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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 

Read about our most recent discoveries 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). 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. 

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. 


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) 


Sign up to become a volunteer researcher: 



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