Jean Turnbull, of Kendal Oral History Group, describes the activities of the organisation

IF YOU were born in the late sixties, early seventies, or later, you would perhaps wonder what a Knocker-Upper was or how, before computers, the gas-powered street lights were lit and extinguished.

Or what the main complaints were about the streets of Kendal.

Perhaps the most important question for the teenage population might be: ‘How did we communicate with our friends across the other side of town or even out of town before the mobile phone?’

It is to capture an insight into areas of life, which are not easily found in the more traditional historical sources, before they are forgotten that the Kendal Oral History Group (KOHG) was formed in 1987.

The small group of committed volunteers records interviews and memories of people who have spent all, or part of their lives, in the local area. They then transcribe them, create CDs, index them and turn the raw recordings into part of a fully researchable archive.

All materials are deposited for safe-keeping in the Cumbria Archive Service office with further copies available in the Local Studies section of the library.

Using modern technology we are able to bring the voices of local people of more than 370 interviews to life in presentations to local community groups and organisations. Some of the interviews go back to people who were born in the 1800s. This makes the past seem so much more alive than mere text could ever do.

It is not just the 19th and 20th century but more up-to-date events. We carried out a series of interviews with victims of the Storm Desmond floods in 2016 to create a historical archive for use in the future, should the town suffer a similar disaster.

The range of subjects covered in our interviews include family life, childhood, health, religion, work, wartime, shopping, transport and much more. The archive is used by an equally-ide range of people, including teachers, researchers and school children, as well as local people who want to learn more about the history of the area.

We are largely self-funding through presentations members give to local community organisations, including history groups using material from the archives.

However, there are occasions when we need to secure funding, for example, when we undertook digitisation of our older interviews.

We know there is more to be done. We also want to find ways of encouraging more individuals and groups to use the archive.

The progress we have made to date demonstrates that long-standing community projects such as ours can be very successful.

So if you feel that you would like to learn more about what we do, or even consider joining us (there are always jobs to be done – particularly with the transcription of interviews) - or perhaps you would like to be interviewed for the archives - please do contact us via our website at or pay a visit to the archive in at Kendal Local Studies Library.

There are other oral history groups in Cumbria: Ambleside; Windermere; and Sedbergh