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Marston Vale oral history project 2001 - 2005

"Changing Landscapes: Changing Lives"

This four-year Heritage Lottery Fund Oral History Project, which began early in 2001, was successfully completed in July 2005. Carmela Semeraro, Project Officer, conducted over 270 tape-recorded interviews with a range of men and women who have lived and worked in the Marston Vale area between Bedford and the M1, Cranfield and Willington.

The aim of this project was to create an Oral History Archive that shows, through the voices of individuals who have lived and worked in this area over the last one hundred years, how life and the physical environment have changed. Brickmaking, farming and local village economies have all changed enormously and with them the lives of communities, families and individuals.

Each of the interviews covers a wide range of topics relating to individual life experiences, as well as the developments within agriculture, horticulture, village life, and the expansion, consolidation and contraction within the brickmaking industry through the twentieth century. Topics raised include childhood, home, family life, schooling, adolescence, courting, wartime experience, immigration, work experiences, further education, social life and changing attitudes, religious belief and church and chapel-going, housing, shopping, leisure pursuits and entertainment, married life, redundancy and retirement, old age and death.

Interviewees have ranged in age from those born in the 1950s to centenarians. Controversial issues such as pollution and the threat to the countryside, land filling, disappearing village facilities and housing development are all aired in the interviews, revealing a wide range of attitudes and perspectives.

These tape-recordings and transcriptions, with written summaries of each interview, plus associated photographs, are available to the public, by prior arrangement with the Forest Centre, Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire. Some extracts from interviews can also be viewed and heard at and on the BBC web pages . They can also be heard on request in the Forest Centre. The complete Oral History Archive summaries are also accessible online: Go to 'Search our Catalogues' and enter Z1205 in the search by reference box. If the complete transcripts are needed these are available at BLARS and Bedford Central Library in the Heritage Room.

Carmela Semeraro would like to thank all the participants and also all the volunteers who have helped enormously by typing up the transcriptions. Without their effort this project would not have been such a great success. The interviews have been summarised by Stuart Antrobus.

Please Note: since this article was written the Marston Vale oral history project is now at the following link: