Launching the Bishopthorpe Listening Post

If you pass by the Sensory Garden, next to Bishopthorpe Library, don’t be alarmed if you hear the voice of the late butcher Geoffrey Dixon floating over the bushes into Main Street.  Or, indeed, the voices of Ken and Joyce Baldwin, Gordon Smith and Elizabeth (Betty) Harris.  For theirs are the first recordings to be placed on the Listening Post in the Sensory Garden.

In 2001 the Bishopthorpe Local History Group started an Oral History Project recording interviews with village residents and former residents.  So far, almost 80 people have been recorded.  To share their memories, we have set up the Listening Post which contains four edited highlights of three to four minutes each.   It is intended to change the recordings on a regular basis.

Press the buttons now and you will hear Geoff Dixon remembering the problems of rationing meat during WW2; Ken Baldwin reminiscing about life in the National Service; Gordon Smith on being Archbishop Hope’s chauffeur and when the Queen lunched at the Palace during Royal Ascot; and Elizabeth (Betty) Harris tells of moving into the ‘bare and austere’ Woodman Inn in 1960 with her then husband, Don Nixon, and when Reg the pianist played himself through the floorboards during a sing-song!

On the 7 August, and with many friends present, we launched the solar-panelled Listening Post on a fine, sunny, and very enjoyable evening, with plenty of wine flowing.  Elizabeth (Betty) Harris and Geoff Dixon’s nephew, Robert Dixon, joined us with members of their families.  We were also lucky to have Archbishop Stephen, his wife Mrs. Rebecca Cottrell, and also their dog drop in!  After exploring the Post, the Archbishop called the project “wonderfully inspiring”.  All in all it was a splendid evening.  So do please call in to the Sensory Garden, enjoy the flowers and the voices of times past.

We wish to thank members of Bishopthorpe Parish Council and Explore Bishopthorpe Library for their help and support with the project.

Linda Haywood



Archbishop Stephen Cottrell working the Listening Post.
From left: Mrs. Rebecca Cottrell, with Gary and Jacqui Featherstone and Ken Haywood enjoying the voices on the Listening Post.
Archbishop Stephen Cottrell listening to voices from the past.
Elizabeth (Betty) Harris who can be heard on the Listening Post, with son, Simon, and oral history interviewer, Helen Fountain.
From left: Oral History co-ordinator, Peggy Baker, Cllr. Carole Green and Rebecca Cottrell.
Bishopthorpe Methodist Minister, Dr. John Schofield, chatting with guests.