Local people can have their memories of Coalville’s iconic Memorial Clock Tower noted down in history as part of an important restoration and local heritage project.
Following the lead of 85 year-old Peggy Leawood, who has lived locally all her life and remembers working and going to events around the tower, local people can record their stories at two dedicated sessions on Tuesday 10 and Wednesday 11 July.
Standing at 21 metres tall and built to commemorate the 354 servicemen from Coalville who died in World War One (with further names being added after later conflicts), the iconic Memorial Clock Tower is at the centre of an exciting project to tell the story of the town’s war memorials.
Made possible by National Lottery players through Heritage Lottery Funding, the Coalville Clock Tower Project is asking local people to share their memories of the Clock Tower and surrounding Memorial Square and have them recorded so that future generations can learn about Coalville’s past.
The Coalville Heritage Society is helping to collect local people’s memories at two recording sessions on Tuesday 10 (1pm – 7pm) and Wednesday 11 July (9am – 6pm) at Hermitage FM. The recordings, known as ‘oral histories’ will be archived in Leicester Records Office for researchers and the public to access long into the future.
Whether it’s a memory of attending a memorial event as a child, or perhaps harking back to shopping in the old market, or working in the former Grieves Needle Works, or anything else relating to past times in the town – the project team welcomes anyone who’s happy to tell their story and have it recorded.
Peggy Leawood, 85, who now lives in Shepshed, was born in Donington le Health and moved to Coalville at the age of five and lived there until her 50s. Peggy will be attending Hermitage FM on Tuesday 10 July to have her memories recorded. These include fond memories of the Clutsom and Kemp factory, where she used to work the twilight shift in the dye house and also waiting for the bus to Loughborough at the stop beside the Clock Tower in order to go shopping to buy clothes in the ‘new look’ Dior fashions of the day.
Peggy also recalls taking part in the Monkey Parade where she met her future husband, Ronald. They married in 1953, sharing 65 happy years together: “The Monkey Parade was an old courting tradition in Coalville. We walked from the Rex cinema up to the Clock Tower and around the tower and back again, the girls in one group and the boys in another, trying to catch each other’s eye. By the end of the parade you may have exchanged words, arranged a date or maybe even stolen a kiss! It’s important the younger generation hear these stories, so they have a better understanding of the past and the strong tradition of community and hard work which their town is built on.”
The oral history scheme will take place alongside the essential restoration work to the structure and will culminate in an exhibition about war memorials in and around Coalville. The exhibition will tour community venues in Coalville and surrounding villages from September to November 2018.
North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) has obtained funding for the oral history and restoration works from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and War Memorials Trust. The council has appointed Heritage First to deliver the community engagement activities and final exhibition.
Local heritage groups are helping to inform the project with their historical knowledge and photographic archives. Pupils from local schools and colleges are getting involved in a variety of ways, providing young people with a chance to learn about their local history and contribute to the exhibition.
Councillor Alison Smith MBE, Deputy Leader and Armed Forces Champion at NWLDC, said: “As soon as it became apparent restoration work was required on the clock tower it was clear this was a great opportunity to get the Coalville community involved. Recording people speaking about their memories is a fantastic opportunity for people to tell their stories and reminisce about the town and its proud heritage and history. It’ll be something of huge value to future generations, so if you have a story to tell please get involved.”
Steve Duckworth, Chair of Coalville Heritage Society, said: “People may not think their memories are important, but they are, and if we don’t collect them now they will be lost forever. The oral history of the town is just as important as the photographs, buildings and official archive of past events are. They provide a personal view of the town’s history, as well as a record of how people speak, what is important to them, as well as a better understanding of local traditions and culture.”
Some of the recordings will be included in the Clock Tower and War Memorials exhibition and selected audio clips will also be hosted on the Choose Coalville website www.choosecoalville.co.uk.
Michael Faulkner, Heritage First, said: “Hearing people’s memories about past events and traditions really brings to life local history. It allows us not only to gain new historical information, but to get under the skin of people’s emotional connection with a place. By coming along on the 10 and 11 July you really will be helping us to make history.”
Jon Sketchley, Hermitage FM manager and presenter is looking forward to supporting the recording sessions: “Hermitage FM is all about celebrating local people and we are very proud of the town’s rich industrial and social heritage. It’s a pleasure to help the Clock Tower team and Coalville Heritage Society to capture local people’s memories.”
To register your interest in the oral history recordings please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01530 229690.