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NEWPORT VILLAGE RECORDER

REPORT FOR 2009

The beginning of 2009 was dominated by preparations for the ULHR History Fair both in terms of contributing to the fair organisation and developing the exhibition for the Newport LHG. The fair proved a major success both as an event and in stimulating interest in local history with many enquiries and new connections made. It was a particular pleasure to meet descendants of the Gayler family of Newport with whom I have had an extended correspondence concerning their family history.

The mammoth exercise of mounting the parish registers and catalogue of Newport Bygones collection on the ULHR web site was completed in January. The web site has attracted much attention and several enquiries have been received via that source.

Routine enquiries were received at a rate of 2 to 3 per month and were dealt with as quickly as possible, mostly by reference to existing databases or with help from the local history group. Approximately 50% of these came through the Uttlesford Local History Recorder's Web site. E mail has been a valuable tool in handling these enquiries.

During the early part of the year much effort was devoted to transcription of articles from the first series (small format) of Newport News into word processor files. With the assistance of other village recorders, the history articles of the first 21 volumes have been transcribed into a format suitable to be placed on the web. However, there remains much work to be done, including development of a suitable site structure before the website can be launched. Due to the limited resources available and pressure of other work, site development work is slow and this will be a long term project.

Following research on Sir John St Aubyn, a short article was published in Newport News on the St Aubyn servants tombs in the Churchyard at Newport. I am advised by the Plymouth City Museum that a travelling exhibition on Sir John will visit Saffron Walden in 2010/11.

Several boxes of documents etc were received from the executors of the late Joy Pugh. These continue the working documents and papers of this prominent local historian. They have been catalogued and will be retained as part of the Local History Group collections. In addition the Newport News archive of photographs of Newport has been received for storage following the retirement of Angela Archer as editor.

Research into the history of Shortgrove has continued and a number of valuable new leads followed up. This has considerably extended our knowledge on the O'Brien and Smith periods of ownership. In the case of the Smith's, a collection of letters and family papers has been inspected and scans of the majority of them obtained. They include letters to Joseph Smith from important figures of the period, extracts from a family biography and journal (which desribes a family visit to Shortgrove), various family trees and images including those of William and Fanny Smith. The latter are unique and are in the posession of a descendant of John James Smith, fourth son of Joseph Smith. This archive emphasises the importance of Joseph Smith to Pitt the younger during a notably turbulent period of british history. Due to the large number of items, full analysis of this archive will take some time but work thus far has revealed much interesting information.

In addition, the existence of two other Smith family archives has been identified. One is the manuscript collection of Philip Vernon Smith, a grandson of Joseph Smith through his third son, George James Philip. A printed copy of this collection is contained in the National Manuscript Record which has been inspected through the good offices of my colleague Anthony Tuck. It contains mostly official papers but includes a number of letters directed personally to Joseph Smith seeking his support in obtaining patronage. It reinforces the preceeding comments on Joseph Smith but adds little to the overall picture. The third collection was listed as being held at the Ipswich Record Office. However, many years ago it was withdrawn by the unknown owners whom I am attempting to trace through the Ipswich Record Office.

Overall a very busy year with time available only for items of high priority. In 2010 the priority in the first part of the year will be to progress participation in a project to develop a History of Newport in the Victoria County History style. During 2009 a formal agreement was reached with the VCH management for a team of researchers to work under the leadership of Anthony Tuck with a two year target for completion. Some basic work on the manors of Shortgrove and Newport Pond has already been undertaken.

The local history group enjoyed a good year with a well attended varied and interesting set of meetings. This included a lecture on Shortgrove and Its Owners by myself. There was also a most enjoyable series of excursions.

On the Village scene little has changed during the year. Traffic congestion at rush hours has become more problematic, especially during the school runs and parking issues remain.

The Village Hall renewal programme has continued and the facilities have been extended and substantially improved.

Bowker Close, the affordable housing development at the south of the village was officially opened by Princess Anne in January 2009. It is fully occupied and an excellent addition to the village. A small number of in-fill housing projects have been undertaken in the village. One of them, the Foxgloves development of houses on the former council highways yard has been almost completed with a significant number already occupied. A new project to build affordable housing near the primary school off Frambury Lane is at the consultation stage. There is some resistance to the project by nearby residents and the school management with their principal concerns centered on road access issues.

Commercial projects remain at a low level with the closure of a dress shop and upholstery/furniture shop balanced by the opening of a farm produce/deli, the re-opening of the garage and petrol station and an audio technology company.

David Evans; Newport Village Recorder
newportsxrec@yahoo.co.uk

January 2010