NEWPORT VILLAGE RECORDER
REPORT FOR 2006
I took over from Terry Searle around August 2006 by which time he had handed over his Newport Bygones Collection to Newport LHG. His legacy to me was two discs cataloguing the collection.
Later that month I became aware that Rookes House on Elephant Green was on the market and decided to talk to the owners (Mr & Mrs Bray) before they left to record the state of the property. The Bray’s produced a large number of original documents relating to their house dating from 1735 and proved to be very keen to have them recorded and properly stored. Subsequently, all the documents were catalogued and in most cases scanned using the ULHR equipment.This was not possible in all cases since some were large multi-page vellum deeds bound with tapes and sealed with wax thus preventing separation or flattening for processing without permanent change.In some cases large documents were processed in sections and the files merged using appropriate software to enable storage and printing.This took considerable time as it was necessary to acquire and learn to use appropriate hardware and software. Overall it took four to five months to complete this task and to prepare the collection (including pertinent papers, mostly from Newport News)for depositing at ERO.This included obtaining acid free stationery and boxes to protect the documents during storage. Copies were also prepared for the Brays and the Village Recorder Collection.The next project of this kind should be much faster.
During that period, recorders copies of the RUTH database software were distributed. Opportunity was taken to initiate the Newport records project using the Rookes House document collection.This was a steep learning curve and after various glitches the files were sent to the ULHR website and are now accessible, though with some limitations.Subsequently,the preliminary catalogue for Newport Bygones was placed on RUTH.Further work is required to refine the system accessible on the ULHR website.At the time of writing a total of over 200 Newport records have been prepared covering, in addition to the above, documentation relating to Shortgrove Estate and its owners.Much of that information is worthy of further analysis which will be undertaken as time allows i.e. slowly!.
In parallel with the above, two long term projects have been started to enable a visual record of the village to be developed.The first is to digitally photograph every property in the village starting at the north end.The second is to collect the sales literature produced by estate agents as properties become available.The second will complement the first, providing information on the turnover of properties as well as pictures of the properties including plans in many cases.Existing images from established collections (Bygones and private) will be added as time allows. It is clear that there is a high turnover of properties reflecting the commuter status of many of its inhabitants and that property values have been driven strongly upwards by heavy demand and lack of availability, particularly at the affordable/starter home sector.
Expansion of Newport has continued, mainly at the southern and to a lesser extent at the northern extremities.At the north end, developments have involved mainlya small number of replacement or infill housing.Along London Road, green-field developments of executive and affordable housing has commenced, the latter a first in Newport.
There has been a decline in commercial activities.Employment opportunities are static and commercial activities are in decline with at least three retail properties available and empty for much of the year.There have been no new infrastructure developments of significance though expansion of the Grammar School continues.Traffic problems have increased with delays commonplace along the High Street at peak hours.Problems are also caused by more frequent closure of the M11 as a result of accidents. Newport and other villages along the old A11 then provide the principal diversion route.
The youth centre in the village was closed and sold by Essex County Council for redevelopment.With the assistance of Parish and Uttlesford Council alternative facilites have been established at the Scout’s Hall.
A major fund raising campaign was started to refurbish the Village Hall with the expectation of a start in late 2007 depending on supporting grants being obtained.
The Local History Group continues to provide a focus for lectures and history trips.2006 saw consolidation of the membership with good attendance to a varied programme of lectures by villagers and others.
Newport News continues to provide a notably high quality medium for publication of local history articles and of issues and items of interest to the local community.
NEWPORT VILLAGE RECORDER
REPORT FOR 2007
The original deeds for Rookes House, Newport were delivered to the ERO for permanent storage.They described them as an unusually complete set of documents.
Early in the year I was able to acquire a substantial collection of Newport post cards on behalf of anonymous benefactors and presented them to Newport LHG.This collection, comprising about 120 cards was then catalogued including a short description of the image and message etc.Subsequently this was extended to include all postcards in the Bygones collection and the information transferred to RUTH.
A database has been developed covering images of Newport in Newport News. The information includes the content, location, date, volume number/page/issue and a comments field. This database covers all volumes up to and including 2006 and will beupdated at regular intervals.
A substantial archive of published, unpublished information maps etc on Shortgrove Estate it’s owners and occupiers has been prepared.It extends to over 130 items from all sources ranging from Newport News to the Web.Much of this information has been catalogued on RUTH.While much is known about the history of the Estate, there are major gaps in our knowledge notably in terms of the appearance of the interior of the Hall with only three or four known images of the interior.
In the latter part of the year three members of the LHG were allowed access to a 17’th century limekiln on Shortgrove Estate.A preliminary survey of the site involving a photographic record and visual inspection was made. The kiln is a sophisticated brick structure of a type only found in East Anglia only a few of which are still extant. The structure has partly collapsed and is under threat from infiltration by substantial and scrub trees and by dumping of builders rubble in the chalk pit.A report on the kiln has been placed on confidential limited circulation. A copy of the report has been sent to English Heritage who have ‘noted’ its contents but made no comment! It is thought that the kiln is worthy of some protection and conservation, but acquiring funds, securing access to this private estate etc is likely to be problematic.Further visits to the site are planned when weather conditions allow. Some research has been undertaken on lime kilns and processes.
The long term project on a digital image library has continued with most of the north south axis and Wicken Rd completed.
Following the death of Imogen Mollet her history papers were given to the LHG and were divided among the LHG committee for storage.My share comprised three archive boxes(86 files) and a map case (36 items) which have been catalogued on paper; most of them areworking files for Newport News articles.The map case contains a number of useful original and copies oftithe, estate and OS maps.
The Village has changed very little since the 2006 report.
The affordable housing project at the south of the village is complete and fully occupied.It has been a successful introduction and it is to be hoped that further developments of this type will occur.Minor other developments primarily of an infill nature have occurred, the most notable of them being the conversion of the former Studio/Youth Centre to a private residence.
Traffic problems continue during rush hours and the thankfully small number of M11 closures.The organising committee have secured funding for the renovation of the Village Hall and work has started.
The LHG and Newport News have gone from strength to strength and remain the principal focus for history in the village.
David Evans; Newport Village Recorder; email@example.com