Local and Community History Month
Did you know that May is Local and Community History Month? This great event is run by the History Association who say ‘May is the time to investigate, explore and discover the history of the world immediately around you.’ Find out more below and let us know what you and your class have found out in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
What is Local and Community History Month?
The Historical Association organizes events across the UK from 50 local branches. The idea is to discover more about your immediate local area and to generate interest and enthusiasm for community history. You can find out more about Local and Community History Month, and look for your local HA branch, here.
Local and Community History Month is ‘a time to celebrate the stories and heritage of the past that is all around us. So much of history is often discussed through big events and on a national scale – kings, queens and prime ministers – which can often make it seem distant and ‘not relevant’ when the reality is that historical evidence is all around us … The UK is rich with history from Neolithic sites and stone circles to 20th-century war memorials and 21st-century architecture. The streets we live in have stories to tell if we want to hear them.’
Key focusses this year are on civil rights, with the bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre and the increased interest in Suffragist history, and celebrating local heroes.
Why not get in touch with your local History Association branch and see if you and your class can get involved with events in your community?
What we Found Out About our Local History
We’ve had a quick delve into our local history to see what interesting facts we can discover about the places where we live.
Lewis – Marketing and Web Team – Coppull, Lancashire
Coppull was first mentioned in the history books in 1277 and the name is Anglo-Saxon which would suggest the town was founded before 1066. Coppull was originally under the control of the Lords of Worthington, but the manor was bought by the Stanley family, one of the wealthiest and most famous families in the North-West, who owned it until 1600. One of the descendants of the Coppull Worthington family was later held in the Tower of London, during the reign of Elizabeth I, for being a Catholic priest.
In 1778, a water mill near Coppull was leased by famous industrialist and inventor Richard Arkwright, but it was set on fire by machine wreckers, who were protesting about machines taking over manual labour, in 1779. In 1852, an explosion at Coppull Colliery killed 36 men and boys and injured 90 more.
Chris W – Design Team – Bury, Greater Manchester
Bury was formed around the ancient market place but there is evidence of activity dating back to the period of Roman occupation. The most imposing building in the early town would have been Bury Castle, a medieval manor house built in 1469.
The Pilkington family suffered badly in the Wars of the Roses when, despite geography, they supported the House of York. When Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, Thomas Pilkington was captured and later executed. The outcome of the battle was the Lancastrian Duke of Richmond being crowned Henry VII by Sir William Stanley. As a reward for the support of his family, Thomas Stanley was created Earl of Derby and, amongst other lands, the confiscated Pilkington estate in Bury was presented to him. This was the same Stanley family who owned Coppull.
By the early 19th century, cotton was the predominant textile industry, with the Rivers Roch and Irwell providing power for spinning mills. Development was further promoted when the town was linked to the national canal network. The houses were of the most limited kind, without basic facilities, sewers or proper streets. The result was the rapid spread of disease and high mortality rates in crowded areas.
Karen J – Customer Services Team – Preston, Lancashire
When first mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book, Preston was already the most important town in Central Lancashire. The right to hold a Guild Merchant was conferred by King Henry II upon the burgesses of Preston in a charter of 1179; the associated Preston Guild is a civic celebration held every 20 years. It is the only guild still celebrated in the UK.
The 19th century saw a transformation in Preston from a small market town to a much larger industrial one, as the innovations of the latter half of the previous century such as Richard Arkwright’s water frame (invented in Preston) brought cotton mills to many northern English towns. The town’s forward-looking spirit is typified by it being the first English town outside London to be lit by gas.
The more oppressive side of industrialisation was seen during the Preston Strike of 1842, when a group of cotton workers demonstrated against the poor conditions in the town’s mills. Armed troops corralled the demonstrators in front of the Corn Exchange, shots were fired and four of the demonstrators were killed. Charles Dickens visited Preston in January 1854 during a strike by cotton workers that had by that stage lasted for 23 weeks. This was part of his research for the novel Hard Times in which the town of “Coketown” is based on the city of Preston.
Share the Knowledge
Can your pupils think of ways to find out about their local history without using the internet? A great way to pass on knowledge about community history is by talking to older generations and writing down the stories that they have to tell. Why not get in touch with your local care home and arrange for a group of pupils to visit and talk to the inhabitants? They could then write a report to tell everyone else in school what they have found out.
There are many local historians who love to share their knowledge. Why not find out if there are any in your area who could give a talk in school? The History Association website would be a great place to start looking. If there are any local museums in your community they would be a great place to visit too.
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