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Woodlanders' Lives and Landscapes

Investigating the lives of people who worked in the rural and domestic industries of the Central Chilterns 

Reviving traditional crafts of the Chilterns, such as tambour beading

Solving mysteries 

Read about our most recent discoveries, articles and local stories on our blog.

Chair bodger Reg Tilbury, family and friends outside their cottages at Parslows Hillock, Lacey Green, Bucks, in about 1900.  Photograph courtesy of Stuart King.


About the project 

The Chilterns, regarded in popular imagination as a beautiful landscape of beechwoods, chalk escarpments and picturesque villages, was for more than two centuries a unique industrial landscape. The woods and villages were alive with furniture-making, wood-ware, straw-plaiting, lace-making and tambour-beading (the technique of applying beading and sequins for the fashion industry).

Explore the world of lace making in the Chilterns with this video by Rosemary Mortham, our lace research consultant. 

Watch this great video created by local expert Stuart King, all about tambour-beading.

Learn more about how our volunteers are making use of census data in their research

Explore the world of the 'bodgers pubs' in the Chilterns with this great video from Stuart King

Chair Bodgers Pub Tour Would you like to take yourself, family and friends on a Chair Bodgers Pub Tour in the central Chilterns?  Download this leaflet, which tells you how to do it!

We already know quite a lot about work in these rural trades and the artefacts that were produced but we know much less about what life was like for those involved. The Woodlanders’ project is aiming to uncover how the people - especially the women and children - who made their living in these woodland and home-based industries went about their daily lives. 

Children as young as three years old learned to plait straw in village ‘plaiting schools’. Local agents would sell the plait to factories making hats and other straw products in Luton and Dunstable. 


Woodlanders Blog

Click here to read some of our great local stories and accounts discovered by  our volunteers through their research


A wedding celebration in about 1900. Photograph courtesy of Lacey Green and Loosley Row History Group 


How can you get involved?

Volunteer with Woodlanders' Lives and Landscapes to research the lives of the men, women and children who worked in rural and domestic industries in the villages and woods of the Central Chilterns - chairmaking, lacemaking, plaiting straw (for hats), and tambour beading (for fashion).  

Gain experience and training in: 

- Family history research 
- Archive research 
- Recording oral histories 
- Guided walks 
- Social media 
- Information-sharing and interpretation 

Through researching the stories of local places, industries and families over the last 150 years, Woodlanders’ volunteers will discover and communicate those people’s lives and work and how they shaped the landscape we see today and how the landscape shaped them. 
There are many opportunities to get involved depending on your interests and how much time you would like to spend volunteering.  You could research family histories online or in archives (training will be available) and write about local and family stories.  You could attend one of our training days in collecting oral histories and help to record people’s stories. You could help us to engage a wider audience with Woodlanders Lives and Landscapes research through social media, leading guided walks and giving talks. 
Woodlanders volunteers will be invited to regular social events to hear about progress and to share ideas. 

Find out more about the fascinating research our volunteers are doing by reading our past newsletters:

December 2019

April 2020

Summer 2020

Winter 2020

Autumn 2021

If you are interested in taking part or finding out more please get in touch with the project leader: Helena.chance@bucks.ac.uk or call 01494 522141 (extension 4105) 


Project Documents

Please read these documents before starting your project

pdf image Volunteer Brief

pdf image Volunteer Guide

pdf image Project Risk Assessment



Sign up to become a volunteer researcher: 






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