Mel Lambert's November 2003 Archive Visit

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In late June 2003, Nick Goy (JRGS 1963-70) first made contact with the Local Studies Library and the Croydon Archives while researching into the fate of the JRGS Organ. An initial visit occurred in August by Nick and Paul Graham (JRGS 1959-66), who met with the archivist, Chris Bennett. The Local Studies Archives, Nick and Paul discovered, contain a huge collection of historical documents from Croydon schools; the assembled memorabilia for John Ruskin is one of the more extensive.

During late-November 2003 this writer visited the Croydon Central Library, located in Katharine Street, during a whirlwind trip to England. The Local Studies Library and Archives Service forms part of Croydon Clocktower, a multi-million pound cultural centre in the heart of the town that offers exhibitions, a museum, live performance, art house films, the Central Library, a cafe, a balcony bar and a tourist information centre. Access to the Library is secured through a lower entrance; the Archive itself is located off the third-floor area.

Chris Bennett welcomed us warmly and had already gathered together a number of relevant documents for us to examine. With limited time at our disposal, we decided to focus on Mr. Lowe's School Record, a scrapbook of his time as headmaster, in addition to the official Log Book and other documents. (Digital images here are courtesy of  Merelyn Davis.)

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PCs & research tools within
the Local Studies Library.

Chris Bennett's colleague, Margaret Mumford.

A wide cross section of
materials are available.

Desk space for private study within the Croydon Archive

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ML with archivist Chris Bennett and The JRGS Log Book.

Mr. Lowe's School Record
with newspaper cuttings.

ML examining Mr. Lowe's fascinating School Record.

ML using Photo Stand to photograph documents.

"Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service," Chris Bennett explained, "is situated on Level 3 of the Central Library in Katharine Street, Croydon. It holds books, maps, newspapers and manuscripts relating to the history of the London Borough of Croydon and its predecessors. There is also the little matter of 40,000 photographs. We also have facilities for viewing microfilm - census returns, parish registers, etc. - and accessing the Internet.

   "Level 3 of the Central Library opened in 1993. We have a dedicated staff and a large search room with space for up to 40 readers. Everyone is welcome, whether they live in the London Borough of Croydon or not, and staff will always be pleased to help with enquiries in person or by letter, telephone or email [details below].

   "People use CLSL&A for a variety of reasons: family history, local or house history, reminiscence or school/university projects. We regularly entertain parties from local schools who use the photograph and map collections as part of their history coursework or for exhibition purposes. Sometimes the records are used for official business. We also have strong links with the many local history societies in the Croydon area as well as our colleagues in Croydon Museum Service."

Important Collections of School Records

   "One of our most important collections, and to which all of the above apply, are the school records," Chris emphasized. "Croydon has the best collection of school records of any London Borough and probably one of the best in the country. The school records are fully catalogued thanks to generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and this has built on the efforts of Dr. Ron Cox, himself a former teacher and Assistant Director of Education. Since the 1970s, Ron has surveyed the records at the schools and encouraged head teachers to deposit them with Croydon Archives Service.

   "The two main types of school record are log books and admission registers. Log books are a detailed log or diary compiled by the Head teacher of the schoolís activities, although in truth the amount of detail given varies from Head to Head!

   "As they were compiled in the expectation of confidentiality, and may contain personal details about entries in log books are closed for 50 years. They tend to be particularly interesting during the war years; the number of air raids that interrupted teaching and the experiences of evacuating whole schools.

   "Admission registers, unsurprisingly, record the names, addresses, birthdays, dates of admission and departure and next and previous schools of pupils. They also give parents names and, occasionally, occupations. They are therefore extremely useful for family historians as they not only give addresses but also family connections and mobility.

   "The school admission registers are probably the most popular type of record that we hold; they have been used for school projects, histories of the school and even by the Police. Officers from one of the local police stations have in recent years examined the admission registers of various schools when investigating cases of murder, alleged sexual assault and missing persons. They have also been used by people seeking proof that they were educated in this country and are therefore seeking to stay or else to obtain visas to work elsewhere.

   "CAS holds a complete run of John Ruskin log books and admission registers from 1920 to 1987. However, much other material was transferred here when the school closed in 1987: scrapbooks, magazines, programmes, the corporal punishment register and even, although we donít normally collect artifacts, some caps and badges!"

   Chris Bennett can be reached at Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service, Croydon Clocktower, Katharine Street, Croydon, CR9 1ET. Phone +44 (0) 20 8760 5400 x 61112; Fax +44 (0) 20 8253 1012; Email; Website.

   The department currently is open six days a week: Monday 9-7; Tuesday 9-6; Wednesday 9-6; Thursday 9.30-6; Friday 9-6; Saturday 9-5. Since the material is stored elsewhere, visitors who wish to view school archive documents should always contact Chris at least 24 hours in advance.

   A selection of newspaper images and images from the Mr. Lowe's School Record scrapbook can found here.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all scanned images and quotes on this page are Copyright Croydon Council, and are
reproduced by permission of Croydon Local Studies Library and Archives Service.

©2023 JRGS Alumni Society. All Rights Reserved. Last revised: 17.02.23