Researching at the Record Office


How do you find out about the past? Most of our Year 5 history students answered ‘Google it’ or ‘ask someone’ or ‘look in a book’ So they set off to the West Sussex County Records Office to find out whether there was another way.

They met the archivist Nichola on arrival before exploring lots of documents about Shopwyke House that Nichola had got out for them. Shopwyke House was bought and turned into Westbourne House by Mr Shilcock (see our history page for more info). They enjoyed spotting things on the old maps that they recognise and discovering new things they didn’t know had existed, such as four summer houses that used to be in the grounds!

They learnt from the archivist about the strong room and the special conditions within which protect and preserve the documents. They also loved seeing the moving bookshelves and were full of questions for Nichola, who was showing them around.

“What is the strong room protecting from?”
“What would happen if…”
“Can you be squished by the moving bookcases?”

They were also fascinated by the maps printed on cow skins.

“Why did they use skin to make a map?” they asked and were interested to hear that they used to find uses for every part of the animal, including the skin, and that the cow’s skin was durable and made beautiful maps.

Learn more about the history of Westbourne House.