Here at the north west hub of the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project we continue to catalogue audio collections. We are keen to share clips of the oral history interviews and live music we are working on whilst in lockdown.
One of the collections that I have been working with for the past few months is the Bolton Oral History Project. This project, which ran between 1981 and 1983, features 170 interviews with local people from different social backgrounds and occupations across the whole metropolitan borough. Interviewees are asked about their family background, childhood, home life and work, along with any social and political events they remember. The collection contains audio recordings and interview summaries; these are held at the Bolton Archives History Centre.
The Centre is part of Bolton Libraries and Museum Service. A large collection of photographic prints and negatives is housed in the building from the archive and the museum. These images can be searched online here. There is also Bolton Worktown – photography and archives from Mass Observation.
Almost all of the oral history interviews include some sporting memories, whether they are childhood games in the street to more organised school sports.
Mr. Lever recollects playing in the back streets and other local spaces, away from the neighbours! (BOLTONOH/57b/1)
Mr. Edwards reflects on leisure activities for young people and shares his childhood memories of Queens Park, the café, swings in the playground and ducks in the ponds. (BOLTONOH/53a/1)
For some interviewees sports and games were synonymous with their local church and Sunday school. There were numerous Boy’s Brigade companies and Sunday school football teams across the Bolton area. The church also provided a social life for many young people, providing a range of wholesome activities and regular meetings – something strict parents approved of!
Mr. Walsh discusses competitions between the different Boy’s Brigade chapters in the area, and their role in increasing involvement with the Sunday Schools. (BOLTONOH/1b/4)
Mr. Clifford recalls St. Augustine’s as the centre of sporting activity, where the vicar often played snooker and football with the boys. (BOLTONOH/11a/2)
Interviewees go on to talk about their working lives; while some local firms may not have had a social club, for others there were plenty of works sports teams to join or outings to go on.
Mrs. Clifford shares how she spent her leisure time including different activities at the works sports and social clubs. (BOLTONOH/40/1)
Mr. Steadman talks about his father moving to Horwich for a job at the Loco works and how those who played sports were more likely to be offered a job so they could also play on the works team. (BOLTONOH/38a/1)
Respondent 4 comments that Ryder’s lacked a social club, but had a football team, and later had table tennis, darts and bowling teams and clubs. (BOLTONOH/4/1)
Respondent 4 remembers that Ryder’s paid for an annual picnic to Blackpool, with him and friends having tea at the Bowling Alley. (BOLTONOH/4/2)
Mr. Walsh discusses playing football with his work friends due to a lack of social clubs, and how later as an adult he followed Bolton Wanderers around the country. (BOLTONOH/1b/1)
Aside from home and work, interviewers also asked people about their leisure time. Cinema and theatre going were the most popular, but sporting activities were also part of life.
Mr. Griffiths recalls regularly going to Bridgeman Street Baths and being part of the swimming club there. (BOLTONOH/36a/1)
Mr. Bradbury recounts his cycling days and starting up the Horwich Wheelers Cycling Club with friends. (BOLTONOH/58/1)
Many thanks to staff at Bolton Libraries and Museum service for allowing access to their image collections. I have enjoyed searching for photographs relating to sport and leisure to complement the oral history interviews. The dates and locations may not all match, but I think that the interviewees and the images are telling the same story – one of shared experience. I included the Tong Fold rounders team photograph as I was in a school rounders team. Are your sporting memories reflected here?
Many thanks to our Digitisation Manager, Sian Williams, for creating the three videos at the top.
Many thanks to Isaac Hart, who contributed some of the audio clips here, made as part of his student placement with our hub.
Vicki Caren, Cataloguing Manager, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage North West Hub, based in Archives+, Manchester Central Library.
The Bolton Oral History collection is held by Bolton Archives History Centre. Digital copies of the full-length interviews digitised by Unlocking Our Sound Heritage will be available at Bolton in due course.
You can find out more about the national Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project at the British Library’s website. Unlocking Our Sound Heritage is supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.