Mills, Mansions and Corner Shops

Janice Taylor Archive Development Officer, North West Museums Service

Mills, Mansions and Corner Shops is the second phase of the North West’s Access to Archives (A2A) project. A consortium of 26 archive repositories in the area has been created to raise funds and carry out this project. A2A is the English strand of the scheme to produce a UK wide archive network and aims to create a virtual national archives catalogue by converting paper-based finding aids and making the information available from one source on the World Wide Web. This project is part of Phase 2 of the national project and will contribute 56,000 pages. A2A stands alongside sister projects in Scotland, Wales and the higher education sector, which together will constitute an archives network across the UK and will open up archives to the whole public, in England, the UK and world wide.

The project will involve the retroconversion of catalogues of Business, Industry, Family and Estate archives. These topics have been selected as being representative of the historical development of the north west region. Once predominately a rural area, the region was at the heart of the industrial revolution, playing a part in trade, commerce and industrial innovation. The archives selected for this project show this development and include collections of regional, national and even international importance.

The businesses and industries, which will be covered in this project, are disparate, yet representative of the region and its history. Archives from the smallest local tradesman, to the regional offices of local industries are included, along with the whole national archive of the gas industry. The addition of these records to the A2A database would produce a major resource for economic historians, local historians and social history, with particular strengths being:
*Trade (national and international)
*Solicitors and the Law

The archives comprise financial records, ledgers and accounts, administrative documents, wages and personnel records, correspondence,
plans and records of activities. These records give an insight into the workings of individual businesses, but also provide evidence of the impact of industry and business on a community and the ways industry and locality shaped each other.

Examples of collections to be covered by the project are:

  • Beechams Pills Co Ltd, 1877-1977
  • Correspondence, business records and papers of Samuel Crompton, inventor of the spinning mule, including mule survey of 1811.
  • Bibby Line shipowners, Liverpool 1812-1973
  • Carrs Biscuit Manufacturer, Cumbria 1812-1973
  • Casartelli Brothers, mathematical instrument makers, Liverpool 1882-1944
  • Davies & Co, solicitors of Warrington, 16th-20th century
  • K Shoes Ltd, Kendal, 1842-1979
  • Manchester Ship Canal Company, 1882-1959
  • George Starbuck and Company, tramcar manufacturers, Birkenhead, 1859-1988
  • Renolds Chains Ltd, munitions manufacturer, Manchester, 20th century<
  • Thomas Rivett Ltd, Cotton doublers, Stockport 1899-1922

The consortium includes Cumbria Record Office, Liverpool and Merseyside Record Office, National Gas Archive, Greater Manchester County Record Office, Lancashire Record Office, Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, John Rylands University Library, Cheshire and Chester Archives and Local Studies, Manchester Archives and Local Studies and the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside, Archives Department. The consortium is also supported by Re:source, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, Business Archives Council of the North and the North West Regional Archive Council.

The consortium needs to make a strong funding case for this major project, so we would be grateful for messages of support, which could be included in the project to the following address:

Janice Taylor Archive Development Officer, North West Museums Service, Griffin Lodge, Cavendish Place, Blackburn BB2 2PN