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The Magic Attic

Local History - Local Heritage - from Local Folk

Registered Charity No 1094124

For many years the archive of the Burton Mail Newspapers was kept in their South Derbyshire offices at Swadlincote. In 1986, Graham Nutt, a local man who had been born in the area, was made aware that the archive was in danger of being lost to the district.

The Mail was moving their operation to much smaller premises and the lack of space in their new home meant the archive would have to go.

Graham, who, with several others, regularly used the vast collection for research purposes, decided to attempt to keep the collection in Swadlincote. Along with the help of his friend Joe Storer, an Environmental Health Officer at the local council and a keen local historian, they secured space in the attic above The South Derbyshire Snooker Centre based in the town. Following discussions with the Burton Mail the collection was handed over to them.

Word was put out around the area that some help was required to move the volumes of newspapers. On the Sunday morning of April 5th, 1987 a group of around thirty volunteers arrived outside the newspaper office with all types of transport - vans, pick-ups, estate cars and cars towing camping trailers. A chain of people worked loading the volumes and then unloading them again at the snooker club. Within three hours they had moved the archive (believed then to be around eight tons) to its new home a quarter of a mile distant.

During the following weeks a rough wooden shelving system was produced from reclaimed pallet timber (no money for grandiose schemes) and the volumes were racked in date order. To enable people to read the newspapers, an assortment of tables were placed in the centre of the premises and were illuminated by several strip lights.

Local libraries were informed they could pass the word on that the archive was open to members of the public between 7.30pm until 9.30pm on Monday and Thursday evenings.

The proprietors of South Derbyshire Snooker Centre, Alan and Lynda Harrison, and their patrons, cannot be praised enough for their help and tolerance towards those who had arrived above them.

The premises of the snooker club were a mixture of old and new buildings. The archive was housed in the older section which was initially the upper floor of a barn built in the mid 1700’s. It had been alongside a farm which for a number of years had belonged to Willaim Sharpe.

In order to gain access to the archive, visitors entered the main hall of the snooker club and made their way between the players and tables before passing through two more doors to be confronted by a rough wooden staircase.

After ascending the stairs they arrived in the “attic” - Dust, a tiled roof, low wooden beams, no windows and a rough wooden floor that altered height in several places. Below was the bar, lounge and “cellar” store of the snooker centre.

It was by no means the ideal place to keep a paper archive some of it dating back to the 1780’s. Parts of it had already been subjected to the ravages of time including being caught up in floods. On some occasions sparrows found their way in and after being caught were carefully exported outside via the snooker hall. In summer it could become rather warm (tempting some visitors into the bar downstairs) and in winter one needed to be well wrapped up. One couple enquired if it was OK to bring a flask of soup with them on their next visit!

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The History of The Magic Attic Archives - In a Nutt Shell

Newspapers in the old Magic Attic above the Snooker Centre South Derbyshire Snooker Centre - Home of the original Magic Attic