University of Leicester eBulletin

Uncovering Hidden Secrets of Leicestershire Towns and Villages

September 2002

Hidden secrets of towns and villages in Leicestershire will come under the microscope in the coming months, with local people taking the lead.

It’s part of a plan by tutors at Vaughan College, part of the University of Leicester’s Institute of Lifelong Learning, to harness the enthusiasm of evening-class students studying the history of their localities and the region as a whole.

‘Instead of people spending a couple of hours a week in the college and then doing some reading, we want to encourage them to apply what they learn to the history of their town or village,’ says Dr Graham Jones, Director of the Certificate Course in Local History.

‘For some it may mean delving into old parish records, for others looking at streets or fields in a new light. We want them to explore, and then to include their findings in their project work.

‘There’s a wealth of material out there, waiting for its secrets to be unlocked. As Professor W G Hoskins famously said, local historians find things out by getting mud on their boots.’

The present course at Vaughan College is a direct descendent of the classes held there by Professor Hoskins, who became a national figure with his series of television programmes on the English landscape.

The Department, now Centre of English Local History, which Professor Hoskins founded and where Dr Jones is Lecturer in English Topography, has become the model for similar centres in Britain and abroad.

College records which came to light recently reveal how Hoskins used these classes to test out what were then revolutionary ideas.

‘Just as Hoskins looked closely at a place like Wigston Magna to teach us things about the history of our local communities generally, so students today can do work on their own neighbourhoods which can be of lasting value,’ says Dr Jones.

‘It can even have national value, because local history builds our nation’s story from the ground up, using all kinds of evidence, instead of starting with kings and queens and the dates of battles.

‘History is becoming really popular again, and if enough people took part, we could create a research programme which qualified for national funding.

‘It might also be possible for students to take part in research for the Victoria County History, which it is hoped to revive after a long period of inactivity.

‘But if people just want to study for fun, then that’s fine, too.’

People who are interested can find out more at an Open Evening at Vaughan College on Thursday (September 12), between 6.30 and 8.30pm, when Dr Jones will be on hand to advise them on the first steps to take. This year’s class meets on Tuesdays.

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For more information, please contact Dr Jones on 252 2764.

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: September 2002
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