Severn Valley Railway receives funding to bring wartime Britain to life for children

For many years the Severn Valley Railway has been the perfect heritage backdrop to show youngsters what life was like for their peers during the Second World War.

It’s a bit of a squeeze for children outside and inside the existing Anderson shelter, so the new enlarged facilities will be a vast improvement
It’s a bit of a squeeze for children outside and inside the existing Anderson shelter, so the new enlarged facilities will be a vast improvement

Every year, around ten thousand children take part in a range of educational trips at the railway and now things are set to get even more realistic and exciting.

The railway has been awarded £10,000 funding to construct a purpose-built Anderson shelter and covered seating area at The Engine House Visitor and Education Centre, Highley. This will greatly enhance the facilities for children to learn about air raids and experience what it was like to take cover inside when the siren sounded its warning.

The project has been made possible thanks to a grant from Postcode Local Trust, a grant-giving charity funded entirely by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

The wartime Britain activity is the most popular education programme the SVR offers to visiting schools. Pupils board an evacuation train at Kidderminster and are transported back in time to Highley. They take part in a range of hands-on activities, looking at evacuee suitcases, as well as 1940s toys, games and artefacts, and learning about rationing and wartime cooking. The existing Anderson shelter has always been one of the highlights of the day, but its tiny size and lack of adjacent outdoor seating left a lot of room for improvement, as SVR education officer

Helen Russell explains: “Rebuilding and enlarging our Anderson shelter and creating a covered seating area will make a huge difference to what we’re able to do with the children. In the past, we could only fit a small number of children inside the shelter at once, and it’s been a real disappointment when we’ve had to cancel this popular activity because of bad weather. The youngsters really enjoy getting hands-on when they take part in our 1940s activities, and the new enlarged shelter and seating area will really bring to life the experiences of evacuees during World War Two.”

Commenting on the award, head of charities from People’s Postcode Lottery, Laura Chow, said: ““This is a fantastic initiative that really brings the history of wartime Britain to life. It’s great that the new facilities supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery through Postcode Local Trust will allow so many children to have first-hand experience of the life of an evacuee in WW2.”

Work on the new Anderson shelter and seating area will begin early in 2019 and the new facilities will be ready for use at the start of the educational activities programme after next Easter.