A brief history of Victorian storage

The Rochester Bridge Trust has collected numerous archives and interesting objects during its more than 600-year history, all of which combine to tell the story of this ancient charity, and they all need to be carefully stored.

We’ve previously told you about our updated strong room and how it has been carefully designed to store archives in the best possible manner, but what happened to these important documents in days gone by?

There’s no easy answer to that question because modes of storage have changed a lot over the centuries, but one way documents used to be stored is in metal document boxes, often called deed boxes, such as the one pictured here.

Archivists often find such boxes in big country houses or the basements of solicitors’ firms – they were also used to distribute files around an office. Being metal they were probably considered to be fire and waterproof, but they can be heavy and prone to rust, and they are not particularly practical for retrieving files, so such boxes no longer have much appeal from a serious storage point of view.

As you can see from the front of this newly restored box, in days gone by it was used to hold “Expense and other rolls” and relates to the period from Richard II to Elizabeth I. Don’t be misled, it doesn’t date from the earliest years of the Trust’s history, it’s probably only 100 or so years old, but sometimes an item is kept for its charm

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