5 February 2014 09:27

A memorial village built for the survivors of World War One is unusual in being still occupied by residents linked to the Armed Forces.

Westfield Village in Lancaster was built after the First World War to house disabled servicemen, many of them amputees, and their families. The idea was that Lancaster would create a war memorial that would have practical as well as commemorative value.

Part of a nationwide-movement to help an estimated 1.75 million soldiers returning to Britain with some form of disability, few of these villages were actually built, and even fewer survive; making the Lancaster settlement of particular historic value.

Westfield is also unusual in that, nearly 100 years on, it is still principally occupied by serving and former members of the Armed Forces. The welfare of the residents remains the concern of the same charitable trust that was originally set up in 1919 – and still includes representatives of some of the same organisations and families who were on that very first committee.

The village trustees and Lancaster University are working together on a project to catalogue its archives and collect memories from across the decades.

Martin Purdy is the doctoral research student from the Department of History working on the task.

He said: “I am interested in everything from the large to the seemingly insignificant. So, I would love to hear from former residents, people who visited relatives on the village, children from the neighbouring areas who would climb over the wall to sneak on to the playground, newspaper delivery boys, milkmen – anybody who may have a specific memory of the village.”

Martin will be taking part in an event called Lancaster and the First World War: The King’s Own, Casualties and Westfield War Memorial Village Then and Now which is taking place in St Nicholas Arcades, Lancaster, from February 12-15.

The free event (10am-noon and 1pm-5pm) is part of Campus in the City, where Lancaster University brings its research into the community. Martin will be displaying long-forgotten pictures of the village and collecting memories from the public and there will also be displays from the King’s Own Museum.