Religion and the War

By Judith Phillips

Saturday saw the first in this year’s series of talks, starting with a double-bill!  Reverend David Youngson has been supporting the project since its early days, and I have profited from his immense knowledge of Army chaplains in particular – David is very generous with his time and support.  Introducing himself as ‘that mad blind vicar from Billingham’ – a description frequently used, apparently, when he contacts organisations asking for and offering information – he kept the audience listening attentively and appreciatively.  I bet he must preach a very good sermon!

Taking up the theme of ‘religion and war, we were fortunate to have another project supporter as Dr. Denise Coss looked at how Christian church authorities, particularly the Church of England, responded to the outbreak and continuation of the war, including a hope that this could trigger a religious revival.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take notes on all of the talks as a couple of badly-timed bouts of coughing meant I had to leave both talks for part of the time.  So, please bear with me, and I will write up fuller reports with the help of the speakers and of members of the audience.  For information about future talks and events, please read Dates for your diary.

Dates for your diary April – November

The next talk is on Saturday 29th April at 2.30 when Alan Fiddler and Marie Caffrey will introduce us to their current project ‘Dominion Geordies’.  Some Teesdale examples will be included , which will add to the interest – we already have a couple of ‘dominion’ Teesdalers on our Roll of Honour database and it will be great to find out more about how they come to be there.  I know a little about this project and it’s ambitious and fascinating! 

On Saturday 27th May at 2.30 we welcome the WWI Red Cross from North Yorkshire.  The Red Cross administered a range of hospitals throughout the country, often in converted accommodation – from stately homes to school buildings.  We’ve already found out about the Bell-Irving ladies from Rokeby and know about the Museum’s sending tomatoes for convalescent soldiers, so this is an opportunity to learn more about the organisation behind them.  For this talk we are also promised a hands-on session with some of the equipment used during the war.

All the above events can be booked online at www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk or by telephoning Reception 01833 690606.

In the autumn, we will have talks on Conscientious Objectors and the Richmond Castle project (9th September) and Poppies, Women and War coupled with the opportunity to attend a photography workshop (4th November).  In between, we’ve organised a drop-in event that should appeal to all generations in the family, involving food and art, on 7th October.  We’ll publish more details about these events individually on the Events section of this website and on the main museum website.

A Modern Act of Remembrance

By Judith Phillips

Last Saturday saw the launch of A Modern Act of Remembrance, a collection of pieces of creative writing by three Northumbria University students.  They were responding to WWI material in the archives and on loan for the project, and also to objects and spaces in the museum and the park.  Two of the students and their tutor read an extract each, and I have to confess that I found the pieces very moving.  Copies of A Modern Act of Remembrance will be available in the museum for visitors to borrow and read during a visit (please return them after use – there’s only a limited supply).

The launch was part of the morning’s event which was part of a series of Open meetings throughout the project’s lifetime.  Volunteers talked about their experiences of doing online and more traditional research, and inputting information into the database, and people attending were given a quick preview of talks and events planned for 2017 (see Dates for your diary.)

Our first ‘munitionette’? UPDATED

By Judith Phillips

We’ve recently been sent some photographs of Elizabeth Anne Hogget – known as Lily in the family – from Barnard Castle who worked in a munitions factory during the First World War.  There were munitions factories in Newton Aycliffe and Darlington and it’s not clear yet where Lily worked – but the family thinks it was probably Darlington.  Does anyone recognise where the women are standing in this outdoor photograph?

In the more posed photograph Lily is sitting with a group of fellow-munition workers – ‘munitionettes’.  All the women are wearing overdresses and caps, necessary precautions as the materials and machinery they were using were messy and potentially dangerous.  The clothes are practical and look as though they are worn over ordinary blouses and skirts.  But it’s interesting to see that the women have added an individual touch to their uniform, even if only because they were being photographed.  You can see lace and other blouse collars outside their overdress collars and even the caps are worn in rather individual ways. 

The ‘shells crisis’ of 1915 led to an increase in the manufacture of shells under Lloyd George as Minister of Munitions.  Many women took work in the factories because they offered higher wages than other factory work or domestic service – traditionally seen as employment for working-class women.  Lily Hoggett is the first ‘munitionette’ we have been given any real information about.  We know that a sister of George, Tom, Walter and Stanley Croft  ‘worked in munitions’ as she is mentioned in the Teesdale Mercury report of Mrs. Croft receiving the medals awarded to George Croft, killed in 1917. (You can see details of the Croft brothers’ service on the Roll of Honour on www.thebowesmuseumww1.org.uk).  There will have been other women from Teesdale involved in munitions manufacturing – perhaps you know of one?  We’d love to hear about them.

Lily married William Tallentire in 1918, before the end of the war.  I found that out by checking on Ancestry but there’s plenty more research to be done about Lily and her family.  Her descendants who have kindly sent us copies of their family photographs have promised to pass on any family history information and we can use Ancestry to check William’s military service as well as census records and civil registration records (births, marriages and deaths).  

That’s what makes this project so fascinating – piecing together the stories of the men and women from Teesdale whose lives were affected by the war on the front line and at home.  If you have any information or artefacts about Teesdale people and the First World War, we’d love to hear from you.  You can email: libraryandarchives@thebowesmuseum.org.uk or telephone: 01833 690606 ext. 208 (answerphone).

UPDATE: Following on from this article’s inclusion in an earlier newsletter, we’ve been contacted by a few people who say the munitions workers must have been at Darlington as the Aycliffe works weren’t operational until the Second World War.  We’re always grateful to members of the public who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise.  Sometimes we publicise a name or ‘fact’ in the hope that someone out there has more information or can put us right.  So, please, keep on looking at entries on the website and stories in the newsletter, and help us out when we get it a bit wrong or ask a question.

WW1 and food

By Judith Phillips

Just to whet your appetites (or not)!  Several project volunteers have been reading the Teesdale Mercury to pick out references to any war-related items – not just notices of death or wounding or soldiers home on leave, but also more local events, often fundraising concerts or a notice about ‘home comforts’ sent out to the troops.  But the Teesdale Mercury also kept people in Teesdale in touch with the wider world.

Throughout the war the newspaper included national information about the war and other news.  It also included ‘useful’ articles on how to run the home, designed to help housewives cope with life on the home front.  Some middle-class housewives were without servants for the first time in their lives!  Perhaps they were the people who most benefitted from advice on how to make clothing material go further or followed the recipes for dishes that took into account the fact that it was not easy to get a wide range of foodstuffs.

One volunteer has become very interested in the food advice and recipes, but she recently said that she didn’t think she’d have wanted to eat so many dishes created using stale bread!  Food is a theme we plan to explore further when we consider how we will mark the end of the project.  (I know it’s nearly two years ahead, but we need to start planning now).

And, on the theme of food, keeps your eyes peeled for an event later this year when we hope to offer you the chance to find out more about food during WWI.