver their project ideas.

Last year's programme resulted in a Childs’ Eye View of Gloucester’ leaflet containing children’s artwork and writing. The art work produced was also used to create an exhibition at The Folk in September. We worked with the Gloucester Civic Trust and artist, Catherine Hawkridge during this project.

In a second Heritage Schools project we worked with Dave Slaughter of St Peter's High School, Voices Gloucester and the University of Gloucestershire to put on a Heritage Conference Day for Year 12 students. Historian and TV presenter, Tracy Borman, headlined the conference, which also featured a number of workshops, talks and stalls. Approximately one hundred students attended from seven schools.  Several schools (including Ribston High School pictured below) have already applied successfully for Heritage School status and we hope more will join their number over the coming academic year. 

Meanwhile, the programme continues with the 'Great Debate', hosted at the Heritage Hub on 13 November.  This is Historic England's public speaking competition open to students from years 10-13.  The question being debated for 2023/4 is 'Which historical place or person from your local area deserves greater recognition'?  No plot spoilers, but we do know that one of the local people being championed is Button Gwinnett.

Local History

The big red books get bigger

Research on the volume covering Cirencester and nearby parishes is reaching its conclusion, with only a few sections on Coates still to be drafted by Alex Craven. The resulting texts will be edited by Francis Boorman, with help from Mark Forrest, for publication in our usual large-red-book format. Much of the work on the other two other volumes, covering the Cheltenham and Chipping Sodbury areas, has also been done, so that the Gloucestershire County History Trust at its meeting in July debated where we should turn our attention to next.

The trustees decided on two new areas – Winchcombe and a group of adjacent parishes extending northwards, and Marshfield and the Boyd valley in South Gloucestershire.

Work on the Winchcombe volume, which will include also Sudeley, Hailes, Toddington and seven other parishes (including two now in Worcestershire but formerly in Gloucestershire) will not begin in earnest until Cirencester is complete, but we are making a start on some of the initial preparation. With help from Rob White of the Gloucester Street History Group in Winchcombe, John Chandler is preparing a scoping document which will set out the work programme and methodology, and the composition of the proposed volume. We plan to involve interested local residents and groups in and around Winchcombe, and already some of our band of VCH volunteers at the Heritage Hub are starting to transcribe Winchcombe probate records.

As well as being an attractive and thriving small town, Winchcombe has a long and very significant history, extending back to the Anglo-Saxon period, when it was at the centre of its own county – Winchcombeshire; and throughout the middle ages it was home to one of Gloucestershire’s most important abbeys. We are very much looking forward to getting to know the town and its surroundings much, much better, and to making our contribution to scholarship about the area. This will be our volume 17 when it eventually appears in a number of years’ time, and we hope to research it concurrently with volume 18 on the Marshfield area, although work on that will not start for a while.

The Local History Bulletin goes online

Between 1987 and 2011, Gloucestershire Rural Community Council’s Local History Committee published 25 issues of its magazine Gloucestershire History, which between them comprise a total of 120 articles on aspects of the county’s past. Unfortunately, its publication ceased in 2011, when the Local History Committee was dissolved, (due to funding no longer being available from GRCC) and was succeeded by the Gloucestershire Local History Association, which has lacked the resources to revive the publication.


Gloucestershire History was digitised some years ago and may be downloaded from the GLHA website . Now all 54 issues of its predecessor, the Local History Bulletin, which was published by the Local History Committee between 1966 and 1986, have also been digitised. Each issue contained news from the world of local history and archaeology in Gloucestershire – and increasingly articles on aspects of the county’s past, which eventually became the mainstay of the Bulletin, as the ‘day to day’ news was carried in a Local History Newsletter instead.


The digitised copies of the Bulletin are now available to download on the Gloucestershire Documents Online website with a direct link from the GLHA website. All the Gloucestershire History articles are individually listed and downloadable, and all the Bulletins are single file downloads, with the main contents of each issue being listed on the download page.


GLHA is most grateful to its webmaster, Dr Ray Wilson, for initiating the project and digitising both sets of publications, and to a number of institutions and individuals who loaned back copies of the Bulletin for scanning: Gloucestershire Archives, Cheltenham Library Local & Family History Centre, John Loosley and David Viner. Between them, these two publications contain a wealth of information about Gloucestershire’s past – so do take a look; you might be surprised (and delighted!) at what you might find.

