Individual slides from this presentation can be found in the Image Gallery
The Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society became a collector of archives and manuscripts soon after its creation, partly in response to its wish to gather materials for a large-scale history of the county. Early acquisitions included a reputed charter of King Ine, dated AD 705, and large quantities of material evidently rescued from the Diocesan Registry at Wells. By the 1930s, the vigilance of antiquarians such as Thomas Serel of Wells and Charles Tite of Taunton, together with the gifts and loans of many organisations and individuals, had resulted in a collection outstanding in its richness and diversity. It was transferred to the Somerset Record Office from 1935 onwards, and to this day remains perhaps the most important non-official collection of Somerset archives in existence.
In addition to the charter of King Ine, other individual treasures of the society's collection include a magnificent charter, dated AD 995, confirming Ilminster and West Camel as possessions of Muchelney Abbey, a mid-15th century cartulary of Minchin Buckland priory, cartularies of the Beauchamp, Hungerford and Moleyns families, and the remarkable correspondence of Edwin Atherstone with some of the 19th century's leading literary and scientific figures. The Society's collection is chiefly impressive, however, not for the individual items it contains but for its range overall. Court rolls for Wrington and Marksbury, dated 1281 to 1443, stand at the beginning of an important group of manorial records, some of them purchased from the collection of Sir Thomas Phillips; the many thousands of property deeds accumulated by the society begin as early as the 13th century; maps are abundant, particularly from about 1750 onwards; and the collection also contains many parish records which at some date strayed from parish custody. They include overseers' accounts for Pitminster, 1589-1636, and churchwardens' accounts for Cheddar, 1612-1674, and Charlinch, 1650-1653.
The needs of genealogists are particularly served by the many wills and will transcripts contained in the collection, as well as by the parish register transcripts and indexes compiled by Edward Dwelly and others. Several distinct antiquarian collections are also preserved with the Society's archive holdings, including George Sweetman's historical notes on Wincanton, the Arthur Hull collection relating to Chard, the papers of the Somerset historian Thomas Hugo, and the "Survey of Somerset" produced in the late 18th century by Richard Locke of Burnham.
The first serious attempts to list the Society's collection were made in 1926 by Colonel Phipps of Milverton, and in 1947 by R.C. Innes Winstanley. The arrangement they imposed on the records has largely survived to the present day, though since the transfer of the bulk of the collection to the Somerset Record Office in 1958 much additional listing and arrangement has been undertaken. Extensive lists and finding aids can be consulted at the Record Office, and in addition, summary lists can be consulted in SANHS Proceedings, volumes 113 and 114. A detailed history of the Society's role as a collector of archives, by Derek Shorrocks, is contained in Proceedings, volume 133.
The Record Office has now moved and is open at the new Somerset Heritage Centre. Please telephone 01823 278805 for opening times.