When we started this project we didn’t expect to find out very much that was new about the story Heartbreak Hill. We always imagined our contribution would be the archaeological approach to the site and the use of fieldwork. The history of the site has been looked into quite thoroughly by Malcolm Chase and Mark Whyman who wrote a book about it. They went through the records in the Pennyman family papers and in some papers relating to the other members of the scheme. Consequently, we imagined that pretty much everything that could be got at through historical sources had been…
However, when examining the Swarland records I have come across a letter from James Pennyman to Mr Nott, the secretary of the Fountains Abbey Settler’s Society. The reason that this has not been examined by earlier historians of Heartbreak Hill is that the Fountains Abbey Settler’s Society papers are not yet catalogued (though fortunately work on this is being carried out right now). This means there has never been any reason to suspect that information about Heartbreak Hill was held in them; I certainly wouldn’t have looked there if I hadn’t also been working on Swarland.
The letter was an attempt by Pennyman to find a job for a man called Mr Payne who had been involved in the Heartbreak Hill scheme. Payne was unable to go back to ironstone mining due to an injury. It appears that Pennyman had asked whether he could be given a place at Swarland but for some reason this was impossible. He hoped that Nott may hear of a job that would be suitable for Payne. As background Pennyman tells Nott about Panye’s involvement at Heartbreak Hill:
“Some 4 or 5 years ago I started a Cooperative Land Scheme in the mining villages and this man was made secretary of the Boosbeck branch. I got a brother-in-law to do secretary for the whole affair – 3 branches – and when he fell sick (and also fell very lazy) Payne took on general secretary for the Club, which meant keeping the whole thing together and marketing the stuff to the value of £300 or £400 a year. He showed leadership initiative and trustworthiness. Now all members are back at work bar Payne & a few old men.”
This is interesting for several reasons. Firstly, it is some of the only evidence we have for the extent of the involvement of the unemployed members in running the scheme. This letter gives the impression that they did have a certain amount of control over it. Whether they would have agreed with this characterisation is another matter, but the letter is some evidence for this. Much of the information we have about the scheme is from the writing of Rolf Gardiner who mainly worked with student volunteers on summer work camps at the site, rather than with the unemployed miners themselves, so this is an aspect that we know very little of.
Secondly, it is interesting to have something which gives a hint, albeit not much of one, about James Pennyman’s own characterisation of the scheme. Rolf Gardiner’s view of the scheme was from a very particular ideological perspective so it is not clear how far his writings can be taken as indicative of the views of the scheme’s other members. In addition to this some oral testimony reveals the views of other people involved, while anonymous publicity materials for the scheme give another characterisation. This is all quite problematic because we can be sure that the scheme was primarily driven by Maj and Mrs Pennyman. So what does the letter tell us about this? The phrase ‘Cooperative Land Scheme’ is quite telling. While allotment gardening is common among unemployment projects of the time cooperative schemes are rare (though not unheard of), that this was the phrase that Pennyman automatically used it may be that this unusual aspect of it was his idea. Similarly, the word Land (as opposed to allotment, market gardening etc.) may be significant. From some other letters and pamphlets in Pennyman’s papers he seems to have been interested in land reclamation, perhaps following a long tradition of landed aristocracy being advocates of agricultural improvement. These are no more than hints at what Pennyman might have seen the scheme as, but they do add to other hints that we get from his personal papers.
It is interesting that Pennyman says nothing of the carpentry or musical aspects. It’s possible that this is because Payne himself was not strongly involved in these, we can never know whether he was or not. However, it is also possible that Pennyman saw these elements as subsidiary to the market gardening. Certainly, of the Pennymans it was Ruth who was involved most clearly with Robin Hood so the music may have been her idea.
Finally, it gives an idea of why the scheme ended in the last line of the quote. The fact that nearly everyone had found work had made the scheme redundant. The scheme was always publicised as alleviating the effects of unemployment not solving unemployment itself, and so with increased employment there would be nothing for it to do. The letter is undated, but is a reply to a letter from Nott written on the 14th October 1937. The timing probably lets us guess at the reason for increased employment in Cleveland. At this time rearmament was in full swing. One result of this was an acute steel shortage, which was causing serious building delays at the Team Valley Trading Estate at about the same time. A sharp rise in the price of steel would probably have reopened the ironstone mines.
