Pictures: Children step back in time 100 years to war home front

A 100-year-old picture of Bakewell that fascinated pupils at Bakewell Infant School
A 100-year-old picture of Bakewell that fascinated pupils at Bakewell Infant School

Bakewell Infants School pupils discover what life was like in their Peak District village for farm workers and the impact of conflict on food and farming

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, Bakewell Infants are thoroughly enjoying their exploration of Bakewell’s World War One home front history.

The infants are going to look at the horses and elephants that worked in the circus 100 years ago.

Amy Tutt, their teacher said: “They spent ages talking about the differences between a photograph of Bakewell 100 years ago (see facing page) and what it looks like now.

“They were particularly intrigued by the large dog at the front of the photo.”

The Bakewell Infant Community Heritage group started research at the beginning of 2018 after an inspirational visit from Becky Sheldon fr0om the Derbyshire Records Office.

She shared various documents and talked about what was possible if they visited Derbyshire Records Office.

It was at this visit that they discovered the programme for the peace celebrations in 1919 and Bakewell’s roll of service for World War One.

The infants and community are going to recreate some of this event on November 12, 2018, at the same time that a ceramic memorial which the year one pupils have made will be unveiled.

Dr Nicola Verdon from Sheffield Hallam University came to talk to the 
community group about food and farming in Derbyshire during World War One.

Over the last couple of weeks, the year one pupils have been exploring the impact on food and farming of World War One with Gertie Whitfield from Whitworks Adventures in Theatre (WAT).

The infants re-enacted a farming tribunal from 1917.

They met a rather difficult Mr William Shimwell who was applying on behalf of his son Luther, his cowman, to keep him on the farm.

Mr Shimwell seemed to think that he was having a hard time but Mr Eyre, the chairman, was not sympathetic, especially when he refused to put his daughters to work on the farm.

It was not surprising that they turned down his application!

Derbyshire farmers were very resistant to women on the land, but usually were happy with their own women working on the farms.

There has been a particular focus on horses as the army needed them and so did the farmers.

Tractors were only really coming into Derbyshire at the end of the war.

Working with writer Paul Whitfield of WAT, they have been developing a story about two horses split up by the war, partly inspired by a picture of a horse being loaded on to a ship by a harness.

Here are a few words written by Lily Harrison about the horse that went to war: “Belmont had a fly mask on. Belmont had seasickness.

“Belmont had an adventure. Belmont was hot. Belmont was scared. Belmont was tired.”

The community group also discovered that schools shut or suffered low attendance when the circus came to town in May 1915.

This led to the amazing discovery that it is in fact the 250th anniversary of the circus starting in Britain this year.

Consequently, in July, the infants are going to explore early circus history and Lord John Sanger’s circus which was the circus which visited Bakewell in May 1915.

They studied an atmospheric picture of Lord John Sanger’s circus in 1923, painted by Fred Elwell.

The infants are going to look at the horses and elephants that worked in the circus 100 years ago, comparing how we treat animals now as compared to then.

Lord John Sanger’s Circus closed temporarily in 1917, reopening after the war.

Loss of men, horses and feeding the animals all had an impact.

We have even discovered film of his elephants helping with farming.

But don’t tell the year ones, it will spoil the surprise!

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