Photograph of part of a letter summoning a councillor to a meeting, 1803 Photograph of part of a letter summoning a councillor to a meeting, 1803 Show image info

Part of a letter summoning a councillor to a meeting of the City Council, 1803

Bath Water and World Heritage

Cataloguing the records of the City from the 12th to the 21st centuries

In October 2013 we were successful in gaining grant-funding to catalogue the records of Bath City Council and its successor B&NES. The National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives awarded the Record Office a grant of just over £47,000 to work on a catalogue of the records, which date from the 12th to the 21st centuries, and occupy nearly 2 kilometres of shelving.

The records form an unbroken series from 1189 to the present day. They record the development of the city and document the lives of all its inhabitants through nine centuries - from the first surviving city charter, signed by Richard the Lionheart on the eve of his departure on the Third Crusade, through the Elizabethan chamberlains’ accounts, eighteenth century building leases and World War II air raid records and on to twenty-first century planning decisions.

Stored continuously in the Guildhall since it was built in the 1770s, the records form the core of the Record Office’s holdings. As well as the city charters, minutes and accounts, they also include an enormous range of records created by early town clerks and by later city officers and departments. As might be expected, there are records relating to markets, local courts, and the town gaol; more unusual are records of leases to ‘doors’ to the baths, the issue of licences to the ‘chairmen’ who carried sedan chairs, and of the management of the baths and pump room, which were owned by the Corporation. Building and property records of various types form a large part of the collection, which helps to chart the development of Bath from small market town to fashionable Georgian resort, on to Victorian gentility and the modern-day tourist-attraction and World Heritage site.

The project started in February 2014, and finished at the beginning of June 2015.  We have achieved a great deal in this time. We started by carrying out a complete survey of the whole archive, which is very large and complex, and located in nine different strongrooms.  This enabled us to draw up a cataloguing scheme to reflect the  provenance of the records and the relationships between them, while taking into account the needs of users. We then catalogued some of the records in outline, while others have been catalogued in detail. You can see the catalogue, as a  PDF here.  Further work will be carried out to complete the catalogue.

The project was staffed by one full-time and one part-time professional archival posts - but central to its success has been a team of specially-recruited volunteers who have sorted, cleaned repackaged and listed an amazing amount of material. We are very grateful indeed for their contribution.