Hospitalfield uncovers document treasure trove

The minutes and other documents discovered down the back of furniture at Hospitalfield House
The minutes and other documents discovered down the back of furniture at Hospitalfield House

A RARE and valuable historical find has been made at Arbroath’s Hospitalfield House.

A cache of documents, mostly minutes from trustee meetings, were discovered by Rebecca Westguard, the events and audience development manager.

The find was made during the tidying up process for this weekend’s open day at the arts centre.

Rebecca told us: “I was sorting out the reserve collection, when I decided to tidy up in what I presume was a disused safe.”

She estimated that there were dozens of items, possibly as many as 30 documents, some in hard back, some still in envelopes, but all material relating to the very beginnings of the Hospitalfield Trust.

Willie Payne, Trust director and historian, says he is fascinated by this unique glimpse of the distant and sparsely documented period.

He said: “We have found nothing of this significance for the last 30 years.

“All of the documents are from the early 19th century, although the latest dates from the 1870s, but all relate to the life of Patrick Allan-Fraser.

“The earliest I have found can be dated to between 1809 and 1820, and is a copy of the minutes from a trustees’ meeting.”

“The documents basically provide us with a linear narrative of what the trustees did.”

Willie added: “As an historian this is very exciting. Before I started here the trust lost half of it’s archives, it seems they were just dumped.

“As a result, nobody really knew anything about the early days of the trust, and I’ve heard some pretty fanciful rumours.

“These documents will set the record straight in that respect, and will also be further confirmation of what we already know.”

Willie hopes to write a book on the history of Hospitalfield as a semi-retirement project and a legacy of his time at the renowned arts centre, and this latest find will likely prove an invaluable aid.

Hospitalfield House is holding a free open day this Sunday, and it is hoped that at least some of the new documents will be ready to be displayed in the library, with an overview from Willie.