How Tamworth was supporting the war effort 100 years ago

November 12, 2018

PHOTOS and information on display as part of a digital exhibition charting the history of Tamworth Assembly Rooms reveals the building’s key role during the First World War.

As we mark 100 years since the end of World War One, we’ve also been remembering the part that was played by Tamworth people in support of the war effort.

Tamworth Assembly Rooms has been at the heart of the town for 129 years, not just as a theatre, but as a community hub with a variety of purposes.

Built to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, Tamworth Assembly Rooms was opened in 1889. In the early years, it was hosting all manner of events, such as dances, public meetings, music and dramatic performances.

The Corporation Street building quickly became the town’s premier venue for entertainment and civic events, but the outbreak of World War One gave it a much more serious role.

During the years of the ‘Great War’, Tamworth Assembly Rooms became a base for army recruits, homing around 200 soldiers while they received training at the nearby Kingsbury Rifle Range. It was also the hub of a community effort to collect and send parcels to soldiers.

There was still time to keep spirits up with dances and performances as well, although many of these doubled up as fundraising events to support the troops.

As the Second World War began, Tamworth Assembly Rooms was called back into action; this time as a report centre and base for the packing and distribution of gas masks. Dances continued throughout this period too, and many of them were attended by American GIs who were based at Whittington Barracks throughout the war.

The history of Tamworth Assembly Rooms during the war years can be viewed as part of a digital exhibition which is currently on tour of various venues throughout the town.

The exhibition features old photographs, memories, press cuttings, flyers and historic architect drawings, as well as ambitious redevelopment plans for the iconic theatre’s next 130 years.

Members of the public are invited to view the display, which is stored on a tablet, and share their own memories of the building at the heart of the community.

Currently, the digital exhibition can be viewed at the Tourist Information Centre in Marmion House in Lichfield Street, where it will remain for the rest of November.

It will then move to:

  • St Editha’s Church in December
  • Tamworth Library in January
  • John Lewis at Ventura Park in February
  • Ankerside Shopping Centre in March
  • Castle Grounds Activity Centre in April
  • Robert Peel Hospital in May
  • Ankerside Shopping Centre in June

The collection of stories, photographs, interesting historical facts and interviews with key people on the local music scene, have been brought together to celebrate the building’s past as it prepares for an exciting future entertaining audiences for generations to come.

Tamworth Assembly Rooms is currently undergoing its most significant refurbishment to date, with a £4.8million project to extend, modernise and improve the building.

Cllr Steve Claymore, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said: “The redevelopment of Tamworth Assembly Rooms has given us the opportunity to delve into the archives to explore its rich history at the heart of the Tamworth community. This has given us a good insight into the role it played as an important civic venue during the war effort in both world wars. The exhibition makes for very interesting reading, with some wonderful pictures of Tamworth in years gone by, and I’d encourage people to have a look while they can.

“Tamworth Assembly Rooms is one of the jewels in the Tamworth crown and we’re delighted to be able to enhance and preserve it so that it may go on serving and entertaining audiences for years to come.”