The Old Scholars Project uncovers First World War stories of St Werburghs

The Old Scholars Project uncovers First World War stories of St Werburghs

St Werburghs Community Centre have been telling us all about a new project they are leading with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund to commemorate and uncover stories of the First World War in St Werburghs…

This year we are leading a project called The Old Scholars – Lost then Found First World War Stories of St Werburghs. We are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF’s) First World War Then and Now programme and all those who play the National Lottery, without people like you we wouldn’t be able to run this wonderful heritage project.

The St Werburghs Community Centre is one of Bristol’s busiest and most loved community buildings. It offers a range of meeting rooms and event spaces within its beautiful Victorian building. The Centre prides itself in serving the community and running projects which benefit the people in the area and the city.

The project will focus on sharing First World War stories with our community. The memorial plaque at the Community Centre was once a forgotten feature but now with thanks to National Lottery players we can share the stories of people who lived in our community a century ago.We have a team of researchers who are based at the centre, they have been digging up the past and hope to learn about all 93 soldiers named in the plaque.

Since 2016 they have created an in-depth archive of the findings. However the archive is not very easy to read. The content is quite challenging for people like you and me to decipher, so we will be creating two large scale boards which will tell the story of the memorial and some of the people named.

The team will also be making a free booklet to accompany the project and we will be holding talks and stalls at popular community events such as the Picnic in the Park and the St Werburghs Arts Trail 2018. We would like local people and community groups to take part in a wreath making workshop at these events.

We will work with our local school as the Centre once was the old Mina Rd Boys School. We will deliver a workshop at the school and the pupils resulting art work will feature in the heritage boards. Finally all these aspects will come together in a Remembrance Celebration this November.

We feel it important to represent the community and we are not trying to glorify war, we are trying to ensure these human stories are told and are not forgotten. We will invite all the community, neighbours, volunteers, pupils, teachers, parents, descendants and trustees to attend this free event to support us in sharing the stories of the Old Scholars of St Werburghs and to celebrate the Centenary of the end of the First World War. This project reminds us about human stories, the men mentioned in the memorial were not just soldiers but everyday people like you and me.  

The research team have uncovered some intriguing stories, one example is that of Mr. Frederick Albert Griffee who it turns out lied about how old he was when he signed up to fight, he was only 14 years old when he tragically died of meningitis in the hospital, he never saw battle. The research has also uncovered nine conscientious objectors who lived in the local area. Most of these men were part of the skilled trades such as a wood turner, joiner and a cabinet maker.

All the people named in the plaque were people who once attended the old Mina Rd Boys School, they grew up, lived their lives and then they went to War. Not one returned to St Werburghs so the community commemorated them in this memorial plaque to the Old Scholars.