A journey through St Bees’ archives by Ken Powell

ONE could be forgiven for thinking a talk on the history of village life one hundred years ago or more was going to be dry and dull but local historian and St Bees local, Bob Jopling, was an excellent presenter mixing the modern technology of Powerpoint presentations with original items from the period such as autograph books and school needle work.

In his second presentation on this subject, Mr Jopling held the small audience which gathered at St Bees School spellbound for an hour as he told tales of village life in the First World War and before.
With dozens of photos of the streets, shops and people, a fascinating portrait of life one hundred years ago was painted to the appreciation of all.

I found it peculiar to see how many buildings and streets were recognisably the same yet so much was different too. Seeing how a shop back then compared to the private house it is now, with doors becoming windows and windows becoming doors, was quite bizarre. It was the same for many other landmarks too.

Bob Jopling went on to show a picture of nine ‘worthies’ – men who ran the village during the war and before – sat for a group photo in front of St Bees School and was able to tell the audience about the history – and occasional scandal – of each one.

Perhaps most moving for me was the tale of one young boy who was in frequent trouble at school according to the official books and died in the war aged 21 from a bayonet wound to the stomach. What a waste of a life which had never really had the chance to mature and become something!

A chance to chat and look over the various artefacts brought along by Bob Jopling brought the evening to an end, with calls from many for a third talk to be held in the near future.