From Handsworth to Flanders Field
Rookery School has a war memorial in its Red Hall, and a school logbook dating back to World War 1. Working with Year 6, we’ve traced two soldiers named on the memorial, and have been piecing together archive materials and historical artefacts to imagine what life might have been like for their families living locally a hundred years ago during the war.
We walked down Soho Road to Handsworth Library, looking for history clues about what we might have seen walking the same route in 1914. We asked questions too about Handsworth a hundred years ago – transport, what kind of shops there were, what form of lighting, ethnicity and religions within the local community. What would have been similar, and what has changed in the last century?
Now we’re getting down to writing and recording creative work – click here to read Mother Dearest 6W’s letter about the decision to enlist… and more to follow.
The project unfolds
Our two soldiers lived on streets close to the school. From the census of 1911 we were able to piece together details of their families, and their family businesses too. We tried to imagine what life was like for their relatives in Handsworth while they were away fighting at the front. We imagined knitting parties, fundraising activities and patriotic speeches at Rookery Schoo, all based on archive evidence.
We knew from the school logbook that pupils raised funds for the Tank Bank, and went into Birmingham Town Hall to hand over the money they had raised. We imagined what sort of fundraising activities they might have dreamed up to help to fund the war.
The younger of our soldiers, Harry Stirk, survived the war. We wrote the speech Harry might have made – and what he would have left unspoken – at a party to welcome him home after the war was over. Sadly George Grimmett was killed in action, leaving his widow to run their greengrocery shop and bring up their two young sons. And we tried to imagine the complicated feelings George Grimmett’s widow might have had during the Armistice Day celebrations. This work formed the scripts for our films which you can see here.
Our films were shown along with live performance exploring the full stories of our two soldiers and how their families experienced the war here in Handsworth. Parents and members of the local history society were invited to watch the show and to find out more about what we had learned throughout the project. It was an unforgettable evening!
Thanks to HLF and Rookery School for funding, and to all staff and pupils for their energy and enthusiasm supporting the project.