max temp: 15°C

min temp: 11°C

ESTD 1874 Search

Suffolk: First World War hut saved for posterity

06:00 03 May 2014

Taff Gillingham in the WW1 hut at Ipswich Labour Club.

Taff Gillingham in the WW1 hut at Ipswich Labour Club.


To generations of members of the Ipswich Labour Club it is the club room used for functions and rehearsals.

But when military historian Taff Gillingham visited the wooden extension to the club in Silent Street he knew exactly what it was – a genuine First World War barracks hut.

And it was facing demolition before a new clubroom is built.

Now Mr Gillingham and his band of Khaki Devils are set to dismantle the hut (or more accurately huts) to form the centrepiece of a new First World War experience they are creating at Hawstead near Bury St Edmunds.

His team is creating a series of First World War trenches and will have 11 replica huts at the site to tell the story of the conflict and show visitors what life was like for the soldiers.

However having a genuine building from the era on site will be a major attraction.

Mr Gillingham said: “We’d been looking for a genuine building to recreate there and I heard saw in an Ipswich Society newsletter that the Labour Club was building a new extension and starting by demolishing a wooden building on their site.

“I came here to look at it and couldn’t believe what was here – it was just what we wanted!”

He contacted the club, and officials who were planning to demolish the building were happy to allow the team to dismantle it.

Work is likely to start next month – Mr Gillingham hopes the Hawstead centre will be ready to open by early next summer.

During the First World War huts were built to a standard design, but were often built alongside another to make a building twice the size – that is a feature of the Ipswich building.

It was originally built at a barracks in Colchester somewhere between 1915 and 1918 and used by troops during their basic training before being sent to the front line.

Its exact use at that time is not known – it could have been a dormitory or it could have been used as a hall for other activities.

What is known is that the building was re-erected at the club in 1938 after it was not needed by the army. Over the last 76 years it has been at the heart of social events at the club – from bingo nights to Sunday afternoon performances by variety stars.

Its condition is surprisingly good, said Mr Gillingham: “It has been repaired, but much of the original is still here and actually if you look at it, it’s not too bad at all – there is no sign of damp or rot.

“One of our group knows how to dismantle and re-build things like this. That’s a great benefit for us. We’ll have 11 replica buildings but it’s not the same as having a genuine First World War building.”

Labour Club Secretary Barry Fulcher said, “We are delighted that these huts are going to be saved.

“They have been an important part of Ipswich Labour Club since 1938 and many, many people have enjoyed taking part in meetings, parties and events here.”


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other East Anglian Daily Times visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by East Anglian Daily Times staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique East Anglian Daily Times account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

John Lewis opened in Chelmsford last month

An Essex woman is calling on retailers to do more for larger women after feeling “worthless” during a recent trip to the new John Lewis store in Chelmsford.

The puppy had horrific injuries and vets were forced to put it down to end its suffering

An eight-week-old Jack Russell terrier suffering from devastating injuries was handed to vets in Braintree on Monday.

Pupils of Haughley Primary School with Halloween lanterns they made in October 1987.

Halloween is just around the corner, meaning pumpkin carving and trick or treating will take over our lives for the next few days.

Enchanted Forest, Anglo Saxon village, West Stow - Pamela Bidwell

This week our iwitness themes was eerie Suffolk - open to anything that may spook or look odd.

Pigeons gathering for an early morning meeting at the farm gate - by Heather Tanner

Everyday our readers send in photos to iwitness24 that they have taken while out and about along the Suffolk coast, visiting one of our many beauty spots or while relaxing in their own gardens.

Bury St Edmunds Magistrates' Court

Magistrates’ courts could return to towns such as Lowestoft and Bury St Edmunds, the police and crime commissioner has said, despite the Government shutting all but one of Suffolk’s summary courthouses last month.

CCTV images of a burglary in Ipswich

Police have released CCTV images of a man they wish to speak to after a home in Ipswich was burgled last month.

Most read

Great Days Out


Click here to view
the Great Days Out


Most commented


Show Job Lists


Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

MyDate24 MyPhotos24