Friday, 3 February 2012

Law Society to examine historic legal documents

From the Law Society (

Legal documents in Law Society archives uncover historical secrets

Historical legal documents, some dating back to the 17th Century, are being examined by experts at the Law Society in a nationwide project.

The documents, kept in storage by the Law Society until now, are passed on from solicitors firms that no longer operate or exist. It is not always possible to repatriate these documents and they cannot be destroyed for legal reasons.

Approximately 27,000 boxes are being examined by archiving experts for historical importance. Contents range from property deeds and wills, which are hand written on vellum and stamped with the wax seal of Charles II, to personal diaries of society ladies from the early 19th Century.

These were originally stored in the solicitor’s offices but were never claimed by the clients.

This is a joint project with the Law Society and the SRA (Solicitors Regulation Authority).

As well as finding historical gems, the archivists also hope to repatriate some of the contents with any remaining legal owners- such as descendents of the original owners.

The Law Society and the SRA are now working with the Records Preservation Section of the British Records Association in order to sort out the documents of interest and loan them to public archives.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said this is a fascinating project, which offers a great insight into Britain's legal history.

"We know the Law Society archivists and the volunteers from the British Records Association have a mammoth task on their hands. Everything from jewellery to wills are stored in the archives and we hope, and assume, many documents of great public interest and historical relevance."

“We are keen to hand over these documents to public archives to make sure that they are preserved and available to whoever needs them.”

Any documents will be deposited with the appropriate regional archives on the basis that we would be able to retrieve them should the owner come forward and ask for them.

(With thanks to Rebecca Kiernan at the Law Society)


1 comment:

  1. Wow - what a lot of work to go through all those boxes, and what gems might be found, eh? Very exciting!