The project got off to a fantastic start with some great donations. It has slowed down as all crowdfunding projects do so we are about to start our second push! Thank you to everyone who has donated so far – we now have nearly enough money to lay the concrete base!
Our Hut Rescue film has proved very popular and we have received some great feedback (Here is a still from the film).
This Great War Huts crowdfunding campaign is part of a larger heritage project to restore and rebuild a number Wooden Army Barrack Huts; all important British survivors of the First World War. This campaign is to fund the restoration of one particular hut, originally part of the huge Brocton Camp in Staffordshire.
Our sister company, Khaki Devil Limited, has been providing historically accurate 20th Century military uniforms, equipment and props since 2001 and our attention to detail and accuracy have made us the first port of call for many top theatrical designers and film and television companies. Public interest in our First World War trench filming location, near Ipswich, and the productions we’ve been involved in, such as Downton Abbey and the Sainsburys Christmas Truce advert, made us realise that we should open a visitor’s centre telling the story of the Great War using our historical knowledge and experience of trench building, not to mention the thousands of artefacts we have. After a four year search we found the perfect location, bought the site and gained planning permission. The permission allowed us to build 11 replica wooden army huts to house the displays and exhibits.
Then we came across an original one…
In 1914 the British Army could accommodate 174,000 simgle men in Barracks. The outbreak of war, and the successful recruiting campaign which followed, saw unprecedented numbers of men joining the Army. Accommodation was a huge problem.
In late 1914 plans were drawn up to build hutted camps across the country to accommodate 850,000 men. It was the largest building project of its kind ever undertaken in Great Britain. By the end of the war over a million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen – and Servicewomen – could be accommodated in wooden huts. It was an incredible achievement.
After the war most of the huts were sold off and put to good use as village halls, community centres, ex-servicemens’ clubs, chapels, workshops and homes. A century later, very few of them survive, and soon huts that were a common sight in most towns and villages will have disappeared through decay and development. In a few years’ time this fascinating aspect of 20th century life could be lost forever. This makes our Great War Huts project very timely.
The story so far
Just after gaining planning permission to build the First World War Visitor’s Centre, complete with eleven replica huts, we came across an original Recreation Hut in the centre of Ipswich that was due for demolition; ironically during the centenary year of the outbreak of The Great War. We were given permission to save the building and have now restored it and almost completely rebuilt it at our visitor’s centre site near Bury St Edmunds. The publicity surrounding the saving of the hut led to us being offered another five, all in imminent danger of destruction.
We were able to record and safely remove four of the huts but didn’t have the time, or manpower, to save the former Rifle Range at RAF Uxbridge, which had been part of the Royal Flying Corps aerodrome before the RAF was formed in 1918. It has now been flattened as part of a new housing estate, so another important piece of our Great War history has been lost.
We have four more huts in the pipeline, which we are hoping to get back to Brook Farm to restore over the winter. The decision to save and restore original huts, rather than new buildings, has delayed the opening of the visitor’s centre back by two years, but we feel passionately that someone, somewhere needs to save this fascinating part of our history. A handful of individual huts have been saved around the country, but they need to be regularly used and maintained to safeguard their future and our centre is the ideal place to set them in context and do just that.
Brocton Camp Hut
The next hut we saved originally came from Brocton Camp, on Cannock Chase, in Staffordshire. After the war the camp buildings were sold off and the hut was moved to the village of Brocton where it was a family home, named ‘Avondale’ until quite recently. The owners appreciated the historical significance of the building and had looked for someone to preserve it but to no avail.
They were very pleased when we asked if we could take it away! We dismantled the hut with help of local volunteer, Richard Cartwright, and transported it to Suffolk in November 2014. We are now very keen to get started on restoring it.
The budget we had for new replica huts has already been spent on recording and dismantling the original huts we have saved so far, and rebuilding the first hut which has given us the experience and skills we need to complete the rest of the project. We have looked into charity status and grants but are not eligible as the First World War Visitor Centre will be a business. We estimate that the Brocton Camp Hut will cost another £12,500 to restore and rebuild and that’s where the crowd comes in! Not only will your donations enable us to continue, but endorsing us by sharing the campaign with everyone you know will help to support and validate our project.
What will the money be used for on the Brocton Hut restoration?
£ 2,500 will pay for the concrete base
£ 1,800 for the felt and iron for the roof
£ 2,000 to make and repair and reglaze the windows
£ 2,500 to restore the wooden side panels
£ 1,000 to restore/replace the roof timbers and trusses
£ 1,050 to rebuild the end wall panels and fit original doors
£ 400 for lighting and electrics
£ 500 for paint and sundries
£ 750 Crowdfunder.co.uk commission
We hope you agree this is project is worthwhile, and would like to support us by contributing towards the restoration of the Brocton Camp Hut.
We are sure that the ‘feel-good’ factor you’ll get from helping is worth every pound you donate, but we’ve got a great list of rewards over on the right, to suit every pocket; from five pounds in memory of a relation who served, up to a unique corporate day out for your business, every donation is really important to us.
As you can imagine, this project needs a great deal of manpower (and womenpower). There are plenty of wall panels to restore, trusses to rub down, finished sections to paint, along with all the groundworks around the site. We are looking for Volunteers who would like to use their skills, their enthusiasm and their time, to help bring this great project to fruition. If you would like to help we would be very pleased to hear from you. Contact us at: [email protected]
Please help us save this significant piece of First World War British heritage (and thank you for reading this right to the end!).