AN ambitious local project by the Witleys’ Oral History Group to record the history of the Worcestershire villages of Little Witley and Great Witley has been successful in obtaining a generous grant of £20,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Led by volunteers from the local community, the group proposes to interview a wide range of people who live or have lived in the area in order to record and capture their memories of village life over the past 80 years so that future generations will better understand and appreciate how the communities were formed.

David Williams, a member of the group who was born and bred in Great Witley, said “We have been working up this idea for a year now but realised early on that to do it properly we needed specialist equipment , training and technical support. With this splendid grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we can now power ahead. Anyone interested in learning more about the project or wishing to contribute material in any way can contact us through the group's email which is".

The project will be formally launched at a meeting at Great Witley village hall at 7.30pm on Monday.

The group is particularly pleased that teachers and pupils of The Chantry School at Martley and at Great Witley Primary School will take part in the project.

Many people throughout the county and further afield will be aware of the former stately home - Witley Court - and of its history but the project hopes to explore how the rise and fall of the fortunes of Witley Court affected local people and how life changed for the villages after the court's ruin. The project aims also to go beyond the villages’ relationship with the court and to celebrate the lives of ordinary people in the area. It will record how local people were affected by and came to terms with world events and discover the impact of major social, economic and technological changes on their family and working life.

At the group's next public meeting on March 1at Little Witley village hall the group will be hoping to stimulate debate in the local community about the themes to be pursued in detail as the project develops.

At the launch meeting on Monday, Coun Ken Pollock will be there to lend his support and there will be presentations by Justin Hughes from The Hive who is providing help, training and advice in making an oral history and by Paul Sutton, artistic director of C and T Ltd, a digital media company based at the University of Worcester. C and T aim to help the group link the voice recordings with film, photos and other memorabilia on a computerised map of the area. The resulting map will be accessible to everyone through a website and mobile app on tablets and smartphones.

Explaining the importance of HLF support, the head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in the West Midlands, Reyahn King, said “It was the idea of linking an oral history of an area to a digital map which turns a local project into one available worldwide which excited us and convinced the HLF to support the project but we are also keen to see the way the project aims to get people of all ages in the local communities working together”.