MIL-OSI UK Cities: Greater Manchester’s oldest surviving archive collection saved by Manchester City Council

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Source: City of Manchester

Greater Manchester’s oldest surviving archive collection has been saved for posterity by Manchester City Council.

The Assheton of Middleton estate archive collection, purchased by Manchester City Council, will now have a permanent home in the Greater Manchester County Record Office at Manchester Central Library ensuring that people in Greater Manchester and beyond will continue to have access to this outstanding local history collection.

The archive sheds light on local life in the medieval and early modern era between Greater Manchester’s better-known Roman and industrial revolution stories.

It is an outstanding example of a medieval family archive with nationally important items relating to the English Civil War, the Middleton Bowmen, the Black Knight, and the royal court of the Plantagenets, as well as unique local history sources recording the local Middleton population.

The purchase of the 1400 items was made possible by generous funding support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, The V&A Purchase Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries and Manchester Central Library Development Trust.

The collection contains some fascinating items including the earliest surviving written document, the 1197 Articles of Agreement which divided lands within the Assheton estate between Roger de Middleton and William de Radcliffe in the Greater Manchester area. It was witnessed by ‘Adam, parson of Middleton’ so it is also the earliest evidence of a church in Middleton.

The Heritage Fund grant, made possible by National Lottery players, will also allow Archives+ to invest in the collection, developing a programme of education and outreach activities aimed at schools and local communities in Middleton, Rochdale, and Manchester.

Councillor John Hacking, Manchester City Council’s Executive Member for Skills, Employment and Leisure said:

“After many years of hard work behind the scenes, we are immensely pleased to have finally secured the future of this nationally significant archive for the future of Greater Manchester and to be able to give it a permanent home with Greater Manchester County Record Office at Manchester Central Library. This is a fascinating and rich collection of documents showing colourful glimpses into medieval English life and is an important part of Greater Manchester’s early heritage.”

Councillor Janet Emsley, Rochdale Borough Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Equity, Safety and Reform said:

“We are absolutely delighted that the Assheton Archive has been secured for future generations to enjoy. The historic significance of this collection of unique documents sheds light on the Assheton’s family’s importance not only in the town of Middleton, but across the whole country. Our thanks go to all the funders and staff who have worked tirelessly to secure this wonderful collection of documents.”

Helen Featherstone, Director, England, North at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“We are delighted that, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this important collection will now have a permanent home in Manchester Central Library and be preserved for years to come. It is exciting to know that local people will be able to experience the archive and have a glimpse into Greater Manchester’s lesser known but rich medieval history, connecting with the heritage that is right on their doorstep. The North of England is the home to fascinating heritage, and we know it is a great way of bringing people together and furthering a sense of pride of place in communities.”

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