Sound and video recordings now available on Essex Archives Online

Did you know that the Essex Sound and Video Archive at the Essex Record Office holds over 30,000 recordings of oral history interviews, music, local radio and television broadcasts, and much more? The best way to discover all the treasures in the Archive is to search Essex Archives Online – and now you can also play a sample of the recordings directly from the website.

Screenshot of video player on Essex Archives Online

With the latest update to our online catalogue, we can now embed audio and video recordings from hosting websites such as Soundcloud and YouTube. This means you can listen or watch our recordings without having to go to a different site – recordings like this ‘Haunted Essex’ clip from an EastWard Hospital Television programme.

You can also search specifically for items that have audio or video recordings attached to the catalogue entry. From the main search page, choose ‘Audio Visual’ from the ‘Refine your search’ drop-down box.

Screenshot showing option to find a-v material on Essex Archives Online

Why not try it now? For example, try searching for ‘school’ – and remember to first select ‘Audio Visual’ in the ‘Refine your search’ box.

This is also an option on the Advanced Search page. Please note that this will only return results where we have uploaded digital copies of the recordings. There are many more amazing treasures in the Archive yet to be digitised, so do get in touch if you cannot find what you are looking for.

Maybe you are not specifically looking for audio or video material, but, as you search the A-v iconwhole catalogue, you might come across some relevant recordings. You can quickly spot which results have audio-visual content, because you will see this icon on the results page.

You will need to create an account on Essex Archives Online and log in before you can view or listen to the content. However, you do not need to purchase a subscription: the material is absolutely free to play, and can be played as often as you like. So you can scrutinise, frame by frame, this 1980s video of St Cedd’s School Choir performing at the Chelmsford Cathedral Festival to see if you recognise anyone.

Or perfect your Anglo-Saxon.

This means you no longer have to travel to the Essex Record Office to use Essex Sound and Video Archive material (but of course we would be happy to help you with your research in the Searchroom if you do want to visit). Instead, you can play recordings from the comfort of your own home – or in the library, or an Internet café, or your garden if your Wi-Fi is strong enough (but please be considerate of others when listening).

This material is being made available for free thanks to our Heritage Lottery Funded project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place. The material available online will continue to grow as we digitise more of our recordings over the next two years of the project. Follow us on Soundcloud or YouTube to be alerted to new uploads.

For more information about You Are Hear, you can go to the project blog site or the Essex Sounds website, or you can sign up to receive news updates.

We would love to hear what you think about the content we have added so far. Please also let us know if you experience any problems using the site.

All these recordings are being made available under a Creative Commons (Attribution Non-Commercial) licence. If you wish to use any material for commercial purposes, please get in touch. You can also contact us about recordings that have not yet been uploaded.

For more information about the Essex Sound and Video Archive and the digitisation and consultancy services we provide, please visit our website.

HLF Logo

What is heritage?

Sarah-Joy Maddeaux, Project Officer for You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place takes a step back to muse on what heritage is all about.

The Essex Sound and Video Archive has been granted £5000 from the Essex Heritage Trust to contribute towards our project, You Are Hear: sound and a sense of place – subject to receiving the rest of the funding. The grant has been awarded under the Trust’s Restoration / Conservation fund, as we intend to put the money towards purchasing equipment to digitise some of our sound and video recordings. Through digitisation, we will preserve these irreplaceable recordings, which are at risk of deterioration or loss due to obsolescent formats. Digitisation is also the first step towards making them more easily available for you to enjoy, from the comfort of your own homes.

The Trust’s approval demonstrates the trustees’ broad appreciation for the county’s assets, not limiting themselves to more obvious historical treasures such as buildings and gardens. Rather, they have recognised that the sound and video recordings we hold are equally covered by their mission statement ‘to help safeguard or preserve for the benefit of the public such land, buildings, objects, or records that may be illustrative of, or significant to, the history of the County or which enhance an understanding of the characteristics and traditions of the County’.

The bulk of the funding for the You Are Hear project will come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, if we are successful with our second-round Your Heritage grant application.

Can you spot the common denominator? The assets worthy of preservation and the motivations of the financiers are all linked to heritage.

So what is ‘heritage’? What qualifies as forming part of our heritage? Is it only to do with ‘old stuff’?

To me, heritage is about the foundation of a shared culture that demonstrates who we are, based on a common history, geography, or society. It includes historical treasures, certainly, as evidence of our past. But I think it can encompass much more than that. We should also consider what should be captured from today’s culture, which will form part of the next generation’s heritage. This is particularly important with sound and video archives, where careful planning is necessary in order to preserve recordings that might otherwise be lost.

You Are Hear aims to digitise many of our recordings and make them available, but also to actively encourage people to develop their sense of heritage within the county of Essex: building a sense of place based on the sounds and moving images that represent the county. We hold recordings related to our industrial past, such as a speech made by Marchese Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of radio, who built the factory in Chelmsford that enables the city to proudly proclaim itself as ‘the birthplace of radio’ on the signs as you enter its boundaries (SA 27/9/1).

