Chris Nichols

Photo of Chris Nichols, volunteerMyHouseMyStreet researcher

I have been a volunteer at the Regency Town House since November 2009. I had been really inspired by the Heritage Open Days that year, particularly by the houses which were open in Pelham Square and Kensington Place, so I got involved with MyHouseMyStreet, spending much of my first year transcribing census returns and street directories in the North Laine. I wrote the Robert Street street history, and am now working on Kemp Street. I would recommend the transcribing to anyone who wants to get under the surface of the street and to really try to understand the lives of the inhabitants.

I have been involved with History for much of my life, studying Economic and Social History at Nottingham University and teaching History, Geography and Humanities at Patcham High School from 1975 until I retired in 2007. I can remember being fascinated by visiting York Castle Museum with an inspiring uncle who was a teacher in a South Yorkshire coalmining village when I was about 8. They had a replica Victorian street on display and this must have been the beginnings of an interest in “history from below”, a very new concept in 1960 - a long time before it became both fashionable and a driving academic force. Ten years later, industrial and social history was more accepted, and I did my undergraduate research piece on Commercial Entertainment in Nottingham between 1870 and 1914, that period of such seismic economic, social and political change with the growth of Education, Public Health, trade unions, the endings of a laissez-faire society, the beginnings of a popular press, professional football, the cinema etc.

I always tried to include as much local history as possible when I taught, finding possibilities in an increasingly centralised and controlled National Curriculum. I also tried to pursue it in areas like a Brighton based History Workshop evening class where we produced programmes on topics like the LBSCR railway works and education in the city.

As I have got older, I have become more and more interested in historical architecture as well as all aspects of social history. Volunteering at the RTH and more specifically with the MyHouseMyStreet project is, in many ways, a very logical place for me to be. I can indulge an enthusiasm for local history, for some rigorous research to keep me intellectually active and questioning, and I can hopefully pass on some of my teaching experience and knowledge. I have spent a lot of time recently over at the East Sussex Records Office (ESRO) and am thoroughly enjoying it.


Chris Nichols - volunteer