New future for Evelyn Hospital archive

New future for Evelyn Hospital archive

The Evelyn Hospital archive is moving to Cambridgeshire Archives' new state-of-the-art facility in Ely.
Evelyn Nursing Home

Evelyn Nursing Home

“An absolutely unique record.” That’s how Sheila Mann, author of the definitive volume on the history of the Evelyn Hospital, describes the hospital archive which lay untouched in the Trumpington Road attics until Sheila began her research.

“It all started with a plan to write a brochure about the hospital and to include some of the history. I was a senior nurse at the hospital then. No one seemed to think there was much historic material around, so I was absolutely amazed and intrigued to find two vast attic rooms stuffed with fascinating material,” explains Sheila.

The record included patient records, minutes of Board meetings, financial documents, photographs – a full range of material that represented a complete archive and not only provided a unique record of a twentieth century Cambridge nursing home, but included material from the Evelyn’s predecessor nursing home located in Thompson’s Lane. This opened its doors to patients in the 1880s.

The archive is not only of local significance, but as the building was designed by Sir Aston Webb, an eminent Edwardian architect who became the President of the Royal Academy, his hand-written specifications in the archive will be a significant resource for architects and academics. Sir Aston designed some of our best known buildings from the period, including the Victoria & Albert Museum and Admiralty Arch. He was also responsible for the remodelling of the east façade of Buckingham Palace in 1913.

Sheila published her book ‘A Wonderful Thing for Cambridge: the Evelyn Hospital 1921 to 2003’ in 2005. Since that date the archive material had been preserved in a secure local facility but when Sheila discovered in 2013 that the Trust intended to dispose of it, she not only publicised its importance but, as the only person who knew of what it consisted, was able to assist in separating extraneous or superfluous material from that which it was essential to preserve.

“We realised that the archive was important and we knew that we needed to secure its future, but also ideally make it available to historians and private researchers. As Cambridge has always attracted so many leading academics to live and work here, we knew there was some fascinating historic ‘celebrity’ material in the boxes, but as the archive remained uncatalogued, its treasures were not really accessible,” says Bill Pike, Director of the Evelyn Trust.

The Trust approached Cambridgeshire Archives, run by Cambridgeshire County Council, to ask them to take on the archive for the long term and make its material available for research. Cambridgeshire Archives immediately recognised the value of the collection and has agreed to examine, conserve, catalogue and store it in high quality archives storage.

“Cambridgeshire Archives is moving to a new state-of-the-art facility in Ely, which is now in the process of conversion. Our existing archive storage is no longer ideal for the purpose, so we are moving the whole collection to Ely in late 2016. This is a huge project for my team and once it’s complete, we hope to welcome the Evelyn Hospital archive to our new building,” explains Richard Anderson, Collections Archivist at the Cambridgeshire Archives.

“I’ve had a preliminary look at some of the material and it’s tremendously exciting. It’s hard just now to know exactly what’s in those boxes, so my team is looking forward to an examination of the archive piece by piece. I’m sure there will be some invaluable surprises in there. It’s genuinely exciting to think that this archive will soon be catalogued and accessible to all for the first time in its history.”

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