On 12 October, 2022, we were delighted to make our inaugural round of VCH Outstanding Contribution Awards, nominated by the VCH community. They’re a chance for us to thank colleagues for their exceptional work on this national local history project, and to share stories to inspire others in the VCH and the wider local history community.
The Victoria County History (VCH) was founded in 1899 as a national project to write the history of every county in England. It aims to complete authoritative, encyclopaedic histories of each county, from the earliest archaeological records to the present day, encompassing topics such as topography, landscape, and the built environment. Some VCH volumes were published over a century ago, while others are now in progress or planned for the future.
Reading the nominations for Outstanding Contribution Awards has been a humbling and moving experience, underlining how the VCH is powered by the immense commitment and skill of so many gifted people right across the country. As far as possible, we’ve kept close to the words of the nominations in these citations. Nominations sometimes came from individuals, sometimes from large groups of people. Some preferred to be kept anonymous, so we’ve decided not to share the names of anyone who made these nominations.
Thank you all for everything you have done for the Victoria County History project, and for your local places and communities.
Mary Siraut, VCH Somerset
As editor of the Somerset VCH Mary’s dedication and scholarship have been outstanding. She works full-time in a voluntary capacity, using her wealth of research experience and incredible knowledge of Somerset. In recent years she has produced volumes on the Cadburys (vol. 11) and Minehead (vol. 12, forthcoming), as well as the EPE Exmoor volume. She is currently researching the complex history of Taunton Deane and its voluminous sources. She also promotes the VCH through talks, walks and newsletters. Mary’s passion and commitment have enabled the Somerset VCH to thrive. Her voluntary contribution is wholly exceptional.
David Harries, VCH Northamptonshire
David became Secretary of the Northamptonshire VCH Trust when it was established in 1995 and has served in that capacity since. From the outset, he provided proper processes and procedures, ensured professional administration, and managed finances with care. But his most particular achievement has been overseeing the current Towcester volume. Working with volunteers and professionals, he has: negotiated appropriate contracts; identified and monitored researchers; linked with editors; secured necessary funding; and encouraged Trustees when the operation was difficult and in jeopardy. The latest volume from Northamptonshire would not be happening without him. A fitting tribute as he retires as Trust Secretary.
Jean Morrin, VCH Hampshire
Since 2009 Jean has enthusiastically taught, led, motivated, and befriended c.30 volunteers to research for VCH Hampshire, leading to publication of five Shorts to date, including her own authorship of Steventon parish. During Covid, it was through her initiative that face-to-face weekly meetings were moved online to Zoom, thus enabling research on three more publications to continue. Despite the death of her husband in 2020, her continuing major commitment to VCH has been an inspiration to all her colleagues. They write that ‘it is no exaggeration to say that without her outstanding contribution, our Project would have achieved nothing’.
Jonathan Comber, VCH Herefordshire – and beyond!
Jonathan Comber has been a crucially important Treasurer of the Herefordshire VCH Trust for several years. He has been very successful in maintaining a flow of donations. At the same time he liaises closely and very successfully with VCH volunteers and paid historians who have completed three Shorts (Bosbury, Colwall, Cradley) over the last few years. In addition to this he carries out research and writes important sections of these Shorts himself. Moreover, at the same time, he is Treasurer of the Gloucestershire VCH Trust and has co-written the St Clement Danes, 1660-1900 Short for VCH Middlesex.
Chris Thornton, VCH Essex
Chris Thornton has devoted much of his working life to the history of Essex, including as VCH Essex Assistant Editor (from 1996, Vol. X) and Editor (from 2003; Vols. XI, XII). His knowledge of Essex history, landscape, and historical sources has no rival. He gives many talks in support of VCH; writes with great clarity and erudition; and has a rare ability to support and inspire others, most evident in his nurturing of volunteer research groups—Newport, Clacton, Harwich, and Southend. All are anxious to support this nomination. He is described by colleagues as a ‘fine scholar in many historical periods’, and as ‘loyal, conscientious and hardworking through difficult times for the VCH project, including Covid’. He is always approachable, supportive, and respectful in interacting with colleagues, volunteers, and supporters. He has a pleasant and appreciative manner towards staff of libraries and record repositories and local officials—in short, an excellent ambassador for the VCH.
