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Plymouth and West Devon Record Office
Unit 3
Clare Place
Plymouth PL4 0JW

Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
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01752 305940
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Archives from the Attic

Archives in focus

There are many hidden treasures in Plymouth and West Devon Record Office. The following pages highlight some of the collections we hold and the secrets that lie within.

Collection of the month

Details of our collection of the month will appear on our Facebook and Twitter pages. You do not need to sign up to either site to see our posts.

Mumfords of Plymouth

Collection 3713

A newly-deposited accession at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office will help researchers and vehicle enthusiasts document the history of a well-known city-based company that existed for 150 years. Mumford and Sons Ltd was founded in 1860 and stopped trading in late 2010. During its life it was a continually evolving and expanding business that involved many different members of the Mumford family. "The company started with carriage building and then went on to build the first motor taxi in Plymouth and offer a motor bus service", explains City Archivist, Louisa Mann. "During the Second World War it produced aircraft for the war effort and repaired army vehicles. During its time it also undertook storage and distribution, commercial vehicle repairs and car hire."

Mumfords had a proud and varied history and went on to become the distributor/agent for well-known vehicle brands such as Rolls-Royce, Bentley, MG and British Leyland's Morris in Devon and Cornwall. At one point it was also the distributor of Massey Ferguson tractors and farm machinery for south west Devon.

The accession which was deposited by a member of the Mumford family consists of 14 volumes of photographs plus some additional miscellaneous items, including a celebratory brochure from 1950. "The earliest image in the photographic volumes dates from around 1900 and the images show many different aspects of the company over the years", says Louisa. "We are working to make them available on our online catalogue as they will make an excellent resource for vehicle historians. In the meantime, people can arrange access to the images by contacting us and quoting 'accession 3713'."

For more information email or telephone 01752 305940.

Astor scrapbooks 1918-1924

Collection 186

We have been able to digitise 15 scrapbooks of original newspaper cuttings relating to the Astor Family, thanks to a grant of £2,000 from the Meadowbrook Charitable Trust. The cuttings, which have been digitised for us by leading UK scanning bureau, Hugh Symons Information Management, are all more than 85 years old and date from 1918 to 1924.

“The cuttings are currently held in bound volumes and, because of the acidic nature of newsprint, are very fragile indeed,” says our City Archivist. “Due to their poor condition we’re unable to make them available to view. Creating digital copies of them means we can now make them accessible to the public whilst protecting the original volumes.”

The cuttings record press coverage of the lives of Lady Nancy Astor and her family, their political interests and local influence and provide a fascinating insight into the woman who was MP for Plymouth Sutton from 1919 to 1945. One article, for instance, from 'The Western Mercury' dated 4 January 1920 describes Lady Astor sprucing up a Christmas Party at the Guildhall for the widows and children of local war heroes with a rousing speech met with rapturous applause and shouts of 'hear hear'!

“We’re extremely grateful to the Meadowbrook Charitable Trust for providing us with the funding to make these interesting documents more accessible to everyone,” says our City Archivist. “They’re an excellent resource for anyone interested in researching the life of one of Plymouth's most famous characters.”

Our Astor-related newspaper cuttings run on beyond 1924 right up to the 1950s and it hopes that additional funding may become available in the future to digitise the remains of the collection.

In the meantime, anyone interested in viewing the digitised copies from 1918-1924 can do so for free by telephoning 01752 305940 or sending an email to to arrange a convenient date and time.

Merchant ships registered in the Port of Plymouth

Collections 894, 1904, 2196, 2381, 2602, 2805 and 2907, dating from 1814 to 1987

Details of the ships registered in the Port of Plymouth can be traced through our shipping registers. These registers also contain valuable information on the shipbuilders, owners and the people who crewed them.

These records along with the Queen's Harbourmaster records in collection 581 give an insight into the workings of Plymouth as a major maritime city. The registers are currently being transcribed and indexed by a local researcher. The fruits of his research is now available on a CD-ROM.

For more information on the CD, please see the Plymouth Merchant Ships website. For more information on the shipping records we hold, please see the Plymouth shipping registers page.

Plymouth Architectural Heritage

Collections 1735 and 2961 (PCC/60), Plymouth City Council, Building Control Plans, 1851 to 1945

Deposited in 1970 and 2004, these collections contain all of the surviving building control plans (commonly known as planning applications) for the old Borough of Plymouth and surrounding districts. A growing number of the plans can be viewed on the Plymouth's Architectural Heritage page.

A pasty in Plymouth's Old Audit Book

Volume number 1/130, from the Borough of Plymouth records, dated 1510

"Pasty Wars" proclaimed the Western Morning News on Saturday 11 November 2006, following comments made by Dr Todd Gray, Chairman of the Friends of Devon's Archives about a reference to a pasty in the Old Audit Book for Plymouth from 1510. Dr Gray made his comments at a one day conference to highlight Plymouth's archival heritage and look at proposals for a new Plymouth History Centre. Little did he know what would happen next.

The story made the national newspapers and was picked up by BBC TV's Spotlight news programme on the Monday. By Tuesday, the story had gone global and was put out on international news channels. It also appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald in Australia.

Our pasty has now become a legend, being discussed across the Internet, appearing in blogs and newsgroups and has even had a poem written in its honour.

Find out more about our pasty on the following websites:

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