The history and development of Chiswick are illustrated in the unique collection of archives held in the church which are of significance for future historians. The skills of qualified conservationists have restored the important and fragile books of vestry minutes from 1622 which record events in the life of the church and Chiswick; also held are Churchwardens’ Rates and Accounts from 1622 which list local ratepayers, the money they paid to support the parish and who and what it was spent on.
Complete registers of baptisms, marriages and burials from 1678 indexed by surname to the present day are also held.
Similar records from 1860 are held for St Mary Magdalene, Bennett Street, a daughter church of St Nicholas, bombed in World War II.
In 2007 a grant amounting to £8181 was received from the National Manuscripts Conservation Trust for restoration of 17 of the ancient books dating from 1622 which are cared for in the church. The registers are complete until the present day. In 2012, a further grant for £3715 enabled all books from 1860 to be restored.
The books had become fragile and damaged by past handling and by damp when the collection was stored in the church tower. The work has now been completed having been carried out over a three year period. All books are now in excellent condition for enquiries by future historians.
The early Vestry minutes and accounts describe the growth of Chiswick from a small fishing village to a thriving community of large houses. There are 30 listed graves including artists William Hogarth, J.M.Whistler, actor David Garrick , Frederick Hitch, VC in the Zulu war, and many more, with the burials of generations of Chiswick citizens.
The Archive Group is involved every week in answering enquiries from the descendants of past parishioners who visit and write from all over the world, some via the parish web site. Graves are found, photographs and maps are sent by email and family trees researched. Students and historians also visit.
Humidity and temperature of the ancient books, which are stored in archival boxes, are checked and recorded every week. The Archive Group also raises funds to cover the care of the books the church is uniquely privileged to keep by requesting donations from satisfied enquirers.
Enquiries may be sent by e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org; or by post to the Archivists, c/o St Nicholas Parish Office, The Vicarage, Church Street, Chiswick W4 2PJ.
Additional information, especially regarding matters of local environmental interest, can now be found on the website of the Chiswick Protection Society