Hartshill in the First World War
Alongside Hartshill International the other major new event was the launch of the project, Hartshill in the First World War. The primary activity of the first phase of this was a weekend of activities on 2-3 August, although the project will run through to 2018.
This year, 2014, is seeing many events to commemorate the start of World War I in 1914, both nationally and locally. As our local MP, Tristram Hunt, wrote at the beginning of the year, it will be a time for ‘national reflection and respectful debate’. HAHO wishes to be part of this reflective debate, and launched its commemoration with the weekend of activities, just ahead of the centenary of the outbreak of hostilities, on 4 August 1914. This is supported by a generous grant received from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: then and now programme.
A prelude to the weekend of activities was the key-note address by our local MP, Dr Tristram Hunt, on ‘Stoke on Trent in the First World War’. This was held on Thursday 17 July at the Medical Institute. The 150 who attended enjoyed a stimulating account of a variety of aspects of the theme, and the talk was followed by a Q&A session, and a book-signing.
Then, on Saturday 2 August HAHO, running from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, we launched an exhibition of photographs, biographies and other memorabilia of soldiers and others connected with the local area, Hartshill, during WWI. This was at the Minton Centre. Alongside others, Reg Edwards, local historian, and HAHO Treasurer, has conducted research into archives, Sentinel files, and hospital records that led to the exhibition. In 2014 our main focus is on the names on the War Memorial in Hartshill churchyard. Who were these soldiers, where did they come from, what family members still live in the area: these and others are the questions the exhibition seeks to answer.
Alongside the exhibition there were readings of poetry from WWI, as well as specially commissioned story-telling, and drama, while the day ended with community singing. At the heart of the day were two talks, by Reg Edwards, on ‘Hartshill and World War I’; and by Barbara Andrew, whose grandmother was a suffragette, who talked about ‘Women before the war, the national and local picture’. There was also a film show of footage from the period, compiled and presented by Professor Ray Johnson of Staffordshire University; the film also included recent interviews with local people connected with the project. The day was a tremendous success with around 150 people present for all or part of the day, with very positive feedback from many people.
The following day, Sunday 3 August, at 2.30 pm there was a service of commemoration by the War Memorial in Hartshill Churchyard, in which representatives from local Sikh and Muslim communities took part, alongside people from local Christian churches. The Lord Mayor of the City of Stoke-on-Trent, Councillor Majid Khan, was present on both days.
Following the service, there was a parade led by local Air and Army Cadets, and other groups to Hartshill Cemetery, where the Lord Mayor and others laid wreaths. This in turn was followed by a guided walk round Hartshill cemetery, led by Reg Edwards, where there are about 90 war graves. There were about 80 people in attendance.
Following these events the exhibition went on ‘tour’ around local venues, including the Civic Centre, UHNS hospital, local schools and churches. Both Reg Edwards and Barbara Andrew have given further talks on WWI, and the WWI poetry was read to students at Thistley Hough Academy on 7 November.
Local historian Reg Edwards has thoroughly researched Hartshill, (with Basford and Cliff Vale) during the First World War and gives details of the participation of local residents in that conflict.
Please visit his site for the history of Hartshill and Basford, images and profiles of WW1 soldiers and much more.