World War 1 Centenary Exhibition - 2015

A major exhibition on the centenary of WWI, featuring contributions from the Western Front association and four local Billericay Junior schools - Buttsbury, Quilters, ST Johns, St Peters.

The Great War Exhibition

As part of our club members’ support to valuable organizations in our community, the Chairman and Treasurer positions of the Reading Rooms Trustees are filled by our club's own Immediate Past President Keith Wood and Treasurer Mike Sinclair, and other members have contributed their time and effort to help support the trustees.

The Billericay Reading Rooms are historic premises located at 73 High Street, Billericay, Essex.  From an initial meeting of wealthy landowners, professional men and local tradesmen in March 1864 which committed attendees to raise funds to help educate and improve the conditions for the people of Billericay, it took until 1886 before enough funds were raised to allow the present Rooms to be built.  The Rooms were finally opened to the public (with books to read and social events for all) on the lst April, 1887.  Funds continued to be raised by social events for the furnishing of new books and magazine.

The rooms celebrated the 150th anniversary of that first meeting, one year ago with a Victorian Event opened by John Baron MP. All the Trustees dressed in Victorian costume and they were joined by children from 4 local schools, Buttsbury Junior, Quilters Junior, St. John's and St. Peter's, also in period dress.  The school children produced displays about Billericay in the 19th Century, a newspaper, wall-hangings, models of high street houses and shops, made various types of chocolate to be sampled and a display of needlework and slates similar to those used in schools of the period.

This year, helped by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) under the First World War: Then and Now programme, the Trustees are holding an Exhibition over the weekend of 6th, 7th, 8th March 2015 to mark the centenary of WW1.

Andy Maddocks, Grants Trustee at the Reading Rooms who led the drive to secure Funding said “We are extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their continued support, which enables us to continue working with the pupils and teachers of the four schools in another very worthwhile and important Project.”

Children from these same four local Billericay schools have researched specific aspects of the War and its effects on the local Community and created exhibits to display their work.  Each school is concentrating on separate issues, covering the production of a newspaper during the wartime period, Nutrition - availability of food both at home and on the battlefields, Fashions of the period including uniforms and the ability to obtain material etc. and finally Residents of Billericay at that time, including Businesses in and around the Town - have any survived?  The Western Front Association also had a major stand and display, highlighting the area where the war was fought, the contribution of the Essex Regiment and a considerable amount of other relevant information.

The exhibition opened on Friday morning with an introduction by Trustee Chairman Keith Woods in the presence of distinguished guests the Lord Petre, Billericay MP John Baron, Town Council Chairman John Buchanan, Town Crier Jim Shrubb and members of the Trustees and their guests.

John Baron, Member of Parliament for Billericay, then added his comments, formerly opening the exhibition and giving tribute to the work done by the Trustees and in particular, Andy Maddox and Sheila Pullin, and congratulating the schoolchildren on the superb work they had done to create the displays.

All the Trustees were dressed in period costume of the time - soldiers, nurses, gentlemen etc. - which greatly added to the atmosphere of the exhibition.

Now closed, the exhibition attracted a continuous stream of visitors from members of the public, attracted by the opportunity to learn more about this period of our history.

To read  major report on this event by the Billericay Gazette, click on the image below:

Article reproduced by kind permission of the editor.