WEA Local Studies Group

See also Helmdon Village Website

Group History and Publications

In 1995 John Raybould tutored a course entitled "The Changing Village". It covered the last hundred years, and focused on Helmdon. His enthusiasm lingered after the course was over, whetting the appetite for further historical research, and several members of the original class formed themselves into a local studies group. At the beginning, Val and Stewart Moir, Judy Cairns, Audrey Forgham (fomerly Harwood), Jean Spendlove and the late Will Watson were the main members. In Spring 2000 two new members, Danny and Kate Moody, joined the group, both very interested in the difficult-to-unravel early history of Helmdon. From the outset, the group felt that what was researched should be recorded in some way and so, steered by Ross Vicars in the early years, and then by Audrey Forgham, 'Aspects of Helmdon 1' was published, followed later by 'Aspects of Helmdon 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6'. All the articles contained in these puplications were subsequently copied to the History Resources section of the Helmdon Village Website.

Aspects of Helmdon No 1 (1997) contains analysis of census information and articles on the Old Bakehouse, the railways of Helmdon, and lace making, as well as an article on the recording of oral history and an example of it.

Aspects of Helmdon No 2 (1998) contains an article on Helmdon Enclosures of the eighteenth century, work on the four public houses (only one remains), an account of the work that went on in the village (church churchyard, chapel war memorial, etc.) transcribing the inscriptions, and the wartime reminiscences of Mary Turnham, Harold Seckington and Alice Hearne.

Aspects of Helmdon No 3
(1999) contains a history of Helmdon School from log books 1872-1990, by a former head master. Also The WEA (40 years in Helmdon), a contribution on Wine and Wild Flowers; and the reminiscences of Marjorie Watson, née Gulliver, whose childhood was spent at Grange Farm. Copies available as below.

Aspects of Helmdon No 4 (2001) contains the Story of Jeffs Coaches, a focus on Cross Lane, the Manorial history of Helmdon, the Story of the Gullivers, History from Falcutt Fields, and an article about Helmdon Stone and the Roll of Honour of Old Boys of Helmdon Council School serving in the Great War 1914-1918. Copies available as below.

Aspects of Helmdon No 5 (2004) contains articles on The Shops of Helmdon, A Craftman's Notebook, The History of Helmdon Parish Council, Helmdon and the World Beyond, and the Reminiscences of Jim Watson. Copies available as below. Aspects of Helmdon No 6

Aspects of Helmdon No 6 (2008) It contains articles on Helmdon Buildings - Continuity & Change, Reminiscences of Evacuation from Malcolm Care, The Watsons - The Story of a Family, Reminiscences of Joan McCann, The Helmdon Cart, Glebe Farm Barn (with photos of the 1844 wash paintings of the old rectory), Reminiscences of Noreen White, In-Service at Falcutt House in the Thirties, Within Living Memory, and Helmdon from the 1901 Census Records.

War Memorial Project

2014 was the 100th anniversary of the First World war and in November 2014 a War Memorial project was published on the website to find out more about the history behind the names of the servicemen on the Helmdon War Memorial. The group who gathered the information were Judy Cairns, Audrey Forgham, Cec Harrold, Danny Moody and Ross Vicars; Charles Binns restored many of the old photographs and postcards. The most relevant, up-to-date information available has been put together and can be viewed or printed as a 103-page booklet. (Hard copies are with the church, the WEA and the school).

Churchyard Inscriptions

In 1997-8 the group, under the direction of Val Moir, transcribed the inscriptions in the parish church, churchyard, chapel, war memorial and elsewhere round the village. There are over 500 entries, beginning in the mid-seventeenth century. Where possible the most appropriate entry in the burial register has been added.

In 2013 a group reformed to make a random list of all new the grave inscriptions in the churchyard since 1997. (Hard copies are with the church, the WEA and the school.)

2016 saw the completion of a new project, to list the graves in rows combining the graves with pre-1997 and post 1997 inscriptions in the newer arm of the churchyard, to the left of the church path. The rows have been re-numbered. Judy Cairns did the bulk of the research, Bill Elkington made a map, Conrad Woolley checked the rows and Audrey Forgham typed the project for the website. Printed copies have been given to the church.

[Online access to the Churchyard Inscriptions Project will be reinstated later in 2018]


2016 was the year when the combined WEA / church project to catalogue all the kneelers in the church was finished. Jenny Overson and Mary Nash did the bulk of the research, Colin Nash took the photographs and Audrey Forgham typed the project for the website. Albums will be placed in church for all to look at.

Village Film

The Helmdon WEA branch have made a film called "Helmdon 1999 - A Year In The Life Of A Village". It was shown to members in April and over 200 Helmdon residents in June. The filmmaker, Richard (Willy) Watson, has been highly praised for his work in putting the film together, which portrayed the activities in the village throughout the year - the Carnival, the Remembrance Day service, the pantomime, the school sports, the Women's club meetings, and so on.

The film has been made for posterity, for people to look back at in say, fifty years time, and find out what made a village "tick" at the turn of the millennium. It will be sent as a video disc to the Parish Council and to the Northamptonshire Record Office, together with a typescript to explain more about the activities.

Willy Watson had the support of the local studies group, Judy Cairns, Cec Harrold, Audrey Forgham née Harwood, Val and Stuart Moir, Jean Spendlove and Liz Woolley.

Read what the papers say...

Northampton Chronicle Banbury Guardian (links to www.helmdon.com)

The Helmdon Village film was partly funded by the National Lottery.