About this Project

What is the South Downs Schools Living Heritage Project?

Over the next two years we are embarking on a unique partnership between The Friends of the South Downs and four West Sussex Primary schools. This project has been made possible by a £10,000 contribution by the Friends of the South Downs and a £48,700 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Our knowledge of how people lived on the South Downs is being lost. A generation who remember the South Downs prior to the introduction of intensive agriculture, hastened by the food demands of the Second World War, are now in their late 80s and 90s and these precious memories will be lost forever if they are not recorded now.

We will be working with Bury, Chesswood, Findon, and Shipley primary schools to bring together young and old to explore our common downland heritage. We will give oral history training to teachers which they will be able to pass onto their pupils. We will interview and record older residents about the changes and continuities they observed living, working and at leisure in the South Downs during their lifetimes.

Two of the schools have headteacher log books dating back to the 1870s. Log books for two other schools are archived and are available for public use. These documents offer many insights into the changing life of these villages over the decades. The logs will be digitised to ensure their long term survival. Many asides and commentories about rural life appear in the logs, offering far more than an official record of school life.

In addition we have identified existing oral history interviews – on audio cassette – all over 20 years old that are in danger of imminent deterioration. We will digitise these recordings to ensure their survival. The oldest of these were recorded by the late Tony Wales back in the 1950s and 60s, with interviewees who remembered the South Downs in the Victorian era.

We will also be researching the Mass Observation Archive at The Keep in Falmer, East Sussex.

Research will be undertaken by school students and adult volunteers.

All our research, both oral and archival will be uploaded onto this website. Once the project has ended, the website will be archived and become a resource for schools and students of South Downs history for many years to come.

We will organise a programme of guided walks, celebrating the cultural heritage of the South Downs. details of these walks will be uploaded to this website. We will also create a guided walks app.

We would love YOU to joing us on this project and become part of the Living History of the South Downs. Please contact, Chris Hare, project manager to find out how you can volunteer to be part of this project.

Chris Hare

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