Gloucestershire Heritage Hub

Gloucestershire Archives

Help create a 'living archive'

Gloucestershire Archives at Gloucestershire Heritage Hub gathers, keeps and shares the documented heritage of Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire. For the first time in 80 years we have had to temporarily close our doors to the public but our work goes on!  We now need your help to create a ‘living archive’ of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’d like to encourage you to pick up a pen or pencil, open a Word document or take up your phone and record your experiences, thoughts or feelings about this remarkable time in our lives.

You may already be a regular diarist. Your children may be recording their experiences as part of their home learning. You may have a few extra minutes to spare and find it useful to have a creative outlet. You could write as an individual or as part of a household.  All ages are invited to contribute.


There is no right or wrong way to keep a diary. The most important thing is that it reflects how you are feeling. You could start by describing what you have been doing to keep busy and who or what you are missing from daily life. Have you been experimenting with new technology to communicate with relatives living elsewhere?  Are you learning new skills or rediscovering old pastimes? Do you listen to the daily news bulletins?  Describe your feelings including your worries and fears.  What has made you angry? Share also what has amused you or cheered you up. You could include drawings, photographs, sketches and snippets from social media if you feel so inclined.

We would also like your help in collecting other material that you might come across such as:

  • Leaflets/flyers/posters from District Councils and other local government institutions about the pandemic
  • Material from local business relating to closures or changes to how they operate
  • Advice from local organisations about hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation
  • Information about community efforts to help vulnerable and isolated persons
  • Information from local schools regarding closures and home-schooling
  • Photographs which show the pandemic’s impact (see note 1. below)

We ask that material for deposit should be written, printed, or digital (audio or film). We are unable to accept objects into the archive.

It is important that you do not risk your own or anyone else’s health whilst gathering this material. All government guidelines regarding hygiene, social distancing and self-isolation should be followed.

And as we aren’t able to take in these records at the moment, we ask that you hold on to any material until we re-open. Perhaps you could put them aside in a folder or envelope marked ‘for Gloucestershire Archives’. Please contact us about the best way to transfer your digital files.

For further information please contact Claire Collins email:

To find out more about our collections go to: or search our online catalogue

1. Please note that when photographing you should ensure that anyone who may appear in the image is either happy to be photographed or is unidentifiable.


History begins at home

The Gloucestershire Heritage Hub & Gloucestershire Archives websites give access to a wealth of resources. You can find:

  • general research advice,
  • research “mini guides” on a wide range of documents
  • in depth guides on topics such as military history, resources for South Gloucestershire and Black & Ethnic communities
  • online exhibitions
  • blogs on our activities and aspects of our collections including a new series of blogs focussing on how you can care for your family or community archive

Gloucestershire Archives online catalogue - browse to explore our holdings and identify interesting documents for future perusal.  Not sure how to use it?  Watch our 3 short YouTube tutorials: The Basics, Search Smarter and Discover More  

Gloucestershire Heritage Hub e-newsletter- issued each quarter with contributions from Gloucestershire Archives, and Hub partners is a great way to keep up to date with local and family history in Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire.  You can download the most recent edition from our website and subscribe to our emailing list to get future editions sent to your in-box.

Gloucestershire Heritage Hub social media posts - @GlosHeritageHub

Follow us on Facebook and twitter for regular, informative and/or entertaining archive & heritage related posts. Test your local knowledge with our #TriviaTuesday - answers the next day!

Watch out for the #HistoryBeginsAtHome social media campaign, a united response by local government archivists to the COVID-19 crisis- (and which provided the title for this article and for our new web page)

And here are some other excellent heritage-based websites & resources to explore:

Know Your Place-West of England  - an award winning digital mapping resource which covers Gloucestershire and surrounding counties. You can layer digital maps from different eras to see what your street or neighbourhood would have looked like in times gone by.  Plus photos and information are “pinned” to specific addresses via the community layers.  There are extensive pins relating to World War 1 and for women’s suffrage.  And you can add to the layers.  Got an old family photo showing your house? Scan it and add to the resource.

