Newsletter 1

Ayton’s Story Project Newsletter No 1 – December 2007

Welcome to the first Ayton’s Story Project Newsletter. I’m afraid that it lacks the glamour of pictures and fancy layout, but should help you keep up-to-date with the progress of the project. It is being distributed through the new network of neighbourhood contacts. These contacts are existing members of the group who are familiar with our previous work and with the new project.

1 Community involvement

The project aim was to involve local residents in researching village development. We have probably already achieved our first aim since there are over 180 people involved with the project.

Dennis Herriman has set up a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet database of everyone who has so far shown an interest in the project. It contains over 180 names and shows that, allowing for couples living at the same address, over 7% of all households in the two Ayton parishes are involved with the project.

If you have not already given permission for your details to be kept on the database, you will soon be asked about this by your neighbourhood contact.

2 University presentations on Wednesday evenings

Last week saw the last of the six presentations on the historical background to the project, which included some suggestions of appropriate sources of information and ideas for local research.
Ayton’s early development by Tony Pollard and Diana Newton
Our buildings by Linda Polley
Parish and community in the 19th century by Rob Lee
Social and economic structures by Rob Lee and Tony Nicholson
Ayton in the wider world by Natasha Vall
Family life by Tony Nicholson and Margaret Williamson

There are notes from most of the sessions. If you would like copies please ask Ian Pearce.

3 Future Wednesday evening presentations

There are three additional Wednesday evening presentations following on from the university presentations. Note that the content differs from that stated on the list issued at the Project Launch Meeting on 4 October.
12 December 2007: Follow-up to the university presentations (Dan O’Sullivan)
Ayton’s Story project in more detail (Ian Pearce)

16 January 2008: Organisation of project participants into topic-based groups.
30 January 2008: Digital archiving and standard procedures.

We hope to see as many of you as possible on these evenings.

4 Sessions at Northallerton County Archives

Dan O’Sullivan has been running pilot sessions, in the North Yorkshire County Record Office at Northallerton, on alternate Wednesday afternoons. The intention is to transcribe important sources and to sift through the numerous documents for references to Great Ayton. We intend to run afternoon and evening sessions, either every Wednesday or alternate Wednesdays, and quite a lot of you have expressed an interest in taking part in these activities. Please let your Dan O’Sullivan know if you would like to join the group. However we cannot begin in earnest until we have sorted out a standard method of recording information (see below). Incidentally, the previously planned session on 19 December has been cancelled, and the NYCRO sessions will recommence on Wednesday 9 January 2008 at 2:00pm in the Park Room at the NYCRO.

5 Getting source information onto the internet

We want to get some of the important source material onto the internet as soon as possible so that participants can start to use it in their own researches. The two most important records are the census records and the parish registers. Several of you have volunteered to help input the information onto the computer prior to placing it on the internet, but first we need to a standard format. Because of its wide availability, we will use Microsoft Excel. Currently layouts are being designed for the census records by Dave Taylor and Alan Bunn, and for the parish registers by June Marsden and Alan Bunn.

Most other source material, either in the form of either the complete source, copies of relevant extracts, or summaries, will be posted as Microsoft Word documents. Each will start with a standard header sheet, currently being designed by Bob deWardt.

Dan O’Sullivan has arranged for the above information to be posted on the free website although in future we may well use our website.

6 Best practice for writing documents

We think it would be good if everyone writing anything for the project adopted the same format for various items, for example in quoting references (we will use the Harvard system), writing centuries (19th century) and writing dates (25 December 2007). We will produce a guide to best practice soon.

7 Topics

Some of the topics that we will start off looking into are already apparent. We will go through them, and other possibilities for individual or group research, at the meeting on 9 January 2008. The topics include:

The very early development of the village. Why did people settle on the north banks of the Leven? What can we deduce about the earliest beginnings of Great Ayton?

Individual house histories, and the development history of specific areas of Ayton, such as California.

Population studies. These will include patterns of migration, changes in family and social structure, etc. This will be done predominantly from census records.

Collecting and arranging images from maps and photographs to illustrate the development of the village.

Education. Histories of the main schools in the village. Collection of oral history about villagers’ schooldays.

Law and order. Recorded crime over the centuries. Changes in types of crime.

Leisure activities. Cricket and football.

8 Finances

We had hoped that the project would be funded from three sources: Heritage Lottery Fund, North Yorkshire County Fund for Hambleton, and from our own resources. As you know, our Heritage Lottery Fund bid was successful, but we learned recently that our third attempt to obtain some money from North Yorkshire had been rejected; they considered our project did not provide sufficient benefit to the local community, as it was too specific an issue to promote wider interest. This means that we will have to find an additional £5000 ourselves. Fortunately we now have sufficient surplus from the sales of the Roseberry Topping book to cover this shortfall.

9 IT

It is advantageous, but by no means essential, for anyone involved with the project to have basic computing skills and an internet connection. If you have so far managed to avoid these things, involvement in the project may be a means of picking up computing skills in a stress-free environment. Already two sets of people have teamed up on a mutual ‘self-help’ basis to develop their computer skills.

Early in 2008 we will be purchasing some new computers for the project, and we are liaising with other groups like our own, and with IT expert Mike Newton, to agree the most appropriate specifications for the equipment.

10 Photographic Archive

At the end of 2001 two local history groups were set up in the village: the Community Archaeology Project and the Photographic Archive. The Photographic Archive has collected over 850 historic images of the village and villagers, and many of them are available for viewing in the Great Ayton Library. This project, managed by David Sills, has now been amalgamated with the Community Archaeology project. Of course historic photos will be an important resource for the Ayton’s Story project.

11 Roseberry Topping book reprint

We sold all our initial print-run of 3000 of the Roseberry Topping book some while ago. Recently the printers, Falcon Press of Stockton-on-Tees, offered to finance a reprint of a further 3000 books. We have agreed and the reprint, in exactly the same format as the original, should be available in shops by mid-2008.

12 And finally a Very Merry Christmas!

With Christmas approaching the words of Florence Cleveland of Stokesley, from her collection of Cleveland dialect poems published in 1875, are perhaps worth repeating here.

“When Kessamus is drawing nigh, we’ve Yell-keeaks mead for all; there’s yan a-piece for ivvery yan, an’ a great big keeak an’all.
O’ Kessamus Eve we’ve Frummety, an’ Cheese, an’ Gingerbread; Minch-pies, an’ lots o’ other things, for Kessamus tahme is meead.
We hev Yell cannels bonnin’ teea, wi’ paper all trimm’d up; an Yell clogs bleeazin’ weel on t’fires, when we sit down te sup.
An’ t’ house is deck’d wi’ Holly round, an’ t’ Kissin’-bush is there: there’s lots o’ pullin’ underneath ‘t, for kissin’ then is fair.
Fooaks likes ther bairns all gether’d up upon a Kessamus-day; an’ how they miss a lad or lass if they’ve geean far away!
Thet wish ‘at they cud join ‘em then, ower t’Rooast beef an’ Plum puddin’: howivver scant ther meals may be, that day they’ll hev a good un.”

Ian Pearce
8 December 2007

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