Ancient Saffron Walden archives undergoing preservation work at Essex Record Office, Chelmsford

PUBLISHED: 10:08 01 March 2010 | UPDATED: 22:10 31 May 2010

From left, Stan Sutherland from the Family History Society, Essex Record Office Conservator Keith Dean and Heather Lees and Ruth Stickley from Saffron Walden Library Picture: SUBMITTED

From left, Stan Sutherland from the Family History Society, Essex Record Office Conservator Keith Dean and Heather Lees and Ruth Stickley from Saffron Walden Library Picture: SUBMITTED

PAINSTAKING work to preserve and digitise Saffron Walden s valuable town archive has begun at its new home in Chelmsford. The collection of documents, which had been stored in the town for more than 700 years, was moved to the Essex Record Office (ERO) in

PAINSTAKING work to preserve and digitise Saffron Walden's valuable town archive has begun at its new home in Chelmsford.

The collection of documents, which had been stored in the town for more than 700 years, was moved to the Essex Record Office (ERO) in October.

Although the original documents are no longer accessible in Saffron Walden, ERO has already started work on a six-year digitisation programme which will make digital copies of documents available online through their electronic catalogue SEAX.

Last week representatives from the town and district council, as well as other interested parties, went to see how the work was progressing.

Historian Zofia Everett, who runs the archive access point at Saffron Walden Library, said: "Highlights of the visit included a short presentation by conservator Keith Dean. He has already started work on conserving of the earliest parchment documents including the 13th century De Bohun charter as well as some unusual leather bound books.

"He showed us early water marks on high quality 15th century paper from Italy which linked one of the Saffron Walden account books to the Gutenburg Bible - the first book ever printed in Europe.

"Miraculously some of the original seals on the old charters have survived undamaged, and the documents and their seals are now protected by crush-proof boxes, ensuring their survival for centuries to come."

The archive was moved from it previous home in Saffron Walden Town Hall following years of concern over their safety. When they arrived at Chelmsford they were frozen for three days to kill any insect infestation, thawed and stored in acid-free boxes in one of the six repositories.

Staff at the ERO demonstrated the latest cameras and computer equipment specially purchased to speed up the digitisation process, and showed high quality copies of documents made by this process.

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