Writing Barton’s History: From Dudley to Berridge
When Anthony Berridge releases his new book – The Railway Comes to Barton on Humber: 1844 – 1914 at the beginning of November it will become the latest addition to a veritable great library of history books on our town. Barton certainly has a lot going for it when it comes to heritage, history and literature, but just what is it that motivates this massive literary output? I spoke to local librarian Julia Matthews to find out.
“There’s a long tradition of historic writing. It’s pride in where people live and that sense of having a much longer, larger impact on the community and on Britain as a whole … because Barton was a really important port. It comes back to knowing how important it was in Britain’s history,” she explained.
Only in recent years have the citizens of Barton have been able to read about the town’s historic status though. This is thanks to a group of hardy local historians and authors researching and writing over the last 70 years. Julia traces the trend that resulted in Mr Berridge’s book back to a 1940’s pioneer.
“Harold Dudley started collecting things for Scunthorpe Museum through the 1940s, 1950s and 1960. People used to donate things that they’d found to him when they were doing the open cast mining … and Harold used them to found the Scunthorpe Museum. He wrote a lot of books about this area and its history,” she continued.
This one man’s work on the wider area inspired many more people to look at Barton in particular. This was the start of Barton’s history-writing renaissance. Rex Russell in particular helped to get a lot of people involved.
“Rex Russell was one of Barton’s first [history writers]. He wrote his own books but he organised people that had an interest in history to come together and research and write books as well, giving them a topic and setting them off.”
One of the main groups that Rex worked with was the Barton Branch of the Workers’Educational Association, getting the many workers and writers of the town really involved in capturing their heritage in words and images. Mr. Russell could not keep this going forever though and eventually Geoff Bryant took over. Together with the WEA and other writers, he began writing, editing and publishing books on Barton at an impressive rate.
This encouraged writers to cover Barton’s history in more and more depth, resulting in the nine-volume series The Later History of Barton-on-Humber. Anthony Berridge’s new book, looking back on Barton’s connection to the great industrial machine that was Victorian Britain, will be the seventh of these and the last book that Mr. Bryant will be involved with before retiring.
Look out for the launch of The Railway Comes to Barton-on-Humber: 1844-1914 at the Ropewalk on Wednesday, November 2nd.