For Historians

The Collections

The main collection is recorded on C60 and C90 cassette tapes. There are a few CDs, mostly of recorded talks. The entire collection has now been digitised onto computer hard drive, but is not yet accessible as such.


Numbers have been allocated by categories, as listed below. Where an interview extends to several tapes it is numbered as 2560-1, 2560-2, 2560-3 etc.

  • 0001-0055 Early tapes, mostly dating from the 1970s, predating the formation of Colchester Recalled in 1988. They are a mix of very short interviews and 'outside broadcasts'.
  • 0200-0218 Interviews with local butchers.
  • 0400-0450 Employees of Paxman's.
  • 0500-0515 'Mersea Island Discs' Tapes.
  • 0600-0630 Essex Agriculture.
  • 0700-0790 Residents of Fordham.
  • 0800-0850 Theatre In Colchester.
  • 0950-0966 Employees of Hunt’s of Earls Colne.
  • 1000-1500 Some 'outside broadcasts' but mostly recorded talks about Colchester & District.
  • 1500-1570 The Great & Good. Whole life interviews conducted in 1988-89 with prominent figures in Colchester.
  • 1571-1580 National Service.
  • 1600-1700 Interviews and Outside Broadcasts conducted in 1992 with American airmen present in the area in World War II.
  • 1700-1750 Interviews about Life in Essex in World War II.
  • 1750-1760 Interviews about work in Colchester libraries.
  • 1800-1850 Interviews about the Colchester & District Co-Op.
  • 1850-1900 Interviews about local evacuation in World War II.
  • 1900-1999 Interviews of staff working in the local Heath Services. continued as 7000-7200.
  • 2000-3000 Whole Life Interviews of local people. A few cover the topics listed above.
  • 8000-8200 Wivenhoe Tapes.

Summaries of Interviews

We aim to complete a detailed summary of each interview, such as those illustrated in 'Samples' on this website.

In many cases the summary is a full transcript.  Currently most summaries only exist as hard copies, but digital WORD files exist for about 400 interviews.  Summaries of some kind exist for the largest series: 0001+ Early Tapes, 0600+ Essex Agriculture, 1500+ Great & Good, 1700+Essex at War, 1850+ Evacuation in WW2, 2000+ Whole Life interviews, 8000+ Wivenhoe interviews.

Virtually no talks or outside broadcasts (the 1000 series) or Paxman (0400), Mersea (0500+) or Fordham (0700+) have summaries.

Elaine Volunteer Group

Index to the Collection

A digital Excel Spreadsheet index to the collection is being compiled and will become available in 2019.


The main archive is now housed in the Albert Sloman Library at the University of Essex.  An unchecked duplicate digital archive is at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, as well as copies of cassette originals.

Strengths of the Archive

The 2000+ whole life interviews cover in some detail life in Colchester & District in the 20th Century.

There is particularly good coverage of:

  • The Home Front in World War II.
  • The Colchester ‘Rag Trade’ [Men’s clothing manufacture between 1918 and the 1950s.]
  • Medical Life in Colchester & District.
  • The Paxman Engineering Works.
  • Theatre in Colchester.