Why We Got Involved

Over 300 volunteers took part in the England's Past for Everyone project between September 2005 and April 2010, responding to the call for local people to 'Get Involved' in the generation of their locality's history.  Below are a number of volunteer case studies which detail those individuals' experiences of the England's Past for Everyone project.

Staff Profiles

Eira Makepeace, Bristol Volunteer

I am retired and live in Bristol. I was the head of student affairs at the University of the West of England. I have since run a homeless students project and now run a preparatory workshop for graduates wishing to enter medical school. I am very interested in family and social history and I have found a Bristol connection to my Quaker ancestors. I like short-term projects but didn’t want to join a society. Madge Dresser (EPE Team Leader) introduced me to EPE and it looked really interesting.

EPE has given me a chance to become more familiar with the local record office and to read old newspapers. As an immigrant myself, I have been able to find out more about other emigrants to Bristol and about my adopted city. I have researched eighteenth-century Welsh apprentices by looking at wills; and how race and ethnic origin were portrayed in Bristol newspapers in the 1960s and 1970s. I have brought diligent research and reading to the project and I have been able to suggest improved ways of working. There has been plenty of variety and it is always nice to meet new people.

Caro Parker Bennett, Bristol Volunteer

I am retired and have been living in Bristol since 1998. I used to be the Director of Education for the Bristol Diocese and I enjoy hearing and writing about people’s life experiences. As an Industrial Chaplain in the 1980s I did some research about women workers on Tyneside. I heard about the EPE project through Madge Dresser and Peter Fleming at the Bristol Record Office. EPE gives me an opportunity to get involved in academic research in the St Paul’s area and to work with retired and active headteachers.

As part of the project I have done some reminiscence work with elderly residents of the St Paul’s area. We have heard about what it was like for those who came to Bristol from Jamaica and for those who have lived here all their lives. I have also interviewed six people who had been headteachers in multicultural primary schools between the mid-1970s and 2000. It was interesting to find out about the changes in approach to multicultural education over those years. I have enjoyed meeting new people and learning more about the lives of

Philip Cousins, Derbyshire Volunteer

I live and work in Chesterfield and I am married with a grown-up daughter. I work at a 650 bed acute NHS hospital as an Electrical Maintenance Manager and I was formerly active in local government at parish council member level. My involvement with EPE came through membership of the Derbyshire VCH Trust; I have been interested in local history for many years. I edit the VCH Trust newsletter and organise the local history fair, both of which heavily feature the work of the EPE project.

I have been able to contribute to the project by bringing in my experience as a volunteer and my organisational and communication skills. I have also learned new skills, for example website editing. I particularly enjoy seeing things through: the local history fair and our launch event were enjoyable to work on. As an amateur, I am keen to see what EPE can bring to local history. The blend of local history and academic research with a popular edge appeals to me.

Sue Spurr, Exmoor Volunteer

I am in my fifties and am married with two grown-up sons. I work as a part-time secretary and administrative assistant, and I am also studying towards a degree through Exeter University’s Department of Lifelong Learning. I am interested in local history and have a special interest in rural vernacular architecture having grown up in a timber-framed house on a small farm in the Sussex Weald.

I heard about EPE at a talk given by Rob Wilson-North, the Exmoor National Park Archaeologist. I was particularly keen to see the Exmoor farmsteads and to learn more about the history of the area. Working as a farmstead-recording volunteer has been great fun and a hugely interesting learning experience. I have met many friendly people, visited many farmsteads, and have seen parts of Exmoor that I would otherwise not have seen. I feel privileged to be able to contribute to such a project.

Juliet Prentice, Exmoor Volunteer

I am an artist based in Tiverton, Devon. Since graduating I have worked within the arts in relation to the environment, disability and mental health. Our enthusiastic volunteer group leader Anne Todd introduced me to EPE and I soon became excited and inspired by all the project has to offer. It is fabulous being a part of creating an interesting and accessible learning resource for the local community that will inform and enrich their lives.

Since joining the project, I have researched desertions and farmsteads on Exmoor. I have been fascinated working with the tithe maps and early censuses. It has been awesome to touch, smell and see the old papers and hand written scripts. I have valued meeting the community and feel honoured to have heard their stories. During the winter I worked on databases which taught me new computer skills. It has been great to offer my creativity and fantastic to work alongside inspirational people who have a common goal.

Peter Bishop, Herefordshire Volunteer

I am 65 and a retired optometrist. For a long time I have had a general and sustained interest in history and I particularly enjoy visiting Roman ruins when on holiday. I heard about the EPE project from a friend and thought it would be a good way to learn about history. The group I joined looked at censuses from 1851-1901 in the Records Office. Many of the Victorian documents are written in archaic handwriting but after much practice I have become skilled in reading them. We have transcribed the census records, entered them onto a computer and will now analyse the data.

I have really enjoyed learning new things. My computer skills have really improved and it has been fascinating to learn about the Victorian era and compare it with our own. My science background helped me to bring orderliness and organisation to my own work. It has been a great opportunity to meet some inspirational people and I now have a much better understanding of how history is compiled, interpreted and reinterpreted. I will be sad when the project finishes.

Heather Horner, Oxfordshire Volunteer

I am 64 and a retired research scientist. My interest in landscape history lead me to join the Oxfordshire Buildings Record, a local group which got involved in a full tenement survey of Burford for the VCH. The pioneering work of this group proved that volunteers can do valuable, original research and helped to secure Heritage Lottery funding for EPE volunteer projects. As an EPE volunteer I have had extra tuition in photographing buildings with an English Heritage photographer. I used these skills to
take photographs of a specific area of Burford. This work has been published in the Burford paperback. I have learnt how to read 16th- and 17th-century handwriting; this has been vital in transcribing documents, including wills and inventories, and I have enjoyed putting the people of the past back into the story of the buildings. My scientific background has been helpful for organizing
and analysing data, and this project has improved my computing skills. I also coordinate a group
of transcribers who meet monthly to puzzle over problem words!