County Durham First World War project receives £470,000 lottery boost

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Durham County Council £475,100 to develop the interactive website, Durham at War

A First World War tank at the mining vilage of Murton in County Durham
A First World War tank at the mining vilage of Murton in County Durham

A new website is to map the story of County Durham and its people in the First World War.

The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded Durham County Council £475,100 to develop the interactive website, Durham at War.

It will feature the diaries and papers of Durham Light Infantry Brigadier General Hubert Morant, of The Hermitage near Hexham, whose contents were auctioned last year.

The project will link the archives, objects and sites that survive today and uncover new stories about local communities 100 years ago.

It will also map the centenary commemorative events and projects taking place in each locality.

The Durham at War website launch is planned for September and the project runs to the end of 2018.

Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Everyone with a family connection or interest in County Durham will be able to use this website to ensure that the wartime experiences of its citizens 100 years ago are discovered, shared and remembered.”

The website will give online public access to archive, museum and archaeology collections relating to the combined geographical area of County Durham as it was in 1914 – 1918 and as it is today. Volunteers will be able to contribute to the website online.

The council’ Record Office, Durham Light Infantry Museum and Archaeology Service are leading a major volunteer programme over the next four and a half years to coincide with the First World War centenary commemoration.

There will be many opportunities to participate and to explore heritage collections in depth.

A combination of training sessions, workshops and themed research modules will help people to investigate new sources and make new connections between objects, records and the landscape around them.

Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: “The Durham at War website will piece together archive material, objects and oral histories charting County Durham’s immense contribution to the war effort.

“Hundreds of local volunteers will be able to submit information; plot places, names and dates to help build up a clear picture of the County’s wartime experience and create a valuable and lasting resource for everyone who wants to learn about one of the most defining events of the 20th Century.”

Some outstanding First World War memoirs of the 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI) will form a special feature on the new website. Currently there is no dedicated history of this, the first Kitchener battalion raised by the DLI in August 1914. The recently acquired memoirs of the commanding officer of the “Shiny Tenth”, Brigadier General Hubert Morant, will be made freely available online as the basis for a community-led history of the battalion.

Anyone with an interest in this battalion and the men who served in it will be able to contribute to the online history.

A separate HLF project last year helped Durham County Record Office and Northumberland Archives to save important military and estate records for the North East. The Morant family records, purchased at Anderson & Garland Newcastle auction last June, included two bound volumes entitled “My experiences and impressions since the declaration of war”.

The volumes were part of the contents of The Hermitage, near Hexham, which was the Morant family home. It is these First World War memoirs and accompanying personal correspondence that will form the centrepiece of the 10 DLI history project on the Durham at War website.

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