Volunteers Wanted for Exciting New Local History Project

More soldiers and civilians were killed through war, famine and disease during the English Civil Wars (1642-1651) than in the First World War in proportion to the population (3.6% against about 2%) and in arguably more traumatic circumstances yet the impact of the Civil Wars has received little attention. This project seeks to reclaim the hidden heritage of ordinary people in the parishes of the war-torn ‘frontier’ county of Warwickshire by engaging volunteers in the transcription and interpretation of an important set of documents which cover nearly 75% of the ‘old’ county’s ‘constabularies’ (roughly, the parish). The ‘Loss Accounts’ (1646/7) record losses by the parish and named individuals, in money and goods given to the Parliamentarian army through onerous taxation, loans, free quarter [board and lodging] and plunder as its troops continually marched through the county. They are an invaluable source for exploring how people made sense of this “war without an enemy” and how they suffered through the impact of continuous warfare.

The Project Manager, Dr Maureen Harris, has been working for the past year with the Dugdale Society, the ‘Friends of Warwickshire County Record Office’ and staff at WCRO, to set up the project with Heritage Lottery funding to train volunteers from several heritage, parish and civic societies, universities and U3A groups etc across Warwickshire to transcribe their local ‘Accounts’ which she will edit. They will eventually be formatted on a publicly searchable WCRO website with an accompanying Dugdale Society printed volume for which she will provide a detailed interpretative chapter, calendar of all the ‘Accounts’ and a detailed index of people and places.

There is an opportunity for 1 or 2 volunteers from villagesfor which ‘Loss Accounts’ survive and who fulfil the following criteria to take part. They should have:

  • the ability to receive and send information digitally to the Project Manager
  • no, or little, previous experience of visiting record offices
  • no, or little, previous experience of using original records
  • no, or little, previous experience of reading C17th handwriting
  • a strong desire to learn more about the impact of the Civil Wars on ordinary people and in localities close to where they live
  • time to spend attending training workshops and working on the ‘Accounts’ at home

The volunteers will be trained in seventeenth-century palaeography and supported personal transcription and interpretation of the ‘Accounts’ at home for their own or adjacent parishes, and asked to work with small ‘buddy’ groups from their ‘home’ institutions so their knowledge can be shared with others. The volunteers will be given the opportunity to put the ‘Loss Accounts’ into context by means of approximately monthly supportive meetings starting in May 2018 and continuing for 12 to 18 months, consisting of workshops, lectures, visits to record offices and centres for civil war study, discussion and the provision of much background material in the form of document copies and transcriptions. They will also be encouraged to use other archive sources at record offices to discover more about the people and places mentioned in their ‘Accounts’ and to share their knowledge with their ‘home’ institutions. At the end of the project, and after training in presentation, they will assist with the production of displays of what they have learned for the general public at local libraries/schools and at a public ‘launch’.

The Project Manager will be assisted by 4 or 5 members of the ‘Friends of the Warwickshire County Record Office’ who have skills to help volunteers with some aspects of the training, particularly using original records to research the named individuals in the ‘Loss Accounts’, but who themselves want to transcribe some of the ‘Accounts’ and learn more about the impact of the civil wars on ordinary people in Warwickshire.

If you would like the opportunity to be involved as a main volunteer, please contact Maureen Harris on email:  meh@maureeneharris.co.uk or phone 02476 543814 for more information


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