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Bury Society petition to keep archives in Bury St Edmunds passes 1,700 signatures





More than 1,700 people have signed a petition calling for West Suffolk archives to remain in Bury St Edmunds.

A paper petition launched by The Bury Society has now amassed more than 1,450 signatures while an online version, launched on Friday, has attracted another 285.

The petition calls for all original documents including historic collections, photographs, maps, plans, council records, newspapers and personal items to remain in the town.

Eve Burrows, Bury Society member; John Popham, Bury St Edmunds Town Trust and Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society, with copies of petition. Picture: Mark Westley
Eve Burrows, Bury Society member; John Popham, Bury St Edmunds Town Trust and Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society, with copies of petition. Picture: Mark Westley

Suffolk County Council (SCC) plans to close the archives branch in Raingate Street, along with that in Lowestoft, as part of budget cuts.

SuffolkNews is also campaigning to ‘Save Our History’ and is urging the county council to keep the archives in Bury.

The council meanwhile has announced it will establish a working party after its budget meeting on Thursday to determine which records could be moved to The Hold, in Ipswich, and which must stay.

The petition has attracted more than 1,700 signatures. Picture: Mark Westley
The petition has attracted more than 1,700 signatures. Picture: Mark Westley

Martyn Taylor, chair of the Bury Society, said: “Hundreds of people are coming forward to sign the petition.

“We know there are archives in Bury which cannot move such as the Cullum Library collection, Suffolk Regiment archives, Bury Hospital archives and the Abbey archives, as these were specifically bequeathed to the town.

“But we need people’s support to convince Suffolk County Council that all of our our local archives must remain where they are accessible and relevant; in Bury.”

According to the county council, retaining them at the Raingate Street building would require a £5 million investment to keep the building fit for purpose. The council said it has been forced into the move by West Suffolk Council’s decision to shelve the Western Way Hub development and said centralising the archives in Ipswich would allow further investment in the service.

Scores of people gathered outside the records office in Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds, in January when the plans were first announced to oppose the move. Picture: Mark Westley
Scores of people gathered outside the records office in Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds, in January when the plans were first announced to oppose the move. Picture: Mark Westley

The Bury Society had called on SCC to establish a working party to first look into ‘all possibilities’ for keeping the archives in town. The plea to explore options has been backed by Bury MP Jo Churchill – in light of what is affordable.

But Bobby Bennett, SCC cabinet member for equality and communities, said: “We plan to engage with stakeholders after the council’s budget has been set on February 15. While we no longer have the funds necessary to construct or operate a new archive facility in Bury, we will look to convene a working party to discuss how those archives that depositors request to remain locally are able to do so.”

To sign the petition, visit: www.burysociety.com

SuffolkNews is also campaigning to keep West Suffolk Archives in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley
SuffolkNews is also campaigning to keep West Suffolk Archives in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley

Meanwhile, a village history recorder is calling for people to back the campaign to keep the West Suffolk Archive branch in Bury St Edmunds.

Sue Spiller, recorder for Ixworth and Ixworth Thorpe, along with Dr Rachel Wood, a Suffolk Archives user from Newmarket, has drawn up a seven-point list of arguments for retaining the branch:

Financial concerns

The projected savings of £140,000 are miniscule in terms of the overall Suffolk County Council (SCC) budget of £752 million (0.019 per cent).

The petition calls for all original documents including historic collections, photographs, maps, plans, council records, newspapers and personal items to remain in the town. Picture: Mark Westley
The petition calls for all original documents including historic collections, photographs, maps, plans, council records, newspapers and personal items to remain in the town. Picture: Mark Westley

Loss of confidence in local government

Last February, SCC stated that ‘consolidating the service at the Hold is considered to be the least desirable option’.

Loss of heritage and the effect on the community

West and East Suffolk each have a unique heritage. For part of their history, have even been separate counties.

Loss of access, leading to loss of users

Ipswich is not the focal point of west Suffolk, and The Hold is not easy to reach and parking is insufficient.

Loss of volunteers

Current and future volunteers at West Suffolk Archives will be disinclined to travel to The Hold each week.

Loss of expertise and knowledge

A local record office is a place where history is discussed, with users share their findings and staff passing on expertise.

Loss to the collection

Once an archive is moved, the connection with local people is lost and cultural value is diminished.

Comparison with neighbouring counties

Cambridgeshire and Norfolk each have two record offices.