East of England Region


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

Link to National Research Database


High Street National Research Project
Peter Cox, one of our London SLPCs would like to get this project off the ground as soon as possible as the shape of the High Street is changing fast. Some shops may not re-open post pandemic and others may go in the New Year. Anything you can do to get a project up and running in your area would be extremely helpful. You might consider doing this yourself with help from one or two U3A friends. It will require walking your High Street, taking photos if possible and filling in a simple form. All instructions will be sent out in a starter pack and the findings will be used in a final report to be publicized in 2022 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of U3A. The forms need to be completed by the end of August if possible.
This is a well-designed project and is something valuable members can do during lockdown. My partner and I will be surveying our own local High Street and it will be an enjoyable and purposeful walking tour for us. Members in all localities are welcome to join in.
Please help if you can - click on this link for more details High Street Project

Living History Diaries Project
This project will stop receiving diary entries at the end of this month. Over 1000 entries have been received from over 400 participants and I know that several of the contributors have been Essex members. So, a big than you to them for supporting us. Jo Livingston, Living History Subject Advisor and I, plus a team of SLP Coordinators are currently reading through all the anonymous entries and selecting extracts for a book with the following chapter headings: -
1 Food 2 Health 3 Families 4 Children 5 Occupations 6 U3A 7 Nature
8 Downside 9 Society 10 Future
We hope to get the book published as soon as possible and of course extracts have been posted in Sources Online and under the Learning heading on the national website. Have a look at these entries on the National U3A website under the Learning heading.

Cary Ellison Theatre Project
Following an article in Third Age Matters magazine asking for members to do a bit of online research into their local theatres, I received about 60 replies and have now received short histories and photos of the theatres the talent scout Cary Ellison visited in the 50s, 60s and 70s. He saw some up and coming actors and wrote comments about their prospects. His collection of programmes are now all kept along with his notebooks in Kingston University Archives. I have a list of which of the theatres have now been written about. There are still some to do and maybe that is something members of U3As in the East of England region might be interested in doing.
Contributions have been received from members who have written a short piece about the theatres in Ipswich, Southend on sea and Watford.
Colchester Repertory and Mercury
Great Yarmouth
Can you help with this please?
If you have any queries about any of these projects or wish to have advise on starting a new project, please contact Jennifer Simpson, National Shared Learning Project Coordinator at Jennifer Simpson



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.


!!!Calling all Essex Historians!!!
Are you be interested in taking part in an individual group project or a Shared Learning Project? Find out more about Industrial Air Raid Shelters around Essex Jane Giffoud, a member of Halstead U3A has a project to do with Industrial Air Raid Shelters. I met Jane earlier this year and saw a wonderful complex of these shelters which were used by the Courtauld's Factory in Halstead in Essex. They are now under threat from housing development and Jane is part of a group trying to get them preserved as a museum. She is trying to find out about all the Industrial Air Raid Shelters that might still remain in Essex and inviting U3A members to tell her about any they know of in their locality. This could be a stand alone piece of research for a U3A or might be a SLP. If you would like to get involved or you can tell Jane anything about Industrial Air Raid Shelters in Essex, please contact Jane.

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.”


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 Jennifer Simpson 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

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. 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 follow this link (U3A RESEARCH) 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. Barrie Gunter is the National Research sub-committee member in the 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.

Ann Higgins
SLP Contact, East of England Region

March 2021