What's the biggest document in the archives? What's the longest? the oldest? These were some of the questions that we had to find the answers to when we offered to take part in The Big Stuff Activity Day at the Hive as part of this year's Summer Reading Challenge. We also set ourselves the challenge of trying to create the longest document in the archives, certainly a challenge when we found out how long the current 'record-holder' is! We asked children (and willing adults) to draw a picture or write about 'What they loved about Worcestershire'.
We had drawings of the river, the Malvern Hills, Gheluvelt Park and the splashpad, the cricket ground and The Hive. Then we used all the drawings to create a scroll, complete with seal, which we hung from level two, the 'Explore the Past' floor down to the children's library.
...and the answers to the other questions? The biggest document held by Worcestershire Archive Service is the Worcester City Board of Health map, a comprehensive survey of the City produced by surveyor Henry Webb in 1870. It measures 23ft x 25ft and was exhibited in the Guildhall in 2000, the only time that the map has been displayed. Quickly realising that the map was totally impractical, a smaller bound volume was commissioned, but even that one measures 4ft x 2ft.
|Above and below: The biggest document Worcestershire Archive Service holds - a Worcester City Board of Health Map|
The oldest document we have found so far is a legal deed made by Ralph de Mortimer by which he confirms a gift of land at Wribbenhall to the monks of Worcester cathedral. The document is part of the archives of the Lechmere family of Hanley Castle and has been dated to about 1100. It could also be a contender for the smallest document as it is just 6 by 3 inches.
The longest document in the archives is probably a Lay Subsidy Roll for the County of Worcester dated c1280. This exchequer roll is made up of parchment sheets sewn end to end, to a total length of 46 feet or 14 metres, and records thousands of names of people living in 284 named places in Worcestershire, hundreds of years before any official census, with the amount of money they were to pay.
Our scroll measured 5 metres in the end, approximately the length of five of the children who helped to create it, but 9 metres shorter than the current record holder!