Release date: 10 August 2021
West Sussex Record Office, as part of a network of archive services, has been awarded a grant of £427,809 by the Wellcome Trust to catalogue, conserve and increase accessibility to important post-war new town collections, including Crawley.
The project, titled ‘The New Jerusalems: post-war new town archives in Britain and Ireland’ will also support the cataloguing and conservation of 10 other new town collections held by eight separate archive services in the UK and Ireland.
A radical government initiative set up after the Second World War, the new town's programme was proposed to eradicate the ‘urban disease’ of inner cities by providing good-quality housing, solving overcrowding and addressing wider public wellbeing.
Following the passing of the New Towns Act of 1946, Crawley was the second area to be identified as a suitable new town site in January 1947 and construction began in 1949.
The Crawley New Town Development Corporation Archive comprises more than 41 linear metres of records including minutes, departmental filing, and a large quantity of supporting documentation, such as plans and photographs. The archive will be catalogued and fragile items, that could otherwise be lost forever, will be conserved.
This project will mean that the Crawley New Town Development Corporation archive, and 10 other new town collections, will be made accessible to a wide range of researchers and result in a significant new research resource. When the cataloguing and conservation is complete, there will be user guides and local events to share these exciting, newly accessible collections.
Wendy Walker, County Archivist at West Sussex Record Office, said “New town archives are such an important part of our heritage and provide a vital resource for our understanding of these developments and their impact on those who live there. This grant will enable local communities across the UK to access and engage with these records for the first time, to explore the history of their local areas and share their stories with us. We are extremely grateful to the Wellcome Trust for all of their support in making this happen.”
Duncan Crow, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Community Support, Fire and Rescue, mirrored Wendy’s sentiments: “It stands testament to all the great work that our Record Office does that they have been chosen to lead on the new town’s project across the UK, which was originally developed by the Association of New Town Archives and Museums.
“The Wellcome Trust’s grant is a fantastic accolade, showing the importance of the project and will enable the Record Office to work with Crawley Library, Crawley Museum and other organisations, as well as local residents themselves, in exploring their heritage. This is also a wonderful opportunity for West Sussex to support some amazing work happening in archives across the UK and Ireland.”
The eleven collections represent: Basildon, Bracknell, Crawley, Cwmbran, Newton Aycliffe, Peterlee, Redditch, Runcorn, Shannon, Stevenage and Warrington.
The new town records that will be catalogued and conserved in this project are all held in county archives (except Shannon records which are held in the University of Limerick archive):
- West Sussex Record Office - Crawley
- Berkshire Record Office - Bracknell
- Cheshire archives and Local Studies - Runcorn and Warrington
- Durham County Record Office - Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee
- Essex Record Office - Basildon
- Gwent Record Office - Cwmbran
- Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies - Stevenage
- Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service - Redditch
- University of Limerick - Shannon
To find out more about Crawley New Town, visit the West Sussex Record Office blog.