Poole jeweller worked a “miracle” in the mosque

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Soldiers in the First World War confronted death every day on the Front Line from bursting shells, bayonets and gun fire. Private Will Hansford, from Poole, however, once faced danger of a different kind. He risked his life… mending a mosque clock.

This quirky story was unearthed by local history researcher Bryan Gambier, delving into the archives of the Poole and Dorset Herald. History, they say, can teach us lessons that resonate today.

The Hansford family were well known in Poole. They had a jeweller’s shop on the High Street and were also skilled at making watches and clocks.

Private Hansford’s grandfather had been a jeweller in Poole and his father, John William Hansford, followed in the family business. In 1882, John William married Mary Elizabeth Hooper Legg, a policeman’s daughter from Sherborne, and their first-born, Will, came along two years later. Mary would soon give birth to three other children, Florence, Alfred Frank and Bert.

Will was 30 when the First World War broke out and, asked to do his bit for his country, enlisted with the 2nd Dorsets.

The conflict, of course, was not limited to the Western Front. Many soldiers went to fight in Mesopotamia, in the Middle East, where Britain sought to protect the valuable oil fields. The Royal Navy relied heavily on oil.

Private Hansford was among the men posted to Mesopotamia to fight the Turkish Army. It wasn’t an easy billet. Casualty rates, through battle and sickness, ran high.

The 2nd Dorsets soon found themselves camped near Samarra on the bank of the River Tigris, in today’s Iraq.

Inside the city stands a mosque, famous for its beautiful golden dome. Years before the war, its striking clock had had marked time so accurately that, together with the Muezzin, it helped call the Muslim faithful to prayer.

But, one day, 40 years before the conflict, the worn timepiece stopped. Though a masterpiece of engineering, it had rusted and ceased to boom the hours. It stayed silent.

Keen to make friends with the local community, the 2nd Dorsets’ local commanding officer hit on an idea. They would mend the clock. And Poole’s Private Will Hansford, the clockmaker, volunteered to have a go.

Hansford had only Army tools. It was no easy task. Once, hearing scraping sounds above him, he levered a trapdoor and, to his dismay, found himself staring at storks, regarded as sacred birds. He swiftly lowered the door and went back to work.

After three weeks, though, he got it working and the clock chimed out the hours once more.

Overjoyed, the local community hailed Hansford as a ‘messenger from Allah’, sent to help them.

When the war was over, Will Hansford re-joined his father and brother Bert at the family jeweller’s and watchmaker’s business. It had once been at 16 High Street but had long since moved to 143.

It was certainly there in 1901 and, 10 years later, Will and Bert were still living with their father at the shop, the three working as jewellers, watchmakers and clockmakers. The other children, grown up, had moved away. Florence, we know, had once worked as a post office assistant. Their mother, too, it seems, had gone, though her husband still marked himself down as ‘married’.

Come the war, their other brother, Alfred, would also enlist, serving as a Gunner with the Royal Garrison Artillery. Bert may well have served, too.

Their dad, John William, died in 1926, leaving estate to the value of £2,051 (with a purchasing power of about £109,000 today).

Will and Bert would carry on working together at their jewellers’ shop near the old Post Office until 1952 when it would finally close… and the Herald carried its story under the headline, ‘Poole jeweller worked a “miracle” in the mosque’

But what of Private Will Hansford? Like brother Bert, he never married. And, despite the wartime danger he had encountered repairing the mosque, he was to survive for nearly 50 more years to reach the age of 79.

Working on that mosque clock in the midst of a bloody war in which so many died, he was one of the lucky ones. A soldier with time on his hands… in more ways than one.

By Ed Perkins

 

A Volunteer’s View

Edby Ed Perkins, Culture Volunteer

I’ve been intrigued by the First World War since watching Captain Edmund Blackadder wriggling with dismay at the predicament he found himself in on the Front Line on the Western Front.  Well, long before, to be honest. Since being told by my dad about my grandfather’s injury. Wounded at the Battle of Arras, a piece of shrapnel stayed lodged by his heart for the rest of his life. It was too dangerous to remove. He never spoke a word about what he had been through. They didn’t, did they?

