Earlier this year we were delighted to make our second annual round of VCH Outstanding Contribution Awards, nominated by the VCH community. We would like to thank everyone who submitted a nomination.
These aren’t long service awards—though some of the recipients have done brilliant work for the VCH for many years. They’re a recognition of excellence at any career stage or for any aspect of supporting the VCH. And our hope is they will show the variety of roles involved in the project and inspire others to get involved.
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 is always 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.
The awards were announced at our annual VCH Day on 10 May 2023 in front of our county organisation representatives and colleagues.
Pam Fisher, VCH Leicestershire
Pam Fisher began with the Leicestershire VCH in 2009 as a successful co-ordinator of volunteers. Her VCH Short on Castle Donington (2016) (her own initiative) transformed the VCH’s role in the county. Donors were attracted to support Buckminster (2017), Ibstock (2021), and Lutterworth (2022). Loughborough and a red volume are the next objectives. Pam has developed a wide range of skills. As well as research and writing widely praised publications she manages the VCH website and social media, produces a Newsletter, organises launches and trains volunteers. She contributes many additional hours voluntarily.
Bryan Gray, VCH Cumbria
The Cumbria County History Trust was launched in May 2010 to oversee the Victoria County History of Cumbria project. Bryan Gray, former Chair of the North-West Development Agency, was elected first Chair of the Trust, a position he held until he stepped down in June 2022. Bryan brought a wealth of relevant experience to the role, in particular building the relationship with Lancaster University which has been essential to the work, while championing the role of volunteers as active researchers for the project. The first VCH Short was achieved during his chairmanship, with the first Red Book due out next year.
Sue Lane, VCH Hampshire
Sue has been a volunteer on the Hampshire team for over 10 years. She turned to history and VCH after a career in another field and became an excellent historian with the skills, enthusiasm and determination to resolve problems and produce very readable and interesting text. She is co-author of two of the five Hampshire VCH Shorts: Cliddesden, Hatch and Farleigh Wallop by Alison Deveson and Sue Lane (2018), Dummer and Kempshott, Two Chalkland Parishes by Jennie Butler and Sue Lane (2022). She has also been very generous to the project to encourage more research. Sue has given lectures to publicise the project and helped with exhibitions. She is the sort of person Hampshire VCH depends on for its work.
Sue wrote to us in response to her award:
“It was a real surprise and I feel very honoured to have been nominated for it. I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with VCH over the past ten years and am so glad that I have been able to make a contribution right up to my 83rd birthday. Dummer and Kempshott was launched three days after my birthday and it was a great relief to see it safely published.”
Tony Pollard, VCH Durham
Tony Pollard is nominated for very many years’ work with the Durham VCH—definitely an outstanding contribution. Emeritus Professor Anthony Pollard, is an ex committee member, Trustee and Chair, and now a volunteer with the Durham County VCH Trust.
Tony joined the committee at its re-emergence under the chairmanship of Professor Paul Harvey in about 1995, before taking over as Chairman himself. Under his tenure two volumes (Darlington and Sunderland) were produced, as well as several Shorts. He ran the committee until 2016. Since then, he has remained active as a volunteer and great supporter, writing the VCH Short for Gainford, as part of the Teesdale volume, which is now in editing.
Tony’s son attended the event to collect the award on his behalf, and Tony wrote to us in response:
“What a bolt from the blue. I am not only taken by surprise, but also flattered and honoured to be nominated for a VCH Outstanding Contribution Award. Of course I am bound to say that I don’t merit it. I really don’t think I do and I can think of many others far more deserving than me. However, it is gratifying to know that it reflects the esteem and appreciation of colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure to work over the years, not only at the Durham County Trust but also nationally. Most of my involvement with the VCH since 1990 has been in facilitating the research of others. But as you will know I have recently discovered as a volunteer how challenging the task of writing for the VCH is. I am just delighted to have been able over these years to make a contribution to this great historical enterprise.”
Simon Townley, VCH Oxfordshire
Simon Townley has devoted his career to the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire. He joined the project in 1987 and became County Editor in 1996. Under his stewardship, Oxfordshire has produced a succession of Red Books and other publications. Because of his energy and commitment, it will be able to complete the county history within the decade. But Simon’s contribution goes further than this. He is simply the best ambassador for the project imaginable—always willing to speak to local history groups, always happy to work with local enthusiasts. His combination of serious scholarship with community engagement epitomizes the VCH.
If you would like to nominate someone for a VCH Outstanding Contribution Award, please email Rebecca.Read@sas.ac.uk by Monday, 4 March 2024, 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.