Denbighshire and Flintshire Joint Archive Project

September 20, 2019

This Public Briefing has been created to provide you with an update on the Denbighshire and Flintshire Joint Archive Project.

Denbighshire and Flintshire Archive Services are looking to merge in order to create a more sustainable, efficient and improved archive service for the region.  The vision statement for the joint service is:

 “Harnessing the power of our shared documentary heritage to promote education, well-being and identity for the people and communities of North-East Wales.”

The merger is being undertaken for many reasons. Both services face several challenges that can be addressed by creating a joint service for the two counties and moving into a new purpose-built building.

Storage represents a significant issue for both services. Denbighshire County Council is expected to run out of space in 2-3 years’ time at their office at Ruthin Gaol.  Denbighshire will require the use of costly commercial environmentally controlled storage from that point. Flintshire Record Office has already run out of space at their office in Hawarden and are already having to use commercial environmentally controlled storage.

The Grade 2 listed Ruthin Gaol provides a picturesque and unique base for Denbighshire Archive Service. However, the Gaol does present many challenges.  The building incurs significant running costs and poses many operational challenges. The building also offers little scope for expansion on site.

Flintshire Record Office is housed at the Old Rectory in Hawarden, also grade-two listed. The Rectory was designed for residential use which makes for operational challenges. Having been built to 18th and 19th-century standards, it now incurs significant running and maintenance costs. The building provides no opportunities for bringing the somewhat primitive public facilities up to standard, so although there is space which could be upgraded for archive storage, it would not offer a sustainable solution.

New Purpose-Built Archive Building

The project seeks to solve our accommodation issues by creating a new purpose built home for the joint service. A new building will provide a sustainable archive repository for the region for the foreseeable future from the perspective of storage space, building maintenance and building management.

A significant amount of work has gone into identifying a suitable site and the best design.  The construction of an approximate 3000 square metre archive building to Passivhaus standard at the site adjacent to Theatr Clwyd in Mold is our preferred option (see possible design below).

Architect's Sketch of new building, Mold

Architect’s Sketch of new building, Mold

Proposed new site, Mold

Proposed new site, Mold

Being adjacent to the theatre, will help to create a cultural hub and allow us to work together and to deliver joint activities.

The Passivhaus design provides a simplified solution to the delivery of an archive building with strict environmental condition standards. Passivhaus reduces reliance on heating and cooling systems and equipment, reducing maintenance costs and energy use by 80%.

The approximate cost of the new building and activity plan is £16.6 million. A bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) for 70% of the costs is being developed and an Expression of Interest will be submitted during October 2019.  Following the EOI we will need to submit a full grant application and should we progress through the various submission rounds, we should know the final outcome of our funding application by Christmas 2020.

Should this all happen, we hope to start construction during 2022 and move into our new home during 2023/24. The activity plan would run for 3 years- 2022-2024.

Although the new archive centre will represent a key part of the joint service, it only represents an element of the transformation, with a major shift to focusing on community engagement through local hubs, 3rd sector and other partners. This will be supported via an increase in digital offerings and working with volunteers.

Flintshire Record Office and Ruthin Gaol

With the aspiration of having a new building for the joint service, we have to consider what to do with our existing homes – The Old Rectory, Hawarden and Ruthin Gaol. A feasibility study is being arranged on the Old Rectory site in Hawarden to determine the most appropriate use should it become vacant. Options are currently being considered on alternative uses of Ruthin Gaol. Whatever the outcome, Ruthin Gaol will not close as a visitor attraction because of our project.

Merging Teams

The merger provides opportunities to increase what the archive service is able to do as the two teams will be brought together thereby creating extra capacity and combining skills sets. Combining archive services provides opportunities to commit more resources to key areas such as: digitisation, conservation, outreach and community development. We expect a joint service to be operating by April 2020 initially across the 2 sites – Ruthin and Hawarden.

Unify Collections

The merger of the two services also presents opportunities to unify collections. Both services have several collections that were previously separated when Clwyd County Council was disbanded. Combining the two services allows us nullify the anomalies resulting from boundary changes bringing together these previously split collections and providing a more comprehensive collections base for visitors.

Depositors

Depositors can be assured that this project will not negatively impact upon the items that they have entrusted with either archive service. The merger and subsequent move to a purpose-built facility will enable the joint service to provide better care to the collections being stored with access to improved environmental conditions, conservation expertise, a greater number of archivists to care for the collections, improved security measures and a wider audience with which to share the rich content of the collections with.

The joint archive service will adhere to the terms and conditions that were agreed to when the items were originally deposited.

Volunteers

Both Flintshire and Denbighshire Archive Services are supported by a large number of volunteers that give up their own time to help the service. It’s really important to us that the merger does not negatively impact on our volunteers, as the joint service will be reliant on volunteers going forward.