But knowing that he must have been through hell, like millions of others, made me wonder: How would I have fared? How would I have felt? With shells, grenades, snipers’ bullets and machine gun fire bursting around me and, perhaps, the threat of gas, would I have held my nerve? Or would the coward in me have crept out?

And so much of the war on the Western Front was a stalemate. ‘We’ve been sitting here since Christmas 1914, during which time millions of men have died, and we’ve advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping,’ said Blackadder, in the classic TV comedy. But we all knew that the comedy masked a grim period in the world’s history. It took a brave person to volunteer to fight in Kitchener’s Army.

Luckily, it didn’t need courage for me to become a volunteer in Poole Museum’s fascinating First World War project that is looking into how the conflict affected the town and the legacy it left behind. It has been an education, giving me a small insight into what those men, and their families left behind, went through. And what might have befallen you and me if born at a different time.

My assignment is to look at the stories of the survivors. They were the lucky ones. But, even so, a great many of them were damaged by the experience. Each has a unique tale that they could have told, though so many couldn’t bear burden their loved ones what they had been through.

One of those Poole soldiers was William Barfoot. And, on top of the horrors he endured on active service in France, he was to receive bombshell news from back home. On April 20 1916, his nine-year-old son, Jesse, was killed by a train on the railway line by Poole Park.

We don’t know how the news was broken to him but we do know that a few days after the tragedy happened, the Registry of Births and Deaths in Poole sent a request saying payment was due. They wanted the half-crown (12.5p) for the cost of registering the boy’s death. And a penny extra for Stamp Duty.

William lived with his wife, Bessie, with their youngest children in Market Street, Poole. Bessie Amey and William had married in Wimborne in 1901. A labourer by occupation, he must have been out of work in August 1915 for he was sent by the Labour Exchange in Bournemouth to a recruiting sergeant. He was 40 years old and 5ft 4ins, not unusual for the times. The next day he was in the Royal Engineers and less than three weeks later was serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

We don’t know how Pioneer Barfoot reacted at first to the awful news of his son’s death. Little Jesse was partially deaf, an inquest would be told. He had always been told to keep off the railway line and Jesse had promised his mum he was going to the Ladies Walking Field. But, on that fateful day, he had climbed over the railings and onto the line with two friends to get a piece of wood. They stayed on the line to collect fir cones and pick up sticks. When one heard a train coming he shouted to warn the others… but Jess did not hear. He was knocked down by the train at the bridge at what local people called ‘the bunny’.

The train stopped as soon as it could. The driver, no doubt traumatised himself, was later praised for the speed of his reactions. But poor Jesse had had no chance. He had died instantaneously.

Across the Channel, though death was a daily fact of life for soldiers on active service, the loss of his third youngest son must have hit Pioneer Barfoot hard. The following year, a little over a year after the anniversary of his son’s death, he was up on a disciplinary charge. On May 29 1917 he ‘absented himself from work from 3pm to 5pm’. He had gone to an ‘estaminet’ – a French café bar. He was given fourteen days’ field punishment under ‘close arrest’. William Barfoot, who would be transferred to the Labour Company before returning to the Royal Engineers to serve with the Water Boring section, was not granted leave until the following October. He would have to wait until the January of 1919 before being demobbed and able to return home for good.

There is something especially poignant in the ordeal of William Barfoot but every soldier’s life revealed in the Poole Museum First World War project can uncover a compelling story. For my starting point in looking at their wartime history I’m using the Poole Absent Voters List, comprehensively drawn up by a fellow volunteer. It lists the servicemen from the town who were registered to vote in the 1918 election, when still in the Armed Forces. Many having them would be voting for the first time.

When Captain Edmund Blackadder, in Blackadder Goes Forth, hears that his batman Baldrick may get the vote, his reaction is predictable. ‘Give the likes of Baldrick the vote and we’ll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner,’ he observed.

He was wrong. If anyone deserved the vote to decide on the country’s future it was the men who had served on the Western (and other) Fronts. Their often bleak stories are our heritage. And, perhaps, lessons to be learnt.

