Recording the Home Front Legacy

Equipping volunteers to record the Home Front legacy.

The Home Front Legacy project coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) and principally funded by Historic England commemorated the First World War centenary by helping volunteers identify and map the remains of the Home Front across the UK.

The Home Front Legacy project aimed to record not only military remains but also the broad variety of sites associated with the period.

 Inspiration for the project came in part from the CBA’s Defence of Britain project which ran from 1995-2001 recording the militarised landscape of the UK and identifying a significant number of First World War remains. Building on this, the Home Front Legacy project aimed to record not only the military remains but also the broad variety of other sites associated with the period such as public spaces, allotments and village halls that were utilised to support the war effort.

The project website and social media played an important role in showcasing the types of site that could be recorded through a range of case studies and blogs. Twitter proved a key platform for connecting with projects researching the Home Front, while a successful partnership with the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War project enabled promotion of activities across social media to develop connections between places and people.

Running over four years, the project developed a variety of approaches to encourage individuals of all ages and backgrounds to get involved.

These included an accessible online recording app, workshops and a suite of learning resources for young people. Over the course of the project almost 5,000 sites have been recorded, many of which will be significant new additions to the archaeological record.

Community-led recording

A core aim of Home Front Legacy has been to encourage people to participate in the discovery and recording of the First World War Home Front in their local area.

At the close of the app on 3 August 2018, 4,877 sites had been recorded across the UK.

 To make this as accessible as possible an online recording app was developed accompanied by a site recording guide which provided all the information needed to discover, research and record a site. Alongside details regarding the sites’ purpose, location and period of use, recorders were also encouraged to upload associated photos and documents and to complete a condition survey. At the close of the app on 3 August 2018, 4,877 sites had been recorded across the UK; this number is set to rise above 5,000 once the final contributions have been uploaded.

To help inspire potential recorders, the CBA’s practical handbook The Home Front in Britain 1914-18: An Archaeological Handbook was published in 2015. This has been an invaluable starting point for many contributors, providing a comprehensive guide to the wide variety of sites that survive and inspiring recorders to investigate similar sites in their local area.

Workshops provided training on using the Home Front Legacy recording app and learning resources.            

 The guide also acted as a companion to two phases of training workshops. The first, in 2015, focused on the CBA’s network of regional groups, with workshops taking place in Waltham Abbey, Durham, Sheffield, Worcester, Manchester, Taunton and Winchester.

Cover of 'The Home Front in Britain 1914-18: An Archaeological Handbook'.
The Home Front in Britain 1914-18: An Archaeological Handbook. © Council for British Archaeology.

In 2017-18 a second phase of workshops was developed in partnership with Living Legacies, an AHRC First World War Engagement Centre based at Queen’s University, Belfast, which provides support and expertise to community projects researching the First World War across the UK.

These workshops, held in Duxford, Stirling, Swansea and Belfast, brought together members of new and established First World War projects, youth and community groups, heritage professionals and interested individuals. Each event provided training on using the Home Front Legacy recording app and learning resources and outlined the support available from Living Legacies 1914-18. There was also information on funding opportunities from the Heritage Lottery Fund and an introduction to local sites and projects. Collaborative workshops have been undertaken with CITiZAN and the East Coast War Channels project.

These additional workshops have helped Home Front Legacy reach a wider audience and share expertise with other archaeological site-recording projects.                

A group of volunteers learning to record historical evidence with First World War era buildings in the background.
Workshop participants discovering surviving First World War buildings at the Imperial War Museum Duxford. © Council for British Archaeology

Over the last four years, a number of groups and individuals have made significant contributions to the project. Celebrated as Home Front Legacy Champions, they may have recorded a large number of sites or have helped others to take part in the project by providing inspiration and training.

A bus depot converted from First World War buildings.
Grimsby Bus Depot, built out of former RNAS side-opening hangers from the nearby RNAS Killingholme. © Dr Antony Firth

For example, members of the Sheffield branch of the Young Archaeologists’ Club teamed up with Archaeosoup to produce a series of training videos to help other young people learn about archaeological field recording.

A suite of learning resources was designed to enable Key Stage 3 school groups, Young Archaeologists' Club groups, and youth groups engage with the First World War Home Front.

 A suite of learning resources provided further opportunities for young people to engage in the story of the First World War Home Front.

Produced by cartoonist Dave Chisholm, these learning resources were designed to enable Key Stage 3 school groups, Young Archaeologists' Club groups, and youth groups engage with the First World War Home Front and record sites through Home Front Legacy. The resources consist of a series of five illustrated Home Front scenes, depicting activity and common sites of the First World War Home Front.

The illustrations provide a fun introduction to the Home Front and allow the investigation of the range of sites that could be recorded through Home Front Legacy. The illustrations are accompanied by a series of clue cards and story cards that encourage further learning through the investigation of the illustrated scenes, using the cards to investigate many of the activities and sites presented within the illustrations.

A series of illustrations for children about the First World War Home Front.
Illustrations by Dave Chisholm from the Home Front Legacy learning resources. © Dave Chisholm.

Twelve session plans have been provided to allow teachers and Young Archaeologists' Club leaders to conduct a wide range of activities focussing on the Home Front. These session plans cover an introduction to archaeology and to recording sites with the recording app, through to the role of women on the Home Front and First World War material culture.

The resources also include a site recording guide developed to teach archaeological recording techniques to a younger audience.

Project legacy

The final hundred days of the Home Front Legacy project, leading up to Armistice Day on 11 November 2018, have provided an important opportunity to tell the story of the project. During this period the project website and social media will be showcasing some of the most interesting, unusual and most recorded site types, highlighting the efforts of our Champions, and, crucially, sharing information on how individuals can still record new sites and share the information with their local Historic Environment Service.

The thousands of sites recorded during the project contribute substantially to the knowledge and understanding of the First World War Home Front, and all of the sites added to the online recording app will be archived and freely accessible via the Archaeology Data Service.

Consultation with local Historic Environment Services across the UK at the beginning of the project ensured that the recording app was developed to facilitate data sharing, and the new knowledge captured within the project will form part of the archaeological record, leading to enhanced protection for many of these sites, particularly in relation to future development proposals. The learning resources will also remain available, enabling teachers and youth groups to continue to use them when developing First World War activities.

A group of people handling First World War related objects.
Participants at the Belfast workshop exploring a First World War handling collection. © Council for British Archaeology

Many of the individuals who have contributed to the project via the site recording app will have been recording an archaeological site or feature for the first time. The skills learnt during this process are all transferrable and it is hoped that one of the legacies of the project will be their continued interest and participation in archaeology as individuals and through their involvement with local groups and societies.

A group of children measuring and recording a First World War era building.
Members of Sheffield Young Archaeologists’ Club recording a First World War accommodation hut. © Council for British Archaeology

About the authors

Gill Bull.

Gill Bull

Deputy Director, Council for British Archaeology.

Gill came to the Council for British Archaeology after completing a masters in Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York. 

Clair Corkill.

Dr Claire Corkill

Executive Administrator, Council for British Archaeology

Claire joined the Council for British Archaeology in 2016 following the completion of a PhD in archaeology at the University of York which focused on First World War internment.

Chris Kolonko

Chris Kolonko

Home Front Legacy Project Officer, Council for British Archaeology

Chris specialises in the archaeology of the First and Second World War Home Fronts, with a particular focus on wartime anti-invasion defences.

Further Reading

Appleby, C, Cocroft W D and Schofield, J (eds) 2015 The Home Front in Britain 1914-18: An Archaeological Handbook. CBA Practical Handbook 22

Was this page helpful?

Related Publications

Also of interest...