Bolton Oral History Project

This oral history project was funded by the Manpower Services Commission and sponsored by Bolton Metropolitan Borough. It ran from August 1981 to January 1983. During that time 170 life story interviews were recorded covering: childhood, school days, early working experiences, leisure activities, politics, and community life.

The men and women interviewed came from a wide range of backgrounds and their contributions provide a valuable insight into working and social life in the area since the turn of the twentieth century. The geographical area covered was the whole of the Metropolitan Borough of Bolton.

The main themes in the collection include:

  • Working life consisting of industries such as mills and textiles, coal mining, engineering, clog making, farming; and local companies including Edbros, Thomas Ryder & Sons, British Aerospace, Turner Bridge Works, De Havilland, Tyson’s, Rigby’s, Walker’s Tannery, Horwich Locomotive Works, Bessemer’s Forge, Hick Hargreaves, Bleachworks, Derby Ironworks, Dobson & Barlow; experiences of apprenticeships also feature.


  • Politics including trade union involvement, strike action, local politics, Socialism, Communist Party, Labour Party, rise of fascism, the Blackshirts and later the National Front.


  • Social history concerning poverty, pawnbroking, working class life, unemployment, workhouses and parish relief, World War I, 1926 General Strike, Depression, World War II.


image: cassette tapes from Bolton Oral History Collection

audio: Mrs. Clifford shares her first impressions of Bolton after moving down from Edinburgh

This is one of the best-documented collections we have so far digitised. Most interviews come with a brief typescript summary as well as a full verbatim transcript. The summaries have been transferred into the British Library’s catalogue while the transcripts are available at Bolton Oral History Centre.

The full length interviews will be available at Bolton History Centre in due course. A selection of interviews will be published on the British Library website.

You can read the full descriptions online at the British Library’s Sound and Moving Image catalogue. The British Library collection reference is UAP014. The local reference is BOLTONOH.

Audio clips from this collection have been used with images from Bolton Libraries and Museums to create a post on Sport and Leisure in Bolton.

Leave a Reply