Stisted Archive

Oral History Project 2023-24

The Stisted Historical Archive has been fortunate in receiving two funding awards from EHT, in support of our work, including the Oral History programme. 

We have now completed 12 oral history interviews, and have more pending as we enter 2024.

Highlighted here are just two interviews that grew unexpectedly from their original remit into something much larger and fascinating.

Colin Saunders: ceramicist

The first of these was a double interview with ceramicist Colin Saunders, who died last year. Colin agreed to a request to interview him about his life and work, knowing he had not long to live. It was an opportunity to look back and get aspects of his personal and professional life into some sort of perspective. He had ceased making pottery some years earlier and was not satisfied with why and what he was producing, this was an unresolved situation for him and the oral history conversations were in some way cathartic – something found with other participants.

The two oral history sessions led to an exhibition of work, much of which had never seen the light of day, and was a revelation to us all, including his family. The show was held in the Archive Room at the Village Hall, where we conduct some of our interviews, and his show attracted many visitors and wide interest. The recorded conversations provided a wonderful commentary on his life and achievements as a potter, much of it previously unrecognised. 

A member of the Anglian Potters group, Colin, in his early days found himself against the grain of contemporary taste in his ceramic work and followed his own path. His approach drew heavily on the mass-production manufacturing processes of Stoke on Trent, mixed with his love of sculpture and the fine arts and surrealism in particular.

The outcome of our exhibition was a further show at Ingatestone Hall which proved to be the last one that Colin was able to engage with, along with daughter Katherine, who has been a champion of his work. 

Subsequently, one was held at Braintree Museum which has now included his work in a major pottery show currently taking place. Colin died before this came about, but he knew this was happening and even if he was not alive to see it himself, his daughter Kathryn would see it through on his behalf. This has been another well-deserved success for Colin at the moment his life closed. See

Stisted Bell-Ringers

The second extraordinary outcome related to our oral history programme has been the conversations with a group of three bell-ringers, Terry Earle, Tony Stock and Terry Stock all long-standing residents of Stisted, who ring regularly at Stisted’s  Church of All Saints, who together, as teenagers, rang for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation and for numerous national and local events since they started over 70 years ago, and then again for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and the coronation of King Charles.  This made the top spot on BBC Look East and the local newspapers. Finally, quite literally, to crown it all, King Charles heard of the achievement of these three bell-ringing friends resulting in the King and Queen writing to them personally with a letter of recognition and their thanks.

These were just two projects demonstrating the power of oral history.