Nearly one hundred years of Plymouth's political history has been safeguarded this morning as Alison Seabeck and myself donated Labour's archives to the city.
Alison Seabeck and myself this morning donated eight boxes of archives, minute books, election materials, election posters and political leaflets to the City Archives. The earliest documents date from the 1920s and tell the story of the Labour movement, trade unions and the Co-operative Party in the city.
Plymouth City Archives are a real treasure trove of history. Rows and rows of acid-free boxes safely preserve hundreds of years of Plymouth's history. It is an amazing and vitally important part of our city.
Valuing our history
I think Plymouth's heritage is much under-valued. It is one of the reasons why I started the campaign to properly light up Charles Church and am calling for a proper welcome sign for Devonport. Plymouth has a proud past that we need to preserve and celebrate.
Labour's archives used to be stored in a dark corner of our old office but since moving to our new campaign centre on the Hoe they have been cleaned, sorted and date-ordered by volunteers. It is right that these documents are open to the public so historians, archivists and journalists can view this unique collection.
Amongst our archives are some real gems that I am glad will soon be available to the public to view for themselves at the archives. These include:
- David Owen's letter applying to be a Labour candidate and also the words of his resignation speech when he left to join the SDP.
- Minutes of the first Labour Party meeting after the start of the Second World War that held a minute's silence for the loss of the first Devonport Royal Navy vessel.
- The speaking schedule for Michael Foot from the 1951 General Election (he did three public meetings a day each with over 200 people at!)
- Minutes form Labour's Women's Group, Youth League and even notes from the curiously named Propaganda committee.
- How candidates were selected and their backgrounds
- Minutes of discussions during the war about what a Labour Government could create after the Second World War - the NHS and welfare support in particular.
The archives show just how much things have changed in Plymouth - and largely for the better. But there are some common themes. All the old leaflets from decades past highlight how the Tories look after the rich but the most vulnerable in our society suffer. I was struck by just how many leaflets from times of Tory government spoke about cuts to services for the disabled, cost of living crises and cuts to the health service. You might recognise a few of those from our current Tory Government. Some things, it seems, don't change.
Labour's archives of minute books and notes are now preserved
Michael Foot is a towering figure in Plymouth's political history and this poster from 1955 is just part of a huge amount of Foot-related materials donated today.
Alison Seabeck, the Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said:
"I'm really pleased that Plymouth's political history is being safeguarded for future generations. Labour's archives tell the story of the struggle of working people over the last century. I'm especially pleased that the City Archives will now hols the records of the Labour's Women's Committee and the struggle for equality."
Labour's archives will be sorted, catalogued and stored at the Plymouth City Archives in Coxside before moving to the new History Centre in 2017 once it has been built.
Plymouth City Archives contain some of Plymouth's most important documents: from birth and death records, court proceedings, to council records and some of the earliest Royal Charters for the city. The investment in the new History Centre will double the space of the current Museum, create the largest art gallery in the south west and bring together the three archives in the city all under one roof.