Norfolk Record Office

William Gaymer & Son Ltd, cider manufacturers of Attleborough:

a Report to the Business Archive Council

30 March 2012

In the summer of 2011, the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) applied for the Business Archives Council’s annual grant towards the cost of cataloguing the relatively small, but highly significant, archive of the historicalNorfolkfirm of William Gaymer & Son Ltd, cider manufacturers of Attleborough. These records had been donated to the NRO in 1995 by the company’s owners when the factory was finally closed, but we had not subsequently found the opportunity to catalogue them. The BAC agreed with us that our application deserved the award of funding and, accordingly, £2,000 was granted to the NRO for that purpose.

We are very grateful for the opportunity that the grant afforded us, and are pleased to report that a publicly accessible catalogue of the Gaymer archive is now complete and may be consulted both locally and online. The project also brought with it a host of other very positive benefits, not just for the NRO, but for users of archives and for a young person who intends to embark on a career in archives.

One of the key features of our application for the grant was our promise to provide a paid placement for a graduate, who, under professional supervision, would catalogue the Gaymer archive. Accordingly, on 17 September 2011, localNorfolkgirl and history graduate fromSheffieldUniversity, Louise Piffero, took up the post of temporary project cataloguer.

Over the course of the following five weeks, under the supervision and guidance of project manager, NRO archivist Tom Townsend, she reviewed, sorted, arranged and inputted descriptions into the NRO’s CALM software. In addition, she also reviewed and added to the original brief the existing, but non-ISAD-(G)-compliant catalogues of the Gaymer-related collections, BR 47 and BR 257. These smaller collections have now been substantially re-catalogued and incorporated into the new catalogue.

One of the successful outcomes of the project was in providing Louise training in and experience of multi-level, archival cataloguing. This experience directly led to her appointment to a full-time, ten-month post at the Britten-Pears Foundation’s Archive and Library at Aldeburgh,Suffolk. Louise has subsequently applied for post-graduate, archival training. She has also submitted to BAC a separate report about her experiences working on the project.

From the start of the project, we thought that the new catalogue deserved a memorable and easily-associated reference, thus we decided to use the mnemonic ‘GAY’ prefix as the first element of the catalogue reference for the new collection. We felt that this also resonated nicely  with Gaymer’s famous 1960s marketing slogan, ‘Go Gay with Gaymer!’.

Throughout the lifetime of the project, we have benefited from the enthusiastic support of the Attleborough Heritage Group (AHG) and from other people and organizations in Attleborough. One outcome of this, was the development of friendly relations with the Group, so much so, that they effectively became the NRO’s local partners in Attleborough, helping to organize voluntary help and becoming the conduit for much information about the Gaymer business.

Crucially, in November 2011, they acted as agents for the transfer to the NRO of further early Gaymer business records, consisting of William Gaymer’s correspondence from 1903 to 1927, material which was hitherto unknown to us, This was gratefully received and added to the new catalogue. Other original, Gaymer records, collected locally by the AHG, were also transferred to us and were similarly incorporated into the catalogue.

On 6 March this year, we held an all-afternoon open meeting in Attleborough Public Library, both to report on the progress of the project and to elicit further local help with the identification of subjects of sixty photographs from the archive. Organized jointly with the AHG and with Attleborough Public Library, the meeting attracted over 110 people over the course of the afternoon, and many of them contributed valuable information. The copies of the photographs remained at the Library for the rest of March, so that more people can see them and provide us with further information.

That session also marked the start of a poster display in Attleborough Library, created by the Record Office from Gaymer artwork and advertising in the archive. The posters illustrate just some of the humorous designs and slogans used by the company in the 1920s and 1930s, and have been appreciated by, on average, over 220 people every day since the 6 March. These posters were, in fact, originally created for a month-long display at The Archive Centre in December 2011 to January 2012, where they were appreciated by many of our regular users. It is, however, fair to say that more people have seen them (and commented favourably) during their stay in Attleborough.

The project has provided the NRO with the opportunity to liaise with our colleagues, both in Norfolk Library and Information Service and inNorfolkMuseumsand Archaeology Service, to develop a more joined-up approach to providing public finding aids. In November, Tom was invited to inspect the accession records at theRuralLifeMuseumat Gressenhall for references to Gaymer records and artefacts. These confirmed to us that no archival material relating to Gaymers was, in fact, held by the Museums Service, although some artefacts had been acquired by them at the time of the closure of Gaymer’s factory in Attleborough. Contact details to the Museums Service’s online catalogues have been incorporated into the GAY catalogue, and we will send to them links to our new catalogue.

The project has been successful in its primary aim of producing a publicly available catalogue of the Gaymer archive. It has been, in addition, successful in providing valuable training and experience to a prospective archivist, Louise Piffero, and in fostering on-going links, both with the local community in Attleborough and with special interest organizations, such as the Attleborough Heritage Group. Such links will far outlast the time of the project and, we hope, will result in more such collaborative ventures. We at the Norfolk Record Office are immensely grateful to the Business Archives Council for helping to fund the project and thereby aiding us in our mission to reach out more widely to the people ofNorfolk.

Tom Townsend

Archivist and Gaymer Project Manager