A Land Fit For Heroes: Two WEA courses

A guest post by WEA tutor Mark Krantz 

Three mass movements dominated politics before the war.

The suffragettes had led a militant campaign demanding votes for women.

Trade union membership had soared as increasingly workers took strike action demanding wage rises in a period between 1910 and 1914 known as the ‘Great Unrest’.

Home Rule for Ireland had increasingly attracted support in parliament and amongst the people of Ireland. The outbreak of war in August 1914 halted these movements.

The People’s History Museum’s latest changing exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes: War and the Working Class 1914-1918 states that, ‘By Christmas 1914 the trade union movement had contributed 250,000 men to the effort’. The militant trades union leaders Ben Tillett and Will Thorne joined the recruitment drive.

Leading suffragettes Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst vociferously supported the war.

The campaign for Irish Home Rule was shelved as the British Empire was threatened by the war.

But as the war dragged on – opposition to the war grew.

Sylvia_PankhurstSuffragette Sylvia Pankhurst was an active opponent of the war. Glasgow Rent Strike WW1In 1915 rent strikes led by women spread across Glasgow, and workers demands for wage rises returned. At Easter in 1916 there was an uprising in Ireland led by James Connolly that shook the Empire. The three pre-war political questions returned.

While it was pro-war Arthur Henderson who had served as a Labour Party minister in the war cabinet, after the war it was the anti-war Ramsay MacDonald who became Labour’s first Prime Minister. Post war the Labour Party had replaced the Liberal Party as the main opposition to the Tories.Labour ELection Poster

CPGB logoRevolutionary movements in Russia and across Europe led to the establishment of Communist parties, including the Communist Party of Great Britain.

The Home Secretary Sir George Cave conceded, ‘Is it possible for us having called upon women for so large a contribution to the work of carrying on the war to refuse to women a voice in moulding the future of the country?’ Women’s lives and politics had been changed fundamentally by the war.

Two short courses will look at how the experience of total war, and the growing opposition to the war, fundamentally changed politics in Britain forever.


PrintA learning experience from the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) in association with the People’s History Museum


Fighting for a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’ – C3836480

Three meetings Thursday, 20 November, 27 November, 4 December 2014

1.00pm – 3.00pm. Cost: £18.60 or Free* (Please enquire)

The making of a ‘Land Fit for Heroes’ – C3837173

Three meetings Tuesday, 13 January, 20 January, 27 January 2015

1.00pm – 3.00pm. Cost: £18.60 or Free* (Please enquire)

HLF_National_Lottery_landscape_2747A Land Fit For Heroes exhibition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and will be on show from Saturday 24 May 2014 to Sunday 1 February 2015.


A Land Fit For Heroes Learning Resources

A guest post by volunteer Matthew Hallsworth

As a qualified primary school teacher and volunteer in the Learning Department at the People’s History Museum I felt extremely privileged to be given the opportunity to create the self-guided resources for school groups for our World War I exhibition A Land Fit For Heroes.

A Land Fit For Heroes exhibitionI had seen the exhibition initially taking shape in the form of staff room discussion, floor plans and elevations but as the opening drew closer and the sections were constructed one by one the potential for the exhibition to be used by schools became even more apparent with every placard and banner that went up.

Conscription gameI was particularly excited to see the sections for conscientious objectors and conscription. As topics they provide such a good grounding for creative drama activities aimed at getting children to empathise with working class people and their experiences during World War I. What I had not anticipated, however, was the wonderful conscription game that had been made to go alongside the conscription display. The pinball-style contraption demonstrates the difficulty in being excused from conscription as players try to fire the ball into one of the exemption targets (as anyone who’s tried will testify!) and provides a context for discussion exploring the emotions of the men about to be sent to war. This was just one of many of the installations which help to engage learners in a unique and exciting way.

The sounds, videos and interactive sections of the exhibit all make for an inspiring learning experience and work really well in conjunction with the museum’s City Centre Trail and Living History Baddies sessions. For the self-guided materials I wanted to employ activities that fitted in with our Living History sessions, using drama techniques and creative writing methods to explore the thoughts and feelings of people at the time that could either be facilitated by any adult accompanying a group or be completed independently by the students.

School workshop in A Land Fit For HeroesAs a teacher I know firsthand how time-consuming planning and linking activities and trips to the curriculum can be, even more so with the imminent changes to the National Curriculum. As such, all the self-guided resources that have been produced contain floor plans, teacher’s notes with guidance on how to approach each section of the exhibition and links to the new National Curriculum from Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 4 and A Level in History, English and Citizenship.

I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoyed producing them!

You can download the inspiring self-guided resources that Matt has created from the WWI resource page of our website. You can also find what WWI themed learning sessions are available for your group on this page.  To find out about our WWI learning offer please email learning@phm.org.uk or call 0161 838 9190

The exhibition is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Conservation of Hither Green National Union of Railwaymen’s banner

Go behind the scenes in this guest post by Senior Conservator, Vivian Lochhead

Hither Green National Union of Railwaymen’s (NUR) banner is receiving treatment in the Textile Conservation Studio ahead of display in People’s History Museum exhibition focused on World War I, A Land Fit For Heroes, which opens 24 May 2014.
DSCF0070 Full banner

The banner dates from 1916-1918 and is a typical example of commercial production by companies such as Tutill and Toye Kenning. It was made by G Kenning & Son, although attributed to George Tutill in John Gorman’s Banner Bright.

