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Countryfile and Heir Hunters among the BBC programmes keen to sign up North Elmham historian Cherish Watton

PUBLISHED: 14:30 10 July 2017

Cherish Watton filming on Countryfile - picture submitted by Cherish Watton from the BBC

Cherish Watton filming on Countryfile - picture submitted by Cherish Watton from the BBC

Cherish Watton/BBC

If you need to know anything about the Women’s Land Army, just ask Cherish Watton.

Cherish Watton at her Cambridge University graduation - picture submitted by Cherish Watton Cherish Watton at her Cambridge University graduation - picture submitted by Cherish Watton

The 24-year-old from North Elmham has not only created a national resource on the subject she has also appeared on television programmes to share her vast knowledge and research on the women who kept Britain’s farms productive during the wars.

Now the former Northgate High School and Dereham Sixth Form College student has graduated from Lucy Cavendish College at the University of Cambridge with First Class Honours in History, winning four awards along the way.

She has also been awarded a scholarship by Churchill College in Cambridge to undertake an MPhil in Modern British History next year. Her key interest is history and gender, particularly the social history of women’s wartime participation in 20th century Britain.

“I’m fascinated by how women remembered and represented their wartime experiences,” she said.

Cherish Watton (far left) filming on Heir Hunters - picture submitted by Cherish Watton from the BBC Cherish Watton (far left) filming on Heir Hunters - picture submitted by Cherish Watton from the BBC

Her interest in the Women’s Land Army was cultivated at Dereham Sixth Form College where she set up a website www.womenslandarmy.co.uk. Over the past six years the site has evolved to be a national resource, with copies of magazines from the First and Second World Wars.

It aims to fill a gap in national awareness of the organisation, as well as providing information for families wanting to find out more about the work of their female relatives. The site has even had an enquiry from the son of an Italian POW who fathered a child of a WLA member.

Her first TV appearance was on Countryfile, to discuss the First World War Women’s Land Army and show viewers magazines read by Land Girls.

Since being at Cambridge she has appeared on the BBC show Heir Hunters to talk about her research and will be filming for the show again later this year.

In her first independent research project at Cambridge Miss Watton used 18th century diaries written by the Norfolk parson James Woodforde and his niece Nancy Woodforde to help understand the involvement of dependent women in clerical households.

Miss Watton also runs a consultancy business advising organisations on how to work with young people and raising awareness of energy and water saving in schools.

University awards

Kate Bertram Prize - for first class results in prelims exams.

Cambridge Historical Prize - for outstanding performance in the themes and sources long essay in Part I of the History tripos, for her research related to Parson Woodforde.

Gyll Moore Prize - for first class honours in History results

Emmeline Pankhurst prize - for contribution to college life.

Cherish Watton said: “All the prizes came as a complete surprise.

“Winning them has been a real boost and encouraged me to submit my work to journals and to be more confident.

“I don’t enjoy exams – I much prefer coursework.

“I love the research process, getting your hands dirty in the archives.

“Things feel more out of your control in exams, but some people like that spontaneity.

“To me it feels like there is so much to remember!”

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