Remembering Barnbow during World War 1

This week we saw the return of a special item in our collections which had been out on loan to Lotherton Hall as part of their ‘Duty Calls’ exhibition. ‘Barnbow, No.1 (Leeds) National Filling Factory : a Short History and Record’ was compiled by R.H. Gummer, Chief Engineer in November 1918.

Cover of Barnbow, compiled by RH Gummer
Cover of Barnbow, compiled by R H Gummer

The preface of the volume states ‘The object of this work is to place on record the rapid growth and organisation of the No.1 National Shell Filling Factory. Throughout the whole of the operations, the works have been governed by a Directing Board, composed of the following gentlemen :- Joseph Watson, T.L. Taylor, Rupert Beckett, Bernard Bagshawe, Arthur Lupton, Major George Yewdall. Two of the members of this Board have been in daily attendance throughout the whole period covered by this record, having given personal supervision not only to the construction and production, but also to the financial side in such a manner as to gain the reputation of being one of the premier Filling Factories if not the premier factory in the United Kingdom.’

Workers in the 'box factory'
Workers in the ‘box factory’

The factory was built on land requisitioned from Colonel Richard Gascoigne in east Leeds and was constructed in 1915. Large numbers of women were employed there to fill shells with high explosives.

The volume contains a large number of photographs detailing the work at the factory as well as the after effects of an explosion there on the evening of 5th December 1916 when 35 women workers were killed. The factory ceased production for the first time on 11th November 1918 at the end of hostilities by which time 566,000 tons of ammunition had been produced.

Interior of the component store
Interior of the component store

This record and the photographs will be displayed as part of our commemoration of WW1 in August 2014 in the Central Library and is currently part of the collections in the Local and Family History Library.

We are looking to enhance our current collections of material associated with Leeds in the First World War.  If you have any material such as photographs of Leeds and its people during the war we would be interested to hear from you.  Please email the Local and Family History Library, with any details.


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