The Story of Wedderburn Road
A passion for local history and a community gathering inspired people living on Wedderburn Road in Barnards Green to research the history of their neighbourhood.
It all began when one of the residents, Faith Renger, created a booklet. ‘I started researching the road’s history because I love the subject, but I also knew elderly people who’d lived on this road their entire lives. Some were in their 80s and were really keen to talk about the old times. They liked the idea of it being published, in particular on the web, even though they didn’t use computers themselves.’ Another neighbour, Catherine Banks, who also loves the subject and runs an IT consultancy (Nepeta Consulting) got on board. She designed the Wedderburn Road website by combining the booklet with opportunities for current local stories and news.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the area now called Wedderburn Road was simply two fields to the east of Pound Bank. The fields were named as Barbers Hill and Barbers Meadow. The land was acquired by a local property developer called Fredrick William Hayes and the first houses were built in 1901.
To research the early years, Faith and Catherine Banks relied on local archives. ‘We used information from the census and maps of the area’ says Catherine, ‘as well as a local street directory. This was a manual, a little bit like a telephone book. It was published every year by a company called Stevens which had a bookshop at the top of Church Street. As well as general information about Malvern, the local climate, clubs and business, it also included a street directory with the names and numbers of houses as well as the name and profession of the head of the household. It really was an invaluable resource.’
Some of the stories the project uncovered about the street are fascinating. One memory is of a woman called Dorothy, who as a child stood at the window of the family home one night during World War One. She remembered watching a German Zeppelin caught in searchlights above Worcester.
The street saw its fair share of weddings, and one photograph shows an Edwardian wedding party posed outside the front door. The newly-weds, John and Polly Tandy, would spend their tragically short married life in Barbers Hill before he lost his life on the battlefields of the First World War.
In between the wars, houses continued to be built in a piecemeal fashion, and to their own design, giving the road its unique character today. Electricity didn’t arrive in the road until the 1940s, and many of the homes relied on their own wells for a water supply. Even as late as the 1960s, one resident remembers at least one household with no indoor bathroom or toilet.
The stories and memories haven’t just come from the older residents. Other, younger members of the community and those who moved in more recently have also joined the historical research. ‘The website has helped to spread the word, people have found it and been in touch’ says Catherine. ‘One person wrote and told us that he had spotted the photograph of an the Edwardian wedding party, and realised it was the house his parents family still live in. As they own another, the family had connections with other houses in the road, he has more information for us that could help expand our knowledge further’.
Were the women surprised by the enthusiasm? ‘Not really’ says Faith, ‘a lot of people were involved and we knew there’s a real interest in social history. We live in an age where tracing your own family has become quite a hobby & a pursuit, and this research does that on behalf of people living in the street’.
One of Faith’s favourite stories is of a child who used to go to a nearby shop and buy liquourice. ‘That simple story generated so many memories and nostalgia for so many people’ she says, ‘I think it’s that sort of memory that got a lot of people quite hooked’.
While older residents remember a strong sense of community, Wedderburn Road has managed to retain some of that spirit in changing times. Locals still turn out each December for carol singing in the street, and big national events like the Queen’s Golden & Diamond Jubilees have seen organised celebrations.
For the Diamond Jubilee the residents held a cheese and wine evening, coffee morning, plant sale, barbecue and go kart racing in the road. In all, the events raised almost £800 for charity.
'Wedderburn Road is one of those places that once you move in, you rarely move out!’,
laughs Catherine. 'There’s a good community spirit here’.
If you have historical information, stories or anecdotes about life in Wedderburn Road then the group would love to hear from you.
On history: Faith Renger 01684 575172
Website: Catherine - 01684 567081
For more information, please look at wedderburnroad.org.uk