Heritage Lottery Fund supports Westgate Hall WW1 event 7th & 8th November

The Westgate Community Trust is thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is supporting our project as part of the Fund’s First World War: then and now programme.  It is incredibly gratifying to be among similarly funded community projects around the country exploring the legacy of World War One and its continuing impact, and engage in the associated journey of discovery.

Thanks to the HLF, the event we are holding at the Hall over the coming Remembrance Sunday weekend will complete the process begun in 2010 to conserve and rejuvenate our 100-year-old Drill Hall, the last structural evidence within the city’s walls of Canterbury’s 20th century military heritage, and reaffirm the building’s role as a place where all our communities can come together.

Having peeled back decades of “improvements” to restore the building’s original drill hall features, our project now aims to re-establish and anchor the Hall’s unique character which unites both the military and civilian worlds.

As the plan below shows, our upcoming event is happening thanks to the generosity and enthusiasm of many local groups, institutions, residents and students of all generations, who will be sharing their time, imagination, creativity, passion and knowledge of the World War One period.

Their contributions will shed light on the world which built and used Westgate Hall, capturing and revealing the stories and commemorating the lives which have shaped our families and life today.

Built by public subscription for use by the Territorial Army, the first reference made to the Hall appears in the Canterbury Gazette of 25th June, 1913.  The paper refers to “the New Drill Hall in St. Peter’s Lane” (now Westgate Hall Road), in a description of a promenade concert given by the Permanent Band of the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles.  WW1 saw the Hall used by the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles and the 4th Battalion, East Kent Regiment (the Buffs).

As well as celebrating the WW1 history of the Hall, we are working with the Canterbury branch of SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity. The oldest military charity, we are taking the opportunity to spread the world about the tremendous work SSAFA does locally in supporting serving men and women, veterans and their families and help them raise funds to cover the costs of their work. Any donations to SSAFA will be hugely appreciated and a wonderful acknowledgement of the young men who trained in the Hall and marched from here to war.

Building a legacy is a significant component of this project.  We will be uploading photographs and recollections onto a dedicated page on our website (under construction) — please be aware that photos will be taken throughout the two days of this event. Filming as part of video documentation of this project will also be taking place throughout.

All of this will be taking place against a background of family activities, WW1 music and our WW1 themed cafe serving light refreshments.

A final thought: the tone of the exhibition will be different on the two days.  Saturday will be dynamic, full of activity; Sunday, quiet, reflecting the commemorative tone of Remembrance Sunday.

We’re looking forward to having you with us.

Saturday, 7/11: 10AM – 4PM; Sunday, 8/11: 11AM – 3PM

Saturday, specific timings:

  • 10.00 AM Bring WW1 memorabilia for identification by David Parker, Canterbury Auction Galleries expert
    11.30 AM Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Councillor Sally Waters
    11.40 AM The Viper Corps of Drums of 3rd Battalion the Queens Regiment Club (VIPERS)
    12.00 PM Julian Brazier, MP for Canterbury and Whitstable
    12.05 PM U3A Ukulele Band plays selection of WW1 music
    12.15 PM Charlie Chaplin (silent film; 45 mins;1918) at Curzon Cinema, proceeds of ticket sales to Canterbury SSAFA
    2.30 PM Steady the Buffs, the East Kent Regiment, talk by Mark Connelly, Professor of Modern British Hsitory, Kent University, and director of Gateways to the First World War
    7.30 PM SSAFA WW1 fund raiser quiz together with Kent University students

  • Scramble through a recreated WW1 trench– thanks to “Blue” Cooper, formerly Pioneer Sergeant of the Queen’s Regiment;
  • View WW1 weapons (thanks to Blue and Dover Castle); 
  • Learn about the role of cinema during WW1 thanks to Gateways to the First World War  http://www.gatewaysfww.org.uk/content/about-us
  • Ponder illustrations of WW1 battlefields, Tim Fox-Godden, Illustrating the Great War http://illustratingthegreatwar.co.uk ;
  • Share and record WW1 stories in our Story Corner;
  • Bring WW1 photos of family and Canterbury for scanning;
  • Bring photos of your local WW1 War Memorial to support the Canterbury Society War Memorial Project;
  • Discover WW1 Canterbury, a garrison town, thanks to the Beaney;
  • Watch Echoes from the Kent Coast, memories captured by Screen South thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding (25 mins, on a loop)  http://kentww1.com/;
  • Explore the Imperial War Museum digital record of 8 million lives, Lives of the First World War https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/ and discover how to upload information;
  • Enjoy reading and meeting the publishers and editor of our local history magazine Bygone Kent http://bygonekent.org.uk/;
  • Martyn Barr, author, with his book The Lost Generation   http://www.impacthosting.co.uk/lostgeneration/ (donations to SSAFA);
  • Simon Langton Boys Grammar School‘s Great War scrap books, biographies of boys who fell in WW1, and memorial;
  • Canterbury Society War Memorial Project, part of a national project to repair, protect and conserve war memorials;
  • Penny Legg, author,Military Wives from the FWW to Afghanistan  http://www.pennylegg.com/MyBooks.html (proceeds to Canterbury SSAFA);
  • Support and hear about the oldest military charity, SSAFA, the Armed Forces Charity and its work, https://www.ssafa.org.uk/about-us

Looking forward to seeing you!


Buffs tent at the entrance to St Lawrence Cricket Ground


Westgate Hall