It’s envisaged that the joint service will offer the same opportunities for volunteers. For those volunteers that would like to get involved in something a little different, we anticipate being able to offer new and exciting opportunities in support of key areas such as digitisation and conservation.

Should we be successful in acquiring the funds to build the new archive centre in Mold, then this would become the new base for the joint service from 2023/24. The extra travelling to Mold may put some of our volunteers off but we hope that the fantastic facilities that will be available at the new centre will entice many of our existing volunteers to travel those extra few miles. Equally it is proposed that there will be permanent archive access points to our digital records at libraries across Flintshire and Denbighshire which could offer volunteering opportunities much closer to our existing and new volunteers’ homes.   It’s also worth noting that the joint service will be offering opportunities for virtual volunteering, which will enable volunteers to support us from the comfort of their own home.

Further information

I hope you found this briefing useful. We will aim to keep you updated on developments. In the meantime, should you want to know anything else about the joint service, please speak to either Craig Berry or Claire Harrington on the contact details below:

Craig Berry (Business Information Team Manager, Denbighshire County Council) – craig.berry@denbighshire.gov.uk; 01824 708023

Claire Harrington (Principal Archivist, Flintshire County Council) – Claire.Harrington@flintshire.gov.uk; 01244 532414

Survey

We would like to hear your opinion on our new project to help us to shape the services and activities at the new archive centre. You can do this by completing our online questionnaire or completing a hard copy questionnaire in the office.

On the trail of a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade

August 1, 2019

Last year the office was contacted by Clive and Barbara Petty of Caerwys, who wished to view records associated with Dolben Hall, near St Asaph. This initially appeared to be a house history enquiry, however, upon further discussion it was revealed that their research was linked to a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Captain Thomas Everard Hutton of the 4th (The Queen's Own) Light Dragoons.

Captain Thomas Everard Hutton of the 4th (The Queen’s Own) Light Dragoons. Courtesy of the Council of the National Army Museum.

Their interest in this particular soldier was sparked by a flyer for an Open Doors event at St George’s Church, Rhos-on-Sea, which revealed it contained an inscription commemorating a soldier who took part in the infamous cavalry charge of 1854. That soldier turned out to be Captain Thomas Hutton of the 4th Light Dragoons.  During the charge Hutton was shot in his right leg during the advance and in the left leg on the return.  Sadly, his horse was hit eleven times and had to be destroyed.

After visiting the church Clive and Barbara then set out to learn more about Captain Hutton , who was born in Yorkshire in 1821, and try to establish his links with a church on the North Wales coast, and why the interior of church was designed by his daughter, Violet.

Their initial research was aided by notes complied by local researcher, Alan S Nipper, which informed them that after leaving the army, Hutton married Maria Georgina Everard of Middleton near Kings Lynn, Norfolk in 1865 and added her surname to his own to give him the name Thomas Everard Hutton.

A visit to Flintshire Record Office revealed that Hutton and his family had once lived in the area as parish registers revealed that between 1860 and 1867 four of his children, including Violet, were baptised in Henllan, and that their home address was given as Dolben, Llanefydd. Their research also suggests that during their time in Denbighshire, Hutton met with many of the landed families of the area including those from Bodelwyddan, Pengwern, Cefn, Plas Heaton and Kinmel.

They then contacted Denbighshire Archives, where their initial enquiry suggested that we held a letter written by Hutton to his wife. Yet, much to our disappointment, when Clive and Barbara came to the office to view the letter we discovered that the letter had been withdrawn by the depositor.  Whilst at the archive they gained access to census records which enabled them to increase their knowledge of the family.

After their time in North Wales the majority of the family moved to Bath, where Hutton eventually died in 1896. As part of their research, Clive and Barbara made the journey to Hutton’s grave at Locksbrook Cemetery.  They have also visited the National Army Museum, which holds Hutton’s sword and saddle, and the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London.  It was here that they located the letter from Hutton to his wife which they had originally hoped to see at Denbighshire Archives.

It appears that the family’s association with North Wales did not end there as the 1891 census reveals that Violet and her husband, Enoch Evans, were living at The Vicarage in St Asaph. They remained in the area until their deaths.  The family connection to St George’s Church goes further as the church also commemorates the sons of Enoch and Violet.   Noel Everard Evans died in France during the First World War whilst serving with the Royal Artillery, and thanks is given for the safe return of Morgan Paget Evans who served with the British Expeditionary Force at Mons, Marne, Aisne and Ypres.

Clive and Barbara have clearly found their research very enlightening and rewarding, commenting that their ‘initial curiosity into a survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade has led to a very interesting glimpse into a wider history of that era’ and that it has also illustrated to them the importance of archives and the significant role they can play in the ‘greater understanding of society in times gone by.’

Kerry Evans, Archivist