The importance of a historian's town Annals

READERS who have used the first floor reference and local studies section of Harrogate's public library, may have noticed a handsome oil portrait hanging outside the entrance doors. This was painted by local artist Thomas Holroyd, and it depicts William Grainge, a kindly looking man in his fifties, who was 19th century Harrogate's historian, and the author of many books and pamphlets on Yorkshire matters.

Although his most famous work is the 1870 "History of Harrogate and the forest of Knaresborough", he also assembled a huge calendar of local matters called the "Annals of Harrogate and Pannal", which contains much of interest, set out on hundreds of pages and written in a florid hand typical of the late 19th century.

Grainge had arrived in Harrogate in 1860, and had opened a stationery and printing business in what today is Oxford Street, but he owed his fame to his work as an author. Some readers of this paper may know that I have had little time for the North Yorkshire County Council and its tax gathering, and that I have grave concern at the current state of Harrogate Library (not the staff, who are excellent). However, I am now faced with the embarrassing admission that, at last, the North Yorkshire County Council has done something in my eyes to justify its existence. For the past few years, a librarian at Harrogate has painstakingly and lovingly transcribed the vast pile of paper that forms the "Annals of Harrogate and Pannal", and converted it to a disc that can be made accessible to every member of the community.

From being a little-known heap of paper lost among the vast Grainge archive, the "Annals" can now be consulted by the whole community. As an example of "out-reach", this action of the County Library is magnificent. Today, the name of William Grainge is known and respected by many people interested in the history of Yorkshire, whereas the names of the high and mighty of his time – the members of Parliament, the politicians, the department heads and senior council officers, the captains of industry and leaders of society – are totally forgotten.

I predict that the same thing will happen in a century's time, and that in 2108, the name of this transcriber of Grainge’s annals will be known to every person interested in local history, whereas the rest of today's county council will have been wiped from collective memory.

This week's photograph shows William Grainge in 1870, the year his great book was published.

I hope that the none-Harrogate sections of the Grainge Archive will one day be transcribed for the North Yorkshire public, as so many communities will benefit.