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Cambridge Community Heritage 2012-2013

Cambridge Community Heritage is a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, with Principal Investigator Dr Carenza Lewis leading a team of nine researchers from a range of disciplines (Dr Britt Baillie-Warren; Dr Sarah Baylis; Nicola Buckley; Dr Mary Chester-Kadwell; Dr Nicholas James; Dr Jonathan King, Dr Susan Oosthuizen, Dr Alex Pryor and Dr Ken Sneath) with administrative support from Clemency Cooper. In November 2012 the CCH team learned that 90% of the community projects it had supported had been successful in securing funds from the Heritage Lottery Fund ‘All Our Stories’ scheme for heritage-related projects in, about and for their communities, and in February CCH successfully bid to AHRC for further funds to support to these groups during the delivery phase of their projects. 

The CCH projects have included a very wide range of subjects and approaches, and support provided by the CCH team has included advice/mentoring provided on-line/via telephone, written technical guidelines, training days, workshops and in-person supervision and help with running activities spanning oral history, local history, archaeological excavation and field-walking.  They are summarised here in alphabetic order.

Ashwell Museum’s  ‘Ashwell Archaeology’ project enabled members of the community to carry out archaeological field-walking around the village of Ashwell in order to enhance knowledge and understanding of the historic development of the settlement of Ashwell and its hinterland. Cambridge Archaeological Field Group’s ‘Wimpole: silent voices and deserted homes’ project carried out field-walking, geophysics and test pit excavations exploring dispersed medieval settlements in the grounds of Wimpole Hall, where few standing buildings apart from Wimpole Hall and Farm now exist and little documentary evidence attests to the medieval settlements or to explain their final abandonment. Cambridge United Football Club ‘Cambridge United, United’ project  aimed to collect memories from early players, managers and fans and engage the local community in the club’s history, creating a performance showing historical aspects of life for past players, managers and fans and a smartphone app which allows users to explore the history of the club, tour the grounds, access memorabilia, memories and the performance. Ely Wildspace ‘Memories of Ely Pits and meadows’ intended to capture memories surrounding Ely’s pits and meadows - memories of digging clay; army activities during WW2; the activities and wildlife records leading to Natural England's 2009 SSSI designation; recreational and agricultural use of the land and swimming in the Blue Lagoon. The results are to be disseminated via the website, podcast, transcript and annotated guide and will also become part of a longer term history project to create a Heritage Trail.

The Fenland Archaeological Society project on ‘The Fenland in Roman Times’ used  field-walking and excavation to record little known Roman settlements within Fenland and share the results by using digital media for talks at various museum societies and public events and by creating educational resources to take the stories into the schools of the region. Foxearth Church Heritage Initiative ‘Foxearth Church Heritage Initiative’ aimed to create and develop a local Heritage Centre, within the parish church and to record interviews with everyone living in the village as a follow-up to a similar initiative in 1987, enabling young & old to compare how life has changed in our small rural community and to make their own record for posterity. The project ‘It will all come out in the wash’ was run by Freudian Slips and interviewed past and present female laundry workers in  Cambridge to uncover stories about their working lives and some of the key events which have taken place particularly in the past fifty years. These stories were placed as pod-casts on the project website and broadcast on community radio, and formed the basis for creative writing culminating in a multi-media performance piece.

Heritage Writtle’s ‘Historic Writtle - Village life through misfortune and war - Roman period to World War II’ aimed to produce a local history book about life in Writtle, Essex, during periods of conflict from the Roman era to World War II, by exploring local archaeological artefacts, village, regional and national archives, personal memories and local knowledge. It is intended to launch this in August 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the start of World War I.   Linton and District Historical Society’s Hildersham project aimed digitise and transcribe historic and cartographic records in order to build up a detailed picture of each of the major houses in the village and who lived in them using, and expand this into a ‘now and then’ photographic archive involving the children in the small rural South Cambridgeshire village.

