“…a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory”
But the buildings themselves can only tell us so much about our heritage. We need old maps, plans, photographs, drawings, etchings, records, court rolls, legal documents, property deeds, written accounts and letters to fill in the gaps and give a fuller picture of the people who made, lived and worked in our historic places.
For a market town, Prescot has an unusually high amount of surviving written records stretching back as far as the 1400’s. These records are a fantastic resource for anyone who wants to find out more about a person, place, business or organisation that was based in the town.
I know that most people will never visit an archive to carry out their own research, but most people will have a read a book, leaflet or newspaper article about local history whose author will have been to the archive to gather information that they would not be able to find anywhere else.
Prescot’s location in the southwest of Lancashire means older records are in the Lancashire County Archive in Preston. Being so close to the City of Liverpool there are Prescot records held in the archives at Liverpool Central Library. There are also Prescot records held in the Knowsley Archive, based in Kirkby Library. There are of course important records held in Prescot itself at Prescot Museum and Library (in the Prescot Centre) and the Prescot Historic Society’s own archive (care of the Prescot Heritage Hub at 57 Eccleston Street) that has been accumulating since the 1940s.
The Knowsley Archive
The Knowsley Archive is in Kirkby and has the following records and information relating to Prescot:
- Prescot Grammar School, 1678 to present
collection of Court Leet / Township papers/ charities and school documents dating from 1743 – 1960
- transcriptions of early township documents, e.g. Grant of Advowson of Prescot Church to King’s College, Cambridge, 1445
- historic maps and plans eg Prescot Town 1848; copy tithe apportionment and maps
- Prescot Urban District Council Town Clerk’s papers, 1875 – 1973
- Prescot & District Cooperative Society records, 19th – 20th century
- Title deeds e.g. Market Place
- Prescot Board minute books
- Historic photographs
As you can imagine a lot of these original documents, maps and photographs are each irreplaceable, unique, original pieces of our heritage that need to be properly looked after.
Currently, visits to the Archive are by appointment only, Monday – Friday 9:15am – 5:00pm, by phone (0151 443 4365), or email (email@example.com)
The Byron Dole: an example of locally provided welfare long before today’s social care system.
ARK and The Kirkby Centre
The Knowsley Archive is to be re-branded the Archive Resource for Knowsley (ARK). ARK will move with Kirkby Library to the new Kirkby Centre in 2014. The move will let the archive to increase the size of its storage area to four times its present size and have temperature and moisture controlled storage for its irreplaceable historic documents, plans, photographs and maps. I’ve been shown around the existing archive storage at Kirkby Library and have seen that it’s full to bursting – the archive could definitely do with more space!
The move will also offer a better search room and work area for visitors.
ARK and The Heritage Lottery Fund Bid
- the index system computer-based rather than paper-based improve the facilities for visitors to the Archive. This should make it far easier and quicker to search and find things.
- there will be plenty of events, workshops and activities relating to the Borough’s history. A number of these might well tie-in with community activities around the Prescot THI.
- Jobs will be created to deliver the above projects.
In all the move to the Kirkby Centre and a successful HLF bid will result in the biggest improvements to the archive since it was set up forty years ago.
Your Archives Need You
For the ARK bid to be successful it needs your support. The bid is a springboard to securing much-needed investment. The Prescot THI went through a very similar bid process to the HLF, and community support is crucial, so please register your support. It only takes a couple of minutes to register your support by completing the on-line survey here.
There will also be the last of three special consultation events at Huyton Library on 19 September (call in any time between 10am to 6pm). These will have history-related activities aimed at people of all ages and you will have the chance to find out more about ARK and the bid. Alternatively you can phone the Community History Team on 443 4365.
One of many historic photos held at the Knowsley Archive / Ark. This one shows a house in prescot during the 1951 Fesitval of Britain celebrations.
The Next Blog Entry:
the Tour of Britain comes to Prescot on 17 September!