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'So much of our history is disappearing fast:' Anger ahead of first anniversary of record office announcement

PUBLISHED: 06:34 08 January 2019

Pictured L-R: Dean Parkin, David Butcher, Chris Brooks, Phil Mummery, Ian Robb, Bob Collis and Crispin Hook with their books at Lowestoft Library.
Pictures: SORO

Pictured L-R: Dean Parkin, David Butcher, Chris Brooks, Phil Mummery, Ian Robb, Bob Collis and Crispin Hook with their books at Lowestoft Library. Pictures: SORO

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Almost a year on from the announcement that the historic archives from Lowestoft Record Office were to be moved, historians, heritage authors and campaigners remain united in opposing the proposals.

Pictured L-R: Gill O' Brien and Rosie Carter with their book Pictured L-R: Gill O' Brien and Rosie Carter with their book "Wrentham's Fallen Fifty" at the Wrentham War Memorial. Pictures: SORO

On January 10 last year, Suffolk County Council (SCC) made an announcement on the future of the Suffolk Record Office service in Lowestoft, which came “out of the blue,” according to campaigners.

With changes to the service revealed, it was announced the record office – currently housed in Lowestoft Library – would transfer to a £20m heritage centre in Ipswich, called The Hold.

With widespread anger at the time over the lack of consultation, within days the Save Our Record Office (SORO) group had been formed in an attempt to stop the possible closure of Lowestoft Record Office.

Last May a 7,300 signature petition against the changes was submitted to the council. And despite the opposition from campaigners, two town councils and Waveney MP Peter Aldous to the proposals to transform the service, located on the first floor in Lowestoft Library, the council cites falling visitor numbers and The National Archives standards as justification for the proposed changes.

But historians and heritage groups across Suffolk have slammed the decision, claiming it will remove local archives beyond the grasp of people to whom it is most relevant.

Bob Collis, chairman of the SORO group, said: “The Heritage Lottery Fund need to take a long hard look at The Hold and reassess the detrimental effect this Ipswich-based project is having on other parts of Suffolk.

“The HLF like to pride themselves in keeping people in touch with their heritage. In the case of Lowestoft Record Office they are moving it out of reach.”

Paul West, SCC’s cabinet member with responsibility for Heritage, said: “As a direct result of feedback, a staffed Record Office service will continue to operate from the library building in Lowestoft and we are working closely with senior archivists to keep many of the most well-used collections in Lowestoft.

“In November, a new Community Learning Officer based in Lowestoft Record Office started working with local groups on projects including the Sharing Suffolk Stories project, actively engaging new audiences with Suffolk’s history.

“We want to see a thriving archive service for north-east Suffolk, in which new and bigger audiences are engaged.

“We are keen that the service reflects the way that people would like to access information and provides exciting new events and learning opportunities.”

Authors hit out

Ahead of the first anniversary of the announcement, a group of historians and authors posed for photographs at Lowestoft Library with their books, compiled using research carried out at the Lowestoft Record Office.

David Butcher, Dean Parkin, Crispin Hook, Ian Robb, Chris Brooks and Phil Mummery have all spoken out against the proposed changes.

At Wrentham, Rosie Carter – one of the two women who co-authored a book on the 50 men and women from the village who lost their lives in wartime – ‘Wrentham’s Fallen Fifty’ – said: “So much of our history is disappearing fast and it is vital that it is stored locally for easy access by anyone who wants to do their own checking and research.

“We have been able to look at many documents at our own pace and until now the staff have always been on hand to help us in our quests.”

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