Historian Andrew Phillips opens up the Colchester Recalled archive once more, and introduces the talking bench in Castle Park.

Believe it or not they are listening in South Korea.

But with something like 3,600 hours of recordings, it is hard to know where to start with Colchester Recalled. After all, to listen to it all would take you nearly two years, doing nothing else from nine to five. One solution is to put short recordings online which everyone can listen to. Another idea is to set up a talking bench. Yes, a talking bench.

Thanks to the National Lottery and the effort of the Essex Sound & Video Archive, one of the benches in Castle Park, facing the Castle, has two buttons in its back that can be pressed, playing extracts of people’s memories about the Castle and the Park.

Here’s Don Scott, now over 90, recalling a very different Castle when he was a child: ‘The main courtyard of the Castle, where the Museum now stands, was open to the sky. There was no roof on it. I remember standing at the edge of the courtyard and looking into the space where the walls were covered in creeper and it was more like a garden than a castle.’

‘My earliest memory is 1933, when excavations were going on in front of the castle. This is now called ‘The Moat’, but it isn’t a moat, it’s an archaeological excavation [they found a Saxon church, older than the Castle] and it was so important they left it for the public to see. Before the excavation the ground came up to the Castle door.’

‘The Museum was very small then and when we first went there we did not have to pay, but we ended up paying threepence (that’s 1¼p) and it stayed like that for as long as I could remember.’

One of the striking findings of Colchester Recalled is the very simple, innocent pleasures which Colchester people enjoyed. With no TV or internet, families made their own entertainment – stood round the piano and sang or played board games.

At Christmas a stocking stuffed by Father Christmas with an apple, an orange and a threepenny bit, was present enough. And life was safer. People went out and left their back doors open. Today’s worries about children and violence scarcely existed. In the summer they roamed Friday Woods or Middlewick all day, lit fires, even swam in the River Colne.

The same was true of Castle Park and the annual event, Skipping in the Park, which took place on Lower Castle Park.

‘I remember seeing all the young girls down the Park on a Good Friday with their huge skipping ropes – like linen lines. And the soldiers used to go down there and turn the ropes and they all used to skip together. Course they all used to be in uniforms. Anyone could join in. There used to be 20 or 30 in one group. I can’t remember not going there on a Good Friday.’

One woman recalled: ‘I went one Easter time. That’s where I met my husband. They were skipping and I joined in.’ For the less well off the Park might provide a holiday: ‘When me dad had his holiday he didn’t have a week, just three days… and we children were off from school – August, say – and we used to go to Castle Park for the day. Mum used to pack up sandwiches and… that’s all we had for a holiday: come to the Castle Park for a day.’

These and other memories are all on the new Talking Bench in Castle Park. But if you want to hear them all, you only have to go to the Colchester Recalled Website at colchesterrecalled.co.uk where all these memories can be found along with digital versions of the Colchester Recalled magazine.

You will join the many websurfers who regularly visit the site. And not just from Colchester. From Edinburgh to Australia they are listening to Colchester Recalled. Indeed, South Korea, Burundi, Vietnam and Russia have all had their surfers listening in.