Public urged to help First World War heritage project in Wayland

Jan Godfrey and (pictured) Bronwen Tyler have researched a project on the impact of WWI on Watton and the Wayland area. Picture: Ian Burt

Jan Godfrey and (pictured) Bronwen Tyler have researched a project on the impact of WWI on Watton and the Wayland area. Picture: Ian Burt

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A project examining how the agricultural communities around Watton were affected by the First World War will get under way this week.

World War One in Wayland will look at how farming areas dealt with all the young men going off to fight.

The Wayland Partnership has secured nearly £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the scheme, which will run until 2016.

It is hoped that at the end of the project a book can be produced, along with supporting DVDs, for each community involved in the project.

The project launches on Monday at The Christian Community Centre, High Street, Watton from 9.30am to midday, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the declaration of war.

People are being encouraged to bring any documents from the time to be scanned and copied so that they can be included in the research.

The project is led by Bronwen Tyler and Jan Godfrey who have carried out other HLF funded projects for the Wayland Partnership Heritage Group.

Mrs Tyler said: “We are looking at how the First World War impacted a very isolated community.

“We are actually not looking at the men so much. We are only looking at them in terms of the impact which their leaving had on the area.

“What happened just in terms of managing farms? All the young men went off thinking it would be over by Christmas 1914. Did the women do the work?”

The project will be focusing on the individual communities in the Wayland area and the particular difficulties they faced.

Mrs Godfrey said: “What happened to the estates? A lot of gamekeepers signed up so they were not there to tend the estates.

“Most of the young men of the aristocracy were the first to enlist and do their bit so who would use them? That would have a large impact on the income of the estates.”

“We are lucky that we do have some memorials to the returned in some of the villages so we can look at what happened to the men who came back and how they were affected.”

While the project is examining the larger impact on the community some individual stories have been discovered.

Mrs Tyler said: “There was this one chap, a local vicar, who thought that if you didn’t volunteer, and waited to be conscripted, you shouldn’t be on the roll of honour and campaigned for it.”

Mrs Godfrey added: “After it became clear how bad it was he changed his mind and he ended up going over to France to find missing men.

“It had a terrible effect on his health, receiving letters from widows and mothers desperate to know what had happened.”

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