East of England U3A Region


REPORT ON SLPs and other projects in the East of England Region


has completed an SLP titled A ‘Snapshot’ of the High Street Watton 2015 – 17 and was produced by their history of Watton group. Their aim was to look at all aspects of Watton, commerce, recreation, education, transport, charities, churches and health care. They started with the High Street and produced an A4 booklet with their findings. Each building in the High Street was photographed and with it details of its name, current usage, frontage, known history, access and any other relevant details. All this was recorded in the booklet. Following their success they plan to chart the High Street in their town in 1900 which will involve research into archives, newspapers, census documents etc. This project was shared with their library who provided a meeting room monthly for the group and Watton Town Council who funded publishing the research results.

Downham Market
Has a local history group which has just finished an SLP about the history of their town. They worked at the local Heritage Centre, Discover Downham, and made use of the documents, maps and other archives stored at the centre. The Heritage Centre also funded production of the leaflets.
Their aim was to produce four town trails - Notable People, Landmarks, Street Names and Working Lives. These have been printed as 3-fold leaflets by Discover Downham and made available to the public. In addition, a modified version of the leaflets will be available on King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Borough Council’s tourism site. As well as the information in the trail leaflets a fuller version of the research on has been produced on A4 which could also be made into booklets and possibly sold by Discover Downham.

King’s Lynn
An SLP completed this year with the local library and some care homes. The Memory Matters group borrows material from the library and takes it to care homes where it is used to trigger memories and promote discussion to enhance resident’s conversations and quality of life. Three seminars have been convened, shared with activities co-ordinators from care homes involved, and for the first time these co-ordinators have had the opportunity to exchange ideas, network and access advice from regional care home managerial staff. The group also introduced Care homes to Virtual U3A.

We are not aware of any projects in Suffolk. Please let us know if there are any SLPs or Interest Group Research that could be listed on the U3A Research Database.


Has completed one project, A brief history of March in the 1900’s which was published and sold to members, the March Museum and library. Help was received from various local agencies and March U3A bore the cost of printing.

At the end of last year their creative writing group produced an anthology of poetry and short stories written by their members.
This led them into the unknown realms of publishing and the book, 'Where the Wild Winds Blow' by the Whittlesey Wordsmiths is now on sale on Amazon as an e-book or paperback.
There was also a book launch at the local library with the production of bookmarks, flyers and posters for the local museum, etc
The group leader commented that it had been a steep learning curve, but their success has encouraged them to start collating their work for a second book.


Leigh on sea U3A in partnership with Leigh Heritage Centre are nearing completion of a project to transcribe the 3 volumes of bound handwritten manuscript notes assembled by H.W. King a noted Victorian antiquarian and completed in 1882. They relate to the parish and manor of Leigh. This material comprising 300 pages detailing 125 properties has never been published. The original documents are kept at the Essex Record Office. Walking through the town group members have tried to match up the buildings he describes with the current buildings. The Court Rolls which he quotes date back to the 16th century and only two buildings form that era survives, although much altered. The group intend to produce a booklet called “Lost Leigh” pointing out what was once there. The transcribed notes will be available to future researchers in the archives of the Leigh Society and they plan to give a public talk for the Leigh Society in 2020.

Stanford-le-Hope and District U3A
The Local Research Projects Group has been researching the changes and growth of Stanford-le-Hope from 1950 including shops, industry, pubs, churches and entertainment. The launch of the project was a Reminiscence Session in the town centre, where they displayed photos and some of their initial research on a select few areas. Local people were invited to contribute written or oral memories, documents and photos. 250 people attended and it took the group 18 months to complete the interviewing as they are only a small group. An interesting theme to emerge was Stanford-le-Hope changing from a village to a town after WW11 through the resettlement of East Enders onto new housing estates. The group looked at 30 years of the local newspaper, the Thurrock Gazette, taking copies of articles and pictures for research purposes. It took a long time to transcribe all the interviews and this will all go to the Essex Record Office. They are hoping to produce a book and have a final exhibition. The project members say “Our biggest problems are time, lack of funding, storage of information and deciding what is relevant. However, we have had a lot of fun along the way, made many new friends and have learnt a lot about our local area.”


NEWS BULLETIN Late Summer 2019

Here are some details about opportunities for any U3A members to take part in projects that are operating in areas of the East of England Region or are London projects that have elements that could extend into the south of our region. There are also some nationwide projects.

