School records go to National Archives

Historical records from a Harrogate school dating back more than 140 years are being added to a national database, which is accessible to the wider public.

Ashville College Librarian and Archivist, Dr Pavneet Kaur, is using archiving software to digitise thousands of the letters, photographs, reports, minutes and yearbooks that are housed in the school’s archive room.

As part of her work, Dr Kaur, who has been a school librarian for 15 years, is also uploading the information to the National Archives, which was created in 2003 by combining the Public Record Office and the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

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Since joining Ashville in 2018, Dr Kaur has completed the digitisation of the documents relating to the First World War.

These include letters to the school from former pupils, and the jubilation when, just days after the Armistice, it was discovered the son of the Headmaster, who was reported missing, presumed dead two years earlier, was alive and being held in a German prisoner-of-war camp.

The Rev Alfred Soothill announced this to the assembled school on the day he received the news. He then asked the Head Boy to bring the detention list from the notice board. This he tore into shreds, saying “the School will start with a clean sheet!”

In addition to paper records, the archives house a wealth of other artefacts. These include trophies for academic and sporting success, ornaments, uniforms, plaques, car badges and heirlooms donated to the College by former pupils and their families.

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The most notable of was a letter signed by King George VI, to Flt Lt Donald Checklin.

Dr Kaur, who has worked in schools in Yorkshire and India, said: “Ashville College has an incredible collection of archive material, and I’ve now started the task of digitising these amazing records of life at one of Harrogate’s oldest and best-known schools.

“Our aim is to make the archives available for pupils and former pupils alike, so they can learn about the College and the pupils and teachers that have helped shape its history.

“We are also sharing our information with the National Archives, which will allow our records to be viewed by a worldwide audience.

“And being a boarding school with pupils, past and present, coming from every inhabited continent, this is a very exciting development for us.”

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