Know Your Place logo

Gloucestershire Police Archives - capturing and sharing Gloucestershire’s police history and heritage

Fielding & Platt History - gathering & sharing memories of Gloucester’s great engineering firm

Dowty Heritage - the history of Gloucestershire’s global engineering group

Barton & Tredworth Community History - recording and celebrating Barton & Tredworth’s past and present

Gloucester Rugby Heritage - preserving and sharing the history of Gloucester Rugby Club


Victoria County History Gloucestershire - the “big red books“ have gone online!

Gloucestershire Traditions - one stop website for songs and tunes collected in Gloucestershire

The Institute of Historical research have produced this neat round-up of online historic resources, including original sources

(For further reading also see the article in the Local History section)

And finally, be sure to keep an eye on the new 'Lockdown resources and activities' page on the Heritage Hub website where we will share the latest “lockdown” ideas and links with you. 

“But I thought Zoom was an ice lolly…..”

We know that many of you will miss being able to visit the Heritage Hub, whether as a researcher or a volunteer. We are creating a new page on the Heritage Hub website which will gather together ideas about how you can explore and engage with the Archives from home, as well as other heritage -inspired activities which you can do during lockdown.  The page will also link to campaigns and initiatives which we know about elsewhere.   In the meantime, our article “History begins at Home” has some ideas to get you started.

What if you’re craving face to face contact with your group but lack confidence with the technology? We can facilitate a virtual meet -up for you and your group using Zoom, Skype or similar free platforms. As virtual hosts, we’d arrange the meeting, issue invites and help you all to get logged on and settled. Please contact if you’re interested – there’s no charge. 

Art at the Archives

Although we can't yet put up the new artwork created by illustrator, Imogen Harvey Lewis, we can however show you some photographs to give you a preview of this lovely new piece of artwork for the Heritage Hub. Imogen has spent the best part of three months creating the work which bears her unique signature style. The Donor Tree is bright, colourful and modern with Imogen's strong, clean graphic lines that we hope everyone will enjoy as they enter the Heritage Hub. 

The tree is made up of five main panels with added leaves and apples that give the tree a 3D effect.  Prema Arts Centre, Uley was able to offer Imogen studio space allowing her to complete the artwork.


The workspace Imogen occupied at Prema and Imogen laying out the Donor Tree on the studio floor.

The creating of the artwork had several stages beginning with the tree shape being cut out of birch ply followed by layers of paint and ink being built up to create the image.


Pieces laid out and the layers of the design gradually being added.

For her research Imogen ran workshops in Gloucester and Cheltenham, met with local people through various events at the Heritage Hub and talked to partners, volunteers and staff.


Some of the characters who inhabit the tree.

Mrs Jones the Archives' cat also features

Mrs Jones

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.


For more information about Imogen and her work visit 

If you would like more information about any of the artwork located at the Heritage Hub contact

Or have a look at articles about the artist activity in previous e-newsletters -

Spring 2018

Summer 2018

Autumn 2018

Winter 2018/19

Volunteering at Gloucestershire Archives

A Short Guide

Volunteers are recruited in a variety of ways; through social media campaigns, through opportunities uploaded to the “Engage in Gloucester” website (part of the national Volunteer Makers scheme), through word of mouth, through our own web pages and from people coming forward and contacting us direct to offer their time.

After making contact, each volunteer has an informal interview with the Community Heritage Development Manager, and another member of staff – this could be the Archives Development Manager or the member of staff who will be supervising them.

At any one time we can have between 150-200 volunteers, although not all of them may be active at the same time, and some dip in and out of volunteering. Some will have volunteered on time limited tasks, and move from project to project, according to priorities identified by Gloucestershire Archives’ staff. Some (for example those who work full time) may only be available during holidays or on Saturdays. And a very small number volunteer for us remotely. Some volunteers leave after completing the specific project they were recruited for, or some simply take a break between projects.

For every volunteer task there is a written Volunteer Role Description, and we have about 15 of these. Volunteer Role Descriptions will expand as more volunteer tasks are identified.



Volunteers engaged in various tasks

Volunteer roles include: transcribing, specific project work, cataloguing, conservation (such as cleaning documents), gardening, inputting data on to excel spreadsheets, acting as a search-room buddy to new users, indexing, events assistant and a range of other such roles.  

