WindowOnTheWarIn the centenary year since some women first won the right to vote, Great St. Mary’s Church will be spotlighting the vital roles the women of Cambridge played in World War 1. A Window on the War, a Heritage Lottery Fund-backed project, will research, curate and share the history of the people of  Cambridge during WW1.  

This dynamic project will investigate, compile and celebrate through this website, as well as a free family activity day and evening drama in Great St. Mary’s on July 14th 2018, including the launch of a photographic exhibition prior to display in November at the Michaelhouse Centre. The newly awarded £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable GSM to provide the fifth major activity day together with imaginative partners, HistoryNeedsYou.  

A Window on the War will specifically focus on the women of Cambridge and their   involvement in the war effort. It will explore the effect it had on their lives and those of children during the war and directly afterwards, its importance for women today, and  the men who served and perished (commemorated in the war memorial window in Great St. Mary’s Church). The research will make use of local and national archives, and  will draw upon family memories and collections.

The heroic role played by women during WW1 in Cambridge is relatively little known. They were highly active with ‘hands-on’ help in making things for the war effort and ministering to the injured, and in boosting the morale of those fighting in Europe, revealed through treasured correspondence.

A Window on the War will interpret and bring alive in imaginative ways hitherto unknown stories and ensure that information and image gathered, particularly from participants during the project, can be preserved and accessed by everyone, and shared with other WW1 projects and archives. Thus, an excellent source of information will be provided for all wishing to learn about the contribution of women to the First World War.

Free training, Uncategorized

FREE Research Workshop

Great St. Mary’s, Cambridge
10.00 – 12.00
Saturday 29 September 2018

File_001Suitable for anyone wanting to learn more about researching local and national archives, you will benefit from the insights and techniques used by experienced researchers, gaining skills to make your own research more effective.

Led by Simon Cross with assistance from Julie Bounford, this interactive workshop will trace Simon’s methods in researching the stories behind the Great St. Mary’s war memorial window.
Simon will guide participants through his forensic approach and share the materials he has uncovered on for example, the Armstrong family, the Platts brothers and Albert Ashton.

Do join us for what will be an informative and engaging session.

To book your place please email info@historyneedsyou.com


Window on the War activity day attracts over 4000 visitors!



The 14th July was a glorious Summer’s day, and visitors flocked to our A Window on the War activity day in their thousands. A wonderful mixture of locals, and tourists from all around the globe enjoyed a variety of activities both inside and outside the church.

Simon Cross, project researcher, took people on a WWI guided tour around key sites in Cambridge.

Dr Sean Lang, Senior Lecturer in History at Anglia Ruskin University, and the author of The First World War for Dummies gave a talk on Cambridge at the End of War. Trish Carn, co-warden at Jesus Lane Friends Meeting House spoke on the Quaker response to war in her talk, entitled Thou Shalt not Kill, and Simon Cross followed his walk with a talk on the people from Great St Mary’s affected by the war, based on his research to date.

Outside the church, visitors were able to experience an accurate representation of a WWI Casualty Clearing Station, complete with instruments and artefacts from WWI, and learn about how women contributed to the war effort as nurses. Also in the churchyard, a demonstration of basket weaving from Salix Arts, with hands on activities, where visitors found out about the women of Cambridge who made baskets and hurdles during WWI, and who used basket weaving as an occupational therapy for injured soldiers.

