The Great Blackberry Pick: Children of Droitwich in World War 1

Published Wednesday, 30th September 2015

The Heritage Lottery Fund awards £10,000 to Droitwich Spa Library to mark the First World War Centenary.


Children from four local schools are busy finding out what it was like to be a student one hundred years ago, thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery’s First World War programme. Droitwich Spa Library has received a £10,000 grant to explore life on the Home Front during 1914 to 1918. The project will focus on how families coped during the war, and what children did to help with the war effort.


Entries in the school log books from 1917 and 1918 show that children were paid to collect blackberries during the normal school day. The fruit was taken to factories to be turned into jam and then sent to troops on the frontline. Youngsters from Hindlip, Tibberton, Ombersley and Wychbold First Schools have been learning all about the Great Blackberry Pick and re-enacting the roles that local children played a hundred years ago. The Year 3 and 4 classes have been on trips to the Worcester Wildlife Trust’s headquarters at Smite Farm. They’ve also been studying WW1 recipes, creating their own blackberry jam and learning about food shortages and preserving techniques.


As part of the project to mark the Centenary of the First World War, Droitwich Library hopes to uncover further evidence to reveal what was happening in the area during the war years.


Cllr Lucy Hodgson, cabinet member for localism and communities, said: "It is wonderful that Droitwich library has received Heritage Lottery funding as they have created such an interesting project which is inviting the whole community to get involved and explore life on the home front from 1914 to 1918."


Library Manager Bev Orlowsky said: "It’s a fantastic chance to discover photos, documents and artefacts that might be lurking in attics and cupboards.

“Lots of research has been done on the troops who were fighting for their country, but there’s much less information on how the war affected people at home. We want to get the community and our school children involved in some detective work: How was Droitwich affected during these years? Did people’s roles change? What were the effects of food shortages and rationing? What did the town’s institutions do? It’s such an important part of the town’s heritage.”


Droitwich Library is setting up a WW1 research group who will receive training and support from the University of Worcester. There will also be a number of themed community events and library staff would love to hear from anyone who has WW1 family memorabilia which is related to the Droitwich area. In addition to this, there will be a jam competition and an exhibition to coincide with Remembrance Day on 11 November. 


Information gathered during The Great Blackberry Pick will be digitally recorded and uploaded to a website ( ) so that everyone  can access and contribute to our research on the Home Front. 


Anyone who is interested in joining the research group or has any items on WW1 that they are happy to share with the project can get in touch Bev Orlowsky or James Robertson at Droitwich Spa Library, on 01905 822722.