We do have to be careful about doing history in the way I have here. I’m trying to squeeze a lot of information out of a very small piece of text. Some of it isn’t much more than guesswork and more information could well show that some of it is wrong. However, the existence of the letter does tip a few possible interpretations of Heartbreak Hill in certain directions, and hopefully gives some new leads to follow.
With hindsight, the 1930s are overshadowed by the impending World War. It is perhaps surprising to find that this was recognised quite widely at the time, at least by 1937. It is unusual for people today to see themselves as living in ‘history’ indeed towards the end of the last century some historians were prepared to claim that history had ended (e.g. Fukuyama 1992). For the generations that had lived through the Great War followed by the Great Depression, however, the idea that historic events could occur at any moment was just common sense.
We have seen in an earlier post that the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany touched the activities at Heartbreak Hill, but on the whole the documents we have for this case study date from before war became a serious concern. Similarly, at Hamsterley, we know little of what happened there after about 1935. Of course we do know that it was used by the army during the war as a POW camp and it is possible, though perhaps unlikely, that it was requisitioned at an early date. Hopefully, further archival research will clarify this point.
At both Swarland and Team Valley however, there is ample evidence for the perception of the coming War by the members of the schemes and the steps they took to prepare for it. The training scheme for young men ran by the Fountains Abbey Settlers’ Society sent several boys into the Royal Navy, perhaps inspired by the fact that both Commander Clare Vyner and Captain Sutherland were ex-Naval officers (WYAS WYL/150/B1/8). It is possible that this was partly due to a concern for the armed-forces but could also be because the Navy was clearly a steady job that did not depend on heavy industry.
Re-armament began in earnest in the middle of the decade as international efforts towards disarmament collapsed. The Fountains Abbey Settler’s Society was very clearly influenced by this, as it ended its training scheme for young men at Studley Royal in 1937 because of the availability of jobs on Tyneside fulfilling armaments contracts. In a letter to Sir RH Price of Ilkley on the 6th July 1937 Mr Nott, the secretary of the Fountains Abbey Settlers’ Society, said: “Re-armament has meant that a number of boys have found work, and that most of the others are hoping to find work at home. That they cannot by any means all find work is certain, but meanwhile they are unwilling to come away from home for training and we have therefore, for the time being, given up training boys here, having placed ninety-eight boys in employment during the last three years.” (WYAS WYL/150/5623).
In August 1937 Mr Meller, who was the Settlers’ Society officer at the Swarland settlement left for training in the RAF Reserves. He was sent to the recently opened RAF Debden and wrote to Mr Nott from there. Interestingly, he observed that “Of course this is a new Station and a bit like Swarland all bricks and mortar. They must mean making this a big place.” (WYAS WYL150/5623, Fig. 1). The comparison is striking because the function of Swarland is was different, but both were planned and modern. It is easy to imagine that Swarland was supposed to be a rural idyll and so completely removed from the world of technology and global conflict, but the thinking of the people who designed and built it was clearly quite different; it was also a part of a modernist future as was the Air Force. Having received his training and witnessed a crash, he returned to Swarland, but presumably was called up to fight only two years later.
The Swarland settlement began to make its own preparations for war as early as 1937. In November of that year Mr Nott, the secretary of the Fountains Abbey Settler’s Society wrote to Superintendent Spratt of the Alnwick police station to ask whether Swarland could join the Alnwick Air Raid Precautions (ARP) scheme if there was one. Spratt replied that ARP wardens were to be appointed by the Rural District Council but that he would need to swear them in as Special Constables. He was willing to do this and asked Nott to send a list of suitable men (WYAS WYL/150/5623). At the same time the Society was setting up a volunteer fire service. It asked the Rural District Council for advice and training, purchased fire hoses and asked the Swarland Saw Mill to design and build a hose-cart. As they investigated the possibility of obtaining a Home Office ARP scheme grant for this it is possible that the fire service was set up with ARP measures in mind. It is likely that these preparations were inspired by the bombing of Guernica on the 26th April 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. In this raid German and Italian forces supporting Nationalist Spain bombed a civilian population. This was something that had been feared across the world for decades and so was especially shocking.
As at Swarland the Team Valley Industrial Estate also prepared for war from around 1937. Perhaps the earliest indication of the oncoming conflict is the establishment of a Home Office gas mask store in building A14 in January 1937, though presumably this was for the benefit of the local region rather than the Estate alone (Loebl 1988, 373).
