Photograph © Raymond Townsend

Local Childhoods and Opie Contributors

Were you a child in the 1950s and 1960s?  What are your memories of childhood play?
Can you help us create a fuller picture of children’s lives at this time to complement the Opie Archive?
In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, thousands of schoolchildren wrote to folklorists Iona and Peter Opie describing their games, rhymes and more. The Opies used these descriptions as the basis of their famous publications.

Here at the Opie Archive, University of Sheffield, we are keen to connect with these child contributors to the Archive, and to others who lived in the same places. We hope to learn more about the schools which took in the Opie surveys and the communities where they were located. 
The voices of children are rare in archives which makes this material of particular historical interest and importance. It has been preserved and is gradually being catalogued and made available online as part of this website. We are tracing contributors to request a Creative Commons licence to share their contribution in this way and so that others can use it in accordance with their wishes.
We also want to illustrate and build on these fascinating contributions with memories of play and photographs.
We have two History students working on the Opie Archive as part of the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience Scheme:

Jade Burnett is looking into CocktonHill School in Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham. In 1953-1953 and again in 1961 children there wrote to the Opies to discuss the way they played inside and outside of school, the banter they exchanged, and songs that they sang. Their writing sheds light on growing up in North-East England and suggests variations in working-class experiences of childhood.

You can browse Cockton Hill School entries by looking in Boxes 5 and 16 of the Archive. Maybe you knew one of the authors, or grew up in Bishop Auckland around this time?

Catrina Creech is looking into Oratory Catholic Primary School in Chelsea, London. Writing in 1962, children at the school describe their favourite games, alone or with other children. Younger children drew pictures of their play.
To find out more, browse Boxes 23 and 24 in the Archive. Are you one of the authors, or were you a pupil at the school too?


If you are interested in being involved in our project or can put us in touch with others who can help, please email us at To find out more, click below to download an information sheet. We look forward to hearing from you!

Bishop Auckland Participants Information Sheet (pdf)

Oratory Roman Catholic Primary School, Chelsea, Participants Information Sheet (pdf)