WW1 Heritage weekend exhibition
Over the weekend of 13th/14th September 2014, the West Watford History Group hosted an exhibition and display commemorating West Watford's part in World War One. It took place in the Scout Hut, Durban Road East, home of the former Labour Church in Watford.
Research by members of the group into various aspects of the war had continued apace for some months and the meetings leading up to the Heritage Weekend were concerned solely with the progress of the project. A final meeting on the Tuesday of that week seemed to bring all the threads together but there were naturally still some misgivings and a little trepidation about how well the hall could be 'dressed' and how well the exhibition could be presented. Not to mention the question of whether anyone would come to see it! But a leaflet drop around the streets of West Watford, posters and other publicity had hopefully alerted residents to the event and it was a case of fingers crossed.
On the Saturday morning, the group met early to find drapes and pennants had already been hung, together with a banner proclaiming "Workers of the World Unite", the idea taken from an early black and white photo of the hall as it was at the time of the Labour Church. Apart from those, virtually everything else remained to be done.
Work begins to bring the exhibition to life
Activity followed at an ever increasing pace with display boards being erected, tables put in place, cakes arriving for the "tea room", computers and projectors being connected and film shows checked, before most people broke for lunch. But by about ten to two, one or two people had already wandered into the hall to take a look.
During the afternoon there followed a steady flow of visitors, including the Mayor of Watford, the Chair of the West Watford Community Association, Mary Forsythe from the Museum and local Councillors. Just as, if not more importantly, the residents of West Watford came to take a look. There was much to see; the role of the Boy Scouts in WW1, stories of conscientious objectors, the Quakers and the Labour Church, the use of horses and animals during the war, a slide show, a display of artwork by Walter Crane and William Morris, many photographs and books and the culmination of heavy research into the men who went to war from West Watford, all contained on a database where it was possible to discover if someone from the house you currently live in went off to war and whether they were killed or came home - "Find Out Who Went To War From Your Street".
As an added attraction, one or two group members donned period costume, along with younger members of their family, which gave a little touch of authenticity to the proceedings.
And after all that looking and reading and ingesting of information, there was tea and cake - or biscuits - home made, very reasonably priced and equally popular.
The following afternoon, Sunday, the doors opened again and another steady stream of people, young and old, came to view the exhibition, including Sarah Kerenza-Priestley and Gemma Meek from the museum and members of the West Watford Women's Walking Group, who had deferred their walk from the morning to the afternoon in order to visit.
By the time the last visitors left and the displays were taken down, it was agreed that the weekend had been a resounding success. It was estimated that over 150 people came to look and many filled out a 'Visitors' Comment Form'. Here are quoted a few of the things they said :
'Very fine effort by everyone'
'Very informative. Helpful people on the 'stalls'
'The amount of research that has been done is very impressive'
'Very informative - had never heard of the Labour Church before! Interesting references to places and people from Watford and their part in WW1 which I was not aware of'
'Shame it's not open for longer - would be very useful for school parties to come to - Maybe the info could be lent to local schools etc'
'The whole event was wonderful - very interesting and well organised - and the tea and cakes were good too!'
'All displays were most interesting with an impressive amount of material. Only suggestion would be to have some simpler summary guides to give an overall picture - like the information sheets in the porch which I only read on the way out!'
'Just to say it was fantastic. Love it. Thank you'
Someone also asked if any of the information on display would find its way onto the website and the answer is 'yes'. It may take a little while, but we will endeavour to upload our research over the coming weeks.
So finally, a big thank you to everyone who helped with the exhibition over the Heritage Weekend; those who transported and helped set up the displays, those who made cakes or served the teas, those who took the trouble to dress up, those who helped with the artwork and those who delivered leaflets. Most importantly, those who took the time to come and visit the exhibition. You made all the hard work worthwhile. And not forgetting our own West Watford History Group members who had produced such a wealth of research and information.
If anyone visited and was inspired by the Exhibition and would like to share their local knowledge or their memories of West Watford, please feel free to contact us or come along to one of our meetings (dates can be found on the Home page).