Shrublands Archive Project takes the next step

CHARTING everything from military aeroplanes to women’s hockey, it has recorded the often illustrious past of an ambitious scheme hatched in the heart of Gorleston.

And through combining new technology with old memories, it has ensured that no one will forget the history of a once cutting-edge community centre.

But with time running out, the Shrublands Community Archive Project will now widen its scope to document the history of the surrounding estates themselves.

When it was first launched in late 2007, there were hopes that gathering information on the Shrublands Youth and Adult Centre phase one would take little more than a year.

And with weekly meetings, laptops and their own website, a project team of often no more than six people have looked to the help of the community for records of the past, which they have worked hard to document and put online.

However, as project co-ordinator Brian Brackley testified, things haven’t been that simple.

“We’ve had more than 1,200 photos, cuttings, posters and programmes among other things put on the website now.

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“We didn’t expect this first phase to last as long as it has and I didn’t realise it had so much history.

"Three years later and we’re still working on it!”

Over this time, they have helped paint a colourful picture of the former farmhouse on Magdalen Way, which in 1949 was converted into a youth and adult centre, as well as displaying their efforts in an exhibition and even holding a reunion.

From community sports through to the Air Training Corps and hosting the first Citizens Advice Bureau in the region, the community centre was ahead of its time when built and at it’s peak attracted 80,000 people a year.

Key to, and now a part in documenting the rise of the community centre, which also at one stage ran ante-natal clinics, is Julian Macey, aged 90.

Involved with the largely voluntary efforts to convert the farmhouse, Mr Macey was chosen as warden for the centre and remained in that position for 30 years.

He said: “It was quite unusual in that it was set up before the community, who moved to the area after being displaced after the second world war, had been established, and it became the resource place for all the families in the area.

“I always felt extremely privileged to have the chance to be involved in what was really a very interesting social experiment and it was quite remarkable what went on under one roof.

“I remember stories in the Mercury in the 1970s saying how it was bulging at the seams it was so popular.”

“It was open seven days a week and just so busy it was unbelievable,” added Brian Brackley of the community centre, which declined in use from the 1970s onwards but still remains open for use. But the efforts of the archive team have so far covered just phase one.

The second part of the five-year project, funded to the tune of �48,000 by a lottery grant, looks to the community more broadly.

Brian, who also gives IT tutorials at the centre on a part-time basis, said that lessons had been learned as he and the team sought to track the history of both the Shrublands and Magdalen estates.

He said: “We’ve learned the best methods of recording the information, and the best ways of who has donated what.

“It’s been a steep learning curve but it’s really exciting to be getting into phase two.”

And though they have forged important links with the local libraries and museums, it is once again those living in the area who will play a key part in building up an online history.

Brian now hopes that they can build on what they know of both the Magdalen and Shrublands estates, the former of which he believes were established partly as a result of the devastating floods that hit Great Yarmouth in 1953.

He said that website is ready for the challenge, with a special “hot spot” feature that allows connections to be made between those in the archives.

He said: “Say you have a Mr Smith, well with this feature you can link to who he worked with, the shop that he owned, and things like that. We can also record the voices and reminiscences of those who were there and put them online too.”

And though the project and funding ends in 2012, the 57-year-old added this shouldn’t spell the end of things completely.

“We definitely want to keep this going and make it sustainable,” he said.

The website can be viewed on To contact Brian Brackley or help with the project, call 01493 440932, email, or pop in to one of the Friday morning sessions at 10am to noon.