Occasionally we have to turn prospective volunteers away (usually asking them to contact us again in 6 months), and this is because all of our volunteer opportunities are fully subscribed. Although we don’t like doing this, we can usually suggest alternative heritage organisations in Gloucester that a prospective volunteer could approach if they so wish.

Volunteers are entitled to claim reasonable volunteer travel expenses, although this is for public transport or mileage only, rather than for taxis. And most volunteers tend to come in once a week, for half a day or a whole day, depending on preferences. We have a large car park where volunteers can park for free.

Each volunteer has a named supervisor, usually a member of staff. And each volunteer is given a welcome pack which includes a Volunteer Agreement form which is signed by the volunteer and his/her supervisor, or the Community Heritage Development Manager. The Volunteer Agreement is taken from the Volunteer Handbook, available to read online at, or on request.

Gloucestershire Archives has a Volunteering Policy in place, and this is also available online or on request. It is reviewed and/or amended at least every 3 years.

Some basic induction training in how to complete their task is given to volunteers, as well as being shown around the site. Sometimes, volunteers work as a small group so that they can easily support each other. Occasionally, volunteers will be offered a place on one of our in-house training sessions (e.g. on palaeography, the ability to read old handwriting) so that they can learn more about how to undertake their allocated task.

Volunteers generally work in the research room, or the Hockaday Room (one of the project rooms). Volunteers become a customer of the archives, and are provided with an ARA card, to show they are a member (photo ID and proof of address should be given in order to qualify for the ARA card). Lockers and coat racks are provided, for bags and coats, as these are not allowed into the search room and project rooms.


The Hockaday Room and the Search room

We have some laptops and desk top PCs for volunteers to use, although we do ask some of our volunteers to bring in their own laptops if they have one.

Occasionally we arrange a volunteer survey, and this is your opportunity to tell us what you think about volunteering for us. You may have suggestions to make or criticisms, and we always like to find out what benefits you feel you get from volunteering.

We could not do as much as we do without the generous and consistent support of all of our volunteers. For this reason, we have annual thank you event, either at the end of the summer or at Christmas, such as an afternoon tea, to thank everyone who gives us their time, and all volunteers are invited.

Volunteers tea party held in the Dunrossil Centre

In 2019 we won the national ARA (Archives & Records Association’s) Volunteering Award.


The award trophy and certificate and some of the volunteers who attended the award ceremony at Llanthony Secunda Priory, Gloucester

We also like to monitor the number of hours given to us each year by volunteers, and if we had to put a figure on this we believe our volunteers donate the equivalent of over £200,000 each year in terms of the monetary value of their work.

The general principles in this document also apply to those who come to us as interns, or for work experience.

All volunteers, interns and those on work experience are covered by our employer’s liability insurance, and risk assessments are carried out where required (e.g. for school students under the age of 18 years).

Volunteers are a valuable and very much appreciated resource, and they contribute in a variety of ways to making Gloucestershire Archives more welcoming and accessible to our users.

Sally Middleton – Community Heritage Development Manager

The Maligned, Marginalised and Misunderstood volunteer project

It all started when a researcher drew to our attention an intriguing group of documents amongst the 18th century depositions- a dull sounding series of records in the large and complicated Quarter Sessions archive.  Depositions document the earliest stage of a potential court case, a process by which anyone- rich or poor- could bring a complaint to be heard by a Justice of the Peace, and consist of almost verbatim accounts by the accused and witnesses.  The records in question told a strange tale of a violent argument amongst a group of women in Thornbury laced with accusations of assault and hints that witchcraft had caused one of their number to become ill.  

This chance discovery threw a new spotlight on this series of records. The depositions were bound into annual volumes which were catalogued in the barest detail, giving no hint of the rich domestic detail they contained and no way of identifying the many people who populated their pages. The fact the depositions spanned the 18th century heightened their significance as this was an era with relatively few sources for exploring the lives of ordinary people-  no compulsory schooling, no census, no universal franchise.

We decided the best way to open up these records to research was to recruit and train volunteers to produce a detailed catalogue description for each deposition. (An experienced volunteer had recently begun working through them, but with many hundreds still to do, we wanted to scale up the task). We knew that the 18th century handwriting and unusual vocabulary would be a challenge for some, but hoped that people would still want to get involved.  The project’s title “Maligned, Marginalised and Misunderstood” was intended to convey the expectation that, given the nature of the records, many of the people they document would be from the margins of society.

