East Sussex Volunteering

The East Sussex Poor Law project works with archival research volunteers at The Keep in Falmer near Brighton. We warmly welcome new volunteers to our group.

Main purpose of Role: To be part of a team of volunteers numbering, cataloguing and transcribing data from eighteenth and early nineteenth century Poor Law bills and receipts. In addition volunteers may wish to research and write, or assist in writing biographies of those that appear in these documents for inclusion on the ‘The Poor Law: small bills and petty finance’ project website.  The research work involved is central to a larger project to understand the history of the Old Poor Law and the parish community.

What does the role involve?

  • Handling, numbering and assessing overseers’ bills and receipts (vouchers).
  • Inputting information to an online form to enhance the archival catalogue and provide an invaluable research resource.
  • Conducting archival research into the lives and circumstances of those involved with the Old Poor Law.
  • Attending regular feed-back meetings (every 4-6 weeks) to discuss and share the progress of the project.
  • Writing biographies or blog posts (Optional).


  • Regular research sessions will be held on Tuesday afternoons, 2-4pm. During lockdown and any subsequent period volunteer researchers can work online. Regular online sessions are being instituted so we can keep in touch and collectively answer queries.
  • Trained volunteer researchers can work independently and flexibly online or at The Keep when regular opening hours are re-established.
  • Trained volunteers can spend a session numbering and photographing the documents at The Keep for processing from home. (Until we are able to establish a safe return to The Keep this is suspended)


  • The Keep, Woollards Way, Brighton, BN1 9BP.
  • If you have access to a desktop computer or laptop then you can work at home with digital images.

With whom?

This project is a partnership between the University of Sussex and the East Sussex Archive Service based at The Keep.  Parallel initiatives, in partnership with the University of Keele, are currently underway with the archive services of Staffordshire and Cumbria.

Support and Training

Initial training sessions will be provided and will include: historical background to the poor law, handling and numbering documents, using the online data collection form together with plenty of practice in reading documents. On-going support will be provided through regular feed-back and update sessions in which research volunteers will be encouraged to share their findings and flag-up items of mutual interest.

What does the role offer?

This role is suitable for those with a keen interest in family or local history; or the history of social policy and working lives. It offers opportunities to:

  • handle and work with eighteenth and nineteenth century documents
  • find out about local history
  • develop new research skills
  • develop and enhance writing skills
  • work as part of a team
  • contribute to the work of the archive
  • be part of a large research project.