Slaidburn Archive features a fascinating collection of papers, photographs and artefacts that paint a vivid picture of local villages and the people who lived there in years gone by. Photography: Slaidburn Archive
With more than 200 visitors a year from all around the world, Slaidburn Archive is a throwback in time giving families the opportunity to trace their history and gain a unique insight into bygone times.
Run by part-time administrator Helen Wallbank and volunteers, the archive is tucked away in an old stone building above what was formerly the heritage centre, which opened in 1999.
Now, the ground floor lies unused, save for a few artefacts, but the first floor is a hive of activity on Wednesdays and Fridays when Helen, who is helped by regular volunteers Margaret Brenchley and Linda Blakeman works tirelessly on the extensive collection of historical resources for genealogical, village, farmstead and agricultural research.
The archive was the brainchild the late Jenny Bradley, a villager who was researching material for an exhibition at the Hodder Valley Show. In 2014 Jenny was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the Society of Genealogists.
“The archive has just grown and grown,” says Helen, who started working on the collections in 2004. “It has gone from a place to store historic papers and a few artefacts to a comprehensive library of historic events, noteworthy people, villagers and farmers, all of whom had connections with the Hodder Valley.”
“Documents include family paperwork and farming accounts, local organisations and local families, plus many church registers. Everything is filed under a subject matter so when someone comes in to do research, we know exactly where it is!”
With genealogy becoming increasingly popular as a result of TV coverage, the Slaidburn Archive has seen a marked increase in activity: “We have seen more and more people coming into research their family history. When they start to delve into their background it tends to snowball. They will discover connections to the family and they want to know more. It’s sometimes like a giant puzzle, the information we have enables visitors to build a picture. It is really fascinating.”
When a member of the public brings paperwork to the archive, Helen and her team will scan the document, or if the owner is happy, they will take the document for safekeeping.
“People come in all the time with documents and photos. Often they will be clearing a relative’s house and they come across items that they don’t want to throw away as it is a little piece of history.”
“We have several original copies of books that have gone out of print, lots of documents with regards to the building of Stocks Reservoir, photos and plans.”
“Every farm in the area has its own book or file – some of these pre-date the archive and are from a WI project that recorded farm details and names of farming families. We are continuing with that and adding to it all the time.”
“We have old maps from 200 years ago – every farmer was asked to write the name of the fields and who owned or occupied the farm.”
In 1942 the Government ordered a UK-wide Farming Survey during the Second World War to assess what each farmer had in terms of acreage and animals. The Hodder Valley was no exception and the archive has copies of records and paperwork from the survey, which was conducted so the Government could determine how much land should be ploughed up and allocated for food production as part of the war effort.
There are several pages for each farm, which gives a really good picture of what farming was like during those years.
The archive, which covers an area extending from Tosside, along the River Hodder from Dale Head to Slaidburn, through Newton and Dunsop Bridge to Whitewell encompassing nearby villages such as Grindleton, Bolton-by-Bowland and Bashall Eaves, takes part in various exhibitions – it is a popular attraction at the Hodder Valley Show and in St Andrew’s Church. Last year the archive formed part of a large exhibition celebrating the 300th anniversary of Slaidburn Brennand’s Endowed School, which was built by John Brennand, a former tax collector.
Records in the archive show that in 1717 the headmaster at that time was paid £50 per year and the undermaster £30.
“We have a file for each decade of the school – the exhibition to mark the anniversary went down ever so well! People spent hours and hours poring over them and villagers met up with people who they hadn’t seen for years and years.”
Local events and natural disasters are also recorded in the archive including a flood at Dunsop Bridge in 1967. This was the basis for an exhibition recently to mark the 50th anniversary of the flood.
“There was a dramatic cloudburst – the water rushed down Dunsop Valley and flooded the area – it changed the course of the river for ever.”
As a registered charity, the archive does not receive any regular funding, relying on grants and donations: “People are very generous when they come to visit us and do research,” says Helen. The archive also regularly produces publications as a result of their research, details of which can be found on the website.
In 2014 Slaidburn Archive was proud to be awarded with the Forest of Bowland AONB Vibrant Community Award, sponsored by the Lord of Bowland, who also supports the archive by hosting an annual lecture from which the proceeds are donated to the archive and AONB.
Currently research is being done into WW1 and the local people involved. At Remembrance time there will be a day of talks, with an exhibition and launch of a book, to which all are invited.
While it is tucked away down a narrow village street, the archive attracts people from all over the UK and recently saw visitors from Australia and New Zealand.
“They were researching their family who were originally from Dale Head,” recalls Helen. “A local lady came in while they were here and it turned out they were third cousins! It is totally fascinating – we love working here!”
25 Church Street, Slaidburn BB7 3ER
Wednesdays and Fridays: 11am to 3pm (Please call prior to visiting)