Stowe: In My Own Words - an oral history project

Statues in a garden

What is an oral history project?

Oral history is a form of history making that is passed down, typically between generations, by retelling stories, sharing memories and forming folk tales to preserve a legacy. In its very essence, it is an accessible form that resists institutional biases and rejects the hierarchical judgement of whose histories matter most.

Stowe Estate’s history has been well documented but it is not the full story. A great number of people care for the land and culture surrounding Stowe from all different backgrounds. Stowe:In my own words records the personal memories and individual impact of the community of people who have lived and worked at Stowe. 

These stories stand as testament to the individual lives led by stakeholders, students, staff, volunteers and visitors to Stowe gardens and Stowe House.

Our work

Our project uncovers and preserves the stories of people who have helped shape Stowe Estate through the years. The Stowe:In my own words project aims to:

  • Expand our knowledge about life at Stowe during different time periods. 

  • Learn about how individuals have related to the place and people. 

  • Document stories about working life on the Stowe estate. 

  • Remember Stowe during times of historical significance, e.g., World War II and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • Recover memories of the school, gardens, and house. 

  • Record how Stowe Estate has influenced the surrounding community. 

  • Relate tales from long ago to what is happening today.

Where will we archive our stories?

In the 1960s, the National Trust began recording oral histories to preserve the stories of people who have lived and worked amongst some of the most astounding natural landscapes, grand houses and gardens in the UK. Since 2014, the resulting sound archive has been deposited into the British Library to be cared for and built upon for further generations.

The stories we uncover through our project will be added to this significant archive and preserved for future generations.

Are you a Storyteller? 

We are collecting stories from Storytellers from all backgrounds. 

If you know someone who may be interested, has a wonderful story to share or you yourself would like to contribute to our living archive, then we encourage you to get in touch. 

We hope to record familiar stories, uncover unknown ones and reminisce about the people and the place we all care for.

This summer we are prioritising the stories from a long time ago and will be exploring more recent tales in the Autumn.

Please contact: with enquiries. 


Latest updates

24 Aug 21

Co-lead our project!

We are looking for a volunteer to co-lead our ongoing oral history project Stowe: In my own words. This is a collaborative project between the National Trust and Stowe House Preservation Trust. Together, our team works to capture a diverse range of stories from people who have lived in, worked on, and contributed to the Stowe Estate. These recorded stories will be submitted for conservation in the British Library Sound Archive. Over the past year we have built an oral history project team who occupy a variety of roles which you would be responsible for co-managing. These roles, currently occupied by 16 trained volunteers, include: Story Producer (interviewing), Researcher, Coordinator and Transcriber. Your role will be managed and supported by the Volunteering Manager here at NT Stowe who will provide guidance and assistance. You will have the mentorship and ongoing support of Stowe House Preservation Trust’s House Custodian and work closely together throughout your tenure. Together, you will approach new Storytellers, oversee the archive management of our recordings and prepare them for entry into the British Library. This role will suit someone with an interest in local community history and oral history techniques and wishes to use or expand their project management skills. It is essential that you have good written and oral communication skills and are diplomatic in dealing with sensitive conversations. This role will require the knowledge of Microsoft Office package. Apply on our volunteering website!

25 Jul 21

Buckinghamshire Culture Open Weekend

"Buckinghamshire Culture is a newly formed cultural development partnership, energising the creative and cultural sector in Buckinghamshire and helping it to thrive." We are proud to have contributed to this significant cultural exchange programme with a three day event promoting community histories at Stowe.  During this event we encouraged members of the community to to bring an object, photo or artefact which reminded them of a Stowe story and sit down with our volunteers to record their tale. We were delighted with the turn out - thank you to all of those who came and supported us and our work! 

03 Jun 21

Training our recruits

Our Project leads led our new volunteers in a in-person training day where they learnt about oral history techniques.