Measuring over 2.5 metres in height and 3 metres wide, the Hither Green NUR banner is made from a single layer of green twill woven silk, painted on each side and edged with contrasting red borders.
On a cursory glance the banner appears to be in reasonably good condition, but closer examination reveals several elements of deterioration and physical defects, which make it unsafe for display. Restoration treatments most probably done while the banner was still in active use by the union are now causing problems. The original red silk borders have been replaced with polyester rep fabric, which would have provided a robust ‘frame’ when carrying the banner. Unfortunately natural movement of the silk fabric has been restricted by this polyester border. The weight of the paint dragging on the aged silk fabric has added to the distortion, creating a pouched effect through the main painted silk layer and creasing in the corners. Display of the banner in this condition would lead to gross distortion of the original silk and eventually cause the fabric to tear away from the borders. Creased silk in corner (2)

In addition, the banner is showing typical signs of deterioration found in painted banners. Splits are occurring through the silk at the junction between painted and unpainted areas of the design. Creases formed during use of the banner have fractured the paint surface and left the paint vulnerable to further loss at the edges of the scars.
Splitting silk beside a painted area (3)
Fracture in painted silk (4)
During the restoration treatment some areas of damaged paint were re-touched with poorly colour-matched paint. Despite not being visually pleasing, these will probably be retained. They are not causing further damage and as ‘working life’ repairs, they represent part of the history of the banner.

Examination and testing currently underway will indicate the most appropriate conservation treatments to achieve re-alignment of the original silk, secure loose paint and support splits between painted and unpainted sections.

Burrowing deep into the Great War… the War Emergency Workers National Committee

A guest post from Andrew Simpson, who has recently used our Archive to research the War Emergency Workers National Committee.

For me, the importance of the People’s History Museum is the story that it tells about the people and events that have for too long been marginalized in history books.

Standing in front of the impressive trade union banners or listening to the words of the orator Henry Hunt, Fergus O’Connor and Keir Hardie is to be reminded of the long struggle made by working people to improve their lives and to gain a voice in the decision making of our country.

And along with the exhibitions and special events the museum has a rich collection of material held in its archives.

In my case it is the correspondence sent to and sent out by the War Emergency Workers National Committee which was set up on the day the Great War began in 1914.

Its role was to protect the interests of working people on everything from working conditions to the supply of essential commodities and also covered agriculture, pensions, railways, war babies, air raids and women’s war service and provides a counter interpretation to the one which is usually presented by historians and the media about the war.

All too often this focuses on the role of women in the munitions factories, the odd Zeppelin raid and the dreaded telegram from the War Office but fails to record the anger felt at profiteering and the exploitation of the workforce.

During the war there were massive rises in food prices along with fuel and rents, a persistent concern about the adulteration of food and growing anger at pay levels and working conditions.

And all these issues were being grappled with by the National Committee.

There are correspondence about the separation allowances paid to the wives of men who had enlisted, reports of sweated labour and the exploitation of children and the availability of speakers on a range of issues from food prices to rent rises.

It is the stuff of everyday life made more vivid by the backdrop of the war.

JP Manchester & Salford Trades & Labour Council cropIn 1915 the Stockport Labour Party reported on the level of representation on pensions committees, and Mr J. Robinson of the Stockport Branch of the Tailor’s Society queried the rates for making Khaki tunics.

Later still in 1917 the National Committee was engaged in the registration of shops in Manchester and the rising price of coal.

What makes these documents fascinating is that not only do they cover the whole country but are powerful examples of ordinary people challenging wrong doing and seeking to improve conditions.Woolwich Tube Factory Mollyneux Brothers Lon266 (2)

Mrs Annot Robinson writing in the Daily Citizen  in 1915 called attention to the continuing practice of paying women under the Government guidelines in munitions factories while observing that “There is already a shortage of men workers in Manchester  but so far as I am aware no women taking on a man’s work will be receiving a man’s wage.“

1915 Feb 14 mass meeting Food JPEGDuring the same year the huge meeting at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester called to protest at rising food prices is covered in great detail in the minutes of the committee including the leaflets that were distributed and the reports in the national press.

Along with these are the persistent fears of the Agricultural Labourers Union of the employment of children on the land and growing numbers of Food Vigilance Committees set up to address the cost and shortages of food which led to calls for the control of the production, distribution and pricing of food to be in the hands of Government and assisted by the labour movement.London Food Vigilance Committee page 1 a 1915

And so what became a day’s research in the archive has become a much longer project and one that I continue to  write about in my blog, War Emergency Workers National Committee http://chorltonhistory.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/The%20War%20Emergency%20Workers%20National%20Committee

All of which just leaves me to record my thanks to the staff in archives and look forward to booking the next set of visits.