Shire on the Web ‐ first online April 1999
by Dr David Thomas
Shire website is 20 years old
20 years ago the internet was just beginning to be used by members of the public.
Shire newspaper decided to embrace the internet, whilst continuing to produce and deliver the monthly newspaper free to all houses in Shirehampton. I floated the initial idea to the Shire committee, who enthusiastically supported it.
After discussion, the committee agreed that the purpose of the website should be to:‐
- publicise Shirehampton to the world;
- provide an up‐to‐date reference source of local activities;
- enable local groups to set up their own web page;
- provide cheap internet advertisements for local firms and;
- help former residents keep in touch.
They also agreed the site should include:‐
- a description of Shirehampton, its history and topography;
- a directory of businesses (with links to sites and/or ads, paid for);
- a directory of organisations (with links to their sites);
- leading stories from Shire newspaper;
- links to personal home pages and;
- a What’s On in Shirehampton section.
New sub‐committee needed...
It was recognised that creating a website would require some new members with computer skills.
A sub‐committee, sponsored by Shire was formed with the hope of attracting new younger individuals with the required skill set, schools and students.
The committee hoped to attract members with their own computers, far fewer 20 years ago.
Initial finance for the website would be via a grant from Shire, but the intension was that it should support itself from advertising with all design, programming etc. being carried out by volunteers.
The committee also believed that costs would be lower if volunteers had access to their own computers.
Following this meeting this advert was published in Shire newspaper.
|CALLING ALL COMPUTER ENTHUSIASTS|
|SHIRE is considering setting up a Shirehampton Community Web Site.|
|Its purpose is to publicise Shirehampton to the world, and to provide local people and organisations with an up to date reference of local activities.|
|However, we cannot do it without a group of committed people. If you|
|then we would be delighted to hear from you.|
About 9 people responded to the advertisment and the first meeting of the new ‘Shire on the Web’ Sub‐Committee was held in January 1999.
Four of the initial responders remained active for many years. The success of the website was very largely down to the long term commitment of Alex Wright, Chris Napier, Liz Black and David Thomas.
We had a very busy time in the first few months...
We had to design the layout of the site and learn how to reproduce that layout in a web format (HTML).
There were far fewer web hosting services in those days but fortunately, at just this time, Bristol City Council was becoming aware of the need to promote digital services within Bristol. Their community support service Digital City Bristol hosted our site for some years before we moved to a commercial internet service provider (ISP).
The site included most of the content in the original brief.
Most of the information changed relatively infrequently. However, every month from then until today, we have included editorial copy from Shire newspaper.
Initially we only included a few pictures since we had to obtain the original photographic prints and scan each one individually. More recently nearly all text and pictures for the newspaper has been sent to us electronically making it much easier to produce web pages for each monthly edition.
After some years Liz and Chris moved on to other things and for 10 years or so Alex and I were doing all the updating and revisions to the site.
Regular visitors return to read the monthly editions of Shire but there has always been a steady stream of occasional visitors from around the world seeking information about Shirehampton.
From the beginning the site has included message boards, where visitors can ask questions about a variety of subjects. Two of the most popular have been Find a Friend, and Family History. An example of Find a Friend is someone who wanted to contact her husband’s brother, whom she had lost contact with some years previously in Australia. Five years later, the brother found our site, and replied, with information about a new baby in the family.
In due course Alex stepped down and we looked for other volunteers. Les Harrold, the current web master, answered an appeal for help in 2013. Les was already running a number of other local sites. He became the website manager and in due course I stepped down. Les is now responsible for all aspects of the site, including the current redesign.
Pages from the ‘Shire on the web’ archive