Bexley YAC Publish their Research on WW1
A couple of weeks ago YAC-HQ received a very exciting package from the Bexley YAC Branch Leader, Francine Hills. In it was several copies of a recently published book detailing the Dartford Hospitals during World War One. The research for the book had been compiled by the Bexley YAC group, as part of the Council for British Archaeology’s Home Front Legacy 1914-18 project.
The Home Front Legacy project was created to help local communities identify and map the remains of the First World War across the UK. Key aims included identifying new sites, and update and add to existing local and national records relating to the First World War, increase community engagement with Britain’s First World War archaeology, raise awareness of national and local records and archives services relating to archaeology and much more. You can find out more about the project by visiting the site: Home Front Legacy 1914-18.
Bexley YAC decided this was the project for them and once permissions were sought and the YAC leaders had been trained by the Home Front Legacy team, they began their research in earnest. Branch Leader, Fran, told us how the YAC group got to work:
‘We started with a session in Bexley Archives and Local Studies, researching through the local papers, between 1914-19, for stories about the local hospitals. We also copied old maps of the site and looked in books and photographic collections. One of the stories we most enjoyed was a story about a snowball fight in Dartford town centre between the Australian soldiers and townsfolk. It said that a ‘saucy girl’ had started the fight when she threw a snowball at a group of soldiers.
We started our field work at the Orchard Hospital site. Over three days we recorded the tramway, measuring the length that is still visible and recording any original features along the way. We also cleaned up the surfaces of some of the buildings and recorded them.
Our older YAC members are working on their BAJR Achaeology Skills Passport. Using old maps and plans they tried to identify the building remains and interpret their use, including the ward blocks.
On our last recording day, we went to the site of the Dartford War Hospital. Only a small portion still survives. Whilst exploring the woods we found the East Window of a chapel. We couldn’t find it on any of the old maps and plans and the diocese has no record of it (see the photo gallery below).
By exploring around the area we were able to find evidence of a garden and the other four walls so we could record its size. It was the only standing archaeology on the site.
There were lots of interesting flowers and trees on site, evidence of gardening, as many were not native species. We picked four to identify later. One was identified by the Woodland Trust and is a Bladder Senna (see below).
Once the document and practical research was completed by the Bexley YAC members we decided to publish our work, as we had a huge collection of photographs and I had written books already on the history of the local hospitals but the WW1 information was all new.
We hope it will be of interest. We found interesting stories about the German prisoners of war, the American base no. 37 and the Australian Auxiliary hospital we wanted to share’.
The work undertaken by the Bexley YAC group has now been submitted to the Home Front Legacy project and the information will be stored and made accessible by the local Historic Environment Record.
If you would like a copy of the book please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org