Day 1 of Internship at Bowes Museum

After discovering that I was chosen as one of three interns for the WW1 program with Bowes Museum, the first port of call was meeting with my new colleagues. Gavin was the first to make this leap, he contacted Hannah and I on social media and since then we have kept up communication over that original message. We met in university a week later to introduce ourselves and discuss possible plans for the internship. As the internship calls for us to produce a creative response to the WW1 archives we were unsure as to what we could do. We discussed possibly putting on a performance, holding a creative workshop for primary schools or even creating a short anthology of our work. All of which are still under discussion since our trip to the Bowes Museum.

            On Friday 18th March the three of us made our way down to Darlington to explore Bowes Museum together. It was worth the long journey as the building itself and the archives it held, were incredible and inspiring. The morning was spent meeting the museum workers and looking through the archives. These consisted of first hand letters, an old newspaper, honour rolls and so much more. It was fascinating and scary handling such old artifacts.

            After lunch we were encouraged to visit the war memorials in the grounds, and after explore the museum itself before we sat through a lecture on graves and memorials throughout Europe and across eras. All of which was something new and fascinating to me. A little time was spent exploring creative responses to the archives each of us analysed, which we shared with the rest of the group. It was interesting to see how each of us reacted differently to the same material.

            Before our next meeting we must finalise what we hope our project to be. This is almost as intimidating as the Bowes museum itself, but it is an exciting challenge I am looking forward to partaking in.

The Leicesters’ poems in HM Deerbolt Prison

Adam Travis at Deerbolt Camp (1)

For the last three weeks, the project has been delivering workshops in HM Deerbolt Prison as part of a twelve-week programme.  So far, we have looked at topics including Victory Gardens, propaganda and Barnard Castle’s role during the war.  Last week, the inmates read about Deerbolt’s role as a military camp and looked at poems written by Private S. Strickland in the Teesdale Mercury.  This inspired them to write their own poems about their time at Deerbolt.  

On the departure of the 10th Leicestershire Battalion from Barnard Castle in November 1915, the Teesdale Mercury published a poem by Private A. Clarke that read:


“The Leicesters’ Farewell”

At last we are leaving, no longer we will stay,

For after many rumours we are really going away;

So we say good-bye to dear old Barney now,

For no longer will they hear the Leicesters’ old row.


“We are the Leicester boys” every day we sing,

And very oft in Barnet you’ve heard our voices ring;

So now we are leaving the dear old spot,

I’m sure our song by you will ne’er be forgot.


To Cannock we’re going, just one more new place,

But its old attractions can ne’er Barney replace;

For how we have liked it no word can express,

And in parting we’re feeling a kind of distress.


To fight for our country is the way for us all,

Some will come back, but others will fall;

But those who come back no doubt will say

That the best friends they had were Barney-way.


The girls, too, will feel lonely when we have gone,

For the Leicesters seemed attractive to every one;

But they must keep smi’ing all the whole day through

Till the return of the boys in khaki and blue.


Many, many friends we are leaving behind,

Who to us soldier boys have been so kind;

A welcome we had, none better could we wish,

So it’s a hard farewell we have now to wish.


We shall miss the old castle and river Tees,

And the museum, too, which all of us did please;

In fact the whole place, go where you would –

It was home from home, and extra kind of good.


So now, after many months we’ve to say good-bye,

To do our best for our country we will try;

So good-bye to Barney is the Leicesters’ farewell,

And pleasant tales of thee we can always tell.


From one of the Leicester boys.


Here is a link to Private Clarke’s Farewell in the Teesdale Mercury:


However, a week later, the Mercury published a note from Private S. Strickland that stated, ‘The poetry, “The Leicesters’ Farewell”, was not composed by Private A. Clarke, but by myself.’  

The article then continues with another poem, written by Strickland, that reads:


“Farewell for the Present”


We have left dear old Barney to our dismay,

And on to Rugeley Camp wended our way;

The old memories still go through our mind

Of the old Barney friends who were so kind.


We could not forget them, though far away

We think of them all, and the town every day;

For we are the Leicester boys who can’t be beat,

And under our tunics good hearts do beat.


We’ve heard of the long faced now in Barney seen

By the girls who were come “Leicester’s Queen,”

But they must keep smiling, for days are in store

When they will see of the Leicesters a lot more.


Dear old Barney, the Leicesters’ second home.

We will think of thee wherever we roam;

So for the present we have to say good-bye,

And we drink your health till the glass is dry.