Inside the church, there was: a section of WWI trench, with a soldier for visitors to talk to and a civilian nurse, with a display of her instruments and a bandage making activity, portrayed by Jed and Jessica Jaggard of Up An’ At ‘Em! History; Martin Impey, illustrator, drew pictures with children, from his award-winning series of children’s books on WWI, written by Hilary Robinson; The Forgotten Heroes Foundation spoke with visitors about the Muslim contribution to WWI and showed their book, The Unknown Fallen; a craft activity to make poppies for a new altar frontal to be used in Great St Mary’s at Remembrance Day services; the Cambridge Blue Belles WI spoke to visitors about the history of the WI, including the women who fought for Suffrage and went on to run hospitals in WWI and then to form the WI; Caroline Armstrong, the mother of Christopher Armstrong of Great St Mary’s, who fell in 1916, was portrayed by Gill Fraser Lee of HistoryNeedsYou. The line-up was completed by music from WWI music hall superstar Vesta Tilley, portrayed by Rachel Duffieldaccompanied by her band, with musicians from A Merrie Noyse and Diabolus in Musica.The musicians were joined by Oliver Cross, who played harmonica, and Mags Martin on flute. Proceedings were overseen by Matthew Ward of HistoryNeedsYou, who portrayed Vesta Tilley’s manager, Walter de Frece. The event was filmed by Andrew Pilkington of Manicks Productions, and photographed by Andrew and volunteers from Linton Camera Club, led by Josephine Paterson.

Julie and Trevor Bounford spoke to visitors about our November photographic exhibition, which Julie is researching and curating with Caroline Biggs. More details on how you can contribute to the exhibition can be found here.


The day ended with a play, written by Matthew Ward, and based on research undertaken by Simon Cross. It told the story of Christopher Armstrong, played by Jed Jaggard, through his letters to his mother Caroline, played by Gill Fraser Lee. The letters were interspersed by music from Vesta Tilley and her band. A film of the play will be made available to view soon.

Logistics for the event were admirably provided by Anna Lovewell, Lorraine Walton and the team at Great St Mary’s Church.

Enormous thanks to all who contributed, and especially to those who visited us on Saturday. All 4000 of you! It was a pleasure to meet you.

Last but not least, thank you to National Lottery players for making the project possible.



A Window on the War outreach to Cambridge schools

Matthew and Gill of HistoryNeedsYou have enjoyed visiting a variety of Cambridge primary schools this week, as part of A Window on the War. In each, the children have been very interested in the project, and asked Matthew and Gill some very intelligent and thoughtful questions:

What did Cambridge look like in the First World War?

Were the Americans in the First World War?

What about blood transfusions?

I come from Nigeria. Was Nigeria in the war?

Did women in Cambridge make crutches?

The children learned about the role of women in Cambridge during the war, and found out which countries were involved, including their own family’s countries of origin. They found out about the free Activity Day.

As the project progresses, we will engage more schools, and include their contributions in the November exhibition.

If you would like your school to be involved in A Window on the War, please contact us.



Successful social media workshop

IMG_1573Participants in the first A Window on the War social media workshop met at Great St Mary’s on Saturday 16 June, and received training from social media experts and project organisers HistoryNeedsYou. Skills covered included: how to create an effective account that benefits your organisation or project; how to create an effective communications strategy and how to measure your true effectiveness; how to be ‘social’, and avoiding common errors. Participants came from a variety of voluntary and academic backgrounds with a varied skillset, and enjoyed learning from each other’s experiences as well as the skills being shared by the workshop leaders. Participants were invited to take part in A Window on the War and we look forward to seeing their input in due course.

If you are interested in voluntary opportunities and associated training as part of A Window on the War, including archival research and effective social media, please contact us.




Free social media workshop

WindowOnTheWar_AHFAs part of our Heritage Lottery Funded project A Window on the War: the women of Cambridge in WW1, Great St. Mary’s are offering a free social media workshop on Saturday 16 June, 11.00 am – 1.00 pm, delivered by social media experts @HistoryNeedsYou, who currently have a social media following in excess of 350,000, a Twitter blue tick and Gold VIP live streaming status.
You will learn:
How to set up and run an effective account on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram;
How to create an effective communication strategy that benefits your organisation or project;
How to to be ‘social’ using social media;
How to avoid common errors and grow your account;
What to do if your account is ‘trolled’.
The workshop will be hands-on and will best suit participants who represent voluntary organisations, small non-profits, academic projects, clubs and societies. After the workshop, you will be able to assist our project, A Window on the War, in building its social media presence.
Bring a smartphone or tablet.
To book, please contact us.