 

 

 

Poole and the Army Veterinary Corp

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Image Courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Whilst compiling a database of Poole servicemen from the Absentee Voters Register of 1918, it soon became apparent that there were a number of soldiers in the Army Veterinary Corps (A.V.C) who all lived in the same area of Lower Parkstone. Seven of these men lived in Courthill Park Road, Florence Road, and King’s Road. Three of them were NCOs and four were privates.

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Cornelia Hospital and how it became the first local hospital to receive World War One casualties

This is a guest blog post taken from Poole’s Health Record – a blog by one of our project volunteers and a Local Health Historian.

Visit the blog to find out more about the history of health in Poole.

Cornelia Hospital and how it became the first local hospital to receive World War One casualties

 

September 1914 – Britain had been at war for a month. The military authorities were still assuring the Red Cross that there was enough accommodation to deal with the wounded of the British Expeditionary Force, and that the “temporary hospitals” which the Red Cross were offering were not likely to be needed short of the country being invaded. The Red Cross and its VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachments) were getting frustrated. The British Red Cross Society was formed in 1870, but the Dorset Red Cross had only been operating since 1911. It was the War Office that had launched the idea of using VADs, in 1909,  inspired by events in the far-off Russo-Japanese war of 1904/5.

During September 1914 the Poole detachment of the Red Cross was busy setting up the Bournemouth and Branksome Voluntary Relief Hospital as one of the temporary hospitals, even though it was sited in neighbouring Bournemouth. This was renamed Crag Head Military Hospital, receiving its first patients in October. The nearest official military hospital was also in Bournemouth, but no patients were admitted there until November.

Cornelia Hospital was Poole’s general hospital, a voluntary hospital only established in 1889 and set up on its Longfleet site only 7 years before the war started. This was a small hospital of only 17 beds, but it was to play a big part in Poole’s  war.  In September 1914 there were no plans in place for any military patients to be admitted to the Cornelia Hospital – the major worry was probably whether their local doctors would leave to join up. All this changed in a few days, whether plans were ready for war casualties or not. The exigencies of war did not wait for plans. Cornelia suddenly became the first local hospital with wounded soldiers from the Front.BEAMISH COLLECTION The Cornelia Hospital, Poole. 1907. File A42.

The story of how the Cornelia Hospital dealt with a sudden and unexpected influx of war casualties is told, albeit succinctly, in the hospital’s Annual Report for 1914:

In the month of September your Committee received a most urgent appeal on behalf of sick and wounded Belgian soldiers, and at short notice, the out-patients waiting room was furnished as a ward, and accommodation offered to ten patients. Beds were provided by friends, and certain structural additions of a temporary nature were made to that part of the Hospital. Subscriptions were received for the special purpose of meeting the expenditure on this account, but the total cost has not been provided for, yet the Committee believe that they would have failed to anticipate the wishes of the subscribers if they had refused what treatment and comfort the Hospital could afford to these brave soldiers, whose patient courage under their sufferings have won for them so much affection and respect.

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1912 Plan of the Hospital with Outpatients on the right

The Belgian soldiers had been brought into Poole by sea, and the Cornelia was the only possible place available for them to be taken. Suddenly a hospital of only 17 beds managed to set up another 10 beds in its outpatients department, sending out to benefactors to supply the beds and presumably bedding. There were rarely beds to spare in its two wards – average daily occupancy of its 17 beds was 16.46 in 1912 and strangely 18.01 in 1913. The largest space in the small building for extra beds was the busy outpatients room. How it dealt with outpatients for the next few weeks is not known. This was a hospital with no resident medical staff and normally only 5 nurses under a Matron. There were 23 Belgian soldiers admitted in all. No arrangements could be made beforehand as to how what was a very financially shaky voluntary hospital would pay for their care and maintenance.

One person affected by the sudden arrival of the Belgian soldiers was the much-decorated nurse Charlotte Paterson. She was due to leave for France from her post at the Cornelia Hospital, but the arrival of the wounded men at 11pm the night beforehand meant she changed her plans. She carried on at the Cornelia and it wasn’t until October 1915 she finally reached France.

