Arts Society Church Recording began in 1971. The Victoria and Albert Museum in London (which was staging an exhibition of Treasures from Parish Churches) realised that few churches had much idea about their contents. The Arts Society was invited to help.
This challenge produced ideas for the first careful inventory, which was made on a card index. Today an inventory is produced as a book or a disk, and includes plans, drawings and photographs.
Church possessions are vulnerable to damage, to theft and to disappearance and so the Records are invaluable for repair work after damage and assistance to police after theft. They are also well used for family history and by bona-fide researchers.
Church Recorders work in a group to write a detailed description of every item within a church including measurements and well-researched history and provenance. Items of importance are photographed. Nine sections and an introduction (which includes an index of the names mentioned within the record) cover the Memorials, Metalwork, Stonework, Woodwork, Textiles, Paintings, Library, Windows and Miscellaneous (the "Cinderella" section which has the remaining items like the organ, floor-tiles, lighting and fire-extinguishers).
Here are some Church Recorders at work. All photos were taken at St Andrew's Church at Etchilhampton by the combined Pewsey Vale and Devizes DFASs CR Group.
Hands-on training is given by experienced Church Recorders in the two Wessex Areas (Wessex North which covers North Wiltshire, Avon and part of Somerset while Wessex South covers South Wiltshire, Dorset and Bournemouth).
There is something of interest for everyone. No expertise is needed, just an eye for detail, a keen sense of history and a love of our heritage.
Five copies of the record are made, some in book form, some on disk. These copies are given to: the church or chapel, the local County Record Office or History Centre, the Church Buildings Council, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Monuments Record Centre.
Some 1600 churches have been recorded out of about 20,000! Do come and join us!
Church Recording (north and south):