By Owen Sheppard, local democracy reporter
There are concerns about the future of Hammersmith and Fulham’s rich archive of historical documents and artefacts.
The archives are said to contain items dating back to the 15th century, with treasures such as paintings, ceramics from Fulham Pottery, local newspapers, maps and records that help people trace their ancestry.
Owned by the council, they are housed in a strong room, a specialist temperature-controlled facility at the Lilla Huset building in Talgarth Road, Hammersmith.
Usually, when residents wish to request items from the archive, they are sent to Hammersmith Library where they can be studied.
However, local historians said they were alarmed when a notice appeared on the council’s website, suggesting the archives would need to be relocated outside of the borough.
Annabelle May, chair of the Hammersmith and Fulham Local Archives Support Group, told us the notice was removed from the council’s register of ‘forthcoming decisions’ on January 27, after her colleagues asked councillor Wesley Harcourt to explain the situation.
Now the council has said the archives will not be moved outside the borough, but did not rule out relocating them from the Lilla Huset.
“The Hammersmith and Fulham Council Archives will continue to be stored securely in the borough,” a spokesperson said.
“Whether you’re tracing your family history, house history or researching the changes in your local area over the years, we aim to make items from our invaluable archives available to the public by request. However due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Local Studies & Archives Service is closed and we will let residents know when we can reopen it safely.”
The reasons why the archives may have to be relocated are not yet clear.
A council report from 2017 shows that the council has a lease on the Lilla Huset from a private landlord that owns the building “with five yearly rent reviews and mutual break options in 2021 and 2026.”
Ms May speculated that the council’s landlord, Alduwaliya Asset Management, may be planning to hike the council’s rent, but this has not been confirmed.
The academic from Shepherd’s Bush said: “We wonder if the council might be facing a rent increase.
“But the concern [was] that this was happening under the radar, and suddenly this notice appeared on the website saying we’ve decided to move the archive to an out of borough location, because it would be the most cost effective option.
“There was no consultation with local groups.”
Explaining how it could be both complicated and disadvantageous to relocate the archives, she said: “You would need very specialist movers and everything would have to be catalogued for insurance purposes.
“It could take weeks to request things and you might have to pay more for it.”
She continued: “Council planning officers and public utilities need access to these maps and documents, things like drainage plans etc.
“Universities, businesses, developers, schools and architects all use it. People come to research their family history.”
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