Heritage Open Days have proved the point once more, although other casual meetings throughout the year have a similar effect. September and October is also the period of time in the school curriculum when children explore their home patch, both the school itself and the shops and homes, where we and our friends live and what we can buy at the shops. It is therefore a delight to meet the children as they find out how the school day was conducted, how children behaved and the playground games they may have played fifty or a hundred years ago.
|Fleetville School playground in the 1930s.|
Throughout the year members of Fleetville Diaries carry out deeper explorations in the form of projects. St Albans had been the home of Frederick Sander and his renowned orchid nurseries in Camp Road, and this formed the basis of a major project last year. Its culmination was to share our findings in a glorious celebration with members of the Sander and Moon families today (Henry Moon turned Sander's orchids into exquisite watercolours).
This year the organisation has taken Beaumont Avenue as its next subject in the series Right Up Our Street; and to focus on the former hosiery mill, Ballito, which grew on the site now occupied by Morrison's, where thousands of local men and women came to work, both in peacetime and war. Although largely based on recollections it has been important to understand how the factory came to Fleetville in the first place.
Heritage Open Day on Saturday 14th September was an appropriate occasion to bring people together, to view three exhibitions and chat with the project leaders, to do so in a building (Fleetville Community Centre) first erected in 1942 as a nursery for the young children of women encouraged to work at the Ballito works that had been turned over to making shell casings for the war effort.
|Factory managers' houses in Woodstock Road south|
|Summer view of The Alley.|
People love to ask questions and are often amazed by the answers; almost always a conversation ensues. We are all part of a community and feel a personal responsibility to learn more about it. And it matters not whether you are a 9-year-old who has already made sense of where he lives, or an adult who has lived here for three times as long and come to realise it's no longer sufficient to take local history for granted.
One way or another we all yearn to become more involved.