Ely’s new archive centre on track to open at former bowling alley Strikes in autumn 2019 as work begins to relocate 855 tons of historical documents from Cambridge

The view from the gantry of the new Ely Archives Centre

The view from the gantry of the new Ely Archives Centre - Credit: Archant

Ely’s new archives centre is on schedule to open in autumn 2019 as work begins to move 855 tons of historical documents from the basement of Shire Hall in Cambridge to the city’s former bowling alley Strikes.

Work on the roof of Ely Archives Centre

Work on the roof of Ely Archives Centre - Credit: Archant

Oliver Cromwell’s baptism record and the original 17th century maps proposing the draining of the Fens are just two of the documents moving to the building in Angel Drove, which will be the new home of Cambridgeshire Archives.

The move comes after an inspection by the National Archives which deemed the current archives accommodation in the basement of Shire Hall as “no longer fit for purpose”.

Plans for the site include an enhanced digitisation suite, so that more documents can be made available online.

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell - Credit: Archant

The current archives centre is temporarily closed this week so that staff can clean and repackage just under 6km of archives in preparation for the move.


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The archives service holds 855 tons of historical documents – many written in Latin - dating from the 13th century onwards.

East Cambs Councillor Bill Hunt, who spearheaded the Ely Archives Project and is chairman of its committee, said: “Lots of people are interested in their family background and finding out where they come from.

A historical document from The Soham or Middle Fen Commission about molecatching. It was written in

A historical document from The Soham or Middle Fen Commission about molecatching. It was written in 1926. - Credit: Archant

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“I am delighted that this high profile service is to open in Ely in late 2019 and it is right that such an important county asset is located here in Ely which is, after all, in the geographic centre and the railway ‘hub’ of Cambridgeshire. I can’t wait for the opening.”

Over the last year the council has worked to slash costs including other areas of landscaping and saving on the car park budget. The council also plans to scrap plans for the centre to have a dedicated nitrate negative store to hold the county council’s 250,000 flammable photographic negatives.

They will instead be housed at the National Conservation Service (NCS) in Oxfordshire at a cost of £500 a year, saving the council £66,005.

The searchroom and reception area of the new Ely Archives Centre at the former bowling alley Strikes

The searchroom and reception area of the new Ely Archives Centre at the former bowling alley Strikes in Angel Drove. - Credit: Archant

Making up part of the council’s hefty budget is £245,000 for six linear kilometres of shelving and £87,200 to refurbish the site’s current car park.

Ely’s register office – despite protests – is also moving to the building and, at a cost of £20,000, will feature a “pleasant external area for registration guests”.

Moving the register office from Market Street to the new centre is expected to save the council £23,000 a year.

One of the pillars to support the roof at the new Ely Archives Centre at former bowling alley Strike

One of the pillars to support the roof at the new Ely Archives Centre at former bowling alley Strikes in Angel Drove. - Credit: Archant

A Cambs County Council spokesman said: “For the first time, the unique and irreplaceable historical records that have been held in the Shire Hall basement will now be kept in purpose built and environmentally-controlled archives accommodation.”

“The building is well located within easy walking distance of Ely train station and town centre, and is well suited for adapting into a home for the archives.”

The archives team have also arranged for some of the most popular information, the transcripts of parish registers from the 16th century onwards, to be held elsewhere so that they are still available to the public while the archives are closed.

The searchroom and reception area of the new Ely Archives Centre at the former bowling alley Strikes

The searchroom and reception area of the new Ely Archives Centre at the former bowling alley Strikes in Angel Drove. - Credit: Archant

The transcripts for the rest of the county will be at the Cambridgeshire Collection in Cambridge Central Library.

Search Cambridgeshire Archives Service’s online catalogue online: www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/residents/libraries-leisure-&-culture/archives/.

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