GLHA Spring and Summer activities

Two visits were organised for members of the Gloucestershire Local History Association during 2023.


The Special Collections Library at the University of Gloucestershire’s Hardwick campus in Cheltenham

Two different groups of 10 people visited the Library in the morning and afternoon of Monday 17 April.  As well as the University’s own Archive (including those of its constituent Colleges, dating back to the mid-19th century), the Library holds a number of other collections relating to literature, poetry and printing, plus the Independent Television News (ITN) image archive and the extensive library of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. The visit was hosted by the University’s Special Collections Archivist, Louise Hughes, who described the various collections held in the Library and gave those attending the opportunity to see a number of rare books from the Archaeological Society’s Library, which was then open for browsing.


Chipping Sodbury walk

The second - somewhat blustery! - visit was an afternoon walk around Chipping Sodbury, led by Dr John Chandler, on Sunday, 11 June. This took those attending along the length and breadth of the town’s particularly attractive High Street, with its range of buildings from medieval onwards, as well as down to some rather more ‘hidden’ corners close to the River Frome. The walk was greatly enhanced by John’s provision of a historic map of the town, which enabled us to appreciate how much the present townscape reflects its origins as a classic medieval planted town, with its distinctive burgage plots. Our visit coincided with the town’s annual Festival (which included a ‘rival’ walking tour of the town, organised by the Sodbury and District Historical Society, which we did our best not to get tangled up with!)  and also provided the unexpected opportunity to see inside the town’s medieval parish church.

GLHA Summer Afternoon meeting 2023

The Association’s Summer Afternoon Meeting was held in Blockley on Sunday, 2 July, and was organised by Blockley Heritage Society.




Around 70 people attended and were able to view a series of displays on the history of Blockley in St George’s Hall and the adjacent Heritage Centre.

Following an introductory talk on the history of the town by the Society’s President, Jeremy Bourne, attendees had a choice of either a talk on the history of nearby Northwick Park, given by Roger Thornburgh, or one of three visits. Jeremy Bourne led a walk to the parish church of St Peter & St Paul, Penny Balhatchet took a group along Blockley High Street to discover the history of the town’s shops and shopping and David Artingstall took another group to Snugborough Mill, the largest and most impressive of a series of mills along the Blockley Brook.  At the Mill, its owner, Rupert Williams-Ellis, who has been restoring the building, recounted its history and led guests on a short walk through its garden to see two other historic Blockley mills: Gaunt’s and Westmacott’s.


The mid-19th-century Westmacott’s Mill

(now converted into flats, as Blockley Court) seen from the grounds of Snugborough Mill.


Penny Balhatchet leads the Shops walk.


   The day was ‘rounded off’ in the traditional GLHA fashion with a splendid afternoon tea and the chance to look again at the various displays.

Family History

Remembering some of Gloucestershire’s heroes

Many of our visitors in the Family History Centre are keen to find out more about people who were caught up in wars of the early 20th century.  Sometimes they’re looking for family members, often prompted by the discovery of a faded photo, postcards, a half-remembered story or some military souvenirs.  However sometimes their eye is caught just by a name on a war memorial so they start to investigate an intriguing individual or a whole community’s response to the war.

Over the years a lot of work has been done on Gloucestershire’s war memorials so here in the Family History Centre we have a large collection of transcripts compiled by our volunteers.  These have been supplemented by the series of books produced by individual local history societies and other groups which generally provide short biographies of the individual people.  Covering parishes from Abenhall to Yorkley this collection provides the perfect starting point, or inspiration, for research and should help you untangle the complexities of other records available on line.  Some really amazing and totally unexpected stories can be revealed - this is one of delights of investigating both people and places and encourages you when your research hits a brick wall. 

One example we’ve found recently was inspired by entries on the war memorial in Coates parish church commemorating two brothers: Lt Col Bernard Vann and Pte Harrison Vann.  Since Vann isn’t a common Gloucestershire surname we were encouraged to go a bit deeper down this particular rabbit hole in the hope of discovering more about their lives and how they were connected to this small Cotswold village.

What an astonishing story we found!  Bernard and Harrison Vann were the nephews of Rev Edward Simpson, the rector of Coates, and together with three other brothers had moved to the rectory after the death of their own father in 1906. 