The project was launched during the 2019 History Festival, giving us the benefit of the Festival’s marketing and promotion, and was sponsored by the Friends of Gloucestershire Archives. The launch event was run as an afternoon “drop in”. Examples of the depositions - including the infamous “witchcraft” case- were on display, along with contextual information about the Quarter Sessions archive and a background Powerpoint presentation, grandly entitled ‘Cultural References”, to anchor the documents within their historical period. 

Although labour intensive, the “drop in” format worked well as it gave people maximum opportunity to attend and allowed plenty of time to chat and answer questions. About 25 people came along during the afternoon and almost all signed up to the project.  A few short weeks later, after a session of palaeography training, and armed with a cataloguing template, instructions and a list of useful resources, our volunteers were good to go. 

Fast forward 6 months and the project is nearing completion. All but 3 volumes have now been completely listed, with the remaining ones underway.  FoGA have provided an expert “checker” who is looking at all the volunteers’ work before it is imported into our online catalogue.  Feedback from the volunteers has been extremely positive and archive staff have been surprised and impressed at how well they have coped with the handwriting, especially as most had no previous experience to draw on. In fact, several volunteers enjoyed themselves so much that they completed more than one volume.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the “MMM volunteers”, as they are affectionally known, researchers can now access a fascinating wealth of name rich material which can shed light on a wide range of social issues. The many thefts -and extensive vocabulary- relating to cloth and clothing show the importance of the wool trade at this time, while some cases have unexpected contemporary resonances.  In 1751, clothworker Thomas Heaven, was accused of poisoning Jane Harrison of Woodchester, a singlewoman, by putting “Spanish Fly” (a toxic aphrodisiac derived from beetles) into her glass of ale.  In 2017, a similar, if more upmarket, case hit the headlines when “Spanish Gold Fly” was slipped into a strawberry cocktail in the exclusive surroundings of the Kensington Roof Gardens.

With several hundred newly created catalogue entries to choose from, we’ll share more MMM snippets in future e-newsletters.



  The examination of Thomas Webb of Thornbury- one of several documents in the ‘witchcraft” case - finding reference Q/SD/1/1735 (part)

Back to school – GA’s future education resources

John Putley - Hub Facilities Manager writes -

One of the things I'm looking at during the enforced Corona virus lock-down is our education resources.  I’ve been delivering learning and outreach activities for Gloucestershire Archives for about 10 years and am always thinking about our interaction with schools and how we can help teachers. 

The biggest single problem that we (and most other heritage education organisations) face is finding out exactly what teachers want.  Should we concentrate our efforts on producing ‘off-the-peg’ resources on topics or detailed lesson plans for curriculum subjects or simply provide thematic material that teachers can use as they want.  Should we focus on primary (Key Stage 2) or secondary (Key Stages 3 & 4) or both (remembering that they are radically different in terms of curriculums).  At the same time one has to remember how teachers are trained and what they are familiar with using, changing demands on teachers due to curriculum changes, OFSTED rules and regulations, the policy of individual schools and possibly the most dramatic of them all; the school secretary – that formidable creature who stands like Cerberus guarding the gates of the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving….. or to prevent anybody getting anything to the teachers!

In the past, most of our education material has been geared towards project-based education resources, whereby if we were involved with a project, we’d create a dedicated education resource for the project.  An example is the education material developed for the Gloucester Rugby Heritage Project.  To keep updating them requires a lot of input (and knowledge of teaching changes) which is difficult – and one reason why they have now been taken down from the rugby heritage website.  Some well established heritage organisations can establish great ongoing programmes – but these take a lot of funding that smaller organisations can't match!  A good example is the National Gallery’s Take One Picture scheme.  This takes a picture from the gallery’s collection and uses it to inspire cross-curricular work in primary classrooms.  Some years ago the MLA (Museums Libraries & Archives Council) funded us to see if we could develop something similar for archives, which led to our Take One Prisoner resource using a 19th century gaol register ( 



Example of Take One Prisoner resources

This was very well received but still took some time and effort to create the basic resource.  I recently found out that not only is this still popular but is used by the University of Gloucestershire in their teacher training programme.  The university will be using it as a case study of how to use archives in education at a forthcoming teaching conference – which is extremely gratifying to know!


