Summer of 1914 Programme of Events

British Legion Poppy

“Westerham Remembers”

For photos of the 2014 weekend see our Flickr Album

26th & 27th July 2014

Westerham Traders, the Royal British Legion, and  Westerham Town Partnership commemorated “The Summer of 1914”, to help visualize and imagine what life was like just before the outbreak of war on 4th August. We’d like to thank helpers, residents, participants and visitors alike for helping make such a success of the weekend-long event. It is the most ambitious 2 day event that most can remember –  it wouldn’t have succeeded without us all pulling together, so the time, energy and enthusiasm everyone invested were much appreciated by all the team!

Here is some Feedback

S D on Facebook: “I have lived in Westerham for nearly 40 years and to see it so full of people for this event made my heart soar it was absolutely brilliant And to those who organised it, I salute you xxx”

B J Church visitors book: “Congratulations Westerham for a stunning day! Great programme, good organisation.”

D A in conversation with Bill Curtis: “I haven’t seen a crowd like that on the Green since Churchill did his victory salute at the Gala in 1950…”

V B from Judy French: “The shop was packed all day on Saturday, and women were queueing to use the changing rooms. We were ever so busy and there was lots of trade. It was all good fun and a great atmosphere…”

J H “Cyril and I watched the procession from the end of New Street. I found it very moving and it struck just the right note. I then went up on the Green and had a marvellous afternoon. The whole thing was absolutely brilliant…”

B N “Massive congratulations on the success of Westerham Remembers weekend…”

M G “Many, many congratulations for the most amazing weekend. Westerham really came alive again! All the efforts of you and your incredible team produced the best community event imaginable – you must have been thrilled with the attendance, and the atmosphere around the Green, at the British Legion and in the town generally. I am full of admiration and send my thanks and very best wishes.”

And for photos of Westerham in 1914  see our album here

Saturday July 26th

10am onwards on The Green Grab an activity sheet and get cracking! Follow the map, walk the town and discover the shops in 1914 – family quiz – vintage fairground rides – horse drawn deliveries to local industries – sample the food in Lyons Corner House – display of photographs and memorabilia – Churchill School Great War exhibition – enjoy Live Music – History of the Horse at War – ‘Westerham’s War’ exhibition in St Mary’s Church – sign up for the Community Play

11am onwards at The Royal British Legion, Mill Lane Experience a WW1 trench and face ‘no-mans land’ – visit the French cafe – photographs and memorabilia – enjoy the live music from a period gramophone, local players and Tylers Toast at 1pm

12noon starting on the Green Our Town Crier’s first proclamation before he moves around town

3pm & 4pm Punch & Judy on The Green Award-winning John Styles entertains

4.30pm at the Royal British Legion ‘Somewhere in France with You’ – enjoy the English & French cuisine round the trench!

5 – 8.30pm Music on The Green Live 1914 style Concert Party and Music Hall with the Jean Bentley Dance Orchestra, the mixed choir Your Friends and Mine, contemporary music from TylersToast, Lucy Kitt and other local performers – bring a rug & picnic, pick up a song sheet and join in, or just imagine yourself in 1914!

8pm onwards 1914 Dance & Sing-Along at the British Legion – compere Pete Williams

Sunday July 27th

10.30am onwards on The Green Grab an activity sheet and get cracking! Follow the map, walk the town and discover the shops in 1914 – family quiz – display of photographs and memorabilia from the time – Churchill School Great War exhibition – history of the Horse at War – story of Hercules – visit the ‘Westerham at War’ exhibition in St Mary’s Church – Rampant Roosters Morris Dancers – vintage fairground – Procession arrives at noon

11am Royal British Legion All those joining the procession, please report for duty. Experience a trench and life in France, and face ‘no-mans land’ – photographs and memorabilia – welcome to members of The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment Living History Group (50th & 97th) who will be in attendance in full marching order. Many of Westerham’s men joined the West Kents one hundred years ago, and we are delighted to welcome the group. They will offer an insight into the uniforms, weapons, equipment, training and everyday life of the Great War Soldiers

11.30am procession leaves Royal British Legion led by Hurst Green Shire horses with a WWI general service military vehicle, the RBL standard bearer, nurses and troops.

11.50am Procession arrives at The Green headed by Shire horses – vintage vehicles drive-past, and park up outside the George & Dragon

12.00 noon Ecumenical address from the three churches

12.10pm Westerham Life changes for ever – The Swan Cinema closes its doors for the duration of hostilities, but the fair goes on. Look out for the recruiting sergeant, and return to the trench at the Legion – it’s open all day…

12.20pm Results of Best Dressed Shop Window announced, kindly judged by Mrs Anthea Warde and Mrs Claire Warde

12.30 onwards Music and Entertainment continues – don’t forget it’ll all be over by Christmas…

Photography kindly donated by Sarah Fleet Photography

And more…

W Bennett TobaccoAs in days of yore, there were no parking charges, town-wide, all weekend, by kind permission of Sevenoaks District Council, although modern parking restrictions still applied.

