Memories of the home front

Fiona Wagstaff was manning a WRVS emergency kitchen during Belsay's 1940s weekend'Picture by Jane Coltman
Fiona Wagstaff was manning a WRVS emergency kitchen during Belsay's 1940s weekend'Picture by Jane Coltman
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Hundreds of people got into the wartime spirit during the 1940s weekend at Belsay Hall.

The first in the series of events on this theme featured games showing how families entertained themselves during the decade and as a cast of costumed actors showcased some of the estate’s stories.

English Heritage's Vic Cunningham with Lesley Holmes from Historys Maid at Belsay's 1940s weekend'Picture by Jane Coltman

English Heritage's Vic Cunningham with Lesley Holmes from Historys Maid at Belsay's 1940s weekend'Picture by Jane Coltman

Among the other activities were ‘ration fashion’ and soldier drills and a working kitchen was set up, with experts dressed as cooks explaining how people used the limited foods and ingredients available.

Kate Anceau, property manager at Belsay Hall, said that the people who came along on Saturday, Sunday and Monday included many families and Monday was the biggest of the season so far in terms of visitor numbers, helped by the sunny and warm conditions.

She added: “We decided to put on some 1940s-themed events because the hall and castle were requisitioned by the army during World War II for training and accommodation. There are a few signs and pictures on the walls from this period.

“We received positive feedback from many of the people who came here over the weekend. Some of the comments came from people who were alive in the 1940s – they said they enjoyed reminiscing about those times as they walked around the site.

Helen Lee from Discover History as a cook showing a false wedding cake at Belsay's 1940s weekend'Picture by Jane Coltman

Helen Lee from Discover History as a cook showing a false wedding cake at Belsay's 1940s weekend'Picture by Jane Coltman

“In addition, it was fantastic to see that a few of the visitors were dressed in 1940s attire.

“As we were starting something new, all the staff were really looking forward to the weekend and we’re all delighted that it was such a big success.”

The next event in the programme is a Belsay Boot Camp, which runs from Saturday, May 23 to Friday, May 29. Children can get an insight into what life was like for the soldiers that were trained at the site.

From the sadness and injury of the battlefield to the make-do-and-mend lifestyle of the home front, wartime stories will be told during Boots, Bayonets and Belles on Saturday, May 30 and Sunday, May 31. And to mark Father’s Day, a Dad’s Barmy Army home front event will take place on June 20 and 21.