Local history studies in Bottesford and Muston started when Michael and Diana Honeybone began gathering records and stories about Bottesford and the Vale of Belvoir, and set up what became the Bottesford Local History Society, over forty years ago. They have moved away, but the society is still very much alive, and the collection of photographs and documents that they left here has become one of the main parts of the collection now called the Bottesford Heritage Archive.
The Archive began to take shape during the Bottesford Living History Project. This started in 2006 with a grant provided by the Local Heritage Initiative, part of the former Countryside Agency. Shortly after making the award, the LHI was wound up alongside the Agency itself, but the Bottesford project went ahead under the umbrella of the Heritage Lottery Fund office in Nottingham. After the LHI grant ended in 2009, the project continued as the Bottesford Community Heritage Project. The Bottesford Heritage Archive is the legacy of these together with material added since 2009 by individuals and by related projects.
Mention of ‘related projects’ refers in particular to the Bottesford Parish 1st World War Centenary Project, which in October 2016 is nearing the end of its grant-supported period. This has generated a vast amount of new material that needs to be added into the Archive. There has also been involvement in Project Gargoyle, the LCC-supported recording of mediaeval images in churches in Leicestershire, which has led to the Angels and Dragons book and a further legacy of material for the Archive.
Throughout all this, items such as old photos and documents, have been contributed and compiled by many people, too many to mention individually here, but it is important to acknowledge the debt of gratitude that is owed to them all.
Contents of the Archive
The cupboards recently installed in the library contain paper records and a small number of artifacts belonging to the Bottesford Heritage Archive. This is not the whole story, in that much of the archive is in the form of digital records. In addition there are the Bottesford Local History website, project publications and displays on the Living History Noticeboard.
These include originals and copies of a wide variety of material including: historic village documents; booklets and magazines; maps; prints of digitally scanned photographs; etc. Many of these records are now located in the cupboards in this Community Library, whose support is gratefully acknowledged, but some are still kept privately until they can be moved into the library. In addition, there is a small library of local history documents and books which belongs to the Local History Society, located in the Fuller Room. It is clear that we may need yet more cupboard space before very long.
There is a vast amount of digital material. This is held for a variety of purposes: to keep copies of photographs and other documents, especially where the originals have been returned to their owners; to make copies and transcriptions of censuses and other historic records readily at hand for reference; to keep records of oral interviews and transcripts; to keep additional backup copies for security.
Some of the archive’s digital records have been copied on to the Living History website, but many remain on Hard-Disk drives belonging to individual project members until a means is created to draw them together to be more generally accessible. Options could include either using online cloud storage or setting up our own local cloud server.
On the Internet
The Bottesford Living History website (this website) was started back in 2006 and has been growing steadily ever since. There are now over 600 individual pages (articles) to browse through and delve into, including stories about local people, places and events, WW1 service biographies, and material drawn from the archive itself.
The underlying system and security are maintained by Community Sites Ltd using Word Press, but all the content is added and edited from here and is under our control. Individual pages can display any combination of text, pictures, documents, audio, video and links to other websites. Visitors to the site are encouraged to add comments and information. They can also add their own pages if they wish.
New editors would be welcome, and will be trained to add material and indeed to create their own pages.
Two books have been published, and a third is well on the way.
Not Forgetting – Aspects of Village Life in Bottesford, Easthorpe, Muston and Normanton (2009) – out of print, perhaps now a candidate for being mounted on the website.
Angels and Dragons – Faces at St Mary the Virgin, Bottesford (2013) – available now.
Lest We Forget – Bottesford and Muston in the Great War – expected soon.
In addition, On the Wings of the Morning by Vincent Holyoak, the story of Bottesford’s WW2 airfield, is out of print but has been digitised and added to the website (by permission of the author).
The Living History Project produced heritage trail leaflets for Bottesford and Muston, and also a leaflet about local geology.
The Living History noticeboard
In 2007, Bottesford Co-op gave its permission for a local history noticeboard to be mounted outside the Queen Street store. This was used for displays of stories and pictures about a great diversity of local history, which were changed fortnightly. The old displays have been saved, forming an archive in themselves, which could be re-mounted inside the library, or on the website.
The Bottesford Heritage Archive (BOT) Catalogue
A good catalogue should be seen as the backbone of any successful archive or museum collection. Professional archivists will know that the first thing you should do is to set up a catalogue before you start to add items to your archive. However, we are not professionals, and when the Living History project started the priority was to accept donations of material as they came in. Creation of the catalogue did not start until rather late in the day, and it has never caught up with all the material in the archive. Nevertheless, it is essential to have a good catalogue if we are to have a usable archive as the basis for a village heritage centre.
The catalogue has a very simple and flexible structure, based on the concept that the archive can be divided into groups of items that belong together, usually because they have been donated by one contributor. Each group is given its own number, and items within the group are then numbered sequentially. At present there are 242 groups, each of which may contain anything from 1 to >100 individual items from the archive.
The master catalogue is currently maintained as a set of Excel worksheets on one PC and copied onto Dropbox. Its completion and development is important to making the archive usable here in the library and more widely in the future. In addition, the website contains software specifically designed to display archives such as ours. There has already been a good start on displaying material in this way, and potentially a large part of the archive could become accessible on the website.
As projects come to an end, they leave an accumulating legacy of material which together make up the archive. It is important to complete the catalogue so that this can be used for education and study, and to put it on display. One way would be to form a group of interested people, an archive group who would go through the material and register it into the catalogue. There are many avenues people’s interest could take. Here are some:-
Checking through the archive may sound a bit routine, but it need not be. In many cases, there will be the chance (not to say the need) for research into the material. For instance, seeking answers to the ‘who, where, when and why’ of old photographs, or investigating the history of documents such as the papers of the Bottesford Friendly Society.
A Heritage Centre
The presence of the physical archive alongside the computers and other facilities provided by the library lends itself to developing a local heritage centre where people can pursue a variety of interests.
Genealogical investigations should be encouraged to make use of the archive’s resources of censuses, parish records, trade directories, etc. The library could become a hub for family history studies in this parish and in the Vale more widely. It could give help and guidance to people wishing to investigate their own family roots.
The interest generated by the recent events during the Festival of Archaeology make it clear that there is interest in the archaeology of Bottesford and Muston, and the library and archive can provide a base for organising new projects to research the early history of the villages.
As an example, at this moment we have the opportunity to participate in a project being run by the county branch of the Council for British Archaeology to record and investigate the parish boundaries in Leicestershire.
A Digital Museum
The website provides an excellent place to display the archive, and some photographs and documents have already been loaded into it, but there are many more to add. The internet could make much of the archive easily accessible here and worldwide, without being dependent on being able to visit a heritage centre or museum here in Bottesford. We can create a ‘digital museum’.