Which archive collection held in Hampshire Record Office contains over 13,000 items, dating from between AD957 and 2017, and ranges from accounts kept by medieval monks to recordings of choral music, and from maps to memoirs? The answer is the Winchester Cathedral Archive, which we now look after on behalf of the Dean and Chapter, and which is one of the largest archives deposited here in recent years.
The archive bears witness to many aspects of the life of the Cathedral, from medieval to modern times, as a place of prayer, mission, music and study. It also contains insights into the lives of those who lived and farmed on the estates in Hampshire, Wiltshire and elsewhere held by the Cathedral – and like many estate archives it includes attractive maps, such as a depiction of southern Winchester in 1751 by William Godson (below, ref DC/J13/7/2/4) – in this extract you can see the ancient Hospital of St Cross and the surrounding village, while near the near the top is the old South Gate, across what is now Southgate Street/St Cross Road.
Catalogue entries for nearly 8,000 items have now have been added to the online catalogue and you can search the catalogue at http://calm.hants.gov.uk/advanced.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog – enter DC in the Finding number box, and any name(s) or word(s) you are looking for in the Any text box. If you cannot find what you want, please contact me via our contact page (follow the link from http://www.hants.gov.uk/archives ) as I may be able to locate relevant material in the uncatalogued part of the archive.
The Cathedral Archive continues to grow, with material being transferred from Cathedral departments, and donated by individuals. Recent gifts include a set of photographic plate negative showing of repairs to the east end of the Cathedral in the 1910s, including the picture shown below – a timely arrival given the recent work on this part of the Cathedral (DC/E3/6/4/19), and an album of photographs of the 1960s excavation of the Anglo-Saxon Old Minster, north of the present Cathedral (DC/K14/1/1). If you have any documents, photographs, etc concerning the Cathedral, that you would consider donating, or if you would like to contribute memories of your connection with the Cathedral, I’d be very pleased to hear from you.
The archive is well used, both by people directly connected with the Cathedral and by other researchers. Many of the records have a continuing administrative value – for instance, the Cathedral’s architectural and works staff sometimes refer to plans and accounts relating to the fabric, for evidence of previous structural work, and members of the Cathedral Guild of Voluntary Guides search the archive for information to be used in specialist Cathedral tours; in recent days I have helped Cathedral staff identify the individuals commemorated on two memorial benches with partially-illegible inscriptions.
As with other records in our care, all are welcome to visit the search room to consult the Cathedral Archive, and most of the catalogued items are readily available, with the exception of some of the more recent material. Digital copies have been made of many of the most important documents, to save wear and tear on the originals, and you can help yourself to CD copies of these from the cabinet at the back of the help desk in the search room. Some of them are formal records such as the Chapter Act Books containing the formal minutes of Chapter meetings, 1553-1939 (CD235-CD/241 and CD/301) – a key source for the study of many aspects of the Cathedral’s history, and a useful source for any family historians investigating a possible link with the Cathedral, as they regularly include lists of the clergy (residentiary and minor canons), choir members (boys and men), virgers, almsmen and other members of the Cathedral foundation. Some less formal records have also been made available on CD, among the most recent being the diary of Dean John Young, giving insights into the daily life of the Cathedral in the 1610s-40s (CD/321).
David Rymill, archivist.