Yours respectfully, Private S. Strickland


Here is a link to Private S Strickland’s poem in the Teesdale Mercury:


Here is a link to the article detailing the Leicesters’ departure from Barnard Castle:


After reading these poems, one of the inmates wrote the following.  He entwines his own experience at Deerbolt with his thoughts about Deerbolt’s role during the war.


So we’re here in Barnard Castle, where so many soldiers slept.

Their memory does live on.

Their families well they wept.


Now there lies a prison gate,

So many of us waiting,

Until the time when we go home,

At times it is frustrating.


But as day falls inside these walls, we all understand,

That soldiers fought all those days to hold their children’s hands.


Life is so young for us and in time we will mend.

So in that tunnel you remember there is light at the end.


So upon release better yourself and make your life so bright,

Many of us will wear that armour, and where there’s love there’s fight.


We thank our families for staying so strong because at times it’s flying.

The love and support they give to us will always keep us trying.

Working with the First World War project

During the time I have spent at the Bowes Museum researching for this project, it has dawned on me that there is a whole new undiscovered world that is integrated in our lives, not only the progressive one that we live in today, but also our roots and where we came from. As our world moves forward at a faster pace than ever, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of it all. In the archives situated on the top floor of the museum which I secretly refer to as ‘my penthouse,’ that overlooks a rugged but heartwarming view as far as the eye can see; conveyed in different lights, whether on a sunny summers day or a toe numbingly biting winter, the view never fails to inspire and it seems to encapsulate the memories of the generations before us that provide an escape into our past. Having not been on the project for long, it has become quickly clear to me that it delves into things much deeper than only filling in moments in time.


 A name is sometimes all we know about a person, asides from their involvement in the war. Although we know nothing else – not their birthday, occupation or achievements; somehow, this fact manages to connect on a personal level, because asides from their name, what separates them from oblivion? This harsh reality check shows us that it could be any one of us that are just a name to someone with no substance in the future. While this is highly unlikely with the record keeping skills nowadays, the message remains loud, clear and strong. As a way to thank those who served their country when times were tough, however small their role was, it is important to honour the men and women who were involved in the war (in our case focusing on the teesdale area), by recognising their contribution. The roll of honour on the museum’s website has hundreds if not thousands of names waiting to be given an identity which leads me onto another aspect that I love about the project, and how the public are encouraged to contribute on anything relevant that they stumble across.


When given a folder of old registers, minute books, bills and sometimes even photos, it transports you back in time and the vivid images that are conjured in your mind, enables you to almost relive the era. Through exploring events and experiments such as the Teesdale volunteering corps, and especially being a Barney girl, it has given me a new and more whole perspective of the school I go to that had close connections with involvements in the war at that time due to the sum of teachers and house masters that volunteered. This is just one example of the many things that have come to light that has made me appreciate the history and determination of Teesdale all the more.


Being part of a project that is a real eye opener into the foundations of what I see and where I go on a daily basis, has given me great comfort, pride and a hint of patriotism. The fact that there are always new things to reveal and find right within our reach, especially with the combined help of everyone, especially the public; carries on the spirit of community that has helped to give and build Teesdales’ character.


Ceara Sutton-Jones

Great Songs From The Great War (and other WW1 songs)

The use of song during WW1 has really stuck in my mind since my visit to Bowes Museum and I have decided to further this research into how during a time of such peril song was used to communicate inner emotions and worries as well as how the use of song was used to boost morale. One of the most surprising things about the music of the war is the upbeat nature of it, the songs such as “Its a long way to Tipperary” and “For me and my gal” have such a happy and hopeful tone I feel that they fully express the need to keep morale high during times of such insecurity when words alone may not have been enough. I feel as though the medium of song was used to convey the emotions of the soldiers leaving their loved ones but also as a battle cry before they set off on an uncertain future when leaving to fight for their country. Having done some internet research into songs of the period I have found an album named “Great Songs From The Great War”, an album of songs from WW1. Having listened to songs from this album several have stood out to me and could act as possible inspiration for what I produce from this internship. 

It’s a long way to Tipperary – What is possibly the most shocking thing about this song for me is not only its upbeat and happy sound but the fact that I remember the tune of  this song from my childhood and never knew the origins of it. This possibly shows how even today pieces of the WW1 still influence our lives, even in the subtlest of ways. 

For Me and My Gal – For me this was a song that showed the unexpected romance that could be found in the war period, how truly the one thing that kept the soldiers going was their plans for the future with their families.  Truly shows how every single solider who fought in WW1 was an individual, a human being with hopes and dreams for the future.  

Will You Remember? –  I feel like this one of the few songs that addresses the experience of the loved ones that the soldiers left behind. Their fears that time and space would separate them for too long. This could be something to further investigate. 

