Exhibition opens at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery to mark WW1 anniversary

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A moving exhibition that tells the stories of local people who served in the First World War opens at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery next month.

‘A Shoemaker goes to War’ is one of several events being staged as part of an exciting 18-month project by Northampton Borough Council’s museum service and the Royal & Derngate to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of WW1 and explore the legacy of the conflict on the town and county.

The project, called Conflict & Community – Northampton remembers the First World War, has been made possible thanks to an award of £73,200 by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

WWI was Britain’s first war in Europe in 100 years and it had a massive impact on Northampton’s shoe industry. ‘A Shoemaker goes to War’ tells the stories of some of those who went to war and looks at the lives of the people who stayed behind.

In July 1914 almost 10,000 men joined the Northamptonshire Regiment and just one month later Britain was at war with Germany in what was dubbed ‘the war to end all wars’. Many left their homes, mothers, wives and children with a sense of patriotic fervour not seen previously.

The loss of lives of those who served in the Northamptonshire Regiment and Northamptonshire Yeomanry, particularly the large number who died in the battles of Auber’s Ridge and Gallipoli, had a massive impact on the borough of Northampton. Through personal accounts, letters home, family memories and military memorabilia, A Shoemaker goes to War aims to bring to life the stories of local people.

Councillor Brandon Eldred, Northampton Borough Council cabinet member for community engagement, said: “The exhibition is one of many events that will help us explore how WWI affected the lives of local people. 2014 is a significant anniversary and it is important that we commemorate it. Together the events that are part of Conflict & Community will help us do this and to make sure that people’s stories live on.”

A Shoemaker goes to War will be showing at Northampton Museum & Art Gallery from 2 August to 9 November. Admission is free. The exhibition opening signals the start of a weekend of commemorations marking the beginning of WWI, including a Service of Commemoration at All Saints’ Church on Sunday 3 August. The Lights Out Vigil on the Portico of All Saints’ Church will take place at 10pm on Monday 4 August. For full details of Conflict & Community events go to www.northampton.gov.uk/conflictandcommunity.