The hospital had plenty of space in its grounds. It had been built on a site with a specific purpose of having enough space for future expansion. The result was that the Red Cross were able to create 2 new wards from scratch and opened them in the November of that year. Later extra tented wards were used in Summer months. The original plan had been to use local schools as hospitals, but the Council would not allow that. The way Cornelia rose to the occasion for the Belgian soldiers may have influenced the decision to build military wards on the Cornelia site. The hospital was jointly run for the rest of the war, albeit remaining under the Cornelia Matron, Helen Milne. Cornelia Hospital went on to have 140 beds and admit a total of 2583 military patients in the war, whilst still caring for  its local patients.

By 1918  11 auxiliary military hospitals had been opened in Poole, with the Poole Red Cross detachment still staffing Crag Head Hospital in Bournemouth. Some had been originally established as private convalescent units, but by 1918 they were all run by detachments of the British Red Cross. They employed some trained nurses and cooks, but were mostly staffed by VADs in both nursing and support roles. The majority were convalescent units, but others, like Cornelia, offered full medical and surgical treatments.

Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson

Charlotte Paterson 1938

It is International Women’s Day today and the theme of the 2017 campaign is ‘Be Bold For Change’.  To celebrate this I want to write about Charlotte Helene Jessie Paterson who was born in Scotland but lived in Poole for over 50 years.

Miss Paterson came to Poole in 1903 at the age of 29 and lived at Corfe Lodge, Osborne Road, Parkstone until her death in December 1955.  On the 1911 census she is listed, living with her siblings.  Her brother, Archibald Richard Paterson, a doctor of medicine is head of the household and under the heading ‘Employer, Worker or Working on own account’ he has filled in that Charlotte is part of the Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise Societies.  Her sister is also recorded as part of the Women’s Suffrage Societies.

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On 7th January 1938 the Wessex Gazette reported that Miss Paterson received an M.B.E in the New Years honours.  Her award was for “political and public services in East Dorset” however the newspaper records:

She had already deserved well of her country before her public career in Dorset commenced by reason of her remarkable services to the British and French Armies during the Great War.  She entered Germany before the Armies of Occupation and her most cherished possession is one of the French tricolours which was hoisted in celebration of the Peace Treaty. 

The newspaper goes on to state that Nurse Paterson joined the Cornelia Hospital staff in Poole on 8th August 1914 after nursing in London.  As she was an expert at speaking French in October 1915 she went to France and spent the war on the front line fighting area.

For a few months she was at a large hospital east of Paris and she was then sent to the Queen of the Belgians Hospital, at Lapanne, close to the villa of the gallant Belgian Royal family.  She was among the very first to receive the Queen Elizabeth Medal with Red Cross from the Belgian Queen.  It was only given to those nursing within range of the enemy guns.  At that time her hospital suffered the ordeal of an enemy bombardment, lasting twelve days and nights, during which she had several remarkable escapes from death.  She was in charge of the reception pavilion where the wounded- they could be brought in twenty minutes from the firing line- were taken and received their first operations.

As she was the only British nurse she was recalled for her proximity to the fighting, she rebelled and ended up joining the French Army who had a shortage of nurses.  Straight after the war she entered Germany with a French nurse and they reported their findings to the British Commander at Metz who asked her to carry out similar work there.  She was ultimately awarded the Croix de Guerre.

After the war Miss Paterson served on Poole Town Council 1924-1934 and represented Poole on the County Council.  She campaigned to get the first female police officer appointed in Poole and also established an Occupational Centre for Mental Welfare in Poole.  In 1924 she was made a Justice of the Peace.

After Charlotte’s death in 1955 the Poole and Dorset Herald published an obituary:

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A fitting tribute to a woman who was definitely courageous and ‘Bold for Change’.

 

Work Experience Student

In Poole History Centre today we have had the help of a work experience student from Lytchett Minster School, age 15.  We decided to give her a task using the Poole and Dorset Herald for the war years.

