2012 UK Memory of the World Register

On 9 July 2013 eleven items and collections became the third round of inscriptions to the UK Memory of the World Register, a list of documentary heritage which holds cultural significance specific to the UK. These inscriptions are:


Tyne & Wear Shipyards collection

Tyne Wear Chipyards collection

Type of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums

Further Info: Tyne & Wear Archives website

The shipbuilding collections deposited at Tyne & Wear Archives are the major source of information on the many shipyards in the North-East of England that helped to shape the unique identity of the region and made shipbuilding one of the key economic activities on Tyneside and Wearside. The industry also made a significant contribution to world maritime history.

Many ships built in the region are of great historical significance and include Charles Parsons’ first steam turbine yacht Turbinia, the famous liners Mauretania, the Carpathia, (involved in the rescue of Titanic survivors), the Dominion Monarch, (the largest diesel motor driven ship in the world when completed in 1939), HMS Ark Royal and HMS Illustrious. The records are strong in both breadth and depth, and no other archive in England and Wales appears to hold such a wide and comprehensive range of material.


Aberdeen Burgh Registers

Aberdeen Burgh Registers

Type of heritage: Document
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: Aberdeen City Council

Further Info: Aberdeen City Council archives website

The first eight volumes of the Burgh Registers for Aberdeen between 1398 and 1509 represents the earliest and most complete body of surviving records of any Scottish town. Apart from the government’s Exchequer Rolls and Register of the Great Seal, these records are the only near-continuous record for Scotland in the fifteenth century and an unrivalled insight into the political and social life of the Scottish medieval town. The depth of detail in these records is unique as the registers include not only the records of the town council, which usually met twice a week, but of the bailie, guildry and head courts.

Because of its isolated geographical location, Aberdeen’s sphere of influence during this period was disproportionately large, stretching far inland to the west as well as north and east to Scandinavia and the Baltic. As a consequence, the Burgh Registers are significant not only in terms of the light that they shed on an important urban centre in this period, but also in a wider national and indeed Northern European context.


Hitchcock’s Silent Films


Type of heritage: Films
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: British Film Institute (BFI)

Further Info: BFI website

While Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famous film directors of all time, his first ten silent films – nine of which survive – are little known compared to his later work. Made between 1925 and 1929, the silent films are among the greatest achievements of British silent cinema, and are blueprints for the rest of his body of work, containing many of his characteristic motifs and obsessions.

The restoration of the ‘Hitchcock 9’ was the largest restoration project the BFI has ever undertaken. The BFI holds some of the most important and earliest surviving copies of the silent Hitchcock films, including negatives; and materials were also sourced from international archives. These restorations ensure that the works of one of Britain’s greatest artists can be appreciated on the big screen as they were meant to be seen. Excitingly, the restorations have not only revealed the films looking crisper and fresher than ever, but also new layers of meaning have been uncovered. The restoration of Hitchcock’s silent films has enabled the discovery of extra material as well as a deeper appreciation of the precocious genius at work.


Churchill Archives

Churchill Archives

Type of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College

Further Info: Churchill Archives Centre website

The collection is the personal archive of Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), soldier, writer, politician, orator and statesman, and perhaps the most famous British public and political figure of the modern era. The archive was assembled by Sir Winston during his long life and career and comprises his personal, public, political and literary correspondence and papers, including his drafts and annotated notes for his celebrated speeches and broadcasts. The material consists of some one million items stored in two and a half thousand archival boxes. It is pre-eminent not just for its quantity but also for its quality, including correspondence with leading political, literary and social figures of the age, and papers about major events from the Boer War to the Cold War. It provides a window on the twentieth century from the perspective of a man who helped to shape it, and includes the originals for many of his enduring words and phrases.


The Haig Papers

Haig PapersType of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: National Library of Scotland

Further Info: National Library of Scotland

The role of the British Army in the First World War and the competence or otherwise of her generals continues to be a subject of debate. As Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Field Marshal Douglas Haig commanded the largest British Army ever assembled and, for his role in the war, has become arguably the most controversial general in the Army’s history. Haig kept a diary throughout the war, and this momentous document now forms part of Haig’s personal papers at the National Library of Scotland.

The diary is vital to understanding key battles such as the Somme and Passchendaele through Haig’s own words, recorded on an almost daily basis. It is of national importance because, although no one single document can tell the whole story, it is at the heart of the documentary evidence that has informed modern opinion on the First World War. Whilst research in more recent years has begun to move away from focusing on the successes or failures of a small number of generals, the diary has remained central to an understanding of not just the role played by Haig, but of the British Army, her generals and her allies. It offers an insight into how and why decisions were made as events unfolded in the fields of Belgium, France and beyond. Regardless of one’s viewpoint on Haig’s own character or abilities, the diary is an essential element of the documentary heritage of the First World War. Written in these circumstances, the diary offers an immediacy that few documentary sources can in the day-to-day record and analysis of this cataclysm.

Domesday Book

Domesday Book

Type of heritage: Books
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: The National Archives

Further Info: The National Archives

Domesday provides a unique snapshot of English society at a pivotal moment in its history. It is by far the most complete surviving record of pre-industrial society anywhere in the world. It is The National Archives’ earliest surviving public record and, perhaps, the most iconic. Commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1085, it records in immense detail who held what land and rights in England and parts of Wales, both before the Norman Conquest in 1066 and after it.

