Most of my working life has been in retail security management for various high street names often with many stores and staff to manage. Leaving John Lewis in 1998 I made a slight change to Town Centre Management at Dunstable. The lasting legacy for the area was to research and publish a book about the town’s contribution to WWII, the stories of those who lived and worked there during this period and those who called Dunstable and the surrounding area home but spent the war away in the service of their country.
The stories collected began to paint a picture of the secret war that was going on in Bedfordshire. The forged ration books and documents, the radio station broadcasting all over occupied Europe, the Czech radio station keeping their President in Buckinghamshire in touch with his resistance fighters, the Met. Office working with Bletchley Park and the German newspapers printed locally now form the basis of the Bedfordshire Secret War talks that I currently do for groups. For a list of talks see bottom of page.
In addition I still have an interest in the Dunstable Town Guides, helping with their historical walks, talks and ghost stories. These are done on a voluntary basis and help to support Priory House Heritage Centre.
In 2010 I asked the historians and archaeologist of Dunstable if they would be interested in researching Medieval Dunstable, and another Lottery bid was put together. In 2013 the results of three years research by a hard working group have given us audio guides for the ‘Hidden Priory’, new guided walks, a medieval exhibition in Priory House, a DVD and a book; ‘Medieval Dunstable, its Monasteries, Manors, Markets and Melees’.
My particular section was to research the property owned by the Augustinian Priory beyond the Bedfordshire borders. This work uncovered large areas of Derbyshire where the canons owned granges, sheep and lead mines. There is still much work to be done in this area and in conjunction with a new history group established in and around Bradbourne, Derbyshire the research will continue.
There may be a third book concentrating on the Dunstable to Derbyshire story. The route that the canons took on their way to manage their northern estates is a story in itself, and the ancient customs of the lead mines in the Peak District are fascinating.