Why volunteer with Made in Greater Manchester? One of the obvious answers to this question is to get your hands on interesting archives. Some of the MIGM collections of business archives are clearly fascinating and beautiful – old plans of the Ship Canal, for example. But I struggled to get interested about the other Manchester collection – Renold Chains PLC.

What’s interesting about making chains, I thought. Sounds technical, boring and dull. I didn’t want our volunteers just walking away from their first box. So I sat down and waded through some myself. And you know what? Turns out chains are fascinating. And really pretty too.

I jumped into box 118, just because it was handy, and typed up its contents into the project template. The result looks like this.


The task is to work through the boxes and add a new line in the spreadsheet for each item. The items need a reference number, title, description, dates and an extent. Another tab in the spreadsheet explains how to enter each of these.

We’ve added another column for marking up items for potential digitisation further down the road. Candidates for this might include useful plans, potted histories of the firms involved, staff records useful for family history, or simply attractive advertising.

The Renold Chain trade leaflets (ref GB127.M501.BOX 118/4) don’t sound fascinating in the spreadsheet. But actually they give a great overview of how enmeshed Renold is in the economy of the country – the company’s chains are used in so many different industrial and leisure activities, as the leaflets show. And check out the graphic design!

In some other boxes are actual chains, believe it or not. This one, for some reason, finds itself in a zippo-style lighter! Corporate advertising at its best.


If you would like to volunteer on the Made in Greater Manchester project, please email r.farmer@wigan.gov.uk.