The Norman Conquest had not only resulted in a wholesale replacement of the aristocracy in England, it also created a new structure of landholding which would be the basis of society for hundreds of years to come. Thus Domesday provides a unique snapshot of the kingdom at a pivotal moment in its history and provides a detailed record of a ruthless cross-channel culture that would go on to control Wales and parts of Ireland. Further, it records the foundations of a societal and governmental structure that lasted for centuries, the elite of which would go on to control the rest of the British Isles, much of France and parts of the near East.


Royal Scottish National Institution archives

Scottish Royal National Institution

Type of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: University of Stirling

Further Info: University of Stirling Archives website

Established in 1862, the Royal Scottish National Institution was the foremost institution providing custodial care for mentally impaired children in Scotland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It gained an international reputation for its enlightened approach to care and treatment attracting patients from England and across the British Empire. The extensive archives of the institution which survive provide a comprehensive record of the management and operation of the hospital. Of particular note is the large collection of over 3,000 application forms for admission to the institution.

These documents provide a wealth of information about children from all across Scotland who required treatment and care; the lives of their parents and families; and the figures in their local communities who supported their applications. The stories of these children are recorded in the case notes and other hospital records which document their treatment and care. Unsuccessful applications were also retained by the institution resulting in an archive which provides a wider historical picture of the mental health of children across Scotland.


Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journal

Dorothy Wordsworth Journal

Type of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: Wordsworth Trust

Further Info: Wordsworth Trust website

Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere journal is a work of literature of international significance. It was also the inspiration for her brother William, one of the leading figures of British Romanticism. The journal gives readers today a unique insight into the lives of these two remarkable people.  William and Dorothy Wordsworth arrived at Dove Cottage, Grasmere, in 1799, when they were both in their late twenties. In May 1800, William left Grasmere for a short absence and Dorothy decided to write a journal for his ‘pleasure’ when he returned. So began a journal that she continued to write for the next thirty or so months.

Four notebooks survive; a fifth, covering most of 1801, is now missing. The journal was written largely within the Dove Cottage household and describes in Dorothy’s beautiful prose her observations of domestic life, her neighbourhood and the natural world. It also records one of the world’s greatest poets at work.  From the journal we can picture the scene of brother and sister walking, talking, reading and writing together. It is an intimate portrait of a life in a place which, to them, was an earthly paradise.


Thomas Hardy Archive

Thomas Hardy Archive corrected

Type of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: Dorset County Museum

Further Info: Dorset County Museum website

Thomas Hardy is a literary figure of international importance, both seminal and transitional. The universal themes of his writing include time, love, loss, nature, place and war.  Whilst chronicling the traditional culture of rural Dorset and surrounding area, he writes of the impact of new ideas, scientific discoveries, and social mobility on this previously unchanging world.   Hardy questions inequality, injustice and hypocrisy and other concerns which resonate with modern readers.  During his long life he wrote some fourteen novels, about one thousand poems, a great Napoleonic epic, more than fifty short stories and countless letters. The Thomas Hardy Collection at the Dorset County Museum is unique in that a substantial part was donated by Thomas Hardy, or bequeathed by his widow. The collection features many original manuscripts, including three novels, Under the Greenwood Tree, The Woodlanders and The Mayor of Casterbridge and two books of verse, Satires of Circumstance and Late Lyrics and Earlier.


London County Council Bomb Damage Maps

Type of heritage: CollectionWorldPressFreedom
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: London Metropolitan Archives

Further Info: London Metropolitan Archives website

These printed maps were extensively annotated with the use of colour keys by the Architects Department of the London County Council to indicate, building by building, bomb damage during the Second World War. This is the most detailed record of damage to London’s built environment caused by aerial bombardment. An iconic and multi-layered source for London’s experience of war and its aftermath, it conveys complex survey data in the tradition of Leake’s Great Fire map, Milne’s land use map, Mylne’s geological maps and Booth’s poverty maps.

Used frequently by architects, surveyors, town planners and local and family historians seeking information on the precise degree of damage suffered by properties across the 117 square miles of the London Region 1940-1945, the maps are a symbol of Londoners’ resilience in adversity and highlight the enormous effort and forethought of the London County Council to serve London and Londoners in their ‘hour of need’. Used by Patrick Abercrombie and John Henry Forshaw in drawing up the County of London Plan (1943) and the Greater London Plan (1944) to rebuild the capital in the post-war period, the maps are a key source for studies of post-war town planning in London and UK.


Robert Stephenson and Company archives

Robert Stephenson and Company Archives

Type of heritage: Collection
Date of inscription: 2012
Nominating institution: National Railway Museum

Further Info: National Railway Museum

The archives of Robert Stephenson & Co. are the unique documentary record of how the UK gave railways to the world. Formed in 1823 by George Stephenson and his son Robert, for some time they were the UK’s only locomotive manufacturing concern. They were the first railway manufacturing firm to organise production on modern industrial lines, the first to introduce a dedicated drawing office, the first to develop sophisticated record-keeping. Rocket was their most famous locomotive, but Stephenson men and machines were at the heart of the first railways in France, Belgium, Prussia, Egypt, Australia, Peru, and many American states, to name but a few. Stephenson & Co. launched the UK’s railway export trade and were responsible for the UK’s dominance of the world’s railway market in the late 19th century.

The collection contains the firm’s first minute book, charting its development into a sophisticated business, a near-complete series of order books graphically illustrating the firm’s national and global reach, and series of engine description and completion books recording their products in detail. The sequence of over 160 drawings, selected by the firm themselves, illustrate the technical development of the locomotive from crude colliery workhorse to international motive power driven by George Stephenson’s innovation and Robert Stephenson’s organisation and drive.