With our social groups temporarily suspended at the moment, we’ve invited some of the scheduled guest speakers to tell us a bit about themselves and the incredible work they do. This week we hear from local historian and volunteer, Mark Hignett:
Mark has worked on many local projects that help to highlight the fascinating history of the town and the people of Oswestry, past and present.
Most recently he has been working on the story of Gilbert Bradley, a soldier at Park Hall Military Training Camp during World War Two. Mark has been able to start a collection of letters by Gilbert to his sweetheart ‘G’ and some of the replies. More than 70 years later was discovered the ‘G’ actually stood for Gordon and that Gilbert had actually been in a forbidden relationship with another man in a time where homosexuality was illegal and, as a member of armed forces, could have had him shot..
Mark has also been involved in the planning and construction of the trenches at Park Hall Farm. This unique labyrinth allows visitors to experience the very nature of trench warfare through the decades, starting from World War One through to the modern day. Visitors, many of which include school groups, are invited to immerse themselves in the conditions that the soldiers would have lived, and fought in as they explore the different trenches.
In 1998, Mark and a group of fellow local railway enthusiasts began exploring the viability of preserving some of the former Tanet Valley Light Railway, which originally operated from Llynclys Junction in England to Llangynog in Wales. The Tanat Valley line was the first cross-border light railway providing links to Llanymynech and Llanfyllin and helping to open up the more remote Welsh valleys for both tourism and trade. In 2004 the group acquired a 2 mile section of the track and is currently working hard to restore it. About 25 acres of land next to the track has also been leased and is now home to the Nant Mawr Visitor Centre.
In 2018 Mark coordinated a celebration of the women of Oswestry, past and present, through a heritage exhibition as part of the national Heritage Open Days. The Wall of Women recognised 101 women from all walks of life who have had an influence on the town. Among those highlighted are Dame Agnes Hunt, who helped found the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital and the Allies spy, Violette Szabo who trained at the Park Hall Military Camp. Women involved in the community in the villages around Oswestry received a mention along with those who campaign for rights for people with disabilities, foster parents and those who support the town in their work.
When he is not volunteering in the community Mark and his wife Harriet are also foster parents. Mark describes himself as having a very positive outlook on life and loves sharing the stories he discovers with others. He says, “I don’t recognise problems, I only see a choice of solutions and always throw myself in 110% to anything I take on”.
Find out more at:
or visit the Oswestry Town Museum Facebook page.