History ProjectWiltshire People 1st has received an award from the Heritage Lottery Fund to run an oral history project called ‘Our Lives, Our History’.  The project aims to record the life stories of people with learning difficulties who have lived or worked in the West Wiltshire area over the last 100 years.



TalkandlistenIt will explore the history of people with learning difficulties from Victorian times to the present.  Using their own words, contributors will tell the stories of how people lived then and how they do now.  These stories will show changing attitudes towards disability and celebrate people’s achievements.



ReportandDVDAt the end of the project Wiltshire People 1st will make the material they have collected available to the public with written records, a public exhibition, and a resource pack for schools and communities as well as a DVD highlighting some of the real life stories of people’s experiences in their own words.


We need your help!


thumb_wpf_speakup6As well as hearing from people with learning difficulties, Wiltshire People 1st would like to hear from others who have a story to tell about working or living with people with learning difficulties.  This could come from family members, professional care staff or volunteers who ran social clubs, just to give a few examples.


Question MarkHere are some of the things we would like to hear about:

  • Do you have memories of living in St George’s, Semington, when it was a long stay hospital?
  • Does anyone in your family have a story to tell about life in the old workhouse?
  • Do you have old records or photographs of patients or the building now known as the Independent Living Centre?
  • Are you an older person with a learning difficulty who has memories of the past you would be happy to share?
  • Are you a carer, health professional or just interested in the past?

WiltshirePeople1stAloneIf so, Wiltshire people 1st would like to hear from you!


So far, as part of the ‘Our Lives, Our History’ project, we have carried out the activities below:

Research Training

100_20395 members of Wiltshire People 1st attended a training session, led by Angie, to learn basic research skills.   Research is an organised way of finding answers to specific questions.



Question MarkThe key questions we would like to cover in our project are: how were disabled people treated in the past, what was it like living in the workhouse, what were disabled people’s lives like if they lived at home, did they go to school and have paid jobs, and what have been the main changes over this period?

100_2161The group practised using books and the internet to find information.  They thought about the questions they might ask someone if they were interviewing them for the project, and took turns practising by interviewing each other.  It was good fun and people were eager to start finding things out.


Visits to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre

WSHCMembers of the Steering Group made 2 visits to the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, to learn about what life was like in the workhouse.  They looked at old documents, photographs and maps which showed the daily rations: the food people ate, the clothes they had to wear and the rules, which were very strict.

This put their Research Training to good use.  Members learned that people with learning difficulties were treated very differently 100 years ago if they were unfortunate enough to have to live in the workhouse.


Visit to Trowbridge Museum


Steering Group members also paid a visit to Trowbridge Museum to see artefacts from the workhouse.  They were given a guided tour and looked at this cup and plate, which may have been used by the Workhouse Guardians or in the chapel.



Community Focus Group

100_2206Wiltshire People 1st held a Community Focus Group in Trowbridge where members of the public and invited guests came along, had a coffee and found out more about ‘Our Lives, Our History’.  Members of the public offered their services as volunteers and others shared their ideas and stories with us.


Please keep checking this website page for news about the ‘Our Lives, Our History’ project, as we will be regularly updating it.

View all photographs in the Gallery