THE largest archive of sound recordings outside of London is to close in the New Year.

The North West Sound Archive, which is based in East Lancashire, will be wound up in early 2015 due to ‘“financial circumstances”’.

The organisation was established in the 1979 following a meeting in Manchester with the aim to record, collect and preserve sound recordings of the life, character, history and traditions of the North West.


After having several homes in Manchester the archive moved to Clitheroe Castle in 1982.

The archive holds more than 140,000 items making it the largest collection in the UK outside of London.

Preserved, amongst others, are the memories of cotton mill workers, engineers, canal workers, railway workers, colliers, wartime memories and conversations with prisoners at Strangeways.

Important collections include the Survey of English Dialects, Jodrell Bank Radio Astronomy collection, Manchester Jewish Museum Oral History collection and an extensive collection of 78 rpm shellac gramophone records.

As well as the collection of sound material, another important facet of the archive’s work is the collection of dialect and technical words and terms from the region.

In a statement on the archive’s website, a spokesman said: “It is with great regret that owing to financial circumstances, the North West Sound Archive is no longer able to continue as a going concern.

“In doing so, the council recognised the importance of ensuring, where possible, that recordings held at the archive are preserved for future generations.

“Arrangements are being made to transfer the collections to the appropriate local authority archive service where they will be preserved in controlled climatic conditions and hopefully will, in due course be made available for access by the public.”

“The NWSA regretfully will no longer be able to provide training or a copying or listening service but will be available in the interim period to offer advice.”

Lancashire County Councillor Marcus Johnstone, cabinet member for environment, planning and cultural services, said: “Of course it’s sad to see the archive leave Clitheroe after so many years, but at the same time it presents an opportunity to continue to develop the sound collections in the areas they’re related to.

“The recordings will complement the existing collections in their new homes in Liverpool, Manchester and Preston archives, and in many respects will be more accessible than they are at the moment.”

“It’s also very reassuring to know that these archives have the ideal conditions for storing and caring for the recordings to make sure they are preserved for future generations to enjoy.”