THE fascinating history of a landmark Somerset building is the subject of a new book.

Maggie Burridge, a student at Strode College, has produced a guide to the former life of the Red Brick Building in Glastonbury and its previous existence as a sheepskin factory.

The work was part of Maggie's ‘Contemporary Heritage’ project during her BA (Hons) Degree top-up year, following completing a Foundation Degree in History, Heritage and Archaeology, which Strode College delivers in partnership with the University of Plymouth.

While previously living in Axbridge, Maggie led established group ‘Voices of Axbridge’, who recorded stories from the older residents of the town as an audio archive.

After the project extended to include memories from past mayors, leaders of local groups, recipients of the annual Axbridge Awards and Axbridge businesses, the group finally archived 110 recordings and typescripts by formally lodging them with the Somerset Heritage Centre in Taunton.

Based on this experience, for her BA (Hons) ‘Contemporary Heritage’ project, Maggie decided to produce another audio archive, this time choosing the former Morlands sheepskin factory in Glastonbury; now the Red Brick Building community space.

The project required the research and production of a modern archive.

With previous experience of interviewing and editing, and knowing two former Morlands employees, Maggie said the choice of subject for her was easily made.

Further interview candidates were found by personal recommendation, and the story of sheepskin production at the Morlands factory gradually took shape, with the building’s current use as a community space a natural progression.

“The objective of this project was not only to create a record of the factory, but to recognise the skills of those who worked there, individuals who used their talents in the building’s transformation and those who currently enable it to flourish," said Maggie.

Somerset County Gazette:

PROUD: From left, Lucy MacNeary (Head of Admissions and Learning Resources) HE Student Maggie Burridge and Wendy Cavill (Senior Higher Education Administrator)

Of the 11 interviews completed, eight were given by former employees of the factory, one by a member of the Morland family, one by a builder involved in the building’s rescue and the last by a current employee.

In February, a tea party was held in one of the Red Brick Building's meeting rooms where all the interviewees came together, some for the first time in many years, together with Andy Pickering the course tutor and were given a folder containing a CD and typescript of their interview.

Together with a brief account of work undertaken at the factory, and a short summary of the building’s re-emergence as a community hub, all interviews were collated into a booklet, copies of which were made available to those involved.

Two copies were professionally bound; one was presented to the Red Brick Building and the second to the Learning Zone at Strode College.

All interviews and necessary paperwork will also be lodged at the Somerset Heritage Centre as soon as it reopens.

"Many of those interviewed were interested to know what others had recorded, and booklets containing all eleven interviews were made available," Maggie added.

"It seemed appropriate the Red Brick Building should hold a copy, and from there it was a short step to offer a bound copy to Strode College.”

The book details the history of the plot, to understand the ancient reconfiguring of waterways, to chart the growth and eventual demise of the factory buildings and to find and interview those workers who dealt with the wet, messy side of sheepskin tanning, highlighting these as areas for further research.

Using skills honed as a BA (Hons) student of History, Heritage and Archaeology at Strode College, the intention is for Maggie to collect this information and combine all into a fuller book at some point in the future.

The college still has places available on the FdA and BA (Hons) History, Heritage and Archaeology Degree this September.

For more information and to apply visit:

Andrew Pickering, programme manager for FdA and BA (Hons) History, Heritage and Archaeology at Strode College, said: “It was a great pleasure joining in with Maggie's celebration of her oral history project at the Red Brick Building earlier this year and meeting many of the people she interviewed.

"It was very evident that all those who contributed were grateful for the opportunity to reminisce and meet with old friends and colleagues in a place where they had spent much of their working lives.

"Maggie's project has made an important contribution to our knowledge and understanding of this aspect of our local history and her sound archiving policy means that it will be a valuable and unique resource for local historians far into the future. I am very proud of her and her great achievement.”

Somerset County Gazette:

PROJECT: Maggie with a book version of her project