Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Mapping Our Area


In the immediate run-up to Christmas Magdalen Walks members gathered at St Augustine's Church Hall and we were delighted at the turn-out, especially given the seasonal distractions AND a soggy, grey day. 

During the session, we had a think about our personal experiences of heritage tours: both, good and bad. Our purpose in doing this was to reflect on the elements that go to make a positive experience for audiences. Among our many thoughts, was the importance of feeling welcomed, valued and included. Orientation is also important: people like to know how long a walk will be (in duration and distance) as well as a broad overview of what is to be covered. In addition, folk don't like to be bombarded with facts, facts - FACTS!! Much better, therefore, to have coherent themes and tell a 'story' that people are able to comprehend and engage with. Crucial also, to relate what you are talking about to the people in front of you. There was more, but that gives you a flavour. 

After that we had a tea break and a good old chin-wag, before taking a look at some maps of our area drawn up in during the 18th and 19th centuries. I'm a big fan of maps as historical sources: they potentially reveal so much about the development of an area. Thus, for instance, we noted that the parish of St Clement's not only includes the church on the north of the river Wensum, it also encompasses an area beyond the medieval city wall (modern day Magpie Road). The question we asked was, 'Why?' The most plausible explanation is, because this church was almost certainly the earliest foundation (dating from the Anglo-Saxon/Scandanavian period), with a huge original parish. Known as a proto-parish church, the subsequent church parishes - St Margaret's etc - were 'carved' out of this original one. There is supporting archival evidence for this, in fact, as the medieval tithing records show that churches in this area were paying fees to the 'mother' church of St Clement's. 

Among the many other things prompted by this exercise were areas of potential future research. For instance, one member noted with interest the presence on these maps of various green spaces in the north of the city that no longer exist. Another, was interested in finding out more about the 'lunatic' asylum that existed near the junction of modern-day Waterloo and Magpie Roads during the 19th century. 

In terms of developing our research skills, we have booked a session at the Millennium Library on Saturday February 13th, on the second floor (gathering near the reception desk at 10:30 on that day). Here, we will be having a tour of the remarkable Norfolk Heritage Collection, which is held at the library. It contains around half a million Norfolk-related items: photographs, books, maps, postcards - there is even an early 15th century Wycliffite bible, once owned by the Boleyn family and probably read by Anne Boleyn herself! 

Please do come along Magdalen Walkers - you're in for a real treat, and it will be so useful for you to be introduced to such a treasure trove of potential sources. 

NOTE: we next meet at The Stage on St Augustine's on Saturday 16th at 10:30. After a quick cuppa and catch-up we will brave the elements and going for a walk - a Magdalen Walk in fact! Time to start exploring our area together. This one will be going along Magdalen Street itself, via St Augustines and Magpie Road, so it's right at the heart of our project. Look forward to seeing you on the day! 

FINALLY, if you read this and are interested in joining the project, please email Niki Taigel via magdalenprojects@gmail.com. Thanks!

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