Northampton lecturer's appeal for researchers to delve into Racecourse’s Great War history for heritage project

Tim Coley wants your help in researching the Racecourse's WW1 history
Tim Coley wants your help in researching the Racecourse's WW1 history

Volunteers are being sought to take part in a project that aims to unearth the wartime history of a Northampton park.

The University of Northampton has received £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to research and produce a documentary about the Racecourse during the First World War.

The project, In War and Peace – the Changing Face of Northampton’s Racecourse, will focus on the park between 1914 and 1918 when it was commandeered as a staging post for troops, through to when it became allotments in the latter years of the war.

Tim said: “Much of this research is likely to entail ‘old-school’ research techniques, as much of the material is probably most likely to be found on microfiche in Northampton Central Library.”

Tim, who grew up a stone’s throw from the Racecourse, added: “We are thrilled to have received support from the National Lottery to delve into the war time events in a place that is as much lived in today as it was back then in 1914, albeit of course, in different, tragic, circumstances.

"Although those events may seem distant they can reverberate back to us through our better understanding of the place in which they unfolded.

Using Northamptonshire resources, the project will enable volunteers to research information about the events that took place within the area, which then may feed into the production of a short documentary. The documentary will include interviews with local historians and authors, proving an insight into life within and outside the base.

The project was the idea of Northamptonian Tim Coley, a senior lecturer in Media Production at the University’s Avenue Campus, which borders the Racecourse.

He is appealing for people to join the research team, helping to dig out stories by trawling through local newspapers and interviewing residents, or those who can loan photographs or documents relating to the Racecourse during the Great War.

Tim said: “War was declared on August 4 and by the end of the month reports say around 16,000 Welsh soldiers had set up camp at the Racecourse. It must have been such an incredible spectacle and had a huge impact on what was then a fairly small provincial town. We can’t wait to find out more about this period of great change in Northampton.”

For further information about the project and volunteering for research please contact Anthony Stepniak at the University of Northampton by emailing racecoursefilmenquiries@northampton.ac.uk

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