Dronfield 1917 – stories from the First World War

The Year 6 class of Stonelow School for 2017/18 took a journey back in time, researching Dronfield in 1917,  when the whole of England was caught in the merciless grip of the First World War.

Using a Heritage Lottery Fund ‘First World War Then and Now’ grant the children were helped in their year long project by Derbyshire Record Office, Dr Nicola Verdon, Dronfield Heritage Barn and Whitworks Adventures in Theatre.

Rebecca Sheldon from the Derbyshire Record Office visited the school. Pupil Lucy Townsend writes about this experience:

“Rebecca came to our school to teach us about different old documents and different archives material.

We read old smelling like dirt books to find out more about the courageous people and all about fascinating World War I, like their date of birth and who lived in your house during World War I.

We looked at the comparison to life between World War I and now. There is a lot of difference. We looked at where Stonelow Junior School which was all fields. We needed to open the books on the cushion because the books were so old.

Girls and boys were taught different things. Girls were taught how to be housewives such as sewing, cleaning and looking after children.”

The children learnt about the hierarchical structure of World War I society with working men and women at the bottom. This explained why it was easier to find out more about the relatively wealthy Lucas family. There were two Lucas iron foundries in Dronfield at the time – top yard and bottom yard. Edward Lucas and Sons, or bottom yard, was managed by Thomas Harrison Lucas and his father before the war, shown on the right of the picture.

 

It worked with malleable iron and produced spindles and flyers. All that’s left of bottom yard now is the Lucas arch. It is restored beside Chesterfield Road.

The project finished with a Christmas celebration performance in which the children told some of the stories they had explored .  A free book was also produced and In December 2017 their discoveries were shared with the community, including Dronfield’s Mayor through a celebration performance alongside Whitworks Adventures in Theatre and a free book. The Mayor was so enthusiastic about the project that he took a copy of the book for every member of the Town Council.

You can find out more about the project and read a digital copy of the book by following this link:

http://www.watheatre.co/dronfield-1917.html