Signs of Oldbury Court

Another of the aims of the Oldbury Court Neighbourhood Project is to share experiences of our neighbourhood, and as part of that, to foster a greater awareness of the neighbourhood’s history, its changing character and creative potential. To this end, this part of the website will offer historical resources even as it will showcase some of the current creative expressions of the neighbourhood.

What is a neighbourhood? It may seem that the answer is obvious: it’s a place in a town or city where people make their homes, and in so doing share, over a period of time, a lived physical geography, and with it a set of more or less public spaces: streets, parks, community centres, etc. As part of this, some neighbours will come to know each other, and will generate communities of friends and acquaintances. There are also likely to be organisations such as shops, schools, or surgeries which may all form a part of the neighbourhood regarded as a social network.

The fundamental importance of these aspects notwithstanding, a neighbourhood is also an imagined place: a place that one both knows and doesn’t know, a place that one makes assumptions about, and this based not only on directly experienced realities, but on other people’s representations. All neighbourhoods have, in this sense, a dual existence as living and imagined, living and represented places. The representations may be ‘official’ ones, but they’re also all those produced by neighbours in the course of their everyday lives: from ‘small talk’ about the neighbourhood amongst adults, to pictures drawn by children of their homes, to graffiti art such as the one pictured above, to the memories of older residents.

Even as a neighbourhood is an imagined place, it is of course also a place of change. The physical characteristics of streets and buildings change, but so too, do the ways in which a neighbourhood is lived and imagined. Some aspects may change more quickly or slowly, and some changes may more strongly affect one or another part of a neighbourhood. Whatever the case, a neighbourhood is, in a manner of speaking, always becoming neighbourhood.

It follows that to better comprehend a neighbourhood, one needs to consider it not simply as a more or less static geography, but as a place that is in flux. The flux becomes more palpable if one can compare and contrast current with historic representations: for example, maps that show the changing streets; photographs or videos that portray the themselves changing mores of the social groups, and so forth. But perhaps the best signs of change are those made available via historical accounts – not least, the oral memories of the residents themselves, who can tell us what Oldbury Court was once like, and how it has changed.

Finding, and sharing such representations, such histories, may have several benefits. One is that it may make us more aware of aspects of a neighbourhood that we may otherwise take for granted. Another is that it may generate a space in which past and contemporary perspectives may become vehicles for discussion, re-cognition, and perhaps also further change.

With these possibilities in mind, the Oldbury Court Neighbourhood Project will be working to generate a virtual space in which to share historic and current representations of Oldbury Court. In principle, this space will take three forms (we’re open to further suggestions!):

HISTORIES OF OLDBURY COURT, which will direct residents to whatever research has been done about the history of the neighbourhood, and will expand it with some research of our own. Where possible we will seek permission to share any existing resources on this website. The following are some resources that are already available for residents to peruse: (click on the green text to access the documents).

+ Anthony Nott, ‘Oldbury Court: The Place and the People‘, Regional Historian, Issue 12, Autumn 2004.

+ Nils Lindahl Elliot, ‘About the Vassall Centre‘, Oldbury Court Journal, Issue No. 2, November 30, 2022.

+ Ross Fossard, ‘The Frome Vale Academy: A Brief History‘, Oldbury Court Journal, Issue No. 4, January 16, 2023.

+ Nils Lindahl Elliot, ‘The St Matthias Campus: 170 Years of Educational Change, Oldbury Court Journal, Issue No. 4, January 16, 2023.

REMEMBERING OLDBURY COURT, which will invite longer term residents to share narratives about how they arrived in the neighbourhood, what it was like in the past, and how it has changed.

+ Nils Lindahl Elliot and Laura Walder, An Interview with Jean Button, Oldbury Court Journal, Issue No. 5, February 1, 2023. (Jean arrived in Oldbury Court in 1950).

+ Sue and Adrian Thomas, Oldbury Court Journal, Issue No. 7, March 6, 2023. (Sue and Adrian arrived in Oldbury Court in 1998).

OLDBURY COURT IN THE 2020s will invite anyone and everyone to share all manner of representations of the neighbourhood, past and present, with some being showcased in this website. Coming soon: a photographic contest to be held over Easter 2023 with parents and children at the Frome Vale Academy.

        We hope to get this part of the project up and running in the autumn of 2022. To get in touch to share your memories and representations, please use our Contact page.

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