History society's loss is archive's gain
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
THE Fitzhugh Library has had its archive extended and a new entrance display installed after a local history group folded.
Barnard Castle and District History Group ceased operating this year after struggling to get members to return after successive coronavirus lockdowns.
It had operated for 33 years.
Group member Tony Seward said as many as 30 people would attend meetings before the pandemic began.
He added: “We stopped meeting with the pandemic. After the first wave we did a review [about meeting again] but a lot of people did not want to come out.”
He said a second review was carried out after the second wave but many of the aging membership were still reluctant to meet.
Joint secretary Christine Hodgson said: “It took a lot to come to terms about not to continue and a lot of thought went into it.”
Mr Seward said consideration had also been given to the fact that a number of other groups in Teesdale “are looking after the history of the town”, including the Richard III Society and the Fitzhugh Library.
The group decided to donate its archive to the Fitzhugh, and in honour of two of its prominent members who had died, renowned historian Alan Wilkinson and founder Dorothy Barker, decided to put what remained of “the kitty” towards providing displays along the entrance stairwell to the library.
The library is located above The Village Bookshop, in Middleton-in-Teesdale.
Mr Seward said: “It is a moving display [that can be changed] – they have so much here and that would give a taste of it at the entrance.”
The display area now has a plaque dedicated to Mr Wilkinson and Mrs Barker, which was unveiled by Mr Wilkinson’s daughter Diana Everall, and Mrs Barker’s son Jeremy, who followed in his mother’s footsteps by volunteering at the Fitzhugh.
He said: “My mother was committed to it, they were the two things she was active in until her last days.”
Mrs Barker was also active in the Scouts and was a guide at The Bowes Museum.
Speaking about the new display, Mrs Everall said: “He [my father] would have been absolutely delighted. History was a huge passion for him – he thought it was both interesting and important.”
Cath Maddison from the Fitzhugh Library said the donation from the society was gratefully received.
She added: “We are pleased to get this done and achieved what we wanted to have for some time.”