Bringing History to Life in Winchester

Osborne have supported with the installation of a solar-powered hardwood Listening Bench in Winchester. The prised bench recounts pre-recorded stories of ordinary life in the local area from years gone by.

The Community Sensory Garden of Bishops Waltham is the home of the Listening Bench, where people of all ages will be able to hear recordings of community memories and local history – all at the touch of a button.

Oral historians have been enthusiastically interviewing local people gaining incredible insight and learning of life as it was. Many of these being interviewed were children living in the area during the Second World War or who were evacuated to Bishops Waltham. The wartime recordings of everyday life of this Hampshire market town in the 1940s, have provoked memories of the past and generated conversations amongst the community. Many of them being older people who have had to isolate themselves throughout the pandemic.

Bishop’s Waltham Area Oral History Group: ‘I am writing on behalf of everyone here in Bishop’s Waltham to say how thrilled and pleased we are to have had your help in installing the Listening Bench in Basingwell Street. It was a most generous, thoughtful, and unexpected gesture which will benefit our whole community. As oral historians, we have known for a long time how much recording memories contribute to the well-being and self-esteem of our most elderly residents, who can be somewhat side-lined in today’s fast-paced society. Bypassing on their unique community memories to the younger generation growing up in the Bishop’s Waltham area, our older folk show the importance of optimism and resilience in surviving difficult times such as the Second World War, or the Covid pandemic.’

A thank you to Tony, Darren, Matt, and Shaun from Osborne. A further thank you to Phelan Williams for their expertise and support for this community project and for giving their time and resources.

Jo Fletcher, Head of Engagement, Osborne: ‘This is a wonderful initiative for the whole community to enjoy. Hearing individual accounts of experiences, supported by optimism is very inspiring and relevant to us in the world we live in today.