Then the story becomes even more interesting.  Bernard Vann was the only Church of England priest to be awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions as a combatant - the story is that he was too impatient to wait to join the Chaplaincy Service in 1914 but enlisted as a private soldier then worked his way up through the ranks.  When he was killed in October 1918 his widow and posthumous baby son lived in Coates rectory.  Born in 1887, Bernard taught at Wellingborough School, and was also a professional footballer, playing for both Derby County and Northampton Town, as well as a keen hockey player.

Harrison (Harry) Vann was born in 1884 and might have been a professional soldier for a few years before he followed his younger brother Bernard to Jesus College ,Cambridge in 1909.  He too was a talented sportsman.  He joined up in 1914 and died during the battle of Loos in 1915.

The three other Vann brothers led exciting lives involving pre-revolutionary Russia, India and Canada.  Bernard’s own son served in the Navy during World War 2, eventually retiring to Kemble.  These are all other stories waiting to be uncovered!

 Visit our website for more information about GFHS, the FH Centre, our talks and events, our monthly newsletter and social media links


Saturday @ the Heritage Hub -free monthly events

The November Saturday event (4 November, 1-4 pm) at the Heritage Hub is Regiment and Rhyme, a focus on World War 1 in partnership with Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum.   We have two talks for you to enjoy:

1.15pm - Comrades in Arms; F.W. Harvey the Gloucestershire Laureate, a talk by Roger Deeks with sound recordings

3.00pm - ‘8000 Gloster Poppies - The theatres of war where Glosters, including poets fought’ by Rob Dixon 

The event will also feature unique documents from Gloucestershire Archives' collections, and a chance to learn about the work of the F W Harvey Society. 

The following month, 'Stay on track',  (Saturday 2 December, 1-4 pm) will look at all things trains.  Building on the spectacular success of last year's  transport themed event, highlights will include even more model train layouts!

These FREE monthly Saturday events are truly collaborative, so don't forget that Hub partners the Gloucestershire Family History Society are there from 10.00 a.m. on each occasion.  Pop in and get expert help from the knowledgeable volunteers in the Society's resource centre. 

For more details, and to book for talks, please visit the Heritage Hub website 

Secrets Revealed online talks

Gloucestershire Archives' online talks are delivered by popular speaker John Putley on the first Wednesday of each month, 1-2 pm. 

November's presentation is 'Goodbyeee'.  This talk looks at World War 1 related material held at Gloucestershire Archives, to explore the impact of this global conflict on the local population and the heritage that it left behind.  But don’t worry - it’ll be all over by Christmas…

And coming fast down the tracks.......December's presentation, 'All Aboard', dips into the archive collections for a look at trains, engines, railways stations....  

For more details and to book, please visit the Heritage Hub website

Local History Research workshops

There's still time to book onto the Local History Research 'how to ...' workshops which start on 19 October and run fortnightly until March 2024.

The workshops are supported by archive documents and led by historians from the Victoria County History and University of the West of England in a friendly and informal atmosphere. Each workshop looks at a different aspect or topic of research- you can choose topics which particularly interest you, or sign up to the full series. 

All 10 workshops were sold out last year and are repeated now by popular demand - a quality experience!

For more details and to book, please visit the Heritage Hub website

Rooms with a view

Clapham Court tower block has been an iconic feature of Gloucester's skyline for over 60 years. This near neighbour of the Heritage Hub is scheduled for demolition in 2024, but before it vanishes from our streets for ever, the doors will be open to the public one last time, thanks to a Voices Gloucester project, 'Storeys'.

'Storeys' launches with a bang on bonfire weekend with 'the best view of fireworks in the county!'  10 flats will be open to the public with artwork by artists who have been working with residents to explore the stories hidden within a building which has been home to many. 

Drop in sessions, no need to book:

Saturday 4 November      2-8

Sunday 5 November        2-8

Saturday 11 November    2-8

Sunday 12 November      2-8

Booking required (via Voices Gloucester website):

Monday 6 - Friday 10 November, 9 -5



Gloucester History Festival

The King’s Talks series continues with our latest new event marking Black History Month:

Windrush 75: Welcome to Gloucester

Friday 20 October 6pm

More details and book tickets now at:



The Secrets of Stonehenge 

Julian Richards

Saturday 21 October 6.30pm


One of Britain’s top archaeologists and a world expert on Stonehenge, Julian Richards explores our fascination with the Stones through the ages and discusses the latest research.





