'It doesn’t get much better than that'.
Those were the words of West Sussex county archivist Wendy Walker, after she presented Chichester’s copy of the American Declaration of Independence to US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.
The document, which is one of only two known ceremonial parchment manuscript copies of the Declaration of Independence, was packaged up in a secure, steel box, to be taken from the West Sussex Record Office in Chichester to 10 Downing Street and was presented to Donald Trump and Theresa May on Tuesday. Read more here
The presentation formed part of President Trump’s three-day state visit to the UK.
County archivist Wendy Walker had the ‘huge honour’ of presenting the document to the President and Prime Minister, along with their partners the First Lady of the United States, Melania Trump, and Philip May.
Speaking to the Observer afterwards, Wendy said: “It was an extraordinary and very exciting day. I was up in Downing Street all day. I managed to show the declaration to the President and the Prime Minister and explained the significance of the document.
“President Trump asked lots of questions. He asked how many copies there were and asked about the differences between the two. We spoke about the possibility of it going to the USA for an exhibition. They were all really interested.
“It was a huge honour to be able to do that. It was very special. For five minutes in the three-day event a Sussex document took centre stage and it doesn’t get much better than that. It was definitely a day to remember.”
Comparing the presentation to the one she gave the Duke and Duchess of Sussex during their visit to Sussex in October, Wendy said: “This was more formal being in Downing Street but was an equally great experience.
“It’s an amazing document, it’s just so special. Lots of stories are attached to this document and there are more to come. It is a story that will live on. “
Louise Goldsmith, county council leader, said the significance of the Sussex Declaration ‘cannot be underestimated’.
“West Sussex County Council is the guardian of the county’s history and we are all so proud of the considerable work the Record Office does to protect, conserve and preserve the heritage of West Sussex,” she added.
“We are thrilled it has helped in demonstrating the country’s transatlantic ties. It’s a historical treasure that we are very honoured to house in West Sussex.”
The county council, which said it was ‘delighted’ the Sussex Declaration was displayed in 10 Downing Street, revealed ‘great efforts’ were taken to transport the document from the Record Office.
A spokesperson added: “A conservation expert from the National Conservation Service was involved and a specially-designed exhibition case, previously used for the Magna Carta, was loaned by Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust to display the historic document.
“In the event of celebrations to mark 250 years since the declaration of independence, the Record Office is keen to explore options for this important historical document to form part of the commemorations in 2026.
“We look forward to being part of future work with both the UK and US governments and academic institutions, to celebrate transatlantic ties and the richness of our shared heritage.”