Lucy Yates (WW1 Centenary Project Support Officer) writes:
On 13 July, Local Studies welcomed the Chelsea Society on a tour of the archives. The members were particularly delighted to see their Walter Greaves grisaille watercolours of riverside Chelsea, which are stored in the archive. Plans and descriptions of Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens, once an eighteenth century pleasure ground (where the Royal Hospital now stands), were also studied with interest.
Amongst the other treasures down there, Dave Walker, the Local Historian, had unearthed fascinating mortuary books, which contained details of those killed during bombing raids in World War Two.
The Chelsea Scrapbooks, with their wealth of vivid World War One posters proved to be of great interest too.
“I suspect that you might find some of our members camping in Local Studies over the summer,” remarked Camilla Mountain of the Chelsea Society, and we were very pleased to have raised awareness of the wealth of material in the archives and how to access this.
The visit concluded with a well earned glass of wine upstairs and a hearty agreement that we’d be delighted to have the Chelsea Society back any time.
You can search the material by personal stories (from the Mayor of Kensington to munitions worker Lottie Meade), by local regiments or by place to find out about the internment of Germans at Olympia or the model trench in Cheyne Walk.
We’ve been busy putting up a wealth of material, which ranges from tickets for the Army Christmas pudding fund to posters from the war-time Chelsea Kitchens. However, a big part of our website is collecting contributions from the public about life in Kensington and Chelsea in World War One so if you’ve got a fascinating family tale about the Great War or interesting photographs please log on and add your memories. We hope to make this a permanent showcase of life in the Borough during this unique period of history.
On 23rd October, Local Studies hosted a WWI Reminiscence Event. This was a thrilling way to engage with local people’s stories of Kensington and Chelsea during World War 1, and we were treated to a variety of brought-in artefacts, from original medals to black and white photographs and even a Princess Mary Christmas 1914 tin, which was originally sent out to troops filled with tobacco.
We heard about grandfathers who had fought in the trenches and never spoke about it afterwards to aunts who had much better job opportunities, while the troops were away fighting, than they otherwise would have done.
Participants also greatly enjoyed their chance to have an exclusive preview of the scrapbooks and recruiting posters we’ll be using in our forthcoming exhibition, Kensington and Chelsea’s Great War. Do look out for this at various library and community venues in Spring 2015: keep an eye on our Twitter feed and Facebook page too for updates.