Book tickets now for both events at:

Northleach History Exhibition

Northleach Old Prison is hosting a special exhibition of archives from the town's trusts and institutions.  Entry is free and runs from 1-4 November (half term week), 11-3 pm

South Gloucestershire

On and off the rails

On and Off the Rails is the major Autumn exhibition at Yate (& District) Heritage Centre from 5th October to 18th November.

 More specifically perhaps it is a major collaboration between museums within South Gloucestershire (Museums Group). Yate, Kingswood and Thornbury Museums with Avon Valley Railway (AVR) and Warmley Signal Box (WSB) met on several occasions to hammer out the content of the display for a touring exhibition which would travel to the main museums in the area and eventually South Gloucestershire Libraries.


The exhibition came about following discussions on producing a display on elements of  working-class history in the South Gloucestershire area. The key element was identifying something which resonated within different areas and the railway network ticked many boxes. Kingswood, Thornbury and Yate had come together in the past to create displays on chapels, anti-Slavery and the Armed Forces, but this theme provided an opportunity to include new organisations within the project namely AVR and WSB.


The exhibition is a 15 panel display telling the history and impact of the railways on our local communities and includes panels on working life, buildings, passengers and naturally, as we anticipate our core visitors, the locomotives themselves. Lesser known railway history such as the early 19th century tramway are also included and modern railways are also featured. Artefacts will come courtesy of the respective venue where the display will reside. Avon Valley Railway have supplied a delightful loans box which enables visitors, young and old to try on a railway porter uniform.   


The display has got off to a good start and many former British Rail staff have visited and often met with other staff from past decades. On and off the Rails will be touring the rest of South Gloucestershire during 2024. The exhibition is funded by South Gloucestershire Council Members Assisted Funding.

Heritage resources for World Wars 1 & 2

The excellent heritage resources to be found on South Gloucestershire council's website include a war memorial page researched and collated with National Lottery heritage funding.  It initially focused on World War 1 as part of commemorations of that War's centenary, but has since been updated to include information on those who died during World War 2.  It now covers over 1500 local people who lost their lives in both World Wars as recorded on over 62 war memorials across South Gloucestershire.  The resource includes both civilian and military casualties and can be searched by either either first or second name. Information about an individual's family and war service is added where known.  The site also contains information on regiments and medals awarded.

South Gloucestershire's World War 2 Stories resource is the result of an 18 month project which explored the impact of the Second World War on the area.  The project, which received National Lottery heritage funding, celebrated and documented the lives of ordinary people who lived through the most rapid period of change in the last century.  Memories and experiences were captured in reminiscence sessions and community events.  You can read them on the website and watch films made of 10 people's stories.  The resource also includes a guide to reminiscence sessions, as well as presentation slides and notes for schools.

Gloucestershire Police Archives

Busy business for the Constabulary Archives

When I was asked to write this newsletter I couldn’t believe that 3 months had passed since I wrote the last one.

We have been out and about and are never off duty. On a trip to the Game Fair in July we saw that the Constabulary was represented so took photographs for the archives.


In August there was a visit to Cheltenham Probus to give a talk on policing Cheltenham                 



All talks are written to order and were possible are linked to the area where the talk is given. We are already filling up for the next year and topics requested so far are

  • Early Women Police in Gloucestershire
  • History of the Constabulary with reference to The Forest of Dean
  • Brave exploits of officers before they joined the Constabulary
  • History of the Constabulary with reference to Charlton Kings
  • Crime and Consequences

 In September, the much anticipated Police Open Day was back after a 3 year break and it was soooooo busy!  There were 8000 people on site and it felt like they all came through our display area although some people said that it was so busy that they couldn’t get into the building.


As usual we had several queries linked to retired officers that we have managed to answer.  We didn’t get out much on the day but who knew that we had a police tractor?

Our latest project is working with Northleach Old Prison and we are hoping to spend some time there at their family event in half term in November.

Back in the office, the volunteer team have been working hard:

  • researching cases related to pocket books from the 1860s
  • researching cases linked to memoirs of officers
  • finding out the history of our first Asian female officer.
  • Using General Orders and other documents to track the careers of officers from the 1860s to 1960s
  • Transcribing commendation and default books
  • Tracing the history of officers who died on duty and in service


There is never a dull day in the archives.


If you have any police related photographs we are always happy to receive Jpegs via and queries can also be sent to the same email address.  We are usually in our office at the Heritage Hub Monday to Wednesday until 2.30 but it is worth checking before you make a visit as we do go out and about quite often.

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