Time Together in Hidden History - Firs Farm by Louise Dennis

25th October 2022

Time Together in Hidden History - Firs Farm  by Louise Dennis ‘Time Together in Hidden History- exploring Firs Farm’s heritage through community’, is an exciting community heritage project funded by the Enfield Society, run by the Friends of Firs Farm and delivered at Firs Farm Wetlands Park and Playing Fields.

Our community heritage project will raise awareness of Firs Farm’s rich history through the installation of a heritage trial– as well as an online video tour of the trail- and the running of a heritage community group: Time Together at Firs Farm. Our intergenerational community heritage project aims to bring together people within the local and wider community, through engaging them with local heritage. 

Firs Farm is of significant heritage value both locally and nationally, yet this heritage has been largely forgotten and so, hidden in time. It is known that on-site there has been a prisoner of war camp, ant-aircraft gun battery, allotments, pig farm and farmhouse (formerly known as Bunces Farm), a hub for community sports -with tennis courts complete with pavilions, and a fair ground which later turned into playing fields. This project seeks to centre the community by prioritising the experiences of those that lived/ live by Firs Farm. For example, our heritage trail will centre the lived histories of those local to Firs Farm, by using personal quotes and voice recordings. 

Here is a wonderful quote from an archive contributor: “After the end of the war the army camp was turned into a prisoner of war camp. Probably in 1946, a group of boys would meet and generally mess around near the camp. The prisoners always seemed very relaxed. I’m sure that they were mostly Italians. They always seemed to be sunbathing. One of them could speak very good English. I think that he was a doctor. They would ask us to run errands. Usually to the local shops in Firs Lane to buy cigarettes. They would give us sixpence or a shilling to buy a packet of 10 or 20. The prisoners could have escaped quite easily as there were holes in the fence. We could never understand why they didn’t try to escape.” 

Most recently the site has been renaturalised through ‘daylighting’ the Moore brook at Firs Farm, to create the Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SUDs)- a project through which the Friends of Firs Farm formed. The site is now widely used and loved by the local community. This project is needed, in simpler terms, to help people reconnect with each other and the spaces around them, through shared histories in shared spaces; fundamentally we aim to improve mental and physical well-being through an improved understanding of local heritage- and we think heritage is the best vessel to achieving these aims. 

The heritage of Firs Farm will be explored with the community through three main avenues: 
  • A self-led audio-visual ‘Hidden History –Heritage Trail’ at Firs Farm. This will be done through a trail of interpretation boards and QR coded audio information posts. The interpretation boards will tell different histories of Firs Farm primarily through quotes from individuals that lived/ live in the area. Less traditionally we will use QR coded audio information posts, whereby scanning the QR code on a post, will take you to an online audio recording- the recordings will be of individual archive contributors sharing their personal history. 
  • An online version of the trail: ‘HistorEtrail’, available on our website, Youtube and social media platforms. This will be so that the project can reach a far wider audience. 
  • A (time limited) monthly community heritage group ‘Time Together’ based in the local community. This group will explore heritage through different creative lenses and hopefully inspire and foster interest in heritage, beyond which we hope those involved with the group after the programme, will take ownership of and keep the project alive beyond the current funding. 

The project will be delivered in three phases: phase one, will be the formulation of the archives, which will be the foundation for phase two. Phase two will be the creation of the self-led heritage trail at Firs Farm and online trail. Phase three, will be the creation and running of the heritage group. 

At present, we’re coming to the end of phase one and starting phase two. However, we hope that our archives and historical understanding of the site continues to expand beyond the first phase of the project and that we can secure future funding in order to do so, beyond this current project. 

So please, if you have any history of the site to share, get in touch. Contact friendsoffirsfarm@gmail.com

See more pictures in our October 2022 Palmers Green & Southgate LIFE magazine