The Sudetenland Crisis of September 1938 galvanised the Trading Estate into emergency planning which interrupted the efforts to design a Physical Training and Recreation Centre. On the 4th October 1938, a few days after the crisis was resolved, Mr Bell, one of the Estate executives, wrote to the architect Prof Holford that “I am now almost ready to deal with the P.T.&R. again, having been saved by the impending war.” He closed the letter with the words: “We are now trying to adjust ourselves to normal conditions again. I think everyone is extremely relieved except our liaison officer, who is naturally somewhat disappointed that his emergency scheme was never completed, and who still refuses to believe that the danger is past.” (TWAM 1395/15, Fig. 2). War had been averted by the Munich Pact which Neville Chamberlain famously claimed had secured ‘peace for our time’. The liaison office was of course correct, though Bell seems to have accepted the Prime Minister’s assurances.
Later on as the situation worsened air raid shelters were built at the Estate. A leaflet for Shorter’s Construction Company Limited’s tubular concrete air-raid shelters has been filed among the papers of North Eastern Trading Estates (Fig. 3). This advertised shelters for homes, schools and businesses and urged readers to ‘be prepared!’ in case of ‘our being faced again with a state of National Emergency’ it went on to cite accounts of bomb damage in Barcelona and mentioned that its shelters could be made gas-proof (TWAM 1395/33).
In July 1939 North Eastern Trading Estates was given permission by the Commissioner for Special Areas, England and Wales to build air raid shelters on the estate. The Trading Estate invited its tenants to a conference at 10 o’clock on Tuesday the 25th July 1939 to inform them of the ARP preparations that had been made (TWAM 1395/34, Fig. 4).
War was declared on the 3rd of September 1939. A number of the Trading Estate staff immediately went into the forces including Colonel E.N. Eveleigh who went to the Headquarters of Scottish Command in Edinburgh. On the 7th September North Eastern Trading Estates wrote to him to ask him to settle his club bill and opened their letter: “I am so sorry to trouble you at a time like this…” (TWAM 1395/32, Fig. 5).
TWAM – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
WYAS – West Yorkshire Archive Service
Fukuyama, F. 1992 The End of history and the Last Man London
Loebl, H. 1988 Government Factories and the Origins of British Regional Policy 1934-1948 Aldershot
On motorway verges draw
Sharp lines between me and
Four fatherless fourteen-year-olds
On the brink of another war
This project blog is curiously personal, but then for me, much of this project falls into this category: my family are from the North East and the period we are researching (just) falls into their living memory. My paternal grandmother grew up in Loftus, born in 1923. This little research snippet is about an interview I conducted with her about her childhood, and the long shadows of two wars.
My grandma was the third of four children, her older brothers Eric and Ron coming before her and sister Doris not too long behind. Her father was injured in the Battle of the Somme, a shrapnel wound in his face that later became cancerous and killed him in 1931: she doesn’t remember him ever being well enough to work and his injury overshadows a great deal of her early memories. As a result, she told me, they didn’t particularly notice the Great Depression: he couldn’t work, and because they’d married after his injury (seemingly a scratch at the time), her mum didn’t get a war-widows pension. So there was never much money around, neither before nor after 1929. She didn’t particularly remember the crash (but then, she would have been small), but she did remember the dole queues, and recounted that later, she found out that they had had (subtly) armed guards at the dole offices, at least in Newcastle.
“… what I can remember about it is very very long queues at the dole office. The men were stood three abreast for about a quarter of a mile. …in Loftus waiting for the dole. It was a Friday morning”
She was a mine of useful information about how families made do, with relatives lodging in, allotments providing delicious veggies, eggs and pigs to supplement the table, and tricks used by her mum to make things go further, like ‘sides-to-middle’. A procedure where worn-out bedsheets were cut in half and stitched back together with the unworn edges making up the middle, and the worn out centre now at the sides. They lived in a terraced house in East Loftus, owned by her Grandad (her mother’s father), who had been a mining engineer and who had been to America twice, before coming back to Loftus. Her mum washed once a week in a huge copper, baked twice a week without a proper stove, and kept the five of them together on 24 shillings a week. They had help: their rent should have been just over half of their weekly income, but after her Dad died, her Grandad agreed they could stay rent-free. Her mum could have gone and worked as a private nurse but then Grandma and her siblings would have had to go into care so they managed without anyone earning a wage. This actually meant Grandma stayed on at school a year longer than most: her and the three others who were also from fatherless households year stayed on until they were 15 before going out to work. Her eldest brother Eric won a scholarship to Guisborough Grammar School, but that meant uniforms and bus fares: the British Legion helped by buying his uniform but he was the only one to go.
