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Home of our Delight: Mells and World War 1

Rook Lane Arts Trust is celebrating having received a grant of £46,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to research and share the impact of the First World War on the village of Mells. 

‘Home of our Delight’, which refers to the inscription on the village war memorial, will explore the names and stories of the men remembered in the inscription, and their family, social and cultural connections at home.

Alongside gamekeepers, gardeners and colliery workers from Mells and neighbouring Vobster, these men also included Edward, last son and heir of the Horner family and Mells estate, and his brother-in-law Raymond Asquith, son of the World War 1 Prime Minister.

Mells, through the Horner family, welcomed artists, writers, politicians and diarists of the time (Edwin Lutyens, Hillaire Belloc, J.M. Barrie, Diana Cooper among many others) before, during and after the war, and as a result, the village retains a unique archive of First World War related correspondence, diaries and estate documents providing a fascinating glimpse of life both at the front, but also the impact of war at home.

These associations also resulted in some of the finest First World War memorials in Somerset, created by artists and designers then at the peak of their careers: Edwin Lutyens, Eric Gill and A.J. Munnings. ‘Home of our Delight’ will explore the process of commissioning these monuments through researching county and national archives.

The Heritage Lottery Fund grant will enable Rook Lane Arts to work with local organisations, volunteers, and local schools and colleges throughout 2015 and 16 to investigate the Mells stories, share local knowledge, and learn new heritage skills in the process.

The two year project will culminate in an exhibition, real and digital heritage trail and online archive in September 2016, on the anniversary of the death of Raymond Asquith, and three other servicemen named on the Mells memorial, at the Somme.

Rook Lane Arts Trust are particularly keen to track down any family relating to Tom King, who died Sept 1916, and his sister Beatrice (Jennings). Beatrice took part in a BBC documentary on the Armistice, broadcast in 1998. Beatrice had quite a lot of information about Tom, and also about the perspective from ‘home’, which is really what the ‘Home of our Delight’ project will focus on.

To get in touch with Rook Lane Arts, contact project co-ordinator Jo Plimmer on Tuesdays/Wednesdays on  07817 861331.

The trust is run from Rook Lane Chapel on Bath Street.