The Guild Archives
The Guild has every reason to be proud of its Library, housed in the tower of St George’s, Stockport. From the beginning, in 1932, it contained several manuscript items amongst the books. Many came from the Revd A.T. Beeston himself, but since the creation of the library other items were deposited there for want of no other suitable repository. In his Beeston Library Report of 1982 the then Librarian (Andrew C. D. Mayes) mentioned ‘an increasing interest of late in archival material’ and wrote that he would be interested in receiving views on the formation of a separate archives section. He wrote with a little more urgency in his report of the following year and pressed members to give more thought to the material ‘tucked away in belfries’. In the following year a sub-committee of the General Committee was formed with the task of looking into the setting up of an archives section. Things then moved quickly and at the 1984 Guild AGM, held at Grappenhall, an Archivist was appointed. He was David Adams, and he still remains in that office.
It was decided to house the Guild Archives in the Addleshaw Tower, Chester and it was felt that any incoming material should be stored in a cabinet donated to the memory of A.R. Elkins, who had been Guild Master 1967-68. He was, incidentally, the father of Mary Lewis. This cabinet is currently full of various manuscript and other items; and so are other cupboards and bookcases which were donated much later. Andrew Mayes mentioned in his 1985 Library Report that a ‘plan of campaign’ had been devised to discuss the storage arrangements, and that a meeting had been held with the County and Diocesan Archivist. It was, soon after the formation of the Archives Section, that the Guild Archivist sent a copy of his catalogue to the County Archivist. On visiting the Addleshaw Tower the County Archivist expressed his concern on seeing so many valuable items stored in less than optimum conditions. Subsequently much of this material found its way into the Cheshire Record Office. There will always be a need to make such deposits.
The Guild Archives contain many documents of great historical interest. There are for instance the first Guild Minute Book (1887-1899), the Guild Peal Book (1888-1912), records of the individual branches (some going back into the 19th century), several individual peal books, a good and growing collection of photographs, and much more. The Archives are there to receive any of that material of which Andrew Mayes wrote: anything which might have accumulated over several decades in the belfries of Guild towers. Frequently items are received after the deaths of ringers, or they are passed on by individuals anxious to declutter their homes and mindful of what might end up in a skip, rather than being kept for posterity.
Just as the old Beeston Library contained manuscript items as well as books, the Archives also have printed material. This duplicates, to some extent, the Stockport collection of copies of Bell News, Ringing World, and Annual Reports. There is, in fact, an almost complete set of the latter in the Archives.
Some material will have to stay in the Addleshaw Tower, the CRO not being able to accept everything it is offered. All ringers in the Guild, however, should examine what is housed in their towers, including some of the wonderful photographs on the walls. The Archivist is always willing to accept what is offered, however ephemeral it might first appear. It is not necessary to come to Chester, as the Archivist is quite happy to travel to you.