Shop Window displays: Based on Bill Curtis’ photo and poster collection from the era, each shop showed how things looked in the summer of 1914

Quiz for children: (Under 10s and Over 10s categories) discover answers in the shop window displays to questions about life in Westerham at the beginning of the 20th century

Best dressed window competition

The Royal British Legion have a price reduction on Beer, Guinness and Lager at £2.50 a pint and during the 1914 weekend they are reducing prices even more to £2.00 a pint!

St Mary’s Church: Monday 4th August commemorations of the Centenary of the Outbreak of The Great War. See the Commemoration Day Flyer

Get a taste of Westerham’s old shop adverts and see Westerham’s Events Diary for 1914

John Scholey, Westerham Town Crier, had his first official engagement be during the The Summer of 1914. More on Town Council page.

Song at TwilightPlease come and join ‘Your friends and mine‘ for a sing-song at the John Fryth Room (behind the church) on 6 pm Wednesday July 23 to prepare for ‘Westerham’s Summer of 1914’ weekend when we will be gathering to sing classic oldies on the Green around the piano at 6 pm Saturday July 26. Everyone welcome!

For Westerham pictures from the era

Click here to see the gallery.

Thoughts in a Flanders Field, Poem by Dorothy Oram

Click here to read the poem.

Sevenoaks Chronicle Article

Click here to read the article, “Going back in time in Westerham for war’s centenary”.

From the Lancashire Evening Post

Perhaps the Preston lads’ contribution to market town life is best summed up by The Westerham Herald of Saturday June 5, 1915. It says:

“The 2nd West Lancashire Artillery have gone – everybody knows where, though we are not allowed to state it publicly.

“For seven months they formed the garrison of Westerham, and during that period they made a host of friends.

“The Vicarage grounds were decorated with bunting and the motto, ‘Good luck to you all, brave boys!’

“Wherever they went, Westerham felt that they could be proud of them, and they asked a blessing – that when the war was over they might all return again to their homes.

“Few of them ever did, but they would always remember their days in this small village market town.”

Horses and the Great War

During the first few weeks of the war over 165,000 horses were requisitioned by the Army. They were sent to remount centres were they were assessed and broken to their selected profession and then loaded onto boats and shipped to France.

In those early days the Army clipped all the hair off as it made it easier for them to keep them clean and healthy but unfortunately the weather was very bad that first winter so a lot of horses died or were very ill due to freezing ….. the rations were set and were sent every day but the work was hard and very dangerous. The Shire Horse was used for the heavy guns and would have been set into teams of 6 to pull them through the mud towards the enemy lines. They would have been targeted by the enemy and many died.

On the home front those horses left behind had to work harder as their comrades had been sent to the front. The work was long and hard and they were either very young, sick or older horses doing the job. The Veterinary Corps looked after the war horses and they were usually given a rest period back from the front and checked over before being sent back. On the home front there was no such luxury and they continued to work through the war.

Hurst Green Shires have traced their stallion Hercules’ heritage and found that he is related to a line of Shires from Tandridge. In the early part of the war, two of his ancestors were requisitioned by the Army. They went through to the remount centre, quite possibly Romsey, and then on into France. Hurst Green Shires are trying to trace where they would have gone from there to see what may have been their fate.

St Mary’s commemorate the First World War

St. Mary's ChurchMonday 4th August 2014 – Centenary of the Outbreak of World War 1

There will be a short ceremony at both 11am and 11pm in St Mary’s Church. The war began at 11pm  on 4 August 1914 after the British ultimatum to Germany expired. We will remember the words of Sir Edward Grey, Foreign Secretary:

“The lights are going out all over Europe. We will not see them lit again in our lifetime”

Saturday 4th October 2014 – World War One Evening

7.30pm An evening of songs, poems and writings relating to Westerham and World War One.


Lights OutAt 11pm on 4 August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany, ushering in one of the darkest periods in our history. In a dramatic UK-wide event LIGHTS OUT is an invitation to everyone to turn off their lights from 10pm to 11pm on 4th August, leaving on a single light or candle for this shared moment of reflection.

Part of 14-18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, LIGHTS OUT has invited artists to create large-scale, site-specific artworks at locations across the UK. A digital artwork will also be commissioned in response to LIGHTS OUT.

Click here for Press Release.