Lake District and Cumbria History On The Move

by David Murray on 19 November 2009

in History, Organisations

Back in the early-70s, when what is now Cumbria was spread between Cumberland, Westmorland, and parts of Lancashire and Yorkshire, I became a frequent user of the county record offices. What began as a family history search became a local history study, and I came to appreciate the great value of the archive services maintained and operated by our county councils. Students of Lake District history would be in great difficulties without them.

Life has changed since then. There was no such thing as a laptop computer, and any thought of a handheld pda such as a Palm or Blackberry was the stuff of science fiction. Search rooms were small, and one sat at tables with paper and pencil poring over boxes of papers – yes, the originals, not images on a screen. Such indexes as existed were typescripts, and much of the contents of many boxes had never yet been indexed.

Of course the functions of a county record office are wider ranging than to provide a service for amateur, or even professional, historians. The county archivist has statutory duties with respect to the documentation of the various local government bodies. Nevertheless what most people these days experience is the provision of information in the form of old, even ancient, documents recording the history of towns, villages, parishes, houses and families.

Those of us with an interest in Lake District history, or Cumbria family history outside the National Park, owe a great debt to the professionalism of the staff at the record offices in Carlisle, Kendal, Barrow and Whitehaven. They, however, need modern facilities in which to provide the ever more sophisticated services we ask of them.

It is good, therefore, to know that the building of the new state-of-the-art Carlisle record office is under way and completion is expected late in 2010. The major task of packing for the move is already in progress. Apparently volunteers to help with this massive “house move” are still being sought. Click here for more details if you’re interested.

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