There is an infinite amount of information about the history of Witham, in the sense that you would never find it all, however long you looked. The contents of this website are only the tip of the iceberg. And they are very selective. Some subjects are dealt with in great detail, whilst others are virtually ignored. It just depends what I have been working on since the website was launched.
As it has gone along, this post has turned into a description of my information about Witham history in general, as well as a discussion of what part of it could be put in the website. So first I must mention my card index. That is the place that I myself would usually look first for bits of information, before I looked in files or on the website. This index fills about twenty index drawers, most of them relating to people’s names, some to places, fields, the 1841 and 1851 census returns, and some parish registers. It should be kept somewhere where if anybody uses any cards, they’ll be checked back in. This means the Essex Record Office. As I am leaving them all my Witham history belongings, they will hopefully treat the card index as the most important of those belongings.
As for adding to the website, anything which is digital, for instance already typed on a computer, will be a good choice, because it can be just fed straight over into the website, without any scanning or typing. Also the website ‘storage’ system should pick up the text so you could find words and phrases with a search. Here it would be useful if I explained how my computerised information is organised, but I’m not sure I know, or have time to spell it out. I suppose some of it is organised and bits of it aren’t.
I will just say that there are a number of Access databases on the computer from which the tables could be useful to have on the website, and which have taken some time to compile over the years. I believe they would need to be exported into Excel for the website. This is made more complicated by the fact that some of them are in old formats of Access, dating from when I first discovered Access quite a long time ago – what a revelation it was, too. But it can be done. I’m very grateful for the amount of help that I have received with all these matters from Nick Smith (http://www.pccareessex.co.uk/) and Phil Gyford.
Similar material will be found in my lever-arch files. Incidentally a lot of it will be mentioned in the card index; on some of the pages I have written ‘indexed’ at the top. The contents of the files are of course on paper, so they would need to be either scanned, or a copy-typed onto a computer, to produce the digital format needed for the website.
Scanning would mean that the reader could see what the original looked like, but the words would not be recognisable by the website if someone tried to search for them. Typing would have the opposite result – the overall view would be gone, but the words would be recognisable. For that reason, typing could be good for our purposes, for finding people, places, etc. But then of course someone would the need to actually do the typing, and it could take many times longer than scanning.!
The ‘main’ lever-arch files are divided into three types, People, Places and Subjects. Within each type, the papers are alphabetical. Labels on the files describe the contents. But there are many other files for special things. There are a lot for Newspapers, arranged in order of Newspaper title, and then within each title, in date order. The dates of the individual cuttings are usually written on the back in pencil. There are a lot of manor records, especially for the manor of Chipping and Newland, including my lists of how to turn modern property numbers into manorial numbers and vice versa. A few files have material from the Essex Record Office and from The National Archive (labelled as PRO, Public Record Office, which is what it was when I used to go there). A few devoted to certain sources, eg Parish Records, Parish Registers, Sale Catalogues, Building Plans, Articles, other repositories, monumental inscriptions, maps, electoral registers.
There’s one labelled References in red which I think has a few explanations about my files etc. but they were written a long time ago, so will be partly out of date now, as it’s pre-computer. There are also details there of anything I have given to ERO.
I often used envelope-type folders as a first place to put paper notes and documents, some of which made their way into bigger files in due course, and some of which didn’t and are still in use. The ones which didn’t are on three shelves to the right of the study window, usually on top of something. Similar folders in the filing cabinet don’t relate to Witham history.
Then there are a large numbers of sets of photographs, most on the card index. On the computer are Access databases for each sort, M,P and W, and they describe the photos and where they came from.
The row of large files with acid-free paper, relate to the “M” series [miscellaneous], which are photos which belonged to other people – sometimes I was given the original but mostly I copied them. So those files include either originals or copies, whichever was used for the website. At the time of writing (November 2022), all these “M” photos are on the website in Category PHOTOS, with descriptions.
But I’m afraid my other photos have not yet appeared on the website. The “P” series I took myself and are kept in boxes. There must be thousands of them. The “W” series are slides that I took myself earlier than the “P” photos. There are nearly a thousand of those. I have just had the first hundred of them digitised, with a view to putting them on the website once I have sorted them.
There are also some files of other peoples’ photos, which are not on the website but could usefully be put there.
Tithe map – There is a file labelled Tithe map
tithe map (part typed) and parts of map
minutes of UDC [part on site already]
notes on Braintree and Witham Times (oncomputer I think
booklets and articles and
Pamphlets, many real ones in my two small boxes. Ideally typed out, or failing that, photocopies with tags to pick out key words.
(I have these)
Kiddier, Old Trade Unions [brushmakers]
Mike Wadhams The Development of Buildings in Witham from 1500 to c.1880 (I once asked permission from Post-Medieval Archaeology to put this online but received no reply.)