See the material for yourself on the National Archive
The Museum was recently a leading player in a project to list archives in museums and galleries, including the deeds and local history notes given to Godalming by Percy Woods, the local historian who died in 1922. You can now see the details for yourself on the National Archives 'Access to Archives' (A2A) site on the Web at www.a2a.org.uk.
The papers date from 1511 - in the Reign of Henry VIII
Seventy three deeds or bundles of papers have been listed, relating mainly to Chiddingfold, Godalming, Thursley and Witley, but including material about many places in West Surrey and a few in Sussex, Hampshire and what is now Greater London. The earliest item is a lease of a house and land in Witley called Byrklelond (later known as Birtley Farm) dated 26 April in the third year of the reign of Henry VIII (1511); the latest also relates to Witley but dates from Woods's lifetime - part of a bundle of papers concerning the purchase of a house and land at Milford End in 1865-1872.
The inter-relationship of the documents
Rather than listing each deed as a separate item, this catalogue shows the inter-relationship of documents relating to one property or the holdings of one person. The National Archives have presented the information well: the site shows very clearly the groupings of papers and gives short titles which indicate clearly what the item is and long descriptions so 'that researchers can pick up on particular search terms.
This local treasure trove is accessible from your desk
The A2A site, made possible by the money provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the enthusiasm and organisation of the staff both. at the National Archives and the institutions holding the documents, is a tremendous boon to historians and other researchers. You can access from your desk, no matter where in the world you live, the information in catalogues of record offices and other repositories throughout England and Wales, however obscure the repository or unexpected the location. Godalming Museum might well be seen as a place to enquire about Godalming events and people, but even local people might not know that it is a treasure trove of information about Cranleigh, Haslemere and the villages of West Surrey.
The deeds here also refer to natives of the locality who moved away, for instance to Manchester in the 17th century, and those (and there are quite a few) who emigrated to Australia in the 19th; the notes cover many other historical sources as well as these deeds. There is, for instance, a record on the Web site for each volume of Percy Woods's notes, giving the main subjects covered, so that anybody undertaking a key-word search may be able to pick up on a main location or family name. Specific queries can then be addressed to the Museum Library (open 1pm to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday) where the detailed database index can be consulted.
Already the material is researched from outside the county
We have already had one enquiry from a researcher in Shropshire who was searching the Web for references to his great-grandfather, Robert Eade, a Godalming stonemason. He was very happy to receive a copy of the deeds in bundle 'PWD/68' about the improvements to Godalming Wharf in the early nineteenth century, and he plans to visit the Museum to find out more.
For details, contact the Surrey History Service (Telephone ) or visit their Web site: www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistoryservice
And do tryout 'Access to Archives' you might be inspired to undertake some research yourself! Web site:: www.a2a.org.uk