Archive for November, 2011

Let’s start with the ‘William Morris Fountain’. Named after the founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, it includes a central flute with motifs based on the architecture of the Red House, his Bexleyheath home. Designed by Mel Chantry, a former Turner Prize nominee, the fountain cost £50,000 and was unveiled in March 2001. Described as ‘futuristic’, it stands at 6.5m high.

In April 2011 the decision was taken by Bexley Council to switch off the fountain to save money. It was filled with soil, turned into a flower bed and surrounded by chicken wire. While the central flute was retained as a decorative feature, the equipment to operate it has been removed, preventing it from ever being returned to service at a future date.

Can we still appreciate the striking design, even if its original purpose has been lost? According to a News Shopper article of 29.1.2001, the inspiration behind the striking fountain includes:

– Its herringbone relief can be found on a door of the house.

– The conical detail of the tops of the newel posts on the stairway of the Red House, a motif repeated in light fittings, original furniture and the architectural design of the house, forms the top of the fountain.

– The five balls echo the famous Five Arches bridge in Foots Cray Meadows and are a motif found in Webbs sketches and in the lights of the Broadway.

– The spheres re-appear, in the feature on the top of the fountain whose shape was inspired by an ornamental hinge at the Red House and echoes the B of the new Bexleyheath logo.

– Around the base of the fountain, five arches of water will arc in towards the centre, where lights will uplight the whole structure.

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The project website is at http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=12418 – this now has a link to the 1912 film of the opening of the Clock Tower, plus a selection of photographs on various themes.

There are many ways in which you can become part of the ‘Changing Times’ project. Following the oral history workshop on 29 October and the purchase of a voice recorder, we are now ready to go ahead with oral history interviews. You could be an interviewer or an interviewee.

Perhaps you would like to take photographs of the Broadway so we can build a complete photographic record of the street as it appears now.

If you would like to take part in historical research and you have internet access, you don’t even have to leave your home! An outline of local history resources is shown at http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2733

Go to http://archives.bexley.gov.uk and search in the Picture Catalogue for ‘Broadway’. This will bring up a variety of images of interest. Is there one that you find particularly intriguing? How about the picture of H. Nicholls, baker, of 221-223 Broadway dating from 1905-10? Can you link it up with other sources?

You could search the archive catalogue again: does the name ‘Nicholls’ come up in any newspaper articles or archive records?

Does he appear in any trade directories? Local Kelly’s directories are available at http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10646

There are also research notes on various topics which may have something useful at http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10173

Another resource which may be of use is the Bexleyheath War Memorial list of names, available at http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=10647

Background information on Bexleyheath from a town-planning point of view is at http://www.bexley.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=3023

Perhaps you would like to find out what Bexleyheath was like in 1986. Is there anything useful at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/domesday/using-domesday that we could use for the project?

Is there anything interesting on Bexleyheath’s history at http://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/?

What about the Broadway’s future? See http://www.tescobexleyheath.co.uk/

You could use these resources to write a few words, a paragraph or something longer which could then be used straight away on the website and social networking sites to attract interest to the project. Your words could also be used for a future newspaper or magazine article, in the guided walk, the education resource pack or in the exhibition next year. Your individual contribution will be appreciated, however large or small.

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Where is the best location to interview someone about their memories? What questions should you ask? How do you make an interviewee feel comfortable? These and many more questions were answered at an oral history workshop on Saturday 29 October. Judith Garfield of Eastside Community Heritage talked to us with great enthusiasm about the best methods and practices for oral history interviewing, with the occasional illustrative anecdote thrown in.

The workshop, which took place at Bexley Local Studies and Archive Centre, was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund grant awarded to Bexley Historical Society’s ‘Changing Times’ project. It was successful in attracting interest to the project and to the Bexley Historical Society.

The HLF grant has enabled the purchase of new equipment for the society, including a voice recorder. This means we can start putting our newly-learnt skills into practice straight away! So, if you have memories of the Broadway, Bexleyheath that you would like to talk about, please get in touch. Or perhaps you know a family member, friend or neighbour who might like to share their experiences. This will help us to piece together a history of this street from the point of view of the people who have lived, worked and shopped there.

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