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October 2012 Meeting Report

Colin Limming on The Story of a Village History: Melbourn’s Millennium Book

Colin began his talk by telling us a bit about Melbourn’s history and some of the events which happened through the centuries, including in 1640 a visit by King Charles who demanded £26 10s from the village, and dissenter William Dowsing, who broke many of the church windows which were left unrepaired for quite some time.

Colin then went on to tell us about The Millennium Book, which was a record of Melbourn as it was in the year 2000.  Produced by a small enthusiastic team and delivered free to all households, the cost of production was paid for by the advertisements.  The book included many photographs of the village’s houses and institutions.

Why would you want to write a history book?  To keep a record for generations to come, such as old buildings and artefacts which will disappear over the years.

The group decided to follow this up with a pictorial book of Melbourn.  They applied to the Countryside Agency (now disbanded) and were asked to consider a variety of likely costs including: printing; cost of research; insurance; delivery; costs of meetings, etc.  They were awarded £21,044.85 (a somewhat strange amount) in two tranches.  It was decided to split the book into chapters with each team member preparing one chapter.  A fire resistant filing cabinet was purchased for storage, and they also had to consider storage, then distribution, of the printed books.

Senior citizens were invited to attend meetings, with the offer of tea and cakes in return for their memories which were recorded at the time.  It was decided to stage an exhibition and quarterly progress reports.  In 2004 Pictorial Melbourn was produced for £15 including a CD recording of people’s memories.

Following on from these two books the scene was set for a third.

A lot of research was carried out including many visits to the Cambridgeshire Collection, the University Library at Hertford and the record offices of the Royston Crow, where copies from 1860 to 1950 was scrutinised for any information on Melbourn.  The oldest photograph was taken of Melbourn parish church in 1865 and many old postcards were used for illustrations.

In 2005 they saw the fruition of their labours and ‘A Glimpse into Melbourn’s Past’ was published together with a DVD containing a slide show voiced over by the senior citizens. 

What do you need to produce a book?  A team of enthusiastic people, about four years’ dedication, money and very good design people for the finished article.

This was a fascinating talk which showed what can be achieved through painstaking research by a dedicated group of enthusiasts with a lot of time to spend on the project.
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