Delving into town history

The Delvers unveil at plaque on the site on Lea Road where the old Union Work House stood in 1837G121129-2
The Delvers unveil at plaque on the site on Lea Road where the old Union Work House stood in 1837G121129-2

The Delvers do exactly what their name suggests - they delve.

In particular they delve into local history in Gainsborough, and have built up an impressive archive of material since they were formed in the mid-1980s.

Thelma Childs, 76, of Lea Road, has been involved from the start and, being Gainsborough born-and-bred, knows an awful lot about the town’s history herself.

She grew up living with her granny near the old gas works on North Street which she said was also known as Back Street, because it was considered the ‘back’ way into Gainsborough.

“The front way into Gainsborough was along Church Street, which was named that because it belonged to the church originally,” said Thelma.

Place names provide some fascinating links to the past. For instance, when a new workhouse was built the place where the old one had stood was called Old Workhouse Square. “But people didn’t like living in a place called that so it was renamed Albert Square, after Queen Victoria’s husband,” Thelma said.

The Delvers have been involved in putting up blue plaques around town, marking places of interest, such as the one in our picture indicating the site on Lea Road where the Union Workhouse stood in 1837.

The group has put around ten plaques up, enabling people to learn about Gainsborough history as they walk around.

The Delvers evolved from the Gainsborough Reminiscence Project, organised by Trinity Arts Centre, which was a series of plays based on Gainsborough history.

Thelma had always enjoyed history and, despite not having acted before, decided to get involved.

In the first one she was given the role of the mother, although the people playing her ‘children’ were in reality older than her.

“We went touring round old people’s homes and village halls. It was quite taxing because sometimes we were doing two plays a day,” she said.

“It was fun though and we were allowed to ad lib. We based the plays in Barnaby’s Yard and I grew up in a yard so it was familiar to me.”

“We did a Christmas theme one and a war time theme, it was very rewarding to do. When it came to an end after two years I was asked to continue the project in some way, which is how The Delvers came about.”

Thelma, who went to Lea Road Secondary Modern School, goes out and about with a local history slide show and also writes about her own memories and experiences of growing up in Gainsborough for Age Concern.

The love of local history has passed to her son Darron, 47, who is a member of The Delvers and has written several books about Gainsborough.

The latest, due out next month, is called The Last Baronets of Old Gainsborough, telling the tale of Sir Charles Henry John Anderson and Sir Henry Hickman Bennett.

He said: “The Delvers have done an important job in recording a lot of local history which would have been lost otherwise.”

“It’s been done by sitting with older people and listening to their stories and recording them by writing them down, tape recording or videoing them.”

“It’s often therapeutic for people to talk about their memories too.”