Marconi disc label

We have an oral history collection about the development of Harlow as a New Town, revealing the planning that went into it, and what life was actually like for the earliest residents (SA 22). We have film footage of Morris dancers from local bands at festivals, on tour, and even at a wedding (VA 30). We have recordings of mayor-making ceremonies in Chelmsford (SA 7/571/1), Colchester (SA 8/5/12/1), and Southend (SA 20/1/5/1), capturing the ritual and dignity of local government. We have the commentary from the famous Colchester United victory over Leeds United in their fifth-round FA Cup match in 1971, a permanent reminder of one moment of glory in our county’s sporting heritage (SA 27/12/1). These recordings all demonstrate different aspects of our shared past, evoking pride and attachment to the county.

But we also have a copy of Blur’s 1995 album ‘The Great Escape’ (Acc. SA291). We have a recording of a Tilbury-Juxta-Clare parish meeting (SA 24/1001/1). We have a recording of pedestrian crossing beeps, the escalator in the BHS store, and general noise of the Southend high street in 2008 (Acc. SA501). Do these also qualify as ‘heritage’?

Why shouldn’t they? They are part of the county’s diverse and continually evolving culture. They capture the everyday – those moments that together build a realistic picture of what it is like to live in Essex. In a hundred years, what will listeners make of Blur’s music? Or the noise of an urban landscape? Historians face the challenge of trying to uncover what life was like in a former era. We have the opportunity now to give future historians a helping hand by preserving as much of our current heritage as possible. We can also help to validate the diverse culture of today’s inhabitants by recognising it as worthy of long-term preservation.

Has this made you think of some of your own sound or video recordings, which might be of interest to people today or in the future? Please do let us know: we would be delighted to help make your personal heritage part of the county’s shared culture. You can also get in touch with us for more information about any of the recordings mentioned.

You can listen to extracts from selected recordings from the Essex Sound and Video Archive on SoundCloud:

Herongate on film

Do you have a relative who lived in Herongate before the Second World War? If so, they may well appear on a film which has recently been catalogued by the Essex Sound and Video Archive (ref: VA 27/16/1).

The film – entitled Jubilee – shows celebration activities held on fields adjoining The Green Man public house in Herongate on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935. To the original silent, black and white film has been added a sound narration spoken by Steffie Hope as the voice of Mrs Nash who appears on the film and was apparently Herongate’s oldest resident at the time.

The film begins with a photograph of The Elms, Herongate – the home of Mrs Nash. We see various group shots and then a shot of Mrs Nash talking with Reginald Houlston, the Vicar of All Saints, East Horndon with St. Andrew, Herongate. Then we see schoolchildren parading past the camera and a group shot of all the ladies in the village (some of whom are holding babies). There are then close-up shots of most of the women and a number of men from the village – all of whom are named in the spoken commentary.

The film then shows a series of children’s running races, followed in each case by close-up shots of the winners. Again, most of these are named; although one participant in the wheelbarrow race is called simply ‘the boy Hodge’.

The film is only eight and half minutes long, but is an invaluable resource for local, social and family history.

The film is available to order in the ERO Searchroom – all you need is a valid reader’s ticket (you can register for this on arrival if you don’t already have one, just bring some ID with your signature and address) and staff will advise you on how to order the film to view.

See below for some stills from the film. Many of these people are named by the commentator, making the film an especially fascinating insight into the past.

Herongate film 1

Herongate film 2

Herongate film 3

Herongate film 4

Herongate film 5

Herongate film 6

Herongate film 7

A Riverside Country Town

We recently unearthed this film made by Essex County Council in 1981 to promote the largescale new development of South Woodham Ferrers.

A Riverside Country Town

A Riverside Country Town – click to be taken to the video on YouTube

The five minute film is a shortened version of the full 23 minute promotional film  released to attract families to the then newly developed  town.The short film positioned South Woodham Ferrers as the ideal country town, providing a rural lifestyle yet with all the amenities and transport links sought after by the industrious family in the booming early 1980s.

The film also includes a song written especially to promote the town, including the lyrics, ‘South Woodham Ferrers, it’s a whole new place to be … now’s the time to be here, there’s all you’ll ever need’.

Anyone interested in viewing the full version order it in our Searchroom (reference VA 3/8/9/1).

Also available are the original pamphlets promoting the town, which are advertised at the end of the film. The brochures promote the town’s ‘Very attractive buildings to delight the eye and rest the mind’, and asks ‘Where are the shops?… the housewife’s inevitable and very important question.’ (Have a look in pamphlet box W9 in the ERO library).

It’s well worth a watch, but be warned, the song is dangerously catchy…

Essex on film

Readers, today’s blog post contains Good News.

Those of you who came to our Discovery Day recently might have seen the films that we were showing in our lecture theatre.

If you had feared that you would never be able to see them again, we are pleased to announce that you can now relive the joy through the magic of YouTube.

First up, a selection of extracts from videos held in the Essex Sound and Video Archive, including morris dancing, the opening of Bradwell power station, a 1950s police video insulting Colchester’s pedestrians, the opening of Lakeside shopping centre, wartime landgirls, people on their holidays at the Essex seaside, and lots more.

You can also visit our YouTube channel to see some of the other videos which were playing on the Discovery Day, including the now famous ‘document production’ video. (It’s better than it sounds, honestly.) Enjoy!