How Can I leave Thee? – This was a song that I came across when visiting the Bowes Museum when looking in the archives. What struck me was the sorrow in this song, a universal sorrow that every soldier must have felt having to leave their families to face an uncertain future.

Auld Lang Syne – As detailed on my last blog post I read a story in a newspaper from 1916 of a soldier who shot himself in the head on a train, leaving a letter for his wife that said amongst other things “Auld Lang Syne. God Bless.”. Since then this song has been in my head and I feel that I now have a new relation this song. It is no longer a song that represents the beginning of a new year but in fact is a phrase that was heavily used during the war as soldiers feared that they would be forgotten. 

Fergus Bowes-Lyon


Last week, Fergus Bowes-Lyon, son of the 14th Earl of Strathmore, elder brother to the Queen Mother and uncle to Queen Elizabeth II, was added to our Roll of Honour. 

Killed amongst the 20,000 men who fell at the Battle of Loos in 1915, his remains were not found until 2011; nearly a century after his death. Fergus, Captain in the Black Watch, died at the age of 26 leading an attack on the heavily fortified German lines at Hohenzollern Redoubt.  His leg was blown off and he was hit by multiple bullets in his chest and shoulder. 

After a visit to Quarry Cemetery in Vermelles, Fergus’s grandson, James Voicey-Cecil, wrote to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and produced evidence that his grandfather had been buried there and that a grave marker with Fergus’s name had been there until the end of the war.  After further investigation, it was found that Fergus had been named in the records of the burial in 1920, but was not listed on the documentation that had superseded this in 1925.  Following this discovery, a headstone was erected in the cemetery to Fergus Bowes-Lyon that reads: ‘Buried near this spot’.

To visit his profile on the Roll of Honour, click here.

Dr Douglas Davies: “A Culture of Remembrance”

‘The Culture of Remembrance’ was the last in the current series of talks arranged as part of the Museum’s First World War Commemoration Project.  Dr. Douglas Davies from the Centre for Death-Studies and Life-Studies at Durham University introduced us to stages of remembrance, from floral wreaths to stone memorials.   But, as Dr. Davies pointed out, both burials and cremated remains were (and still are) commemorated with a stone marker. 

He looked at how attitudes have changed in the last hundred years of so, with cremation now far outweighing burial – it was only in the late nineteenth-century that cremation was judged ‘not illegal’.  Surveys showed that women were generally twice as likely as men to prefer cremation for a variety of reasons, including a generation of women after the First World War who did not have a husband’s grave in which to be buried. 

Dr. Davies highlighted the significant role played by individuals in pressing for cremation and more recently for woodland burials and in the creation of the National Memorial Arboretum near Alrewas in Staffordshire, which includes the poignant memorial to men shot at dawn during the First World War who have now been pardonned.  The discussion after the talk touched on how remembrance stones are regulated and the question of taste, as well as the creation of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission fitted into the picture. 

Dr. Davies’ fascinating and stimulating talk encouraged us to consider the dead of the First World War, bringing the cycle of talks that began with considering War Memorials to its conclusion.

Internship Day 1: Research at Bowes Museum

Going to the Bowes felt like putting on an old hat, I’ve visited several times as a child including a time where an actress in full costume pretended to be a ghost of a Victorian woman haunting the grounds. I remember she sung in French. It was the first piece of performance I really appreciated as a child and it did inspire me to pursue the performing arts as I am doing so right at this time.

Anyway, the main aim of yesterday was to soak up as much history as possible from WW1 using the resources from the Bowes Museum Library and archives. These sources varied in form, from letters, postcards and even a diary from a soldier who was on the front line. The first letter I read happened to be the original letter requesting that the Roll of Honour to be made in order to keep track of all serving in WW1 in the Teeside counties including Barnard Castle and Durham. Interestingly the names for all of the nurses on the front line were all requested- this was something I did not expect. I thought that the women of the war effort were mostly overlooked during WW1 but this was a pleasantly surprising revelation.

I went on to read a copy of a Roll of Honours that listed a civilian as well as the soldiers and staff on the western front. I was slightly confused at this but found it to be an astonishing find as the information documented about Mr Watkins in quite remarkable- he was the first Englishman under the age of 50 to escape from Germany or Austria since the outbreak of the war.

I then went on to read newspapers from 1916- quite charmingly filled with adverts for Beechams and Swamp Root as the cure for seemingly any ailment! However, two stories from this paper have stuck with me in the most emotionally charged way. The first was about a solider (whom had fought in wars previous to WW1) who hadn’t been called to fight in WW1 again and was in financial distress. As a consequence of this distress he shot himself on a train, leaving his wife a note telling her to keep his ring and she had been more than a wife to him as well and finishing saying “Auld Lang Syne. God Bless”. This was a seriously harrowing story because of the matter of fact writing style of the piece and the harrowing farewell note he left for his wife. It resonated with me deeply.

