Students Staff

18 October 2012

Oral history events

Two key events in the history of Essex are being brought back to life at oral history events being organised by the University next month.

The University pioneered oral history in Britain and this commitment to this type of research has prompted two events to look back at the East Coast floods of 1953 and the Marconi factory in Chelmsford.

The first event focuses on the floods, in advance of the 60th anniversary of the tragedy, which took place on the night of 31 January 1953 and claimed 307 lives in England, including 66 in Essex. The free event is open to all, but those who can remember what happened or who had relatives who were involved are particularly invited to come along to share and record their memories.

The event will take place between 2pm and 4pm on Tuesday, November 6 at the Clifftown Theatre, in Nelson Street, Southend.

Those attending will watch a short film about the floods and will hear from a local author, Patricia Rennoldson-Smith, whose book on the floods: The 1953 Essex Flood Disaster: The People's Story will be published in November by The History Press. Two survivors of the floods will also share their memories of the night, and members of the audience, if they like, are invited to speak about what happened to them and their families.

The second oral history event is to commemorate the centenary of Marconi opening the world’s first purpose-built radio factory in Chelmsford.

The free oral history event will take place between 2.30pm and 4.30pm on Wednesday, November 7 at the Essex Record Office, in Wharf Road, Chelmsford. It is open to all, but those who worked for Marconi − or who had relatives who worked there − are particularly invited to come along to the event to share and record their memories.

Guglielmo Marconi, who is often credited with being the inventor of radio, first established his company in a former silk works in Hall Street in 1898. But this soon became too small for his expanding operation, and in February 1912 work began on the 70,000 square foot factory. The works were opened in June that year.

Peter Turrall, Chairman of the Marconi Veterans’ Association, will talk about Marconi the man, his early products and why he came to Chelmsford. Dr Geoff Bowles, curator of the Sandford Mill Museum, will talk about the collection of Marconi artefacts which are held there.

Members of the audience will also be asked to share memories of Marconi’s history in Chelmsford.

Both events will have free tea and cakes and a film crew will be on hand, and those who wish to do so will be asked to take part in interviews which will then be placed on a website to form a lasting record of both historic events.

The events will take place as part of the Economic and Social Research Council’s annual Festival of Social Science.

The University has a long tradition of oral history research, and it holds major sound and film archives of oral history material including Edwardians Online: Family Life and Work Experience Before 1918, a series of interviews undertaken in the early 1970s by Professor Paul Thompson.

Entrance to both events is free, but for the Essex Floods booking is required. Please e-mail: or telephone the University Communications Office on 01206 872807 for more details.


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