On my first visit to the Northallerton county records office I looked into a few areas, it was hard to grasp the immensity of the archives so I thought I would start with some different themes and see where they led me. My study is focused on the Selby area, close to where I grew up, so I chose avenues of enquiry which have general and also local interest. This initial foray included the Workhouse, the Toll Bridge archives , the Selby bypass, Brayton Barff and Eggborough power station.
Each avenue was different but it was the story of the Toll Bridge which most drew me in. As a child, I remember the queues and how people would drive miles round by Cawood to avoid the traffic on summer days. In the archive, I discovered the old maps and exploring history and found that the first bridge across the river in Selby was built in 1791. I also noticed on an early map that the land north of the river in Barlby was owned by Lord Petre of Essex, who was he and why did he own land in Yorkshire? - Something for another visit.
I drew pictures, took photos and made lots of notes and then back home, began a process of digestion and reflection to allow the information I had gathered to settle in.
This journey became more intriguing when by chance , the week after my visit to Northallerton, I met up with my oldest friend. She is a social worker in fostering and adoption in London, but we grew up together in Hensall near Selby. We talked about work and the fostering organisation she works for and by chance realised that her head office is the ancestral home of the same Lord Petre of Essex. This coincidence set my mind racing and I started to focus in more on work connected to the bridge in Selby.
Although still at the ideas stage, my thoughts were made more concrete by a short visit to Selby a few weeks ago. It was inspiring to see the bridge again and the old toll booth which is still standing but no longer in use. I also noticed so many interesting details on and round the site; the old wheels, mementos of the original swing bridge replaced in 1970, the vibrant red paint of the bridge itself, notices connected to a walking group in the area and the shed perched on top of the railway bridge down river.
Since this visit, I have continued thinking, extending and exploring new visual ideas; ways to cover or decorate the bridge. Maybe in a patchwork of scaffolding net – an idea I have tested on buildings in Manchester recently, also a drawing competition, maybe to draw attention, literally, to the structure and see how the people of Selby remember it. I am also drawn to collaborating with looked after children/ families in Selby, referring back to the connection to Lord Petre. If the current situation eases, I am keen to return to the archive and likewise Selby, to develop the ideas and partnership working further.