“I always support the British Legion, and you should because they are good. They are there when they are wanted… they helped with Eric’s school uniform, which Mum couldn’t have afforded. And his bus fare”
Far from experiencing the Great Depression as tumultuous event, or a defining period of change, my Grandmother’s family, at least, experienced it as a backdrop to more pervasive poverty, challenge and change. I am starting to think this was the same for most people in the region: not everything was dire. Their housing gradually improved: everyone got indoor WC’s all in one go in their street: my Grandma presumes because of some sort of improvement grant. Similarly, she remembers them getting electric lighting and their first proper gas stove and indoor sink. A regular bus service to Middlesbrough began, and because the local director lived in East Loftus and had kids at school, they got a free bus ride home on wet days. Though there was never much money around, they never went hungry, their table generously supplemented from allotments and I suspect some poaching.
“we got our veggies from him (her maternal Grandfather), which were beautiful you know, and he had a greenhouse, and he had hens, and he had pigs. And I remember how thrilled we were when he said the… the idea was, if you kept pigs, you sent them to, oh what’s that big pork firm up north, what do they call it?...anyway, you sent them there and they but they cut the pig up for you and they let you have the cuttings back, cause there were pieces they couldn’t sell, and I remember the dinners we got off that was beautiful, pork casserole, ‘cause it would be fresh wouldn’t it.”
The challenge I have is drawing these memories into the dry world of old maps and planning records, which are the bread and meat of my part of the research project. Archaeology, to me at least, is about accessing daily life in ways not often managed by textual history. It is also concerned with change and continuity. I’ve looked at all the planning applications for the Bishop Auckland rural district between 1929 and 1937, and I am starting to look at differences in Ordnance Survey maps created in 1924(ish) and 1939 to identify those changes and to explore the character of the built environment. It is a large task and I am only at the start, but there are already patterns emerging that fit my Grandmother’s experience: an increase in allotments and a marked decrease in heavy industry; new housing built along roads linking formerly separated parishes, planning applications for improvements to housing and schools. There is also evidence of the growing availability of utilities like electricity and telephone lines, and the growing importance of the car.
Getting to how people thought and felt about those changes is harder, and this is where I am glad to have my Grandmother’s stories to connect me back to the landscape. Tales of walking all the way to Saltburn or Staithes, trips on their bikes, learning the names of flowers and how to catch fish in the rivers. The excitement of a proper stove, and a flushing toilet. Of playing in the bus depot with friends, or those long curling queues of men, waiting for their dole money, to go and spend it immediately on household provisions in the local grocers.
I’m enjoying the balancing act this research requires, between the vividly personal and the detached overview from the maps. Next time I write I’ll share some statistics about the sorts of new buildings being proposed and the places in the landscape they were affecting.
The project team is planning to propose a session on the Archaeology of Interwar Europe (1918-39) at the forthcoming 2018 Society for Historical Archaeology conference in New Orleans - please feel free to circulate this CFP and get in contact if you are interested in offering a paper.
The Archaeology of Interwar Europe (1918-1939)
The interwar period was one of extraordinary change. Out of the ashes of WWI grew an increase in consumerism, played out alongside the Great Depression. Extreme politics flourished, and authoritarian regimes became established in Spain, Italy, Russia and Germany. The tensions between these new state formations and traditional polities resulted in re-armament and ultimately conflict. Simultaneously, the foundations of the post-War settlement and the welfare states were being laid. These social, economic and political developments all resulted in material developments that can be interrogated archaeologically.
Whilst the archaeology the 1920s and 1930s has been embraced by the research and CRM community in the US, it has largely remained underexplored in Europe, although the archaeology of the two World Wars has become increasingly a topic of interest. This session proposes to address this lacuna in research, highlighting existing work and identifying avenues for further research.
Organiser: Dr David Petts, Associate Professor, Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK; Dr Ronan O’Donnell (Post-Doctoral Research Associate), Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK; Dr Kayt Armstrong (Post-Doctoral Research Associate), Department of Archaeology, Durham University, UK
Last week we had another outing, this time to look at some sites in Newcastle and Gateshead. First we visited Exhibition Park, the site of the North East Coast Exhibition of 1929. Bill Pickering of University of Newcastle who has been researching the archaeology of the Exhibition very kindly showed us round and gave us a potted history of the Exhibition. It’s a fascinating site, with one of the original buildings still standing. This was the Palace of Arts, which housed art treasures borrowed from private collections from throughout the North East, and is now the Wylam Brewery (Fig. 1). It’s great to meet up with someone else working on inter-war archaeology in the North-East and we look forward to seeing how Bill’s research progresses.
