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History and the Eynsham Website


by Adrian Moyes

Webmaster, Eynsham Community Website (www.eynsham.org)

This article is reproduced from The Eynsham Record No 20 - 2003

The thing about the Worldwide Web is that it's so new that we don't really know how to use it yet. When historians of the future look back to today, they'll surely laugh at our feeble attempts to use this amazing device. But we've got to make a start - and we have. At one end of the spectrum, the British Library is struggling to work out how to archive Websites for use by future historians - and at the other end, we in Eynsham have made a start too.

what the Website is
The Eynsham Community Website has been going for 3 years now. It has nearly 140 pages and it gets about 6,000 visits a year. It's hosted in the village by Oxford Macintosh Solutions - for free, like everything else on the Website (which is a money-free zone).

Basically it's a handy way of making available information about Eynsham (including its history and the activities of the EHG) - and also of enabling people to make available to others their own knowledge or research on Eynsham's history.

The Website started as an illustrated Web version of the Eynsham Directory, but gradually it's getting more and more pages which go beyond details of clubs, or facilities like bereavement counsellors or Chinese interpreters. And lots of these additions concern history.

history on the Website
There is a Potted History of Eynsham, a series of Virtual Tours of the main streets (pictures and details of the history of some of the buildings), a list of books on Eynsham, a history of the Eynsham Lock, a page on the new Abbey Heritage Walk, and of course details of forthcoming talks to the EHG, and lists of articles in the current Record.

There's also a page on how to trace your family tree and make contact with friends or family - this has already begun to generate a bit of oral history (see Cherwell Lodge on the Newland Street page), and we hope to expand on this.

Like all Websites, we've got links to other Websites of interest - country houses and villages nearby for instance - though sadly Websites dealing with Winston Churchill at Blenheim, Dylan Thomas and John Wesley at South Leigh, William Morris at Kelmscott, and Alexander Pope at Stanton Harcourt have all recently gone off-line.

future plans
There are plans for a page on the Tollbridge, for more streets in the Virtual Tours section, for a series on pubs (based on Good History by the Junior History Group), for another series on factories in Eynsham (sugar beet of course, but also, gas, lemonade, carpets, magnets, ring-binders etc) and some one-offs on things like False Acacias (building on Joan Weedon's article in Record 18), the old Salt Route to Droitwich, the mammoths in the gravel pits, the old causeway north of the A40. We're also working on putting at least the Contents pages of all the past Records on the Web - so that people can do a search on them.

In general terms, we hope to use the Website as a way of interesting more people in Eynsham's history, perhaps interesting some of them enough to join the Group, and become historians themselves.

help wanted
It's not just our ideas - it should be yours too - the Website is a Community Website; everybody can use it and anybody can contribute to it. We need ideas on subjects, and also contributions. The Website is also a good place to put snippets of oral history - maybe we could have a page of informal stories or memories about Eynsham - if people send them to us.

future historians
We also need lots of imagination. It's easy to see how interesting it would be for us historians of today if, impossibly, the Abbey in its heyday had had a Website - or Cobbett, or the Eynsham Mill, or the sugar beet factory, or John Bartholomew's first school.

Well, we do have a Website; what would future historians want us to put on it which would make their task easier ? Or, the other way round, what sort of a picture would the current Website give of Eynsham if that was all the evidence you had ?

Maybe we historians in Eynsham can pioneer a use of the Worldwide Web that will make future historians look back with thanks.

If you do want to contribute - ideas, words or pictures - e-mail Adrian Moyes , or tel 464 021.