Great War soldiers’ stories from Peterborough railway to be explored through Heritage Lottery Fund support

Vivacity, the charitable trust which operates Peterborough’s cultural and leisure services, is delighted to announce that it has received a £99,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project to research a unique documentary resource, which sheds light on hundreds of servicemen who used Peterborough as a rail centre during the First World War

These documents and the stories of the men within them will be transcribed and researched over the next three years, and the information gleaned will be released a hundred years to the day that each soldier passed through the city.

Within the Archive Collections cared for by Vivacity are two visitor’s books from the tea stall which was run by the Women’s United Total Abstinence Council on Peterborough East Railway station during 1916 and 1917. These were filled in by soldiers from across the country passing through on their way to the front or home on leave. The books will be digitised, transcribed and researched using a team of volunteers from the local community, who will receive training in research skills. The information gained will then be released on a new website which will explore the wider story of the Great War in Peterborough.

The story of each serviceman who wrote in the books will be researched, and the results released a century to the day after they wrote in them via the website, social media, and by screens at selected sites in Peterborough city centre. The research will then be brought together for a final exhibition to be held at Peterborough Museum in the spring of 2018. The project will have other elements including special events, a touring display and the development of associated materials and sessions for schools.

Richard Hunt, Vivacity’s Archives Manager, says of the visitor’s books, ‘These slim volumes are a unique snapshot of servicemen passing through Peterborough during two years of the Great War, highlighting the city’s importance as a railway hub in this period. The men who were waiting for their refreshments wrote little messages, poems, cartoons, even smutty comments about the ladies serving them their tea! Because they were travelling to or from the front these men came from right across the country, meaning these documents have significance well beyond this city’.

Stuart Orme, Vivacity’s Heritage Events and Programmes Manager adds, ‘We’re extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for agreeing to support this project, not only to help us research and reveal the very human stories behind the men concerned, but to then help us release this information in such a poignant way, using the latest technology, a hundred years to the day that they passed through Peterborough East Station. The project will be designed to highlight Peterborough’s importance historically and get more people in touch with these stories through new media, exhibitions or volunteering to assist in the project.’
For more information about the project, and to register interest in volunteering, please visit

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