Treasure trove of dale's rich history reopens after Covid
RESEARCHERS and history buffs can once again trawl through a treasure trove of dale information at the Fitzhugh Reference Library, in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
The archive, in Market Place, has reopened following a four-month closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Safety procedures have been put in place.
Volunteer Kath Sims said: “We are only allowing visitors into one of the rooms and there are enough work stations for three people to be socially distanced.”
Anyone visiting the library, which has a huge collection of Teesdale artefacts from letters and photographs to historic OS maps and original wills, will need to wash their hands on arrival and sign into the visitors’ book.
Mrs Sims added: “We were worried about social distancing as we only have one entrance.
“But we’re lucky that we do have the intercom system and we’re asking visitors to buzz through before entering.
“We’re only allowing visitors into one of the rooms so volunteers can use the other one.”
Research material will be brought to workstations and then quarantined for 72 hours afterwards.
Although the library was closed to the public during the lockdown, enquiries continued to flood in from authors, radio producers and the general public.
She said: “We had an enquiry from an author from down south about Cotherstone so we were able to help with that and the book she is writing should be coming out later this year.”
Mrs Sims’ husband, Derek, took part in a socially distanced interview with Radio Four for a programme about solitude.
He said: “They wanted someone to talk about the poet Richard Watson and Hannah Hauxwell, so I volunteered with Lorne Tallentire.
“We met them at Low Force and had a rather damp meeting. It took about 40 minutes and I imagine it will be cut down to about 10 seconds but we’re not sure when it is being broadcast yet.”
During lockdown the burgeoning map collection, which consists of 1,100 maps, has been carefully catalogued by one of the volunteers, Tony Barnett.
Mr Sims said: “While we have been closed, we haven’t been idle.
“One of our volunteers, Tony, normally comes in once a fortnight, but he lives in Surrey. During lockdown he was able to catalogue all the maps at his home.
“He has also cross-referenced aerial photographs so we have about 60 different ways of finding things now.”
Mrs Sims added: “We’ve also been able to go through the collection, making sure things are filed in the right place and we’ve also rearranged the bookshelves.
“But it’s lovely to be back open again. Before lockdown we were given six boxes of material that all needs to be sorted through and catalogued so now we can get on with that.
“There is enough stuff to keep us going for the next millennium, but if anyone has been having an attic clear out, we are always happy to accept donations of local memorabilia and information.”
The Fitzhugh Library is open on Mondays and Tuesdays from 10.30am to 2.30pm. Visitors don’t have to book a workstation, but are asked to follow all social distancing guidelines.
For more information visit thefitzhughlibrary.co.uk.