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Hidden Nuggets

From the Archives: NarrowBoat, Autumn 2014

Joseph Boughey

Joseph Boughey finds gold amongst the archives relating to the Sankey (St Helens) Canal and the Erewash

It has to be conceded that even the keenest enthusiast for waterway history can lose heart when faced with certain records. Today, much can be copied with digital cameras, but in the recent past the researcher had to sit with paper and pencil (pens are never allowed, in case documents get marked), and ponder what, if anything, to record. When files arrive that are several inches thick and contain letter after letter that address matters that seem entirely peripheral to waterways, if essential to their writers, and when one has travelled a long distance and is hot and tired, the temptation is to send the file back and not to bother looking. The C299 British Waterways collection at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Wakefield, shows that this might be a bad idea: insights can be found hidden in innocuous files or those of otherwise tedious content. Many files at Wakefield concern estates matters – deeds of property, lettings, water sales and miscellaneous agreements. Often detailed a…

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