We then went on to visit the Team Valley Trading Estate in Gateshead. This is another of our case-study sites. It was a government loan financed venture intended to bring light industry to the North East to create jobs and ease the reliance of the region on heavy industries. Work began on the estate in 1936, and by 1938 factories were in operation. While much has changed on the site since the 1930s there is a surprising amount of 1930s architecture still there, and enough to give an impression of the scale and visual impact the estate must have had in its heyday.
The centrepiece is the Central Administrative Building, now St. George’s House. This housed the offices of North Eastern Trading Estates which managed the Estate, as well as services like banks, solicitors, accountants and transport companies which supported the businesses of the Estate’s tenants. It is a modernist structure and deliberately impressive (Fig. 2). Documents show that the estate company was careful to control the lettering that the companies within it put on their windows to create a simple and sophisticated look. The staff of the Homes & Communities Agency who work in the building kindly showed us around and we were impressed by the survival of many of the Art Deco fittings. We are also grateful to the staff of the Acorn Deli which occupies the former Martins Bank who showed us the door of the bank vault which is still in situ.
While many factories have been demolished or altered over the years a number of the original factories survive. Alan Carr Design and Print kindly showed us around their factory which is one of the small units built speculatively so that the Estate would have factories ready for immediate occupation by tenants (Fig. 3). A few currently empty units also appear to be 1930s factories and some retain apparently original signs and fittings (Figs. 4 and 5).
As at Hamsterley, there’s plenty to think about. Visiting the site gave a real impression of the scale of the original estate, impressive in its planned layout and modernist detail, but not overwhelmingly large; and with an almost domestic appearance in some factories. There is lots surviving for us to record when we get the fieldwork underway.
We’d like to thank Bill Pickering for sharing his work and Alan Carr Design and Print, the Acorn Deli and the Homes and Communities Agency, for letting us look at their properties.
Much archive work is a process of trailing through long series of documents which individually say little but when taken together produce interesting results. However, with the vast quantities of manuscript sources in county record offices and other archives there are of course occasions when a document comes to light which stands out as exceptional.
One of those occasions occurred while I was examining material in the Pennyman of Ormesby Hall papers (Teesside Record Office) which relate to the Heartbreak Hill case study. On a number of occasions parties of German students helped with the work of preparing the allotments, or took part in singing tours accommodated partly in Ormesby Hall.
Some of these students kept in touch with the Pennymans, and it is one of their letters that I want to consider here. The letter was written by Hans Pollmann on 25th May 1933. He had recently returned to Germany after one of the musical tours, and found the immediate aftermath of a coup. He had heard that the Pennymans were interested to hear about the political situation in Germany and so wrote to them about it. He supported the Nazi coup, which he describes as ‘a real revolution’ very enthusiastically and sets out his reasons for this at some length.
He began by explaining that Germany had struggled with war, poverty, reparations, inflation and unemployment since 1914. He felt that although Germany had tried to engage with international efforts to tackle these problems that these had only attempted to make Germany a ‘second-class nation for ever’. He then states that only a unified nation could solve these problems. He identified a number of causes of this disunity including the remains of the nation states that had been unified into Germany in 1871 and the “internal war” between industry trusts and trade unions. Regarding the latter the first anti-Semitic sentiments of the letter are expressed as he claims that “The jewish [sic.] leaders of the Marxist parties ordered their followers to terrorise, to shut down their brothers.” He also claims that “literature glorified all vices” rather than fighting for a “moral Christian life.” Since Hitler was now allowed by parliament to govern as a “dictator” these problems were being addressed. He also claims that society will become collectivistic rather than individualistic, and that while there will be private property the owners will have to administer it for the “commonwealth”.
He believes that most Germans are fully in favour of this, believing that the period of distress and destruction is over, and he celebrates the book burning by students at all universities. Importantly he cites increasing employment as a sign of the success of Nazi policy: “Since January 31st, the day he [Hitler] became premier, 800,000 people could get work, in the same period last year 400,000”. He says that the changes in Germany are a guarantee of peace and of the defence of European culture against “Asiatic” ideas; “if Germany cannot defend itself against Bolshevism the consequences are terror for the whole of Europe”. He also defends rearmament as other countries have not disarmed on the same scale as Germany has had to.
