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Radwinter Village History Update

We live in interesting times. Firstly, the reredos (altarpiece) has returned to Radwinter Church following its rejuvenation at the workshops of Plowden & Smith, the Queen’s conservators. It will be officially received into the church on Friends Day, which has been rescheduled to Sunday, 21st September.

Dr. Jeremy Sheehy, Principal of St. Stephan’s House, Oxford, will be the visiting speaker. To mark the return, a publication is being produced on the history, description and conservation of the reredos and should be ready for sale on Friends Day. The reredos, which is now revealed as a stunning woodcarving of international importance, is also featured in the Friends’ newsletter, re-introduced after a gap of several years.

The major task now facing the village history archives is the recording and indexing of all the documents and artifacts that have accumulated over the years, so that they can be made accessible to everybody once they are housed in the archive centre under construction in the village hall.

The Radwinter Archives hold the Parish Council minutes beginning with the Council’s inception in 1894. There is also a near-complete run of the parish magazines from January 1881, when it appeared as the Ashdon, Radwinter and Wimbish Parochial Magazine, up to the present-day Ambo. Both of these need to be indexed, which means reading through them noting events and peoples’ names etc. There is one modern exception to the complete run and that is the Spring 2002 edition of Ambo, which fell between two village history recorders. If any reader has a copy that they are willing to donate (or let us photocopy) it would be greatly appreciated.

Radwinter is at the center of a new project for the development of a database to record all the similar records and artifacts held in Uttlesford villages. We hope to apply for funds to develop the database and make it available on-line through the worldwide web. Local researchers and others would then be able to search a particular village, or across the whole region, say, for evidence of Roman occupation or the existence of village pounds. Although anybody could gain access free of charge, only authorized people from each village would be able to update their own village’s records. People without access to the web would still be able to ask their village history recorder or gain access at Saffron Walden Library. Discussions are taking place between the Radwinter History recorder, the Uttlesford area history coordinator and a computer expert living in Ashton who has already developed an easy-to-use database for the Chrishall Museum. More news as the Uttlesford database develops.

Once recording begins, volunteers will be needed for a variety of tasks ranging from sorting the records to indexing. The first task will be to take the records from the pile and place them in marked folders or boxes so that we will know exactly where to find them. The volunteers will be able to work at their own pace, often at home. Training can be given, so that no one need be daunted by the task. We need people, too, who are on top of what’s going on in Radwinter and who can tip off the history recorder if there is an event at in the village or something happens that ought to be recorded. It will all be history one day. We also need to record more recollections of what happened in the old days. Volunteers please contact Michaels Southgate on 01799 599478. You won’t be pressurised to do more than you feel you can cope with.

We have a wonderful collection of historical material in Radwinter but currently, because we don’t know what each record contains or where it in the pile, the collection is almost unusable. With a proper database, we should only have to sort through the pile once. In that way we won’t spoil the records by overuse and inexpert handling and we will save ourselves a great deal of time in the long run. We have a great opportunity increasing our knowledge of Radwinter and leaving a fine heritage to future generations.

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