Haverhill museum helps bring Domesday survey back to life

Haverhill's Centre for Computing History's curator Jason Fitzpatrick shows the technology used to record the Domesday survey in 1986, which fast became obsolete.

Haverhill's Centre for Computing History's curator Jason Fitzpatrick shows the technology used to record the Domesday survey in 1986, which fast became obsolete.

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A Domesday project completed 25 years ago by the BBC has been largely restored with the help of a Haverhill museum.

The Centre for Computing History has been working in tandem with the BBC on the project, which aims to make available details recorded during the 1986 survey.

Haverhill's Centre for Computing History's curator Jason Fitzpatrick shows the technology used to record the Domesday survey in 1986, which fast became obsolete.

Haverhill's Centre for Computing History's curator Jason Fitzpatrick shows the technology used to record the Domesday survey in 1986, which fast became obsolete.

Back then, the BBC completed a massive survey of every town and village in England 900 years after the original Domesday book was compiled in 1086, collecting not just facts and figures but personal accounts of life in Britain.

However, all of the data was recorded on Laserdiscs which, along with the hardware that played them, soon became obsolete, meaning many people never saw the survey’s results.

Tim Peter and Alasdair Kergon, both from London, volunteered to help the museum restore the data as the centre’s relationship with Cambridge computer firms put them in a unique position to restore data from the Laserdiscs.

After starting their work around 18 months ago, they were contacted by the BBC to work in tandem as the broadcaster looked to restore the data for its 25th anniversary.

Haverhill's Centre for Computing History's curator Jason Fitzpatrick shows the technology used to record the Domesday survey in 1986, which fast became obsolete.

Haverhill's Centre for Computing History's curator Jason Fitzpatrick shows the technology used to record the Domesday survey in 1986, which fast became obsolete.

Museum curator Jason Fitzpatrick said: “We had a project we were doing ourselves to preserve the old Acorn system and the Laserdiscs with two volunteers who wanted to rescue the data, and that’s what we set about to do.

“We put a few pages on our website saying what we were doing and the BBC informed us that they were doing something similar.

“We’re still working on more as there were entries submitted after the closing date that were never recorded, so we’re trying to recover that data.

“The hardware is interesting, the computer is interesting, the whole project is interesting as this is a social thing, a big social story about how the UK was in the mid 1980s.

“There are photographs, little write ups and more, and it’s a snapshot of how the UK was back then.”

The data can be seen by visiting www.computinghistory.org.uk/domesday

The museum is appealing for anyone who took part in the survey to get in touch, to see what they wrote and share their views. Phone 01440 709794.

For all the latest news see Thursday’s (May 26) Echo.