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British Association for Local History honours Clavering's archivist

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A "dedicated and tireless" Uttlesford archivist has been presented with two awards by the British Association for Local History (BALH).

Clavering's Jacqueline Cooper was commended for four decades of discovering, conserving and promoting the distinct's heritage with enthusiasm, generosity and expertise.

The first award was the BALH Personal Achievement Award, for local historians who have made significant voluntary contributions to the subject.

Jilly McNaughton, Joy Barrow, Jacqueline Cooper and Judith William-Powlett. Picture by Joy Barrow (48324580)
Jilly McNaughton, Joy Barrow, Jacqueline Cooper and Judith William-Powlett. Picture by Joy Barrow (48324580)

Jacqueline said: "This was totally unexpected really – like many others, I just pursue my hobby of local history and enjoy sharing it with anyone else interested, just as Eileen Ludgate did for me all those years ago. That is Eileen Ludgate, the late historian of Clavering, who encouraged so many through the history group she organised in the 1980s-90s. I was not particularly into history when we moved here in 1978, so it was entirely through Eileen that it came about – she got me involved in the Recorders of Uttlesford History too and had passed on her role as Local History Recorder for Clavering. Since then it has just grown and expanded, one thing leads to another!"

The second award was for an article Jacqueline wrote about a Clavering rat catcher, which was published in the Saffron Walden Historical Journal, a title she has edited for more than 20 years.

She said: "This is the fifth time that the Saffron Walden Historical Journal has received one for an article by one of its authors, so obviously the editorial team of the Saffron Walden Historical Society, who publish it, are delighted to have this recognition. Editing it has been pure pleasure for the past 20 years, and the particular article that got this award seemed to appeal to the judges because of what they called its 'gruesome' subject.

Saffron Walden Historical Journal (48324605)
Saffron Walden Historical Journal (48324605)

"William Law, the Clavering ratcatcher made a living by carting live rats to London so they could be used in terrier fights at shady establishments where people made bets as to how many rats the dog could kill – yuk! I'm afraid Clavering had quite a few 'gruesome' goings-on in Victorian times, and they make meaty articles for the journal. The social history of the 19th century is so full of incredible stories, having been a journalist I suppose I tend to find them particularly fascinating to write about."

In addition to editing the journal, Jacqueline founded the Clavering Landscape History Group in 2003 and co-ordinates its many activities to this day, including ongoing archaeological investigation of the site of Clavering's castle.

As the Clavering History Recorder, Jacqueline has, over the past four decades, curated an extensive archive in her home. She has also been coordinator of the Recorders of Uttlesford History since 1998 and has written six local history books.

She said: "Ever since we moved here, I have been absolutely fascinated by Clavering Castle, which is just at the back of where we live. So little is known about this important medieval monument and we have grabbed every opportunity to find out more.

Earthworks at Clavering Castle (48324886)
Earthworks at Clavering Castle (48324886)

"We did a big project on it in 2005-8 and last year we were fortunate to commission Simon Coxall, a landscape archaeologist, to survey the earthworks and he discovered masses of things not known before, which we are following up this year. So that is our current project for the summer months. In winter, like last year and as with many history groups, we will probably have to use Zoom a lot for online lectures instead of so many real meetings.

"I am currently updating my guidebooks to historical walks in Clavering and Walden, which are out of print, but my husband Peter has just published a second edition of his Discover Uttlesford walks book."

Clavering Landscape History Group organsied a tea party to celebrate Jacqueline's success and member Jilly McNaughton said: "Jacky voluntarily devotes extraordinary amounts of time and energy to the development of history in Clavering and throughout Uttlesford, enriching the lives of local people by connecting them to a shared heritage - and to one another. These efforts, doggedly sustained throughout the past year, were especially valuable during the Covid lockdowns."

Peter Cooper's book Discover Uttlesford (48325044)
Peter Cooper's book Discover Uttlesford (48325044)

Jacqueline said: "Covid has accentuated the importance of local history, making us all much more acutely aware of how ephemeral life can be and how vital it is that we record both our own life stories and those of others in the past. A community that does not look after its past, has no future, as they say.

"The onrush of housing development is destroying so much of the countryside, that this recording process has become even more important. I am very proud to co-ordinate the Recorders which has a network of about 40 historians all over the district of Uttlesford doing just what I do, preserving and promoting the past of their communities - and of the Journal which offers a platform for them to publish their researches. An ongoing task is to update our website www.recordinguttlesford.org.uk

"Most of all I am hugely proud of the Clavering Landscape History Group, a super bunch of about 60 members (and growing) who offer great support in all we do. The garden party was typical of their generous spirit and friendliness.

"Getting an award is very nice, but even better is just carrying on with the local history research and activities that have proved so rewarding for so many years. And there is still lots to discover and do - watch this space!"

The latest edition of the Journal, published last week, highlights several new discoveries – the diary of a late 18th-century gardener at Audley End; an ancient mere which reappeared in the winter floods near Chestnut Avenue; and an old Viceroys bus which has been rescued and is being restored for a transport museum.

. (48325307)
. (48325307)

The story of the men of RAF Debden who fought in the Battle of Britain is also featured, along with the story of one airman who was lost in Holland, and the centenary of the war memorials unveiling in Uttlesford villages. The history of Arkesden School, of the Fry Art Gallery and of local dovecotes are subjects examined in other articles.

The cover features a painting from the Fry Art Gallery, appropriately with an outdoor theme to suit the season.

This issue, number 41, is on sale at Tourist Information, Harts Bookshop and Saffron Walden Waitrose store, price £4 or direct from the publishers, the Saffron Walden Historical Society: www.saffronwaldenhistory.org.ukArticles from out of print copies of the journal can be found on the website.

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