About Us

ALSTON MOOR HISTORICAL SOCIETY – THE REVIVAL

After three years in cold storage, Alston Moor Historical Society has been revived in a spirit of optimism. With a lot of help from volunteers and the Parish and District Councils there is now a vibrant archive and a new programme of talks about local history.

This all began last September when the Society’s Archives were on the point of being made homeless, there appeared to be no room for them any more at the Town Hall where they had been stored for years. Then, thankfully, Alston Moor Parish Council, acting as the Sole Trustee of the Town Hall, granted six months rent-free use of an office in the Town Hall. When the six months were due to run out, the Historical Society applied for a precept from the Parish budget, and the Parish Council voted the Society £2,000 to pay the rent of the office, which was a tremendous show of confidence and a recognition of the importance of the Archives.

The resulting benefits are that the Archives of Alston Moor are where they belong, in the heart of the community, they have security of tenure, and they have been open to the public almost every Saturday since September, providing education and entertainment, at a financial cost to the community of Alston Moor of about £2 per household per year, or in other words 4 pence per household per week. Visitor response is very encouraging, with volunteer archivists being kept busy for most of each session.

VIEILLE MONTAGNE ZINC COMPANY OF BELGIUM

The Society came to life temporarily in 2016 to apply for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to host a commemorative weekend for the 120th anniversary of the arrival of the Vieille Montagne Zinc Company of Belgium in Nenthead in 1896.

The VM brought people of many nationalities to live and work in Nenthead and a partial re-creation of the international atmosphere was made possible by guests from Belgium, France, Germany and Italy. Two directors of the VM itself came to Nenthead for the weekend, where the programme of events made a great impression on them, they were very impressed with everything that was laid on and took part in as many activities as possible.

Of the six speakers at the conference there were three English, one French, one German, and one Italian. It was a privilege for us that two members of the Pestarena Mining Society in the Italian Alps, where some of the Italian miners came from, opened the Gala, and two custodians from the museum of Kelmis in Belgium, the birthplace of the Vieille Montagne, unveiled the information plaque that now stands in the centre of Nenthead.
As part of the HLF grant the ‘vieillemontagnehistory.com’ website was set up, which is entertainment in itself, surprising the reader that Nenthead was once at the forefront of European mining technology with many nations represented among its workers.

A follow-up conference in Kelmis was held this February, when twenty people from France, Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Holland and England met around the table. There is great potential for attracting international interest in what seems like the improbable venue of Nenthead, where a small project in the offing is the installation of a memorial plaque to three Italian miners who are buried side by side in the village cemetery.
Vieille Montagne Website

THE ARCHIVES

What makes Alston Moor tick? What makes the place so special? A lot of the answers lie in the history of the area.

The Archives in the care of the Historical Society are the memory bank of Alston Moor, and a lot of local people recognise this, which is why some donors have stated that they do not wish records of Alston Moor to go anywhere else – they belong here. Therefore everything has to be cared for in a secure environment, so the use of the office in the Town Hall, to have storage space, display space and work space, and to be able to invite the public into, is a real god-send.

However, it’s important not only to conserve the local records for their own sake but to make them work, to make the public - residents and visitors alike - aware of them and that they are accessible. So the Society aims not only to bring people into the Town Hall to look at documents and photographs, etc., at first hand, but to get information out into the community with mobile displays based on archive material, together with continual updating and modification to the website and spreading news of developments via facebook.
The first step is to improve conservation and storage facilities, so a grant application was made to Eden Community Fund for money to buy archival-quality stationery materials. The application was supported by matching funding from Alston Moor Parish Council and Alston Moor Historical Society. The Society is very pleased to report that the application was successful and grateful thanks are due to Eden District Council and Alston Moor Parish Council. Encouragement and practical support has been offered by the County Records Office in Carlisle, so now the team of six volunteers can begin working towards a state-of the-art archive, with standards as near as possible to those of the County Records Office.

The Archivists can offer help with genealogical research as well. For instance, when the lead industry collapsed, people left the district to go to places such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Through the link with St. Augustine’s Church, family histories from around the world can be traced.

So far there have been temporary displays in the Archives about ‘Epiacum Roman fort’, and ‘Local Agriculture’. The current display has been influenced by the recent pantomime, so the theme is ‘Alston Moor on Stage!’.

REVIVAL OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Thanks to support from both councils and enthusiastic volunteer archivists, the Alston Moor Archives have come a long way from a standing start.

On the strength of this the Historical Society in the conventional sense has been revived with a programme of talks and a summer walk. The first meeting was held on the 4th of April on a cold, wet, snowy night, when 28 people met in the Masonic Hall off Front Street. This augurs very well for the future.

The Historical Society’s website and the Vieille Montagne’s website, which are both very sophisticated, are continually being modified and added to, so keep an eye on them.

The next meeting is on Wednesday 2nd May when the talk will be about ‘Alston Moor – the Scottish Connection’. On 6th June the talk is about ‘Industrial Railways on Alston Moor’, and in July the talk is ‘How the Great War affected Alston Moor’. Finally, for the end of this season, on Sunday 5th August, there’ll be a walk around the town near the station to look at part of Alston’s industrial history. And don’t forget that the Archives are open in the Town Hall every Saturday from 10.30 to 2.30, entry is free.

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Alston Moor Historical Society Archives are staffed by volunteers. But even though we give our time for free there are still ongoing costs. Filing cabinets, electricity, heating, hosting costs and more.

We would appreciate any contribution you could give us to help us with our work.
About Us
Alston Moor Historical Society was founded in 1973 and, due to the nature of Alston Moor, it is a member of both the Northumberland Association of Local History Societies and the Cumbria Federation of Local History Societies.
Alston Moor Historical Society
LOCATION
Alston Moor, Cumbria. UK.

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