Volunteers’ interest sparked by archive fire certificate project
Volunteers with Shropshire Council’s archives service have completed a project to create a digital register of fire certificates issued to county premises in the aftermath of the Great Fire of London.
The details of 12 booklets of policies issued by the Salop Fire Office between 1780 and 1889 have been added to a fully searchable detailed index which is available via the archives service online catalogue. The policies cover properties in Shropshire, Staffordshire and Montgomeryshire, and the index contains more than 3,000 images.
Kerry Evans, archivist, said:-
“The project was born out of the first Lockdown with a view to keeping our loyal volunteers connected with the archives whilst we were unable to have them on site.
“We started the project with eight volunteers, which decreased as the Lockdown restrictions gradually eased. Two of our most committed contributors were Judith Pinfold and Anne Cripps.
“It soon became evident that the volunteers were becoming the ones with the real knowledge of these documents, and they who would be responsible for highlighting this fascinating information.”
Judith was responsible for transcribing records that included Lord Berwick taking out a policy for Attingham Hall, and Dr Robert Waring Darwin, father of Charles Darwin, who in 1797 insured his “new built house of Frankville [sic] near Shrewsbury”.
And in an interesting turn, she also came across the record for her own home and an insurance policy taken out by Mr Philip Ireland, who in 1822 insured “his now dwelling house”.
The documents were made available to the volunteers electronically by the archives team.
“The early handwritten pages sometimes caused confusion in deciphering names and locations, especially with the Welsh place names, but the advantage of using scanned images was the ability to magnify the sections to assist with transcription. Working on these was pleasant and I found it reassuring to have this as part of my routine.”
“I found it especially interesting to see the growth of Shrewsbury, with rows of houses being built and tenanted on what had previously been agricultural land as the town expanded in the 1880s.”
Rob Gittins, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and digital, said:-
“The volunteers have done a fantastic job of creating this searchable index of what is an important source of information of our social and economic history, though I am sure it will also be of interest to genealogists and not just social historians.
“The volunteers’ dedication to the project has clearly benefitted Shropshire Council, but it sounds as if it is a project that has offered them enrichment too, particularly as it was carried out during the three Lockdowns.
“I am grateful to them for their hard work and delighted we were able to ‘keep them close’ during what was a difficult time for everyone.”
To access the index visit: https://www.shropshirearchives.org.uk/collections/fire-insurance-policies/