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PHOTO GALLERY: A delve into Bearley's past as ten-year census looks to the future

Every decade a headcount of who is living where in the UK on a given day is carried out. This year that falls on 21st March – a form should be dropping through your door. It’s the law that you must complete it. A census has been taken in England and Wales, and separately for Scotland, every ten years since 1801, with the exception of 1941.

The object of the census is not to obtain detailed information about individuals, but to provide information about the population as a whole; listing everyone by name, wherever they happened to be on a single night. It is the most efficient way to count everybody once, and nobody twice.

The data the census reveals helps plan for things like education and healthcare provision. It also provides fascinating source material for researchers, historians or for those simply wishing to trace their family’s history.

The ten-year census highlights the importance of remembering people’s stories from the past. In Bearley, Derek Bull, 69, has helped to safeguard the village’s collective memories for posterity.

Bearley historian Derek Bull and his wife Jean. Photo: Mark Williamson B10/2/21/1697. (44320647)
Bearley historian Derek Bull and his wife Jean. Photo: Mark Williamson B10/2/21/1697. (44320647)

He explained: “Over the years I’ve put together several film shows, that we’ve called Bygone Bearley, to raise money for the church and the village hall. People donated images, and we have a large collection in the church that the WI put together. It is a cross selection of people, places and events.”

The film shows have helped people to feel connected to the past and have proved very popular. The last film show was a year ago before the first lockdown. More than 100 people came, commenting on the images and sharing stories which, says Derek, is so important for community spirit.

He said: “It’s that old saying: without the past you’ve got no future. Old photos provide a talking point and brings people together. People also get in touch from out of the district, that are tracing their family trees and that’s quite an important aspect.”

In fact Derek has been using the census and other resources to trace his own family’s history recently, and has so far unearthed a whopping 13,000 descendants, including his own and wife Jean’s families. They found that they both had relations in the Bearley going back to the 19th century, even though the couple only moved to the village in 1986.

Their house is one of 58 houses built on the old RAF domestic camp, which was built in 1943 and demolished in the early 1980s.

After the war the camp was used to house displaced persons, including people who were bombed in Coventry. “There were a lot of new people coming into village,” observed Derek. “At the turn of the century there were about 100 people in the village and there are 700 now.”

Derek’s own father was one of the evacuees from Coventry, and he met his wife where he lived near Clifford Chambers. He recalls that the first family home was a wooden hut off Seven Meadows Road.

As Derek delved further back into his family’s history he was amazed to discover connections to France and Germany.

“My father’s side traces back to Ferrers family who came over with William the Conqueror. He of course created the Doomsday Book in 1085, a census done to collect taxes.”

Derek added: “I can also trace back to the Clopton family – of course the aristocracy has been quite considerably watered down by the time it gets to me!”

While the upcoming census is not a sinister ploy to bleed citizens of their money, as Derek’s testament shows, it does play an essential role in understanding our community, where we’ve come from and where we are going.

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