Members of Roding Valley U3A, Epping Forest U3A and Waltham Abbey U3A joined forces for a research project which supported Epping Forest District Council ( EFDC) Museum in Waltham Abbey. It involved sorting maps and other documents for their archive and special studies on Wood Green Potteries; Winston Churchill who was the local MP; and the history of a local laundry.
Below is an edited summary of the elements of the Shared Learning Project taken up by members. An exhibition will be at the museum.
Maps – Hands On
By Roger Leake and Linda Tilling of Roding Valley U3A, Joy Franklin of Epping Forest U3A and Jane Simpson and Chris Sumner from Waltham Abbey U3A.
Over the past 9 months an enthusiastic team has created an archive record of more than 2000 documents, primarily maps, but also drawings, paintings, church notices, local newspapers and other ephemera. The sources of documents included Epping Forest Planning Department, Waltham Abbey Historical Society, Waltham Abbey Library and private donations to the museum.
Of particular interest were early plans for the London to Norwich Radial route which would have followed the River Lea as opposed to the M11 aligned with the River Roding and proposals for routing the M25 and junctions.
The data will now be uploaded onto the Museum’s computer records during the autumn.
The Wood Green Potteries, Upshire
By Frances Pymont, Waltham Abbey U3A
Waltham Abbey is in the Lea Valley, which has been associated with growing fruit, vegetables and flowers for the London market over many years. Wood Green Potteries belonged to friends of my husband so I have been lucky to have had access to the history of the Potteries and Upshire Hall, the house associated with them. I have found photographs of the workers and the premises which closed in 1964.
I found a fascinating account of a visit during the 1950’s by a gentleman who was then a school-boy but went on to found his own pottery in Wales.
I have photographs of an ornamental bark pot which has been passed down through four generations of the same family. Also, I have pictures of some of the old workers, and know of descendants of the owners, managers and workers who are most interested in the project.
Winston Churchill in Epping Forest
By Julie Churchill, Waltham Abbey U3A
My interest in the topic was due to the tenuous link of our names and the surprise of learning that Winston Churchill was MP for the area.
The project began as a tour of places within EFDC that Winston Churchill had been associated with but discussions with the museum led to the final display being a map indicating where he had been, using photos from their collection to annotate the map.
The research included contact with many local historical groups, Conservative party and the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge. Winston Churchill’s young Conservative chairman in Woodford whilst he was MP, Tony Woodhead, also provided some valuable information from first-hand knowledge.
The outcome of the research is a list of dates, places and what Winston Churchill was doing there.
Epping Sanitary Steam Laundry
By Janet Whitehouse, Roding Valley U3A
Epping Laundry is at the end of Bower Vale which is a cul-de-sac of mainly old housing ending at the railway line. It is opposite the house of an elderly friend of mine and I have long been interested in the building which is now derelict.
I started with an article in a 1996 commemorative edition of the former local paper, the West Essex Gazette, which gave a brief history of the laundry which opened in 1894. By 1906 it faced financial ruin and a number of well-known local families put together a rescue bid.
I visited an elderly lady who lives in Bower Vale and she told me two of her uncles had worked at the laundry as drivers. She took me out the gate at the end of her garden and showed me where the employees, mainly women, used to sit during their breaks. She used to see them walking to and from work.
Members of our SLP group have been very helpful and have passed on photos or other information they have come across. One put out a request on Facebook for people who had a connection with the laundry and a lady who had worked there replied. She has sent me a detailed account of activities at the laundry and a photo of the calendar which ironed the sheets.
The museum has recordings made by the last manager, Mark Lemon, and by his father, George Lemon, the previous manager who continued his involvement with the laundry well into his 90s.
I have told many people about this laundry project, trying to find people who worked there or used it. As a result I now have a laundry book which was used in the 1950s.
There may be information in Essex Record Office and in newspaper archives which I haven’t yet explored. I would like to do this before regarding this project as complete.
A Museum Object
By Linda Tilling, Roding Valley U3A
When we first met at the museum I had no idea of a subject to follow not having been born and raised locally so I took the suggestion of researching a museum object. I settled on a picture promoting tobacco. I found a wealth of information on international companies. I produced a Power Point Presentation.
In summary my experience of the shared learning project was an opportunity to help with some research for the museum and our monthly updates helped with discussing findings and problems. I then took part in a mapping project which was the start of preparing information to make available a searchable data resource at the museum on the maps and plans it holds. I am very pleased to have contributed to this very detailed work to make a useable local resource and learnt a lot in the process.