The histories of Seer Green and Jordans go online
In 2020 the Chiltern Society launched a unique partnership with the Seer Green & Jordans Society to capture the in-depth histories of these two villages and to make them available online. Rather than publishing these histories in the static form of a book, the Our Living Village project aims to make them available for everyone in an attractive and dynamic format that can be continuously reviewed, extended and updated.
The two villages set about establishing a project structure which actively engaged as many parts of the two communities as possible including the schools, churches, parish councils, clubs, and local pubs. As well as extensive local knowledge, this process also revealed a remarkable level of technical expertise in the villages. From this a local technical team was formed to work with the Chiltern Society’s specialist Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Group to create the main software platform for the maps, photos, documents and other information collected through the project.
Despite major disruptions caused by the Covid epidemic, which closed down all face-to-face communications, the two local communities persevered, and the remarkable achievements made by the Our Living Village project are now proudly on display at ourlivingvillage.org.
Working with the local communities, the project team identified and agreed a number of initial themes to be developed and uploaded to the website. The first core theme was a review of population growth and employment trends in the villages, based upon an analysis of national census data and local information sources. This identified such trends as the rise and fall of the lace-making industry – along with significant female employment – in the middle of the 19th century, as well as a dramatic shift away from agricultural labour at the end of that century.
The second core theme developed was a detailed analysis of the physical origins of the two communities as expressed in the local landscape and natural resources. Using the full power of GIS software, this analysis combines information from more than twenty historical maps showing such aspects as the geological origins of the area, the impact of the Romans and the Anglo-Saxons, the transfer of the estate ownership to Lord Godolphin in 1753, the enclosure maps of 1831, and the progressively more detailed Ordnance Survey maps of the 19th and 20th centuries. This analysis is brought right up to date by the recent LIDAR survey undertaken by the Chiltern Conservation Board, which identified exciting new local features including the completely unknown route of a Roman road.
These two core themes are being progressively expanded by the addition of more detailed social themes illustrating the communities’ history and development. Themes so far uploaded include a History of Religion in the Two Communities; a study of Music, Literature and Art in the villages; the Jordans Village Timeline with an in-depth analysis of the History of the Jordans Village Estate; original research into the Ancient Manor of Seer Green; a review of the Historic Buildings of Jordans; and an enjoyable pictorial history of the pubs of Seer Green and Jordans. Many further themes are currently being developed and these will be uploaded to the Our Living Village website over the coming year – so please do look out for them!
A recent walk around the two villages, which was organised as part of the 2022 Chiltern Society Heritage & Culture Festival, allowed a large and enthusiastic group to view first-hand the highlights of these two very different villages, as well as introducing them to the Our Living Village website.
The project is attracting extremely positive feedback. Earl Howe, the Patron of the Chiltern Society, commented “May I just say, having worked my way through the Our Living Village website, that I think it is a triumph.” And after her participation in the recent walk, Jan O’Brien from Hambleden said “I found the ‘living history’ approach a revelation. The website is a treasure trove of captivating information and very absorbing, even for someone who doesn’t live there.”
The originator of the project, Mr Alan Kell OBE from Seer Green, observed that it’s still very much ongoing and he praised the many groups and individuals who are contributing to its success. “The vast range of expertise and historical knowledge in the two villages is quite remarkable, and it’s thrilling to help bring it all together. We now plan to work through the Chiltern Society to encourage other villages to undertake the same rewarding journey with their communities.”