Local and Community History Month

Nunney c1900
Nunney c1900

Local and Community History Month 2018 is celebration of local history organised by the Historical Association, of which Visit Nunney is a member.

Nunney c1900
Nunney c1900

May is the time to investigate, explore and discover the history of the world immediately around you.

The Twitter hashtag for Local and Community History Month 2018 is #Localhistory18.

Do your own research

Somerset Heritage Centre
The Somerset Record Office, part of the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton, already provides a home for Nunney’s royal market charter of 1260.
Local and Community History Month 2018 is a great opportunity to start research the history of your own family, property or local community.

The internet has transformed local and community history research. In addition to archives and libraries, you can find lots of information online at the click of a mouse.

The Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton looks after local archive material from across Somerset. Visiting is free; a photo licence cost a few quid. Helpful staff are at hand to assist you.

You can ask to see anything from Nunney’s royal market charter of 1260 to minutes of Nunney Community Association. If you’re researching Nunney property, the huge estate maps from 1760 and 1786 are a good place to start.

There are millions of records available on microfiche too, including church registers and records of payments to the poor.

Online resources

Nunney census

Ancestry and FindMyPast give you access to lots of public records, census papers, photographs and family trees created by other members to help you research your own ancestors or find out more about your community.

Both websites require a subscription, but you can subscribe for a month if you don’t want to commit for a whole year. That means that you can sign up whenever you have time to do your research – and don’t pay for months when you’re too busy.

A fantastic new resource is the British Libraries’ online UK Newspaper Archive. Easily search millions of newspapers since 1700, with thousands more pages being scanned and added every month.

Join the club

Frome LibraryFrome Library not only has a collection of books on local history of Frome and surrounding villages, but also provides free access to online resources.

Frome Museum has an extensive collection of research material, but most of it is limited to Frome itself.

If you’re interested in local and community history, here are some organisations that organise talks and guided walks, publish interesting articles and provide support for your own research. Visit Nunney is a member of all these organisations.

  • The Frome Society for Local Study (FSLS) was founded in 1958 by a number of Frome townspeople who realised there was a need to make the history of Frome and the district better known, and to preserve its historic buildings and records. FSLS organises winter lectures, summer visits and publishes books on local history of Frome and surrounding villages. President is local historian Michael McGarvie.
  • The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society (SANHS) promotes the study of archaeology, natural history, local history and historic buildings. As well as providing access to its collections of books and pamphlets in the Library, artifacts in the Museum of Somerset, and other items of historical note in its Archives, the website of the Society includes items of written, oral and video media for use in subject research.
  • The British Association for Local History is the national charity which promotes local history and serves local historians. Its purpose is to encourage and assist the study of local history as an academic discipline and as a rewarding leisure pursuit for both individuals and groups. The BALH arranged guided visits to places of interest to local historians, often not easily accessible to individuals.
  • The Historical Association (HA) has over 50 branches across the UK with programmes covering local, national and international history. Many of those who attend or deliver those events also work in local heritage or support local heritage projects.

Local and community history and Visit Nunney

Nunney Scarecrows exhibition
Nunney Scarecrows exhibition (2014)
Visit Nunney has a long track record in conducting fresh research into Nunney’s local and community history. We use it as the basis for articles in our Heritage channel as well as exhibitions.

Our research has uncovered new information on the Nunney market charter, the Nunney hoard, child labour and the Temperance movement in Nunney.

We have written at length about everything from the Roman villa on the edge of Nunney, the history of Nunney Castle, the Nunney workhouse and the stories told by people still alive who lived in Nunney many years ago.

But not all of our research gets published. There are about 20 articles we’d love to finish, but that require more time and research than we – as volunteers – can muster.

Examples include:

  • When was Nunney Castle built? Most sources claim it was built in 1373, when Sir John de la Mere obtained a royal licence to ‘crenellate his manse’. But that could have just meant that he put an 8-foot perimeter wall around his already existing castle.
  • What really happened during the siege of Nunney Castle in 1645? We have very little actual information on the 3-day siege, which was really a very minor incident in the English Civil War. Again, most sources give contradicting dates (anything between 20 August and 9 September 1645) and names of regiments and officers involved. What happened with the art and furniture that was in the castle when the Prater family surrendered? Was it auctioned locally, as happened at Sherborne Castle days earlier?
  • Graffiti inside Nunney Castle includes a mysterious ‘W Collins 1865’. Oral history in the village claimed that the author Wilkie Collins, who almost single-handedly invented detective fiction, visited the village. He was certainly in the area in July 1865, but did he visit Nunney? We have important clues, but are not yet ready to publish the full story.

We also regularly get asked to help others research their family history. Our sizeable collection of old photos and maps of Nunney and extensive experience of local history research also helps people with planning applications, for example by showing porches, extensions and even entire buildings that previously existed.

We’ll shortly be publishing a report on our investigation into the history of Nunney Court, an interesting case study into a landmark local property.

Our ambition is still to make our entire archive available online. As volunteers with busy jobs the only thing holding us back for now are busy day jobs. Watch this space!