The formal unveiling of a weather vane at Somerset Rural Life Museum, in memory of Ann Heeley MBE, took place on Saturday 20 April when members of Ann Heeley’s family, Friends of Somerset Rural Life Museum and South West Heritage Trust staff gathered to celebrate Ann’s contribution to the Museum. The bespoke weather vane, featuring Ann’s initials, was made by Madregal Designs and funded by the Friends of Somerset Rural Life Museum.

Weather vane on roof

Oral History Archive

Ann made a significant contribution to Somerset Rural Life Museum from education to research. Ann’s greatest legacy has been her study of social history in Somerset through the development of a significant oral archive.  In 1975 Ann, who was an active Friend of the newly established Somerset Rural Life Museum in Glastonbury, was asked by Martyn Brown, the first Keeper of the Museum, to go out and record some interviews with strawberry growers in Cheddar. This was the start of a lifetime of interviewing Somerset people. Ann contributed over 700 recordings of Somerset people to the Museum archive.  The interviews covered a wide variety of professions, trades and life stories. Projects focusing on cider making, bees and bee-keeping, willow growing, the peat industry and cheese-making feature too.

A publication based on a selection of these memories was incorporated into a book, ‘Somerset Voices, a Celebration of Memories’ researched and written by Ann Heeley, Louise Clapp and Liz Snelgrove.

A Lasting Legacy

In 2010 Ann was awarded an MBE for her services to the Museum.

When the Museum closed for refurbishment in 2014 Ann continued her work on the oral archive but also embarked on a new project with other members of the Friends to digitise and catalogue a large collection of images relating to Somerset’s rural life and the Museum.

Ann sadly passed away before the newly refurbished Museum re-opened but her work lives on through the Museum.  The recordings now feature in a dedicated gallery and are brought to life with modern animations. The full archive is available to researchers at the Somerset Heritage Centre. The Friends of the Museum continue to undertake interviews and add to the archive with the support of the South West Heritage Trust.

You can find out more about the Friends of Somerset Rural Life Museum on their website.