The Business Archives Council is delighted to announce the winning applicant of the BAC cataloguing grant for business archives. Launched in April 2010, the grant is in support of the National Strategy for Business Archives. The Council intends to make the grant available annually during strategy implementation, 2010-2015.
Again, an impressive set of applications were received by the June deadline, representing a variety of business collections and localities in the United Kingdom. The judging panel on behalf of the Council has awarded the grant to Norfolk Record Office for cataloguing of the archives of Gaymers, The Gaymer Group Ltd of Attleborough, Norfolk, cider and related beverage manufacturers.
Cider making, unlike brewing, is a rare and under-represented industry in known accessible archival collections. With a long history, cider production has been particularly extensive since the 1300s in Somerset, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, Kent and Sussex, and East Anglia, including Norfolk. In that latter county, William Gaymer followed in the footsteps of his family in farming but soon looked to cider as a commercial proposition. Production began in Banham and was advanced by the introduction of the first hydraulic press in 1870. In 1896 a new factory was built at Attleborough to meet increased trade via the railway network and the firm became the main employer in the local area.
Following incorporation in 1906 as William Gaymer and Son Ltd, William Chapman Gaymer became Managing Director and saw the company receive its first Royal Warrant in 1933, and the reconstruction of the factory following bomb damage during the Second World War. He was a founder member and first president of the National Association of Cider Makers. The Company is now part of Matthew Clark plc. Gaymer cider production had ceased in Attleborough by 1995 and operations moved to Somerset. The bulk of the Gaymer archive held in the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) was acquired in 1995, after having been rescued on closure of their Attleborough factory in that year by the site manager there.
The collection consists of over two linear metres of administrative, photographic and sales and advertising records dating from 1877 to 1992. These include partnership deeds, private ledgers, articles of association and correspondence concerning the formation of the company in 1906, stock lists from 1896 to 1944, a full plant inventory of 1947 created for the then newly rebuilt factory after wartime damage, planting lists and plans of the apple orchards in the late 1930s, employee file cards of the 1920s-60s, and hundreds of photographs of the factory, employees and products from the early twentieth century. The highlight of the archive is the series of six large scrapbooks, of 1920s-1930s sales and advertising literature, bottle labels, price lists and original artwork. These items carry catchphrases such as Gay Ma, Gaymer The Drier Cyder of England, and Gay, Gay, Gaymer the bottled laughter of the Norfolk Peasant. Concerns about foreign imports and the political scene in Europe in the 1930s led to the use of the catchphrase, No foreign apples and the use of patriotic images such as John Bull, the Union flag, and Britannia in their branding.
In addition to the rarity of the collection, the panel was impressed by the way Norfolk Record Office's project would provide a paid internship placement, under supervision, with experience from working with business archives. The panel was also attracted by the careful project planning, match-funding and the fact that the extent and scope of the collection were also felt to be suitably matched to the sum available. The potential for volunteers and links with interested parties, and benefits to the wider community were also clearly demonstrated. Norfolk Record Office plans to attract volunteers to help identify the content of the photographs and, with training from conservation staff, to help repackage parts of the archive. In addition, the project includes work with the Norfolk Museums and Archaeology Service, which holds many related artefacts donated by Gaymers, and with the Attleborough Heritage Group who hold Gaymers factory equipment and ephemera. It is envisaged that the archive will be promoted particularly through local schools and other users of the repository's Education and Outreach service. Examples of the Gaymer artwork have already been used in a public exhibition on Norfolk food products, and similar events are anticipated.
Norfolk Record Office is due to complete their project by 31 March 2012. An update on the results will be reported next year in the Business Archives Council newsletter and the catalogues will be made available by the repository and also submitted to the National Register of Archives (published by The National Archives).