Harperley Working Camp, World War II prisoner of war camp at Craigside
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- County Durham (Unitary Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- NZ 12722 35409
Reasons for Designation
In the early history of warfare, people captured were frequently
slaughtered or regarded as property. By the medieval period in England it
was normal practice to spare the mass of peasantry in a vanquished army
and only execute or ransom the leaders. In the mid-18th century in France
the concept developed that the only right in war a captor had over a
prisoner was to prevent him doing further harm. By the mid-19th Century an
international set of principals developed for the treatment of Prisoners
of War (PoWs) which were formalised at international conferences at The
Hague in 1899 and 1907. World War I saw significant numbers of PoWs
interned in Britain for the first time. They were housed in around 560
camps, of which 500 were in England, ranging from requisitioned country
houses to purpose built camps. Most were working camps with over 65,000
Germans being employed as civilian labourers, although several were
hospitals for wounded PoWs. All were repatriated by 19th November 1919.
The 1929 Geneva Convention further tightened the rules governing the
treatment of PoWs, for instance detailing minimum accommodation standards.
In the World War II PoW numbers held in England were initially very low,
with most Germans being deported up until 1944. From 1942, Italian PoWs
were brought to Britain as agricultural labourers, peaking at 157,000 at
the end of 1944. These were housed in a network of 80 main and 114
working camps, some being purpose built, some using requisitioned
buildings. Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, Italians
were also distributed amongst smaller hostels and billeted directly on
farms. Numbers of German PoWs held in Britain rose from mid-1944 following
the Normandy Landings, peaking a year after the war's end at 402,000 at a
time when the last Italians were being repatriated. This prompted a rapid
expansion of PoW accommodation sites to around 1500 camps and hostels, 390
being major sites, spread right across Britain. Most of this expansion was
through the reuse and adaptation of existing camps such as those for
abandoned anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries, airfields, supply
depots and camps originally built for allied troops prior to D-Day. They
also included requisitioned hotels, country houses and farm buildings.
They thus varied considerably in size and layout. Large numbers of German
PoWs were also used as labourers in agriculture and other civilian roles
and were paid up to 6 shillings for a 48 hour week (when the minimum
British labouring wage was 75 shillings). German PoWs underwent a
programme of political re-education or `de-Nazification' that partly
determined when individuals were repatriated between 1946 and mid-1948
when the last PoWs in Britain were released. Unlike PoW camps in Germany
which were kept hidden, those in Britain became well known locally and in
effect were settlements forming part of the wider civilian landscape. PoW
labour made a significant contribution to the agricultural economy and
over 25,000 Germans elected to stay after 1948, joining the British
Around 100 World War II PoW camps were purpose built in Britian. These, with a small amount of variation, followed a standard plan. A compound, forming two thirds of the camp, was occupied by the PoWs, with buildings for the camp's guards being sited between this compound and the main entrance. Buildings were typically Ministry of War Supply Standard Huts, with normally two thirds of their number used as sleeping quarters. In addition to washing and dining facilities, accommodation for a chapel, as well as recreation facilities, were also normally provided.
Little remains of the vast majority of PoW camps, most having since been cleared. Only around 10% of World War II purpose built camps are thought to still survive, only some being within England. Survival of other military camps reused for PoWs as well as specifically PoW related structures at camps using requisitioned buildings are similarly rare. In addition only a small proportion of the contemporary documentation still exists. Those sites that retain a significant proportion of their original layout, with surviving features or buildings that are indicative of their use by PoWs will be regarded as of national importance. Sites of especial historical importance, or any predating World War II, may also merit protection if they retain surviving remains.
Harperley Camp is a very rare surviving example of a purpose built PoW Working Camp. It retains 85% of its original buildings in a roofed condition, including all of the main huts. The survival of wall paintings and internal fittings in a number of these structures is also very significant. The camp's importance is further heightened by the contemporary documentation at the Public Record Office and the fact that the camp was used for both Italian and German PoWs.
The monument includes the standing structures and associated buried
remains of a World War II prisoner of war (PoW) camp. It is located 1km
due north of Harperley Hall and was officially known as Working Camp 93,
Harperley Camp. It was a purpose built establishment designed to house low
security risk PoWs who were employed locally in agriculture. Included in
the scheduling are 49 buildings, surviving in various conditions of
During World War I Harperley Hall had been used to house a small number of German PoWs. In World War II the Harperley estate was again called upon, and a purpose built camp was established by January 1943, initially to house Italian PoWs captured in North Africa. They were employed locally in agriculture with some PoWs housed in hostels across Co Durham or billetted directly on farms. On 22 September 1944 the remaining Italians at Harperley Camp were dispersed to hostels and farms to make room for 716 Germans deemed to be of a low security risk. These were again to provide agricultural labour in working gangs of up to 25 men. Amongst the contemporary files preserved at the Public Record Office, there is one that contains reports of visits by the Foreign Office's Re-education Section to Harperley between November 1946 and October 1947. This records a host of detail about the people at the camp and associated hostels. Numbers of PoWs fluctuated between 426 and 899 at the main camp with typically about 1000 at associated hostels and billets. Only five were officers, being two Padres and three Medical Officers. The camp had its own monthly newspaper `Der Quell' which was edited from July 1946 by a former professional musician called Enz who also led a camp orchestra. Regular classes in English, as well as subjects like physics, Latin and Russian were taught at the camp, mainly by the PoWs themselves, although there were also visiting lecturers. Throughout 1947 PoWs were increasingly allowed to attend meetings, lectures and events outside the camp. For instance they were allowed the use of Durham University Library and to attend fortnightly political studies lectures at Crook Workers' Educational Association. However it was often noted that more could be achieved if the men were not so tired from their agricultural work. German PoWs were repatriated gradually from late 1946. By August 1947, 633 men had returned to Germany, but 8 had been granted civilian status in Britain, with a further 34 waiting to have their application considered. Morale at the camp was generally reported as being good. In October 1947 it was noted that this was through the `liberal outlook of Lt Col Stobart (the British Camp Commandant) and the generous attitude of the local population'.
