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|Hard times and green shoots
HARD TIMES AND GREEN SHOOTS
All local historians are just beginning to feel the effects of spending cuts, including the VCH. Sadly the cuts have meant redundancy for some long-serving editors in counties where local authorities have decided to stop supporting us. Fortunately no counties have lost their VCH presence entirely and in Wiltshire and Staffordshire, where staff are still funded by partnerships between local authorities and universities, VCH offices remain important to the local heritage services. In counties where local authority and university support has been withdrawn, plans are already in place to continue or restart activity with the help of county trusts, some of them newly established to meet the new challenges.
Several of those who have been made redundant recently have shown great commitment to the VCH and especially to completing the volumes they have already started. Our Essex team of Dr Chris Thornton and Dr Herbert Eiden have just begun VCH Essex work on contract as consultant editors rather than as permanent staff, and will go on from publishing VCH Essex XI: the North-east Essex Resorts in July to working on the earlier history of the area. Similarly, Mary Siraut, who took early retirement at the end of March, will continue VCH work on two Somerset volumes, one on the North Cadbury and Queen Camel area and another on Minehead and Dunster. Mary has led the way in making her VCH micro-site special, filling it with interesting material about her work, about VCH Somerset and about the history of county.
We have had to bid farewell,alas, to two editors whose skill and experience have been invaluable to the series: Dr Robert Peberdy has recently left VCH Oxfordshire while Dr Simon Draper of VCH Gloucestershire has found new employment on a research project at the University of the West of England.
Of course, some editors are lucky enough to retire after very long VCH careers. Dr John Jurica, who joined Gloucestershire VCH in the 1970s, retired in 2010 with a handsome send-off at the launch of his Gloucestershire XII volume on the Newent and May Hill parishes. His VCH contributions were always ingeniously researched and elegantly written. As architectural editor, I made many rewarding explorations of the county’s buildings with John, who followed up our fieldwork with interesting new information stimulated by what we had seen.
Other editors choose to leave in order to pursue new careers. Dr Sue Parkinson left the VCH at the end of February 2011 having won VCH Yorkshire East Riding many new friends by her infectious enthusiasm for the locality. Her work will culminate in an exhibition and accompanying talks at the Treasure House in Beverley in the autumn, when we will relaunch research into the complicated history of Howdenshire.
To keep abreast of good news in all counties and to read VCH parish histories from all the counties mentioned here before they are published, please remember to consult www.victoriacountyhistory/counties.
Elizabeth Williamson is Executive Editor VCH
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