British Parks and The First World War; A Talk in Derby

May 11th, 2015

The Centre for Hidden Histories based at The University of Nottingham, is organising a public lecture on Wednesday 27th May 2015. Professor Paul Elliott, University of Derby will speak on ‘British Public Parks and the First World War: Recovering a Hidden History of the Home Front’.

The event will be at The Box, Derby Quad from 7.00-8.30pm It is free but you are asked to register your interest by emailing hiddenhistories@nottingham.ac.uk.

On 16 December 1914 German shells thudded into Scarborough from the sea, aimed at a Naval Wireless Station at the top of Falsgrave Park. In all, the bombardment killed 17 people including a 14-month-old child who had been in Westbourne Park. Apart from this highly unusual episode in the home front context, public parks were rarely, of course, the targets of German bombs, although perhaps they ought to have been, as they were playing their role in the war effort.

As we shall see, public parks in Derby and other places were requisitioned for various purposes including military (such as anti- Zeppelin and aircraft guns), defensive, governmental, medical and for food production, particularly after the Defence of the Realm Act or (DORA) was passed. They also played an important role in maintaining morale when some other forms of recreation were curtailed such as organised sports like football and rugby. At the same time, parks were places where civilian and military populations on leave or recuperating could temporarily escape from some of the demands of war and even resist authority. On occasion they served as venues for anti-war and pacifist meetings and demonstrations too.
Belper River Gardens were used as allotments to grow food and to provide bomb throwing practice!