The task was to look through the newspaper from  1917 – 1919 and pull out any snippets that could be used as ‘100 years ago today’ tweets or articles.  Here are the student’s reflections on the work she produced for the project:

Today I have looked through newspaper articles about events in Poole from April 1917 to April 1919 during World War One. It was incredibly interesting.  History has never been my best subject at school as I do not enjoy learning about lots of death as it puts me in a bad mood.  75% of these records were injuries and death. But the other 25% really shows Poole as a happy community, even back then when everything was going wrong and there was only a small amount of hope left. Poole got that little bit of hope and turned it into a beacon. Life moved on and happy events occurred like weddings and charities to support the soldiers.  The amount of lives that Poole saved, from German wounded soldiers to children falling into the harbour, just shows how the little acts of kindness that Poole did, gave good news to everybody else, refilling their low level of hope and tolerance.

The snippets extracted will prove very useful when promoting the project, researching and adding news to the timeline.  It seems like the work was equally valuable for the student and she enjoyed her time with us.

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Project Update: what’s happening four months into the project?

At this stage of our project the majority of activity is taking place behind the scenes.  The project team are planning and working with website developers and communication teams to start building and promoting our website.

An initial task is to digitise the Poole and Dorset Herald for the war years- this is possible thanks to funding from the Poole Historical Trust.  We are working with a scanning company to create digital images and searchable files from the microfilms.  This will be an exciting outcome of the project as the newspaper for our selected time period 1914- 1924 (to also cover the immediate years after the war) will be searchable and accessible to a much wider audience- including local school children.

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We have moved three of our existing Poole History Centre volunteers onto the project.  They are involved with creating a definitive Roll of Honour for Poole, plotting the geographical locations of where Poole people died onto a world map and researching First World War medical and hospital sites in the Borough.  Eventually we will need a larger team of volunteers so watch this space if you are interested in getting involved.

Finally, we are working on promoting the project.  We want people to learn about this important part of their history and their connection to it.  We want to commemorate those brave Poole people who made the ultimate sacrifice.  Currently we are doing most of our promotion through this blog and our twitter profile, so please do share our project news and we’re always available for a chat if you want to find out more.

 

Parkstone Man’s War Adventures

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In Poole History Centre you can access the Poole and Dorset Herald for the war years- in fact you can access the newspaper from the 1840s- 1970s.

Local historian, Bryan Gambier, uncovered a fascinating First World War story when using the 1934 Herald for research.  The story reads like an adventure novel but recounts the real life experience of Parkstone man- Ernest Fendley.

The Poole and Dorset Herald serialised Ernest’s story over a number of weeks in May 1934.  The story begins:

Few experiences during the Great War can have been more amazing in their way than those of Mr Ernest Fendley, of “Coneyhurst”, Balston Road, Upper Parkstone.  Taken prisoner at Mons, he escaped within a few hours and spent the whole of the war period in hiding and then openly posing as a Frenchman behind the German lines.  Death would have been the penalty had he been caught by the invaders, but he was young, agile and quick witted, and managed time and time again to evade recapture by the proverbial “skin of his teeth”. Early in the war Mr Fendley had been reported killed, but within a fortnight of the Armistice he came home to his surprised parents, and today is a very popular bus driver in the employ of Bournemouth Corporation.

After escaping capture on the 24th August 1914, Ernest walked to try and rejoin British lines.  He ended up in France in the town of St. Quentin but had to go into hiding as Germans had occupied the town.

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Ernest was taken in by a Frenchman, M. Curley, and was in hiding in his family home for the next two years.

The Herald reports:

Eventually he was befriended by an old Frenchman whom he calls M. Curley, and in whose house he hid for two years […] Mr Fendley tells of the anxiety under which he lived for those two years, and how he had to make full use of his youthful wits and agility to escape the vigilance of the suspicious German police.

In January 1916 Ernest made his narrowest escape, he was sleeping in the family home when the Germans crashed through the front door at 7am.  He had to run into the master bedroom and hide “up over the paper ceiling”.  Although one of the Germans did thrust the blade of his sword up through the paper ceiling he missed Ernest and didn’t have time to continue the search.  The Curleys were arrested but didn’t betray him.  After this Ernest never slept in the house but in a nearby loft.

