Free family event gives a taste of Doncaster's First World War at Cusworth Hall


Saturday 18 – Sunday 19 July 2015

Doncaster’s families will be able to travel back 100 years to explore life on the home front during the First World War at a major – and free – event at Cusworth Hall and Park on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 July 2015.

Lady Isabella of Cusworth and son Robert c 1910
Lady Isabella of Cusworth and son Robert c 1910

Visitors to ‘Life on the Home Front Weekend’ can taste wartime cooking, try out costumes and crafts, encounter vintage vehicles, and even meet soldiers and nurses in living history camps, experiencing military training and medical care just like people in Doncaster in 1915. The weekend is being organised as part of Doncaster 1914-18, a four-year project which aims to build a picture of life in the Doncaster borough during the First World War, so visitors are also being encouraged to share their own family or local stories at the event.
Dress up like this
Dress up like this

“Life on the Home Front Weekend is based on genuine events experienced by local people 100 years ago, so visitors will get a vivid, first-hand insight into how life changed – for everyone – during the First World War. Not only did brothers, sons and husbands serve as soldiers, but families back home did their bit for the war effort, growing their own vegetables and fruit to deal with food shortages, fundraising and making clothes and gifts to send to relatives at the Front. Doncaster miners and railway workers in reserved occupations did valuable work to support the war effort and keep the country running and its supply chains moving,” explains Jude Holland, Project Manager for Doncaster 1914-18. “What is most striking, though, is the way that people rallied round to support each other and the war effort. Everyone played their part with indomitable spirit, finding ingenious ways to make do and mend. In fact, the Weekend will reveal some really useful tips for today!”
A packed programme of activities will take place throughout the weekend between 10am – 4pm, including:
Taste – and learn how to cook – original First World War cakes and biscuits, sent from Doncaster homes to soldiers fighting on the front line. Local cook and author, Meryl White will recreate traditional recipes including trench cake, imperial biscuits, parkin, and cocoanut haystacks, all inspired by her Grandma Abson, a South Yorkshire housekeeper in the 1900s.
Explore a soldier’s life in the First World War Training camp, including a tented encampment and displays of drill, weapon firing, tactics and gas warfare, recreated by expert living history group, The Manchester 1914-18 Regiment.
Meet the nurses and Frank, a patient who has literally been in the wars, at the Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses’ station. Visitors to the medical tent will also witness medical tools, equipment and hundreds of other everyday items from the home front.
A vintage 1916 Model T ambulance and officer’s motorcycle take centre-stage alongside many original objects, including uniforms, which reveal how we lived during the First World War.
Make do and mend, getting creative – and picking up a few money-saving tips – with hands-on crafts suitable for all ages, including ‘sew and save’.
Visitors will discover more about the Borough during the First World War at the Great War on Roadshow, handling original objects and dressing up in First World War uniforms. Members of the public can bring along their family’s First World War letters, objects and memorabilia and have them digitised for the new, online archive.
“The First World War brought about significant change, including the introduction of British Summer Time to increase daylight working hours, restrictions on lighting – dubbed A Night of Grease, Grime and Gloom by the local Doncaster Chronicle – and even a ban on buying rounds at the pub to discourage drunkenness,” adds Victoria Ryves, the project’s Community and Education Engagement Officer, “but it’s the everyday stories that are most poignant, revealing the realities of wartime life for Doncaster people, and the contribution they made. Local people donated entire buildings to the war effort as hospitals for convalescing soldiers – including Lady Isabella of Cusworth Hall whose family home in Stamford became a hospital. Schoolchildren made food parcels for injured soldiers in local hospitals – in just one day, one school’s parcel included 194 eggs, 68 lbs of sugar, 5 lbs of treacle, and also a jar of Bovril.”

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Admission is free to Life on the Home Front Weekend, but car parking charges apply, ranging from £1 for an hour to £6 for an all-day ticket. Cusworth Hall and Park is located in Doncaster, DN5 7TU. During the weekend, visitors can also explore, at no additional charge, the 18th-century country house, museum displays and its historic parkland, complete with lakes and pleasure grounds, shop and tea room.

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