IN 1919, First World War veteran Francis Lewis Wills and daredevil aviator Claude Grahame-White spotted a business opportunity.

With £3,000 capital and borrowed planes, their company Aerofilms established itself at the London Aerodrome in Hendon, developing glass plate negatives of landscapes captured from above.

The firm went on to establish the largest collection of aerial photographs of Britain taken before 1939, including photos taken in the 1920s and 1930s of East Oxford.

A team of volunteers has been examining the photos, and has put together a new exhibition called East Oxford from Above, which will be on show at the Town Hall in St Aldate’s from Saturday, September 14 until November 10.

The exhibition has partly been curated by members of the public, bringing together residents’ memories of East Oxford and their responses to the area as it stands today.

Work on display will be part of a year-long collaboration between the Museum of Oxford and English Heritage.

It features painting, sculpture, documentary film, creative writing, local history research and the aerial shots.

Antonia Harland-Lang, community engagement officer at the Museum of Oxford, said: “The pilots from Aerofilms took lots of amazing pictures of Oxford including the city centre, north of the city, and East Oxford.

“We chose East Oxford as the focus for our project because we thought it would be a good place to get the community involved.

“There’s something fascinating about seeing your city from above and the images from the 1920s and 1930s show us how the city has changed over the decades.

“In some photos you can see the car factory and in one you can see Cowley congegational church on the corner of James Street, which has since been demolished.

“The project has involved a core group of 12 community volunteers who have been crucial to the success of the project.

“They have been trained in exhibition planning and design, and also in outreach and teaching skills.

“The team has worked with over 100 community group members to create artwork and local history research for the final exhibition at the town hall.

“They have researched topics including East Oxford’s early history, churches in East Oxford, and Temple Cowley Library.”

Marilyn Ching, 63, from Islip Road, Summertown, is one of the volunteers on the project which cost £11,000 and is jointly funded by English Heritage and Oxford ASPIRE, a consortium of university museums and the county’s museums service.

The former Oxfam worker said: “Taking part has helped me to reflect on my own past and I have also listened to other people’s stories to collect them for the exhibition.

“I’ve got strong family connections with East Oxford and and I am retired so I was keen to get involved.

“My mother Hilda McNaughton was born in Temple Road in 1921, and I spent a lot of time at number 83 Temple Road, which I was able to identify on the photos.

“My father, Jock McNaughton, was a Pressed Steel worker and worked at the car factory for about 40 years from 1936 until he retired.”

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