Towards the end of 1916 Ernest was becoming expert at French and he also learnt that someone in the village was against him “we get so many letters sent to The Herr Kommandant that you [M. Curley] are hiding an Englishman that we have to keep coming here.”

However, due to the military situation after the Battle of the Somme the Germans lost interest in the hiding place of one alleged Englishman.

On March 1st 1917 the whole of the civilian population of St. Quentin was to be evacuated to other towns further behind the lines.  There were around 18 young Frenchmen without identification cards and Ernest joined this group. He successfully posed as Frenchman Francois Venet and eventually was posted to work in a slaughter house until March 1918.

Throughout the remainder of the war Ernest was moved around and it was a “terrible period of food shortage”.  He and fellow prisoners would make dandelion stew to supplement their rations.

After the Armistice Ernest was able to travel back to England as an Englishman and enjoyed a happy reunion with his family on his return to Poole.

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This is an incredible story, and is fully available in Poole History Centre if you want to read more.  It shows the wealth of information available in newspaper archives and also highlights a very personal and unique wartime experience of a Parkstone man.

 

Poole Grammar School History Research Group

“It was a sobering experience, yet one that left us enthused to continue the project” Thomas  Spiers, Poole Grammar School student.

Poole, the First World War and its Legacy is a project to build a website and alongside this a major aim is to engage the community to learn and discover more about their First World War heritage.

Throughout the project we want to work with local schools, community groups, church groups and the general public. We want to encourage research, explore local stories, promote the website and allow people to make a connection with this aspect of their heritage.

Poole Grammar School are one of the first schools to become involved with the project.  The History Research Group have visited Poole History Centre at Poole Museum on two occasions to experience hands on research using primary and secondary sources.

Here is an account of their visit from student Thomas Spiers:

The history research group at Poole Grammar School recently went on a visit to Poole History Centre to further investigate the war dead of 1914-18 that attended the school.  This being original research, we went open to the possibilities that the archive might present: we had little idea of how our work would proceed.  That said, with the help of several sources, including the internet genealogy database ancestry.com and the complete collection of the East Dorset Herald throughout the war, most were able to locate their subject and identify a line of enquiry.  However, the most rewarding part of the trip was the surprise of unexpected evidence and other records, such as photographs, which really brought home the personal ramifications of the research.  It was a sobering experience, yet one that left us enthused to continue the project.

Feedback from the students has been positive, showing that they value the chance to undertake original research.  For example, when asked- did you enjoy the session? One student responded “Very much, I found out more than I anticipated.”

This research into the lives of past Grammar School boys who went to war will be included on the new website.  Learning about boys from the same school who fought and died will potentially have an impact on today’s students.  This will ensure that the First World War remains within their collective consciousness.

Please contact us if you are a school, community group or individual interested in joining the project, researching Poole ancestors or memorials or just curious to find out more about the project: localhistory@poole.gov.uk / 01202 262621

 

First steps towards creating a Poole, the First World War and its Legacy website

This week, David Watkins, Local History Manager at Poole Museum, travelled to Cardiff to meet with Imaginet- the web design and development agency who will create the website for the project (David Watkins pictured centre with the Imaginet team)IMG_0003.JPG

The website will be an invaluable resource which will ensure that the First World War remains within the community consciousness.

We will tell the story of Poole, the First World War and its Legacy through a definitive roll of honour commemorating those who made the ultimate sacrifice, alongside a roll of service also telling the stories of those who returned.  We will relate places in Poole to the world- showing where Poole people served, worked in war industry and even how individual streets in Poole were affected.  Finally we hope to create a timeline, by  relating events in Poole to events worldwide, through the war years and the period of social change immediately after.

The trip to Imaginet was an initial kick off meeting to discuss our wish list and needs with the development team.  Imaginet have previously worked on the New Forest Remembers website, also funded by the Heritage Lottery 

http://www.imaginet.co.uk/work/new-forest-remembers/  

We are very excited about developments and looking forward to the website progressing.  Of course once the website has been built that is just the beginning.  It will be an ongoing process for staff, volunteers and the local community to research and add information and stories.

Watch this space for more updates, ideas about how to get involved and events that we will hold to showcase and promote the project.