HIGHAM’S HERITAGE ON DISPLAY
Details of Higham Ferrers's unique history – once hidden behind closed doors – has now gone on display in the town centre for all to see.
The town's ancient heritage of five royal charters is outlined in a timeline that appears on an interpretation board that has gone up in the Market Square.
It follows some five years of research and planning to restore and conserve the charters – legal documents mapping historical events and marking the progress of local government – and to raise awareness about their history and significance.
"The interpretation board is outside the Town Hall and I can't tell you how thrilling it is to see people stop and read all about the charters," said Carol Fitzgerald, chair of the Charter Project Committee, which comprised members of the local Tourism Group and the Town Council.
The reverse of the board, facing the busy road, bears a colourful depiction of the Higham Ferrers Heritage Trail.
The ancient charters, along with a Byelaw, had been gathering dust in a town hall safe, where, because of inappropriate storage facilities, the incorrect temperature and previous unsuitable restoration, they had deteriorated so much that the parchment was too delicate to go on permanent display.
Something drastic had to be done to restore and conserve them and the Charter Project was born. The late founding chair of the Tourism Group, Anna Sauntson, a town councillor, was the architect of the plan, while Alicia Schofield, the Town Clerk, was the driving force behind the group.
The Town Council, in partnership with the Tourism Group, undertook a charter condition survey and public perception survey and the information gathered was used for a successful bid for a Heritage Lottery Grant to pay for the professional conservation of the deteriorating documents.
With detailed research continuing into the history of the charters by local historian Brenda Lofthouse, the Charter Project Committee appointed Museum Conservation Services Ltd in Duxford, which renovated and preserved the charters for posterity.
Once the charters and the byelaw had been conserved for future generations, they were sent to the Northampton Record Office for safekeeping.
And then a massive campaign to raise awareness about them kicked in.
It involved local community organisations and schoolchildren – pupils from the Higham Ferrers Junior School made a YouTube film about the charters – while lessons linked the charters to various aspects of their curriculum.
Framed copies of the charters went to schools and public buildings, a dedicated website was created (www.highamferrerscharters.co.uk), an audio town tour app launched, a Charter Celebration Day was held for the whole town and there was a touring exhibition with previews for people unable to travel.
Now, the interpretation board, with the text by Brenda Lofthouse, is the latest chapter in the charter's history.
It was financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the former East Northamptonshire Council Member Empowerment Fund facilitated by Councillor Harriet Pentland.
The Town Clerk said: "I never cease to be amazed at the skill set that can be found within the local community and the willingness of people to give up their free time to work on a project.
"I sincerely thank all those who contributed to the project and acknowledge that none of this would have been possible without the people who play the National Lottery and the Heritage Lottery Fund."
Posted: Wed, 02 Nov 2022 10:33 by Alicia Schofield