The Old High Street, Weymouth Oral History Project was created to collect memories of the former High Street before it was demolished in the 1960s.
This is a joint project with Dig The Street Community Group.
The inspiration for the project came about during an archaeological evaluation of the former properties along the High Street and North Quay in the Spring of 2021 by Context One and Dig The Street Community Group volunteers. Click here for more details of the evaluation along with a video presentation and a 3D model of one of the trenches.
The investigation attracted the attention of many local residents who stopped by our trenches to recount stories about life on the street during and after the Second World War. Although the street was never bombed directly, records kept during the War tell of numerous incidents of blast damage along the High Street with many buildings becoming uninhabitable. The deprivations of War signalled a demise from which the Street never recovered and it was all but abandoned by the time the bulldozers moved in. Following clearance, the site was re-developed and became the municipal offices of the former Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.
The site is up for re-development once again, and hence the reason that we were asked to carry out some trial trenching to ascertain whether any remains of the High Street and North Quay still survived. The excavation work provided a fascinating insight into the history of the Street with evidence confirming its existence from the medieval period. Most of the remains lay just inches below the ground and revealed the floor plans of the buildings at the time of their demolition. We were actually excavating the homes and businesses that passers by were telling us about and we soon realised that there was an exciting opportunity to tell the story of the Street from the people that were there.
We thought hard about what we could do to preserve these important memories and decided to start the ball rolling with a public oral history day and this took place on November 6th 2021 at the Old Town Hall. We asked anyone with memories of the street to come along and tell us their stories. The day was a huge success and we collected more than 8 hours of audio recordings!
We would like to thank the following collaborators that have already become involved in the project:
We hope the edited stories will form a publicly accessible archive that will be deposited with Weymouth and Dorset Museums. We also hope to feature the stories as part of an interactive website, and as a series of podcasts.
In early October 2021, we had the pleasure of meeting Lou Symonds at her home in Radipole and listening to her talk about her memories of Weymouth. Lou is an incredible 103 years old and we were honoured that she agreed to speak to us about her recollections, and very grateful to her niece, Sue, for arranging our visit.
Lou has not only lived in Weymouth all her life but now lives back in the same house where she was born. We were captivated for nearly two hours as she recounted story after story of her childhood at school, young adult life working in Whiteheads torpedo factory during the war, and her later life as a stewardess on paddle steamers to Bournemouth, Swanage and Dartmouth.
Lou and Sue kindly gave us permission to record the entire interview and we couldn’t wait to add a few snippets here ahead of editing the whole chat.
Simply click on any of the clips below to listen...