It’s time for the second of our series of interviews with Society members, following on from our chat with Julie Groom (Long Buckby Wharf OPS) last week. Completely Covid-compliant, this interview has been conducted by email.
This week’s special guest is Lucy Sarson, who is carrying out the one-place study (or street study) of The Crescent in Taunton, Somerset, England.
I’m going to start with the dreaded ice-breaker again – tell us a fun or interesting fact about yourself!
I learnt to dance with Anton du Beke before he was famous!
The wrong one became famous! What got you interested in one-place studies – and what keeps you interested?
I started doing a One Name Study on my surname, Sarson, in 2016. I really enjoyed doing this research and my partner suggested considering doing some research on a local street to me. So I walked around the area where I live in Taunton, considered different aspects such as the residences, other significant buildings nearby such as places of worship, public houses, other social amenities and decided on The Crescent. It is an interesting street nearby to where I now live and I thought that its proximity and the Georgian style of the buildings would see some interesting families and their stories being discovered.
When did you start your OPS?
I started in Spring 2018 and joined the Society for One-Place Studies in July 2020.
Tell us about your first steps – what are you concentrating on in the early stages of your research?
I began my research by focussing on collating the census records for number 1 The Crescent, and investigating each family methodically, using a range of different records and resources, which gave me a good basis to start blogging my study. I have now collated and transcribed all the census records onto a spreadsheet from number 2 to 22 The Crescent, ready to work down the street!
Of all the different types of records you use for your one-place study, which are your favourite(s) and why?
Census returns, trade directories from the University of Leicester website and the British Newspaper Archive. These three record sets can give a good overview of families in an OPS before investigating individuals in families in more extensive records around key life events.
What has been your favourite OPS discovery or ‘wow!’ moment?
I have only researched one house of the 22 which are on The Crescent. However, I very much enjoyed learning about the very first family I researched, the Lewis family of 1 The Crescent. Josiah Lewis (1845 - 1915) was a very prominent business man, a tailor with a shop in North Street, Taunton, who became Mayor of Taunton in 1904/5, was a trustee of the committee who established the town’s public library, a committed Baptist Christian along with being a freemason, a member of the local YMCA and a Justice of the Peace. His wife, Ellen Norah, supported her husband’s community efforts actively as well as raising 9 children and looking after a household and overseeing the work of housemaids. It was interesting to piece together a timeline of his works from the British Newspaper Archives, although I have not yet detailed all this on my blog, I hope to create a section on my work-in-progress website of newspaper articles relating to The Crescent’s families or which mention The Crescent.
Name your go-to websites for one-place study research – or tell us about some brilliant online OPS resources which you think are overlooked
The British Newspaper Archive, the South West Heritage Trust’s online archives catalogue and Historic Environment Record (HER) for Somerset, DiscoverEverAfter.com for burial information in Taunton cemeteries, online Historical Directories from the University of Leicester website, and planning applications on local council websites – they are awesome and detailed sources of information.
If you could go back in time and meet someone from your one-place study, who would it be and what would you talk about?
Josiah & Ellen Norah Lewis to understand more about them, their motivations in serving their community in such an extensive way and what it felt like going from living in a poor rural community of agricultural labourers in Wincanton to being Mayor & Mayoress of Taunton.
A random question: which country is your dream holiday destination?
I love to visit cities and explore their historical places. I have visited Italy & the Czech Republic in recent years. I am also looking forward to visiting the Caribbean one day!
Which places – related to your OPS research or otherwise – are you most looking forward to visiting when Covid-related restrictions are over?
Rugby, where my family now mainly live, Cornwall, which is a place I love to visit for long weekends with my partner, and London, to see friends and go to the theatre again!
And finally, I believe you have something else you would like to tell us?
Yes! My partner and I are happy to take photographs around the Taunton area for folks who have links here, particularly of headstones – they would need to find a plot number on DiscoverEverAfter.com and let us know the details. Also when the Somerset Heritage Centre reopens, we are hoping to visit monthly and could photograph a few documents for people; for this a document number from the catalogue would be needed.
Thank you Lucy for being our second interview guest, and thanks to both you and your partner for the photos of you in your one-place study and the kind offer you have just made!
Would you like to occupy the hotseat and take part in a future interview as a Society member? Let me know and I will send a set of questions winging its way to you by email.