Delving into 150 years of local Primary School history

The Gateway to History project has launched its first pilot volunteer led community research project. We’re working with Lord Deramore’s Primary School in Heslington to help them understand their history so it can be interpreted for pupils in the classroom as part of the 2014-15 curriculum.

Selected items from Lord Deramore's School Archive including a local history publication for Heslington

Selected items from Lord Deramore’s School Archive including a local history publication for Heslington

Lord Deramore’s Primary School is the one of the oldest state primary schools in York and opened in 1856. For over 150 years the school have maintained their own archive based in the original grade 2 listed building. Sadly the building is no longer suitable for the school’s requirements and the school is set to be moved to a new building on the same site. Although this move has not taken place yet, building work is underway. The original building will remain in place and its future use is currently being discussed.

The school’s head teacher, Mrs Sheena Powley, got in touch with the City Archives to get some support with the research into the history of the school to help bring it to life for the school children and local community. Gateway to History is all about engaging with all local communities and this project is a chance to work with schools and encourage children to explore their local heritage and engage with their community.

Our three experienced and dedicated volunteers hard at work at the school. From left,  Alan Bollington, Phil Batman and Roger Barham

Our three experienced and dedicated volunteers hard at work at the school. From left, Alan Bollington, Phil Batman and Roger Barham

Myself and our three volunteers went along to an initial meeting at the school in February and we were overwhelmed by their enthusiasm. Since then our volunteers have been meeting every Friday at the school to create a fascinating chronology of the school’s history, packed full of unique stories ready to be transformed into classroom activities!

The volunteers have been discovering some fascinating facts about the school, including how the staff and pupils responded to local, national and international events. Between them they are all working on slightly different aspects of the school’s history and here’s a little taster of how they are getting on!

“The school logbook for 1914-1918 shows that the Great War was clearly much in the minds of the teachers and the children, with references to a Zeppelin air raid, fear of spies, food shortages and the gathering influenza pandemic. The logbook is also a work of art, written in beautiful clear ink handwriting, with delightful grammatical accuracy including the entirely appropriate use of the endangered apostrophe!” – Phil Batman


“I’ve been working on life at Lord Deramore’s during the headship of Mr Percy Bostwick including the Second World War years. Some of the material gives you quite a dramatic insight into the context of the times. For example during the war Mr Bostwick was unable to continue working at the school because he couldn’t find accommodation for his family, which brings home what the national housing shortage meant locally. The little details all combine to make a fascinating picture.” – Roger Barham


“It’s fascinating to see the changes in outlook through the years; earlier times being concerned with absences due to harvests, bad weather and contagious diseases, to more recent entries like in 1962; “Children excited today, American spaceship in orbit” a reference to John Glenn.” – Alan Bollington

The headteacher is thrilled with the results so far and is going to be using the First World War information to inspire her staff at the next school training day. She’s planning to transform one of the school’s classrooms into how it would have looked during the war complete with desks and costumes! The information about the school will help to teach about life during the war, and children will be contacting local people to learn more about how their school has changed through time.

Our volunteers have also been approached by several local people in Heslington who are keen to get involved with the project and share their memories of the school. Over the coming months our volunteers will be recording some of their memories and using the information to supplement the facts they’ve found in the archives. If you have anything you’d like to share with the team we’d love to hear from you!

Everyone is welcome to post their memories as a comment on this blog or feel free to send us an email at

We’ve already had some local press coverage of this project. Read the article here.


Old dog, new tricks

Hello all, it’s Justine again. I signed off at the end of last year as my role of project archivist was coming to an end, but a permanent vacancy came up  which I successfully applied for, so here I am again wearing my new 2014 hat, Archivist (Civic & Public Records)!

Our new Archivist for Civic and Public Records, yours truly. Sadly there isn't actually a hat...

Our new Archivist for Civic and Public Records, yours truly. Sadly there isn’t actually a hat…

I still have responsibility for finalising the civic archive catalogue to make sure its ready for our service reopening at the end of this year. If you’re on twitter you will have seen that the volunteers are progressing well with the physical processing and finding lots of interest. Next I’ll have the interfaces and collections guides to work on,  to make sure we have useful resources ready.

Eileen and John used a whole 100m roll of tape to wrap volumes one day last month.

Eileen and John got through an entire 100m roll of tape wrapping volumes one day last month.

These days however I’m no longer in my project bubble but have other duties around the service. My job is to make sure that the civic archive is accessible, that public records such as coroner’s records and court records are cared for according to Public Records legislation, and to support the front of house team with enquiries.

As well as preserving and improving access to the civic and public records we already have, I’ll also be making sure that we  acquire today’s council records to form the civic archive of the future. I’ve always really enjoyed capturing the continuity between records types and council functions over the centuries, and am very chuffed that I get to keep working with these records of local life and democracy.

This is what CYC does today, and we need to capture for the sake of history

This is what CYC does today, and which we need to capture for posterity.

I’m also going to be doing more communications work this year, I will be speaking at a number of professional events for archivists including the ARA 2014 conference in Newcastle, which I’m very excited about as it’s the major UK national conference for archivists.

Disseminating the lessons of the City Making History project was always our intention, so it’s great that we can share our insights with other archive services. Hopefully it shows that theoretical approaches and ambition don’t just come from major archives, but any repository can contribute creatively to the bigger field.

So expect to hear more from me on civic and public records, now that I’m up to speed on my new job. I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts by Sarah, the new Community Collections and Outreach Archivist, and by Victoria, 2/5ths of the City Archivist. On Monday our new Public Services Manager starts, so we’ll get her to introduce herself once she’s settled in a bit.

We have a lot of behind the scenes work to do this year, so come along and stay in touch with both the obvious and the not so obvious.