Berwick 900 project leaves a lasting legacy

Berwick 900 is over, right? Well, yes and no. The festival and events are over but although the Berwick 900 Our Families family history research project has ended, it's left a number of lasting legacies for Berwick.

Sunday, 27th November 2016, 07:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 29th November 2016, 09:29 am
Berwick 900 volunteers

Recently, those involved in the project gathered in the Guildhall in the presence of the Deputy Mayor, Gregah Roughead, to acknowledge the contribution made to the project by so many volunteers and to hear its outcome.

Opening the proceedings, Sir Philip Mawer said that the Berwick 900 Our Families project had been at the centre of many events throughout the 2015 Berwick 900 Festival, the research undertaken by the volunteers helping to bring the exciting history of Berwick to life.

The many volunteers trained through the project had contributed thousands of hours of time in researching, transcribing, writing, stewarding and talking to the public about their family history, and in running workshops. Together with many others, they had helped to make the festival a resounding success.

Linda Bankier, the Berwick archivist, provided more detail about the project’s achievements. These included dramas produced by the Maltings Youth Theatre and a schools resource pack already in use at various first schools. The project had also produced a detailed guide, Tracing Your Family History in Berwick, Tweedmouth and Spittal, which is available from Berwick Record Office at £8.99.

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Another legacy is an online information resource about the inhabitants of properties in the Greenses fishing community and in Ravensdowne between around 1881 to about 1950, extracting the data from the census, electoral rolls, and newspapers. To use it is simplicity itself. The main page is at www.berwickfriends.org.uk/record-office/projects/our- families/, from which there are links to the page foreach road, and then to each house number. This treasure trove of information will be expanded as volunteer resources permit.

The Guild of Berwick-upon-Tweed has been pivotal in the history of Berwick for more than 900 years.

Peter Munro, project manager, said that volunteer work had also resulted in a website by means of which anyone in the world could see whether a Freeman of the Guild was part of their family history and can also see at a glance their relative’s father, brothers or cousins.

Currently the website holds the records of those Freemen admitted between 1800 and 1940, but both later and older records will be added in the future. Try it at berwickfamilies.org.uk

Most of the volunteers’ research left unanswered questions. For example: Who abandoned a baby at Lethamshank farm? What happened to Mary Walker’s daughter after she was pushed to the ground by a lady wearing a crinoline? Who did John Huntley kill in 1876 and why did he kill her?

We’ll probably never know the answers. However, a creative writing group has been formed to imagine answers to these and other questions. You can read their fictional answers on the Berwick 900 blog, http://berwick900.blogspot.co.uk, by clicking on the creative writing group link at the top of the page on the right.

With generous support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Guild of Freemen and Berwick Town Council, the Our Families project has achieved far more than it initially imagined and has left a legacy of lasting benefit to Berwick and those interested in its people and their history.

Those who participated have shown yet again that when Berwick pulls together, it can achieve great things.