Example lesson plan

So, what is the best way forward?  After much thinking and discussion, for the future we have decided to create thematic image banks for teachers to use.  This seems to be the simplest and most useful way forward (which also matches feedback obtained from teachers).  By providing images - by which we mean images of documents and photographs – we’re hoping to create something that teachers can dip in and out of, using the images in their classrooms with their students in whatever way suits them best.   It will be easier to update and we can add themes when required.  It also requires much less input from us as we won’t have to develop the resources but can instead focus on the broader themes.  It will also enable us to offer resources for more than just history (geography and art are obvious examples) and should also prove useful for both primary schools and secondary schools.  Obviously this will take a bit of time to do – especially currently – but as my old physics teacher Mr Phillips used to constantly say to us “There’s no time like the present! Get on with it!”

For more information contact John Putley - 

The Heritage Hub User Group

What is it, and What Does it Do?

The Heritage Hub User Group (HHUG) was set up in February 2019 replacing the former customer focus group . It is currently made up of eight people – two members of staff from Gloucestershire Archives, plus members of on-site partners and people representing various groups who use the Heritage Hub..

The HHUG meets every quarter, and is chaired by Gloucestershire Archives’ Community Heritage Development Manager. Minutes are taken and made available to all.

It acts as a forum for raising any concerns about matters affecting the Heritage Hub, and finding solutions to these. Members representing customers and partners make suggestions and look at any customer service type issues. It is also a vehicle for sharing information and updates about anything affecting the Heritage Hub.

Recent agenda items have included amongst others: updates on progress to create a community garden; briefings on findings from the annual customer survey; briefings on how Gloucestershire Archives is increasingly working with children and young people; plans to introduce a new, and improved, online catalogue; the benefits for partners of using social media platforms and a proposal for creating a folder, to be kept available in the coffee lounge, about the work of the HHUG and a page or two about each on-site partner, as well as some information on volunteering. Production of this folder is currently in hand and will include copies of the minutes of the group's meetings in future.  The group has already seen some of its suggestions put into practice, such as removing back issues of local history journals from the Frith Room to the Hockaday Room allowing for improved access.

Members of the HHUG are not voted on to the group. Members of the former customer focus group were initially asked to participate; many of them agreed to do this. On-site partners were each invited to join the group, as well as others representing customers, and volunteers. In other words, anyone who uses the facilities or services at the Heritage Hub is able to join.

Gloucestershire Archives would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who participate as members of the Heritage Hub User Group. The group makes an important contribution to the smooth running of the Heritage Hub.

Sally Middleton – Community Heritage Development Manager.

The ARA card is coming!

From the 1st April we will be asking new and existing customers to sign up for an ARA card so that you can access the unique resources held at Gloucestershire Archives @ the Heritage Hub. This card replaces any existing CARN card that you may already have.

 You can find out more about the card – and register online at:

 We’ve also put together a summary of changes – although they are not in any particular order!

 You’ll need to sign up at the website

  • You will be getting a new customer number, which is the barcode on the new card.
  • You will need to bring in two pieces of ID, even if you have only recently renewed your CARN card.
  • The sign up process asks you to provide a photo. This is an important part of verifying the ARA card, and helps to improve the security of the unique and irreplaceable archives that we look after.
  • The new ARA card now lasts for 5 years
  • When the card is due to expire you will receive an automatic email from ARA reminding you to bring in your ID to renew your card when you next visit

 Claire Collins

Remember lego?

Of course you do!  Well you may be interested to hear about Minecraft - a 21st century game which lets you construct virtual buildings working from photos or plans.  The “classic” version is free, so why not have a go?  You could build your house, or pick a well known local landmark. If you grab a photo off google you don’t need to go outside. Advanced practitioners could even tackle Gloucester cathedral!  You can share your finished masterpieces by pinning them onto Know Your Place.  Might be just the thing if you’re coping with bored youngsters. Or keep it old school and use lego!


To inspire you, here are some photos of the Heritage Hub “Minecraft style” by Mara and Evan, the talented offspring of Senior Archivist Helen.



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