Proposed ‘Poole Workshop’ at Enham Village Centre

There was a lengthy debate over what was an appropriate First World War memorial for Poole. Some thought it should be something useful such as public baths, housing for ex-servicemen, or even a new fire engine. Some wanted a stone memorial but others believed it would be of no practical benefit. One suggestion was the creation of a ‘Poole Workshop’ at the Enham Village Centre, near Andover. A Culture volunteer on the Poole History Centre First World War project provides some of the background to the proposal.

Enham Village Centre was the first to be set up by the ‘Village Centres for Curative Treatment and Training Council’, a scheme supported by King George V and Queen Mary, to aid the rehabilitation of disabled ex-servicemen. The aim was to help them receive training in farming, gardening, forestry and other rural-type industries that would enable them to get employment. In its first year, it trained around one hundred men but had a waiting list of six hundred.

The Mayor of Poole, G.A. Dolby, and Mr Harry Brooks, JP, proposed to raise £1,000 to build a ‘Poole Workshop’ at the Centre. The Mayor had already written to nearly 200 employers in the Borough encouraging them to employ disabled ex-servicemen. The Poole Trades and Labour Council had discussed what was a suitable memorial and welcomed  the proposal for a ‘Workshop’  as it would ‘give some hope in life’ to men whose future was otherwise bleak.

 ‘The Great Work’, a film about the Centre, and an accompanying lecture were put on at the Amity Hall in Poole during March 1920 but the attendance was poor. To support the fund-raising effort, Mr J. Bravery, the Managing Director of Amity Hall, decided to show the film during an evening of singing and musical entertainment. All money raised would go to the appeal. The date chosen was Sunday April 25 1920 and for the event to occur approval had to be sought from various authorities. In his application at the Poole Police Court, Mr Bravery gave the reasons for the event and said that it would be held ‘after church hours’. The magistrates in Poole agreed to allow the film to be shown. However, the General Purposes Committee of Dorset County Council decided to turn down the application because under the Cinematograph Act of 1909 it was illegal to show films on a Sunday.

 Letters to the local newspaper expressed unhappiness with the decision and pointed out the aim of the film was to raise funds for a charity and similar events had been allowed. One correspondent also noted that soldiers had been expected to go ‘over the top’ into battle any day of the week. The well-attended event did go ahead, but without the film, and Mr Harry Brooks gave a short talk on the work of the village centres.

Only £105 had been donated by late August 1920. It is possible that people were feeling the effects of trying to support the numerous charities needing help in the aftermath of the war – a typical wage was around £5 per week.  The Poole Trades and Labour Council accepted that many people were on inadequate incomes but said that any donation, however small, was always welcome. Interestingly, Bournemouth was also considering funding a ‘Workshop’ at Enham as the town’s war memorial. It is believed that the plans of both Poole and Bournemouth were unsuccessful.

Members of the Poole branch of the ‘Comrades of the Great War’ visited Enham Village Centre in September 1920. They found 130 men were being trained at the Centre and that two were from the Borough of Poole. The names of the two men are so far unknown.

Enham later became known as Enham Alamein because injured from the WW2 Battle of El Alamein were sent there and after fund-raising in Egypt in November 1945 helped secure its future. More recently, ‘The Enham Trust’ has supported people with various conditions helping them become more independent.