Disappeared noises

An item on PM on Radio 4 about the power of sounds to evoke emotions got me thinking. The article discussed the impact of the sound of the Merlin engine [] of a Spitfire. Much as I hate to admit it, I am no longer in the first flush of my youth, and I’ve noticed that certain sounds that were part of my childhood no longer exist.

Telephone bells; you get ringtones, trimphones, bleeps and tunes, but analogue phones bells have gone (as have phones with dials – in a brief informal survey of my students none of them had ever used a dial phone)

Foghorns- I remember lying in bed at my great-aunts house in Deal listening to the foghorns. I think they’ve all been taken out of service now (as have the lightships on the Goodwin Sands we could see when we were night swimming).

The Broadmoor siren – this is a slight cheat as its still operational, I’ve simply moved away. I grew up close the high security hospital at Broadmoor (home of Peter Sutcliffe and others of that ilk). Because of the high risks posed if a prisoner escaped, the surrounding area was provided with a network of sirens to warn the population. Every Monday morning at 10 o’clock, it was tested, first with the wail of the alert then the monotone of the ‘all clear’. I must have heard this nearly everyday for the first ten years of my life. Looking back it’s a strange thing to have grown up with, but at the time it seemed utterly normal. I can also remember wanting people to escape as it meant we got kept off school!

Published by David Petts

Assc. Prof Archaeology, Durham University - landscapes - old music/books - folk traditions - early med Britain - community heritage - post-medieval - views own @davidpetts1 outlandish-knight.blogspot.co.uk

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