THE DES TURNER COLLECTION
Welcome to the Aston History and Photographic archive.
Des, and his family, moved to Aston village in 1966. Almost as soon as he arrived he began taking photographs of village
life and making audio recordings of the oldest villagers memories on cassette tapes, with the ultimate aim of publishing the
results in a series of books on the history of Aston.
During the process of the interviews and meeting the villagers he was offered old photographs of the village, family photographs
and documents etc. and also valuable and interesting artifacts.
Many of the oldest villagers were still living in their small cottages that had been their family homes for many years and
most were keen to have their stories and memories recorded for posterity. Des realised that he had to do it immediately or
their way of life in this village would be lost forever.
Among the artifacts that he saved was a 14th Century sword, a 17th Century clock movement, a plough, a large pillar
drill and an even larger double blast bellows and forge hand tools etc, which he deposited with Stevenage Museum on a permanent
loan basis. The oldest artifact in his collection is a Neolithic Flint Hand Axe.
His collection has grown and now comprises thousands of photographs, transparencies, newspaper cuttings, reel to reel tapes,
documents, parish magazines, booklets and pamphlets, maps, letters and since the web came along, CD's DVD's and MP3's etc.,
etc. He has also acquired during years of research a library of Hertfordshire books and WW2 Secret War books (mainly SOE)
plus artifacts. He has used the collected material to make films and write books and articles. He has given many talks, slide
and audio lectures and assembled exhibitions at different locations in Aston and at Stevenage Museum.
He is the 'unofficial' village historian having offered his services to the Aston Village Society when it was first formed.
The Council agreed that he could begin the exercise of collecting the village history but it was unable to offer him any funding.
Therefore, the only option open to him was to finance, control and manage the project himself and so it has become a personal
collection occupying a large part of his family home.
He began his research into Aston's history by visiting the British Museum, the Herts County Record office, Hertford and Stevenage
Museums etc. He raised money through these exhibitions, slide and talk shows and a multi-projector audio/visual show etc.
and also helped to raise funds to help village charities such as the Church and Royal Women's Institute etc.
Sadly, most of the villagers that he interviewed have since died, they included, blacksmiths, a wheelwright, headteacher,
schoolteachers, WW1 veterans, farmers, farm workers, a cobbler, publicans, domestic servants, parish councilors, WW2 Army
personnel including commanding offices and other ranks etc., etc.
There are hours of taped memories and hundreds of photographs.
It is his aim to preserve this primary documentary
evidence of the lives of people from the village to keep the memories of Aston's past alive: to continue to record, document
and disseminate the voices and images of Aston and to make this available to a wider audience. He formed a trust and made
applications to the National Lottery for funds to assist with publication of the material but was unsuccessful. So the expense
of the whole project still comes from his own pocket.
He has served on the Aston Parish Council the village Society council, was a member of the 'Fund Raisers', the Theatre Group,
Cricket Club, etc. and has provided historical information and photographs to interested villagers and for editors of local
publications including the Parish News.