Chillingly, he closes by saying that he has recently joined the Sturmabteilung – the SA; a predecessor of the SS. I don’t know anything further about Pollman other than what is written in the letter, so I do not know what became of him during the war or whether his convictions strengthened or weakened as a result of later events.
What strikes me about the letter is that the justifications that Pollman gives are exactly what I was taught about in school when history lessons addressed the question of why German people supported Hitler; mass unemployment, the reparations clauses of the Treaty of Versailles and an undercurrent of anti-Semitism that was common across the Western world during the inter-war period. It is rare for someone to explain in writing their feelings about a particular period that they lived through at the time it was going on, and so while the document does not perhaps tell us much that we do not already know about the rise of the Nazi regime it is important that the information exists in this form.
Last Friday the project had its first day ‘in the field’. Visiting a site that you have only read about, even without doing any formal fieldwork, can make a big difference to the way that you understand it and Hamsterley was no exception.
Hamsterley is quite far west for County Durham; far enough that as you approach it the villages get smaller, the houses older, the traces of industry fewer and the roads narrower. Eventually you turn sharply down a steep road and look down on to the site of the camp. It is quite a striking setting, enclosed north and south by steep banks and with a wide, shallow stream at the far end. The Ministry of Labour personnel who initially selected the site were immediately taken with it; Mr Green of the Wallsend Government Training Centre went so far as to decide that he did not need to see any further sites having found Hamsterley.
Nearly the whole of the camp site is now the Forestry Commission car park, as the forest was developed into a leisure facility from the 1960s onwards. At first glance we might imagine nothing survives above ground. However, once we started looking things began to come to light.
The traces of the work camp are slight but they are there. Many are ‘humps and bumps’ not unlike the sort of features you might see at a deserted medieval village. These include a low bank along the southern edge of the camp (Figure 1) and a place where the valley side was cut back a little to make way for a hut. Some less ephemeral elements like concrete footings which poke out of the grass, fragments of window glass in molehills and a lump of masonry near the site of the old latrines were also found. A swimming pool built by the trainees also left its mark in the form of a rectangular depression next to the modern play area and a fragment of concrete with the depth of the water painted on it in black letters (Figure 2). There is also a possibility that some marks on the tree to the north of the car park are carvings made by one of the members of the camp or the staff or inmates of the prisoner of war camp, which would be a rare piece of direct evidence for the people for whom the camp was built if this is true (Figure 3).
Perhaps most excitingly two of the huts used by the Forestry Commission are on the sites of huts shown on the 1939 Ordnance Survey map of the area. One of these, a green painted corrugated iron structure, would not look out of place in the 1930s (Figure 4). It appears to be a garage, and certainly there was a garage in the 1930s work camp. The light fitting on the front is perhaps the best hope for dating this hut. By remarkable coincidence I spotted one of these in military buildings at Tynemouth Priory the day after we visited Hamsterley. I expect the Tynemouth example was installed around the time of the Second World War, though the army used Tynemouth until about 1960. It is quite likely, therefore, that this light was installed either for the work camp or for the POW camp. We will need to make some more systematic investigations if we are to prove this.
All of this is, of course, quite preliminary; it’s normal for later work to overturn your initial ideas, so watch this space. However, it’s great that an initially unpromising site has yielded such a rich assemblage of apparent features at the first look, and that we are beginning to reunite fairly unassuming objects and buildings with the stories of their creation and use. The great excitement of archaeology is to realise how everyday objects tell us about the past, and about events as significant as the Great Depression.
Our project is now up and running, with all the staff in place. Today, we were pleased to welcome members of our steering group up to Durham for its first meeting. The group, which consists of archaeologists, historians and other specialists is going to provide some support, advice and oversight to the project over the next three years. Today, we introduced them to the main project aims and were able to outline some of the basic tasks we've been carrying out to get the project set up. We were also able to explore some of the wide range of data available to us and think about how we might incorporate it into the project. The steering group had lots of useful ideas - it's clear we are going to need to think carefully about how we engage with the communities associated with each of our study areas to ensure we avoid too much of a 'top-down' perspective. Luckily, we're already starting to forge links with local people, although there is still much to do. Overall, a stimulating day; all of us left buzzing with ideas.