On the Record

Sarah Tyacke, Keeper of Public Records and Chief Executive of the Public Record Office, makes a personal record of her own abiding interest in history, maps and archives.

If there was a moment when I did not want to be ‘doing’ history I cannot remember it now. It seemed that all my family were interested in history and so was I from a very early age. In my case it was an eclectic interest ranging from archaeology to travel and exploration in the shape of pictures of tea-clippers under sail round Cape Horn and stories of the young David Livingstone reading while he worked in a cotton mill and of Clive of India sitting high up on a gargoyle on a church steeple in his home town of Market Drayton, Shropshire. I never tried this, but it certainly influenced my climbing of lamp posts in our Chelmsford suburban road!

My father and his father and my great-grandfather John Samuel Jeacock had all been headmasters of local secondary schools or of village schools since the middle of the nineteenth century. In the 1901 census, now digitised, John Samuel is described as ‘schoolmaster and organist’ and it was a matter of family pride that he had somehow been examined as a student teacher by the poet, critic and inspector of schools, Matthew Arnold. The tradition continued with my elder sister some twenty years older than me who was also a teacher.

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