First World War barrack hut has survived, thanks to community

The opening of Boulmer Memorial Hall.
The opening of Boulmer Memorial Hall.

A project to renovate a north Northumberland village hall has revealed the history of its origins, which highlights the community’s foresight.

In last week’s Gazette, we reported how the ongoing fund-raising scheme to revamp Boulmer Memorial Hall, which is in a dilapidated state and hardly used, is halfway to its total of £55,000.

The barrack huts in place at Berwick.

The barrack huts in place at Berwick.

As part of this, the surprising story of where the hall originally came from has been unearthed by the Howick Heritage Group’s researcher.

In 1920, a large auction sale was held in Alnwick Pastures to sell off 180 wooden barrack huts that had been based at the First World War training camp.

Many communities bought one at a very low price as village halls and it was previously thought that Boulmer was one of them.

However, there were questions as to where the evidence for this was and also why the Boulmer hall was clad in corrugated iron.

The surprising answer was that while a number of communities were picking up huts for £30, the people of Boulmer paid £250 for one from Berwick, which had to be transported with difficulty over the old bridge and down the Great North Road.

The reason for this was that the Boulmer community wanted a sturdy and lasting memorial to its fallen sons and the Berwick hut, clad in galvanised iron, was watertight and durable, so £250 was borrowed from a local farmer for its purchase and another £150 was spent fitting it out.

The villagers then held a series of events to pay off the debt in just a few months.

In a speech on the hall’s opening day, Mrs Scholefield, of Lint Close, Alnmouth, said that ‘the mere putting of planks together to form a room was not a memorial.

‘To carry out the object for which these halls were meant was the real memorial – gatherings of the community for educational lectures, instruction in handicraft by which they might beautify their homes, also for pleasure, because there was no doubt that happiness was necessary to their healthful development.’

It’s thought that none of the wooden huts from Alnwick Camp have survived, but the memorial hall in Boulmer still stands and, thanks to another community fund-raising drive, is set to be there much longer still.

The renovation of the hall will attempt to preserve and recreate the original 1914 appearance.

The next event is a fund-raising and open day at the hall on Bank Holiday Monday, May 25, from 1.30pm to 4pm, with a pop-up café featuring cream teas, home baking and crafts.