Tuesday, November 16, 2010


What goes round comes around - so the old saying goes and this is certainly the case with Oral History. Twenty years ago when I lived in Brentwood, I formed a Memory Club for retired Essex Regiment soldiers who wanted to tell their personal stories of the war. Many of my aspiring writers produced memoirs for their families and some veterans were pleased to see their work published. Yet the academic historians showed little interest at the time.

Now Oral and Community memories and chronicles are highly regarded as a rich source of local history. Martin Astell at the Essex Record Office has a superb store of the county’s history narrated in the people themselves. Many of the tapes were recorded in Brentwood and Billericay.

Now, of course, we have funding available to set up seven Community Archives in this part of Essex. The one I am especially interested in is Billericay. Local volunteers will be gathered at Billericay Library on Saturday, 20 November from 10.00am to 4pm to launch their Community Archive. That splendid Town Crier, Jim Shrubb who has officiated at many Brentwood events, will be in ceremonial dress, ringing his bell to launch this special event.

We owe much to the Essex Record Office, the National Lottery Fund, and Heritage Lottery Fund in helping the volunteers to be trained in IT, digitally copying photographs and documents, then making the whole collection available on the internet. It will be possible to add further memories and comments to each item on the website so that, over time, a vibrant picture of the community’s past will be created. Photographs and documents can be scanned on the spot. Do come and support us. A display of photographs from the past, along with interesting local books will be on show, together with trained interviewers should anyone wish to contribute their stories on Saturday. It should be an interesting and fun day and a chance to tell YOUR story! For more information contact www.billericay,history.org.uk

Town Crier Jim Shrubb and resident Katie Pearce