Community archive room opens in Potton

Potton History Society annexe opening
Potton History Society annexe opening

Local history enthusiasts in Potton are celebrating a landmark day for the community.

Potton History Society has opened its new community archive room after raising the money to build and equip a 50 sqm annexe to the town’s Mill Lane pavilion.

From the archives - Lord Hill greets former Chronicle editor Fred Simms at the opening of Sandy Transmitter in 1965.

From the archives - Lord Hill greets former Chronicle editor Fred Simms at the opening of Sandy Transmitter in 1965.

The annexe was officially opened on Saturday, April 7 and already has a new group of volunteers working to catch up on two years of ‘in-tray’ material and to update indexes.

A speech was given by chairman George Howe at the opening, and the official unveiling was carried out by Charles Belcher, chairman of the Potton Consolidated Charity.

A special meeting will be held on Thursday, April 26 at 8pm in the community room of the Mill Lane Pavilion for a presentation about the archive and enable visitors to visit the annexe in small groups during the evening.

The growing collection has been kept in a stable for the last couple of decades before going into store while a new home was found. Potton Consolidated Charity provided a generous grant towards building an annexe to their Mill Lane community and sports pavilion.

Further grants from the William Delafield Trust and the Foyle Foundation enabled building to begin last summer.

Society founder member Peter Ibbett said: “It has taken since completion last September to move in our collection and to organise it ready for use. Now we have a space to store and work on the collection as well as tables and chairs for small groups of up to 20 or so to explore the archive and to add to it.”

The new annexe will also host small free exhibitions, the first of which will be Potton’s Greensand Heritage, on Sunday, June 3, from 10am to 4pm, which will be part of the county’s nine-day Greensand Festival.

The society, now with 80 members, dates back to 1977 when founding secretary Patricia Yates had a small local history collection which fitted on her dining room table and a filing cabinet for photographs and documents.

Peter added: “One of the most satisfying things about our community archive is how material which otherwise might have been lost has been kept and finds new interest decades later. Recently we had an enquiry from a national newspaper journalist working on a project to find audio memories of the Victorian era.

“When we began the society in 1977 we did some cassette recordings of Potton’s oldest inhabitants and we do have some verbal memories of growing up in Potton in the 1890’s. These might find their way into a national archive and possibly be part of a TV series. It shows how important a local archive collection can be.

“Anyone who wants to become involved with the work of the archive is most welcome and can find out more from www.pottonhistorysociety.org.uk”