Tyne & Wear in the First World War

First World War troops in the Hatton Gallery used as a hospital during the war. Copyright Robinson Library Newcastle University

Delivered in partnership with Sunderland Museums and Heritage, ‘Wor Life 1914-18’, funded in part through a £205,700 HLF grant, will explore the contribution of Tyne and Wear to the First World War and delve into the war’s effect on the region. The impact of the war will be showcased through a series of art and history exhibitions, community projects, local history displays, commemoration events plus a unique mobile phone app.

Councillor Ged Bell, Chair of Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums Joint Committee, said: “When people think about WW1 they tend to think about the horror of the battlefields but the impact of the war was far-reaching and changed the lives of those back home as well.

“Thanks to this generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund we will be telling the stories of people living in Tyne and Wear during WW1 and the amazing contribution they made to the war effort. This promises to be an extraordinary programme of exhibitions, events and activities and we hope as many people as possible come along and find out about their region’s role in the Great War.”

Councillor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, added: “Sunderland, along with the rest of the North East can be proud of the contribution it made to the wider war-effort during the First World War.

“As time passes it becomes ever-more difficult to imagine the reality of day to day life a century ago. With this in mind, working with our partners at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums and with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund this programme will help young and old appreciate the conditions at home and work during the dark days of war.”

Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East England, said: “The impact of the First World War was far reaching, touching every corner of the UK. The Heritage Lottery Fund has already invested more than £47m in projects – large and small - that are supporting this Centenary. The many-layered Wor Life 1914-18 project will enable the people of Tyne & Wear to explore the continuing legacy of this conflict and help local young people in particular to broaden their understanding of how it has shaped our modern world.”

A programme of seven exhibitions in venues across Tyne and Wear will look at a variety of subjects including the changing role of women during the war, the region’s industrial input into the war effort and the psychological trauma suffered by returning soldiers. The first exhibition, Paintings of World War I, will open at the Laing Art Gallery on 10 May 2014. Exhibitions will also be on show at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery, Segedunum Roman Fort in Wallsend, Discovery Museum and Tyne & Wear Archives in Newcastle, Newcastle University’s Hatton Gallery and Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens. A series of events including talks, lectures and schools workshops will also take place across Tyne & Wear venues including the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.

Other highlights include:

  • Mobile App - developed to encourage audiences to engage and interact with Wor Life 1914-18, the mobile app will allow the public to record and share their own stories as well as exploring the rich content available from museum collections.
  • An Act of Remembrance - this participatory project will involve schools and local community groups making hand-crafted poppies from July 2014 onwards, to create a stunning display which will grow over the life of the project.

The seven exhibitions include:

  • Paintings of World War I - Laing Art Gallery – 10 May - 19 October 2014
    A selection of works depicting First World War scenes of an armed British trawler in battle, French and Russian mounted artillery troops, and Northumberland infantry soldiers in a reflective moment in their trench. Also on show is a painting by CRW Nevinson, one of the most famous war artists of World War I, inspired by his experiences as a battlefield ambulance attendant. Free entry.
  • Home of Heroes – South Tyneside in the First World War - South Shields Museum & Art Gallery - 10 July 2014 – 24 January 2015
    This exhibition will be created, working with schools and communities through object handling sessions to commemorate the fortunes and experiences of individuals who came from South Tyneside and played a part in the WW1 effort either at home or serving on the frontline. The exhibition will explore the key role played by South Tyneside supporting the war effort through the merchant navy and the mining industry, as well as the troops who fought.
  • Ships, Coal & Zeppelins – North Tyneside in the First World War - Segedunum Roman Fort, Baths & Museum - 31 July 2014 – 26 April 2015
    The shipbuilding industry on the Tyne played a major role in the war effort. The museum building itself is situated next to the site of Swan Hunter’s shipyard which built many of the British warships which fought in WW1. The impact of increased industrial production had an impact on those living in the area during wartime and these stories will be told using objects from TWAM’s collections that relate to this area. The exhibition will draw on this geography and sense of place and include the work already being done by local groups such as the Tynemouth World War One Commemoration project.
  • Screaming Steel - Hatton Art Gallery - 19 September 2014 – 13 December 2014
    The horrors endured by soldiers during WWI led to the coining of 'shellshock' as a term for psychological trauma resulting from intense mental and physical bombardment. This exhibition explores creative responses to the industrialised killing fields of Europe 1914-18, which resulted in some of our most important 20th century art and literature. The exhibition will explore how artists and writers such as Paul Nash, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen captured the trauma of their experiences in work that resonates with us to this day.
  • The Arsenal Economy: Tyneside Industries and People in the First World War -
    Discovery Museum - 25 October 2014 – 28 June 2015

    The Newcastle armaments industry played a major role in the war effort and factories in the area manufactured essential supplies equipment such as shells, search lights and aeroplanes. The increase in production needed during wartime had a major impact on the lives of women in the area who were employed by these factories, often for the first time. This exhibition will also use everyday objects from TWAM’s collections to explore the experiences of children during WW1 and changes in home life such as rationing.
  • Sunderland in the First World War - Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens - March – June 2015
    Find out about the personal stories of people in Sunderland during wartime and discover objects relating to the important wartime contributions made by the city.  During WW1 Sunderland was an important industrial centre, especially for shipbuilding and the work of the ship yards was vital in ensuring the continued supply of food and materials to Britain as well as in warship production.  The exhibition will look in detail at the defences created to protect the town from attack from the sea and from the air as well as the establishment of such things as Voluntary Aid Detachment hospitals where soldiers were brought back from the various fronts to be treated

Notes to editors

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) is a major North East regional museum, art gallery and archives service.  It manages nine museums and galleries across Tyneside and the archives service for Tyne and Wear.  It is supported by four local authorities of the area and Newcastle University. TWAM is also a Major Partner Museum funded by Arts Council England and has Core Funded Museum status.

Sunderland Museums & Heritage Service provides a platform for people to learn, and celebrate their heritage through a range of projects, events and activities.  The service also includes Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Monkwearmouth Station Museum and Washington F Pit. The museums house a variety of collections the majority of which chart the history of the City of Sunderland. Programmes of temporary exhibitions and displays and programmes of engagement activities for a range of audiences mean that the cultural offer in the city is diverse and exciting.

Further information

TWAM – Jo Burnham on 0191 277 2170, email: Jo.burnham@twmuseums.org.uk.

Sunderland Museums and Heritage – Jonathan Kinnair on 0191 561 1071, email: jonathan.Kinnair@sunderland.gov.uk.

Laura Bates on 020 7591 6027, email: lbates@hlf.org.uk.