Phil Baildon, A7CA Archivist writes…
The standard definition is “keeper of public records” however it’s not just being a keeper-that could easily be a bank vault where things disappear into a black hole never to be seen by “public”. Knowledge and care is all part of it so with a drawing background and a fascination with correct parts on my three Sevens I had successively from 1964-75 the Association must have thought I was the man for the new post beginning in 1974 when the then Registrar found he needed to concentrate on cars and hand over THE STANLEY EDGE DRAWINGS to the archivist.
These were unknown as was Stanley until 1972 when he attended the Longbridge golden jubilee rally and casually told John Ward he had a few of the original drawings, would we like them. He apologised for their condition as they had been through several house moves and suffered water damage (what’s new!) Ian Dunford of Bristol A7C took the torn pieces to the Somerset County Archivist who backed and cleaned them and put them in hard acrylic wallets (not sealed-to be a later problem) The man who did this? The late Mick stripy jumpers Aston who became familiar on Tony Robinson’s Time Team TV programme.
So we had 10 original 1922-24 drawings,mA Seven Workshop reprint of parts of the Austin Motor Co SERVICE JOURNALS for guidance, 200 photos via Peter Relph of Pre War Austin 7 Club from the London based Institute of Mechanical Engineers, or from Ron Beech of Austin. 8 handbooks, 7 parts lists and 8 other books. Wow.
This would all fit comfortably under our 1970s marital bed…but like Topsy the collection grew and grew. Being stored in 3 house moves was ok until we came to our current address and we now had BOXES and BOXES and for instance 6 handbooks had become 60. Plus I considered the future archivist should not have to knock on my widow’s door to take it all away. We needed a proper home/room. We had considered Beaulieu, Gaydon and Coventry Motor Museums but feared loss of control. The once attractive hope of an Austin centre at Longbridge disappeared when Lickey Grange had already gone to developers and the final Rover sell-off to the Chinese.
In my day job I had already done two showroom extension designs for the Triumph Sports Six Club at Lubenham only 2 miles from my present home so was on good terms with management. I knew they had spare rooms and fully owned the property so approached them with a 3-year plan to rent one, two then 3 rooms. They agreed and about 2008 we moved the lot into a nice warm secure room. That in due course became 2 and 3 rooms…then TSSC suggested an internal shuffle. We were to have on the GROUND FLOOR one big room (better access for the less able) and no awkward doors and partitions.
All was good until Friday morning 27th February 2015 when I had a phone call from TSSC, I ought to go down to see the water damage…caused by electrolytic action (a battery: iron filings within copper pipe) slowly boring a neat 1/16” hole in a ceiling pipe. Do not ever believe plumbers flux is self flushing as it “says on the tin”. It had fused the lights, stopped the clock at 7.00 (Thurs am or pm?) and created a 1” deep lake at one end of a slightly sloping floor. That end had a great deal of rolled drawings in cardboard tubes which to our relief were NONE of the Austin Seven drawings, being some of Stanley’s 1919 Aero work at Austin, and later work for Triumph and many more contracts until his Edge Motivation business ceased on his retirement about 1970. In dripping from the ceiling, his board and tee square gained tide marks, and TWO of the Austin Seven originals had peripheral water damage. Dave and Sue Martin, Chris Garner, Chris Heeley and I paddled and lifted what we could into adjacent rooms where TSSC had already stacked wet boxes and papers. It resembled a jumble sale as nothing was now in any stacked or filed order. 610 of our colour reprints in the boxes had to go straight into the skip as did the full pack of 120 Longbridge body posters. Specials and Fosse Way chummy survived. The Bert Hadley 3 boxes all were unaffected being in cheap plastic tubs WITH LIDS.
Next we ripped out wet carpets as they needed to be out and gone and a dehumidifier was installed later that Friday which over the next 7 days extracted about 10 gallons of moisture that had by now affected anything paper. Over the next week our insurers advised us to get Harwell Document Restoration involved who are specialists in rapid collection, freeze drying and careful staged undoing/unrolling. Some (non Austin) prints were considered impossible. On 6th March they came and took away “letters and books, 16 books and 2 brochures, 1 picture, 121 plans”.
2 damaged Austin drawings were taken to Leics Records Office at Wigston who had only 10 years before had re-encapsulated the Somerset work of the 1970s saying we do not do open wallets any more and without prompting said Harwell were the best in the country. Top marks!
It was then over to TSSC insurers to arrange further drying, builders, electricians etc so for 3 months there was not a thing we could do there. A plastic screen and hot-box was created to dry out the building. Only when the carpets were replaced could we even think about moving things back in. Harwell returned 4 boxes and a crate of loose items/photos etc. I collected the drawings for Wigston and in the meantime we found on ebay/colleagues two plan chests and renewed contact with Faye McLeod who had kindly advised us around 2009 what to do as she was then archivist at Aston-Martin. Good pedigree…she was now with Jaguar and they kindly agreed she could be “loaned” for a day in October. A nice gesture from them. On Thursday 15thOctober she met myself, Dave Martin, Chris Garner, Andy Lowe, Hugh Barnes and an extremely useful day resulted in Hugh steering us forward to where we now are, with others in the team being Nick Turley and Chris Charles.
The Waite, Hadley and other trophies etc have been taken by Nick Turley for cleaning and studio photography. I will soon be taking more drawings for Wigston to encapsulate and progressing through a list of jobs. It will not be quick.
A huge step forward with the Archive Project when in July 2016 the project team collected the first tranche of documentation from being digitised at the Hampshire Archive and Records Office.
This first collection included the Handbooks, Parts Lists, and Index Cards.
Special thanks to the Hampshire Archive Office for completing the work to such a high standard.
On Sunday 14th August 2016, we hosted our first Archive Open Day in Lubenham since the beginning of the Archive Digitisation Project.
We welcomed over 30 visitors from around the country to look through the contents, many who weren’t aware how extensive our collection was.
Another Open Day is planning to be organised for 2017, keep informed of the day by signing up to our newsletter.
In December 2016, we made further additions to the Online Austin Seven Archive with the addition of Show Brochures (digitised by the Hampshire Archive and Records Office), Paint Cards, Interviews with Bob Wyatt and finally copies of the Stanley Edge note books.
This is the second tranche of material to be added to the website. With further collections being planned to be added in 2017.