Bill Sergeant, who died earlier this year, left a legacy to the Ipswich Society for which we are most grateful and are currently thinking of a lasting tribute to mark Bill’s life.

Bill was born in Sheffield in March 1921, he was educated in Oldbury, Smethwick and Burnley and was a trainee on the Government’s Engineering Draftsman scheme at the outbreak of war. 

After the war he read history at Manchester University, a course which involved a two week residential with Canon Purvis, keeper of the York Diocesan Archives. He took the Diploma in Archive Administration at the University of Liverpool qualifying at the age of 32.

He worked in Record Offices in Sheffield, Liverpool, The Isle of Man (where he met Ruth), Nottingham and, in 1970, East Suffolk. After Local Government reorganisation in 1974, Bill was appointed County Archivist for Suffolk, a challenging task of bringing together the staff of the former East and West Suffolk offices.

Parallel to his professional career he was a member of the Society of Archivists – Regional Representative, Vice Chairman and in, 1976, Chairman. In 1982, the year he retired, he became the Society’s President for six years, thereafter Vice President.

Whilst Chairman he served six years on the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Public Records, the first County Archivist to be so appointed. Additionally he was first Secretary and then Chairman of the British Association for Local History. His passion was local history and this is where his advice and guidance were often sought, and rendered. 

In Ipswich he became a valued member of the Suffolk Records Society (he was Secretary for 17 years), the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History and the Suffolk Local History Council, he edited The Suffolk Review for twelve years until his retirement from his professional role as County Archivist.

On retirement, he was invited to become visiting professor of English and Local History at the Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where he occasionally delivered lectures. It was the start of a love affair with the States that he and Ruth enjoyed for a number of years.

Bill was a member of the Ipswich Society, a founding member of the Ipswich Building Preservation Trust and, on retirement, he returned to his roots by acting as honorary archivist for two Suffolk families, the de Saumarez of Shrubland Hall and the Tollemaches at Helmingham.

His passions were music, classical and jazz, film (he served on the committee of the Ipswich Film Society for almost 30 years) and local history, overseeing the publication of the four volume Probate Records of the Archdeaconries of Suffolk and Sudbury, from 1354 to 1444.

John Norman

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