My partner Chris Hall has won an award for his article about sewers in David Cameron’s constituency more than a century ago.
Chris’s article (‘“Class distinction, democracy and proper drains”—how Witney was civilised, 1894-1904’) appeared in Oxfordshire Local Historyin autumn 2009. He won the British Association for Local History’s 2011 award for research and publication, and it was presented at the annual meeting of BALH in London on Saturday 4 June.
Alan Crosby, editor of The Local Historian, said that Chris’s article was a ‘magisterial survey of that endlessly interesting and popular subject—sewage. Drains and sewers are always of interest’.
This was ‘a study of drains in David Cameron’s constituency, when local democracy really mattered, the days when people knew every manhole cover, drain and sewer’.
Chris says: ‘This was real democracy. The town council had an election every year and for a decade the issues of how much (if anything) could be spent on the sewers, what system of disposal should be used and where it should be sited were the subject of an annual referendum. During that period sewerage was the town’s hottest topic, with councillors split between those who wanted everyone to have a WC and those who thought earth-closets were cheaper and better.’
Chris was chairman of the Oxfordshire Local History Association for ten years and has edited Oxfordshire Local History since 1998. He holds a degree of Master of Studies in English Local History.