Knight Family Archive Transcription Project
Everyday Stories of Exmoor folk
Across the over 1100 different u3a Groups which span the country, a concept of partnership working on small-scale investigative projects has evolved which the u3a calls Shared Learning Projects - SLP. This can be a joint project between a u3a and an institution such as a museum or educational institution or sometimes another u3a.
Following Rob Wilson-North’s talk at a coffee morning in June 2019, Minehead and District u3a joined with Exmoor National Park in a project to transcribe the texts of the Knight Family Archive, to a standard digital format. Members have transcribed over 450 documents, mainly letters, dating from 1819 up to 1880s. The original (paper) archive itself is lodged in the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton.
SLPs are designed to be time-limited to approximately 6 months. The Knight documents were digitally scanned in bundles and each Phase of the Project has tackled a sub-set of bundles, designed to be completed in roughly 6 month ‘chunks’. More than 20 u3a members have been involved over the span of the `project - ably coordinated by Catherine Dove, the Conservation Advisor (Historic Environment) for the ENPA.
The nature of the documents has included varied letters, to account books and legal agreements, with a considerable number comprising letters from the different Land Agents for the period of Frederic Knight’s years managing the Exmoor Estate. Some common threads have been identified - dictated by the nature of the enterprise – business letters about tenants, farms, crops and livestock have been interspersed with information about the weather, poachers, complaints from tenants, building maintenance, the availability of labour, the quality of the harvests, livestock sales and even gossip about elopements. Together these offer insights into the daily experiences of Exmoor inhabitants which enable us in the 21st century to appreciate the rigours of everyday life on Exmoor during the Victorian era.
Hilary Fisk (on behalf of Minehead & District u3a)
21 October 2022