Moving onto the other story that really stuck with me it involved one major thing. Socks. It was a statement from a soldier from the front line asking the public to send them socks as they had plenty of mittens and mufflers but yearned for the feeling of dry socks. This was the most inconceivable thing to me because it was such a simple ask during a time of such sorrow- but untimely even more touching because it shows that soldiers were human beings the same as with such humble wants and asks but were willing to put some much on the line for their country.

Another thing that was so shocking to me was how music and song were so essential during WW1. The amount of little ditties and rhymes that were sung to express emotions and keep things upbeat during the war was amazingly inspiring to me as I never realised that people relied on music during the war to express their emotions so vividly (as shown in the photographs within this post). As I was feeling inspiring I wrote a small ditty myself that can be seen below from the perspective of a child saying goodbye as their father goes away to war (please click on image to enlarge my poem): 



(Sorry for the depressing poetry but I felt very emotional at the time of this writing!)

Having walked around the grounds of Bowes itself (they are visually stunning) I feel that I would like to use them in some form within whatever I produce as part of this internship. I’m not sure how yet but I’m determined to do it! I’m not sure where my research will lead me as it is ongoing but I’m determined to make something great as a tribute and memorial to the many great men, women and animals who sacrificed their lives so that we could live.


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Day One of My Internship

When I got the email saying I could apply for an internship with Bowes Museum, it brought back a memory of when I was very young, when my parents took me for a visit. I remembered a very grand building, and the mechanical swan. My parents bought me a keyring: a replica of the fish the swan ‘eats’. I probably still have it, in a drawer somewhere. Suffice to say I was pretty happy when I got a place on the internship.

                During my interview, I was introduced to the concept of living memory: something I’d never thought about before. How does society collectively remember something, when there is no one living left to ask? With memory being something I frequently return to in my own writing, the question fascinated me. I can tell you what happened today pretty clearly. Yesterday, too, is fairly easy to recall. Further back will require some thought and mental mapping on my part, and the waters will only get muddier the further back I go. Certain things stand out vividly, certainly. I can tell you about how nervous I was on my first day of uni (and about how oblivious I was to everyone else feeling exactly the same). I can tell you what it was like to kiss the last girl I was involved with (fantastic, breathless, dizzy). I can even tell you about the first time I tried lobster (Halloween, a hotel in Glasgow). And I can speculate on why those three examples came to me just now (a recent similar feeling; desiderium; hunger, in that order). But what can I tell you about the First World War? Well, after the first day of my internship, and some time looking through the museum’s archives. I can tell you a few things. They’re all about horses.

War horses were separated into three categories: light horses to pull carts; medium horses for cavalry; heavy horses for pulling artillery. It was noted that the army didn’t favour the heavy horses, because they were less able to survive the rigours of war. Because my parents used to keep horses, the horse stuff interested me. I began to scan for more. There was a short article which detailed horse ‘education’ by the army, which was apparently more humane than breaking them in. They had to be trained to charge dummies, because a horse will not naturally charge at a person. Once they knew not to fear the dummies, they were taught to kick them. To prepare the horses for gunfire, fireworks were set off near them. In another article, the RSPCA were collecting for aid for the wounded horses, and there was a collection at Bowes. In another article, I read about a horse standing in the middle of the firing lines during a battle. When some of the Coldstream Guards crawled out to investigate, they found the horse was unharmed, though standing over the body of its dead rider. They had to blindfold it to lead it away; it wouldn’t leave otherwise. It made me think about Warhorse, which potentially opened up another line of inquiry for me to pursue.

So, those are a few things I learned today. We only scratched the surface, from what I gather, and I’m eager to find out more, and to come up with some way to re-remember all of this. And it doesn’t have to all be about horses.

A Prisoner of War

Ralph Hutchinson, born in 1891 at Low Beckhead, Ettersgill, Forest in Teesdale, was the 9th of  ten childr
en born to John Hutchinson, a lead ore miner and farmer, and Margaret Nichol.  Ralph attended Forest School and when he left he worked for John Kipling, a farmer of Stackholme in Lunedale.  In March 1914, aged 23, Ralph married Jane Beadle, of Egg Pot, Forest in Teesdale.  Ralph started to work on the family farm at Beckhead later that year.  Ralph and Jane had two daughters; Lavinia Jane (known as Vinny) and Margaret Ellen (known as Nelly).


