We have about 15,000 items in our archive of local history, including:
- original documents such as the minute books of societies and registers of Mere charities
- original research by members of Mere families
- research notes of former archivists and others
- 19th-century booklets marking anniversaries of local institutions and documenting local enterprises, and
- ephemera such as newspaper cuttings, some of these dating back to the middle of the 20th century.
The archive has evolved over decades and continues to grow, but is only now being brought together to make it available to the general public.
Searching the archive catalogue
Enter your search terms in the box at the top of this page where it says “Search”.
Items with text that matches your terms will appear as brief summaries. For more detail about an item, click on “Continue reading” and you will see the fuller catalogue entry and a photograph of the item, if one is available.
Here are some tips to help your catalogue search:
- Results are shown in order of relevance, with most relevant shown first.
- The search is not case-sensitive. Searching for “baker” (occupation) will get the same results as searching for “Baker” (surname).
- It is a text string search, so searching for “farm” will find items about farms, farmers, Manor Farm, etc.
- Searching for two terms finds items where either is present, so a search for “East Knoyle” yields items about both East Knoyle and West Knoyle, but because of its most-relevant-first rule, the search engine will generally show the East Knoyle items first. The two terms don’t have to be adjacent or even in the same order, so “Stourhead gardens” gives you items about “gardens at Stourhead”; it will also shown items about other gardens, but lower down in the results because they are less relevant.
- Unlike some web searches, you cannot exclude an unwanted result by prefixing it with a minus (-) sign.
Accessing the archive
People who are interested in any particular document can order a photocopy if this is appropriate, or ask to examine the item in question, which will be made available in the Library/Museum by the archivist.
How the archive started and evolved
Since the late 19th century a succession of enthusiastic and gifted amateur historians have researched, documented and written about the history of this small town in southwest Wiltshire.
The first of these was T.H. Baker (1833-1914), a farmer on Mere Down, whose tireless investigation of historical and current events, his recording of the life of Mere, his transcription of documents, and his publications in historical and archaeological journals, laid the foundations of what has become a rich archive of local history. His work was extended first by a group of members of the local Women’s Institute, who in 1955 compiled an impressive scrapbook of local history which, incidentally, won third prize in a national competition.
This group of historians proceeded to prepare a book about the town, based on the scrapbook, called ‘The Story of Mere’ which was published in 1958. The founding of the Historical Society in 1972 gave fresh impetus to the recording of Mere’s story, and a second history, ‘Mere: A Wiltshire Country Town’ appeared in 1975. Among those who prepared this volume were a number of the earlier historians who continued to help drive the project forward.
Finally, in 2004, a third volume about the history of Mere was written by Dr David Longbourne (a founder of the Mere Historical Society and curator emeritus of Mere Museum which was, in turn, founded by the Historical Society), called simply ‘The Book of Mere’.
In the meantime Michael Tighe, the Society’s archivist from 1992 until his death in 2010, took up the baton of research and writing about local history, producing 16 booklets on subjects under the series title ‘Mere Papers’. The subjects of these include studies of Mere’s industries, its inns, shops and trades, Mere families and historical personalities, and the impact of Enclosure and the Temperance Movement. Mr Tighe’s research notes and correspondence with other researchers are themselves rich in local historical detail and form part of the archive.
In 2008 the Mere Historical Society took over the management and continuance of the archive. All the papers and documents were sorted, numbered and placed in archivally safe polythelene pockets and acid-free archive boxes. Many of the latter were made by members of the society themselves. An ‘Archive Cabin’ was designed and built by two other members of the Society in the disused gallery of the local United Reformed Church.
All these initiatives were supported by local grants, from the South West Wiltshire Area Board, the Mere Lecture Hall Trust and Mere Films, as well as from very generous personal donations and the Society’s own reserves.
A first stage of cataloguing the archive was carried out by a free-lance cataloguer. A grant awarded in March 2014 by South West Wiltshire Area Board has now enabled us to digitise the catalogue and make it available on line.