01 May 2012

People are being urged to support an appeal to keep a valuable archive collection in the UK and specifically in Northamptonshire.

The Westmorland of Apethorpe Archive is one of the most important archives in Northamptonshire. It contains thousands of records dating from the medieval period up to the 20th century.

The archive is based around a Northamptonshire family and its main residence in Apethorpe Hall (near Oundle). Family members were active at court and in national politics, especially in Elizabethan and Jacobean times, so the archive includes gems such as letters signed by Elizabeth I and Oliver Cromwell. It also contains records relating to the management of the extensive estates owned by the family from which we can learn about the lives of ordinary people in Northamptonshire communities over hundreds of years.

The archive is privately owned and has been looked after by Northamptonshire County Council’s record office since the 1950s. It is now for sale and has been offered to the county council first, at a cost of around £760,000. If the money cannot be raised, the records will be made available on the open market for anyone in the world to buy.

A fundraising and awareness event at Apethorpe Hall on 12 May has been organised by local campaigners for the Westmorland archive. The event will include a display of Westmorland documents, Pimms, light refreshments, and the chance for tours of the hall. To buy tickets contact Jane Baile 01780 782575.

Councillor Heather Smith, cabinet member for customer services, is supporting the appeal. Cllr Smith said: “Obviously, in the current financial climate, the county council cannot afford to buy this important collection. But these archives must not be lost from the county because they are vital to our understanding of the history of Northamptonshire, as well as being nationally important.

“That’s why I’m working with the local community to do what I can to raise the profile of this appeal, encourage people to get behind the campaign and help keep this collection where it belongs.”

Campaigners have also set up a blog with more information about the campaign and the archive: http://westmorlandarchiveappeal.wordpress.com/