The camp is presumed to have ceased to function as a PoW camp by summer 1948 at the latest, although it may have continued to be used as a hostel for agricultural workers or displaced people waiting for new housing. Some ex-PoW camps are known to have been used for a time by the local population to hold social events such as dances. The camp at Harperley returned to private ownership and many of the buildings were then used for agricultural storage and as poultry sheds, remaining in the same ownership until 1999.
The monument includes the full extent of the PoW and guards' compounds. This area retains over 85% of the buildings shown on a plan of the camp in June 1946. This includes 47 Ministry of War Supply Standard Huts, and two smaller buildings, all of which retain their roofs and the majority of their original doors and windows. The Standard Huts used prefabricated concrete framing to support a pitched roof with a span of 18.5 feet (5.7m) to cover a building made up of any number of side panels 5 feet (1.5m) wide. These side panels could then be infilled with a variety of materials. At Harperley, the sleeping quarters for both the PoWs and the guards used `Maycrete' prefabricated concrete slabs suggesting that these could have been erected by the PoWs themselves as is known to have happened elsewhere. Most of the other buildings used fired hollow clay blocks to infill the panels, these are mortared and may have been constructed by a local contractor. These buildings also generally have more complex constructional features such as water supplies and drains, brick built annexes and connecting passages. The camp is laid out either side of a concrete access road that runs south from the main road. A grid work of concrete paths extends from this compound road to cover the camp, linking all of the buildings. By the paths there are frequent small ruined brick structures that were points to store fire-fighting equipment. The camp is also served by a well-built network of drains that are still discharging water into the camp's sewage works down-hill to the south.
The southern half of the monument covers the PoW compound, with three rows of huts extending downhill to the south west. This was surrounded by an open strip of grass 15m-20m wide defined by an outer fence. Being a low security risk camp, this fence appears only to have been chest high. The reinforced concrete posts linked by barbed wire still survive along the south west and south east sides of the compound and are included in the monument. The building furthest down the hill is believed to have been used as a chapel. However it appears essentially the same as the sleeping huts which form a block of 12 buildings immediately up hill and the remaining seven buildings of the southernmost row. Each building is 10 panels long, measures approximately 15m by 5.7m and is believed to have slept up to about 50 men. Downhill from the compound road there are also two ablution blocks and a building that housed showers and a drying room. Scaring in the concrete floors show where hundreds of men walked daily and where wash hand basins and other fittings stood. Buildings uphill from the compound road include the cook house and two dining huts. They also include two exceptional buildings. First is the theatre, which instead of a level concrete floor like all the rest of the buildings, has a purpose built stage, orchestra pit and an auditorium rising up in broad steps. Remains of decorated interior panels also still survive. The second building is the canteen, a building set aside for relaxation and social activity. This includes a series of painted wall panels showing typically German scenes; the Rhine Valley, animals, woodland and lake scenes, as well as pretend curtains at the windows formed by painted hardboard. In many of the huts, where later paint is flaking away around window frames, pencilled graffiti in Italian can be seen. Elsewhere there are examples of graffiti and original signage in German. Within the PoW compound only three huts, much smaller than any of the rest of the buildings shown on the 1946 plan, no longer survive. These were recorded as carpentry workshops. In the northern corner of the compound there is a ruined brick building which, although not shown on the 1946 plan, may have been the compound office.
Buildings for the camp's guards lie to the north of the PoW compound. Those closest to the entrance, the guardroom, garage, cycle sheds, Sergeants' hut, Carpenter's and Labour Office are all marked by concrete footings. All the other 15 buildings survive in a roofed condition. The Sergeants' quarters are close to the entrance, the three buildings for the British ranks are uphill of the compound road, and the two for the Officers are downhill. The other buildings flanking the road were used for various auxiliary purposes such as stores and offices. Between one of these, the Tailor's workshop, and the British ranks' quarters there is a walled fuel compound. This would have been used to store firewood and coal for all of the camp's heating stoves. For instance each of the sleeping quarter huts had four stoves. Within the Guards' compound, four buildings are of particular note for retaining much of their original internal fittings and sub divisions. In the far western corner of the monument is a small brick built pump house which still retains much of its original equipment. The Officers' Quarters and Mess have in situ fireplaces, and other original fixtures and fittings such as light switches, door furniture, and in some places linoleum floor covering. Within sight of the PoW compound, uphill of the compound road, is the detention block. This also retains most of its internal divisions and other features such as barred windows and parts of its heating system.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are the post-war bungalow that was built between the PoW and Guards' compounds, all green houses and all modern fences and gates; although the ground beneath all these features is included. Telegraph poles, road and path surfaces, and reinforced concrete fence posts are all original features of the camp and are included within the scheduling. Later fence lines defining the boundaries of the monument on the east and west sides lie immediately outside the protected area.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
Books and journals
Hellen, A, 'Erdkunde' in Temporary Settlements and Transient populations, , Vol. 53, (1999), 191-219
Branse-Instone, Eric , Notes from official files held at Public Record Office, (2002)
Title: Plan of Camp 93 Harperley 26th June 1946 Source Date: 1991 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Annotated tracing from blueprint
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing