Stuart Antrobus, the Bedford author of this local history site, was a social history researcher and former adult education tutor in Bedfordshire. He wrote numerous articles for Bedford Local History Magazine as well as for the national Local History Magazine.
From 2001 to 2004, he was also employed on the Heritage Lottery-funded oral history project in Bedfordshire, "Changing Landscapes, Changing Lives". Other research work included both documentary and oral history research for Bedfordshire County Council on their industrial heritage sites at Stevington Windmill and Bromham Water Mill, Bedford, now under the care of Bedford Borough Council.
His interest in the Women's Land Army arose out of his research into life on the Home Front during the Second World War.
As well as extensive research in the major national and local archives on the Women's Land Army in the 1940s, Stuart conducted a personal oral history project, talking to scores of former wartime agricultural workers commonly known as 'land girls'. Through these and a number of reminiscence sessions in Bedford with both private farm and Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee-employed former land girls in the county, he gained a unique insight into their lives and conditions. Through donations of photographs and other documents, he built up a broad-ranging archive which he used to illustrate and inform his book and this Internet publication through Bedfordshire Libraries.
Well over 200 women who served as wartime (and even immediately post-war) Bedfordshire land girls completed questionnaires. Through research in the Imperial War Museum archives plus the full series of "The Land Girl" magazine, local newspapers and personal photo albums, he "recovered" the maiden names of over 3,000 land girls who served in the county between 1st June 1939 and 30th November 1950. Eighteen detailed, tape-recorded interviews by Stuart with former Bedfordshire Land Girls have been deposited in the Sound Archive of the Imperial War Museum and Bedfordshire Archives.
Stuart also contributed to the website detailing the history of the Women's Land Army nationally at https://www.womenslandarmy.co.uk. He was historical advisor to the wording on the base of the commemorative sculpture to 'Land Girls' and 'Lumber Jills' at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Staffordshire, unveiled in 2014.
In 2008, Book Castle Publishing published Stuart's detailed, well-illustrated history We Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World: The Women's Land Army in Bedfordshire, 1939-1945. In 2013, he published his illustrated Bedford Town Centre Statues guided walk booklet (on sale at the John Bunyan Museum shop in Bedford). Bedford Architectural, Archaeological and Local History Society [BAALHS] published his Life in Bedford during the Second World War (Revised edition, November 2021). Reviewed nationally, it was described as "a model for anyone wanting to research and write about their own town in the Second World War" [Heather Falvey, 'Local History News', Winter 2022, no. 142, p.26, BALH].
In the summer of 2023, the British Association for Local History [BALH] presented Stuart Antrobus with one of its Outstanding Individual Contribution to Local History awards for his voluntary work on Women's Land Army research, publishing and educational initiatives.
Page last updated: 26th June 2023