In their day, they would have seemed nothing out of the ordinary.
But now items like a letter from Charlotte Bronte, watercolour paintings of Lancashire landmarks, a ship’s logbook, lost property registers from Blackpool trams, maps and sketchbooks, are considered such gems they feature in a new exhibition.
75 Years, 74 Treasures includes some of the county’s rarest historic items, brought together to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Lancashire County Council’s archive service.
Archives as diverse as a volume of patients notes from Prestwich Aslyum, Frank Matcham’s plans for alterations to the Royalty Theatre in Morecambe, the oldest document held in the archives – Henry I grant of lands to Robert d’Arcy dating from 1115, and Morden’s map of Lancashire from 1695 – are all now on show.
The free exhibition runs until January 2016, at various venues across Lancashire.
And bosses at the archive service are still looking for one more piece – a sort of X Factor of historic artefacts, to complete the line-up and make it 75 treasures.
Neil Sayer, Lancashire County Council’s archive access manager, said: “To recognise the milestone we’ve reached, we’ve identified 74 important archives to represent the nine miles of treasured objects, items and records we currently hold at Lancashire Archives.
“We’re hoping the 75th is still out there – perhaps in someone’s garage, loft or workplace.
“We’d like people to donate pieces to us, and the 75th treasure to showcase will be chosen from these.
“We have some fascinating items in the exhibition so far.
“At the time, they would have been fairly ordinary, but to us now, 300 years or so later, they are incredibly interesting – they
create a picture of what life was like in Lancashire in the past.
“Most of the items can be handled – some with gloves or using other means to ensure preservation. The thing is with artefacts like this, how do you display them? They need to be seen – and touched.
“We have plans to put all the pictures online of the artefacts in the exhibition, on Pinterest, so even if people can’t physically get there, they can see them through the virtual world.
“Among the highlights are
artefacts, such as a sketchbook belonging to the artist Patience Arnold, an illuminated manuscript from around 1500 belonging to a Catholic priest – with the delicate
illuminations and gold leaf, a register of electors from Preston and an Edwardian family photo album from East Lancashire.”
Among the Fylde coast treasures is Blackpool Victoria Hospital annual reports, with fine binding from 1901, a Lytham Hospital fete souvenir from 1938, a register of lost property from a Blackpool tram in 1932 and a fragment of a watercolour drawing, showing Lytham Hall, church and windmill, from the 17th century.
And glass slides from among the Fleetwood Fishing Vessel Owner’s Association, in the 1920s.
There is also a sketchbook, dating from the mid 40s, which belonged to artist
Patience Arnold, of St Annes.
It features various drawings of costumes and performers from shows at Blackpool theatres, including The Grand Theatre.
Neil said: “Little is known about why these sketches were produced and what they were for.
“It could be perhaps she was sketching pictures of the performers to sell back to them. Perhaps it was for a project she was working on or perhaps it was to practise.
“We don’t know for what purpose she had made these drawings.”
There’s even a Lancashire “wanted poster – runaway husbands”, from around 1850.
While it might raise a smile by today’s standards, at the time it would have been very serious.
These men had deserted their families and a substantial reward was offered for their capture.
• The exhibition will be on display at the Museum of Lancashire, Stanley Street, Preston, until Saturday, September 27, and Lancaster Maritime Museum, Custom House, St George’s Quay, Lancaster from October 3 until January 10, 2016.
• For more information about Lancashire County Council Archive Service, visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/archives or call 01772 533039.