Celebrating Colchester's oral history

  • Date

    Wed 20 Nov 19

Dudley White Lecture 2019

Leading Colchester historian Andrew Phillips explored the use of oral history interviews in understanding the history of the town's clothing trade and it's workers at the annual Dudley White Lecture.

Around 80 people attended a fascinating lecture about the central role played by women in Colchester's clothing industry in the period 1918-1940, given by eminent the local historian.

In a lively and entertaining lecture, Andrew argued that, despite low pay, long working hours and an absence of trade unions, young women developed a strong sense of camaraderie through working together at their sewing machines, with many of them preferring this factory work to office work. They talked, sang and occasionally even united to take action against members of management who were felt to have overstepped the mark. 

In addition to showing many evocative photos of these women and the long-forgotten factories in which they worked, Andrew also played many clips from the rich oral history interviews conducted with them in the later-20th century. 

These interviews were undertaken as part of the Colchester Recalled Oral History Project which Andrew set up in 1986 and which has since then interviewed around 1,500 local people and generated more that 3,600 hours of recordings which are now held in the Albert Sloman Library.

Andrew reminded us of the importance of Colchester's industrial heritage and the key role that women have always played in the local economy.