Land girl base has its own pieces of history

Rosemary Bell
Rosemary Bell

Commemorative panels have been erected to remember some of the land girls based in a north Northumberland village during the Second World War.

Glendale Local History Society has installed the final panels in the series at Wooler Youth Hostel.

Former landgirl Eileen Crow.

Former landgirl Eileen Crow.

The hostel was originally built for the Land Army and over the past few years society member Rosemary Bell has tracked down 15 land girls who worked from Wooler and recorded their memories.

Each room has a door panel telling a land girl’s story turning the hostel into a local heritage resource – probably the only surviving land army base to become its own museum.

Rosemary said: “We had three rooms left and Glendale Gateway Trust, which runs the hostel, said they’d fund the extra panels. We were lucky enough to find two more land girls living locally and a third, sadly dead, whose family have helped tell her story.

“I’ve heard some great tales from the land girls but I think my favourite is the newcomer who was sent out to milk the cows and tried to milk a bull.”

Joining the trip down memory lane, former land girl Eileen Crow, now 88, remembered the sleeping arrangements before the building was converted.

“There was a big dormitory with bunk beds down each side and stoves in the middle. It was quite warm,” she said.

“I was here for two years before moving to Doddington. I enjoyed the farm work – singling turnips, helping with the harvest and threshing. It was hard work but we enjoyed it – we were young then.”

Alice Stevenson was unable to attend because of ill health but her daughter Judith Park said her mother, now 91, had fond memories.

“She wanted to join the WAAFs ( Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) when she was 19 but my dad said ‘if you join the Waffs I’ll lose you’. So she started working at Roseden Farm for Joe Walton with four girls from Newcastle and an Italian POW who did the cooking,” said Judith.

“They worked 12-hour days starting at 6am but she loved it. She said you just got on with it.”

Sue Armstrong, whose mother Doreen Woodcock died in 2004, recalled her mum joined the land army in Wooler as a cook, later returning to live in Wooler after her husband died. “Our families feel a special connection to Wooler because of the way our mothers were woven into the community,” said Sue.