Incredible archive saved

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Northampton Transport Heritage has been campaigning to save St James’ depot. NTH

History is not just about the vehicles: an archive covering 90 years of a municipal operator has been saved, reports Nick Larkin, who was shown some of the gems

A former municipal operator’s archive said to contain more than 100,000 items has been saved by a preservation group. The material, covering Northampton Transport from tramways days to the early 1990s, had been stored in a loft at the operator’s St James Depot, which has been empty for ten years following the demise of First Northampton.

Northampton Transport Heritage (NTH), which owns a fleet of preserved buses and coaches of local interest, has been campaigning to save the depot, much of which dates from 1904. Church’s Shoes, which bought the building but has never occupied it, gave the group permission to retrieve the archive items.

NTH Chairman Graham Croucher said some archive items were saved in 2013, when the depot closed. “We managed to get some things then and we kept in touch with Church’s over other material there. They were planning an archive but this didn’t happen, and with the building for sale we were kindly allowed to collect any items – we got all of them in three days.”

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Added Graham: ‘There’s an unbelievable amount of material, much of it from tramways days.” Tender forms, council reports, vehicle records, meeting minutes, rotas, agreements over joint routes with locally-based United Counties, and even letters of complaint have all been kept.

There are also timetables, posters, advertisements and artwork, council minutes, copies of the Traffic Commissioners’ Notices & Proceedings, and magazines. Much material comes from the files of General Manager John Cameron, who was at Northampton from 1914 to 1940.

NTH is being advised by the Northamptonshire Archives & Records service over storing and making use of the collection.

Earlier this year the building was put on the market at £3.2m and was said to have been sold to an international buyer, but negotiations for West Northamptonshire District Council to acquire the site are now understood to be continuing.

Can you help?

Northampton Transport Heritage is hoping to make the archive available to the public. Currently a room in a community centre is being rented to store and sift through the material. Anyone interested in helping with the archiving or contributing to the accommodation costs is warmly invited to contact [email protected].

A paper on the joys of six-wheelers, written by long-standing Northampton General Manager John Cameron in 1928. NTH
Not the most mainstream artefact: a tender form for six-wheelers dating from 1928. NTH
Late buses to take you to your tram (1928). NTH
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