Catching up with past

TWENTY years ago seven locals sat down to form the Chapeltown and High Green Archive.

Wednesday, 26th September 2007, 12:46 pm
Updated Monday, 8th October 2007, 1:52 pm

And the rest - as they say - is history.

Back in 1987 it was their aim to collect old photographs, films, documents, artefacts and oral recollections about the area.

And there’s been no stopping them ever since.

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Today they release their latest publication, Changing Times - a collection of pictures and information detailing the history of Chapeltown, Ecclesfield, High Green and Thorpe Hesley.

Incredibly the book, put together by husband and wife Joan and Mel Jones, is the 21st such publication released by the group.

To coincide with the launch, the Archive staged an exhibition at St Saviours’Church Hall, High Green, and are now busy preparing to repeat it at Gatty Hall in Priory Road, Ecclesfield, on Saturday and Sunday.

It will be the group’s 28th major exhibition and, says Joan, their last.

“We’re all getting on a bit,” explains the 60-year-old retired primary school teacher of Kirkstead Abbey Mews, Thorpe Hesley.

“I think it’s time we promised to slow down a bit.”

Joan confesses that you have to be a special breed to be a member of the Archive.

You need to be the type who enjoys speaking to people before locking yourself away in a library for days on end, checking out the authenticity of the recollections gathered.

It’s a time consuming job. But one Joan and the others enjoy immensely.

“Originally our aim was to mount regular exhibitions, to conduct research into local and family history, to publish a range of illustrated books and to provide a local source of study materials for schools and the community.

“Little did we know how the collection would expand, how much we would receive from the community and how our publications would be sent to all parts of the British Isles, to Canada, the United States, Australia and New Zealand.”

One of the historian’s fondest memories came when a youngster asked her about Smithy Wood Coking Plant.

She explained that it was the place where coal was once made into coke.

The inquisitive youngster looked a bit puzzled then said: “Coke, you mean the stuff you drink?”

As usual, Joan was only too happy to explain - just for the joy of it.

“Local history can be very rewarding,” she says. “But not financially.

“It would be nice to think that we could put together a book which brings in Harry Potter type sales but that isn’t going to happen.

“All the profits from our books goes to off-set the cost of publishing the next one.

“We’ll never retire to the Bahamas on the proceeds.”