Connecting with the past – inspiring work by local schools

Hastings school children have been involved in producing ‘inspiring’ work that has left senior representatives of Historic England ‘extremely impressed’.

Historic England, alongside Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, has been working with schools in Hastings on a special project to remember local people who were involved in the First World War. The project is part of the national Heritage Schools Programme.

Councillor Kim Forward, deputy leader of Hastings Borough Council and lead member for culture explained: “The project was launched at a free training day for teachers held at the Hastings Museum in April. Teachers found out about the history of the area and how to make the most of the museum’s collections and at the same time Historic England’s Local Heritage Education Manager, Helen Spencer, took the group on a heritage trail from the museum to demonstrate ‘doorstep heritage’.”

Hastings War Memorial in Alexandra Park.

Enthused by the training day, some of the schools decided to get involved in a project linked to the Centenary of ending of the First World War. The They Lived Here project complements the Hastings Remembers exhibition. Schools are researching their local roll of honour on the town’s war memorial and creating a commemorative page for each person they have researched. Their work will be compiled into a scrapbook that will be displayed during theHastings Remembers exhibition.

Schools have visited their local War Memorial in Alexandra Park to see the names and carry out a condition survey of the memorial using resources created by Historic England and The War Memorials Trust and have put the results of their condition survey on the War Memorials website.

Hastings Museum has a new collection of banners and handling boxes to help pupils understand the local stories of the First World War. The boxes contain replica objects and clothing and original archive documents such as letters and postcards. These are free for schools to borrow and are already proving extremely popular according to the museum.

Pupils are using the website run by Kieron Pelling to find out about local people. Kieron has searched the Hastings and St Leonards Pictorial Advertiser for images of men and women who served in the war. There are now more than 5,250 wartime photographs on the site. The images help children to connect with the events of 100 years ago.

Kieron also found a 1915 For Merit card that would have been displayed in homes across the area. It showed that someone there was ‘Serving his King and Country’. With the support of the East Sussex Archive and Historic England, Kieron has created a new card based on the original design.

A close up of the relief which is a key feature of the Hastings War Memorial

They Lived Here cards can be displayed to remember someone local who served in the war. Schools will be sending out copies of their work, with one of the cards, to the addresses of the people they have studied and hope people will display the card in the run up to the Armistice Day.

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The modern interpretation of the Merit card denoting the They Lived Here message

They Lived Here cards can be picked up at Hastings Museum & Art Gallery, Hastings History House, The Shipwreck Museum or The Fishermen’s Museum. They can also be found on Kieron’s website.

Lois Gyves, Heritage Schools Programme Manager said: “Historic England is extremely impressed by the commitment of Hastings Museum and local schools in ensuring young people and the community have the opportunity to engage with the commemoration of the end of the First World War.

“This moving and inspiring project echoes the community engagement and respect for those serving their country in Hastings and St Leonards over 100 years ago. It gives young people and local residents an opportunity to connect with the past, and to honour the sacrifices so many people made.”

  • Links to websites mentioned in this story are listed below.
  • A list of names on Hastings War Memorial can be found here:
  •  Other memorials are listed here:

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