Henry Street Lancaster - houses with external stairs. Credit Red Rose Collections

Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive

Image Credit: Red Rose Collections

About the archive

The Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive was created during three pioneering research projects undertaken at Lancaster University in the 1970s and 1980s, which sought to capture the history of working-class communities in north-west England, focusing particularly on the experience of people in Barrow-in-Furness, Lancaster and Preston between 1890 and 1970. This is one of the most important twentieth-century oral history archives in the UK, allowing us to hear the voices of people born in the late nineteenth century. Thanks to the degree of skill and sensitivity shown by the two interviewers, Elizabeth Roberts and Lucinda McCray Beier, the veracity and impact of the material are unusually high. Rob Perks, Lead Curator of Oral History at the British Library, has said:

'Its significance as a pioneering oral history collection cannot be over-estimated'.

A successful fundraising campaign, which raised over £40,000, has enabled the creation of a dedicated website where transcripts are now being made available to the public. Please visit the online regional heritage archive. The Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive comprises 548 reel-to-reel interviews; in total, the Archive contains the oral testimony of over 260 respondents. Long-term preservation of the original reel-to-reel tapes is assured as they are now held in the sound collections of Lancashire Archives and we are working with their staff to create digital copies that will enable researchers to easily access the audio in addition to the transcripts.

With the help of two MA students, we have also undertaken a community history project with archive offices at Barrow and Preston. This involved gathering historic photographs, and photographing relevant artefacts, to form an online exhibition for presentation alongside the transcripts and sound clips of the Archive. The exhibition is due to be launched in early 2020 and will be accessible from the Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive website.

We are very pleased to acknowledge the support of the Sir John Fisher Foundation of Ulverston, who generously offered a challenge grant to kickstart our fundraising. We have subsequently been fortunate to receive funding from the following organisations:

The Aurelius Charitable Trust (Surrey); the Cumbrian Railways Association; the Elspeth J. Thompson Charitable Trust (Lancaster); the Friends of Cumbria Archives; the Friends of Lancashire Archives; the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire; the Kirkby Archives Trust (Carlisle); the Lancashire Local History Federation; the Mercers' Charitable Foundation (London); the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire.

We have also been generously supported by donations from a range of individual supporters and a legacy.

The Regional Heritage Centre also holds a range of other archives in hard copy, which are available for consultation by appointment.

Contact Us

By Post

Regional Heritage Centre
Department of History
Bowland College
Lancaster University
United Kingdom

By Phone

+44 (0)1524 593770

Usually staffed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9:30-15:30

RHC Director:
Professor Fiona Edmonds

Academic Co-ordinator:
Dr Sam Riches

Ann-Marie Michel

For the Victoria County History of Cumbria, please contact Dr Sarah Rose