Nigel Tringham, VCH Staffordshire
Nigel Tringham, until recently County Editor for VCH Staffordshire, was appointed as an Assistant Editor for the Staffordshire VCH in 1979. He quickly proved adept at both the research and writing of VCH articles, contributing to volumes on Stafford, Lichfield, part of Seisdon Hundred, and Leek. In 1995 he was promoted to County Editor, and since then has maintained a prodigious output, editing and writing the major part of volumes on Burton-upon-Trent, Tutbury and Needwood Forest, and Audley, Keele, and Trentham. 2020 witnessed the publication of his last volume, on Tamworth and Drayton Bassett. His four decades’ work represent an outstanding contribution to the VCH in Staffordshire and his recent retirement is an ideal time to pay tribute to that.
Sally Self, VCH Gloucestershire
Sally has played a crucial role for VCH Gloucestershire as a volunteer coordinator. She organises volunteers with energy and commitment, and is extremely proactive, meeting with researchers and authors early on to find how volunteers could support their work. Volunteers have now transcribed all the probate records for Leckhampton at Gloucestershire archives and the TNA—a stunning achievement. The work provides a valuable resource for future researchers. Sally has also attended the archive to transcribe documents on a range of topics herself, allowing the project to cover more ground after the problems created by the pandemic. Her work is always of the highest quality, and her colleagues are in her debt.
We also have three awards made direct from VCH Central Office. Earlier this year, we were delighted to make awards to two senior members of the VCH Essex Trust, as they stepped down from their roles. In her long service as Secretary to the VCH Essex Trust, Patricia Hermann often brought a sympathetic and expert perspective to VCH publishing questions, drawing on her own background in publishing. She has been a generous host of VCH meetings in her beautiful home—a colleague remembers this as ‘easily the most convivial meeting venue I’ve had the pleasure of attending’. More recently, Patricia played an enthusiastic role in sourcing items for our VCH Essex ‘Red Box’, and even made a cameo appearance in our Red Boxes film, now part of our online course on ‘Applied Public History’.
As VCH Essex Chairman, Geoffrey Hare strengthened relationships between the VCH Essex Trust and VCH Central Office and led the Trust through a time of change. We have hugely appreciated his pragmatic, straightforward and collegial approach. It is no coincidence that, over the last couple of years, VCH Essex has been at the heart of VCH development and projects, including the role of Southend as a central case-study in the AHRC-funded ‘Towns and the Cultural Economies of Recovery’ project.
Finally, we know our friends and colleagues across the VCH project will want to join with us in making an Outstanding Contribution Award to Matt Bristow, as he leaves the IHR to take up a full-time role at Historic England. Matt has worked for the VCH for 17 years, beginning with a role on the England’s Past for Everyone project, and then playing a crucial role as Architectural Editor. Many of you will have hosted Matt for flying visits across the country, as he dropped in to investigate interesting fields, architectural quirks, or puzzling buildings. We thank him for everything he has done for the project, and wish him well for the future.
If you would like to nominate someone for a VCH Outstanding Contribution Award, please email Rebecca.Read@sas.ac.uk by Monday 12 December 2022, making your email subject line ‘VCH Outstanding Contribution Award’. Please include in your email:
- Name and title of nominee, and their VCH role(s)
- Your name and connection with the nominee (this will not be made public)
- Up to 100 words explaining why you are nominating this person for a VCH Outstanding Contribution Award. If successful, this text may be published online
When you make a nomination, please bear in mind that some people may not feel able to accept an award. We will discuss their wishes with them in confidence before making any awards.