Remembering World War One

Westfield Memorial Village in Lancaster is an unusual Memorial of the First World War.  Opened in 1924, it was built by a local committee to house wounded ex-servicemen and their families, particularly soldiers from the Kings Own Royal Regiment. Each of the houses is a historical monument in its own right, with many bearing a plaque recording information about the property and its history. The original 35 houses had been added to after the Second World War, and today, it is run by a housing association, and still provides homes for 189 residents. LAS members had the great privilege of being taken round by Mr Tom Mawson, the grandson of the renowned Lancaster architect who oversaw the project, and himself an architect of note, who worked at the village in his early career. We met at Westfield House, now the Residents’ lounge, but before WWI it was the home of Herbert Storey, who gave the house and 15 acres of land upon which to build the village. Tom briefly introduced the story before taking us on a walk round the village. The foundation stone of the first house had been laid by Herbert Storey in 1919. Today the centre of the village is dominated by a dramatic war memorial, which was dedicated by Earl Haig in 1924, by which time many residents had moved in. We paused at the home of Lancaster’s VC, Albert Halton, who was awarded the VC in 1917, and who lived in the village from 1939 until his death in 1971. We noted the names of the roads – Storey, Haig – we also noted the names of the houses, each one recalling an action in the War, such as Suvla, after the landing at Suvla Bay in the Dardanelles in August 1915, just over 100 years ago. Tom pointed out architectural details, such as the fine use of local stone, and the roof slates from quarries in Furness. Each group of houses was designed to a different plan, influenced by ‘garden city/arts and crafts’ trends, making the village more varied and interesting. The original plan had included workshops to provide work for disabled veterans, but it turned out they were not needed, so the fine stone-built workshops were converted to houses instead. We noted the avenue of original lime trees, now pollarded as they had grown too tall, and we were very impressed as to how well the grounds as a whole were kept, including the fine raised bowling green.

Having walked the circuit, we returned to Westfield House for coffee, biscuits and an illustrated talk by Tom, who showed us early plans, not all of which had come to fruition, and a selection of photos of the early days of the site, including a number which featured his grandfather. All in all, a fascinating and unique insight into a very special place – accompanied by a man who himself was part of its history

Mavis & Bill Shannon, 5 Sept 2015

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