Recorders Report 2009/2010
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The property developers who purchased Wicken House have not begun work on the house, although several planning applications have been submitted to UDC including plans to build additional properties in the grounds. The facilities which were lost to the village including recycling and a meeting place have not yet been replaced. The loss of the facility also resulted in the loss of employment opportunities in the village so it has become more necessary to travel outside the village. This creates particular problems for the elderly and those without cars who travel by bus. There are only two buses per week; Tuesday to Saffron Walden and Thursday to Bishops Stortford. This is not enough as it means that without a car, visits to the Doctor, Dentist, Hospital and shopping cannot be done outside of the two bus days.
The Wicken Bonhunt Parish Meeting has been working on replacing lost services. Feasibility studies underway include: a village hall, recreational space for the children of the village, car parking, recycling and polling. None of the funds set aside by Essex County Council following the sale of Wicken House have yet been made available to the parish. In the winter of 2009 the land to the rear of The Meads was cleared with heavy machinery by volunteers from the village as part of a study looking to purchasing the land for use as a recreational space. What had been an eye-sore due to piles of rubbish, overgrown blackthorn and nettles looked very smart when the clearance was complete. The children of the village are hopeful that in the not too distant future the field will be made into a usable place where walks, games and football can be played.
Cleared land behind The Meads in 2009
Speeding traffic continues to be a problem. Children have to cross a 40 mph road after leaving the school bus and riding bicycles on a fast and narrow road is unsafe. Up to the beginning of the year there were no facilities for children and as a result most of the children were restricted to their garden or would take walks. Many children spend their leisure time indoors playing computer games or watching television. New 40mph flashing signs were introduced in 2009 which have helped however motorbikes and agricultural vehicles continue to be the worst speeding offenders.
In response to the lack of village facilities, the parish church of St. Margaret began a programme of ideas and events in 2009 under the new name ‘The Wicken Centre at St. Margaret’s. A Youth Club was launched for children and several adult activities including: Art Classes, Breakfast Club and Hand-Bell Ringing. Another idea which seemed popular was to start a village History Group.
2009 is the second year that the village has had a local history Recorder. Much of the work this year has been focused on research in order to bring together various strands of village history. It was felt that bringing the widely dispersed
pockets of information together would form a basis from which further research could be made. As a result, libraries, Essex Record Office, Saffron Walden Museum and other sources have been targeted and the information recorded and copied. The collections of the Recorder have been greatly expanded. Several transcribing projects were started including the Census Collection 1841-1901, the 1842 Tithe Schedule and the early part of the parish registers.
Thanks to the loan of specialist equipment from RUH, a transcribing project has begun and several older residents of the village have given interviews. We were fortunate that our neighbours from the Clavering Landscape History Group had interviewed past village residents and our oldest resident Margaret Smith who at 94 years old and had a marvellous recall of events and village life through the 20th century. Sadly Margaret has since died however due to the recorded oral history her irreplaceable memories have been preserved.
During the summer of 2009 the idea of starting a village History Group was presented to the village at a Saturday Breakfast Club. Around 35 residents attended the meeting and confirmed considerable support for the venture. With a growing collection of archives in the Recorder’s collection this seemed an ideal opportunity to pool resources and work together as a community. Information and applications to join a local history group were sent to every household and around 25% of all households subscribed to the project. Ideas about future projects were canvassed and it was decided to go ahead with starting a village archive, expanding the transcribing project with additional volunteers and a village history exhibition so that people could see and add to existing knowledge. Members of the new History Group and non members contributed photographs and documents to be copied which expanded our knowledge and collection.
A great deal of information about the history of farming in Wicken Bonhunt began to come together. There used to be five farms in the village and until as recently as the 1960’s most of the men began their working lives on local farms. By 2009 however, we could only find one person in the village who worked in local agriculture, and the five farms had become part of one large farm which is owned outside the village.
The Wicken Bonhunt History Group was formally founded in December 2009. The first meeting was held on December 8th and a selection of documents and photographs were exhibited. The first half of the evening was dedicated to History Group administration and election of officers. Afterwards Fiona Bengtsen gave a talk about setting up and running a history group and showed examples of history projects which the Manuden History Society had accomplished. This was a valuable presentation as it helped form ideas and illustrated how we could develop a programme of events of our own.
2009 closed with a feeling of great optimism. As a small village we know there are many new ideas and ventures which require careful management over the next few years. Projects such as the transformation of St. Margaret’s church into a village centre, provision of recreational facilities for children and a permanent archive for village history require substantial effort, time and money. Time and resources are for the most part, provided by volunteers from the village and it largely thanks to them and the support given by everyone in the parish that Wicken Bonhunt looks to an interesting and productive future.
Wicken Bonhunt Local History Recorder