Oral History

Dean Heritage Centre is taking part in the HLF funded Foresters Forest project formed from an association of partner organisations and local community groups within the Forest of Dean. The aim is to raise awareness and participation in the built, natural and cultural heritage that makes our Forest special.

The Dean Heritage Centre project is to digitise our unique collection of audio cassette tapes from the 1980’s and 1990’s. These are recorded interviews of Foresters talking about various aspects of their lives in the Forest of Dean.  They are fascinating to listen to and reveal what life was like in the Forest fifty to a hundred years ago. People talk about their experiences in mining, forestry, various industries, childhood, schools, growing up, shopping, towns and villages, Forest dialect and much more. The collection was begun by Elsie Olivey, a founder of Dean Heritage Museum, who could see Forest life rapidly changing and decided to preserve people’s memories by recording them.

These tapes are fragile and decay over time; we are in danger of losing them. Digitising them will not only preserve the audio recordings but also enable access to a wide range of people. The digitised recordings will be available to listen to at Dean Heritage Centre and we hope to create an online searchable database. We will also be working in collaboration with other partners in the Foresters Forest project on a Forest dialect project, archiving new oral histories and other educational resources.

The project will run for five years. So far, the first batch of tapes has been digitised by Aynie - a professional digitisation company from Bristol. Dean Heritage Centre staff have now catalogued this collection and the catalogue entries, summaries and the recordings are available for research at the Centre. Please enquire for more details. The next batch of recordings has been digitised and staff are now working on listening to and cataloguing these recordings.

Collections Officer Nicola Wynn explains ‘Much has been written about the history of the Forest of Dean, but the recorded interviews further enrich this history by recording the unique personal experiences and memories of people. They really bring history to life and allow us to connect with people’s lives. The recordings reveal the heart and soul of daily life and are by turns fascinating, poignant and moving. We are delighted to be able to go ahead with the oral history project.’

Help wanted

Current oral history guidelines mean that ‘recording agreements’ are drawn up to ensure agreement on consent to be interviewed and use of the recording. However, it was not common to use such agreements in the 1980’s. This means that Dean Heritage Centre must try to contact interviewers and interviewees to ask their permission to use the recordings. Sadly, many of the people interviewed will have died by now so we must then try to contact relatives. Additionally, we would like to collect more information about the people interviewed. We would greatly appreciate help from the public in tracing the relatives of the people interviewed. We have created a list of names  below.

First batch of recordings (Elsie Olivey collection):

This is the list of interviewees:

William Bowdler, Alfred Warren, Liz Hiatt, Winifred & Archie Freeman, Albert Meek, Frances Webb, Molly Curtis, Tom Gibb, Jesse Hodges, John Griffiths, Mrs Amy Adams, William Simmonds,         Arthur Holder, May Parry, Cyril Trigg, Mary Hale, Howard Moore, Ronald Jones, Harry Roberts,   Harry Toomer, Marie Hobbs, Caroline Nicholls, Gurnos Roberts, Amy Howells, Hylton Miles, Frederick Baden Watkins, Milsom Cooper, Mrs Edith Harvey, Harry Barton, George Rogers,          Doris Harvey, Howard Moore,  Caroline Nichols, Elizabeth Ibbotson, Ted Nelmes, Gilbert Baghurst , Percy Basset, Harry Byett, Charlie Hazell, Doris Turner, Harold Wheeler, Mrs M Addis, Emily Rosser,  Mr Ted Gwilliam & Mrs Marion Gwilliam, Mrs Eunice Porter, Mrs Millwater, and Mr Albert Davies.

And interviewers:

Elsie Olivey, Helen Bass, Alison Parfitt, Wendy Corum, Jane Reynolds and Samantha Weak.

Second batch of recordings:

Cyril Elsmore, Wilf Edwards, John Halliday, Ivy Haile, Marion & David Williams, Douglas Barnard , Maggie Addis, May Benfield, Dorothy Davies, Leslie Watkins, Leslie Watkins, Leslie Watkins, Sylvia Elliot, Walter King, Archie Freeman, Archie Freeman, Cuthbert Brain, Eileen Symonds, Emma Luker, Jack Aston

Third batch of recordings:

Hilda Bishop,David Blick,Henry Howe, Phylis Turley, Joe Watkins, Evan Rosser, Geoff Roberts, Kenneth Saville, Phil Stephens


Please have a look and if you are a relative or friend or you have any information for us, or are interested in oral history then please contact Collections Officer Nicola Wynn.

Volunteering opportunities

There are opportunities to volunteer for this project. Dean Heritage Centre needs help cataloguing the audio recordings. 


For any enquiries on oral history and audio recordings please contact Collections Officer Nicola Wynn email Nicola@deanheritagecentre.com or tel 01594 822170.