CARY ELLISON PROJECT Kingston University just outside London have an archive of the notebooks and papers of a Theatre agent called Cary Ellison. From 1954-1981 he travelled around Britain on visits to local theatres basically talent spotting. He wrote about the plays he saw and the actors who performed, some of these at the beginning of their careers. Actors Ellison spotted early on include Derek Jacobi, Richard Briers, Judi Dench, Patricia Routledge and Leonard Rossiter. He would also make notes on the performances of such well-known actors as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, and Vivien Leigh at the peak of their fame. See more at https://aim25.com/cats/44/19732.htm Could an individual member or a group of members help us by writing a short piece giving the history and providing a photo of one of the Theatres visited by Cary Ellison listed below. We would like to know if the Theatre still exists and if it doesn’t what is there now? Please email Jennifer at jdsimpson057@gmail.com for further details if you are interested.
ESSEX: Clacton – Repertory Theatre Butlins, Colchester - the Repertory Theatre and Mercury Theatre, Frinton – Frinton Summer Theatre, Harlow – Playhouse, Hornchurch - Queens Theatre, Westcliff on sea – Palace Theatre.
CAMBRIDGESHIRE: Peterborough – Theatre Royal and The Empire
HERTFORDSHIRE: Watford- Palace Theatre
NORFOLK: Great Yarmouth – Little Theatre. Norwich – Theatre Royal.
SUFFOLK: Ipswich – Ipswich Theatre and Ipswich Arts Theatre

ORCHARDS EAST is a 3-year National Lottery Heritage Fund supported environmental and community history project, running until August 2020. Based at the University of East Anglia and working in partnerships with local organisations, it is devoted to understanding the past, present and future of orchards in the East of England. Hundreds of volunteers have been surveying and recording orchard sites. They are also researching the cultural, social and economic history of fruit growing in the region which covers Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. U3A have been approached by one of their Project Managers and asked if we would like to be involved in the Oral History part of the project in Hertfordshire and Norfolk. Valuable training in interviewing will be provided at the University of Hertfordshire or at the Norfolk Sound Archives in Norwich. Some interviewees have already been identified, but they are looking for people who worked in orchards, owned orchards or have any connection with orchards in Hertfordshire and Norfolk to come forward.

Could you put a message out to your U3A members and ask anyone who has a story to tell about orchards to come forward and be interviewed? Are you a member who might be interested in learning how to record their memories? If you live in one of the counties other than Hertfordshire or Norfolk listed above and have information to offer about Orchards that might be of interest the project leaders would still be very interested to hear from you. If you go to this link you can learn more about Orchards East www.orchardseast.org.uk Please contact Jennifer Simpson, National Shared Learning Project Coordinator for more information about Hertfordshire and Ann Higgins for the Norfolk area.

CHARTIST WOMEN – THE BACK STORIES We would like to find out the stories of the women who subscribed to the Chartist Land Company Lottery scheme in the 1840s. They hoped to win the prizes of a plot of land and a well-built cottage. They had to raise the money to pay for a share in the company of £2-10s – a lot of money for that time. This is an opportunity for History Groups and Family History Groups in our region using Census records and other online records available on many websites such as Ancestry. Peter Cox has done a lot of work on this and is willing to travel and speak to any interested group and show them how to do it. There were 20 women in Norfolk, in Kings Lynn (8) and Norwich (11). 8 women in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. In Suffolk 4 women in Bury St. Edmunds and 4 in Ipswich, 1 in Brandon and 1 in Sudbury. 6 in the Royston area of Hertfordshire. In Essex 3 in Halstead and 2 around Braintree.

This has already been piloted in North London U3A and Peter Cox is the adviser. Any U3A group is welcome to carry out research into their High Streets and Peter will coordinate the findings. There will be local directories available in your local library or Record Office or on Ancestry website. If you look at these listings and then use them to spark the memories of members who have lived locally for some time you can compile a history of the shops going back to the 1950s. Include all members by getting them to write down the different shops they remember from their childhood. Include as many groups as possible e.g. Creative Writing, Poetry, Photography, Local and Family History, Art and Craft. What happened to the Ironmongers, Fishmongers, Haberdashers – what replaced them? What is there now and what have been the changes in the last 40 years what replaced them? What is there now and what have been the changes in the last 40 years. U3A will be celebrating our 40-year anniversary in 2022 – could this be a 40 year project for your U3A?

The Big Seaweed Search is a Citizen Science project run by the Natural History Museum and the Marine Conservation Society. They are looking for volunteers to visit British shorelines at low tide and record the seaweed, taking photographs and recording findings with a downloadable booklet from www.nhm.ac.uk


If you would like further information about any type of enquiry led learning in U3A you can contact Ann Higgins for the counties of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and Jennifer Simpson for the southern part of the region including Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex. If you look at the U3A National website and go to Resources and scroll down you will find lots of information about the U3A Research Network and if you click on this link it will take you to the U3A Research Database where you will find all the projects we know about all over the UK including those specific to this region.
We are always happy to give a presentation about SLPs/Research in U3A to any group and to help you with any project you have in mind.

Jennifer Simpson
SLP Contact, Eastern Region

October 2019