1) Where do you live, and how long have you been there? Are there particular reasons why you're in that location?
I have lived in Hertford with my wife and family for 28 years, having established our home here. We decided to live in Hertford through a number of factors – Hertford is a pretty market town, it has good schools and it has great transport links to London and other local towns. Our respective in-laws also live within an hour or so’s drive away.
2) What would you say is special about the specific place you live, and the wider area eg town and county?
Before moving to and starting our family in Hertford, Caroline and I had both lived in London and were looking to buy a home, within easy reach of a town centre. Hertford is special as its origins as the county town go back to the 10th century and its centre has many attractive buildings which stand either side of the River Lea, a navigable route into London.
3) Do you recognise that there is a sense of 'community' in your area? If so, what are the themes that define it and bring people together?
Yes – definitely. Many locals recognise each other in the town centre and we have built up and maintain close relations with our neighbours, whose children have attended the local primary and secondary schools and we share common interests. The themes that define this are based on support for one another, which has been evidenced through the current covid-19 virus and the ‘clap for the NHS’ has brought us out on to the street. Our street also has a ‘what’s app’ page and we shop for the vulnerable each week.
4) What is your special interest area? Why is that your interest, and what does it focus on in terms of activity(ies) and the locality?
I’ve always had an interest in aviation from early days and my local knowledge of aviation in Hertfordshire has led me to help with a local aviation heritage trail at the former de Havilland aerodrome in Hatfield, some 10 miles west of Hertford. I’ve also volunteered and trained as a tour guide at the RAF Museum in Hendon and specialised in giving tours of the WW1 in the Air exhibition. This has enabled me to research a Hertfordshire based WW1 airfield at London Colney, a small community village near Hertford.
5) Please describe the particular projects you're working on and achievements so far.
In 2010, the University of Hertfordshire (UH) won funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to establish a recognition of the history and legacy that early aircraft maker de Havilland had left for the community of Hatfield. I contributed to the development of the history, at the time being employed by Exemplas Consulting, a subsidiary of UH. Professor Owen Davies led the project and recently, I have enhanced the heritage trail, a map of 10 history boards, strategically located around the original de Havilland (DH) aerodrome site. I plan to offer guided tours of the trail and include a visit to the DH Aircraft Museum, located at Salisbury Hall, the original site of the pioneering aviation activities of Geoffrey de Havilland (incidentally the cousin of actress Olivia de Havilland who has just died), a few miles south of Hatfield.
The second project is the history of a little known WW1 airfield, at London Colney. The local history group has many photos, stories and documents and I am supporting the project by approaching the Airfield Restoration Group (ARG) to erect a commemoration plague on the original site.
The third project I have produced is a ‘History of aviation in Hertfordshire’ presentation, slides for which I have gathered from organisations, including the University, BAe Systems and the Handley Page Association. Presentation dates (for later in the year) are being confirmed with a number of local groups. It is hoped that these presentations will help inform members of the public, in support of the projects outlined above.
I'm also involved with the People's Mosquito project, a charity which is working to see one of the Second World War's most distinguished aircraft, built by de Havilland, flying again.
6) How do you see these projects contributing to the wellbeing of the area; in terms of their interest to local people and visitors; the character, identity and economy of the area and its sense of 'place'; and the curation of its heritage?
There is a genuine interest in Hertfordshire based aviation links, evidenced by regular turnouts to presentations that I have attended. Attendees tend to be former BAe or Handley Page employees who would have been based at Radlett and Hatfield factories and aerodromes. Curation of heritage is demonstrated in local museums, for example the de Havilland ‘story’ and its impact on the local community is maintained by the Mill Green Museum. The Handley Page ‘story’ and artefacts are currently on display at St Albans museum. It’s often hard to determine whether it impacts on local economic prosperity. However, local citizens are supportive and ex employees are great enthusiasts of their former employers and the history and their heritage. It often takes one or two individuals to galvanise support by organising displays and local group meetings, these are still very lively events, despite the aging ex-workforces.
7) How have you and the others working on the projects managed to get the support and resources you've needed? Or not!
I have found a lot of enthusiastic support for the three projects. Specifically with my ‘aviation in Hertfordshire’ presentation, I have managed to source many photographs from BAe and individuals providing newspaper articles from Hertfordshire Archives (HALS). And of course we had the HLF grant. For the WW1 airfield project at London Colney, their senior historian has been very generous with his time in supplying photos and maps on the airfield site. In my role as a Tour Guide, I have been supported by the RAF Museum with further military details of the respective RFC squadrons, pilots and personnel who were based at London Colney during WW1.
8) Have you any other thoughts on, or lessons to share about, working on these projects, and how they've been received?
Until I get feedback on the projects, I have yet to make any conclusions which I can share with the Civic Revival. However, I will be able to provide some once things pick up following the current Covid-19 virus subsides and we get some presentations underway!