Winchester Archivist Given Mayoral Send-Off

The guardian of Winchester City Council’s official records was given a special send-off by the Mayor of Winchester on Monday this week.

Gill Rushton, who has been the Winchester Archivist for more than 30 years, retired last month. The role was originally created in the late 70s to provide for the care and curation of the City Council’s formal records, such as Council papers and legal documents. It evolved over the years to include a wide range of other deposits from community organisations and institutions across the Winchester District, ranging from the Hospital of St Cross to Swanmore Women’s Institute, and from Winchester Hockey Club to HM Prison. Gill carried out her duties as part of her wider role as Deputy Head of Hampshire Record Office.

The Mayor, Cllr Eileen Berry, is passionate about the history and culture of Winchester and was keen to mark the end of an era. So she made Gill the guest of honour at an afternoon tea for more than 40 invited guests at Abbey House. Familiar faces included former the present and former Chief Executives of Winchester City Council; Prof Barbara Yorke from the University of Winchester; Canon Roland Riem from the Cathedral; Clive Cook, the Director of the St John’s Winchester Charity and former staff, Councillors and colleagues from the Winchester Excavations Committee. There were also three current and former County Archivists from the Record Office, under each of whom Gill had worked – Caroline Edwards, Jan Smith and Rosemary Dunhill.

The gathering was formally welcomed to Abbey House by Mayor Cllr Eileen Berry. Stephen Whetnall, the Council’s Chief Operating Officer, then made an informed and entertaining speech in which he complimented Gill on her professionalism, efficiency, encyclopaedic knowledge and attention to detail. He also drew attention to some of the quirkier documents in her care.

Stephen said:

Gill absolutely loved her work as the Winchester Archivist, and we have always been able to rely on her with complete confidence in all she did. Alongside her curatorial activities, she also led wonderful tours of the Record Office and supported numerous exhibitions and activities featuring the Winchester records. We are sorry to see her leaving, but she will most certainly have left the Winchester collections in exceptional order and her Record Office colleagues will continue her good work.

In her speech of thanks, Gill spoke of the ‘Tutankhamen’ moments she had experienced – such as finding a treasure trove of records of the St John’s Winchester Charity holed up behind the wall of a redecorated office. She also mentioned her fondness for the City of Winchester’s first charter, granted by King Henry II in the 12th Century, and held at the Record Office.

As a record of the occasion, Gill was presented by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Rob Humby, with a letter of appreciation signed by the Mayor and copies of two prints of Winchester taken from images in the City Council’s art collection. He said,

In a District where people love their history as much as Winchester, the work of professionals such as Gill deserves public recognition and appreciation. I am sure she will be in great demand following her official retirement for all kinds of new projects and initiatives, but hope she manages to have a well earned holiday before the rush!

Although there will not be a designated Winchester Archivist in future, the Record Office will continue to care for the Council records which are a prized part of their county-wide collections.