New listening post helps move Steyning Museum into 21st century

A new listening post has been launched at Steyning Museum, meaning personal stories and memories of old Steyning can be heard by visitors.

Recordings about the railway line and the steam trains that travelled on it are proving extremely popular and add a personal touch to the exhibition.

Andrew Woodfield and Joan Denwood at the new listening post in Steyning Museum, part of the newly-refurbished railway section. Picture: Derek Martin DM1984832a

Andrew Woodfield and Joan Denwood at the new listening post in Steyning Museum, part of the newly-refurbished railway section. Picture: Derek Martin DM1984832a

It is all part of a project that started with the setting up of a new oral history team for Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding.

Joan Denwood, education and oral history volunteer, said: "We were keen to have some of our recordings available to the visitors to our museum and not just stored in the archives.

"We are halfway through our audio visual project at the moment, with one listening post and one screen in action. They have already proved a hit with visitors and have moved our very worthwhile local history museum into the 21st century."

The museum was awarded a grant from the Horsham District Council LEAP scheme and matched it with money raised through the Steyning Museum 200 Club.

Joan said: "After lots of research, we decided to purchase two listening posts and two screens. The second listening device will be for life stories, or other particular aspects of Steyning life in the past, such as farming or industry.

"One screen is installed in the entrance hall and by using a timed rolling programme tells visitors and people passing by all about us. It includes opening times, current and future displays, current, past and future fundraising, school visits and much more.

"The second larger screen will be installed in the museum and will show artefacts, pictures, maps and photos of old Steyning which are not usually on display."

The first listening post, with two handsets, is devoted to recordings on the subject of trains, forming part of the refurbished Steyning railway display, and they show what the railway meant to people.

Volunteer Stephanie Grant said: "The railway display has much more information in it than before and it has been very popular, the railway was such a big thing in Steyning. Visitors can hear real memories from local residents about the railway.

"The team at Steyning Museum is very excited to present our newly-refurbished exhibit about the well-loved Steyning railway. Although closed since 1966, along with many other branch lines, there are many who remember travelling on the line and seeing the old steam, and latterly diesel, engines chugging through the Sussex countryside.

"A new ticket office, has been installed complete with tickets and a ticket machine. Photographs of some of the many railway workers are on display, as well as maps, model engines and much more about the history of what was a hugely important means of transport."

Hear the late George Cockman talk about the anecdotal book The Steyning Line, find out about the station master listen to stories of the Steyning Flyer.

One recording is devoted to railway dog Jack, a little terrier that travelled from Brighton in the guard's van and got out at any station he fancied, and another tells of two brothers from Upper Beeding who ended up in court after throwing apples at the train.

Steyning Museum is staffed by volunteers and entrance is free. Visit steyningmuseum.org.uk for more information.