The Northamptonshire Archives Service has cared for the Westmorland of Apethorpe collection since 1950. The collection represents over 800 years of the history and responsibilities of the Earls of Westmorland. With its large concentration of Elizabethan and Jacobean material, it is an archive of pre-eminent national importance but also key in documenting the history of North-East Northamptonshire. Of particular interest are the exchequer papers of Sir Walter Mildmay (1520-1589), papers relating to the Commonwealth period and Lady Grace Mildmay’s medical notes (1552-1620).
With the support of an active local campaign group and generous grants from a number of national fundraising bodies the collection was purchased by Northamptonshire County Council in 2012.
The condition of the collection is consistent with its long history of private and public use. There are many damaged seals, the majority of documents have significant surface dirt and there are tears and weak areas. However, there are also examples of beautiful pedigrees and illuminated documents which are in almost perfect condition. For such items the priority is to provide them with appropriate packaging to support their preservation.
The grant from The National Manuscripts Conservation Trust (£25,480 awarded in 2013) has enabled the Archives Service to employ a project conservator for 9 months and to employ conservators at the Leather Conservation Centre to treat several of the highly unusual items including a leather document box.
To support this work, the Archives Service has recruited and trained a group of enthusiastic local volunteers to help with the cleaning and packaging of un-damaged documents.
The conservation project was completed in 2014 and as a result the documents in the collection are now fully accessible to the public and the preservation of the collection as a whole is assured.
You can find out more about the conservation of the Westmorland of Apethorpe Archive on the project blog at: northamptonshirearchives.com
A gallery of images showing items from the collection can be viewed below, just click on each image to see it at full size. All images on this page are used with the kind permission of Northamptonshire Archives Service.