My student volunteer experience on the project The History of the High Street.

Hi!  I’m Mia, a student volunteer for the project ‘The History of the High Street’ run by Bexley Archives. This project actively engages research into the past of the High Street in Bexleyheath Broadway and Sidcup. When starting this project, I was interested in seeing how the High Street has changed over time.

The Layers of London website which is unique in itself, helped the mapping of the High Street by enabling the sharing of material from the vast numbers of documents and images Bexley Archives preserve. This project uses the materials from Bexley Archives on the Broadway in Bexleyheath to pin images and information on the map to show where buildings used to stand and possibly if the buildings are still here today.

By searching through photographs in Bexley Archives, I have been able to map the locations of old High Street shops on Bexleyheath’s Broadway and compare them to the changing nature of larger businesses that dominate the High Street today. From my findings, there are many other aspects to the history of the High Street. For example, it witnessed protests and demonstrations as well as bomb damage from World War Two, all of which add to its uniqueness.

Broadway in Bexleyheath is a long high street with an extensive history. Fortunately, I have found this high street to be with few difficulties to research - all resources have been easily accessible in the archive. Many resources from Bexley Archives date back to the 19th century, some, about the whole of the Bexley area, are much earlier, while others date from the 21st century.

The images on the map for Bexleyheath's Broadway consist of shop fronts that are fascinating to see! For example, old family businesses and proud owners standing outside their shops to have a picture taken. This gives a sense of nostalgia to some people who might be able to recognize their past when seeing these photographs and reminisce about the shops of their high street, giving a very personal touch into someone's past. More interestingly, there are photographs of parades, galas and protest marches taken in the High Street that portray another aspect of its history.

I have appreciated delving deeply in the many stories the High Street holds. Bexleyheath's Broadway has many stories to tell, from its first bakery and mechanical businesses to its first tram line and cinema, all reflecting the ever changing nature of the High Street, and emphasising the importance of recording these changes.