Meldreth Local History Group involved scores of local residents in excavating 30 test pits as part of their ‘Understanding Our Past: Exploring the Hidden History of Meldreth’ project, tracing the development of the very attenuated village plan through time and incidentally unearthing a medieval pilgrim badge from one manorial site. One Voice 4 Travellers ‘Open Roads and Eastern Skies: stories of Gypsy women’ oral history addressed the heritage of Gypsy women in East Anglia, involving female teenage members of the Gypsy community in visiting sites, roadside stopping places and houses and interviewing women about their lives. The project aimed to help them and others explore their culture and take pride in their identity, and to develop new skills and confidence in interviewing, co-ordinating, and team working.

Pirton History Group’s innovative ‘Small, domestic, timber-framed buildings in Pirton’ involved members of the local community in recording domestic timber framed buildings in Pirton in Hertfordshire and then in knitting models of these to create a new model village using traditional crafts. Rattlesden Local History Group intended their ‘Bringing our archive to life’ project to make a village archive available for local residents to view and to use as a means of acquiring oral histories by acquiring storage media for the archive, organising sessions when it can be viewed, inviting older residents at the sessions to record their memories and publishing the oral histories. The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum’s ‘Collection of The Royal Anglian Regiment Museum’ project was an oral history project intended to capture a large bank of audio and video recordings exploring the history of Regiment since its foundation in 1964 as an amalgamation of eastern 10 county regiments, and its impact on the communities from which its soldiers are drawn, focussing on the experiences of the soldiers, their friends and families.

Saffron Walden Museum’s ‘Saffron Walden Castle Bailey’ project enabled students from two secondary schools local to Saffron Walden to excavate two trenches across the inferred line of the castle’s outer bailey ditch. These successfully unearthed evidence to show not only that the ditch did indeed cross this area, but also to date it to the mid-12th century. The excavations attracted a lot of interest, followed up by an open day at Saffron Walden Museum which included displays, presentations and film.  Sandringham Enterprise’s ‘Marham Voices - Listening to the past in a rural and military landscape’ project planned to produce a book on the recent history of the village of Marham in Norfolk, encompassing the changes in society, economy and the landscape since the military base arrived.

Sharnbrook Local History Group took the opportunity the CCH project provided to plan and carry out excavations on the undated ditched earthwork in ‘Castle Close’ on the edge of the Bedfordshire village in their ‘Sharnbrook's moated earthwork - castle, manor house or what?’ project. The excavations very successfully showed not only how much archaeological evidence survives intact, but also enabled the site to be firmly dated to the medieval period for the first time. Shillington History Society’s ‘Shillington test pits’ was inspired, as were many CCH projects, by ACA test pit programmes elsewhere, and took the opportunity of HLF funding to complete 26 test pits across the village where no previous excavations have been carried out and historic records are largely confined to the church and manor. Sturmer Local History Group’s project  ‘Sturmer Steps - building village identity and knowledge with a railway trail’ aimed to create a four-mile long heritage trail detailing the Sturmer village history and natural history through the use of interpretation boards along the disused railway line.

The Suffolk Horse Society ran one of a number of CCH projects using oral history. ‘Working Horses, Working Lives: sharing our stories of the Suffolk Punch’ aimed to capture the memories of those whose lives before the Second World War revolved around the Suffolk Punch heavy horse. The project aimed to inform, entertain and educate people about the importance of the relationship between man and horse in many contexts: peace and wartime, work and recreation, countryside and town, folklore, cures and magic. Tilty Archaeology & Local History Group’s ‘Tilty and the Second World War’ project commemorated the wartime experiences of the rural Essex hamlet of Tilty by recording and sharing the many and diverse memories, artefacts and documents provided by its residents.

The early history of Toft’ project, organised by Toft Historical Society carried out a village archaeological survey and eleven test pit excavations in a community endeavour to reconstruct the village’s past development and provide residents with tangible evidence for its earlier existence. West Norfolk & King's Lynn Archaeological Society’s project on The Gaywood Valley carried field-walking and test pit excavations in six different communities around the wash near King’s Lynn, including one pit in Grimston which produced many hundreds of sherds of the locally produced Grimston ware. West Wickham District Local History Group’s ‘West Wickham Big Village Dig’ involved scores of local residents in excavating archaeological test pits to discover when and where settlement in the medieval period was focussed in the parish of West Wickham, Cambridgeshire.  Finally, Wormingford Community Education Centre’s project explored a prehistoric site and its place in the landscape near the village of Wormingford in Essex through field-walking and sound-scaping.