Hartlepool’s Heugh Battery is a WW1 battlefield site. The Museum provides an excellent translation of the battle that took place in December 1914, when a bombardment of Hartlepool took place carried out by three German Battleships. Hartlepool was defended by Heugh & Lighthouse Battery.
These BL 6 inch Mk VII naval guns were used to defend the dock yards and factories (including the Aspirin Factory and munitions factories) of Hartlepool. What really interested me was trying to understand how the guns fired the brass shells, whether in Hartlepool or the Somme. What was the physical journey these shells took, to become Trench Art. Reading Nicholas J Saunders book, Trench Art: Materialities and Memories of War, he defines Trench Art as “any item made by soldiers, prisoners of war and civilians, from war materiel directly, or any other material, as long as it and they are associated temporally and/or spatially with armed conflict or its consequences.”
The Heugh Battery has a collection of Trench Art and embroidered postcards in the cabinets on show in the cafe. The work shown here belongs to a private collector. The shells have been ornately decorated with oak leaf (typical of the time) a dove of peace and intricately designed with a semi-moorish pattern. Often made by local blacksmiths stationed in Belgium or France or local inhabitants, the work is an excellent example of Folk Art and the development of souvenirs, (a french word meaning memory or remembrance). The surface of the metal has a resonance similar to etching & engraving, which is one of the reasons I am drawn to looking at these objects in closer detail. I am interested in exploring the heritage around these objects and want to understand the social history surrounding these objects, from the women who made the shells in the factories, to the lives spent in the trenches and the cultural significance of the designs, to those who treasured the objects later and brought them home.