However, in 1916 the War Office became desperate for recruits and Ralph was called up for service.  He enlisted on 29th November 1916 in Bishop Auckland, where it was stated on his army medical records that he was of good physical condition.  He commenced his service in the army on 23rd January 1917. He was posted the following day to B. Battalion 88 (the training Reserve Battalion).  On 11th July 1917 he was posted to the 3rd South Staffordshire Regiment.

Ralph was found guilty of overstaying his pass on 4th September 1917, by a number of days, and was fined four days pay.  He was more than likely fully aware that he was about to be posted overseas and had found it difficult to leave his wife and young daughters.  His eldest daughter’s only memory of her father was during this period of leave, of him gazing over the barn door as she played in the farmyard.

On 1st October 1917 Ralph departed from Wallsend, arriving in Boulogne, France on 6th December, where he was transferred to the 8th Leicestershire Battalion (known as the “The Fighting Tigers”).  At this time the Germans had launched a counter attack on the front line at Ypres and the Battalions suffered heavy losses.  The Germans had been pushed back but at a heavy price.  Ralph and others were no doubt being transferred to the Leicestershire Battalions to replace these losses.


It is believed that one of the first tasks that Ralph and his fellow recruits had to undertake was to scour the battlefields for the fallen and remove their remains for burial.  It is reported that senior officers would ply the men with alcohol to lessen the distress of such a horrific task.

In April 1918, the Leicestershire Regiment were 125 miles south of Ypres, in the Aisne Valley.  As the likelihood of a German attack was deemed to be low at this time, the troops were rested. Neglected trenches were overgrown in the green hills where French farmers went about their work peaceably. Little attempt was made to clear the trenches and the troops relaxed for a week.  The respite was, however, short-lived, as increased activity was reported behind the German lines and rumours of a planned attack on 27th May abounded. 

With military precision, the Germans started to shell the area just before 1 am on 27th May 1918.  The British were unprepared and were quickly overcome.  Many of the men were injured, killed or taken prisoner, with reportedly only around a thousand men making a full retreat as dusk fell that day.

Ralph was posted as missing in France and Flanders on 27th May 1918. 

No more was heard of Ralph until his death was notified to the War Office.  It is believed that Ralph had been captured.  He died in the care of French nuns in Montherme on 15th July 1918, from dysentery.

Ralph had been sent to Montherme where he worked in a stone quarry.  Conditions were bleak, food consisted of bad black bread and soup made from dried mangel-wurzel; a beet vegetable normally grown for livestock.  It is believed that the soup was the cause of the many cases of dysentery reported.

Ralph was buried in a civilian cemetery, but in 1934 the Commonwealth Graves Commission moved his body to the Noyers-Pont-Maugis French National Cemetery, near Sedan in the north east of France.

Ralph was awarded the British and Victory Medals.  £22 11s 8d was returned to his wife Jane in February 1919, Ralph’s personal effects.

Please contact us if you have similar stories to Ralph’s.  If you are able to contribute to the World War One Commemoration Project, please contact:

War and Peace

Last week we were visited at The Bowes Museum by Jennifer Sterland. Having travelled north to us from Nottinghamshire – it just goes to show how far spread relatives with Teesdale connections have travelled. 

Jennifer was very keen to introduce to the stories of her two maternal grandparents Roy and Alice Helmer. Roy’s family, though having had an international existence prior to their arrival, chose to settle in Romaldkirk.



Having had such a multi-linguistic childhood, Roy was equipped with a number of languages including French and German – which when it came to war were of great use – bolstered by his experiences in the recently created Boy Scouts movement meant that he was a natural selection for the signals division, first with the 45th Infantry Brigade and the 15th Artillery.

His war was a lucky one – and as he returned home he was committed to tracking down a girl he had once met in the grounds of Barnard Castle at the age of 15. A young girl named Alice Sevier, visiting English relatives who worked as a Doctor in the town.

This might have been a harder task than Roy expected – but for the fact of Alice’s attempted escape from Russia to Finland with her family resulted in being captured by German Forces! Exchanged alongside her sister for German Prisoners of War, we are fortunate to see an exchange of letters between Alice and her brother, Richard.


Separate to being an incredible story of two individuals personal experiences through war and peace – the amounts of valuable informatio that has been presented to the museum in this unique collection of ephemera.

We shall be processing and posting more stories in the coming weeks – so stay tuned for more news about Roy and Alice!

You can find Roy’s profile on our Roll of Honour here.

As always – if you or anyone you know has any information, objects or images relating to families from Teesdale during 1900-1920, we would like to hear from you! Please make contact via